ChristianForums: ShannonKish gets banned, and unbanned

2006-11-09 23:58

CF’s elaborate and complicated warning system was, in late 2004, rather a mess. The idea was that, if possible, staff should merely talk to you about things. If you kept pushing it, you would get an unofficial warning; unless you had received an unofficial warning (or, possibly, an unofficial warning for violating that same rule), you were not supposed to get an official warning. Only official warnings led to bans.

ShannonKish, a regular poster, published a book, and posted about it. This was, strictly speaking, a violation of the forum rule against self-promotion. She received an unofficial warning, but on reviewing the record, the staffer assigning the warning (nyj) noticed that she was actually due for an official warning, so he gave her one. This was her third warning, so she got a suspension.

Shannon had no idea what was going on, and software errors at the time made it very hard for her to find out. Due to a design flaw, or possibly a bug:

1. Suspended users could not use the PM system.
2. Staff did not know that suspended users could not use the PM system.

You can guess what happened, of course; Shannon was told (over in the IIDB threads) to PM staff, she tried, she failed, so she made an account to PM them with. The staff member who received her PM determined that she was in violation of the rule against creating an account to get around a suspension, and thus upgraded her to a permanent ban. When she complained, she was told that she needed to PM staff…

Much drama ensued. It was resolved by nyj, whose response to her she reposted over at IIDB:


After giving this whole issue much thought, I have come to the conclusion that I was in error twofold.

1. Because of a procedural error on my part, I issued you an unofficial warning. Grace should have stayed my hand at that point, since the problem rested on me. Going back and reversing the decision to a higher offense was wrong.

2. While technically, your PM and post were self-promotion, I did not afford you the chance of accepting a verbal warning to “not do it again”, to use a medium more suitable for promotion of your book (ie: a CF webpage) and correct future action. Instead, I immediately went to the strongest measure available to the staff without showing any mercy and not allowing you to right any potential wrongs.

In addition, the fact that I warned you for a religious, devotional book makes my actions that much more draconian. For that, there was no excuse.

Therefore, I am reversing the warnings I gave you (striking both the unofficial and official off the books) and I reversing your suspension, which would not have resulted had I not given you the official warning.

I cannot repay you for the time you lost away from CF, but I can offer you my sincere apology for the manner in which you were treated by myself. I ask that you not lay any blame at the feet of P4I or Quaffer, who were only doing their job based on proper procedure. They would not have had to be involved if I had not taken a pharaseeical stance in the first place. I hope that this ordeal does not taint your experiences at CF.

Please accept my apology, I am truly sorry for this incident.

What we see here is one of the reasons that, despite all sorts of problems and confusion, CF has stayed functional. A single person willing to act on Christian ideals can undo an amazing amount of harm. All the harsh words, all the conflict, all the confusion, poof, gone.

This kind of behavior is a credit to ChristianForums staff, and has given many people hope for some kind of real resolution to the concerns about staff errors and abuses. The only problem is that, while a staff member certainly has the option of choosing to act this way, there’s no way to encode such things in the rules. You cannot write a system of rules which provides grace. Some staffers, having read this message and others like it, got in the habit of calling it “grace” anytime anyone failed to punish to the fullest possible extent on the first offense, and would tell users “you have received far too much grace already”. A fascinating notion, if theologically problematic.

Many of CF’s quirks come from attempts to write rules such that any warm body trying to follow the rules will produce the same kind of supportive community which encourages good behavior that nyj’s actions here did. They have always failed, and honestly, if simply writing the right rules could make a loving and supportive community, I’d be writing about “JewishForums”, not “ChristianForums”. Rules alone are never enough without spirit, and the spirit is all too rare.

The astute reader may note that nyj was also the person who apologized to Annabel Lee for the longago witch hunt. He’s like that; he’s one of the people who has gone beyond the “WOO HOO GOD IS GIVING ME PRIZES” phase of Christianity and is now buckled down and giving it a serious go. I have not always gotten along with him, but I have to seriously respect the guy.

Peter Seebach



  1. Just searching my name on google and found this.

    I remember this well!



    — Shannonkish · 2007-04-19 21:48 · #