hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

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mortal
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by mortal »

May I suggest we pursue this via small claims?

The legal costs would be substantially lower. Damages may be capped at 3k around here, but that hurts hard enough to make the point. If he keeps it up, we file another suit using the existing evidence trail.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Alex Frakt »

BigFoot48 wrote:I would recommend that before the nuclear lawsuit option is pursued, that 1) a strengthen password system be implemented requiring all users to enter a new complex password defeating the system the troll is using, 2) further posts by this individual, identified by his promotion of his website etc., just be deleted without comment, and 3) a Report This Post feature be added to aid in doing #2.
1) It looks like we are going to have to do this. We have already done it to an extent for new signups and new passwords. But this doesn't solve the problem for the thousands of existing users. The forum software only stores a hash of salted passwords. For non-programmers, this means it takes the password, combines it with something else (the salt), and then does a mathematical calculation on the result. The results of the calculation (the hash) are what goes into the database. When you log in, the forum software does the same calculation with the password your provide and checks if the result matches what is on the database. We never store the actual password and there is no way to uncover the password from the final hash. So we don't know who has weak passwords and there is no way to find out, which means the only way to fix a few dozen (or a few hundred) cracked passwords is to force every single person to change.

2) We've done exactly that for the last year, see http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1178496 . It obviously didn't work.

3) We already have a report this post function. It's the button that looks like a yield sign with the "!" mark.

There's no way for people to realize just how much effort we've had to go through to deal with this madman. We have over 400 posts in various threads on the private moderators and Advisory Board forum dealing just with him. We have banned him dozens of times under equally many usernames before the hijack. The first 20 or so before we even realized all of these were from one person. We got faster and faster at kicking him out, but he never gave up trying. We eventually had to resort to carefully check out every single new poster before we approved their first posts to make sure it's not him masquerading as someone else. Think about what that means, 40-60 minutes of moderator time every single day just to keep out one person. He has used every trick you can think of to get through. Each time we learned something new to look for until in the end we got so good at spotting him that he gave up trying signing up new accounts. That's when he attacked the site with his password cracker program.

So one way or another, we'll cut off his compromised accounts. My worry is what happens next. A denial of service attack?
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Alex Frakt »

VictoriaF wrote:Check out this Wikipedia article about the Anonymous.
We [Anonymous] just happen to be a group of people on the internet who need—just kind of an outlet to do as we wish, that we wouldn't be able to do in regular society. ...That's more or less the point of it. Do as you wish. ... There's a common phrase: 'we are doing it for the lulz.'
If someone wants to help, I'm easy to contact. But I'm not about to head over to 4chan and ask. Bogle's quote about ETFs and Purdy shotguns come to mind here.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by madbrain »

mortal wrote:May I suggest we pursue this via small claims?

The legal costs would be substantially lower. Damages may be capped at 3k around here, but that hurts hard enough to make the point. If he keeps it up, we file another suit using the existing evidence trail.
You would first have to identify and locate him. And small claims usually apply within one state. Odds are about 1/50 that this poster is in the right jurisdiction. Possibly even less if he is abroad.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Mudpuppy »

I would strongly suggest looking into if phpBB can reset the email authorization flag for users. If the account is not authenticated by clicking on the email link, the user cannot post. This would serve two purposes: locking out accounts that have been abandoned (since the user would not reauthorize via the email link) and alerting all active users to the attack (and therefore the need to have better password security).
clevername
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by clevername »

Alex Frakt wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:Check out this Wikipedia article about the Anonymous.
We [Anonymous] just happen to be a group of people on the internet who need—just kind of an outlet to do as we wish, that we wouldn't be able to do in regular society. ...That's more or less the point of it. Do as you wish. ... There's a common phrase: 'we are doing it for the lulz.'
If someone wants to help, I'm easy to contact. But I'm not about to head over to 4chan and ask. Bogle's quote about ETFs and Purdy shotguns come to mind here.
Wait, what? Are we getting trolled BY 4chan or are you seriously considering asking the anonymous /b/tards for help?
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Mudpuppy »

Alex Frakt wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:Check out this Wikipedia article about the Anonymous.
We [Anonymous] just happen to be a group of people on the internet who need—just kind of an outlet to do as we wish, that we wouldn't be able to do in regular society. ...That's more or less the point of it. Do as you wish. ... There's a common phrase: 'we are doing it for the lulz.'
If someone wants to help, I'm easy to contact. But I'm not about to head over to 4chan and ask. Bogle's quote about ETFs and Purdy shotguns come to mind here.
Heh, maybe Reddit would be a softer landing than /b/ on 4chan (I'll refrain from using their self-chosen name on this forum). But getting Reddit's attention and help during campaign season can be problematic.

Have you been talking to the phpBB support forum to find out the full extent of admin controls you can enact on phpBB? I know they can be a bit abrupt over there, but that would be the first place to find out exactly what phpBB will and won't let you do when it comes to technical solutions for this issue.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Mrs.Feeley »

I think attempting to bring criminal charges against this vandal is a worthy goal and would be glad to contribute. But do you think law enforcement would be apt to get on board? I know folks in computer security dept's at large corps and universities who are highly adept at both identifying and getting charges brought against predators trying to wreak havoc in their systems, but they work hand-in-glove with the FBI on a weekly, often daily basis. They have clout because their employers are big companies and universities with massive, socially vital systems that are constantly under attack from all manner of nuts. Would a D.A. even return a phone call from a little investment forum with a quirky name?
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by bayview »

albedo wrote: I don't own cellular service, Alex. Did you ever think that you have many enemies and that you can't blame all the bad karma you've accumulated on a single boogeyman?

But of course I knew it was you that suffers from mental illness and emotional problems because, aside from your untoward behavior, why else would you accuse me of being mentally ill? In fact, I'm looking at the paperwork certifying my clean mental health in preparation for some other litigation I'm involved with (in which I am the plaintiff, of course) right now...and it's because of my clean state of mental health that I am not afraid of threats from bullies like you nor am I...
zzzzzzzzzz...
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Confused
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Confused »

madbrain wrote:
mortal wrote:May I suggest we pursue this via small claims?

The legal costs would be substantially lower. Damages may be capped at 3k around here, but that hurts hard enough to make the point. If he keeps it up, we file another suit using the existing evidence trail.
You would first have to identify and locate him. And small claims usually apply within one state. Odds are about 1/50 that this poster is in the right jurisdiction. Possibly even less if he is abroad.
That's not true. Small claims cases can be filed against people who are in different jurisdictions as long as the action took place within that court's jurisdiction. For example, you could sue a telemarketer from Florida in a Washington small claims court if they violated telemarketing laws while calling you in Washington.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by xerty24 »

Mrs.Feeley wrote:I think attempting to bring criminal charges against this vandal is a worthy goal and would be glad to contribute. But do you think law enforcement would be apt to get on board? I know folks in computer security dept's at large corps and universities who are highly adept at both identifying and getting charges brought against predators trying to wreak havoc in their systems, but they work hand-in-glove with the FBI on a weekly, often daily basis. They have clout because their employers are big companies and universities with massive, socially vital systems that are constantly under attack from all manner of nuts. Would a D.A. even return a phone call from a little investment forum with a quirky name?
You can't get law enforcement interested in credit card theft where you can point them to the person, the goods, and the proof of theft. If they don't care about doing their job for a few $1k worth of stolen merchantise, what makes you think they'll care in a case where there is no monetary damages at all? Or perhaps email spam is a better analogy? They don't do anything about that either, and that's big business. Here he's just wasting other peoples' time.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by NAVigator »

xerty24 wrote:Here he's just wasting other peoples' time.
How would you feel if he was wasting YOUR time? What would YOU want to do about it?

Alex is quite graciously hosting and maintaining this forum. The forum is composed of US and it is for us. However, his time is being consumed by this guy. We have seen a forum on M* ruined by such a barrage of posting by one individual. The moderators didn't do anything (ie waste their time) so the Bogleheads was formed and we moved here. Let's not allow this great forum to fall victim to this troll.

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xerty24
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by xerty24 »

NAVigator wrote:
xerty24 wrote:Here he's just wasting other peoples' time.
How would you feel if he was wasting YOUR time?
I was responding to the comment suggesting it would be worthwhile to try to interest law enforcement. If you aren't a major corporation or an individual in eminent danger, my understanding is the cops just don't care and won't do anything. If you have different experiences, please share.

I'm sure I'd be annoyed if it were my time being wasted. Electing to have a heavily moderated public forum is signing up for a high admin burden. There are simpler solutions, but they have been rejected by the Mods here so far.

If it were me, I would implement a Red/Green post rating system like FatWallet has and allow users to read discussions with a filter on rating. If lots of people think any post is "bad/wrong/they don't like it", they can give it a negative rating; likewise good comments can be given positive ratings to show approval without having to reply. This saves everyone's time, crowdsources moderation to a large extent, and makes threads much easier for newbies to read since the good responses are highlighted for them without having to know that livesoft or nisiprius' reply should be given more weight than some random person who gave them incorrect tax advice. For those who wish to avoid reading bad or trolling replies, they can set their personal filter to only show posts with neutral or positive ratings. It works really well.

I understand that the old M* forum had some issues with this approach, but I've seen it work very well in all other forums' I read and it frees up the Mods time to only remove profanity or personal attacks or whatever. Of course Bogleheads is trying to suppress all sorts of other discussion too, like macro economics, politics, medicine, and even where to get a good $5k watch. So in that sense, the Mods volunteered for a bunch of extra work which I certainly wouldn't do.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by BYUvol »

Alex Frakt wrote: My worry is what happens next. A denial of service attack?
I'm not sure what steps he's taken to mask his IP, but LastPass has a way to prevent connections from TOR nodes (its a setting you can enable). Perhaps there is an easy way to implement this, without manually blacklisting known TOR nodes. Most TOR exit nodes are Amazon EC2 instances, maybe blacklist Amazon's EC2 range in iptables. I doubt many legitimate users will want to be connecting from there, there are cheaper proxies out there for an individual.

If this was my baby, I'd go the route of limiting anonymous access, so if someone does do a DoS, it will be easier to trace them. As long as the web service is patched up, its hard to do a DoS that isn't distributed, and it sounds like this guy is more of a lone wolf.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Alex Frakt »

Just a note that we have already implemented numerous technical solutions to deal with this and we continue to explore others. We have to keep the details quiet to avoid tipping him off.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Cosmo »

Question: Why are we even dignifying his actions with a response to him? Why couldn't this remain behind the scenes? The tremendous disruption created by this one individual is EXACTLY what he is craving. He is probably getting off on it. Why are we feeding him??? Does anyone here agree that it is probably making it worse?

Cosmo
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Post by FabLab »

Cosmo wrote:Question: Why are we even dignifying his actions with a response to him? Why couldn't this remain behind the scenes? The tremendous disruption created by this one individual is EXACTLY what he is craving. He is probably getting off on it. Why are we feeding him??? Does anyone here agree that it is probably making it worse?

Cosmo
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Bongleur »

>show approval without having to reply. This saves everyone's time, crowdsources moderation to a large extent,
>

Crowdsourcing of social norms is inherently evil. It crushes minority opinion by making following the mob an even more socially powerful influence.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Alex Frakt »

Cosmo wrote:Question: Why are we even dignifying his actions with a response to him?
We'll close this thread eventually. I've left it open because I've been getting some useful advice, both on the thread and via PMs prompted by the thread.
Muchtolearn
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Muchtolearn »

Mrs.Feeley wrote:I think attempting to bring criminal charges against this vandal is a worthy goal and would be glad to contribute. But do you think law enforcement would be apt to get on board? I know folks in computer security dept's at large corps and universities who are highly adept at both identifying and getting charges brought against predators trying to wreak havoc in their systems, but they work hand-in-glove with the FBI on a weekly, often daily basis. They have clout because their employers are big companies and universities with massive, socially vital systems that are constantly under attack from all manner of nuts. Would a D.A. even return a phone call from a little investment forum with a quirky name?
I reluctantly agree with you, Mrs F. The authorities have very limited resources as well as limited competence anyway. This is not a threat to national security, the financial system or anything important in their eyes. I would not think a prosecutor would spend a minute on it. They would keep denying jurisdiction.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Khanmots »

Cosmo wrote:Question: Why are we even dignifying his actions with a response to him? Why couldn't this remain behind the scenes? The tremendous disruption created by this one individual is EXACTLY what he is craving. He is probably getting off on it. Why are we feeding him??? Does anyone here agree that it is probably making it worse?

Cosmo
Because as immoral as this individual may be, I feel that it'd be equally immoral to take potentially life-ruining legal action without informing him that the set of rules he's operating under have changed.

To a lot of people who grew up while the Internet was emerging (or at least for the crew I hung with) it was a big lawless playground disconnected from "real life". To take action in "real life" because someone claimed a virtual coup runs counter to the old dynamics... it just wasn't done. There's still a lot of this that hangs around today; the whole Anonymous movement has this attitude, and there's a lot of teenagers involved with it who are having their life ruined because their targets don't agree.

Personally I feel that we have a moral obligation to provide a warning that the rules under which this individual is playing may not be what he thinks they are. If he's been operating under the "virtual is virtual, real is real, and never the twain shall meet" rules and we're about to change that on him, I think a warning is apropos... even if it does (in the short term) give him what he seeks.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Muchtolearn »

Cosmo wrote:Question: Why are we even dignifying his actions with a response to him? Why couldn't this remain behind the scenes? The tremendous disruption created by this one individual is EXACTLY what he is craving. He is probably getting off on it. Why are we feeding him??? Does anyone here agree that it is probably making it worse?

Cosmo
You know, the more I think about this, you are on to something. When Alex and the team identifies a rogue post, just file it away somewhere and let's not even acknowledge the existence of this person. He or she obviously craves attention.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Alex Frakt »

xerty24 wrote:If it were me, I would implement a Red/Green post rating system like FatWallet has and allow users to read discussions with a filter on rating. If lots of people think any post is "bad/wrong/they don't like it", they can give it a negative rating; likewise good comments can be given positive ratings to show approval without having to reply. This saves everyone's time, crowdsources moderation to a large extent, and makes threads much easier for newbies to read since the good responses are highlighted for them without having to know that livesoft or nisiprius' reply should be given more weight than some random person who gave them incorrect tax advice. For those who wish to avoid reading bad or trolling replies, they can set their personal filter to only show posts with neutral or positive ratings. It works really well.
It only works until you run into someone with sufficient technical knowledge and a willingness to spend the time to successfully game the system. Our hijacker would have a field day with this. Another problem is that it affects the content: consciously or subconsciously, many people end up slanting their posts to play to, or provoke, the crowd. These systems were created for commercial sites that don't want to spend a lot of money on moderators and are more interested in ad revenue through page views than content quality.
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Cosmo
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Cosmo »

Muchtolearn wrote:
Cosmo wrote:Question: Why are we even dignifying his actions with a response to him? Why couldn't this remain behind the scenes? The tremendous disruption created by this one individual is EXACTLY what he is craving. He is probably getting off on it. Why are we feeding him??? Does anyone here agree that it is probably making it worse?

Cosmo
You know, the more I think about this, you are on to something. When Alex and the team identifies a rogue post, just file it away somewhere and let's not even acknowledge the existence of this person. He or she obviously craves attention.
Allow me to make a distinction here. I am not saying to NOT take action. I just believe that he now thinks that he is winning and this motivates him to continue. Alex, I am glad that you are getting useful advice here and via PMs. Going forward, I think it would be better for no one to publicly address this person in the form of any further responses. Ignore it, it will go away...

Cosmo
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Alex Frakt »

Muchtolearn wrote:
Cosmo wrote:Question: Why are we even dignifying his actions with a response to him? Why couldn't this remain behind the scenes? The tremendous disruption created by this one individual is EXACTLY what he is craving. He is probably getting off on it. Why are we feeding him??? Does anyone here agree that it is probably making it worse?

Cosmo
You know, the more I think about this, you are on to something. When Alex and the team identifies a rogue post, just file it away somewhere and let's not even acknowledge the existence of this person. He or she obviously craves attention.
Again, we've done this for a full year now. It didn't work. See http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1178496
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by scone »

Cosmo wrote:Question: Why are we even dignifying his actions with a response to him? Why couldn't this remain behind the scenes? The tremendous disruption created by this one individual is EXACTLY what he is craving. He is probably getting off on it. Why are we feeding him??? Does anyone here agree that it is probably making it worse?

Cosmo
I don't have all the back story here, so I could well be way off base, but I do get a sense of overreaction. Maybe if a site gets a lot of trolls and spammers, the people who run the site eventually become overly sensitized. People want to "do something," in a smackdown, throwdown, final straw, confrontational kind of way. Perhaps hoping to rid the site of trolls "once and for all." I'm not sure that's an effective approach, although it probably feels good to imagine one can "have it all out," defeat the evil troll, and declare victory. It's understandable. But-- it's essentially a highly emotional narrative of conflict, of war. And I'd submit there's a big downside to thinking like that.

To my mind, there's an alternative way of framing the problem. Namely: trolls are like mosquitos. They are always around, always disruptive, always annoying. But if you bug spray the entire world to get rid of them, you destroy the environment. So, instead, you spread bug repellant all over yourself. Bug repellant isn't going to deter every mosquito, but it works well enough for the purpose. Obviously that's a metaphor, but I hope it leads to some good ideas.

In my view, it's a question of taking a step back, a deep calming breath, and looking at how you want to manage the troll problem for the long run, using the smallest amount of time, money, and emotional resources.
"My bond allocation is the amount of money that I cannot afford to lose." -- Taylor Larimore
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Alex Frakt »

scone wrote:I don't have all the back story here, so I could well be way off base, but I do get a sense of overreaction.
We deal with "normal" trolls and normal spammers every day without issue. This is not a normal troll. Most of the backstory has played out in the private moderators forum, but you can see some it in the following threads:

http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtop ... =3&t=82238
http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtop ... =3&t=96039
http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtop ... =3&t=98442
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by xerty24 »

Bongleur wrote:>show approval without having to reply. This saves everyone's time, crowdsources moderation to a large extent,
>

Crowdsourcing of social norms is inherently evil. It crushes minority opinion by making following the mob an even more socially powerful influence.
Minority opinions are often not welcome here anyway, but that's not my point. My point is that when you already have a membership with a largely uniform set of opinions you can rely on the group to moderate itself for the most part. A rating system is not just a moderation tool - it's primarily good for highlighting the best content that the volunteer users produce, rewarding those users through positive reputation, and making the site more functional in its everyday use.
Alex Frakt wrote:
xerty24 wrote:If it were me, I would implement a Red/Green post rating system like FatWallet has and allow users to read discussions with a filter on rating. If lots of people think any post is "bad/wrong/they don't like it", they can give it a negative rating; likewise good comments can be given positive ratings to show approval without having to reply. This saves everyone's time, crowdsources moderation to a large extent, and makes threads much easier for newbies to read since the good responses are highlighted for them without having to know that livesoft or nisiprius' reply should be given more weight than some random person who gave them incorrect tax advice. For those who wish to avoid reading bad or trolling replies, they can set their personal filter to only show posts with neutral or positive ratings. It works really well.
It only works until you run into someone with sufficient technical knowledge and a willingness to spend the time to successfully game the system. Our hijacker would have a field day with this. Another problem is that it affects the content: consciously or subconsciously, many people end up slanting their posts to play to, or provoke, the crowd. These systems were created for commercial sites that don't want to spend a lot of money on moderators and are more interested in ad revenue through page views than content quality.
Gaming the reputation system through multiple shill users doesn't actually work in practice, and I've seen it fail way more often than it succeeds. If a troll makes bad posts and pumps up their reputation with lots of accounts, they still will get a bad net reputation unless they have a meaningful fraction of all active accounts at their disposal because there are so many other people who think the comment is bad and rate it accordingly (and the community will tend to negatively rate people who do this even moreso).

I strongly disagree with your claim that a reputation system encourages antagonistic content. In contrast, I know many people elsewhere including myself, who are motivated to participate more and more valuably in other forums where their contributions are recognized through the positive feedback of a rating system. Most of the benefit of the rating system comes from positive ratings, not from negative ones (which are rare, and usually deserved).

I know you had the opposite experience coming from Diehards, but I've seen nothing but good come of rating systems on many other boards, and often found myself wishing they were supported in places were they weren't.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by scone »

Alex Frakt wrote:
scone wrote:I don't have all the back story here, so I could well be way off base, but I do get a sense of overreaction.
We deal with "normal" trolls and normal spammers every day without issue. This is not a normal troll. Most of the backstory has played out in the private moderators forum, but you can see some it in the following threads:

<snip for brevity>
Trolls aren't normal by definition. And honestly I'm not sure I want or need quite that much back story. In any case, I'm not sure I could make a valuable contribution if I became overly emotionally invested. I'd lose objectivity. However, that's neither here nor there. It sounds like you've already made up your mind what you want to do.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Angst »

God love you, Alex - I don't know how you put up with the rest of us, let alone the real trolls.

I get so much out of this website and really contribute so little... as much as I know about about forums and code, which isn't huge, I'm generally satisfied with the comments I've read in this thread and your consideration of this feedback. Keep us posted on what you decide and whatever we need to know, and thank you.
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Re: hijacker (PWM) - READ THIS

Post by Alex Frakt »

Thanks, Angst.

I think this is a good spot to lock this :-)

I'll reopen or at least append posts here as events warrant.
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