31

Lately in The Nineteenth Byte (I know, it's always us), we've been dealing with an issue where one or more users have decided that spamming stars on every recent message is funny. While moderators and room owners can cancel stars on messages, there is no effective way to deal with a determined star spammer. Even placing a room in timeout doesn't help, because users can still star messages during a timeout.

Even if they use up their daily star allowance, a user can simply use a sockpuppet account to continue to spam stars. Since there is no way to see who starred a message, the sockpuppetry goes completely unnoticed (a moderator can determine that an account is a sockpuppet, but they would have no way of knowing whether or not that sockpuppet account was being used to bypass the daily star limit).

There is no way to stop a serial star-spammer short of begging an SE employee for help, which is unreasonable to do every time a new star-spammer shows up.

Over 3 years ago, a request was made to allow moderators to see who starred messages. There was no SE response to that request, and 3 years later, we're still dealing with this issue.

A few changes would make dealing with star spam a lot easier:

  1. Allow room owners and moderators to see the source of stars.
  2. Disallow starring messages by users who are not room owners or moderators during a timeout.
  3. Rate limiting stars. Either a static limit (e.g. 1 minute between stars) or a dynamic limit (e.g. 15 seconds between stars, doubling every time there are X stars in a minute) would make spamming stars impractical.
  4. Don't allow kicked users to place stars. It seems odd that this form of interaction with the room is allowed while a user is under the effects of a kick, when all other forms are disabled.

The ROs of TNB are at our wit's end about how to deal with this problem, and I'm sure we're not the only room dealing with this. Help us, SE. You're our only hope.

  • 3
    Agree with all except one thing: I don't think room owner should see who starred. We have enough moderators around, it's enough moderator can see who abuse the stars and kick/ban them. – Shadow Wizard Jun 29 '17 at 7:54
  • 3
    @ShadowWizard If there are no moderators in the room, they wouldn't be aware that there is an issue without someone raising a custom moderator flag. I don't see a reason why room owners shouldn't have the ability to see the source of the stars, given that their job is to moderate the room, and stars are local to the room. However, it's not a dealbreaker for me - if SE decides to give that privilege to only moderators, it's still preferable to the current state. – Mego Jun 29 '17 at 7:57
  • Another thing that might deter many star trolls is strict rate limit, e.g. one star per minute. This will likely be easier to implement for the team, so better chance of it being done. – Shadow Wizard Jun 29 '17 at 8:01
  • @ShadowWizard That's a good point. I've added that to the list of requests. – Mego Jun 29 '17 at 8:03
  • we could remove the starring system entirely if it's more trouble than it's worth and just leave pinning for mods and room owners. – Mad Scientist Jun 29 '17 at 8:52
  • 1
    @MadScientist I'm not sure that it's more trouble than it's worth. But, with every system, there's going to be trolls who abuse it to annoy others. Removing the starring system isn't necessary - we can fight the trolls, but we need the tools to do so. – Mego Jun 29 '17 at 8:54
  • 3
    I know this isn't what you want to hear, but is star spamming really all that big a problem? If there are messages you want to keep visible on the star-board which are being pushed off by star spam, pin 'em. You could even fill the entire star-board with pins so that the star spamming has no visible effect. (Pins are a tool restricted to mods and ROs; they may not be the tool you deserve, but perhaps they're the tool you need?) Paying this much attention to combatting the 'problem' is a bit like feeding the troll. Ignore star spamming and eventually they'll get bored and stop. – Rand al'Thor Jun 29 '17 at 10:11
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor From our experiences in TNB, the star spammers don't get bored. We deal with bursts of star spam every day or so, and it's been happening for months (with brief but welcome periods where we go a week or two without star spam). – Mego Jun 29 '17 at 10:16
  • 3
    Feed the trolls, tuppence a star... – Won't Jun 29 '17 at 15:07
  • 3
    @Randal'Thor seeing things moving on the screen without having control over them is irritating. That's why so many people hate animated ads. People like to have the contents static, that's also why in SE there's always just "click here to reload", and contents don't just appear out of nowhere. – Shadow Wizard Jun 29 '17 at 22:47
3

I strongly agree with this feature request, though I would personally opt for the second option on #3 since the first option would severely affect rooms like Contact and others on Puzzling. I might, however, add a few other capabilities that moderators and RO's ought to have:

  • Clear stars on multiple messages simultaneously. Though it is possible of mods and room owners to clear stars on messages, it is tedious to go through 15 messages removing stars. An ideal place to put it would be here:

enter image description here

...so the list would read:

freeze this room
delete this room
unstar/unpin messages
move/delete messages

...and the unstar/unpin function would work much like move/delete: select the messages then click "unstar/unpin."

  • Make chat rooms more customizable. I realise this probably a more ambitious project, but it would be ideal if room owners and mods had access to a room specific star tolerance level / rate limit. This would allow rooms like Contact or other similar rooms to set a high star tolerance level, while allowing TNB to set their tolerance to a lower level. My guess at the best place for this would be below tags in the "edit chat room" menu:

enter image description here

Just my two cents (which rounds down in Canada).

  • I like your suggestions, but I think they're more ambitious than the suggestions I proposed, so I doubt they'll be implemented anytime soon, even with overwhelming support. Chat has long been the most neglected part of SE by the devs. – Mego Sep 20 '17 at 10:08
  • @Mego well mobile chat got a total redesign not long ago, that was pretty major change. But yeah, apart of that there wasn't a single change in chat for long years. Also, balpha was in the middle of another big change, but moved out of chat team before he was able to finish it. – Shadow Wizard Sep 20 '17 at 12:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .