I am not a big fan of negative incentive systems but I think we might be able to build one into Discourse in a way that is positive and works well with the existing trust level promotion system.
As of a few weeks ago, when you send a PM as a staff member, there is a checkbox to make the PM an official warning. These warnings show up differently than regular PMs and are counted as distinct messages with a red message icon.
So now you can keep track of “official tickets” you send to community members (as PMs), rather than the de-facto, indirect count of how many mod-agreed flags have been applied to their posts, how many of their posts have been deleted, and so forth.
But what if we did a bit more…
A customizable “ticket book” of common PM warnings
e.g. sexism, attacking staff, double posting, low quality posting, trolling, hey-look-a-banana … whatever the mods and community think makes sense. A nice, patient explanation of the problem behavior, what it means, and why it isn’t wanted here.
This ticket book can be invoked on any post via the admin wrench, or before deleting a post (as part of the delete flow), or in a PM. Staff can select from the “ticket book” and peel off whatever fits the situation and customize the text if needed, or just send the ticket as-is.
Optional numeric point value associated with each ticket
Value can be zero, infinity or anything in between… whatever mods want it to be. The sum ticket point value will be stored and calculated per user.
Series of up to 3 timed suspensions associated with ticket point levels
These suspensions will automatically kick in when you reach a certain level of ticket points.
Each suspension is for longer and longer times: maybe 24 hours, then a week, then a month? If you reach beyond that your suspension is forever. After returning from each suspension your trust level is reset to zero.
Ticket points will automatically decay over time
Every 45 days (configurable) your ticket points go down by one.
The tickets will be sent as warning PMs so you can view the archive of all your tickets as a sub-tab in your private messages.
What I like about this approach is two things:
It makes moderation easier – when mods delete topics or posts they’re not bothering to inform users because that takes too much time. With the ticket book, you have prefab, nice, friendly, patient explanations for why things are being deleted (if you want to use them) … just click, click, click and make it happen.
It helps users – rather than just seeing their content disappear and wondering what happened, users get a nice, patient explanation of the rules in their ticket warning PM. It helps educate your users so they can become good citizens, and hopefully without feeling offended or violated.
I totally support mod deletions. But I think this might be a way of addressing the “why” part of deletions and helping reach those community members who can be reached.