Here's a nice quote, lifted from the SocialSoftware page on MeatBall...

One of my colloquial definitions for social software is 'stuff that gets spammed – ClayShirky

Thinking about "stuff-that-gets-spammed" we see that spammers can get inside not only our email, blogs and wikis but succeed in getting unsolicited junkmail delivered through our letterboxes, use phones for cold-calling and you've-won-a-prize scams, selling bridges etc. So the spammers are real and will exploit any means/resource for delivering their self-promotional material. Has anyone collected strategies for dealing with them? Psychological, economical, technical, distinction between spammer and troller? There are some nice pages on the web about talking to the cold-caller from a legal point-of-view or just to have devious fun (but that's slightly soured by knowing that the poor sap making the call is on minimum-wage and doing the work for the real nasty robber-baron types who hide behind the scenes). Here in Wiki-Land the case of mr. a. might provide enough material for a phd thesis :)

– anon

Yep, by definition spam is unwanted communication, and all communication media are subject. I'm sure there are lots of strategies for dealing with it. And they may or may not vary with the medium, with the style of the spammer (door-to-door salesmen are different from bots in china etc.)

But it's not the only unwanted communication. I'm pretty sure we can distinguish between a spammer and a troll (spammers have a commercial motive and on wiki, almost always, a SEO-based motive; trolls are motivated by sheer devilment. To the best of my knowledge, we've never been trolled here, just spammed. My default strategy if we do get trolled is to refactor it to the TrollBin. But, a persistant troll would be a pain.

The much, much harder question is what to do about people who are well motivated, who think they're in the right, but have poor social skills / ettiquette and end-up pissing everyone else off. That's a difficult question. Personally I rather like people who are a bit awkward. On a one-to-one basis you often find they have a very different perspective on things and are some of the most interesting people around. But in larger groups they can be like the bore that comes to the party and spoils it for everyone else. And obviously, ThoughtStorms is my personal party and the only bore allowed to monopolise the conversation here is me.

The ACS had an interesting (if mean) feature called the Bozo Filter. If a poster to an ACS backed community is identified as a bozo, his postings disappear to everyone except himself. That way he can post away to his heart's content without anyone else seeing him, and without him even realizing no one else is seeing him. (The idea being to stop him simply getting a new account.) Can't be implemented on wiki, of course, but now I think about it, this silent technique (avoid alerting the victim he's been identified) was probably an influence on the EmailImmuneSystem idea.

: Sounds like the ol' .killfile to me :) – GrahamLally

But, I don't know any strategies for awkward people at the moment. I think the first line of defence will simply have to be "talk nicely and explain the situation" and explore it from there.

: The alternative approach, of course, is to let anyone post, but then filter things out on an individual,receiving basis of some kind - a la individual e-mail filters, the Bozo filter above, Slashdot et al. JohnGilmore seems to be an ardent advocate of such an approach purely for philosophical reasons (as opposed to mere technical ones). What if, for example, wiki changes were tracked by contributing user, and you could only see changes that had been "moderated up" individually, or by people on your immediate contact list? – GrahamLally

BTW : the name of mr a. has been truncated because you posted anonymously. It strikes me as unfair to indicate someone if you aren't prepared to sign the comment yourself. (As a general policy I prefer Meatball:RealNames but I have no problem if you prefer to post anonymously. Nevertheless, the majority of unsigned writing here is by me, so the default expectation of a reader is probably that anything unsigned is by me.)


:Thanks for truncation of the name, I almost deleted that sentence the first time as it has nought to do with spamming. It could be refactored away or left as a good example of netiquette. Anticipating future refactoring was one reason for deliberately not signing the posting, though your point about accountability in this space is well taken, thanks for the clarity. That's great, that you value inquiry with those considered awkard, I always liked the quote "the only non-normal people are the ones we don't know very well", aren't we all normal, under the curve, even if under the "long-tail" :)

That's going off in to the bigger subject of the OnlineCommunity so I'll close, here, by returning to spam and with one final observation missed in the list of psychological, economic, tactical strategies - the legal solution. Seems like the Tolkien wiki may be actively pursuing their spammers. Back in the UK some private companies are pursuing motorists by saying they violated a contract by parking on their property, perhaps a contract could be visible on the input box of a wiki/blog clearly stating that posting unsolicated spam/marketing/links is a no-go ("solictors not welcome", in Chinese :), but legalistic solutions don't seem to fit with wikiway either :(

– kk

: Legalistic solutions are also a) extremely expensive, and b) shift power in CyberSpace from programmers to lawyers. As a programmer and NotALawyer that doesn't attract me much.


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