Irritating members are not always a bad thing

by Martin Reed on 10 September 2007 in Articles

Irritating members may be your most valuable

I have written before about how to deal with abusive users. Before you do that though, you should always consider whether those irritating members who frequent your community are all that bad.

At times, irritating members can inject some humour into your site. At other times, they can create controversy and encourage discussion. Either way, you should always consider whether taking action against an abusive or irritating member is in your best interest.

Not all abusive members are the same

You should never tar every abusive member with the same brush. A sexual predator is not the same as someone who gets a kick out of winding other members up. A sexual pervert is not the same as someone who loves to always write in caps lock.

There are some members that need to have action taken against them. Anyone that risks your site’s reputation or the safety of your members needs to be dealt with swiftly, firmly and decisively. Those that pose no risk though, may be beneficial to your community.

Irritating members can help your community

People will remember your community based on its members. Communities succeed because people want to log into your site and chat with people they know, and to find new friends. Controversial and slightly crazy members stick in peoples’ minds. They are remembered. People will think of your community whenever they think of certain users.

As your slightly more controversial and extroverted members are easier to notice and remember, they become an easily recognisable part of your community. Even if people openly declare their hatred for a certain member, they would almost certainly miss that person’s presence if they were no longer around.

People like having a foe – they may complain about a particular user, but very often deep down they enjoy the antagonism and see it as a ritual they look forward to taking part in.

Members give your community personality

A successful online community is made up of many different personalities. It is only natural that not all of them will get along. Very often you will notice people that tend to argue actually enjoy the banter. Eccentric and slightly irritating members can add personality to what may otherwise be a sterile community.

Before taking action against certain users, consider whether they may actually be benefiting your community.

Always think before you act

Of course, I am not saying that you should put up with abusive members. You should consider just how each member is impacting your community though, before you decide to take action against them.

Banning a user who gets people emotional and stirred up may actually damage your online community. Sometimes your most irritating members can be your most valuable.

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Peter September 10, 2007 at 9:22 pm

Martin, Today you have been given a blog award for the work you do by Scruffyhippo’s blog at, why not pop along and pick up your award and say hi.

Scathmere September 11, 2007 at 9:52 am

I completely agree with this one. I had about 10 members saying they wanted to ban an annoying member.. After a month, I had to bring him back. He’s already stirred up threads, and contributed to making threads up to 13 pages long. Great blog. :D

Sideshow Matt September 11, 2007 at 10:00 am

Great blog, as usual!

I agree that irritating members stir up a lot of interest and discussion. I work with Scathmere at the forum listed, and even when this certain member was banned, he created a lot of controversy within the members of the forum.

It was like he was there, but there would be a discussion, or a post to a discussion about him/her every single day. Now that he is back, he still creates this controversy, and everyone knows who he is.

Vyoma September 11, 2007 at 6:54 pm

Ha ha. I know what you are saying.

This happened quite a bit of time back – about three years, when I started participating in a RPG forum (first forum I joined). There was this one member, who would pop into other people’s roleplaying thread – which was not the usual ettiquette of the forum. He would not actually perform actions that adversely affected the story arcs – but he had this irritating act of a demented/insane person. (You might know how annoying it is if you have ever roleplayed). It was irritating, but after around a week, all the other members sort of accepted it. He became the feature and exprience of that sub-category of the forum (which correlated to the geographical area of the fictatious world). The admins had made a wise decision of keeping him.

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 11, 2007 at 9:29 pm

Peter – That’s great; I’ll definitely swing by to take a look :)

Scathmere – Anyone who can create threads that grow to 13 pages in length is definitely someone you want to keep around!

Sideshow Matt – The fact this character is so memorable makes your community memorable, too. It’s great that you recognise this!

Vyoma – Many community admins are keen to remove members as soon as they step out of line. The comments submitted here show just how valuable those ‘pain in the arse’ members can be! As long as they aren’t stepping way out of line, they should be kept at all costs!

Smiley September 11, 2007 at 9:41 pm

I’ve always said this, Martin – people moan and groan about wind ups, but they secretly enjoy it.

If the community settles down a bit and everyone is getting along nicey nicey.. what happens? All the regulars start moaning and groaning about how bored they are and how the community is dying etc etc etc.

They enjoy the wind ups secretly, because without them they’d be bored. I always take to people with a good sense of humour, so I don’t think I’ll be too heavy handed with such users. I used to be one!

You have to make sure that these users know where to draw the line, though.

Good article. Not everyone who likes to stir a bit of controversy is the enemy! More admins need to learn this.

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 11, 2007 at 10:03 pm

Smiley – Administering an online community is akin to being a politician; you’ll never make everyone happy and in any case this shouldn’t necessarily be your aim!

Martindale September 13, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Great point, I think this falls under the idea that any coverage is good coverage. If you can get some good controversy kicked up – and moderate it well – for one, you’ll have some great interaction between your members. Two, you’ll have a debate that’s potential linkbait.

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 13, 2007 at 11:54 pm

Martindale – You are bang on the money. A little controversy can do wonders for an online community. Interaction and debate is what a community needs – a member that stirs people in to action is a great asset to have.

Hair Loss Cure September 14, 2007 at 6:26 am

I loved reading everybody’s comments.
And I guess you need some irritating members to keep the blog lively.
You need such members so that other members can gossip about them. If everybody is nice then the blog is not happening.

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 14, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Hair Loss Cure – I agree; it’s great when readers get involved and share their thoughts and opinions!

Gossip is great for any online community – it get people involved, engaged, and can create masses of content.

What is your real name, by the way?!?

Eric Martindale September 14, 2007 at 3:57 pm

Hah! Definitely something I don’t recommend – using your keywords as your name. Somewhat counter-intuitive, I think.

Martin Reed – wow, thanks. Another awesome article. Keep it up, I really enjoy your work.

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 15, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Eric Martindale – I think it’s fine to use keywords as your name, just as long as you sign off your comment with your real name! I like to know the names of people I am talking to.

Thanks for your kind comment about my articles – I am glad you are finding them useful.

ideas for classroom door decorations September 20, 2007 at 8:51 am

I think the irritating members are good. Why? because they make the forum or discussion board alive and lively. I just love to read discussion which there are two fighting thoughts. LOL!

Peter Cruickshank September 20, 2007 at 7:52 pm

If you are correct, then would it stand to reason that, if your forum has only nice members, you could improve the experience by creating a few fake user IDs and trolling your own forum with them?

Smiley September 20, 2007 at 8:47 pm

There’s a huge difference between “trolling” (being abusive) and “winding up” (a bit of fun)

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 23, 2007 at 4:01 pm

ideas – Bang on! There is nothing like a bit of friction and controversy to stir up a forum!

Peter – You could do that but it’s really up to you. I would be very careful about setting up names to troll a forum – the last thing you want to do is alienate your real members! What would happen if they found out the members that everyone hates are actually YOU?!?

Smiley – You took the words right out of my mouth!

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