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.


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  1. icon
    Peter Blaise Monahon (profile), 23 Apr 2010 @ 3:36am

    Re: More context on the brouhaha

    Wow, I see this all the time.

    I co-moderate a few dozen archived discussion groups. I have to fight all the time against fellow co-moderators who want to ban anyone for anything as if it's "their" group -- as others above have commented, "it's the owner's group, don't like it, leave".

    No, it's not the owner's group, regardless of who pays the domain registration and hosting fees.

    Once a second person joins, it's 50%/50% each member's group.

    And once a third person joins, it's 33%/33%/33% each member's group.

    And so on.

    To consider participating members as mere fodder rather than giving them equivalent consideration as co-authors of the content is suicide, as well as just plain dumb and discourteous.

    I have to remind fellow co-moderators that when they are trying to ban someone else, it is only because of their own impatience and incompetence to deal with it, and their own lack of trust in the group's fellow members to grow and learn how to deal with uncomfortable posts from fellow members.

    I'm not talking about spam -- however we've learned to not even ban spammers, instead we leave them in the membership with reduced posting privileges.

    Once some co-moderator or admin one pulls out the banning weapon, they get carried away. I call them "vladmins" after Vlad the Impaler -- look it up. And, there's no way to prove to new fellow members down the line that someone in the "banned" list is a only a spammer, not someone a co-moderator just doesn't like. So we're proud of our "banned" list being empty.

    All this boils down to respecting the customer as the reason for being, and treating the customer as sacrosanct. Not the owner. Not the advertisers. The customer.

    Without the customer, there are no advertisers. And without advertisers, unless the owner has deep pockets from some other source, then eventually, there is no owner.

    Customers first and foremost.

    Customer's second.

    Customers third.

    And so on.

    Funny, I didn't mention advertisers and owners, did I?

    Because owner's and advertisers NEVER get on the priority list.

    Ever.

    They are there only to serve the customer, never themselves.

    Get it?

    No?

    Then die a painful, fruitless Internet death, having learned nothing!

    It seems people need to relearn this every single frickin' day.

    Click!
    Love and hugs,
    Peter Blaise dot com

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