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The correct use of Blogs and Bulletins?

Leanan

Someone has just made several blogs about the World of Warcraft Gold he seems to be selling.

Last week someone made a blog to advertise a site that sold wedding dresses and shoes.

Earlier this year an ElfQuest fan made a bulletin selling fan art she offered to draw of ElfQuest characters and other characters. Several people pointed out to her these are copyrighted characters and she shouldn't sell fan art for a profit.

I'm thinking there should be some way of controlling who makes Blogs and Bulletins - too many people are misusing these site functions to make a commercial profit. The Blogs and Bulletins appear on everyone's dashboard, so basically what these people are doing is use this website to advertise their business (legal or illegal) for no cost to themselves.

I don't have a clear idea what should be done to solve this problem. I have several suggestions, however:

1) Make bulletins a function only available for site admin and moderators
2) Make blogs a function only available to users after they have 100 forum posts (or have reached some other mark that shows they're active members and not spammers)
3) promote some people moderators in charge of viewing posted blogs and bulletins and deleting inappropriate ones.
4) have all blogs and bulletins send in for admin/moderator approval before they appear on the site.
5) someone else can make more and better suggestions on how to fix this problem. It is a problem, and it will be a bigger problem all the time as more and more people find this new website. After the movie comes out this problem will go out of control if nothing is done about it.

Embala

First and foremost I fully agree that new "members" logging in only for advertising perpose (or worst) are annoying. Wish we could get rid of these blocks intirely instead of only "blocking" this user.



Second - I don't like blocks at all. They disappear in the background faster than you can take notice of them, hardly anyone answers to them, they tend to never come back and they are a pain to hunt down in case you'll look for a special one without remembering the username. But that's my personal problem with blogs.



In terms of your suggestion:



1) Make bulletins a function only available for site admin and moderators

I thought bulletins ARE reserved for official messages! As I don't know what they are meant for I don't have a opinion about use restrictions.



2) Make blogs a function only available to users after they have 100 forum posts

I think blogs are more familiar to a good deal of the new members than forum threads. At any rate they are easier to understand than the forum structure:

- What's each topic for exactly?

- Is my "whatever" right here ... or better elsewhere?

- Is there a similar/identical topic already?

As much as I love the forum style (meanwile) as much can I imagine newcomers being puzzled by it - even discouraged. Making blogs available "with delay" seems like killing a possibility for an easy start.

And - why should anyone deal with blogs after getting used to forum threads? (oops ... just my opinion Wink )



3) promote some people moderators in charge of viewing posted blogs and bulletins and deleting inappropriate ones.

Doesn't it function more or less this way right now? The members report (probable) spammers, scammers, a.s.o. and admins block them. Again - fully agree that it would be fine to have blogs deleted in case of obvious misuse.



4) have all blogs and bulletins send in for admin/moderator approval before they appear on the site.

Don't know whether this is realizable ... or practicable when it starts to become busy ... But it would be even more neccessary then!

*wonders how other sites manage this*

Leanan

Like I said, I don't have a clear idea of what should be done.

However,

1) The user called Dreamweaver is neither admin or moderator and she was able to make a bulletin.

2) If there's a way to count blog comments, it could be made so instead that users can post their own blogs after they're commented on other people's blogs a certain number of times. This might lead to spam in blog comments, though.

3) I think this site needs more active moderators.

4) Number 4 was an extreme option, to be used if nothing else works.

TrollHammer

I've been thinking about this stuff too, since it really clutters up... a lot of stuff. My biggest pet peeve was with the Tags, as it seems that few people who are using them know what the purpose is behind them, and ends up throwing every discriptive word they can think of for their 'whatever'. As a result, only a few tags are visible, according to alpha-numeric order, as it appears the site will only let a few lines of tags be visible. I've tried to find other ways to look for other people's stuff through them, and some of those that are actually visible have no materail associated with them, so they are just wasting space. Also, they don't know how to use them, meaning that they don't put the proper commas between them.



A solution to this would be to up the number of tags visible, or perhaps provide a link to see all tags if you wish. On the user end, there should be, say, three lists to choose from of popular characters, elements, and topics that the person's 'whatever' could be tagged under.



As to Blogs and Bulletins, a couple thoughts been rolling around my head.



First, the Blogs, like everything else on the new site, are just a modified implementation of Threads on the forums. It's a little dumbed down, but looks and acts just like a thread without a topic. The intent of a Blog, as I understand it, is to provide a space for people to put something up for others to see that doesn't fit in any other catagory, topic, or whatever. It's short for 'Weblog', which started out as a kind of public diary, which also supports this. Most Blog sites I've come across don't have much in the way of moderation. Some have a complaints system (similar to our 'vote' system for comments, and 'flag' system on posts on threads) that allow other users of the Blog site to espress their displeasure with a particular Blog. When enough flags or votes or complaints come in, an Admin is alerted and will look at the particular item. They have the final say on whether it should be 'adjusted' or deleted completely. As for whether or not people 'blog' things they arn't supposed to, there is no way to regulate such a thing except for through such complaints. This is how Photobucket discovers items that violate their policy, as it isn't feasible to pay the sheer number of people it would take to look at every single image that runs through there for copyright, subject matter, and all other potential issues. As the Pini's are not getting a single penny out of providing this site for us (no ads, no member fees), I think that things are going as well as they can, and I thank them for what is here, even though there are a fwe things that we have to deal with here and there.

One other note, though about Blogs: when I started looking through the new site's features, I saw that Blogs had privacy features, and I thought, "this is great! now I can keep a note pad here on the site of all the things I want to do!" I tried putting a group together, as Embala may remember, and got frustrated with the fact that with password protection, friend-name limited access, it still posted whatever I blogged on the front login page to the site! Since then, I don't think I've even looked at my old blogs. Perhaps I will delete them.



As far as the 'one member's' blog in question, I felt the same way about the fact that the member had spammed the Tags section, posted a bulletin, and blogged. I did talk things over with her and understand it was kind of a knee-jerk reaction to a tough time, but of course, the things remain until the user deletes them. As to a strict interpretation of inappropreate usage, in my opinion, it was just excessive. The art that she was 'selling' was origional art inspired indirectly by Elfquest through the user. Also, it wasn't necessarily the 'art' she was selling, but the time it would take to draw the art. While this does go against the heart of copyright protection, I just wanted to note that it wasn't as though she was intending to make pirated copies of EQ comics or origional Pini art. As to how to control the site's features to prevent such a thing from happening again, I would also like to note that the user has been a member since like '04, has thousands of posts, and as far as I can tell, made quite a bit of contributions to the site's community. I would have reported her myself if I hadn't seen all this myself. As to filtering based on activity, it would not have blocked this user from posting any of those things. You'd have to go with Admin filtering, which as I said earlier, is impractical. The only other way to do it is complaint basis.



(edit: Forgot to mention, I could be wrong about the member and it could just be an old account hijacked by a very clever social networker that just happened to get ahold of the origional user's old email address at the site turnover. This would be unbelievably rare, I think, but as I'd never give my personal info to anyone on the internet, they can waste their time all they want, if this is the case. Doesn't bother me!)



Mind you, activity filtering would be perfect to get rid of the quick-hit spammers, as well as a lockout that prevents a user from emailing anyone but Admin until they upload an avatar. They should also be limited to just forum use until that time, as this would require brain-use to exploit.



In the end, for this site, I think that Blogs are redundant to the Threads, but a version should be kept: something more like a personal scratch pad or diary that could be shared if a person wants, instead of a maditory sharing as it is now.



As far as Bulletins: I'd not really thought about them for a while, as I too thought they were just for Admin use. I think they are a good idea, though. It's like a place in your town that everyone can put up notices, rewards, and whatnot, and is going to have the same problems. The only thing I would suggest about changing is to add a manditory expiration date. I don't know if they already do as I've never posted one, but I feel that limiting the maximum expiration date to about a month and a half would clean things up nicely. Of course, important things from Admins could bypass the expiration date, and there's nothing preventing someone from reposting, but it would help. Personally I think they are a good thing, but they are currently misused and misunderstood. I think this would be a good place for people to advertise their Groups, a hot thread topic, or whatnot, and personal stuff should be discouraged.



A final word and summary: I believe that it would be extremely helpful if there was a centralized 'help' section somewhere on the site. In this section, there should be an FAQ, general instructions for each feature of the site, proper use of the features, and the 'Rules' for use of each of those features. I also think it would be helpful if some of the features were constrained to the use of a wizard- a popup like the Gallery uses that would only allow a user to select from lists in some cases to keep the 'cyber-spacejunk' low.

I think some of these things will be seen in the future, especailly an FAQ, but the Admins and moderators are just as new to the site as we are and it will take time for them to understand things well enough to instruct us, I feel.

I also think that in many ways, the site is inherantly protected from gross attacks by the 'core members'. Most true spammers that I've dealt with or seen evidence of are reported quickly and dealt with promptly. As far as old member accounts being hijacked and used, behaviour would be obivous and rare, I'd think. Keep on your toes, and remember that we're all here for fun, so there is absolutely no reason to share anything personal. Where ever there is fun, there will be someone trying to wreck it, it seems to me.



I'm going to look at the other social network site I frequent occasionally and see how things are run there. If you are curious, the site is called Mudspace, and it is an off road networking site that is world-wide like Elfquest. Pretty boring for me in comparison and I haven't explored it much yet.

The only major differences I've seen is that the Site Founder, the Admins, and some moderators all send friend requests to all new members. Other than that this gives them access to anything you have set to 'friends only', and making a noob feel welcome, I'm not sure what else this accomplishes. Other than that, there is very little forum activity, and the msot traffic I see is emails that I'd have to classify as 'semi-spam'. They are bulk sent by members, but they are site related, most often. Usually its about some event that's going on in some other part of the country that I cant go to, or funny pics the Admins push out on the holidays. there is little else I've seen different, except that people mod their profiles a LOT more creatively, and they have just made it a "no exceptions" policy that anyone posting a phone number or other personal information to their profile or the forum (or other publicly accessible place) will have their account and posts deleted without warning or chance for getting it back. This is part of their 'anti-stalking' rules.

Let you know more as I know it.

TrollHammer

Sorry to double post, as I'm trying to get off here quick and this is a little be different than before.

Just was checking out the other Blogs and came across the WOW crap that's on there. It is indeed spam and I was goign to report it... however...

Two things came up: 1) when you report a item as a violation, it asks how it violates the Terms of Use policy, and gives a list. Great! however, it appears that 'Spam' is not on the list, so as far as reporting it goes, 'Spam' is not a violation, it seems! lol.

Anyway, I wanted to read the Terms of Use, for which there is a link provided, so that I could make sure I classified it correctly. Guess what? I can't read it!!! I don't know enough other languages to tell if it's just scrambled, in Esperanto, or some other language. Who knows, my browser may just be off. Hope it's not a hack.

Well, off to report it as a bug, I guess, if I can get the page to load...

Leanan

You make many good points, however,

1) my suggestion of limiting bulletins to admins and moderators only would at least stop regular, active users from misusing those. My main issue with the fan-art seller was that she used a bulletin for purposes it wasn't meant to be used for.

2) There is a topic in the bug reports forum already called 'terms of use not very useful'. According to that topic the terms of use are in 'lorem ipsum', dog-latin for 'official text goes here' - and Richard has already posted in that topic and said he'll get the real terms of service up as soon as he can.

TrollHammer

Yeah, saw it right after posting, sorry!

I'll have to check to see if there's a vote or report button on the bulletins (as I still haven't checked them out too well yet). As I was saying, if there isn't one, there should be, and then if members of the community feel strongly about a misuse it could be reported and the admin would then handle it. Then the site would be better sculpted by the members for what they want to see, I think. If we self-police, then we get more freedom to have services availible when we need them, instead of relying on an already taxed admin.

I just went and looked at the bulletin in question, and there is a report button that could have been used. As for my input on the comments, I don't know why she doesn't just delete the bulletin, if it's just to be ignored at this point. I'm an avid believer that cyberspace junk should be managed just like any physical junk that's around, and dead issues should be put to bed. Again, it would be my suggestion for the suggestion box that there be a manditory expiration date on bulletins for user submitted.

I just had another thought: what if there were two bulletins, one for Admin and Moderators, and one for members? I guess in a way the shoutbox could be useful for temporary "advertizements" (such as "come see the EQ Art Group" or whatever), but as it only goes back a half dozen posts or so someone's legitimate note could get spammed off with nonsense before anyone sees it. An expiring member bulletin would be more useful.

Another idea just came to mind: what if we had a grafitti-style "wall" for such things, or jsut for fun? That's kind of what the shoutbox is, but sometime down the road a java applet could be used to "spraypaint" on a page, then members could play off of each other's art or messages. Wouldn't be "fair", per se, as one member could spray over someone elses stuff, but perhaps a filter could be provided that could remove or show only a member's contributions selectively? An example would be like the old Netmeeting, though it doesn't need to be a real time updater. Like I said, that's a bit of work, though, to mess with this early in the game.

Leanan

I think I know where all the ad blogs are coming from. Or some of them at least. I joined Amazon Mechanical Turk, a site where I'm paid in amazon giftcards to do various tasks (write a digital camera review, answer surveys, catalog books, all kinds of things). And some of the tasks available are along the lines of 'make a blog post containing these words and links.' Usually the content given is very much like the stuff seen in our unwanted blogs here. Needless to say, I've never accepted those tasks. But plenty of people do.