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How To: Blocking Unwanted Attention

Release Date: 24 Feb 07
Category: General Announcement

An illustrated tutorial on how to control users who post unwanted messages to your story comments or forums.


A HASA member recently brought to my attention an unfortunate group of people on fanfiction.net who were very publicly plotting to inundate a Tolkien fanfic site's comments with flames. It was, frankly, sad to read these childish and misguided individuals' statements. The administrators on the targeted site were well aware of the plot and took necessary measures to protect their site.

HASA has a zero tolerance policy for malicious posts or interference with its members. All comments and forum posts on this site must be signed. Unfortunately, even having to sign your name is not always a deterrent to someone determined to cause trouble. HASA provides members with tools for keeping obnoxious people out of your hair. This tutorial is to show members how to use these tools.

Comments

The biggest bar to rudeness in comments is lack of anonymity. Though this blocks the casual flamer, someone who sets out to be obnoxious will simply create a disposable alias. There are two ways to defend against unwanted comments.

1. Remove comments from view

Log in and go to the main comments page in My Stuff. The fastest way to get there is to click the "My Stuff" button, get the drop down menu, and click "Comments to Me" in the menu list.


The main page for "Comments to Me" holds a list of the most recent comments. If the objectionable comment is not recent, you can look up comments by story and by reader. When you find the comment, regardless of the page, click on the "Make Private" link.


This removes the comment from public view and quickly ruins the obnoxious commenter's fun. The next step is entirely up to you. If you don't want to look at the comment ever again, click the "Remove" link. This removes it from even your management pages.


2. Bar obnoxious commenter

Now that you have removed the offending comment from view, you now have the power to get rid of that commenter. Unfortunately, until someone makes a comment on one of your stories, you cannot bar them from making more comments. They have to be on your commenter list before they can be blocked. What blocking does is keep them on a list and flag them as not allowed to comment. Start by clicking on the "Manage Readers" link in the left-hand navigation menu.


This will take you to a management screen where you can look up commenters either by story or by name. Since you already know who this person is, the quickest way to find her is by name. Use the drop down menu to select the person you want to bar.


Now, you can do one of two kinds of blocks. You can either click a button next to a story and bar the commenter from just that story, or you can click the link above the table to bar this person from all of your stories. If this is someone who seems bent on flaming, you probably want to bar her across the board.


As you can see, the commenter now has a Total Block imposed for your stories. You can experiment on yourself if you've ever posted a reply comment to get the hang of blocking and unblocking.

Do be sure to inform me that you have a blocked commenter. Someone who is rude to one person will probably be rude to others. There are administrative tools that can block a person from all stories, not just yours.


Forums

Forums are currently only available to Writers Workshop members. In the HASA forums, there is usually a little more latitude for vigorous debate than in comments, but you still have the ability to block persistently obstreperous participants. There is no way for a forum owner to remove posts, but you can email the Forums Manager (Fergus, screen name fercryinoutloud) and ask him to remove the content. Deleting the post entirely also deletes all following posts, so is not recommended unless there is an entire thread you wish to be rid of.

To block a user in forums, start by going to your main Forums page. The fastest way to get there is to log in, click on the "My Stuff" button, get the drop down menu, and click on "Forums", the second from the last menu item.


The main forums page will show you a list of all the forums you own and manage. Depending on who you are and how much you use the forums, it can be a long list. Here's my list, for example:

When you can see your list, you need to click on the "Manage" link for the forum where you have the obnoxious user. This takes you to a forum management page. (As an FYI, you can do a lot more than block users on this page. If you have forums, be sure to get familiar with all the different management tools) On that page, look in the upper right-hand zone of the top box. That's where you'll find the "Manage Users" link.


Depending on your forum, you may have a few participants, you may have a lot. They are listed alphabetically by screen name. When you find the person do not "Delete" her. I know, it's a strong impulse, but you have to keep her on your list to keep tabs on her. What you want to do instead is change her status. Take a look at this set of images showing the status toggles:


The question here for you is do you want the person to continue to be able to read the forum, or do you want to keep her from even reading? If you want the person to keep reading, click "Read Only." Once she's at that status, you can make her a Full Participant again at any time. Or you can choose just to bar her, which keeps her out of the forum. Just use the status toggle links to select the desired status.

As with the comments, if you do have someone whose behavior is objectionable enough to merit being blocked from participation, please let me or Fergus know. It may just be a little friction between you and this person, or we may be dealing with a toxic person who is harassing other members and needs to be escorted out of the virtual building.

Conclusion

No one should have to deal with being harassed in her own comments or forums. While no one likes hearing less than positive comments, there is clearly a difference between receiving a critical comment and having someone trying to interfere with your ability to enjoy the site. The group of people mentioned at the top were explicitly out to inflict distress on people they didn't even know and to poison the atmosphere of the targeted site. HASA will defend the right of our members to participate in a constructive environment, and we provide tools to help you stop toxic people in their tracks.

Anglachel
Site Manager

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