Escapist Website Mass Bans (Then Unbans And Guilts) Users Who Mention Adblock

from the building-community-and-value-through-uppercuts dept

Chodelord writes in to note that the Escapist website recently decided it would be a good idea to ban users from  their forums simply for mentioning Adblock. The thread in question started after a user complained that an add for Time Warner Cable was slowing down his computer. Apparently, users who responded to the poster by suggesting the user "get Firefox and AdBlock" found themselves banned from the forums. Users didn't even need to admit they even used AdBlock to get banned -- they simply had to recommend it as a solution to a seemingly-annoying ad. Looking at the forums recently amended posting guidelines does confirm that the folks at the Escapist believe that giving browsing preference advice is a "non forgivable" offense:

Do not confess, teach, admit to, or promote ad-blocking software that will allow users to block the ads of this site.
Indeed. Users quickly (and justly) started complaining about the fact that friends they'd had for years were suddenly being bashed over the head with the ban hammer simply for mentioning an incredibly popular and legal application. After a lot of complaints, the Escapist ultimately wound up unbanning the users according to a forum post, and instead just settled on trying to make the community feel really guilty:
I truely hope that everyone that reads this will consider turning off their ad-blocker for this site. If we have offended you or you don't deem this site to be worthy (and would like to have it shut down instead), do what you will, but don't pretend to be surprised if the site dies.

While it's nice that the Escapist listened to their community, saw reason, and backed away from their ridiculous decision, that doesn't make the decision any less ridiculous (and while they reversed course, the posting guidelines remain unchanged). It also doesn't justify telling your readers that they're responsible for the failure of your business model should users decide to block annoying ads. As Ars Technica recently found out, mandating what your users can and can't do with their own browsers doesn't exactly foster adoration within your community to begin with, but subsequently telling those users they should take a hike if they don't like your position (or in this case even mention ad blockers) isn't particularly endearing, either.

As we've mentioned previously in great detail, if you've got ads on your website that are annoying your users, that is your fault -- not your users' fault. The failure of your business model is also your problem, not theirs. It's up to you to develop a new model that doesn't involve your users being annoyed. Meanwhile, telling your users (essentially) that they're worthless if they don't directly generate ad revenue is misguided. Site visitors bring value to your website in other ways -- whether they block your advertisements or not -- through conversation, participation and links to your content. Of course none of that will happen if you treat them like escaped felons for simply discussing their browser plugins.

Filed Under: adblocking, community, escapist

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  1. icon
    CheezePavilion (profile), 22 Apr 2010 @ 2:30pm

    More context on the brouhaha

    Just to clarify some misunderstandings I may have introduced, I believe Kuliani is a staff member, and not just a volunteer mod--he's got a green name, and those usually indicate staff and contributors. The volunteer mods have some other color and are called the Red Guard. The site started off without a forum: just a comments section attached to each article in the webzine (and before my time, I don't even believe they had that). They had one staff moderator--Joe--and when he left/around the time he was leaving, they started giving some users mod status: that's the Red Guard.

    I guess that's when Kuliani wound up more involved in the moderation aspects of the site, sort of in charge of the volunteer mods is my guess. Nothing was ever spelled out because, well, we never needed it when I joined: we didn't even really have 'bans' back then. The only people who would get permabanned were spammers.

    That's what is causing a lot of the drama: it went from a site where not only were the owners/mods fair, but we felt like we knew them and could talk to them, to a place where permabans are given out without a second thought. The first major permaban of a popular user resulted in a thread where the users and staff had an open dialog, and now, well, you saw: people being permabanned out of the blue.

    I thought maybe my experience was the result of some individual grudge some of the new mods/Kuliani in his new, more active roll had against me (my ban stems from an incident where another user accused me of highly illegal and immoral sex acts, I reported it as they ask us to, and the whole thread was closed on all of us with no visible consequence for that person, ending with Kuliani giving me a fake reason for my permaban), but, it seems the problem is a much more systemic one. I tried to warn them that their behavior was coming across as capricious and unbecoming a forum that claims to be The Internet's version of the Lighthouse of Alexandria; the worst I thought would happen is they'd continue to undercut what they used to pride themselves on in regards to the forums.

    Never thought it would would lead them to making one of those missteps that winds up all over the Internet! I had a lot of good conversations with the staff there, especially the CEO Archon, so I'm sad to see it come to this; on the other hand, this seems an appropriate fate for a site that decided to stop treating its users the way it became known for.

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