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Poll
Question: Should old threads be automatically locked to prevent spammers from posting on them?  (Voting closed: April 25, 2009, 07:11:36 PM)
Yes. - 5 (23.8%)
No. - 10 (47.6%)
Other. (Comment with a better solution.) - 6 (28.6%)
Total Voters: 21

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Author Topic: Anti-Necrospamming  (Read 14170 times)
Deozaan
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« on: March 26, 2009, 07:11:36 PM »

There's been a trend where spammers will revive an old thread that hasn't been posted in for several months or longer. Sometimes the spam has to do with the original thread (which is why it is revived) and sometimes it just happens to be a place to spam.

I thought it might be a good idea to automatically lock threads that haven't been posted in for, say, more than 6 months (though the length of time is debatable). This would actually serve 3 purposes:

1) It would prevent spammers from resurrecting old threads.
2) It would prevent new members from resurrecting old threads (they don't always realize the date on threads when they're new to the forum).
3) It would prevent regular members from getting confused when old threads are resurrected and not realizing the original post was made 3 years ago.

Additionally, if someone wanted to continue a conversation on a dead thread or start up a related topic, perhaps there could be a method of easily starting a new thread in the same forum section that links to the dead thread. This would allow new conversations to be brought up about old topics while allowing people to read the old material, but only contributing new material, thus keeping most of the information in the new topic up to date and relevant.

So what do the rest of you think? Good idea? Bad? Got a better suggestion? Indifferent?
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app103
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« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2009, 07:16:08 PM »

i don't like the idea of closing old threads and opening newer ones to continue a discussion. It leads to fragmentation of discussions.

It doesn't matter if you close old threads when it comes to spammers, they will just post on newer ones or start a new thread of their own.

And we have never had issues with old threads being resurrected by members, whether they are new ones or old ones. A discussion is a discussion and one of the great things about this forum is that people don't freak out and come after you with pitchforks for wanting to drag up something old and bring it back to life.
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mouser
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« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2009, 07:21:25 PM »

Perhaps what we could do is have the forum software more clearly note when someone is about to reply to and revive a very old thread, making clear that they should only do so if they have something to contribute.
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app103
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« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2009, 07:24:17 PM »

That sounds like a good idea, a notice similar to the one you get when you are about to reply to a thread and another post was made since you hit the reply button.

There should also be some sort of marker between posts if the length of time between them is greater than a few months, to alert others that someone has in fact brought up an older topic.
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cranioscopical
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2009, 07:48:33 PM »

It is useful, sometimes, to see that someone has added an 'updating' comment to an old thread. For example, when some software is updated to include a wished-for feature or a solution is found for a previously insurmountable issue.
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Chris
app103
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2009, 07:56:21 PM »

This is a topic that has come up and been discussed before.

http://www.donationcoder....m/index.php?topic=16127.0
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gexecuter
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2009, 09:57:05 PM »

Perhaps what we could do is have the forum software more clearly note when someone is about to reply to and revive a very old thread, making clear that they should only do so if they have something to contribute.



This feature could added here, if a thread is too old you could get a similar message before posting a reply.
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mwb1100
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2009, 10:57:20 PM »

Perhaps what we could do is have the forum software more clearly note when someone is about to reply to and revive a very old thread, making clear that they should only do so if they have something to contribute.

Well, since it looks like I was the one who first responded to the spammer who resurrected the old thread, I think this is a great idea.
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Ehtyar
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2009, 11:09:00 PM »

IMO closing old threads is not a good idea. April put it as I might've. But I'm all for Mouse Man's idea.

Ehtyar.
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f0dder
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« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2009, 11:41:18 PM »

gexecuter's idea is nice, and even makes it a bit harder for spammers to auto-spam.

Iirc the previous thread about reviving old threads had some other good ideas, like having a clear visual indicator when a post appears X months later in a thread - color coding, warning block, whatever.

Also, it might be an idea to have some "Moderators, look at this" administrative page. This could list
1) "report to moderator" requests (I guess current version sends PM to all moderators?)
2) posts to very old threads (perhaps only by new members, or members with less than Y posts)
3) ...?
4) profit!

I definitely don't think old threads should be auto-locked, imho almost always better to re-use and old thread than post a new.
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- carpe noctem
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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2009, 12:53:15 AM »

i don't think we should close threads just because it's old since as mentioned earlier by cranioscopical, there might be some useful feedback. for instance, i remember a coding snack request that was fulfilled after a couple of years and acknowledged by the original poster.

to stop auto-spammers, maybe we can put in something like a captcha thingy before the poster is able to continue with the revival of the thread.. undecided
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Deozaan
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2009, 01:04:48 AM »

This is a topic that has come up and been discussed before.

http://www.donationcoder....m/index.php?topic=16127.0

I didn't notice it last time! I actually really like your idea that you proposed!

So here's a new idea: Auto-lock old threads that haven't been touched for several months. Then, if you want to post a reply, you have to summon the Thread Necromancer (by clicking a link/button) to revive the thread for you. Reviving the thread unlocks it and makes an automatic post (by the Thread Necro) saying something along the lines of "This thread has been resurrected from the dead! The original post was made on [insert date here] and the previous post was made on [insert date here]. You have been warned!"

To make it clear, the Thread Necromancer isn't really a person and you don't need any kind of approval to summon the Thread Necromancer. You just click a button, it says "Are you sure you want to revive an old thread?" and you click yes and the thread is unlocked and the Thread Necro makes his post.

But if you still don't like the idea of locking a thread, then I think everything I just said would still work except leave out the part about auto-locking and unlocking threads. Just warn that the Thread Necromancer must be summoned to reply to a thread that has been dead for a certain amount of time.
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nosh
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2009, 01:41:07 AM »

How many "necro-spams" has the forum received lately? Any kind of hindrance to usability would be an over-reaction, IMO.
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J-Mac
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2009, 03:36:43 AM »

Two Points:

1) If spammers are the target, what makes anyone think that they would heed a clearer reminder that they are reviving an old thread?? If plain old thread necromancing is the problem, fine. Spammers won't care.

2) Didn't we discuss moderating threads/posts for spam reductions a few months ago? (Too late for me to find and link to it now!)  IIRC it was a very long thread and absolutely nothing came of it after all.

So why hash it all out again if the result will be the same? Unless we're serious this time...  Grin Grin Grin Grin

Jim
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app103
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« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2009, 03:47:19 AM »

@J-Mac - This isn't just about spam. There are 2 issues here:

1. Spammers that bring up old threads.

2. Regular members that bring up old threads.

Spam or not, there does need to be some sort of visual indicator alerting other readers when a large gap of time has passed between posts in a thread.

There is nothing wrong with bringing up old threads when there is a legitimate reason to do so, but when there is, it would be nice to know before you respond to it.

A warning to the poster if they are about to post to an old thread with a confirmation that they still want to do this, and then the automatic insertion of some visual indicator if they decide to go ahead with it.

If you have ever been on other forums where they have Google ads, and seen how they appear as posts made by Google, complete with Google's avatar & all, then you have some idea what I meant by the thread necromancer "user" idea, where a post is inserted right before the post from the user that brings the thread back to life.

Even if it were just a small statement of "this thread has been brought back to life" it would go far to alerting readers that this is what has just happened.

This isn't going to stop spam, as nothing really can stop a determined spammer, but when a regular member is about to bring an old thread back to life, they would be more aware of what they are about to do. And if they do post, we would notice the gap in time between the last post and their new one before we respond to it.
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justice
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« Reply #15 on: March 27, 2009, 05:07:38 AM »

other,
after submitting to an old thread, redirect to a confirmation page where you have to press button (or choose one from random 3). that way spammers can't update old threads but regular users can.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 05:11:41 AM by justice » Logged

wraith808
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« Reply #16 on: March 27, 2009, 12:35:25 PM »

I like the dialog idea better than the redirect, and like *both* better than CAPTCHA.  I'd think that a dialog or a redirect would deter bots enough without the CAPTCHA.
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J-Mac
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« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2009, 03:44:05 PM »

Something similar to the warning that appears if another post is made between when you started writing your reply and submitting it.

Jim
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40hz
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« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2009, 11:17:35 AM »

How many "necro-spams" has the forum received lately? Any kind of hindrance to usability would be an over-reaction, IMO.

Agree.

Either our forum moderators Kiss  are exceptionally good at getting rid of spam before most of us see it - or I'm going blind blind, because I haven't noticed all that many spam messages being posted.

Are we actually having a problem with this at DonationCoder? Mouser? Carol? JGP?


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J-Mac
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« Reply #19 on: March 28, 2009, 11:21:57 AM »

How many "necro-spams" has the forum received lately? Any kind of hindrance to usability would be an over-reaction, IMO.

Agree.

Either our forum moderators Kiss  are exceptionally good at getting rid of spam before most of us see it - or I'm going blind blind, because I haven't noticed all that many spam messages being posted.

Are we actually having a problem with this at DonationCoder? Mouser? Carol? JGP?




It seems to come in fits. I'll suddenly see five or six sneak in, then none for a while. Not really a big problem IMO.

Jim
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ewemoa
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« Reply #20 on: March 29, 2009, 09:09:29 AM »

As an experiment, I put together a Greasemonkey script to change the color of the reply date string if it's been more than 180 days.

It currently only works w/ dates that contain YYYY-MM-DD portions, but if there's interest, may be it can be appropriately modified Wink



Formatted for Javascript with the GeSHI Syntax Highlighter [copy or print]
  1. // ==UserScript==
  2. // @name          Nemse
  3. // @namespace  http://ewemoa.dcmembers.com/greasemonkey/
  4. // @description  Script to provide visual indication of posts older than some amount
  5. // @include       https://www.donationcoder.com/forum/*
  6. // @include       http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/*
  7. // ==/UserScript==
  8.  
  9. var now, then, gap, age, dateRe, xpExp, snapResults, i, elm, text, m;
  10. now = new Date();
  11. age = 180;
  12. dateRe = /(\d{4})-(\d{2})-(\d{2})/;
  13. xpExp = "//div[contains(@id, 'subject')]/following-sibling::*";
  14. snapResults = document.evaluate(xpExp, document, null, XPathResult.UNORDERED_NODE_SNAPSHOT_TYPE, null);
  15. for (i = snapResults.snapshotLength - 1; i >= 0; i -= 1) {
  16.  elm = snapResults.snapshotItem(i);
  17.  text = elm.textContent;
  18.  m = dateRe.exec(text);
  19.  if (m === null) {
  20.    continue;
  21.  }
  22.  then = new Date(m[1], (m[2] - 1), m[3]);
  23.  gap = (now - then) / 1000 / 60 / 60 / 24;
  24.  if (gap > age) {
  25.    elm.setAttribute("style", "color: red;");
  26.  }
  27. }
  28. // XXX
  29. //alert("It is currently: " + now.getFullYear() + "-" + (now.getMonth() + 1) + "-" + now.getDate());
« Last Edit: December 23, 2009, 04:46:21 PM by ewemoa » Logged
J-Mac
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« Reply #21 on: March 29, 2009, 01:01:54 PM »

Above post (I think) caused a "Page Exception" error - I couldn't even get this page to render without creating an exception certificate. How come?

Jim
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gjehle
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« Reply #22 on: March 29, 2009, 01:33:17 PM »

other
1) i agree with justice, after a certain amount of time a thread is dead it could require a captcha to revive it
2) reviving threads could be limited to people who already contributed to DC, eg have more than 10 or 20 regular posts.
in the case where a spammer just signed up he wont be able to revive, and if they're spamming on new threads their accounts get deleted anyway.
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app103
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« Reply #23 on: March 29, 2009, 05:37:07 PM »

I don't think a captcha to post would make a difference if it's a human spammer that already got past the captcha to make an account on the forum, in the first place.

I don't think we have an issue with spambots reviving old threads. If anything, it's human spammers that are quite capable of passing a captcha test, clicking extra buttons, etc., so adding more hoops for humans to jump through in order to stop spammers would be pointless, as they can jump through the same hoops anyone else can.

Restricting posting on older threads only to members after a certain number of posts is also not such a good idea, as this would deter posting to an older thread by someone that actually has something valid to add that may have just discovered the forum.

The best we can probably do with regards to human spammers posting on old threads is to delete it when we catch it and ban the spammer.

But it might be easier to spot if there was a visual indicator to readers, like I explained before.

Another thing to keep in mind is how I detect spam on the forum is usually with popup cody. If I see something that is obvious spam, I click through and take action, usually before anyone else gets a chance to see it. And I am not the only one that uses this method and is removing spam. (that's why you don't see that much spam around here) There is nothing in the popup to indicate when the last post in the thread was, so I don't know when I see it that an old thread was just revived. I do have an indicator of when the thread was started, but that really isn't anything to go by on this forum because there are many threads that have had a long beautiful life and still going strong. (the note-taking thread, for example)

If you do see something you suspect is spam, report it. I check all the reports that hit my inbox and delete any obvious spam, and if I am not sure about it, I leave it to another mod to check or bring it to mouser's attention and ask him what he thinks.

All in all, this forum has very little in the way of a spam problem. And it has been kept well under control. You can read the RSS feed from here without seeing a million spam posts, unlike another forum I am a member of, in which their feed is so loaded with spam (about 90%) that I can't find the valid posts any more. I had to unsubscribe and go back to visiting that forum directly, in order to avoid the spam. (google reader caches the posts in the RSS feed and shows older stuff that was removed, which includes all the spam) DC's RSS feed is still very clean in google reader, which means we are doing a great job getting rid of it very quickly.

We are not being over-run by spammers, so relax. This isn't an urgent issue that needs drastic action that would inconvenience normal members.
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ewemoa
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« Reply #24 on: March 29, 2009, 05:50:56 PM »

Above post (I think) caused a "Page Exception" error - I couldn't even get this page to render without creating an exception certificate. How come?

I think it may have to do with my using SSL / https to access DC when creating the post -- perhaps uploading the attachment under those conditions caused the link(s) to the image / thumbnail to be made available only via SSL / https.
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