Regulars: Avoiding Post or Account Holds

The Forum comes equipped with antiSPAM measures. There are no antiSPAM measures on the planet that are reasonably effective but never interfere with legitimate user behavior. The options boil down to wide open or accepting some false positives as the cost of the average person being allowed on the internet in 1992 and the simultaneous development of SPAM.

One way SPAM disrupts a forum is automated bot SPAM, the other a human user who, typically, is logging onto hundreds of forums per week. That behavior is usually reflected by logging in and, within a few seconds pasting the full text of an article or even just a link, and moving on. Human spammers post topically consistent content of that type, then move to the next forum. It will NOT be obvious SPAM. Then, they do it again. On the premise of ‘sharing information’. Once they’ve built up a trust level and passed the basic moderation tests of an aged profile, multiple posts and/or comments, they circle back in a few weeks with more posting privileges and drop in a load of crap.

To thwart this behavior, the system is designed to throw a hold on users who post too quickly, too quickly after logging in, drop the text of whole articles in the Forum (instead of a link) or drop a link with no commentary. It’s not a simple on/off switch. It’s a threshold. Someone might post a link, no commentary, no point, just thrust a link in, and it sticks. Someone else might do it, and the system’s algorithm thinks “possible spammer, let’s place a hold on that post”. Same person drops a 12 page article into a forum post (not a link) and the system thinks, “possible defacer, let’s limit account privileges”. The system doesn’t KNOW the person, can’t make a more nuanced evaluation like “Oh, that’s Susan, and Susan is in all the vidchats and just doesn’t talk much.” etc.

The reason you’re getting this information is so that you know how to avoid having a hold placed and having to open a support ticket for removal:

  1. If it’s just a URL, no commentary, no express point, and the system places a hold on that post, we ignore it. We don’t go in and release the hold. If the user hasn’t added some context - a remark or two - the link isn’t very valuable anyway and doesn’t justify the extra maintenance to make up for it.
  2. If it’s the full text of an article, from another accessible venue, it’s not really appropriate for the forum anyway. Best practice is to place a link to an external article and some commentary
  3. If the article is not available online to the average forum user, it’s best to quote/cite the relevant portions of the article. Alternately, the user can drop the article into any number of sharing mechanisms they control (Google Docs, Dropbox, etc) and share a public link (again with commentary). This way we’re also not doing an end-run around someone else’s paywall, etc.
  4. Original articles: When the user is writing an article IN the forum. The system is designed to take that into account, based on the time it takes the user to type it in. If you’re utilizing the forum like a blog and writing and publishing an original article in it, the old fashioned way, it will usually go through just fine. If the user writes it in something else (e.g. Wordstar) and does a copy/paste to the forum, the system still might flag it as potential SPAM unless you slow down a bit, make some edits, add some commentary, or what have you.

The simple version is:
The system is designed to promote thoughtful commentary, which one generally doesn’t get from spammers, so linger a moment and consider whether the post has adequate context.
A. Avoid just posting links with no commentary.
B. Avoid copy/pasting the full-text of articles and hitting publish.
C. Avoid 3-second replies (put some thought into it).
D. Avoid 3-second posts (it takes longer than that to type two sentences).
E. Avoid logging in and, within 3 seconds, hitting publish on something (the system thinks it’s mostly bots who can do that despite your impressive speed).

Again, if we have ANY controls for SPAM, there WILL be false positives. If we have NONE, the forum will quickly become unusable. So this is a guide for regulars who want to avoid holds placed on their posts etc, and newbies who don’t want to be mistaken for trolls or spammers.