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Chatterbox abuse and possible remedies

by vroom (His Eminence)
on Jun 03, 2000 at 00:17 UTC ( [id://16107] : monkdiscuss . print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Yesterday after I had gone home for the evening there was some major chatterbox abuse by the always lovable masturbator. Luckily the users here are bright, and crafty with a few possible exceptions and tricked him into revealing his IP and then scared him off with threats of haX0r'ing his machine. Unfortunately as more and more people visit this site the likelihood of similar events increases. Today I implemented an /ignore user /unignore user feature. It's a sad day when this becomes a necessity and some people questioned whether this was necessary after only one incident.

What do you think? Should the ignore feature be left in... should certain users get /ban powers? What do you guys see as the best solution to this problem?

Update: Just to clarify by a /ban feature I was thinking certain users would be able to basically redirect all chatterbox messages by a certain user to /dev/null and probably last for 10 minutes or something like that. It would basically be a system wide /ignore for a set time and that option would only be given to users who I trust with such power.

vroom | Tim Vroom |

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
RE: Chatterbox abuse and possible remedies
by neshura (Chaplain) on Jun 03, 2000 at 00:47 UTC
    I would like to first thank you vroom for asking our opinions -- you always do, and it is (at least on my part) much appreciated.

    Having been one of the people waiting for masturbator's garbage to clear out of the chatterbox, I believe the ignore feature is pretty useful and should stay in as a feature. It's a little sad, yes, but the perl monks world isn't much different from the real world, except in the real world it probably takes a few more mouse clicks to get a restraining order.

    I don't see a need yet for giving out /ban authority, that seems like too much check and too little balance. But perhaps in the future it will be needed if the site continues to grow and attract attention.

    e-mail neshura

      Well said, neshura. If a /ban function is implemented, how can it be enforced? By IP? Proxies make that really hard to do - I would hate to find myself banned because somebody else at my VLC was being an ass. By userid? All the person needs to do is to create another ID and continue in their fashion.

      While the /ignore faces similar problems, I think a person is less likely to lash out to people ignoring them than they are to being banned.

      In reference to ZZamboni's later comment, I do not much like the idea of an automated system deciding when I am banned. That starts begging for a weird popularity contest.

      If a /ban function becomes necessary, maybe we could have it autoexpire in, say, 24 hours or something? It kind of enforces a cool-off period and makes whoever wields such power have to manually enforce a ban of a longer period.

      Out of curiousity, if I /ignore somebody, do they stay ignored until I /unignore them? Does this ignore work only in the chatterbox or is it more like the ( infamous ) Jon Katz filters on /. and ignore *everything* from that user?


RE: Chatterbox abuse and possible remedies
by KM (Priest) on Jun 03, 2000 at 00:36 UTC
    I like ignore functionality. You can't get rid of all the jerks, and this situation will certainly arise again. One good thing about ignoring a jerk is that they can't /msg you 500 times, which I would think would be a pain for someone to check all those to remove them.

    Actually, is there a limit of /msg's you can have on your screen at once? With people now remotely using the chatterbox (or with a quick LWP script) someone could easily send hundreds of messages to every user they can get the name from (like the list of users in 'Saints in our Book'. I would consider a threshold of showing up to maybe 10, and the rest would be waiting for the user to clear what they have. When they have the 10 being shown, there could be a 'X more messages waiting' note, so the user knows to clear things up. Anyways, could help prevent the scenario I mentioned.


RE: Chatterbox abuse and possible remedies
by ergowolf (Monk) on Jun 03, 2000 at 00:35 UTC
    I don't envy your plight. Perl monks is highly dependent on user input and closely tied with the open source movement. Free speech is an important right. However, you also have a user trying to abuse the freedom and flexibility of your site. I face these decisions everyday as a System Administrator. I would ask masturbator to chose a more apropriate name. While I think it is pretty funny, I don't think the majority of the people here would. I like the Chatterbox and I would hate to see it go away or be buried in profanity. Profanity doesn't bother me either, but that is not what the site is about and again it will probably bother other people. It sounds like masturbator has been a problem in the past. If you have already given him some warnings I would ban him. I would give the ignore right to everyone and the ban right to only the top two or three people - You, Merlyn, Brott, and chromatic. I don't think banning should be a one person decision. You could use the voting booth to ban people.

    Keep up the great work with the site! I like the layout and the incredible level of interaction you can have and I would hate to see it go away.
    Ergowolf Does code make a sound if no one is there to type it?
      I just want to be clear: to my understanding, the Masturbator Problem (smirk) isn't realting to his chosen handle, but to the fact that he was spamming out the chatterbox with his ownb brand of drivel, correct? I mean, you can be SweetGrandmaJones, but if you're gonna ask everyone a thousand times if they're wearing their sweaters, people are gonna want to ignroe you. So, to clarify, this isn't about the handle, but rather about the boondogle behaviour?

      The Autonomic Pilot

RE: Chatterbox abuse and possible remedies
by ivory (Pilgrim) on Jun 03, 2000 at 05:54 UTC
    I like the ignore idea much better than the ban idea. Ignoring someone is enough to be able to have a conversation without constant interruption, while giving some people the ability to ban others could result in serious problems like people being banned for asking "stupid" questions that didn't seem all that stupid to them, etc. That's my thought, anyway. Also, do we have nay specifc rules for the chatterbox? If not, then maybe there should be some writen and available, like no profanity, or whatever seems appropriate. Without such guidelines it's difficult to know what will or will not get you in trouble. Obviously good taste is the ultimate guideline, but it might be that some people are not comfortable with profanity while others are... --Ivory
      I don't think the /ban idea is bad, but the method of delegating ban power could be revised. Delegating the right to impede free speach is serious business. I'd only give it out to monks that have proven to be reasonable and well tempered. I beleive that this has nothing to do with the number of write-ups or XPs. I have seen very XPed monks put down newbies in the chatterbox, and I beleive that wouldn't be a case of /ban. Ignore, maybe!

      Also, any user that does get /ban powers shouldn't be able to ignore, or else s/he might not see a user that s/he has ignored previously is abuseing the chatterbox. just my R$0.02 as usual...

      # Trust no1!
RE: Chatterbox abuse and possible remedies
by sean (Beadle) on Jun 03, 2000 at 00:26 UTC
    Following the theme of the rest of the site, it might be interesting to implement a karma-type feature, so chatterbox users can /++ and /-- others, and then you only see messages from users with a karma above your personal tolerated level.. Of course, /++ and /-- would have to be XP-biased so users with a higher XP have more influence, eliminating (or at least greately reducing) the effects of abuse.
      I don't think that a personal tolerated level is such a good idea. As a community, we should all be open to new users. The karma XPs sound to me more like coolness status rather than expertise status. If I were a newcomer to this site, I'd like to start off with the same rights as everyone else and be able to be heard.

      Maybe a global ban for a temporary ammount of time would be the best solution as vroom offered.

      # Trust no1!
RE: Chatterbox abuse and possible remedies
by ZZamboni (Curate) on Jun 03, 2000 at 00:56 UTC
    I think the /ignore feature may be inevitable at some time. Although so far we have only had one case (AFAIK) of spamming from masturbator. It may be possible to wait to see if it becomes a real problem. Of course, there's nothing wrong with just having the functionality. Most users will only use it if it is really necessary. Or to ignore maleteen2000

    :-) (sorry, I couldn't help it)

    Seriously, one thing that might make the /ignore feature more effective is if the user gets a personal message when someone /ignore's him/her. That alone could be a deterrent, to avoid having all those messages on their screen. Also, if someone chooses to /ignore me, I would like to know.

    Another possibility would be to automatically /ban a user if more than a certain number of users /ignore him.


      I dunno about auto-banning-- that sounds like it could get out of hand pretty quickly. (I mean, I could be a real putz one day and find myself booted on the basis of one day when everyone just had to ignor my crazy-talk.)

      The Autonomic Pilot

        The Ignore feature is really good. I think if a ban feature would be implemented that it could only be done by a very high level like saints or something. Also that the ban is like a hold period where after a day or to they could try again. And maybe the more they get banned the longer it is in effect.

        Update : It would also be helpful to see who you have on ignore (incase if you want to actually talk to them).
RE: Chatterbox abuse and possible remedies
by mt2k (Hermit) on Jun 03, 2000 at 22:16 UTC
    I completely agree with most of the users here.
    The /ignore feature is absolutely a good idea, though it is sad to have to use it.
    I don't believe that a /ban feature is needed at the moment, since it has only been one incident.
    And if it becomes a more common occurance on this site (chatterbox abuse), which I don't think will happen, a /ban could be implimented.
    Besides, how many users currently use this site? And only 1 abused the chatterbox? And now vroom is going through all this work because of one jerk?
    I say leave it alone for now (keep the /ignore though) and see how everything goes.
    One jerk shouldn't have this site putting up all kinds of new features to stop it.
    And has masturbator even been here in a while? Seems jjhorner really scared the hell out of him! :-)
    Summary: At this time, I think:
  • everything should be left as it is.
  • /ignore is great
  • /ban is not yet needed
  • If abuse of the chatterbox occurs, use /ignore.
  • If abuse of chatterbox increases too much, add a /ban feature.

    But then, this is just the opinion of a scribe :)

      maleteen2000, I understand and agree with your points.

      The reason I don't believe in /ban is because it is the kind of heavy-handed action that just gets trolls going even more. /ignore is a peer-to-peer action, which does not tend to get a troll going with conspiracy fantasies. I noticed the other day that when you told masturbator that you were leaving the chatbox because he'd logged on, he immediately reacted with anger and name-calling -- but directed exclusively towards you and not the site in general. In contrast, a /ban reeks of a power play, and might focus a troll's efforts to taking down a site (not necessarily hacking it but at the least filling it with garbage and spam, forcing the moderators into escalation).

      Trolls can be pretty dedicated once they pick a target -- frankly, I'd rather the target be an individual user (endless /msgs) then the site as a whole. Then again, KM might disagree strongly.

      P.S. I also like the idea of a list somewhere of the uids i've /ignored -- otherwise i'll eventually forget who to /unignore.

      e-mail neshura

        Trolls can be pretty dedicated once they pick a target

        The name Purl Gurl comes to mind....

        btw--I agree about the list of ignored users. A box on the User Settings page would be cool.

      This would work, but I would make one more change; implement the /ban feature now. I agree we don't really need it yet, but we won't know ahead of time when we will need it. However, I think it might be better to use something other than a traditional "ban".

      I can think of two possibilities, either of which would work pretty well;

      1. Implement a /ban that lasts somewhere between 1 hour and 24 hours. (12 hours?) The /ban can be implemented by any bishop or higher. It's unlikely that any of our bishops will be judged unsuitable; if enough people complained about misuse of the /ban by any specific user, I'm sure vroom would be willing to block that user from the function.

      2. Implement the /ban on a voting system. If more than half of the current users (those listed in the "Other Users" box) /ban a user, that user is banned for 1 hour. The ban is short enough that most abusers won't be willing to hang around long enough to keep it permanent; the group here is, I believe and sincerely hope, not rotten enough to be able to implement too many unjust bans, anyway.

      What do you guys think?

      - Ozymandias

        If you were to incluse the /ban, as Ozymandias suggests, this is what I think:
        I like his #1 solution, and I think that is actually a GREAT idea.
        But I don't think that second one is suitable.
        You say, "If more than half of the current users (those listed in the 'Other Users' box) /ban a user, that user is banned for 1 hour."
        I notice that often, people tell me that the chatterbox is ut of their view when they have several windows open at once.
        So say there are 10 users logged on, but 6 of them are not using/seeing the chatterbox.
        This would render it impossible to ban a user, because only 4 users would /ban that user.
        But maybe if you were to say if 1/3 of the users /baned a user, THEN ban them.
        Just another one of my opinions :-)
RE: Chatterbox abuse and possible remedies
by ergowolf (Monk) on Jun 05, 2000 at 19:26 UTC
    Well, I read everyone's opinion on the topic and it has changed my opinion.
    1.) I think we should have the ban feature ready to go if we start to have a problem
    2.) Have /ignore available now per user.
    3.) I am not sure if you have it implemented, but make sure you limit the amount of text people can enter to say 200 characters. This will prevent some buffer overflows. You might also want to do a security audit. I would be happy to help you with this.
    4.) If someone comes into the chatterbox we can protest its misuse by explaining what the person is doing wrong and then everyone refusing to talk until the person apologizes or leaves.

    Does code make a sound if no one is there to type it?