I think we can count ourselves lucky in having only seen around 10 spams so far in the lifetime of this site. For some peculiar reason only known to spammers, our little community is held to be part of the demographic eagerly in search of new Nike sneakers. Hardly Handmade* merchandise, as I think you'll agree.
Thoughtful as they are, these spams usually come in pairs: a post in English and one in French. Just like sneakers if you will. I'll leave it to the reader to determine which of the two languages is the left and the right shoe.
Nevertheless, as site admins we don't feel these shoes fit. For that reason we're working on a patently obvious system and a method ;-) to combat these nuisance posts. First I'll outline what this will look like initially, then I'll outline how we want to improve on this going forward. Lastly there's a few questions to project owners and the community at large.
Sometime soon, hopefully next week, posts will gain a new button letting our members flag it for moderation.
This button will bring you to a form with a few reasons to choose from as to why you want to report this post, along with a field for optional feedback.
By default we'll have "Spam" selected as the reason. If you believe a post to be spam, all you have to do to report it is hit the report button on the post, then hit the report button on the form that submits it to the moderation queue. Note that we may streamline this in the future and incorporate this into the thread view itself, but in the first iteration it'll take you away for a moment and then return you to the thread after you're done.
Even so, for something that's obviously spam, it'll take maybe 5 seconds at most to hit the button and then confirm it on the next screen.
So why this interstitial form? Isn't one click enough? Well, it would be if moderating forums was all about weeding out spam. Like it or not, we have to consider the possibility that someone might post inappropriate material that's not what you or I would consider spam. Think hateful rhetoric for example. If all someone does is post hateful screed, we may as well treat them as if they were spammers. Nevertheless, it's a different form of speech.
Other examples why you might want to report a post when it's not spam:
- Someone instead posts relatively decent quality material, but it's sprinkled with invective.
- A debate turns a stack of ad-hominem attacks overflowing and drowning out an otherwise good thread.
- You believe a post to contain plagiarised material, whether text or code.
If you have a good faith reason to question a post and want us to caution its author, and/or edit the post to remove the offending language/material, you can also use this button. In this case you'd flick the reason from Spam to the otherwise most appropriate reason why you believe action should be taken. The optional field mentioned earlier is where you could then elaborate on why you believe the author should be cautioned and what if any action should be taken in your opinion.
So, having submitted a moderation request, what then happens? I'm glad you asked.
An email will go out to the site team (Abner Coimbre, Andrew Chronister, Matt Mascarenhas, Martin Cohen and yours truly). It'll be roughly formatted like so:
So and so reported a (blog/forum) post by Such and Such titled Say what now? to project Ah, right.
With the following comments:
Spam (or other reason and elaboration)
Member details (Such and Such)
Registered on: today
Number of posts: 1
Email: [email protected]
- Perma-ban its author and delete all their other posts.
- Temporarily ban its author.
- This was misreported. Unflag the post and send a message to the reporter.
- Visit the thread and decide from there
By the way, in case it isn't clear: We will allow flagging a post more than once, once by every member. This is mainly in case different views exist on a controversial post. To avoid being deluged in reports when spam appears, however, we'll only send an email the first time a post is reported.
For posts that clearly don't fall into this category and have been flagged for other reasons, we'll be able to check if more than 1 report was filed before we make a decision. No worries :)
We'll try and find a clear way to communicate to you that a post has been flagged already, so that you don't have to. In fact, for posts flagged as spam we may even remove the report button. We'll see what turns out to be the sensible thing to do here.
What we probably won't do is hide the post from view until the moderation request has been reviewed. We may do so and trust our members not to abuse this power, in the full knowledge Abner will have a stern word with them if this ability is used on posts that clearly had no business being reported.
Edit: d7samurai suggests that a post that's flagged by more than n number of members can be given the doubt of the benefit and be hidden. It can always be restored if it turns out multiple members (or sock puppets) are in collusion against an otherwise upstanding member.
That's one thing we'd like feedback on. While I think the membership at large will behave honourably, we are approaching a time where we'll become more visible to the world and attract newcomers. Not all those newcomers may be as mature as our present community has shown itself to be.
So, do we hide reported posts from view in the knowledge that if they were misflagged, we can restore it and reprimand the reporter. Knowing that a troll might one day come along and report one of your posts, no harm, no foul? Erring on the side of caution.
Or do we - and by this I mean all of us as the community - instead trust that between the 5 site staff members, anything truly obnoxious will be gone the same day, and more likely than not within a few hours at most. Erring on the side of free speech.
We wouldn't mind some feedback on this.
Also, not unimportantly: Once this functionality goes in, project owners will gain a setting along these lines:
- Notify me of reported posts, I'll take action
- Notify me of reported posts, but let HMN staff decide what to do
- I trust the HMN staff to moderate my forums and blogs on my behalf
The difference being - because accounts are shared across the entire network - project owners won't be given the ban hammer, but they can if they want delete the post to their part of the site. Once using that quick action, they'll be given the chance to send a mail off to the staff asking them for followup action, all from the same page.
That is how we see phase one of the upcoming moderation ability.
One of the future enhancements we're thinking of adding down the line will be the ability for a project owner to ban somebody just from their neck of the woods without it affecting that member's ability to use the rest of the site.
In addition, here's a few things we have thought of but haven't decided on yet.
Should posts by new members (and existing ones with no history of posting) go in a moderation queue automatically, hidden from view until released? This would inconvenience newcomers but would effectively stop spam dead in its tracks. Do so only if the post contains links? Or leave things as is and trust the first person to come across spam to flag it, therefore being more welcoming to newcomers who might otherwise be caught in this net temporarily through no fault of their own.
Those are questions again we pose to you, our community and project owners. What type of community do you want to be is essentially the question. :) We'll obviously take your feedback under advisement. Incidentally, this is also something we can let project owners decide on a per project basis. Some of them may want to enable the moderation queue for new posters, others might want to trust that any nuisance posts will be flagged and dealt with quickly enough.
With that I think I've bored all of you for long enough. Please leave your feedback here, or in confidence in an email to [email protected]