The spamming of this site is really starting to get out of hand. The pattern is pretty clear. A person or bot joins, spams, and then is removed. Rinse, repeat.

Perhaps it is time for new membership to be moderated. Is that possible?

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Mr. Jacob,

No one, including me, is saying to just throw your hands up in the air (like you just don’t care). My suggestion about carefully choosing an e-mail provider was so that in addition to receiving spam, a legitimate member does not bring spam or other cyber nuisance to the OAC through an infected e-mail account. Let me explain my point.

We both agree there are multiple types of spam, the origins of all spam however, is human. (Somebody has to create the program) We do not know what all the motives for spamming are, as they can vary. Spam can travel through cyberspace through several different avenues. One major avenue is e-mail accounts.

I’m sure we are all familiar with spam hitting our e-mail accounts. A good e-mail provider can filter a great deal of this and place suspect spam into a spam folder for you to decide yourself. If you open up an infected e-mail you run the possibility of infecting your own e-mail account as well as your computer. There is also a chance that you may not know you are infected. This is an innovative way for spammers to spread their malicious software to others. One person alone infecting a few e-mail accounts of unsuspecting users can result in thousands of accounts being infected. Think about all the people you e-mail and the people they e-mail and so on. It is also possible to carry on that spam to social network sights your e-mail is associated with, this may include something as simple as longing on the site through your e-mail account. It may even be that the network itself is not infected but since there is some association with an infected e-mail, it is now a target for spammers and the like. I am not an IT bubba so I cannot really say all the ways spam infects users and the networks they are associated with. I believe I can say, mainly through examples such as the spam hitting the OAC, is that there is no cure or prevent all for spam. And the people who are responsible for it are always improving their skills; you may say they are constantly evolving.

Here is another analogy; Liken spam to the human papillomavirus (HPV). A person infected with the virus can go all their life without any symptoms and knowledge of having it. Yet they could be spreading it without knowing and without their partners knowing it. There are different types of HPV. And I believe as with most if not all viruses, it can mutate. (Not a healthcare professional so don’t quote me on that)

Now if the infected person would’ve used protection before sexual activity, chances are very low that he infected his partners. If we were talking about HPV in place of cyber spam, then I would come across as a father and someone with some general public knowledge of the subject and would probably recommend 1) Always use protection 2) Try abstinence 3) Choose your partner wisely and get to know them first……I’m sure you get my point.

Now back to my original response, I suggested points that would help the individual member from both being infected and from bringing spam to the OAC. Now I did suggest some tips from the view of crime prevention, in the sense of how to protect yourself from becoming a victim and a carrier. I hope this is a better explanation for you. I am with you in that no amount of spam or the like should be tolerated. I personally believe there should be stiff legal penalties for someone caught spreading malicious software over the internet. To sum it up, we all have a part as members of OAC to combat spamming and other such nuisances. Hopefully someone who is more of an IT guru can give better advice and perhaps get something going. Again I was only trying to be helpful in offering suggestions that have worked for others and me. Hopefully the upcoming discussion starting Oct. 1, will result in a satisfactory solution for members. Until then, I plan on doing some homework on the subject.

Now I’m sure with your graduates degree in computer science you did not need me to explain this to you. I did however feel inclined to clarify my nonsense or as you colorfully described it “jazz” so that hopefully others will see past such an ill-mannered remark. =-)


Jacob Lee said:
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On a final note, I find Steven's answer confusing. Yes, using any technology carries risks; there are no guarantees. But that is not a reason to throw your hands in the air and not doing anything to minimize those risks. Also, just what risks are you talking about here? I'm talking about spam on the front page of the OAC's web site. I can avoid being exposed to spam by not visiting the web site or removing my membership. But that's rather drastic, isn't it? Getting a better email provider, and all that jazz that Steven suggests, has absolutely nothing to do (nothing!) with spam on this site.
I didn't catch this the first time. I misspoke. I do not mean that the spammer-as-employer is based in south-east asia. I mean that if a spammer (based anywhere in the world, really) needed to hire someone to spam-by-hand for really cheap, then they'll probably hire someone from SE Asia, possibly through a free-lancing site. I have personally seen people on these sites (mainly from SE Asia and former USSR) paid as little as $0.01/hour (apparently), though more commonly pay is around $2-$5/hour.

A lot of the work found on these freelance sites is pretty sketchy. For example, a lot of work on freelancer involves scrapers and spinners- where original content is scraped from a site, and then a piece of software called a spinner re-arranges it so that it looks like original content.

Michael Findlay said:
Jacob Lee said:
Two kinds of spammers really. One is the human spammer who signs up and then spams. Slow and laborious, but it might be affordable to spammers based in south east asia paying employees 1-5 cents an hour, or to individual operators. The other kind of spammer is a bot, a program that attempts to register. For these, a quiz doesn't have to require special knowledge of anthropology. Use rhyming words for example. It's orange and tasty and rhymes with parrot.
Lol, I know this is a serious discussion but this is a huge assumption among many.
Jacob,

Many thanks for offering to help us patrol the site for spam. As a matter of fact, Ning has recently implemented a new system that lets us appoint members to monitor site content by "flagging" spam. I've now enabled your account to support this role.

Content that is flagged will not be visible to visitors or regular members, only the admins and Jacob (at present). The person who posted the original content can still see it. Once flagged, we can choose to leave it hidden, delete it, or reverse the flag and make it visible again.

If this system works out well, we're open to building up a team of community content managers in the future.

Please let me know if you need any assistance with content flagging.



Jacob Lee said:
If the community does not think that membership moderation of the sort I was suggesting is the best solution (I am open on this point; that is why I posed it as a question), then some other solution is probably warranted, given how much work our admins do already. I would remove spam from the site if I could. If it were my site, I would do something like the following: I would allow all members to mark posts as spam. If at least 2 or 3 people concur that it is spam, it is removed. If the original poster complains, the case is reviewed by administrators. I don't suppose Ning actually allows something like that though? [...]

There *are* (fairly wide) guidelines for content, as Keith noted, and spam is already being removed. What exactly is wrong with handing the whole community responsible for policing spam, instead of a having a few admins wielding that authority and bearing that responsibility on their own? The specter you raise just doesn't seem very realistic to me.
Fantastic. Thank you. I think that by distributing responsibility for the maintenance of the OAC among its members will foster growth of community spirit and participation. I believe strongly that an involved community is a concerned community.

The thought of Quechua communities collectively maintaining their irrigation systems keeps popping into my head, or the system of cargos among contemporary Maya described in John Watanabe's book, Maya saints and souls in a changing world.

The lack of, or inability to form such, systems of collective responsibility can be a real problem. A problem particularly faced by community's of mainly migrant workers, I suspect. I see it in my neighborhood, one of the poorest in the US. The picture below was the community soccer field, if you can call it that, built on a piece of property that had been abandoned for twenty years, until very recently, after a house had burned down. Our community-owned water district struggles to get volunteers to sit on the board.

abandoned field used as soccer field featuring mattress




Francine Barone said:
Jacob,

Many thanks for offering to help us patrol the site for spam. As a matter of fact, Ning has recently implemented a new system that lets us appoint members to monitor site content by "flagging" spam. I've now enabled your account to support this role.

Content that is flagged will not be visible to visitors or regular members, only the admins and Jacob (at present). The person who posted the original content can still see it. Once flagged, we can choose to leave it hidden, delete it, or reverse the flag and make it visible again.

If this system works out well, we're open to building up a team of community content managers in the future.

Please let me know if you need any assistance with content flagging.



Jacob Lee said:
If the community does not think that membership moderation of the sort I was suggesting is the best solution (I am open on this point; that is why I posed it as a question), then some other solution is probably warranted, given how much work our admins do already. I would remove spam from the site if I could. If it were my site, I would do something like the following: I would allow all members to mark posts as spam. If at least 2 or 3 people concur that it is spam, it is removed. If the original poster complains, the case is reviewed by administrators. I don't suppose Ning actually allows something like that though? [...]

There *are* (fairly wide) guidelines for content, as Keith noted, and spam is already being removed. What exactly is wrong with handing the whole community responsible for policing spam, instead of a having a few admins wielding that authority and bearing that responsibility on their own? The specter you raise just doesn't seem very realistic to me.
Thanks for bringing up the issue, Jacob. Over the weekend we were bombarded with spam from one Angela who came back five times with a new email ID. We couldn't take it any more and decided to move to moderating new members as a temporary measure. Speaking for myself, I think moderating is great. Whoever among the Admins picks up a new member gets to check them out a bit and to send a note of welcome. The turnover is usually quick and spam-free. The numbers are more than manageable. I can't imagine why we didn't try it before. Maybe it won't be a temporary measure after all.
I was on of the people "Angela" sent a message to. I googled the email address and "she" was all over Ning.

I think you will find Ning needs to move to IP blocking not just email address blocking because these people and bots, more often than not, work from single IP address. Doing this would top recurrent offenders popping up with a new email 30 minutes after their old one was banned.
You're right. I think people have been bugging Ning for IP blocking for some time, but to no avail. Turning on new member approval should prevent our spambot woes until Ning gets around to a real fix.


Michael Findlay said:
I was on of the people "Angela" sent a message to. I googled the email address and "she" was all over Ning.

I think you will find Ning needs to move to IP blocking not just email address blocking because these people and bots, more often than not, work from single IP address. Doing this would top recurrent offenders popping up with a new email 30 minutes after their old one was banned.

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