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Moderating "meaningless" replies from would-be spammers?

Travel Forums System Talk Moderating "meaningless" replies from would-be spammers?

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1. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4412 posts) 1y

A common tactic for many would-be spammers nowadays is to post meaningless replies "Thanks for this advice; very useful!" to various threads in order to build up a post-count before dropping their spam message. These meaningless replies don't themselves violate the forum rules, and so they generally are allowed to remain, and clutter up the forum.

In general I think that's something which can be lived with, but more and more often I see threads by legitimate new members who get 2-3 of these meaningless replies before ever getting any real reply. And that, I think, is giving a really bad impression of the forum. (The instance which triggered this post is this thread, which at the time of writing has one real spam reply (for an Ireland tour, while the thread is about everywhere but Europe), and one meaningless reply "yes its nice idea..infact i too like to adventure, if you are thinking of going New Zealand then you must go its a nice place.".) More, sometimes the useless reply isn't recognized as a spam tactic by the original poster, and they reply with confusion "what do you mean? That isn't what I was talking about", etc.

In principle I'm strongly against moderating on content/style. Being "helpful" as a moderator by fixing typos or style, "correcting" information, removing "unhelpful" replies: It's an extremely slippery slope of judging others' contributions, and better forums than travellerspoint have been completely destroyed by moderators going that route.

Despite that, I wonder how everyone would feel about a policy in which moderators are allowed to delete these meaningless replies. We'd have to be extremely strict with ourselves: Anything which even hints of being potentially "real" should be allowed to remain. (And FWIW, I think that actually includes my example above; though it's been deleted now, presumably by Sam.) A false positive would be extremely damaging, and way worse than the cure. But given that constraint: Worth considering? Or still too risky, and the current situation really isn't all that bad?

[ Edit: Edited on 16-Nov-2012, at 03:34 by Sander ]

2. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5579 posts) 1y

I actually tend to delete those replies, but that's only because I have admin rights and check if they have a url linked up in their profile and where they are posting from, as well as if others have used the same tactic from the same ip address. But it's not always straightforward like you say, and sometimes I don't detect a chain of them until a few days later... and some of them are surprisingly creative (usually not the ones that end their usernames with 123 )

Would flagging them so that an admin can check/catch them faster be an alternative?

3. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4412 posts) 1y

Could it be an "invisible" flag? That is, the post remains visible, but it still comes into a queue for you guys to look at? If so, I'd be all in favour! (And/or maybe you could also make IP address information available to moderators without exposing the actual IP address? Just stats like "5 deactivated members from this same IP address, country: Phillipines"? Though I guess those are expensive things to automatically query for on every post.)

4. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3603 posts) 1y

I'd be in favour of something being put in place as I find the meaningless replies quite irritating.

I've toyed with the idea of asking Sam or Peter to allow us to see the IPs but realise that that's probably giving us too much access to the admin side of things, so your idea sounds great Sander, if that or something similar can be done.

5. Posted by beerman (Moderator 1631 posts) 1y

I don't suppose we could have a dye pack explode in the potential spammers face when they start to post their spam? If Interpol got into the action, then everyone in the world would know who the spammers are because they'd look like Smurfs!!!

C'mon, that was funny.

I think it's still just a matter of being vigilant and using the extraordinarily good sense that we Mods have been blessed with. Unless Admin wants to tease us with the keys to the Dungeon.......although I like the "invisible flag" idea too.

6. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5579 posts) 1y

Quoting Sander

Could it be an "invisible" flag? That is, the post remains visible, but it still comes into a queue for you guys to look at? If so, I'd be all in favour!

Actually, that would be a great solution, also just as an option for users to flag a post for checking rather than immediately mark it as spam. I'll ask Peter what he thinks, since he'd have to create it :)

7. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1044 posts) 1y

Quoting Sander

Could it be an "invisible" flag? That is, the post remains visible, but it still comes into a queue for you guys to look at? If so, I'd be all in favour! (And/or maybe you could also make IP address information available to moderators without exposing the actual IP address? Just stats like "5 deactivated members from this same IP address, country: Phillipines"? Though I guess those are expensive things to automatically query for on every post.)

Yeah, I'd agree with the "invisible" flag option, as these meaningless replies can get irritating, and you have an idea of what could be coming next (be that a few days away, or a few months).

With the stats idea, I like that too. I wouldn't have thought it would be too much an issue, as the query wouldn't need to be on every single post. On every forum post there is already the query that shows the total number of posts from that user (presuming it's showing correctly), so you only need to run a query on IP (possibly showing number of deactivated users, and current/recent (and deleted) spam flags for posters with less than 5 posts I would have thought? And this query would only need to run for admin/mods, which cuts down the amount it would be run by quite a lot.

8. Posted by TeflonCDN (Full Member 113 posts) 1y

It seems that the introductions section is mostly about short and meaningless replies...

Perhaps there should be no replies possible in the section or new members should put a bit more info in their profiles. Hard to give meaningful advice when you have no basic info about the person.

9. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3603 posts) 1y

The latest 'pointless replier'.

10. Posted by Isadora (Moderator 13924 posts) 1y

Quoting bex76

The latest 'pointless replier'.

I was going to remove his post in GT until I saw this post by you, Bex. I believe they are meaningless and will eventually the member will begin posting travel agencies, tours, etc. They usually do at some point. :(