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Thread: Banned vs. Retired

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    Senior Member Fred Steeves's Avatar
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    Banned vs. Retired

    Quote Originally posted by Aragorn View Post
    Um, no, not really. An account that gets put in retirement still has read-only access to all public sections of the forum. A ban on the other hand denies all access to the forum — or at least, so long as they haven't cleared out their cookies. And if we really want to prevent someone from accessing the forum altogether in any possible way, then we can also add the IP address to the firewall. We've already had to do this for security reasons, but this was still before my time, and currently, the only IP addresses I ban by way of the firewall all belong to data mining bots, spam bots and other confirmed spammers who repeatedly try registering an account here.

    On account of the retirement of someone's account, we have already retired the accounts of people before without that they requested it, when we felt that banning them would have been needlessly cruel. But usually their behavior was then right on the cusp between warranting retirement and warranting a ban. And in this case, I could indeed have banned Jakob, but, again, I didn't wish to be cruel.

    There are members who've been retired, but who will never be welcomed back even if they were to request it. In fact, we've already refused a couple such requests. And at the same time, there are also members who were banned in the past, but who would be welcomed back if they were to ask for a second chance. It all depends on the person, really.
    Even though I'm not at all a fan of the Chris Thomas thread, I still feel it deserves the respect of not having this off topic discussion going on there. I had some confusion about what these terms actually mean, was asking Aragorn about it, and decided to continue it here.

    Okay, let me try to refine down what bothers me about this. I actually get what you're saying now Aragorn, but I think this system still can leave matters unclear for future readers. I'll try and put it in a nut shell.

    Again, as I've said previously this is NOT a big deal for me, more for bookkeeping types of clarifications. In trying to not make this intro too wordy, I'm hoping that just going off this one quote (along with it's parent quote above) will pretty much clarify the gist of this. Also, thank you Aragorn for taking the time to try and explain it.

    Quote Originally posted by Aragorn View Post
    An account that gets put in retirement still has read-only access to all public sections of the forum. A ban on the other hand denies all access to the forum — or at least, so long as they haven't cleared out their cookies.
    - Say I'm a new member some time down the road, and I come across this recent jackass TheMerlin as a "Retired" member, then I come upon say, our old friend Sammy, who is also listed as "Retired". One is welcome back any time, and one is not, how am I supposed to know the difference? Also, one was voluntary and one was not. See right off the bat how unclear this term can really be?

    - It really needent be in my opinion, for example why does banning have to also include denied access to even read the forum, what harm is there in that? Why can't someone be "Banned", thus avoiding the possible confusion with being "Retired", yet still be able to read? If the offense were so egregious that you didn't even want them reading, THEN you could slap a further IP ban on them. But this would be very rare.

    - Perhaps there could even be a further delineation, a middle ground if you will, between "Retired" and "Banned", and for lack of a better word let's just call it "Unsubscribed". If our said future reader comes across "Retired" they know the member left voluntarily and could most likely return, if they see "Banned" they know this person must have really deserved it, and when they see "Unsubscribed", they would know it was in that middle ground somewhere.

    So anyway those are my thoughts, my rough draft ideas on the matter. If y'all still want to just keep things the way they are it won't bother me in the least, it's really no more important to me than the old question of having the "Thank You" button or not. But, it would be nice to at least hear what others think about this, or even if it's just me getting old and more easily confused.
    Last edited by Fred Steeves, 15th October 2018 at 12:32.
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    Administrator Aragorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Fred Steeves View Post
    Quote Originally posted by Aragorn View Post
    Um, no, not really. An account that gets put in retirement still has read-only access to all public sections of the forum. A ban on the other hand denies all access to the forum — or at least, so long as they haven't cleared out their cookies. And if we really want to prevent someone from accessing the forum altogether in any possible way, then we can also add the IP address to the firewall. We've already had to do this for security reasons, but this was still before my time, and currently, the only IP addresses I ban by way of the firewall all belong to data mining bots, spam bots and other confirmed spammers who repeatedly try registering an account here.

    On account of the retirement of someone's account, we have already retired the accounts of people before without that they requested it, when we felt that banning them would have been needlessly cruel. But usually their behavior was then right on the cusp between warranting retirement and warranting a ban. And in this case, I could indeed have banned Jakob, but, again, I didn't wish to be cruel.

    There are members who've been retired, but who will never be welcomed back even if they were to request it. In fact, we've already refused a couple such requests. And at the same time, there are also members who were banned in the past, but who would be welcomed back if they were to ask for a second chance. It all depends on the person, really.
    Even though I'm not at all a fan of the Chris Thomas thread, I still feel it deserves the respect of not having this off topic discussion going on there.
    I agree, and I appreciate that you took the initiative to take this discussion out of the Chris Thomas thread.

    Quote Originally posted by Fred Steeves View Post
    I had some confusion about what these terms actually mean, was asking Aragorn about it, and decided to continue it here.

    Okay, let me try to refine down what bothers me about this. I actually get what you're saying now Aragorn, but I think this system still can leave matters unclear for future readers. I'll try and put it in a nut shell.

    Again, as I've said previously this is NOT a big deal for me, more for bookkeeping types of clarifications. In trying to not make this intro too wordy, I'm hoping that just going off this one quote (along with it's parent quote above) will pretty much clarify the gist of this. Also, thank you Aragorn for taking the time to try and explain it.
    You're welcome, Fred. Ever since I became the administrator here, I have been putting a lot of effort into, and a strong emphasis on complete transparency toward our member base — and even in the mod room, because that part was also lacking when I first became a staff member, with as a result that misunderstandings arose and that people got upset.

    While discretion is desirable in many cases, I want to make it very clear to our members and visitors alike that there are no secret dealings going on behind the scenes here. Here at The One Truth, what you see is what you get, and I've been working very hard at making it so, given the general atmosphere of distrust that existed here at the forum around the time I was recruited as a staff member.

    There were many knee-jerking and overly paranoid members here at the time, and not everyone — not even the staff members — understood all of the technical aspects of running a forum, and why certain things happened the way they did. Many of our members at the time saw foul play in just about everything — even one of my predecessors fell for that self-delusion at some point.

    And so, from the moment on that I became a super moderator, and with most of the paranoid members having left the forum and unsubscribed themselves in anger — or to use Malc's own words, "They spat their dummy out" — I have been putting an enormous effort into winning back the trust of our remaining members and applying a degree of flexibility to the Forum Rules, or at least, insofar as the members themselves were also willing to be flexible. It's a two-way street, and you will always get individuals who refuse to accept that.

    And it wasn't easy, because even among those who had remained, many had been spooked by the gossip and scaremongering from those paranoid former members. Even though those were different times, it is true that some of the staff decisions made in the past — decisions that I understood but that I didn't necessarily agree with — had been a little harsh.

    The forum was a war zone in those days. On the one hand you had Corey Goode, and on the other hand you had the Ruiner groupies. And we as staff members were stuck smack in the middle between them. Either party was accusing us of showing favoritism toward the other party, and in the end, we as staff members were painted the bad guys by the both of them. You just couldn't win.

    All of the staff members of that era had been volunteers, and all of them quickly came to resign from the mod room again under the atmospheric pressure here at the time. I was the only one who hadn't volunteered. I was recruited into the staff by explicit and insisting invitation, and I ended up being the only one who stuck around.

    Well, there was of course also bsbray, but he too had been a volunteer, albeit that he was only hired later. However, I don't think we need to get into the circumstances of his own resignation from the staff and his departure from the forum. That matter has already been addressed elsewhere on a dedicated thread in the Staff Announcements section, and that was not related to the hostile atmosphere we had to endure here in the first half (and part of the second half) of 2015.

    Quote Originally posted by Fred Steeves View Post
    Quote Originally posted by Aragorn View Post
    An account that gets put in retirement still has read-only access to all public sections of the forum. A ban on the other hand denies all access to the forum — or at least, so long as they haven't cleared out their cookies.
    - Say I'm a new member some time down the road, and I come across this recent jackass TheMerlin as a "Retired" member, then I come upon say, our old friend Sammy, who is also listed as "Retired". One is welcome back any time, and one is not, how am I supposed to know the difference? Also, one was voluntary and one was not. See right off the bat how unclear this term can really be?
    Well, first things first, and so I'm going to correct you on a little detail from the above paragraph. Sammy's account does not currently reside in retirement, but instead he is on sabbatical. The sabbatical status is something that I myself set up here at The One Truth in order to cater to Sam's request, because they've already long had that over at Project Avalon — where Sam also has an account — but at that point in time, we didn't have that here at The One Truth yet.

    And so, having requested a sabbatical over at Project Avalon, Sam asked me whether we had a sabbatical status over here as well, because he was going to be committed to a very big project at work for quite some time, and he was looking for a way to prevent himself from posting on the forum and getting all caught up in the exchanges here. And so that is where I then devised the sabbatical status, but even though I don't really know what that entails over at Project Avalon, I do strongly suspect that the way I've done it here at The One Truth would be quite distinct.

    A member on sabbatical here at The One Truth cannot post to any existing threads, cannot start new threads, cannot add a poll to an existing thread, cannot create community groups, cannot join existing community groups, and cannot post in community groups that they were already a member of before they requested their sabbatical.

    However — and this is where I believe the difference lies with the sabbatical status of Project Avalon — a member on sabbatical still has access to their profile page and their list of friends and contacts, they can still receive and send private messages, they can still rate threads, they can still use the "Thanks" button, they can still vote in open polls, and they still have (read-only) access to the members-only sections of the forum.

    Now, the second thing I want to address is your point that members cannot tell the difference between someone who was voluntarily retired and someone whose account was put in retirement by the staff without their consent. And this is actually a double-edged blade, because the first thing one could posit — at least, in theory, because I'm not saying that this is how I really feel about it — is whether there is actually any point in our members knowing the difference between someone who voluntarily chose retirement and someone whose account was retired without their consent.

    In the end, all that the retirement status really means is that the member in question is no longer active here. And then it is definitely a lot clearer to our members and visitors alike than in the event of members who've never bothered to request their retirement, but who have nevertheless not been logging on anymore in years. And the latter is something all forums have to deal with — even a forum as large as Project Avalon.

    Now, the average number of members in the stats box at the bottom of the main Forum page is automatically calculated against the number of unique member accounts that have been connecting to the forum in the last 30 days, and if you compare that number to the total amount of members who've got an account here — which encompasses banned members, retired members, deceased members, members on sabbatical, regular members, staff members, two bots and one test account — then you will notice that the discrepancy is huge, to say the least.

    And, again, this will be no different at any other vBulletin-powered forum. Among other things, we've got a large number of member accounts in the database of what I call drive-by registrations. Most often, these are people who use a handheld device for surfing, and who then stumble upon The One Truth, and then impulsively decide to register an account here, even though by the next day they've already long forgotten that they've signed up. And then we never see them again.

    So what we have here, is a large number of member accounts that still reside in active status, but who've yet to make their first post, and who may or may not be coming around anymore. And in the days that we had Corey Goode here, there were many people who were signing up here just to be able to interact with Corey. And then as soon as Corey left the forum, all of his followers immediately left with him, and most of them without ever requesting the retirement of their account — or, as I explained in this post on the Chris Thomas thread, back then it was still simply the "unsubscribed" status, not retirement, and in those days, members could still unsubscribe themselves by way of a link in one of the menus underneath the navigation bar, or by way of their User Control Panel.

    So what I'm getting at here is that there is no way of knowing for anyone new to the forum whether any particular member with an active account is really still active on the forum, and thus, if they reply to a post from such a member, whether they are going to get a reply. In fact, that sort of thing has already happened, and then we as staff members have to step in and point out that the chances of getting a reply will be very slim, given that the member whose post they were replying to hasn't been coming around anymore in a very long time — even years in some cases.

    Again, this is no different over at Project Avalon, because forum membership is a very dynamic thing and people easily get bored. I was a member at Project Avalon from the 14th of January 2014 until the 18th of March 2015, and if I now look at the box with the name of online members there, then there's only a very small number of them that I still recognize. And even though I don't have access to the Project Avalon member list anymore at this point in time, I still remember from back in the days of my membership there that they too already had a huge number of members who had never come back anymore after they had signed up and made their first couple of posts.

    An additional problem in that regard was also that the template with the default settings for newly created accounts over here was initially set up to not enable quote notification. I have changed this in the meantime, but this change only affects newly created accounts. It has no effect on any of the accounts that already existed before the change, because all I can change is the template. If I want to effect that change upon the member accounts that already existed before I made the change to the template, then I must do this for each and every existing member account individually. Considering the number of members we have, that's simply unfeasible.

    But so anyway, with these long gone members not even being aware that they have been quoted — provided that they would even still care about that after all this time in the first place — the person who quoted them in order to comment or ask a question would not be getting any replies.

    Therefore, to round up this part of the debate, I think you can now see that there is a potential here for far more confusing situations than whether any particular member's account was voluntarily or involuntarily put in retirement.

    Quote Originally posted by Fred Steeves View Post
    - It really needent be in my opinion, for example why does banning have to also include denied access to even read the forum, what harm is there in that? Why can't someone be "Banned", thus avoiding the possible confusion with being "Retired", yet still be able to read? If the offense were so egregious that you didn't even want them reading, THEN you could slap a further IP ban on them. But this would be very rare.
    Well, things are not that simple. First of all, domestic IP addresses can and do change over time, for technical reasons — to cut a very long story short, the number of available IP addresses in the IPv4 protocol is limited to about 4 billion, but there are many more devices on the planet with an internet connection, and so it is only natural for internet service providers to hand out IP addresses on an as-needed basis, and to free up unused IP addresses again for use by another device.

    And then we have members who travel a lot and who will thus connect from different locations, each time with a new IP address, as well as the fact that some of our members may be using proxy servers and/or virtual private networks for connecting to the forum.

    Now, we no longer allow registrations through a proxy server or a VPN because that's a surefire way to evade a ban, and we've already had banned and even unsubscribed members — i.e. from before the conversion of the "unsubscribed" status to "retired" status — sneaking back in that way and creating a new account without the staff's consent, but we do allow that our registered members would be connecting through a proxy and/or a VPN. In fact, we've got members in countries that we've had to block in their entirety at the firewall level because of the very persistent and incessant flurry of account registrations from confirmed spammers, and then a proxy server or a VPN abroad can allow said members to still connect to the forum while at the same time, the spammers are kept at bay.

    So the bottom line of the above is that denying any given individual access to the forum by banning their IP address isn't quite as simple as it seems. They could be using a proxy or a VPN, or their domestic IP address may change for whatever reason. In fact, some of our members — including Malc himself — have had more than 20 distinct IP addresses connected to their account over the years, and the forum software keeps track of all of them. So if we want to ban the IP address of a pesky ex-member who's got a whole phone directory full of IP addresses associated with their account in the database, then that's going to be a hell of a lot of work.

    Secondly, there could be a whole slew of reasons as to why any particular banned member shouldn't get any access to the forum anymore. They could be engaged in data-mining, or they could be stalking another member, or they could be abusing information published here on the forum in any number of conceivable ways. For instance, they could be using the read-only access to the forum for gaining information through which they could start a riot at another website or forum, or they could be filing complaints about (alleged) copyright violations to YouTube regarding videos that we post here — that too has already happened.

    Now, you can go and make distinctions in user groups and privilege levels from here to eternity for each and every potential scenario, but common sense dictates that you have to draw the line somewhere. Furthermore, the principle of denying banned members all access to the forum is a vBulletin built-in, and apart from that it was already in use here from before I ever joined up as a member, they are using the same principle over at Project Avalon as well, except that Bill Ryan and his staff aren't calling it "banned" but "unsubscribed". A rose by any other name...

    Quote Originally posted by Fred Steeves View Post
    - Perhaps there could even be a further delineation, a middle ground if you will, between "Retired" and "Banned", and for lack of a better word let's just call it "Unsubscribed". If our said future reader comes across "Retired" they know the member left voluntarily and could most likely return, if they see "Banned" they know this person must have really deserved it, and when they see "Unsubscribed", they would know it was in that middle ground somewhere.
    Well, again, as I said higher up, I'm not so sure whether the distinction between voluntary and involuntary retirement really matters when there are many more members whose account still remains in active status while they've simply not been connecting to the forum anymore in years, or while they were only drive-by registrations, with the vast majority of them not even having made their first post on the forum yet.

    Yet, at the same time, you do have a point, and I'm going to be thinking things over with my colleagues in the mod room. One thing I will be doing already, though, is change the title for members who haven't posted yet from "New Member" to "Lurking Member". Hopefully nobody will be taking any offense in that, but it should at least be a little more consistent, given that somebody who signed up in — say — 2014 but still hasn't posted anything on the forum is at present time still listed as a "New Member", and that's not really a correct denominator.

    Quote Originally posted by Fred Steeves View Post
    So anyway those are my thoughts, my rough draft ideas on the matter. If y'all still want to just keep things the way they are it won't bother me in the least, it's really no more important to me than the old question of having the "Thank You" button or not. But, it would be nice to at least hear what others think about this, or even if it's just me getting old and more easily confused.
    Well, we are always open to suggestions, and in this case, you made a couple of good points. But perhaps you should have posted this thread in the Site Suggestions & Requests category. On the other hand, said category is members-only, so if you want this thread to remain publicly visible, then I will leave it here in Off-Topic.

    I'll leave it up to you to decide — either location works for me.
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    Senior Member NotAPretender's Avatar
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    Personally, I think we have designated moderators that handle such issues...
    "We are one thought away from changing the world!"

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    Super Moderator United States Dreamtimer's Avatar
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    The mods don't parse out duties. There are certain things all of us can do, certain things only admin can do, and certain things only founder/owner can do.

    vbulletin only has so many options. Aragorn has taken steps several times to move former banned members back into retired status so as not to completely deny all access.

    It is usually case-specific due to all the variables.

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    Administrator Aragorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dreamtimer View Post
    Quote Originally posted by NotAPretender View Post
    Personally, I think we have designated moderators that handle such issues...
    The mods don't parse out duties. There are certain things all of us can do, certain things only admin can do, and certain things only founder/owner can do.
    Well, technically I have the exact same access as Malc. That hasn't always been the case, but at present time, all that Malc can do with regard to the forum, I can do too, with the exception of managing the jandeane81.com domain itself. Not that I can imagine why I would ever need or want any access to that. That's Malc's territory.

    My job is simply to run the forum on a daily basis.

    Quote Originally posted by Dreamtimer View Post
    vbulletin only has so many options.
    True, but it's flexible, though.

    Quote Originally posted by Dreamtimer View Post
    Aragorn has taken steps several times to move former banned members back into retired status so as not to completely deny all access.

    It is usually case-specific due to all the variables.
    Very true, that. It's as I said in my reply to Fred: it all depends on the member in question.
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    Senior Member NotAPretender's Avatar
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    To be specific, what I was saying was that on one of Starry Night's initial posts Fred is out there playing street cop...if he was going to make a comment he should have at least been polite. and now a dedicated thread to 'Who's the Boss!' Enough already...
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    Administrator Aragorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by NotAPretender View Post
    To be specific, what I was saying was that on one of Starry Night's initial posts Fred is out there playing street cop...
    That's a bit harsh, don't you think? I saw that post, and I must admit that I had mixed feelings about it. In a way, Fred was right because starry night's post was taking the thread off-topic, but at the same time I thought it was a bit of an emotional reaction, given that it was Brook's thread and given the predicament she's in at the moment.

    But such a reaction is understandable and forgivable, and I'm sure starry night — a lovely soul in her own right — didn't take any offense in it.

    Quote Originally posted by NotAPretender View Post
    if he was going to make a comment he should have at least been polite.
    Oh come on, NotAPretender, he wasn't really being impolite.

    Quote Originally posted by NotAPretender View Post
    and now a dedicated thread to 'Who's the Boss!' Enough already...
    Um, no, this thread is not about who's the boss. I think everyone here knows that Malc's the boss. It's his domain, and it's his forum. And if you want it in Star Trek vernacular, then Malc is the Captain, and then I'm the First Officer (with the rank of Commander), Dreamtimer and Elen are the Lieutenant-Commanders, and Kathy and Wind are First Lieutenants.

    And we're all on the bridge of the Starship TOT, but Malc is always on away-missions. Probably looking for pies and "fish & chips" shops.
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    Where's my french fry sandwich?

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    Quote Originally posted by Dreamtimer View Post
    Where's my french fry sandwich?
    By now, probably somewhere down in Malc's digestive tract.
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    Hmm, the rank of a lieutenant sounds just fine to me, comrade Aragorn. Let's keep the ship on course.

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    Administrator Aragorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Wind View Post
    Hmm, the rank of a lieutenant sounds just fine to me, comrade Aragorn. Let's keep the ship on course.
    Comrade? Uh-oh, now bsbray a certain US American Project Avalon member with a very tenacious paleo-Republican programming is certainly going to be labeling us as communists.

    I guess we're going to have to learn Russian now. I've heard that a good way to start would be to try speaking English in reverse.




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    Quote Originally posted by Aragorn View Post
    Comrade? Uh-oh, now bsbray a certain US American Project Avalon member with a very tenacious paleo-Republican programming is certainly going to be labeling us as communists.

    I guess we're going to have to learn Russian now. I've heard that a good way to start would be to try speaking English in reverse.
    To be fair, the economics of Star Trek's United Federation of Planets is essentially a centrally planned communist system. This was explored very well in Star Trek DS9 where the capitalist Ferenghis stood in stark contrast to the Utopian Socialist Federation, the Fascist Cardassians and the Feudal-Agrarian Klingons.

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    Quote Originally posted by Aragorn View Post
    Comrade? Uh-oh, now bsbray a certain US American Project Avalon member with a very tenacious paleo-Republican programming is certainly going to be labeling us as communists.
    Da. Perhaps you can add some Soviet emojis here.

    Russian isn't that hard anyways, except when it comes to the written language.

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    Administrator Aragorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chris View Post
    To be fair, the economics of Star Trek's United Federation of Planets is essentially a centrally planned communist system. This was explored very well in Star Trek DS9 where the capitalist Ferenghis stood in stark contrast to the Utopian Socialist Federation, the Fascist Cardassians and the Feudal-Agrarian Klingons.
    Yes, you are very correct in that. And that is actually the utopian society that socialism was intended to be, but in which every socialist revolution so far has failed miserably due to human fallibility and the fact that such regimes always have to exist as enclaves within a globally capitalist system.

    But um, we've already been addressing the differences between capitalism and socialism on other threads, so let's not derail this one any further. This is after all supposed to be a thread about whether voluntarily and involuntarily retired members should be distinguished by their member titles and/or colors.


    P.S. to Fred: We are currently debating this issue on a dedicated thread in the mod room, so stay tuned.
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    Statement

    Update:


    As promised, we have been debating the issue on a dedicated thread in the mod room, and we have even voted on it by way of a poll. The results of the poll are against making a distinction between members who voluntarily requested the retirement of their account and members whose account was involuntarily retired by decision of the staff. Two staff members voted in favor of making the distinction, and four voted against it.

    I have however in the meantime also implemented a distinction between members who are permanently banned and members who are only temporarily banned. The latter will now be put in a distinct user group with its own title. These titles are tentative, mind you. We have not settled on any definitive titles yet. Either way, on both accounts, it pertains to a denial of all access to the forum for the duration of the ban, which is of course quite distinct from the status of retirement.

    Anyway, I thought it was only fair to communicate our decision.
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