I'm making a PM system (private messages) on my website.

I want users to be able to block a conversation if the sender is spamming or being very unprofessional, for example.

For the user who blocks the conversation it will simply be blocked and removed from that user's list of messages.

Now what about the user who abused the PM system?

Should I allow that user to still see the blocked conversation, while blocking the ability to send more messages in it?

Or should the blocked conversation simply be removed for the spamming user too, without explanation?

Perhaps the blocked user would be provoked and contact the website asking "where is the conversation I had with that person?" or "why is my message blocked?". I would like to avoid that if possible.


One thing I like to do when dealing with these kinds of issues is to envision the situation in a context where the components of the problem are amplified.

Let's imagine this happens publicly on your website, and someone has supposedly violated the guidelines and it is now listed as blocked by another user. What will the consequences be for each?

The user who has blocked that person would have to explain their decision when maybe there wasn't a legitimate one, to begin with. But the system is designed to allow the blocking of any user for any reason and not have to explain or face any undesired results.

The user who is blocked maybe has no clue about what caused it, and it is now categorized as having broken a rule. Other than the general guidelines, they have a much harder task of backing their actions. Seeing how the system favors the blocker, I think it is right that the blocked user is notified and his ability to further message the blocker is removed. So that both won't have to worry about repercussions.

Keeping the blocked user unaware, would unjustly favor one side only. Both must have access to clear guidelines so that they can adjust their actions and comply with the website rules.

  • I see what you're saying. But there will be no "categorized as having broken a rule" for the blocked user. It's simply a user who chooses to not receive any more messages from a certain user, and so blocks it. Right now, I'm leaning towards making it as silent as possible. If we compare to how emails work, a spam-blocked sender is not notified of the blocking and all goes straight to trash/delete/ignore after the block. Same with phones. So maybe I should focus on it more being an "ignore this user" button.. hm – mowgli Sep 9 '18 at 11:18
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    Yes, but the spammer can continue sending the emails. But is now being ignored, or muted. So if the goal is making it silent, ignoring or muting without removing the right to send messages is the fair solution right? – ghislaineguerin Sep 9 '18 at 11:26
  • Perhaps! :) But that could lead to conversations where the ignored user has no clue what he/she did wrong, and not knowing about the block/ignore, so continues to send messages to solve any issue. It's a tricky topic. Choices has to be made – mowgli Sep 9 '18 at 11:29
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    Yes, designing will always be about choices. In that case, is it ethical to waste the blocked user's time? How might we indicate to him that his messages are no longer being read? Simply indicating this would be a strong signal that his communication is no longer welcome. – ghislaineguerin Sep 9 '18 at 11:34
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    Locked might imply there's a resolution or unlocked state in the future. I think if you notify them it is ok to use the standard language. Just blocking them without notification would be an issue I think. – ghislaineguerin Sep 9 '18 at 12:13

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