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I've helped moderate a few different role-playing sites and things of that ilk, and noticed a troubling problem at a number of them.

So, for example, users are expected to post in-character, or on specific topics.

Problem is, User A has stepped on User B's toes, and instead of awesome happy story telling time, or happy "this is a cool thing I have done to make my car more awesome" time, we have a string of posts that are just arguments everywhere, most of which barely relate to the topic of the site.

I've tried talking to the users, deleting the threads outright, and so on, but I've seen it time and time again.

What can be done to prevent this sort of thing from even being an option?

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  • What was the problem with talking to the users? What did they say?
    – Doorknob
    Jul 30 '14 at 2:07
  • 1
    They promised not to do it again, until, well, they did. Repeatedly.
    – Ash
    Jul 30 '14 at 2:10
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In the comments:

What was the problem with talking to the users? What did they say? – Doorknob

They promised not to do it again, until, well, they did. Repeatedly. – Ashley Nunn

If that is the case, then some kind of escalation system might solve the issue.

For example, you could implement a "three strikes" system. Simply give a warning for the first and second offenses, and a short ban / suspension (perhaps a day) on the third. If the behavior continues after this, you may want to issue increasingly long suspensions (like what is done on the Stack Exchange network) until the users stop arguing, or doing whatever they're doing.

The main problem here seems to be

They promised not to do it again, until, well, they did. Repeatedly.

Assuming you've already mentioned the fact that they've been repeatedly breaking their promises, and that didn't work, knowing that the punishments for repeatedly breaking the rules will become increasingly severe might help the users actually follow through with their promises.

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Escalate the repercussions.

It really is that simple: Start giving them timeouts, ban them for a few days. And make sure they know they're both in this. If one of them starts, and the other takes the bait, they both get a beating.

The ideal course of action of a user who gets attacked by another user should be this:

  1. Report to a moderator.

The usual course of action is this:

  1. Reply to the offending message in kind.
  2. Report to a moderator.
  3. Keep arguing while the moderator may or may not already be acting.

This is what keeps these arguments going. If it was just the offending user trying to bait an argument, it would not be a problem - you could simply dish out appropriate actions to that user. Since they're both arguing, you need to teach them how to avoid it - and that goes most easily by telling them that the way they're doing it right now just gets them in trouble as well.

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