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How to Block Someone in Your Community the Right Way

Sannse August 1, 2016 User blog:Sannse Google
Block blog
Blocking is the right and duty of all admins. It's a way to stop damage to a community, such as the damage of vandalism or the more subtle reasons such as social disruption.

Blocking itself is not hard to do. You can find a link to the block page on contribution pages, or go to Special:Block on your wiki and add the name of the person you are blocking, make some selections, and click "block this user".

What's harder to do is to block well.

What are your options?

The first things to consider are the options given on the block page. The first is possibly the most important - the timespan of the ban. It's tempting to make this as long as possible, after all, since we usually get to the block page when we are annoyed at someone's bad actions. But a long ban removes any chance for the user of doing better later, and may cause unnecessary antagonism. If the ban length is seen as "fair," the block has a better chance of making the blocked person realize that they have to act more reasonably. I recommend setting infinite blocks very rarely.

A good admin will consider several things in choosing a block length:

  1. Is it an IP block that might affect others later?
  2. Has the person been blocked before?
  3. How serious is the situation?
  4. Is there a chance that this person might change their behavior after a block?
  5. And so on.

In general, it's best to block for the minimum amount of time to make your point. For IPs, 3 months is usually plenty. It's unlikely that the same person will be on that IP after that time.

Further down the block page, there are four checkboxes. The first is "prevent account creation". Unfortunately Wikia's shared login system means that a user can simply go to another wiki to create an account. But there's no harm in setting this, and it might just slow down someone out to cause harm.

The second is "prevent this user from editing their own talk page while blocked". It's worth thinking carefully before using this. There are times a block is mistaken, or due to a misunderstanding. Being able to talk to you from their message wall might clear things up. Or, if the block is valid, giving someone access to their message wall will allow to talk to the blocked person and maybe get a promise of better behavior. Don't forget, if you do allow people to use their message wall, you will need to watch for new messages on it.

For logged in users, it's generally a good idea to check the box for "Automatically block the last IP address used by this user..." This will prevent any sockpuppets from editing, as long as they are using the same IP as the original account.

"Prevent logged-in users from editing from this IP address" is really the same as the third box, but it's used when you are banning an IP to prevent someone logging in to bypass a block.

In both cases, you need to be careful not to block genuine users who may be on the same range of IPs. This is often a problem if people are using Wikia from a library or other public space. If necessary, you can see and remove these automatic blocks by visiting Special:BlockList

Why should I block someone?

So that's how to block, but there's still the question of why to block. The best, or some might say the only reason to block is to protect your community. Whether it's a block for simple vandalism, or because someone is disrupting the community, the primary thought should be: "how can I best protect the community from this issue?"

Before blocking, it's best to consider other ways of dealing with the situation. The obvious one is talk. Vandalism may be a misunderstanding. An unhappy user might be calmed by some reasonable intervention. And although we always recommend not feeding the trolls, it may be that what you see as trolling is just someone who is having problems getting along with the community.

It's also usually a good idea to give warnings before resorting to a block. If the problem is simple vandalism, then you may need to block quickly, but most situations are less clear-cut, and a warning may be all that's necessary.

In general it's up to each admin to decide who to block and how long for. Staff generally don't intervene in issues on one wiki. Many communities have rules or guidelines for blocking, which help everyone be fair and consistent. But ultimately, if an admin doesn't block fairly, and won't listen to the community about this, then they risk the community deciding to have their admin rights removed.

So block carefully, and with the health of the community in mind, and you will help in building a community that is fair, consistent, calm and happy.

What are some of the things you've learned about how to block well? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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