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We had several users that tried very hard to walk just above the line of breaking the rules and not actually break them.

How should they be handled?

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    What are some examples of this? Jul 29, 2014 at 19:54
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    This is a good site definition question, but as a live question I think this is too broad, and should be manifest more as a set of related questions detailing specific situations. What rules are your users treading? Do these rules differ in severity? Do these users have good standing in your community? Could they be reasoned with? These and more are very important details that could greatly influence the answer. Jul 29, 2014 at 20:07
  • This is a really good question (I was thinking of asking it myself) but I think, in its current form, it isn't really specific enough.
    – Seth
    Aug 1, 2014 at 3:45

3 Answers 3

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If they aren't breaking rules and they are just being annoying then the appropriate course of action is to watch them while publicly ignoring them. They are testing their boundaries. Let them. When they cross the line, tell them so and follow your communities procedures in dealing with it.

Ignoring them publicly (not saying "yes this is ok", "no this is not ok") also reduces their entertainment value. It sounds like they are baby trolls. Like any small child, the easiest way to get a kid to stop doing something you don't like is to completely ignore it. It works with trolls too. If you react, either positively or negatively, you've given them the attention they are seeking. Eventually, they will either find the limits of their boundaries, grow bored of testing you, or cross the line.

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Personally I'd treat them as trolls. Most communities I've been in will have a clause in the rules that you need to follow both the letter and spirit of the rules, which stops people getting around this.

For larger sites this can be harder as spirit of the rules is subjective and whilst fine for smaller communities ends up with endless discussions in larger ones with lots of moderators interpreting the spirit of the rules. For larger communities a large list of rules on trolling should be present and then users who persistently push their luck should be cited under the trolling rules.

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    If you're going to down vote please leave a comment letting me know why so I can improve my answer.
    – Styphon
    Jul 29, 2014 at 19:40
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The answer could be drawn from the following points:

  • I cannot really understand your concern and why that question arose. It is like that a traffic police officer wonders what he/she should do about people driving at speeds just below the speed limit. The answer is obvious: do nothing, and do not care about it. People acting far above the line or just above the line should be treated the same because they both act above the line. It is generally recommended that "the ideal moderator does as little as possible," then, you wonder what to do when no rule breaking has been occurred?!
  • It seem that you feel discomfort about some actions taken by some members. Those members act above the line, regardless of how far, so there is nothing wrong of them. If such actions disturb the community, some of the community's rules and policies then need be revised so that those actions fall within the class of unacceptable behaviors; in other words, the line lines above such actions. So some disciplinary actions might be taken, according to the revised rules. Otherwise, merely personally disliking some actions should not trigger a moderation decision.
  • It seems that many people believe that those community members acting just above the line are trolls and the like. Let me strongly disagree with this belief and attitude. Firstly, that some actions of some community members lies at a little distance above from the line does not necessarily imply that they are trolling. I am surprised to see that some people easily call such community members trolls and draw that general conclusion without considering events in context. For example, supposing that a member positively contributes to the community but communicates in somewhat harsh tone with other members, how could the member be called troll? Secondly, the term "troll" should be avoided to use because of many reasons such as: it is so vague in meaning that is highly subjective so that the same action can be considered as trolling or not by any two persons; and, the term is often used to attack a member's personality when the member or his/her opinion is disliked by some community influencers. I do not deny that there are some people actually trolling in online communities, but, unfortunately, the term is usually used to avoid facing opposing opinions (I guess that this was the stimulus for adoption of the term in online communities by some moderators who wanted to justify their moderation abuse in silencing opposing opinions).

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