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On a forum where I'm moderating, the admin implemented a "user ignore" feature - a user can add chosen users to an "ignore" list, and as result their posts are displayed as little stubs - one-liners of username - [ignored].

Personally, I believe this is not serving the intended purpose, as it piques the curiosity of the user who does the ignoring, encouraging removing the ignored name from the list, to display the post, which will usually lead to further frustration and angry replies. I believe "ignore" should be thorough, leaving no traces after posts of ignored users (may not be entirely thorough as they may still be quoted or referenced in other posts, but original posts of the ignored user should be invisible). That way, most of the time the offender is entirely off the mind of the user ignoring them, which usually steps up the quality of conversation.

I presented my point but it seems the admin believes his way is superior and to stay. I didn't really catch why...

Are there any merits, reasons, advantages for the "partial ignore" where users are presented with stubs signifying given post has been hidden, or is our admin unreasonable?

  • I don't have time to work this up in an answer right now, so a suggestion for others who might be able to incorporate it: Usenet kill files were total; you saw neither the post nor that a post had been there (though you still saw quotes and references, of course). How did that work out? I remember it sometimes being a little disruptive (people repeating stuff they didn't see, or continuing to argue about something the other had conceded), but vaguely-remembered anecdotes are not data. – Monica Cellio Aug 1 '14 at 14:04
  • @MonicaCellio They weren't, necessarily, total - it depends on the client. I prefer the Gnus style where those post were simply marked as read instead of completely hidden. – Jenny D Feb 11 '15 at 4:40
  • Well, anecdotes are not data, but some users just can't give up... on the 'argumentative' forum I moderated, I'd see 'pairs' simply allergic one to another, unable not to argue, long and often offensively. Cool-off bans were frequent. The moment the 'complete' ignore was implemented - arguments between these were gone like with a touch of magic wand. Whatever disruptions this might have created, I think they were worth it. – SF. Feb 11 '15 at 6:34
  • Somewhat tangentially, if you're going to implement a "total ignore" feature, it should probably hide both the ignored user's posts and all replies to them. (Of course, this requires a forum with a fairly hierarchical thread structure; it may not work well on typical web forums, which have linear threads.) I used to have something like that implemented in my Usenet killfile, for a few users that had a habit of starting interminable and repetitive argument threads with anyone who'd bite. – Ilmari Karonen Mar 1 '15 at 15:59
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One of the main reasons for this, is that hiding certain posts will give the ignoring user a clouded view on the conversation. This is actually counterproductive. Some posts will be missing, and the user has no indication of this. And even if they realize that certain posts are missing, they will not know who made those posts, where in the thread these posts were made, etc. So even if this gives the user a feeling of "Oh damn, there's that person I'm ignoring again," it will give them a better understanding of where the conversation is going.

As a side note, one may even argue that this is the correct implementation of the literal meaning of the word "ignore": you are aware of this person's presence, and that they are speaking, but you consciously choose not to listen to what they are saying.

  • While I still believe the benefits of entirely removing the offender from sight of the person ignoring outweigh the trade-offs (after all, they didn't have willpower strong enough not to reply, they may not be strong enough not to disable the filter) this is a very valid point and a serious disadvantage which may justify such choice in many cases. – SF. Mar 1 '15 at 17:19
  • @SF. I don't know that your perception that the reason people end up on an ignore list is because the person adding them doesn't have the willpower to ignore them. I ignore people to remove clutter basically. It is very helpful to me to see an indication that someone I'm ignoring participated in the thread. It does not make me unignore them - if they're on my ignore list, I honestly have no interest in what they've said. Sometimes I'll ignore people that can't stop feeding the trolls so seeing username - [ignored] between troll and feeder is all I need to know. – ColleenV parted ways Sep 24 '15 at 18:52
  • @ColleenV: for you it's just a convenience/readability feature. Where I moderated, the request for the feature came from users, who felt compulsive about reacting to opinions/behaviors of certain users - instead of finding them uninteresting, they found them aggravating and felt the need to reply with disagreement, creating a discussion that quickly devolved into a flame war. Fighting this obsessive-compulsive behavior required total removal of the stimulus. – SF. Sep 24 '15 at 23:30
  • @SF. If your community as a whole has issues with compulsive behavior, that's a different story entirely, and there should be some sensitivity to that when making these decisions. However, if it's only a vocal few, their personal inability to regulate their behavior shouldn't drive the decision. Leaving the notices in there does add value, and it's not easy to remove all traces (someone quoting someone who's ignored) without rendering a good bit of content incomprehensible. It would make the ignore feature less useful, and still not accomplish your goal. – ColleenV parted ways Sep 25 '15 at 0:24
  • @ColleenV: The "vocal few" were core users of the community, authoring for a number of valuable posts, and the behavior was disruptive, accounting for a significant percentage of moderator attention cases. It wasn't bending to a whim of a few; it was resolving a long-standing issue affecting the whole community. And while the quotations weren't sanitized, yes, they'd sometimes trigger a reply, but the answer to that wouldn't be followed - instead of escalating, the conflict would die in 3 posts (quoting - compulsive reply - rebuke of the quoted one, which was never seen.) – SF. Sep 25 '15 at 7:35
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Completely ignoring a user is difficult. You mentioned noticing the user in quotes by other users. There is also forum search functionality and topic listings to consider.

By only seeing the selected quotes of a user, it is very easy to get a (more) skewed view of how that user behaves. A long, insightful, post can have selected phrases quoted by another user that completely distort the meaning of the post. You only see these quotes and get the opinion that the user is still wrong/incorrect/ignorant and pat yourself on the back for ignoring this user's contributions. In reality, you've missed a vital part of the conversation and by not providing a way to see the entire contribution, the admins have made it impossible for you to get this information unless someone else block quotes the user's entire post.

Searching on the forum, unless implemented to ignore users, is likely to return results from the ignored user. If you don't realize that and click on the search result to see more information, you are taken to a post that appears not to exist. You are confused and frustrated at the search results. Alternatively, the search may see the quotes of this user in another user's post. This brings us back to the first point.

Finally, on topic listing pages, what is the expected behavior when an ignored user posts a new topic? Does the entire topic not get shown? In that case, you miss out on an entire conversation. Does it show the topic listing with no content? This is next to useless as you now know the user said something, but you don't know what. You also have no way of knowing what was said until the post is quoted by others.

There is another reason, I suspect, for this partial ignore. What happens if you ignore an admin? Does the software allow this? If it does and an admin makes an announcement topic, how are you to know what is going on?


The point of the "partial" ignore is to let you know that something was said. It gives you the option of seeing what that is, but it does not present the entire post to you without the additional step of deciding you want to see it. It allows you to remain in the loop by seeing all contributions.

You actively chose to ignore that user. Later you see a quoted post and one way or another want to respond. It is incumbent on you to know the entire context of the quote so that you can provide a good response. You took the step of reducing conflict by ignoring them. That good behavior should spill over when you chose to interact with this user. Be the bigger person and read the post and reply to relevant portions.

If the post turned out to be similar to others and the cause for you ignoring them in the first place, continue to do so. Just because you can now see the post doesn't mean you have to reply.

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Long ago in the days of Usenet, there was a thing called a kill file. When you opened a newsgroup, my reader would list posts that were being killed by it - the subject line and the person. I (and many others) really enjoyed seeing my kill file working, knowing that XYZ was being a jerk as usual, but that I wouldn't have to see it. In fact several people had sig files expressing that kind of sentiment.

If there is no indication that some posts have been suppressed, you won't get that little piece of happiness. And maybe for you personally, that's not a thing, but your admin is telling you that for some people, it is. Others may want context or just to be aware that there's a flame war happening. The relative importance of "don't pique my curiosity I won't be able to resist" versus the schadenfreude of seeing the person muted or the desire for context are unlikely to be the same for everyone.

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Arguably, that curiosity is a desirable behavior of the system. Just because one user has a problem with another now does not mean that the problem will always exist. It can be useful to let users know about the involvement of a user they have ignored for this reason as well as to reduce confusion as to where responses are coming from in a threaded conversation.

In some types of systems, it may even be impossible to fully remove a user. For example, in a threaded forum, do you remove all responses to an ignored user as well? If so, that's a lot of missing content, if not, how do you organize the responses without having a notation that the ignored user made a post?

There is an argument for the total exclusion of the user from being visible too, but really, the way it will normally play out is that after a few times of unignoring and getting frustrated, people will just leave ignore on because they learn it will just frustrate them. You might have a few fewer problems by hiding entirely, but you also end up with a more broken up community potentially as well.

It's a tossup and there isn't really a right or wrong answer to it.

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There are technology reasons to have it that way:

  • if you are running an enterprise/closed source stack then editing that may be impossible without paying more or breaking license conditions.
  • If opensource stack that may be how the ignore feature is set-up and there are no existing modules/plug-ins/extensions to change it and there is insufficient skill/time available

Then there are moderation type reasons:

  • Some prefer knowing that there was a post that they aren't seeing since that user usually posts cruft but it is is an important thread and they want to know what is being said.

Basically from a user stand-point it boils down to personal preference; it would be better IMO to have both options but that is probably not convenient to set up. As to whether or not your admin is being unreasonable, without knowledge of the software stack being used and possibly budgetary/skill availability constraints, and reasons they have given I can't say.

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