Thursday, 10 September 2015

A look at Something Awful's moderation by the numbers

Something Awful has been on the Internet for over a decade and a half. In that time, it has been responsible for many aspects of Internet culture. I myself have been on the website's forums since December of 2000, so I've seen a lot of stuff come and go.

One aspect of the forums that is unique when you compare it to other Internet communities is that it keeps a public ledger of all of the punitive actions made by moderators and administrators to the site's users. This was implemented in 2004 and it has been kept since.

During an attempt to get over some jet lag, I decided to see what sort of numbers could be retrieved from the "Leper's Colony" which is the aforementioned ledger. After some attempts, I managed to download the data and then compile it into JSON which will be provided after I finish digging through the information.

I've also crunched some numbers and made pretty graphs to see how the site has behaved since the ledger was started. I'll start with the numbers in this entry and then provide some pretty stuff in the next.

No data outside of the Leper's Colony was retrieved other than a count for total users.

There's a lot of information you can gleam from this information including seeing how much involved Richard "Lowtax" Kyanka has been throughout the years and even how much money accounts can cost.

Base Statistics

The ban data covers all moderator and administrator data from August 7th, 2004 through to September 9th, 2015. During this time there were 136,845 events, meaning that on average there were 33 to 34 events per day.

When the data was compiled, there were approximately 193,000 accounts--this value fluctuates so we're going to leave it at this. Additionally, there are three punishment types marked in this ledger; they are ban, permabanned, and probated.
This table breaks it down by the numbers:


Based on the unique values, this means that around 18% of all users have had their accounts probated for a period of time, 9% have been banned, and about 1% have been permabanned entirely. The numbers also tell us that less than 4% of permanent banishments are not really all that permanent.



One aspect of the Something Awful forums is that temporary banishments (and not-so-temporary) are given quite frequently. Users that receive these probations are able to view the forums and send private messages, but they would not be able to post any new threads or reply.

Probations can be given one of two ways: either a moderator directly probates someone for whatever reason or the user posts a thread that gets removed ("gassed") which results in a 15 minute inability to post--however the latter does not end up on the ledger.

The first reported probation in the dataset was on September 27, 2004, and the infraction was "grasshopper leeching in BYZT".

The following table shows the length of a probation and the number of them given.

<6 hours36 hours22,095
12+ hours6,2801 day34,895
3 days24,0501 week13,607
2 weeks11 month3,227
>1 month2100,000 hours192

For the last one, 100,000 hours is about 11.5 years. It's given out periodically for those who may invoke the ire of an administrator who decides that it's much more humourous to just remove them for a decade. The first person to suffer this got the punishment on May 8th, 2005, which means that on October 4th 2016, or about a year from now, that account will be able to post once again--the account has not posted since being probated.

The total number of probation hours given would add up to just slightly over 3,000 years.


Bans are as they described: you are removed from the forums if you're found to be in violation of the rules or you've been probated so many times that a message needs to be sent.

Unlike many other websites such as Reddit or Digg, Something Awful does require you to pay in order to sign up. This hasn't always been the case, but accounts registered past late 2001 are typically paid at a rate of $9.99 USD. Numbers are hard to determine, but at the time before paid accounts became a part of the forums' operation, there were about 20,000 users, meaning that from just account registrations alone, around $1.7 million has been paid by new users. This could be impressive if it weren't for the fact that this is over a span of 14 years, meaning that it would just be $100,000 per year if it to remain consistent.

However, unique to Something Awful is the ability to pay for the ability to return to the forums. With exception to a permanent ban, all one has to do to return is pay the $9.99 fee and they'll have their account back--there is one catch: if you have any upgrades which too also cost $9.99, you'll have to pay for those upgrades once again too.

And it has worked. Accounts have re-registered several times as indicated by the ban data itself. Here's a table that breaks down the ban counts and how many unique users per count.

# of bansCount# of bansCount# of bansCount# of bansCount

As you can see, it can get quite impressive, but it should be kept in mind that if someone does get banned that they won't necessarily come back. However, multiple bans does indicate that the person has at least paid $9.99 once to return. If one were to assume that everyone has paid to come back, Mr. Kyanka would have raised about $240,000 from re-registrations alone.

One user who takes the top with 35 bans actually has more: the person in second place is the same user, which means the user has been banned 66 times, or has contributed at least $660 to Something Awful.

Or maybe they're not the top-most. Another user had registered 77 times under different but similar aliases, meaning they've spent almost $770.

What this speaks of is that you're not going to get rid of all problematic users by banning them, but it does mean that you can at least get some compensation for having to put up with them.


This account punishment is as it reads: a permanent ban. As mentioned earlier, some accounts do get the permanent ban lifted: it appears to be about 3.5%.

To break it down, 2,307 accounts have been permanently banned once. For accounts permabanned twice, it's at 73. Accounts permanently banned three and four times are both at 3.

It should be kept in mind that some accounts permabanned once may also be twice or more as well as they may be registrations under a different name.

Coming up...

In the next entry, I'll show pretty things in graphs. This one will take a bit longer than a few days but it should be fun.

1 comment:

  1. When making the graphs, look out for the "lulzocaust", when Lowtax banned any and all users that had used "lulz" (except one guy who only got a probation because he was funny)