Chinks in the armor

Answered

    Based on the recent events and discussions about trolls, I wanted to share some concerns about the way the forum works.

    First of all, the Comments:

    These were already problematic even before the troll, as we cannot receive notifications without revealing identity of up- and down-voters.  So they are being inconsistently used, enough so as to lose their value.

    The comments cannot be upvoted or downvoted, and they cannot be reported to moderators.  They do not show up on a person’s profile, only Questions and Answers.  Another member suggested visiting a questionable member’s profile in order to gain insight into their sincerity.  A troll with any modicum of intelligence can figure this out, and confine their duplicity to comments while building a profile that looks completely innocent.

    For example. anyone checking out SecondMarge’s profile might not have seen that she (or he) took an answer I made (while feeding the troll, sorry) and posted a comment on it designed to increase distrust in the church, on an issue that had absolutely nothing to do with the church.

    As the comments are not upvoted or downvoted, those features do not help us in keeping unBiblical opinions off the front page of a Question, or any page of a Question, or scattered throughout under the guise of many different voices.  I submit that if it’s logistically possible, that the comments feature should be disabled altogether.  In the meantime, fellow members, please be aware of these loopholes.

    Second, the “Best Answer.”

    1)  Upvoting and downvoting are irrelevant when a troll posts a questions, answers it with a sock puppet, and chooses it as “Best Answer.”  2) I hate choosing a “Best Answer” for my own questions, as I truly value everyone’s opinion and believe every sincere member has something important to say.  If I do NOT choose a “Best Answer” that leaves my question open to a troll answering and voting themselves as “Best Answer.”  If they do this on an older question, or there’s a whole lot of newer activity pushing that answer to the 2nd or 3rd page of “Latest Answers” there’s a chance I might not catch it and make a change.

    Third: the ability to edit other people’s questions.

    DoveGrey said, ” I see now how effective it can be for more senior members to be able to down vote, or even to edit someone’s question.”  Ironically, even though AFAIK I am the only person to exercise this option, I am against this ability.  At the risk of being a hypocrite, I felt it was the lesser of two “evils.”  I wanted a warning to appear in the content of the post, and not get lost in answers and comments.  My prayer is that I performed this action in a trustworthy manner.  I identified myself, stated my concerns in a calm way, and left the original post intact.  There was no technical requirement in the system that I do so.  I could have pretended to be the OP and changed the message in any way I desired.  I could have put words in their mouth.

    All-In said  “I do believe there is a wolf lurking in here under multiple screen names and knows we know… they are being more cautious in their posts, leaving everyone to believe they are genuine. originally, they were using offensive language as well, but that has seemed to stop. probably another tactic to throw off the scent.”

    I agree with his assessment.  I do not think it is out of the question that the troll may attempt to build a profile under our radar, keep their nose clean to gain our trust, and rack up enough points to really wreak havoc with the community.  At that point, they would be able to put words in any of our mouths, and appear to be coming from us.  If they do it to older questions , since it’s only an edit, we may not even be aware it has happened.

    (There was also the concern about downvoting innocent questions from suspicious new members without proof.  I have the same concern.  I believe the strategy is to try to hamper the troll’s attempts at earning points and building a trojan horse.  But it could certainly be off-putting to members who are unaware of the problem.)

    My temporary workaround for #2 and #3, Best Answer and Question Editing feature:

    In order to prevent a troll from changing my answers or tampering with Best Answer, I plan to copy my original post into an answer, and choose it as “Best Answer” so that any members can easily see the original text and recognize any tampering.  I know that messes with points, and I’m sorry, but IMO the alternative is worse.

    Edited to add: I see that I cannot choose my own answer as Best.  Perhaps we can do this for each other.

     

     

    Add Comment
    9 Answer(s)
      Best answer

      Based on the recent events and discussions about trolls, I wanted to share some concerns about the way the forum works.

      First of all, the Comments:

      These were already problematic even before the troll, as we cannot receive notifications without revealing identity of up- and down-voters.  So they are being inconsistently used, enough so as to lose their value.

      The comments cannot be upvoted or downvoted, and they cannot be reported to moderators.  They do not show up on a person’s profile, only Questions and Answers.  Another member suggested visiting a questionable member’s profile in order to gain insight into their sincerity.  A troll with any modicum of intelligence can figure this out, and confine their duplicity to comments while building a profile that looks completely innocent.

      For example. anyone checking out SecondMarge’s profile might not have seen that she (or he) took an answer I made (while feeding the troll, sorry) and posted a comment on it designed to increase distrust in the church, on an issue that had absolutely nothing to do with the church.

      As the comments are not upvoted or downvoted, those features do not help us in keeping unBiblical opinions off the front page of a Question, or any page of a Question, or scattered throughout under the guise of many different voices.  I submit that if it’s logistically possible, that the comments feature should be disabled altogether.  In the meantime, fellow members, please be aware of these loopholes.

      Second, the “Best Answer.”

      1)  Upvoting and downvoting are irrelevant when a troll posts a questions, answers it with a sock puppet, and chooses it as “Best Answer.”  2) I hate choosing a “Best Answer” for my own questions, as I truly value everyone’s opinion and believe every sincere member has something important to say.  If I do NOT choose a “Best Answer” that leaves my question open to a troll answering and voting themselves as “Best Answer.”  If they do this on an older question, or there’s a whole lot of newer activity pushing that answer to the 2nd or 3rd page of “Latest Answers” there’s a chance I might not catch it and make a change.

      Third: the ability to edit other people’s questions.

      DoveGrey said, ” I see now how effective it can be for more senior members to be able to down vote, or even to edit someone’s question.”  Ironically, even though AFAIK I am the only person to exercise this option, I am against this ability.  At the risk of being a hypocrite, I felt it was the lesser of two “evils.”  I wanted a warning to appear in the content of the post, and not get lost in answers and comments.  My prayer is that I performed this action in a trustworthy manner.  I identified myself, stated my concerns in a calm way, and left the original post intact.  There was no technical requirement in the system that I do so.  I could have pretended to be the OP and changed the message in any way I desired.  I could have put words in their mouth.

      All-In said  “I do believe there is a wolf lurking in here under multiple screen names and knows we know… they are being more cautious in their posts, leaving everyone to believe they are genuine. originally, they were using offensive language as well, but that has seemed to stop. probably another tactic to throw off the scent.”

      I agree with his assessment.  I do not think it is out of the question that the troll may attempt to build a profile under our radar, keep their nose clean to gain our trust, and rack up enough points to really wreak havoc with the community.  At that point, they would be able to put words in any of our mouths, and appear to be coming from us.  If they do it to older questions , since it’s only an edit, we may not even be aware it has happened.

      (There was also the concern about downvoting innocent questions from suspicious new members without proof.  I have the same concern.  I believe the strategy is to try to hamper the troll’s attempts at earning points and building a trojan horse.  But it could certainly be off-putting to members who are unaware of the problem.)

      My temporary workaround for #2 and #3, Best Answer and Question Editing feature:

      In order to prevent a troll from changing my answers or tampering with Best Answer, I plan to copy my original post into an answer, and choose it as “Best Answer” so that any members can easily see the original text and recognize any tampering.  I know that messes with points, and I’m sorry, but IMO the alternative is worse.

      Edited to add: I see that I cannot choose my own answer as Best.  Perhaps we can do this for each other.

       

       

      On the floor Answered on November 25, 2019.
      Add Comment

        What we can change is limited, sadly. I’d like to see better reporting, but I can’t set it.

        As for editing questions, the idea is that it allows for clean up of poorly written questions. I’ve just bumped that privilege up to a higher level. It will take someone a long time to earn enough points to do that.

        Downvoting is powerful because it takes points from others. It costs you the same number of points, but if 10 people downvote the same person they each lose a point while that person loses 10. Fewer points means fewer privileges/powers.

        California King Answered on November 25, 2019.

        i had no idea downvoting costs points. Oh well, i don’t care, i felt strongly enough on a couple to downvote

        on November 25, 2019.
        Add Comment

          Appreciate the input.  We are working on some security improvements, but if a person is determined to cause trouble, they will.   As PaulB stated, there is a delicate balance in keeping out the trolls and other Internet denizens and at the same time offering the help and encouragement and healing that TMB is known and respected for.  Oftentimes, hurting people come onto a board like this with raw emotions and language that may not be “appropriate” or may be even downright offensive.  I think it behooves us to remember that Jesus reached out to the worst sinners of His day (in fact, He still reaches out to us worst sinners!) and ministered to them–and we are called to be like Jesus!  Now, the line between a troll or spammer and a legitimate poster is not always easy to discern, and there is often some erring on the side of grace because we do not want to turn away a real person with a real marriage that is having real problems or needs a little bit of real encouragement.  To give you one example:  there was a poster who came on the old boards several years ago and he was raw and hurting, really intensely struggling with not just his marriage but the whole concept of there being a God who loved him and wanted to have a relationship with him.  Honestly, he came close to being booted off the boards at the time–more than once, in fact!!  But, in reaching out through PMs and later by phone, this poster (who is still here today) got saved and his marriage got strengthened.  I am honored to call him my friend and a brother in Christ now.  But that would not have happened without a lot of patience and grace-filled ministry.

          Trolls are bad, but Jesus is good!  🙂

          California King Answered on November 26, 2019.

          And the very reason I added in my asking for people to pray for TMB, included praying for these people to encounter Jesus.  🙂

           

          on November 26, 2019.

          I completely agree with you Dale!  Thank you for that testimony.  I understand and agree with that; I was once one of those severely hurting people on the old TMB, and although some people (including a moderator) were harsh with me, there were others who offered comfort and ministered to me.

          The (current) posts with offensive language must have been removed before I saw them.  I have no comment on that, I don’t know what the offensive language was.

          What I was concerned with was the sudden appearance of new users who were not sharing about themselves at all, were bringing up trivial topics, and were openly attacking Christian, biblical values.  There was no talk of seeking help for a hurting marriage, “they” tended to indicate that things were good.  That wasn’t too hard to discern at all.

          I am not asking that people be turned away.   What I would like to see is safeguards from the Anti-Christian agenda of trolls.  That’s what this was about.

          Thank you in advance for whatever you are able to do regarding security.  I know you are limited by what the software will allow.

          on November 26, 2019.

          I’ll just add this… I love that testimony!  I have always loved that testimony.  I call that person my friend, and he has been a blessing in my life.  God works in mysterious ways!

          on November 26, 2019.

          I will add to what Dale said here with a simple confession. I am the member he was talking about. To make a long story short, when I first joined TMB, I was seeking out help in overcoming what I had come to understand was a pornography addiction. I was not a Christian, and was actually pretty adversarial and vocal about it. Under the old rules, that disqualified me from membership, and I fully expected to be shown the door. Dale reached out to me, and cordially invited me to refrain from posting while it was decided. In the mean time, I did a lot of reading, and saw a side of Christianity I had not seen before. GRACE. I know TMB benefits just about everybody that visits, but for me, it was truly life changing. There were those who opposed my being allowed to stay, but I now recognize that it was not personal. They were motivated by their desire to protect the board and it’s purpose. I had an incredible advocate in Dale, who managed to tame my angry spirit while things got worked out. In the process, we had many conversations where he ministered to me. I am a born again follower of Christ because of those conversations. They would not have happened without a little bit of tolerance. I will let wiser people than I decide what steps are appropriate to protect the integrity of the board but I did want to share my own experience.

          on November 26, 2019.
          Add Comment

            Yes, I don’t like how the platform handles reported posts instead of removing the post altogether, the system just lets it sit there. 🙁

            On the floor Answered on November 25, 2019.

            Removing it would give anyone the power to hide anything.

            on November 25, 2019.

            I agree.  Keeping certain posts out, for at least a time, allows all the users to see certain users “true colors”…. but when it has offensive language, it isn’t pleasant to have to read it multiple times.

            on November 25, 2019.

            Not to mention a troll being able to report and remove every post that disagrees with them.

            on November 25, 2019.
            Add Comment

              Well, maybe Dale and Paul will ask for additional help monitoring things and more of us can get involved.

              On the floor Answered on November 25, 2019.
              Add Comment

                Agree with all of this. Mods who have been here for a long time and are trusted by Dale and Paul, with the ability to close threads or even delete in extreme cases would be beneficial. I also feel that the comment, with its lack of notifications, is ineffective at best and problematic at worst.

                On the floor Answered on November 25, 2019.
                Add Comment

                  @Paul: As for editing questions, the idea is that it allows for clean up of poorly written questions. I’ve just bumped that privilege up to a higher level. It will take someone a long time to earn enough points to do that.    

                  Thanks for this.  It is a great start.  For me, if there were a poorly written question, I would never exercise this feature to clean it up.  I would ask clarifying questions rather than mess with the post.  I would be concerned about my interpretation not being in line with the poster’s intent or meaning.

                  Given the fact that comments are not easily moderated, how about bumping up the level at which one can comment? (if they can’t be turned off completely)

                  “Downvoting is powerful because it takes points from others. It costs you the same number of points, but if 10 people downvote the same person they each lose a point while that person loses 10. Fewer points means fewer privileges/powers.”

                  I think it’s actually 2 points.  However, let’s say 10 of us downvote an answer.  They lose 20 points.  They have 3 sock puppets who vote the answer up, giving them 30 points.  The OP (another sock puppet) chooses it as Best Answer, granting them another 15 points and  top billing on that Question.  They have a net gain of 25 points and their opinion is the top answer.

                  Now, what if All-In has a point, and there’s a troll that now understands the system.  The troll plays innocent until they have more than enough points to do what it is that they want to do.  If they participate for awhile without causing trouble, using multiple accounts, they could gain even more points than in the above example by avoiding the downvotes.  It is not unthinkable that someone with these ulterior motives and ill-will would have the patience to play this long game.  It would take a lot of time and effort to do damage control through the downvoting system.  People who understand this and are trying to be proactive might then resort to downvoting suspected trolls to prevent this from happening in the first place, but then it looks like we are an intolerant community who is out to get certain individuals who are asking completely innocent questions.  And, what if we make a mistake on one or two profiles that aren’t actually sock puppets or trolls?

                  On the floor Answered on November 25, 2019.

                  Questions may last longer than those who asked them. Being able to clean up obvious issues in grammar is helpful.

                  As for comments, if we limit that we get far more junk as answers and we don’t have threading.

                  Can a troll game the system? Sure. Our goal is to make it not worth the time and effort?

                  It’s always a balancing game. Anything that limits trolls also limits valid users.

                  on November 25, 2019.

                  Forgive me, but I am here way too much as it is, and even I’m not even remotely interested in editing grammar on old posts, or any posts.  Not that I would, anyway.  Is anyone else seriously going to be interested in spending their time here doing that?  Is the risk really worth it?

                  Due to lack of notifications and appearance in the “Latest Answer” section, many of us already write the majority of our comments as an answer using @User…. are we junking up the system already?  How much would things really change?

                  This is spiritual warfare.  It would take an awful lot to make it not worth the time and effort for someone with a vendetta against believers.  They may even get a charge out of the challenge, increasing interest.  I would happily agree to be severely limited in order to also limit a troll.  That’s the balance that makes sense to me.

                  on November 25, 2019.
                  Add Comment

                    I think that person might be from Married Heat. I’ve read some of the site and there is a particularly nasty poster (nasty in that their values, IN MY OPINION) are not Christian. Their SN has Marge in it.

                    Fell out of ... Answered on November 25, 2019.
                    Add Comment

                      @PaulB If a troll is identified, are you and Dale the only ones that can delete their profile?

                      On the floor Answered on November 25, 2019.

                      Currently, yes.

                      on November 25, 2019.
                      Add Comment

                      Your Answer

                      By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.