Are you currently running your own message board? Have you been thinking about starting one? For those who can answer either of these questions with a “yes,” I want to share some of my best tips for running successful forums. These have been collected thanks to my years of personal successes and failures during the golden age of the dial-up BBS and the modern era of Web-accessible forums. Why be stubborn when you can learn from the mistakes of people like me?
Successful Forums Tip #3: Troll Prevention and Extermination
If your forums generate much traffic, you’ll certainly have to deal with your share of troublemakers (i.e. trolls). There are many ways to deal with these pests and they all work differently in different settings, so you’ll need to find what works the best for your site and your audience.
Banning IP addresses is a popular method for getting rid of trolls. The idea is that you will ban them in this way so that they can’t just join with a new account. But the biggest troublemakers will just use a proxy to get around the IP ban. You can try banning every public proxy, but that can be pretty time consuming when you consider how many proxies there are and how often they pop up. On top of that, this doesn’t do anything to deal with dial-up users who will typically have a new IP address at every connection.
Banning email addresses can also be done. But again, there are ways around this thanks to all the free email hosts out there. You could always restrict anyone using a Hotmail or Yahoo Mail from creating an account, but people often use those account for privacy reasons or to avoid getting spam sent to their main address; keep in mind that new members don’t know you any better than you know them and may be understandably cautious about giving you any extra information.
In my own experience, I’ve found that the best offense against trolls is a good defense. By this, I mean that it’s easier to keep trolls from joining in the first place than to get rid of them once they show up. As soon as you argue with trolls publicly, they’ve gotten the attention they want and will keep coming back to their willing “audience.” For this reason, I tend to moderate the first ten or so posts by new members. If they post something out of line, I delete is from the new post queue and nobody ever has to see it. Once I’m pretty sure they aren’t there to cause trouble, I give them full posting rights.
When I do end up with a troublemaker, I move them back into full moderation. I don’t even bother banning the account, email, or IP address. If they want to cause trouble badly enough, they will just create a new account anyway. By doing it this way, there’s no advantage for them in joining again since they will just be moderated anyway. Besides, if you don’t ban a troll’s IP address, said troll will probably keep using it, so you’ll at least know what he or she is doing.
Don’t get too depressed by this tip. I’ll be mentioning some of the nice things you can do for the better members in my next tip!