Sure, it's advertising, that's the point... October 26, 2011 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Deleting a thread on Loudsauce as 'advertising' seems off kilter. I've put off posting about the service because its founder is a friend and I participate heavily in several campaigns - but I would totally rank it as 'best of the Web'
posted by victors to Etiquette/Policy at 8:50 AM (73 comments total)

its founder is a friend and I participate heavily in several campaigns

Seriously? You've been around here ten years and didn't know this is not okay?
posted by jbickers at 8:54 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously? You've been around here ten years and didn't know this is not okay?

To be clear, victors didn't make the post, it's fine for him to have not posted something by a friend.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:55 AM on October 26, 2011 [38 favorites]


I agree, Loudsauce is an interesting site that I didn't know about before. Yeah, I agree wholeheartedly with taz that fundraising is not something MetaFilter should do, or does well, but this was more about the interesting website.
posted by Kattullus at 8:55 AM on October 26, 2011


I've put off posting about the service because its founder is a friend...

From the FAQ:

It's against the rules to link to your own site, a site that you host or contribute to substantially, or a site of someone who is a close friend or relative of yours in a MetaFilter post.

So, it would've been deleted anyway, best of the Web or not.
posted by griphus at 8:55 AM on October 26, 2011


oh I have made an ass of myself again
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on October 26, 2011 [46 favorites]


wow.
posted by victors at 8:56 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


But yeah, it may be more okay as a post than I thought when I glanced at it via the admin log this morning, and I don't know if taz had the same misreading that I did that the post was more "hey go kickstart this thing" rather than "go look at this thing that is similar in structure to Kickstarter". As it is, maybe not really a problem though I know "hey, advertising, that's great, right?" is a sentiment that can rile up folks around here in a not-so-great way and so this stuff gets sticky.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:59 AM on October 26, 2011


This isn't a shill for a particular campaign... I didn't know about this site and actually agree that this should've stayed up. The OWS stuff is under the fold and incidental to the point of the post, no?
posted by mintcake! at 9:01 AM on October 26, 2011


Yeah, I misread the MetaTalk post in exactly the same way at first as griphus and jbickers, but since it was posted by victors I was pretty sure that my understanding was incorrect, as it turned out to be.

To explain my own comment further, I think that a post about the Loudsauce website is just fine, while a post about a specific fundraiser on Loudsauce would be not okay. For me the post is more about the website than the OWS fundraiser specifically, so it seems like a cromulent post to me.
posted by Kattullus at 9:01 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


We've had a blanket "no Kickstarter" rule on the front page for a while now and I get the feeling that this deletion was basically being a little overbroad on the "No Kickstarter" rule since this is not linking to a "fund me!" specific campaign and we did have a link to Kickstarter whenit was getting started. That said, victors if you're good friends with the founder this might have been a situation where an email to us might have been better since MeTa posts have a tendency to sometimes look like MeFi posts by proxy.

So, I think taz may have had an overbroad interpretation of the new and weird hard-and-fast rule here or was doing what my first-pass eyeball was which was that the post was saying "fund this" and not "here is a way to fund things!".
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:01 AM on October 26, 2011


oh, wow, what a cool thing! what a neat way to fight against the strictures of the corporate advertising structure!

if there's a way to reverse the ruling on this one, that should totally happen - this was a total misread.
posted by batmonkey at 9:02 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


And all the rest of this aside, it would probably have been better for someone else to make this metatalk post, victors; I appreciate that you're not coming from a sketchy place or anything, but "why did this thing that I have a personal and direct connection to get deleted" throws a weird sort of whammy factor into what's otherwise a totally reasonable policy question. Not a huge deal or anything but might have been better as a note to the contact form given the personal context, as the sort of eyebrow-raised misreadings in here attest to.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2011


Man, I'm totally in stupid mode today. I've only just now figured out how I misread this.

victors, I apologize.
posted by jbickers at 9:05 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Do a LoudSauce post that doesn't mention kickstarter. End of problem.

I agree with this deletion. Even if it was borderline on close reading, it would have encouraged more kickstarter FPPs, which would not be a good thing.
posted by alms at 9:06 AM on October 26, 2011


Extending the "no friends" policy to MetaTalk seems like a bad idea. It's sensible and necessary on the Blue, but here on the Gray, the MeFi community discussion board, more familiarity is not a bad thing. The wording of this MeTa post is ambiguous, but I don't see anything wrong with victors making this post, rather than some other MeFite.
posted by Kattullus at 9:08 AM on October 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


...rule since this is not linking to a "fund me!" specific campaign...


Is there not a big, orange "Fund This" button on the front? IDGI.
posted by lampshade at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2011


As an aside, have the mods staff ever considered automatic moderation of FPPs that contain certain terms or links to certain sites, like Kickstarter? In other words, the post wouldn't go live until it was reviewed by a mod staff member. The same system could be used to automatically transform MetaTalk posts that contain the words "deletion" or "deleted" into contact form submissions. Sure, no one likes prior restraint, but it would save a lot of grar.
posted by alms at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


if there's a way to reverse the ruling on this one, that should totally happen

It's a bit of a dilemma for a post that never really got any momentum in the first place and now it's hours later and it'd be popping back to life down the page. Probably better to just let someone (nickrussell or otherwise) have a fresh crack at it at some point, is my feeling.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:11 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


jbickers, griphus np - been there.

cortex - gotcha
posted by victors at 9:15 AM on October 26, 2011


When I looked at it, there were only a few campaigns, and the most prominent was the OWS campaign so it just felt like publicity for that. There just wasn't much meat to the post (it seemed to me).

I thought it was a good deletion.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:20 AM on October 26, 2011


ah, yeah, makes sense. gotcha.

nickrussell, I hope you try again.
posted by batmonkey at 9:27 AM on October 26, 2011


The FPP could have been worded a whole lot more clearly. I had no idea what it was referring to ("Kickstarter for mainstream media adverts" ??). Would have been better to write a few more lines explaining what Loudsauce actually is and has done, instead of referring to what it's like.
posted by yarly at 9:28 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't see anything wrong with this MeTa. The first few comments misreading the post are just that, people misreading the post—and I understood them immediately as such because I read the post.

The FPP aside, I think Victors was totally okay posting this MeTa.
posted by cribcage at 9:35 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]




Oh snap!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:59 AM on October 26, 2011


Yeah I was hoping we'd get a MeTa out of that but I was afraid if someone made another post the place would melt down.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:01 AM on October 26, 2011


In other deleted thread news

Yeah that was seriously bad. Thanks to an alert MeFite for bringing it to our attention. We're going to go through and nofollow all the links to their company that we can find and look for other people from there that might have accounts here and deal with that. We'd appreciate if people not go on some weird warpath about this and just let us work it all out on our end.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:01 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I realize hoping for a metatalk thread probably makes me a very bad person.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:01 AM on October 26, 2011


Yeah, that's been a fun unrelated part of the morning.

The FPP aside, I think Victors was totally okay posting this MeTa.

Yeah, let me be clear that I didn't mean my comment above as "victors was wrong to post this" in any sense. More a "on a scale from 1 to 10 where 10 is a bump-free post and 1 is a flaming trainwreck, this maybe nudged you to an 8 or 9" sort of thing as far as how personal context can get in the way of things a little. Totally not a big deal, victors is fine, more just talking about it as an example of some of the tricky angles that come into this stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:02 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


There has to be a Brooklyn band called Weird Warpath.
posted by mintcake! at 10:06 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


villanelles at dawn: "Yeah I was hoping we'd get a MeTa out of that but I was afraid if someone made another post the place would melt down."

I thought about it. Didn't think it would go well.

jessamyn: "We'd appreciate if people not go on some weird warpath about this and just let us work it all out on our end."

Understood!
posted by zarq at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2011


You people and your undying curiosity! I'm glad I'm not nosy!

Jessamyn don't tell anyone that I MeMailed you like three seconds after you deleted that post
posted by shakespeherian at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2011


Well, and curiosity is fine and talking about it some in here now that it's come up is fine too. The biggest problem with having a metatalk post about it (and it's in "problematic" territory, not "that is not allowed" territory) is that throwing a whole lot of visibility at what's already basically an open-and-shut case of someone getting banned for shitty behavior is more likely to bring out pitchforks than to improve the situation in any way.

I mean, trust me, I get wanting to talk about it; I am legitimately angry about the situation. I consider drive-by spammers to be just a part of my daily routine, barely worth a shrug or a chuckle and then that's it, but when it's a long-time user who knowingly just starts abusing the site like that it's a real violation of the trust we put in the community and that the community put in one another, and I think that's just an incredibly shitty way to be and am confounded on those rare occasions where someone actually goes there.

But there's not a whole lot to be gotten about letting that turn into a really visible being-angry-as-a-group thing, especially when we're basically dealing with past-tense stuff here rather than an ongoing situation. nam3d can't get any more banned and we'll be sure to scour hard for any extra tendrils coming off of this, but beyond that there's not a whole ton to talk about about the specific situation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:28 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


That was a fairly shocking banning, after looking at the user's post history. Shocking in the sense that it wasn't noticed for so long. (not to razz anybody, just amazing that even here things slip through the cracks sometimes)
posted by wierdo at 10:33 AM on October 26, 2011


when it's a long-time user who knowingly just starts abusing the site like that it's a real violation of the trust we put in the community

I agree.

discount designer handbags available now at shakespeherian.com
posted by shakespeherian at 10:37 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


but it would save a lot of grar.

But then what would draw lurkers into making accounts?

Some of us feed on grar.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:42 AM on October 26, 2011


cortex: " But there's not a whole lot to be gotten about letting that turn into a really visible being-angry-as-a-group thing, especially when we're basically dealing with past-tense stuff here rather than an ongoing situation. nam3d can't get any more banned and we'll be sure to scour hard for any extra tendrils coming off of this, but beyond that there's not a whole ton to talk about about the specific situation."

Well... I'm interested in the process. How it was discovered, etc. Not that you would necessarily want to talk about that stuff. If I had made a meta post, that would have been the angle, more than a general, "Look at this shit! WTF Happened?"
posted by zarq at 10:43 AM on October 26, 2011


(not to razz anybody, just amazing that even here things slip through the cracks sometimes)

Yeah. It's one of those frustrating things where even as we build and iterate what is actually a pretty solid toolset for dealing with the kind of spammy or self-linky or otherwise sketchy behavior that's typical-to-occasional on the site, it's pretty much impossible to be 100% about it and the thing most likely to slip through the cracks is bad behavior from a trusted, established user.

Thankfully someone did notice and ask us to take a look, and so at least it's dealt with now. That's happened before, and it's a nice thing about having attentive community members with long memories; no automated or active search tool can behave quite like a big group of folks with gut feelings. And there are times when we notice this stuff ourselves too, just having seen one little domain or name or something pop up in an odd way one too many times, so I'd say that generally we manage to catch this stuff quicker than happened this time.

There's probably no real solution. You can't foolproof a system based on trust, because sometimes people will betray that trust. We've got a lot of "trust but verify" aspects to how we handle stuff on the backend, tools that let us look for stuff that smells or keep an eye on people who have pulled weird stuff before, and we're willing to write someone a note and just ask what's up if we see something odd, but fundamentally being able to trust folks here is an important part of what Metafilter is. And it works very well almost all the time and I can't imagine going any great distance away from that sense of trust. But it means this kind of shit will come up now and then, and that really, really sucks.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:43 AM on October 26, 2011


Well... I'm interested in the process. How it was discovered, etc. Not that you would necessarily want to talk about that stuff.

In this case, someone noticed a lot of postdesk links coming from the same user, and it clicked for them that maybe something was up. They did a little poking around and came up with a connection to the username that made it all even sketchier, and wrote to us, and at that point we were able to confirm really quickly and definitively that there was indeed something fucked up going on.

Which is really all it takes: someone noticing two or more dots and connecting the line. We've got tools that do it, and we make notes about odd-but-not-verified-bad things, and we keep our eyes open, and the userbase keeps their eyes open.

Part of the balance there between suspicion and trust is that sometimes things are red flags but there isn't anything actually wrong going on. Coincidence or fumbled presentation or so on can and do make things seem worth looking into that turn out to be totally benign. So it's great when folks drop us a line privately to let us know they've noticed something, and it's not so great when instead it's sort of a public thing (in the thread, or as a Metatalk post), since we can quietly research a problem but there's nothing quiet about publicly speculating that someone is or is not a spammer, etc.

So this played out pretty much the best way it could, regardless of what the deal had turned out to be: we had information we could look into, and if it had been nothing, there would be no public GRARfest about a non-issue.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems a simple enough algorithmic challenge to capture data about users who repeatedly post links to the same TLD, excluding YouTube/NYTimes etc. It can't be so common as to comprise a significant new burden added to the moderation tasklist.
posted by spitbull at 10:52 AM on October 26, 2011


Well... I'm interested in the process. How it was discovered, etc.

A user emailed us with a few links

- here's the guy's real name on the company's crunchbase profile
- here's where the MeFite links to the guy's real name domain as a via link
- here's a link where it looks like the MeFi username and the guy's real name are the same guy
- heres where the guy is linking to his own company a LOT lately

The crazy part of the whole thing, to my mind, is that the user originally had a username closer to their real name and we changed it after some sob story email about identity theft and needing a new username. We do this in very rare cases which will now proablby become even more rare. So, even though the user's real name is in their paypal address, we didn't link the MeFite with the real name because we rarely get to that level of inspection with MeFi posts that are otherwise sort of ok-not-great blog posts to something MeFites like to talk about. They'd had a chunk of posts deleted but most of them were not really egregious but they did imply some level of not totally tracking here. In one instance a few months back, they made a "previously" link to their own post about the same topic a week earlier. That was the last time we really dug around and were like "is this guy a little dim?" but we didn't get as far as the masthead of the company, just the author of the article.

So there are a few parts of this where trust or inattention on our part may have let this go on longer than it did. I'm not sure that means we'd change anything. Unscrupulous people can game the system here a little bit. We find that preferable to being hypervigilant and borderline-assholish to people who may not quite get the rules/culture here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:53 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems a simple enough algorithmic challenge to capture data about users who repeatedly post links to the same TLD, excluding YouTube/NYTimes etc. It can't be so common as to comprise a significant new burden added to the moderation tasklist.

It's one of those things where I may build a tool to see if anything turns out. I don't think the scanning for repeated urls thing would be hard, no, but it might be kind of a bear to actually sift the data effectively and thoroughly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:54 AM on October 26, 2011


For what it's worth, I keep linking to BLDGBLOG because they have ridiculously awesome content and they keep showing up in my RSS reader but please don't ban me.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:56 AM on October 26, 2011


Yeah, and there's a couple other users I can think of who do or did link multiple times to some given site where it wasn't actually a thing as far as we can tell. Sometimes in an obviously unproblematic way, sometimes in a time-for-a-polite-inquiry sort of way. That's part of the challenge in trying to dragnet stealth repeat-linkers, there's a lot of potential for false positives.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:59 AM on October 26, 2011


Huh. Thanks for sharing that stuff, mods. Super interesting.
posted by mintcake! at 11:00 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, this is the good MetaTalks.
posted by carsonb at 11:01 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I caught one of these stealth serial self-linkers once! But I did all my whistleblowing behind closed doors, so I never got any props for it. That's okay. Too many props give me hives.
posted by Gator at 11:06 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eat more fiber.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:11 AM on October 26, 2011


Agreeing with other folks. This has really helped me to understand (1) how things get done around here, and (2) what not to do myself. Thanks for the glimpse behind the curtain!
posted by blurker at 11:23 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


There has to be a Brooklyn band called Weird Warpath.

Would you settle for a DC band called Weird War?
posted by yerfatma at 11:46 AM on October 26, 2011


It's one of those things where I may build a tool to see if anything turns out. I don't think the scanning for repeated urls thing would be hard, no, but it might be kind of a bear to actually sift the data effectively and thoroughly.

One thing that would probably help a lot would be to calculate the ratio between the count of posts with that top-level domain by a single user, compared to the count of posts with that top-level domain by all other users. Linking to the same domain 8 times like nam3d did isn't really all that remarkable, but being the only person on the site to link to it 8 times should probably raise a red flag.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:07 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think any one user linking to the same domain eight times is worthy of scrutiny.
posted by Gator at 12:29 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


My thanks to both of you for explaining. It took me by surprise that this was a long-term member, because y'all usually are so quick at catching spammers right out of the gate and have set things up so that you know what patterns to look for.

Gator: "I think any one user linking to the same domain eight times is worthy of scrutiny."

You'd need a thoughtfully constructed 'obvious exceptions' list, YouTube, Vimeo, most news sites including the NYTimes, BBC and CNN, etc.

I mean, some of us have made single FPPs with more than 8 links to YouTube.
posted by zarq at 12:37 PM on October 26, 2011


Is shakespeherian.com down for everyone or just me? I wanted a handbag.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:38 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Would you settle for a DC band called Weird War?

Ahhhh, that's why my brain went there so quickly. Thanks for that.
posted by mintcake! at 12:42 PM on October 26, 2011


spitbull already mentioned that.
posted by Gator at 12:44 PM on October 26, 2011


Gator: "spitbull already mentioned that."

Ah. Reading comprehension fail on my part then.
posted by zarq at 12:47 PM on October 26, 2011


One thing that would probably help a lot would be to calculate the ratio between the count of posts with that top-level domain by a single user, compared to the count of posts with that top-level domain by all other users

That's how pharmaceutical diversion detection software works. It looks at the average number of times someone accesses a certain drug per hours worked and then checks to see if anyone is significantly above that average.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:51 PM on October 26, 2011


It turns out that shakespeherian's handbag site was actually just an iframe wrapper around francisbaconzonian.com's shopping site.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:58 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


O O O O
posted by shakespeherian at 1:05 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You'd need a thoughtfully constructed 'obvious exceptions' list, YouTube, Vimeo, most news sites including the NYTimes, BBC and CNN, etc.

See I think that information would be automatically captured in the ratio metric I mentioned. The reason why Wikipedia, YouTube, NYT, etc. would need to be excluded is that they are linked regularly across the site by a wide variety of users. So if you find a site that is linked to regularly by one user, but hardly ever linked to by anyone else, then it makes sense to flag it as being possibly fishy. If you just make a list of all of the most linked-to sites and find users that have multiple links to sites that aren't on that list, then you are always going to run into the problem where the results are mostly made up of the most popular sites that you didn't include on the ignore list.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:16 PM on October 26, 2011


I assume the ratio takes into account how many posts a user makes, as well? Otherwise your averages are going to look funny. Some people have hundreds of FPPs and some people have 4 over ten years.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:21 PM on October 26, 2011


oh I have made an ass of myself again

I would like to borrow this to have engraved on my tombstone, if I may.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:02 PM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Some people have hundreds of FPPs and some people have 4 over ten years.
It is looking at all posts across all users, not all your posts. If all four of your posts link to lookatmycatdancingomfgsocute.org and no one else has ever linked to it, that should be looked at.
posted by soelo at 3:26 PM on October 26, 2011


I mean, that would be looked at...
posted by soelo at 3:32 PM on October 26, 2011


Brings up one bit of curiosity on my part. Is there any sort of site thing which blocks links to sites someone self-linked before? I've seen a few posts people self-linked which would probably be almost decent posts if done in good faith and framed right, but I don't think it would be a great idea to send traffic to sites that would pull these hijinks either. Not in a revenge-y way, just not handing cookies to a cobra.
posted by Saydur at 5:55 PM on October 26, 2011


Brings up one bit of curiosity on my part. Is there any sort of site thing which blocks links to sites someone self-linked before?

Nope, no formal system. But one of the places where I tend to go ahead and have a long memory instead of a short one with site stuff is spammery, so I'll usually about fall out of my chair if someone links something that's been a source of trouble previously, and at least take a real close look at the circumstances to make sure it's an innocent do-over.

Now and then it's a surprisingly tenacious spammer having another go; other times it's just someone who thinks whatever it was is actual neat content and has probably no idea it was spammed at one point. Most of the spam we deal with is content that is actually basically shit in the first place and so it doesn't come up too often.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:20 PM on October 26, 2011


we changed it after some sob story email

I have just found out that I come from Krypton and would like to amend my username to "superarcticsealrighterofwrongsdefenderofmackerel".
posted by arcticseal at 9:12 PM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think that's just an incredibly shitty way to be and am confounded on those rare occasions where someone actually goes there

I am always amazed when I meet a person whose actual behaviour displays some kind of absolutely stereotypical arseholery. It feels a lot like seeing an actual 419 scam turn up in the Spam folder: surely this can't work?

And yet I'm told they do; and there really are people who habitually treat most of the people around them just horribly.

On the whole, I'm glad I meet people like that infrequently enough to keep them amazing.
posted by flabdablet at 11:59 PM on October 26, 2011


oh I have made an ass of myself again

I would like to borrow this to have engraved on my tombstone, if I may.


This, along with a request for a picture of a donkey skeleton, has just made my living will.
posted by Sparx at 12:28 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and there's a couple other users I can think of who do or did link multiple times to some given site where it wasn't actually a thing as far as we can tell.

If Lovecraft in Brooklyn didn't always get there first, I suspect I would have been like this for Rock Paper Shotgun... although I also guess that's relatively easy to eliminate, because it's about four people and Mathowie must be two or three degrees of separation, max.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:31 AM on October 27, 2011


If only we had access to the guts of the Googlesphere (tm), we could implement a TF/IDF-based approach (LF/ILF?) to repeat-linking the same domain! Repeat-linking something like BLDGBLOG or Youtube would get a pass because a lot of things link to them, so additional links aren't so suspicious, but if the same user linked to www.myspammycrapsite.com two or three times, red flags and fireworks! Of course, that presupposes both access to the guts of the Googlesphere AND copious quantities of free time.. I'm just gonna go back to writing my dissertation.
posted by Alterscape at 8:42 AM on October 27, 2011


It's fun to speculate about technological ways to stop these guys, but one thing to keep in mind is that MetaFilter doesn't index the links that come in. Every post is a text field that contains potentially hundreds of links. That data is completely unstructured. We don't individually catalog each link in a way that lets us say 'x user linked to y domain z many times'. We've talked about this in the past—even experimented with it some—so maybe it's a direction we need to go. But any technological solution is going to have to address indexing every past link that has appeared on MetaFilter before we can find patterns like these. So far the activity has been rare enough that it doesn't make sense to tackle step 1 to get to step 2.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:02 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


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