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Author Topic: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure  (Read 6748 times)

mouser

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An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« on: May 13, 2008, 11:47:00 PM »
We recently had a fake question and answer pair of posts made by people who were affiliated with and trying to spam about a product while pretending to be making honest recommendations.

Because so much of the discussion on this forum deals with people recommending software they like, it's definitely something we have to work hard to prevent.

I had an idea:
What if we added some warning to the post/reply form saying "if you are in any way affiliated with (or have a financial stake in) a product mentioned in this post, you must disclose it.  And we could even have a pop-up confirmation any time an html link is included in a post if we wanted (or is that too annoying).

Gothi[c]

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2008, 11:55:41 PM »
Try to make it visible but not annoying.
A pop-up would be in the annoying category.
Perhaps a checkbox people have to click saying "I agree to disclose my affiliation with products when i post about them" when people sign up for the forum or something, and make it stand out from the rest of the signup formalities.

mouser

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2008, 12:02:49 AM »
Quote
Perhaps a checkbox people have to click saying "I agree to disclose my affiliation with products when i post about them" when people sign up for the forum or something, and make it stand out from the rest of the signup formalities.

this gives me a good idea --
we could have that checkbox only on the first time they ever post -- that seems to be like it might be a good compromise.

nudone

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2008, 01:12:33 AM »
what happens to those people that don't abide by the rule(s).

will their post be automatically deleted - or marked in some way as an example and maybe moved to the 'hall of shame' section of the forum.

CWuestefeld

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2008, 05:24:09 AM »
will their post be automatically deleted - or marked in some way as an example and maybe moved to the 'hall of shame' section of the forum.

Under no circumstances should such spams be preserved. If the links they post survive, they will serve to improve the spammer's Google position, and we don't want to enable that.

What I feel is that the beneficiary of such postings should be listed on a page-of-shame. The NAME of the page -- maybe the server name and the page title -- could be listed textually only (no link), serving as a reference to people we should not do business with.

However, prepare to be sued  :'(. At the very least there must be a means of submitting a request have one's shame removed.

nosh

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2008, 05:38:22 AM »
These instances don't occur too often.

My $ 0.02 : Delete post - Delete user - get on with life.
I don't see how having to check a popup box would deter these guys.

Making everyone click a popup everytime they post a hyperlink = worst possible outcome. People are lazy enough about hyperlinking as it is.


CWuestefeld

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2008, 06:18:11 AM »
There was another one early this morning. It seems to be happening every other day, recently.

Maybe first-time posters can only reply, not start a new thread?

Maybe highlight posts from first-timers, so that the rest of us know to be suspicious, so even if there's spam there we won't follow it.

mediaguycouk

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2008, 06:27:27 AM »
I liked this forum because it was open and I could just jump in and ask questions. Mouser's forum must be exclusively first time users asking a support question and the announce your product is for people to promote themselves.

You're asking people who are purposefully lying to be honest in a forum box. If you trust them to be honest you could put a

[ ] Disclosure: I am professionally associated with the product being discussed

To mark up a full disclosure message at the bottom of the forum post, but presumes honesty.
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cranioscopical

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2008, 11:24:58 AM »
Quote from: mouser
What if we added some warning to the post/reply form saying "if you are in any way affiliated with (or have a financial stake in) a product mentioned in this post, you must disclose it.

I doubt that those who try to promote (dubious) products by planting a question to be answered later
will be troubled by a warning.  It would be a little like asking the guy with a swag bag and jimmy,
"if you're going to burgle my house will you kindly phone the local police station before you begin?"




Carol Haynes

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2008, 01:12:26 PM »
Lot's of ideas (sorry got carried away) ...

How about having an extra "spam warning board" where spammers (and their products are named and shamed) in plain text (ie. no hyperlinks)?

Companies producing software who have affiliates abusing the system could be left there too until they deal with their errant affiliates - it then puts the ball in their court to get off the spamming list by blocking their spamming affiliates and making private contact and explaining what is going on. That way a private conversation could be used to resolve a situation. Any genuine companies will understand the issue and won't want to be identified as a potential spam source.

Finally how about a filter that blocks the posting of product homepage URLs that are listed in the "spam warning board". The filter could pop up a message when someone tries to recommend a product or post a link stating that the URL is banned and why (and therefore the current post needs to be edited before it can be posted). A URL spam list could be generated and updated automatically from the links posted on the 'spam warning' board.

These three steps would make legitimate companies take action against 3rd party spammers, make posting spam links a real nuisance for spammers and would hinder genuine users of the forums.


Actually this whole setup would make a great forum mod for general release.

Alternatively, how about adapting http://custom.simple...ds/index.php?mod=369 or http://custom.simple...s/index.php?mod=1095 to apply to newly registered non-donating users (I presume spammers don't donate?). Only allow them to move out of guest status (or whatever you want to call it) when they have been actively posting on the forums for a while (ie. restrict their ability to post active URLs until they have a sufficiently high legitimate post count). It would also have the benefit that users could be demoted until they prove themselves again!


A further idea is to use 'karma' built into the SMF forum. Award everyone some 'karma' when they sign up, allow it to increase microscopically for each legitimate post and set it to zero for spam posts so that they have to build their karma score again to be allowed to post URLs or images. (see http://custom.simple...s/index.php?mod=1007 ???)


Final idea ... how about making full posting priviledges restricted to donating members - ie. the number of donation credits in an account has to be kept above a limit to be allowed to post URLs or images? It wouldn't have to be a high limit to deter spammers ($2 would do) and wouldn't actually restrict people wanting to use the site beyond having to cut and past a link.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2008, 01:33:03 PM by Carol Haynes »

mouser

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2008, 02:50:28 PM »
Carol, thank you for the considered ideas..

I do think though that our primary concern needs to be not making things more annoying for new people, so many of these things are overkill in my opinion -- and i don't want to put any restrictions on people who don't donate.

In fact the mods here (including Carol) do an incredible and superfast job of catching spammers fast -- it's really only the case where someone is really sneaky that gets by us (and usually it's me they fool and not some of the other mods who can detect spam better.. i guess i'm too trusting).

That's why i'd prefer the most minimally intrusive approach.  Mark0's idea is cool because it helps *detect* spammers behind the scenes rather than making it harder for people to post.

I think something like this, combined with maybe a pop up message to any user only the first time they ever try to post, just reiterating our rules (saying they need to say if they are affiliated with a product, pointing them to help desk, telling them what we do to spammers) would go a long way and make people think twice before proceeding.

And i agree with Carol that perhaps we should put on the complaints section a list of all websites/products that have attempted to spam the forum.

Deozaan

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2008, 03:11:14 PM »
Mark0 had a pretty good idea in one of the spam threads. It sounded neat but might be difficult to implement.

The idea was something similar to this: that for new users, perhaps for their first 5-10 posts, you have SMF automatically google a sentence or two from their post and see if there are any matches. If so, flag the message as potential spam and alert the forum mods. The only potential problem I can see for how this might negatively affect legitimate users is if they have some question that they posted on another forum. So maybe if the google search finds 3 or more matches it gets flagged.

« Last Edit: May 14, 2008, 07:52:42 PM by Deozaan »

Dormouse

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2008, 05:08:28 PM »
Out of the sites I visit regularly, the one that seems to have the most spammers/scammers is webhostingtalk. And the community there is incredibly good at digging them out and exposing them. Policy seems mostly to be to ban spammers, leave threads and exposures if that seems generally helpful and delete the lot if not.

Cynicism rating of most regulars is pretty high though, which is probably why they are so good at reaching the conclusion   :hanged:
« Last Edit: May 14, 2008, 05:10:47 PM by Dormouse »

f0dder

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2008, 05:56:10 PM »
Other forums have a policy about not allowing URLs in the first post (or the first few) - not too annoying, but given the nature of DonationCoder, it's often perfectly valid to start your very first post with an URL... *deep thought mode*
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app103

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2008, 05:24:27 AM »
I have given some thought as to what to do with question & answer spam posts after the poster(s) has been banned:

  • Scrub their profiles of anything that links to any external sites.
  • Remove the link to whatever site they are linking to in the posts too, of course.
  • Replace the product name in the post with a graphic of the text so you can still know what product it was that they were spamming, so users can avoid it. (use a strikethrough in the image text). Users have the right to know who the bad guys are. (file name of the graphic should be something nondescript that won't give away what the text in the image is)
  • Edit the signatures of the users that spammed with something (A small banner that is eye catching would be great) that alerts anyone reading the posts they made that it is spam, and link it to an information page that lists the rules of disclosure and the penalties if caught spamming, and explaining why the post was left on the forum. This will also show in the profile of offending spammers.


This makes an example out of spammers, alerts other readers that the post is not to be trusted, lets readers know which products are the bad guys, and reinforces to members the need for disclosure and what to expect if you don't follow the rules. It also helps other forums identify spam by leaving enough in place for them to find the posts with the alerts in them, to match against posts made on their forums.

At the same time it doesn't let search engines find the url or even the name of the product within any of the posts.

As far as new members that have just joined the forum, they should have to read & check off a box saying they have read and agree to a disclosure policy. They should also have to do it again on their first post.

Not for nothing, but the Q&A type of spammers can spawn a discussion that has merit, beyond a discussion about it originally being spam. We shouldn't allow them to ruin the forum and should try to bring as much good out of a bad thing as possible. Marking a thread as [SPAM] in the topic title will make others avoid it and not input VALID answers to the questions. The valid answers from members can turn it into a good thread with genuine quality information that someone else may be searching for.

So fix the spammers topics and posts, and then turn them into good threads, instead.


Carol Haynes

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2008, 06:15:57 AM »
Not sure whether replacing the name of the item with a graphic would be helpful for two reasons:

  • if you want to check the legitimacy of a product it would be useful if it came up as a spam problem on the forum search
  • if it is a spam problem there is no problem with search engines find the statement "XYZ spams" and broadcasting it to the world.

Perry Mowbray

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Re: An idea for the forum regarding disclosure
« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2008, 08:00:28 AM »
Not sure whether replacing the name of the item with a graphic would be helpful for two reasons:

  • if you want to check the legitimacy of a product it would be useful if it came up as a spam problem on the forum search
  • if it is a spam problem there is no problem with search engines find the statement "XYZ spams" and broadcasting it to the world.

I thought so too Carol: more often than not when there is a discussion about these posts someone has googled the post and found very similar on other forums.

Therefore, I would have thought it would have been handy to have "DonationCoder has identified this post as spam" type message coming up in other Google searches? Which would effectively label the message, product, company when searched for: which is a good thing isn't it?