A few random thoughts by CN. Feel free to reply with your thoughts on the topic. Or to tell me off for posting this kind of thing, AGAIN.
The term 'ban' seems to hold a very special weight on the internet. This is natural of course, because the usage thereof is vastly different. People can be banned from stores or from bars, it has been done. But online, this is the only usage the word recieves. Banning is the consequence of a special offense. One that strikes home with the moderator or administrator and the rules they set forth. Your average moderator on a large site, on the scale of stop tazmo, will be handing out bans continuously throughout the week. This is obvious to them. People break rules continuously throughout the week. So shouldn't the bans follow the same schedule? The rules must be upheld. Some, the more spirtually balanced, call it integrity, and believe in the punishment, even if they are the ones who must accept it themselves. They are powerful people, no doubt. What sort of institution can really be a institution without rules. And furthermore, without enforcement of those rules. The meandering creek is pathetic in comparison to the rushing river. Forums without any level of enforcement fall prey to predators with a twisted sense of purpose and little shame. Those who have been online long enough have seen it happen. The term troll was coined very early in the internet's development. And for good reason. Forums without rules are often worse. Without even the pretense of order, they fall to chaos, with a small number remaining behind for lack of anywhere else to go. The lake spreads out because of the lack of direction and movement. It has no specific path to follow. Those forums that survive this are stagnant and miserable, with little encouragement in terms of growth, and less purpose. This line of thought can be carried to extremes, however. A member base can be destroyed simply by zealotry. Simple human desires can corrupt those with the final say, and in doing so, drive out those that depend on them. The game server with the vindictive admin and too great a knowledge of adminmod. Some of the number here may have seen that happen. In the end, balance is best. What constitutes balance however, depends on the situation itself. Who can say they know right from wrong, when ever the two intertwine. Who among the many is fit to judge. And yet those in power must judge, for if they do not, the system crumbles. Members rely on the power of the Moderators to keep a forum clean. What the Moderator chooses to consider as dirt, is left to that Moderator's discretion. Situational Ethics is the veritable key. Every man, every woman, every child. They all possess it. If one man is being assaulted by his fellows, then the human understanding of why that is wrong is instantaneous, even lacking contextual information. The bystander feels the urge to interfere. It is what seperates him from an unthinking beast. His personal decision on the matter also seperates him, whatever it may be. Even knowing later that the victim of the assault was a thief, his judgement must be given by law and by God. Not by his fellows. On a forum, in a strange and new world that is neither real nor false, the moderator is Law. The forum is not always fair, not always just, but the choices made by the inhabitants, can swing it ever closer, in spite of that. The forum is a meritocracy, where your deeds will bring your name glory and often enough, shame.
There are times, and they are indeed quite often, when comprehension fails, and so too does judgement. In such a situation, no fair estimation of right and wrong can be grasped. Situational Ethics fails. A person is a fragile thing. Far more fragile than it makes itself out to be. These failures are natural, expected even. But most importantly they must be learned from. Failures in any world, digital or tangible, are the same for they are concepts. And from these concepts, the only plausible positive to be gained from what surely is nevertheless negative, is what is learned, derived even, from them. So when a member breaks a rule, with the knowledge of the consequence of their actions and even the knowledge of the rule itself, they must be subjected to the given penalty. Should their reasoning prove to be of some merit, after some form of arbitration, negotiations should be considered. But to deny them that punishment, simply due to empathy? Absurd. Ridiculous, even. For the moderator is then ridiculing their own rules. Integrity, is more than simply a word. It is a promise; to keep one's word.
A moderator's failure...
...is far more destructive than a member's.