Tag Archives: forum

What Happened to Anonymity Online?

What exactly did happen to anonymity online? And do we really need it?

I think that people were generally more likely to use pseudonyms or post anonymously back in the 1990’s; yet nowadays it seems everyone’s almost too open about themselves.

Just look at older interactive site or forum, and about 90% of them are run by staff going under usernames related to the topic in a generally anonymous way. And many of the members are a bit more secretive than people online now.

But then when you look on any more ‘modern’ website, it seems like hardly anyone is writing things pseudonymously (is that a word?) any more. Everyone gives their real name and photo, half the people there basically just use their Facebook or Twitter profiles rather than an actual forum profile, why?

When did anonymity become seen as a bad thing? Web 2.0 time? And why is this? Did the audience online change significantly enough that it attracted the types of people who wanted the internet to perfectly mirror the real world?

Some say “Blame reality TV shows………”

Maybe it is our expectation that everything on the internet should be free?

When you don’t pay for a service, you’re the merchandise being sold to the highest bidders, and that doesn’t work too well unless service providers pry away as much data they can from you.

We can also lay the blame at the door of Facebook, Twitter, Connect then Google+ (its easier to push people and sites to use its login system than it is to independently require their real names every time).

Some suggest that you’re perfectly anonymous all the time except when you explicitly decide to disclose your identity to select people every single time, or you know the people you address.

It still makes me wonder why people don’t just use fake names or whatever. It’s not exactly easy to verify for a free service like Facebook is it?

I guess login systems make it easier to have people use their real names, but why does it seem more authors and writers online in general seem to have dropped the anonymity and/or pseudonymity too?

When did just about every site become a blog?

Nobody after credibility will deny themselves the gains of getting their commentary validated and cited; especially in the mainstream press.

Building a reputation as a credible author is difficult behind anonymity, as its mostly used as a disposable/ephemeral persona meant to favour free expression safe from retaliation or persecution. This is not a concern for regular authors, who may still use pseudonyms either for privacy or due to pre-established fame.

Big data is now big business. They (Facebook, Google+ etc.) are doing everything they can to get you to disclose as much as they can about you.

Not only is the data on your very valuable but also the ability to track you, your lifestyle, and your commercial interests across the web and target ads at you.

Why does it seem like anonymity is going away? Because there is a billion dollar industry out there being born and people are working to make it seem that way so you’ll be more inclined to willingly give up your personal data to every site you encounter.

What are your thoughts about anonymity online, the information big sites demand of you and personal data protection? Tell us using the comment box below.

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Forum Moderators Guide – How to be a Good Forum Moderator

The Moderators guide below was originally taken from several large forums with over a million posts between them.

It was further tweaked as a result of the published guidelines of several ‘big boards’ that have each around a million posts.

It was later honed and tweaked by a published author who administrates three large forums. This is the current exact version his forums use.

If you are new to managing forums, you need to outline to your staff what exactly you expect of them. You cannot expect them to guess or know already. Almost nobody inherently ‘knows’ how to be as good moderator – they must be taught.

Sometimes that stuff is ABC; stuff you would expect is a given already. But with some people – especially Americans – it needs to be spelled out in no uncertain terms. Americans are not like the rest of us – they make friends in elevators, and tell strangers their life story after one drink.

Similarly, many Europeans are simply stupid. They also need guidance on what is normal behaviour, and what is expected in a position of trust.

So here are the moderator guidelines that several large forums use to teach their mods how to behave on their site:

Moderators Guide

Introduction:

Thank you very much for volunteering your time in helping us to keep the forums tidy. The task of a moderator is very important in keeping the community together and helping it remain attractive to newcomers. Here are some simple guidelines.

Responsibilities:

Your responsibilities extend across all forum rooms.

Do not moderate in topics that you are controversially involved in, or against those you have an acrimonious personal history with.

Conduct:

Within the forums, we expect that you will always take the high road. Do not belittle members, do not air dirty laundry in public, etc. If you have a personal problem with a member, PM them or e-mail them.

We expect you to keep the best interests of the members/forums in mind. It is not in the best interest of anybody to start or contribute to flaming/bashing threads. The only result of these threads are hurt feelings and general negativity in the forums. It is not necessary nor useful to participate in such things.

Please note that it is completely unacceptable to use anything that you have found out in this forum or through being a mod against a member.

Confidentiality:

It is important that mods have a place to discuss matters frankly without worrying about confidentiality. We expect you to keep ALL discussions in this mod room confidential. If we cannot trust each other, there is no hope. If you will not stick to this, please notify me so that I can remove you from the mod group. If we discover that you have breached confidentiality, we will remove you as mod. The mod room must not leak!

Any information that is sensitive in relation to the forum owners or the forums operation must not be disclosed to the general members of the forum (or anyone else) using any form of communication either within or outside of the forums. Failure to abide by this guideline may result in the immediate removal of your moderator status.

Forum Duties:

The primary role of a forum moderator should be to promote interaction. A forum moderator should be posting new threads and adding new content to the site. They should be helping out members with their queries, encouraging them to post an introduction topic (and welcoming them when they do), and they should be keeping threads alive by asking questions and promoting discussion.

Most moderators see themselves as forum police officers and will only edit/delete/lock content without creating any themselves. This is a mistake – the primary role is to encourage interaction, to encourage member involvement, and to encourage a sense of community within the forum.

As a moderator, you are required to be an active poster and visitor to the site, as well as a visible rule-enforcing figure. If you do not meet any of the aforementioned requirements you may be removed as a moderator. Too many forums have drive by mods who only look in once a month for ten minutes. On a busy site, that is no good.

All moderators should be visibly present to the forums a minimum of twice in any one week. You must always inform other moderators of your intended absence on the topic we have for that. For example, if you are away from the forums for a length of time longer than a few days.

Start topics, and keep existing topics moving.

Please lean on other mods here for support and advice when needed.

Moving Threads:

If there are any threads that need to be “deleted”, move them to the trash bin. The only time you would use “Move thread and leave redirect in previous forum” is when someone posts a question/thread in the wrong section.

Editing Posts:

There are a lot of occasions when you will need to edit a post. Whenever you do, please insert a small edit note at the very bottom. For example, if a member attached an advertisement of his or her website in a post, you would want to edit that part out and put a note at the end like “(YOUR NAME edit note: No advertisements allowed)”.

Exceptions might be spelling/format/layout/punctuation corrections you do. No need to record those or anything similarly minor like quote corrections.

Feel free to edit topic titles from something like “i have a question” to something Google has a chance of finding and people will read. “visa question” would read better as “USA K1 Fiancée Visa Query”

If a member posts something objectionable about you, have another mod deal with it rather than just nuke it yourself. That removes accusations of bias. We must be seen to be transparent and honest in our actions. Doing so gains us respect with the members.

Language:

No violent, discriminatory language or personal attacks are tolerated in the forum. If you see any inappropriate posts, edit the post immediately. Remove the offending portion or entire post body and insert an edit note explaining your action. If an excessive amount of profanity is used in a post, simply delete it. Remember to edit any subsequent quotes of deleted posts.

Thread Title Punctuation:

Subjects must not contain excessive amounts of punctuation (namely exclamation marks or question marks). Should you see a thread with excessive punctuation in the subject, edit it by choosing “Modify” at the upper corner of the post. Capitalise the first letter in the first word also, or add title caps if you prefer.

Advertisements:

No advertisements of any form are tolerated in any forum without prior approval. Private website links in the signature are fine as long as it doesn’t have too many links in it. Use your judgement based on our stated policies.

Spam:

The following are considered spam:

* Very short posts that do not add value to the current discussion. For example, a post with only the words “yeah me too!” or an emoticon are spam.
* Off topic posts should be either removed altogether or moved to the appropriate place, depending on the moderator’s view on the content.
* Posts that obviously serve no purpose other than upping ones post count. Again, this is up to the individual moderator to decide.
* Posts like “XXX, I have a question for you” are considered spam. That should be done via private messaging. Often on-the-topic guidance is all that is needed there.
* Starting a new thread when a similar thread has already been started.
* Restating ones vote in a poll thread with no explanation.
* Any other posts that we deem inappropriate for other readers.
* Responses to spam posts should be considered as spam and be removed. However, spam warnings should not be given in such cases except in severe cases.
* Restating someone else’s opinion, or re-answering a question that has already been answered. Some members up their post count by re-answering a question in exactly the same way. “Yeah, what he said. for example.” If its occasional, leave it. If someone does that often, delete it.
* Posts that contain large amounts of smileys and/or spaces to make it look like they contain useful information often don’t. Be aware of those tactics to quickly up post count.

Give a bit of leeway to new posters (you can tell by their join date).

Relevancy:

When you found a thread that is not relevant to a particular room, immediately move it to the appropriate one. Sometimes you should leave a “trail” and sometimes you shouldn’t. I usually leave it if there isn’t more than 2 close visible trails. Try not to leave too many “moved topic” notifications around, it makes the place look untidy.

Polls:

We currently allow polls in most forums. Remove polls if they are idiotic and irrelevant. eg. John Doe made a poll titled “Who’s da man?” and put his name in the options. Polls like “What’s the juiciest kind of carrot???” are usually not productive and should be deleted.

Sexual Content:

Sexual content is not permitted except in the most general context. This includes sexually explicit avatars, use of violent sexual language, unwanted sexual advances, and anything else that could be hurtful and offensive.

We serve advertisements from Google (and occasionally private advertisers) in order to fund the sites operation. Accordingly, we must adhere to Google’s acceptable content guidelines in that regard. If we don’t, they have the power to de-index the site with a single click. As a general guide, we should be aiming at their published standard: “If your site has content which you wouldn’t be comfortable viewing at work or with family members around, then it probably isn’t appropriate”.

On the internet, Google is like God. Every site must bend to Google’s wishes or die on the vine. Google has more power than governments.

Closing Threads:

When you can foresee that a thread is going downhill, you should close the thread only as a last resort. A prime example will be flame wars or totally off topic discussion.

Off topic discussion can be split off, retitled and placed in the correct section (or merged with an existing topic if the usual suspects).

However, do not close threads just because the initial question/concern was answered. It is because although the first question is answered, the thread starter might have another question related to the original one. Bottom line is, don’t close a thread if a normal conversation is going on smoothly.

Whenever you close a thread, make a post to briefly explain the reason behind it. Moderators can post to closed threads.

Sticky Topics:

Don’t sticky anything unless you are sure it is of value. Review the current stickies occasionally to make sure they are still relevant to our members.

Suspensions, Warnings and Bannings:

Either [insert], [insert] or I will deal with this. Please make a topic on the mod board if you think someone deserves a ban or warning.

Those who have ban buttons can freely ban Chinese spammers and the like. If you don’t have ban buttons, make a mod room topic to get it done.

Multiple Accounts:

Not allowed. End of story. Make a mod room topic if you find one.

Rules and TOS:

Read it and be generally familiar with it. Remember that we do not delete members or remove members posts on a whim. If someone asks you to do that, refer them to the TOS with a link.

General:

It is not the intent that mods here issue “missives from upon high”. Do not employ red capital letters or other high profile nonsense. Our actions should be discreet and not overly visible to readers. Nobody likes an over-moderated and oppressive forum. Do not moderate in topics you are controversially involved in. Try to be fair and objective with all posters; no favouritism.

Sometimes a bit of general guidance is all that is needed to guide a topic back on track. Members need to see that the mods are actually active, both as contributing members and moderators.

Do not publicly criticise or override another mod’s actions. We have a mod room for any disagreements between ourselves. Members must see that we are a cohesive team that work together and support each other.

Further questions, clarification and discussion on this topic is welcome. Don’t wonder…… ask! Continue reading

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How Forum Spammers Operate. How To Spam A Forum

Forum spam is a big issue if you own a forum. This title is probably going to bring in some folks, thinking ‘why the heck is he writing this here?’ We don’t need to know how they work, we just need to know how to stop forum spam.’

The simple truth is, if you know exactly how it’s done, and how it all works, you can then know what counter-measures you can invoke to help to combat this problem. Note how I said to “combat it”, and not stop it.

The only way to completely stop forum spam, is to stop people signing up to your site, and just have your own little website or bulletin board with six members.

There are two main types of spam: Human and automated.

This can then be split down into profiles, and posts. Posts are good as they give you the contextual links; profiles are OK, as they give a hyperlink to somewhere.

Human spam you just have to deal with manually as best you can. Automated spam you can do much more to prevent it happening.

If you consult Google, you can find numerous automated programmes like ScrapeBox, designed to create links back to other websites from forums, article directories, social bookmarking sites like Digg, Facebook, etc.

To perform automated spam, you need one piece of software, and a list of websites. That’s all.

The software is a matter of personal choice (or maybe cost), the list you can create your own (but nobody does that – they buy them), or they use the inbuilt software ones if they are beginners.

Creating forum profiles is easy with yet another piece of software.

To show how easy it is, go to Google and paste in “SMF © 2011, Simple Machines” – with the quotes. When I did it, I got “740,000 results”.

So that’s lots of forums to choose from.

The software allows you to create you own lists; we will now look at that, and your ‘niche’. Lets say your niche is antiques. It will then give you a list of quite a few thousand SMF forums, where Google has brought them for the keyword ‘Antiques’

Another way, is to look at the actual web addresses. Many forums have a custom URL structure, that runs throughout all pages of that software. /members.php as a simple VBulletin example. There are so many, so I won’t bore you with them all here on this article.

Having our target list, and our spamming software, we need to now set it up.

First things first: proxies (ability to switch IP addresses). Either purchased private ones (the usual type), or publicly available, yet slower ones (for the beginner). Either way, load these into the software, and it will switch and change as it creates accounts.

Next, email addresses. No need to worry too much, as the software will auto-create many for us from Hotmail, Inbox, Yahoo, AOL, Easy, Gmail, or any other free email provider like this. You can try to get around a few spam measures by using your own domain emails. It works just as well, just many spammers are complacent, and won’t want to click more than one button to make an email address that will never be used for anything else ever again.

Then we need to tell the software our account name. Many support ‘Spinning’. This is where you write the text like this {liked|loved|appreciated|enjoyed} and each time it posts, it chooses one from the brackets and so changes the sentence structure making the comments look to Google as unique. OK, much of it will be Indianglish crap, but Google won’t recognise that usually. So comments will get ranked.

Password, date of birth etc., they just click ‘auto create’ and the software does it. Including address etc…..

Now we have all we need to create a zillion profiles, and its taken about ten minutes – if that – to set up the software to get to this point.

We click start and off it goes. Depending on the computer speed, we may be hitting anything between five and one hundred forums at any given time. These are simultaneous connections.

The software goes off to the forums, finds the sign up page, and fills in all the details. I don’t see the forum on my screen, just a status update saying ‘Signing up’ etc.

Then we hit the captcha. There are three ways to deal with this:

Manually: A little box appears on the screen, with just the captcha image, and a small box underneath to enter the text. I can sit at the computer all day long entering these if I feel the need.
Software: A clever piece of software that sits on your computer and solves them for you. Works OK, but is no good with the Decaptcha (Black and white with squiggle writing).
The India/China/Pakistan Connection: The software many are using can use a service where the captcha images are sent to the developing world and solved by them, sent back to my computer, entered on the sign up form, and membership signed up in less than one minute. I have known it to be as quick as twenty seconds.
Sign up questions work the same: Just a small box appears on the screen, with the question, and a space for an answer. ‘What day is after Monday?’ ‘What is the last word in this phrase?’ ‘What is 3+4?’ anyone can solve these, even my toddler. Better ones like “Who is the president of Russia?” or “Who was Obama’s main contender in the last US election?” work better as Gupta doesn’t know the answer without Googling.

So, we’ve done all this, and the accounts are made. We then need to verify them. No problem, just let the software run, it logs into AOL (or wherever), downloads all the emails, extracts the sign up links (it knows the URL structure) and clicks them all.

Hey Presto! An hour later, and maybe a thousand verified forum profiles. Next we need to log in and post our details. A bio would be nice (and if we can link in it, even better). Make the bio about what our site is about (remember links come from pages with relevance) and a link back to our homepage. How many forum owners allow members to post their homepage in their profile? If the signature appears on the member page, we’ll post something there as well.

That’s it, all done. No need to post on the forum itself, unless you want to be banned. The software also tells us if our profile is publicly viewable, if the admin have to activate the account and anything else that would cause the process to fail.

The link that is placed on a forum profile isn’t really worth much, and so normally points to a page that then links to another page (linkwheel), which may link to another page (inner circle , and then to the persons main site (the money site). So you can see they are used pretty low down, but still worthwhile for getting things indexed. All that Google juice passes through. Forum links matter when done en masse.

So, how can you clamp down on these spammers? Make member profiles visible to only logged in users is a big one. If Google can’t see them to index them, why would a spammer want a link there? It won’t stop all accounts, but will help a lot.

Ban free email accounts, or if you can, have @gmail, @hotmail on admin approval some people say, but that’s crap. Almost everyone uses a free email account. That blocks genuine members.

Change your questions to the not so obvious as mentioned already, and change them each month! Some software now learns the answers to these questions, and share them on a remote database to Indian and other spammers.

The ‘sought after’ profiles, are those that come from high PR forums and .edu domains. Many of these may be signed up to manually, and indeed a little industry has built up around this activity, with people selling monthly lists.

I read on a site last week, someone said they left their membership open, and now had IP, email and usernames of over 1000 spammers and they would share them so they can be added to a blacklist. This is a totally pointless and not worthwhile exercise, as I explained, the email, IP, user, whatever, can all be changed at the click of a button.

Normally, all details are changed per run that is performed. So banning an email address is OK, but just remember the chances of it being used again in your forums lifetime is slim to non-existent. Continue reading

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The old Lucky Lovers forum. What happened to it?

Many people mourned the loss of the forums that were once attached to the Lucky Lovers dating site.

They were popular forums in both the English and Russian languages. It was a place many Russian women congregated, and several marriages resulted between people who met on the forum.

What wasn’t widely known is that the forums were split off from the Lucky Lovers site and assigned a new domain several years ago. That domain was GoGabber.com. But it wasn’t very heavily promoted anywhere.

The last few years the site has limped along with a low Google ranking and lacking much purpose and not drawing in many new members. As with many forums, when the infighting between the members became too much hassle, the current administrator decided to call it quits.

Thankfully, the site is now under new management, and is about to get some of the work it has badly needed the last year or two.

So if you are looking for a place to chat with Russian speakers, or chat with anyone, GoGabber is for you.

If you are wondering what happened to the old Lucky Lovers forum, well, you just found out. So what are you waiting for? Go join GoGabber today! Continue reading

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Dave Cogito Massachusetts Moderator WritingForums.org

Dave Cogito, Massachusetts – Moderator on WritingForums.org Todays submission to the “Real Deal”  bitch slap list is this guy. His name is Dave, he is from Massachusetts, USA and he is 55 years old. (Born May 21, 1953) This guy … Continue reading

Posted in Politics & Random Musings | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments