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Old 03-06-2005   #1
Marcia
 
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What are the limits of defining forum spam?

Well, the emergence of this issue has spurred some in-depth thinking, and there are some issues I believe we'd be well advised to look into.

First off, and intrinsically important to the analysis:

If someone is eschewing - condemning- search engine spammers, but is at the same time a forum spammer, in the sense that some of us define and recognize it, then IMHO we have a dichotomy to deal with, as well as an ethical issue regarding whether or not forum guidelilnes are universally applicable or preferentially applied.

Do "high profile" individuals have privileges and immunities among us that our lesser members are not afforded? Can they be allowed to get away with more than the "average" member since they are "high profile", including surrpeticiously and promotially linking to their own properties?

Where is the beginning and where is the end of nepotistic, preferential treatment? What do you think is fair and equitable treatment in online communities?
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Old 03-06-2005   #2
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As an administrator of a handful of forums, I class forum spam simply as where a member is using the forum only for their own promotional purposes, without adding constructively to the forum.

So those people who jump in and make a single post that is self-promotional and link heavy, is evidently "forum spam".

Of course, sometimes newer members can find themselves dropping personal links a little too enthusiastically - but often this can simply be the case of someone trying to adjust to a new enviornment, where they wish to impress that they have something to contribute. A quiet word that bounds of self-promotion are being broken can be very effective here.

The issue becomes more complex where established members involve some degree of self-promotion in their postings - in which case I would ajudge the issue on whether the individual was adding to a forum's content and interractive opportunities, or simply taking away from them.

Personally, I'd say any individual instance requires individual consideration reasoned with common sense, rather than blanket approaches that can seem unnecessarily restrictive.
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Old 03-06-2005   #3
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I think the beauty of forums is that there is no central body which controlls all of them. there is no need to strictly define any type of practice or action.

I have called out some forum spammers though when they described other successful SEOs which provide quality services as being unethical.

its more about keeping a memory of your actions and the actions of those around you and not becoming a hypocrite.

with how much money there is in this industry and how quickly people can become successful it is easy to become a hypocrite.

I often find myself trying to reword or rethink posts and reshape my actions so that I am not giving hypocritical advice.
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Old 03-06-2005   #4
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Quote:
What do you think is fair and equitable treatment in online communities?
That I can easily answer. "Fair" is what the forum collectively agrees it to be.Unfortunately, that is something that cannot be defined by rules.

Rules are never fair, because their job is not to be fair, but to define and order the world. In Australia, there was the case recently of a woman in Australia "illegally", having overstayed a visa or some such. this lady was 104 years old, and had received, as per the rules, her deportation papers. ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR YEARS OLD. while the rules said she had to leave the country, but I am not sure anyone would define that as fair, I fair dinkum don't.

Quote:
Do "high profile" individuals have privileges and immunities among us that our lesser members are not afforded? Can they be allowed to get away with more than the "average" member since they are "high profile", including surrpeticiously and promotially linking to their own properties?
Forums exist under an unspoken social contract outside a set of bland rules. As part of the social contract, we expect (demand is probably a better word) more from certain people. Is it unfair that, in return, they be given given slightly more leeway?

I can't answer that, because it is a decision requiring greater input than my own humble opinion. I do think, though, that we need to start with a definition of "fair". Is helpful self promotion fair? Are unhelpful but not self promotional posts better or fairer? Do the "high profile" members add to the forum more with or without leeway?

IMHO, for what it is worth, SEW benefits majorly from the confluence of "high profile" members, from the official reps to Danny himself. These in turn bring out a lot of other SEM names, as SEW has become almost the Geneva of SEM, where the many personalities, most of whom usually frequent seoperate forums with rules and "vibes" more suited to their own personality, come to meet on "neutral ground". Not too many forums can say they have PhilC and Jill as regular participants, or lotso and Doug. If the price of creating that sort of forum is a bit of self promotion, a bit of leeway to account for different posting habits and styles, then that is something I personally can live with.

How does one moderate under such circumstances? Good luck, cause I can't help you there
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Old 03-07-2005   #5
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I think it all depends on what you mean by "forum spammer" and what you mean by "high profile person."

Is a high profile person only someone who others in the industry have heard of elsewhere, regardless of whether they're a helpful SEW forum member?

And is a forum spammer someone who drops links to their own site?

Or is a forum spammer only someone with a low profile that drops links to their site?

As a forum administrator, I agree with what Brian said above.

Basically my rules in this regard are as follows:

If someone new on my forum who I've never heard of posts what I consider to be self-promotional in nature (even if it may be helpful stuff), I would delink it. I wouldn't necessarily consider it spam, but it gets delinked because I would be leery of it simply being a link drop.

If someone I have heard of in the industry, who has my respect comes in and posts a link to something of theirs as their very first post, I still delink it, although with some trepidation. We happen to have a rule at my forum that you have to be an active community member to be allowed to post active links. I'd still allow the link, it just wouldn't be clickable.

If someone is an active member on my forum and posts a link back to something of theirs, depending on who posted it, I might check it out to be sure that it fit with the general ethos of our forum. If it did, I wouldn't do anything, except perhaps agree with it in post. If it seemed to go against the type of SEO we espouse at my forum, I may or may not delink it (but leave it), but I'd probably publicly disagree with it in the thread as well so that others on the forum didn't think that what was posted was the general opinion of those of the forum.

Now, as Projectphp has stated, this forum is a bit different. This forum really doesn't have one general methodology that it espouses. That makes it harder to decide what to allow and what not.

I really think it has to be a judgement call. Obviously, a first time post with a link to themselves is going to be suspect. To me, that's an easy delink. Here, maybe not. It gets harder when the self-promotional link is from someone who truly is a member of the community. I'd be more apt to leave those ones here, but keep an eye on the poster. If it seems that every other post links to something of the poster, I'd message them and politely ask them to knock it off. If it's just a once in awhile thing, and the links truly are relevant to the discussion, and the poster truly is a member in good standing of the community, then why not let them stand?
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Old 03-10-2005   #6
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I know that some people are not going to believe this, but I agree with Jill on this one. (I think a visit to the doctor is in order ).

Jill agreed with Brian, and so do I.

I view forum spam as two things. One is people who register to post an ad. The other is those who post a lot for the sake of the sig links. They are sometimes "me too" posts, and sometimes they take a trip through the Introductions threads posting 'welcomes' to everyone, no matter how old the threads are. I've seen brand new registrations posting "Hi and welcome to the forum" to people who introduced themselves many months earlier. We lock Introduction threads after a week or so these days.

To my way of thinking, there is a difference between "high profile" people and unknown people. Assuming that the high profile ones are known to be respectable, I would trust them and the links they posted, and I wouldn't delink anything of theirs. BUT my nature would not allow me to treat anyone else any differently. If it's good for one, it is good for the other. Also, I would find it hard to explain why I allowed links from new, high profile person, and not from a new unknown person. It would be like telling the unknown that I don't trust them, and I couldn't do that. So I don't delink or remove links from anyone's posts, unless I think the link is spam - there purely for the promotion - ads.

There are people who register just to promote their sites. If the sites are there to make money, I treat it as spam unless it's something that would be useful to the forum users. If they are just trying to get a forum off the ground, or something non-profitable, I leave it be.

It's really down to each individual forum what they accept and don't accept.

Last edited by PhilC : 03-10-2005 at 11:22 PM. Reason: addition
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Old 03-11-2005   #7
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I'm not an active poster in many forums. I do read in several each day. One thing that really bugs me is to see the same post made in 6 different forums the same day. Usually within an hour of each other. Personally I regard that as forum spam even if the question is legitement. To me if you don't get the answers to your question in one forum then ask in another forum a few days later.

Drive by spammers are pretty easy to spot.

What is difficult is what seems to be a legitement request for information with a link to the site in question. Glad I don't have to make to many of those decisions. My hat is off to those of you who do every day.

Last edited by Connie : 03-11-2005 at 01:56 AM.
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