Category Archives: Moderation

Why You Don’t Need Staff For a New Forum

Most people feel that when getting ready to open a new forum, or a couple of weeks into a forums life, they must hire some staff members to help. This normally comes in the form of wanting to hire 1-2 moderators and an administrator at the most basic level. However, hiring staff is often much more based on the feeling that having people with these roles makes them much more likely to contribute to discussion, and help grow your post count. Continue reading

Fighting Spam Effectively: The Three Layer Defense

Fighting spam effectively can be difficult, but using three different technologies, it can be quite achievable. Forums do not need to use member validation, or impose the requirement to first post in a particular forum. Instead, a forum needs to use the following three techniques to form a passive and active defense against forum spam.


Defense Layer #1: Good Anti-Spam Software

The most important aspect to any spam defense is software. Within this “Layer,” an administrator should use four different technologies to defeat spam. Those technologies are as follows.

  • reCAPTCHA: Google’s reCAPTCHA is currently the most effective anti-spam mechanism. There are other tools which integrate ads, or allow the user to simply slide a bar to verify that they are not a spam bot, but these are less effective. There are reCAPTCHA plugins for all major forum systems.
    • MyBB: http://mods.mybb.com/view/recaptcha
    • phpBB: https://developers.google.com/recaptcha/old/docs/phpbb
    • IPB: Built-In.
  • Q&A CAPTCHA: For bots which are sophisticated enough to split past reCAPTCHA, Q&A CAPTCHA is a very effective defense. Simply define a few custom questions, such as “What is the name of this forum,” or classically, “What color is the Sky?” and most bots will not be able to create accounts. Note that for larger forums, a bot may be designed to know the answers to these questions, so this defense should be used in conjunction with reCAPTCHA.
    • MyBB: http://community.mybb.com/thread-83250.html
    • phpBB: https://www.phpbb.com/support/docs/en/3.0/kb/article/how-to-configure-q+a-captcha/
    • IPB: Not necessary because of IPS Spam Services
  • Email Validation: This is a feature which most modern forum systems use by default. It stops a very large number of spam bots, but not all. This is most likely enabled on your board by default, but if not, I recommend enabling it.
  • Spam Databases: There are a number of alternatives for different spam databases to use. For IPB users, IPS Spam Services (which is bundled with your IPB License) is extremely effective, and prevents a vast majority of all spam. For non-IPB users, StopForumSpam is a very good option to use.
    • All major forum systems: http://www.stopforumspam.com/contributions
    • IPB: Use IPS Spam Services, which is built in to IPB.

 


Defense Layer #2: Permanent Bans & Cleanup Tools

Despite the strong defenses of layer #1, there is a class of spam bots which will evade them, and still cause issues on your forum. If your forum is large enough, these potential spam bots include human beings.

The most effective tool for dealing with spam bots who have passed through layer #1 are immediate, permanent bans. But also, you will need to use a good removal tool to remove their content from your forum. Below are instructions on how to do this on major forum platforms.

  • MyBB: Use the following plugin, or the “Delete User” feature of the ACP: http://mods.mybb.com/view/goodbye-spammer
  • phpBB: Refer to the following support topic: https://www.phpbb.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=1187175
  • IPB: Hover over the user’s name and click “Mark as Spam.” Searching “Mark as Spam” in the ACP will allow you to configure what this button does.

However, there are some spam bots which are so clever, that even the most intelligent admins cannot be sure that they are spam bots. There is one final defensive layer to use against these nasty customers.


Defense Layer #3: Moderator Queue

Sometimes, a user will register, post a perfectly allowable topic asking a question like “What dating script should I use?” Once a couple members have replied, then will then say “Actually, I decided to use <insert  link here>. It’s a very good product!” When a new user posts something suspicious, the admin should then add that user to the moderator queue. That way, if the user turns out to be a real person, and it was all a misunderstanding, then the user can be taken off the moderator queue. Here are instructions on how to do this.

  • MyBB: Create a new group and check “Moderate new posts” on the edit group page. Add suspected spammers to this user group as their primary user group.
  • phpBB: Create a new user group, and configure its permissions for each forum to “Moderate new posts.” Doing this is beyond the scope of this tutorial, although a google search for “phpBB Moderator Queue” will help configure this. When you identify a suspected spammer, add that user to this user group.
  • IPB: Create a new user group. When editing the group, under Forum -> Restrictions, set “Moderate content of everyone in this group?” to “Yes.” When you identify a suspected spammer, add that spammer to the user group you just created. Make that the user’s primary user group.

Basically, the moderator queue requires moderators to manually approve each post by the user. This can be burdensome, but if a user continues to spam after being added to the mod queue, then the admin can then proceed to ban the spammer.

NOTE: Do not set up your forum to add newly registered users to the moderator queue, unless you are very certain that that is a good idea. Only add spam bots who get past layers 1 and 2 of your anti-spam defenses to the mod queue, and do so manually via the ACP. Adding all users to the mod queue by default will discourage them from posting.


Conclusion

Spam is a problem which many forums have. Using a three-layer defense, administrators can thwart all spam, and keep their forum clean of advertising. If you found this tutorial useful, or have any questions, please leave a comment on this blog post.

Thank you for reading!

How to End Forum Dependency on the Admin

New forums can often be compared to virtual children because of their dependency on their owners. Starting a new forum isn’t easy and is not something for the light hearted to take up. Dedication is key for forum survival and unfortunately this is the key element where many forums fail and die out.  A community is a start up business that thrives under good leadership and active staff participation. Without an active and near hovering administrator on call to supervise a new community the members lose interest and become lurkers and eventually cease to visit the site in it’s entirety. My community, Political Debate Forums, has had that exact same experience. I have raised that community for almost a year and I still find that activity is based on the leader administrator and his staff members. Simply put dedication is the key to getting a community off the ground. We all can’t be baby sitters however so I have three good goals that every new administrator should set and reach in order to show their community that they want to be successful.

Don’t Go It Alone.

A good forum administrator knows that he cannot run a forum by himself. It is possible but it’s not probable. By hiring staff members and partners a new admin can boost the activity of a forum times as many people that visit often. A forum creating activity and showing dedication has a much better chance of gaining new members. Instead of hogging all of the glory of the leadership to yourself consider building a team that you can rely on. After all you cannot be on your forum 24/7 and anyone that can match your activity boosts the over all activity by a multiple. Consider paying someone if you must because your forum community, even if you didn’t intend it to be so, is a business and will act like a business. All businesses need leadership.

Build Relationships

When you finally get your team built and members start visiting your community be humble. Build relationships with those who have joined and treat them as friends. You as the admin are not a Lord or Emperor but just another user with a different level of access. When your activity is expected to be low let your community know why. Do not give the appearance that you have vanished because your users will always assume the worst. They will abandon your forum because they think that you have abandoned your forum. Even on my own forum I recently had to move and restructure my life as I left the military and became a civilian once again. I advised my community of what was going on and while we did lose activity it wasn’t hard to get back. We are already building back again after a week.

Show Your Dedication

A good forum administrator leads his community like a general leads an army. You should be the primary content creator, the most visible face, and the one who makes the calls. You must be the one who raises morale, takes on the worst users, and even changes the community structure and appearance as needed. Like any leader you must show that you are engaged and that you are dedicated to the forum that you own. You need to show your users that you strive for success and that you need their help. The forum admin might have a lot of responsibility but keep your pride in check, don’t create a chip for your shoulder, and remember that the community is what you strive for. As an old movie once said: “If you build it they will come”.

The take away from this article is that the forum community is dependent on the administrator but the pathway of a leader is not a solitary path. It is a path full of opportunity to build relationships, friendships, and even tactical business oriented goals. Be dedicated to your members and they will be dedicated to you. If you want to know more about leadership please look forward to my next article in which we will tackle the strategy of a leader.