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Until a better method is implemented to prevent spam accounts from seeing the light of day, can we remove either the 'Autobiographer' badge from the Recent Badges list, or, alternatively, prevent badges from users with 1 reputation from showing altogether?

The reasoning:
I really dislike seeing obvious spam accounts in this list, I think it looks unprofessional (also towards non-users/visitors!), and I think we should give them as little visibility as possible to begin with.

screenshot of current list of Recent Badges, showing I think at least 9 spam accounts

Just to be clear, the Recent Badges list can be found on the lower right side of the badges page, and if you disable Hot Network Questions in your preferences, all the main pages in our network.

I'm thinking the alternative approach — leaving out any badge of any user with 1 rep — could be considered fairer, and will also prevent badges from suspended accounts from showing, which can be argued to be an improvement.


Update: as per TheAmplitwist's comment, according to an answer by Catija on MathOverflow, the only current control there is over displaying these badges is based on their class:

"We don't have a way currently to remove a specific badge but we do have a built-in way to remove a type of badge - by class (gold, silver, bronze)."

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    On MathOverflow, this problem was somewhat circumvented by tweaking the sidebar so that no bronze badges would appear: see Filtering out the Autobiographer badge from "Recent Badges" on their Meta. Perhaps this “solution” could be extended to all sites in the network. Feb 25 at 13:44
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    @TheAmplitwist Thanks! Catija's answer there points out it can (or could) only be done by badge class. I'll add that information to my question.
    – Joachim
    Feb 25 at 13:46
  • @Glorfindel while your edit isn’t incorrect, it’s not clear to me that the discussion/feature request here is about all instances of the “Recent badges” list, rather than just the one on the Home page that appears when the HNQ is disabled. Feb 25 at 13:51
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    @TheAmplitwist feel free to improve the wording :) I think the edit is important because 99% of the users has HNQ enabled and might wonder where to find this page at all.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Feb 25 at 14:01
  • @Glorfindel Yes, thanks. I had no idea they were related, and the Badges page also shows these accounts.
    – Joachim
    Feb 25 at 14:05
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    Related MSO post: Alarming number of new spam users
    – user1136431
    Feb 25 at 15:46
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    There is also a related discussion on Super User Meta: Spam through autobiographer badge?
    – Martin
    Feb 25 at 16:47
  • I don't see the point of spending any dev time for something so, so trivial. Can you explain your rationale more? If anything, I would say this is particularly useful in case any mods want to go and find profile spammers. So removing it would make it marginally harder for mods to find these accounts while offering no benefit whatsoever as far as I can tell.
    – terdon
    Feb 26 at 15:32
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    @terdon There are more and easier ways to find users who received the Autobiographer badge (like going to its page, for example). Since this has already been done on MathOverflow (see the answer linked in my question), it likely will not take a lot of time to implement. And I don't really know how I can explain my rationale more, as it seems you simply don't agree — which is fine. If you have questions, please ask them directly. Also: thank you for voicing your critique (honestly)!
    – Joachim
    Feb 26 at 16:08
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    That's fair. Yes, to me, that the name of a potential spammer appears in an obscure and hard to find place for a short time (until the next user pushes them out) doesn't seem like a problem. I thought you might have some more compelling (to me) reasons, but if you don't, we can simply disagree :).
    – terdon
    Feb 26 at 16:09
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    @terdon Where the chance of "the next user" being a spam profile is fairly high, though ;) But yes, it's a relatively small problem. But a problem (and personal annoyance) nevertheless.
    – Joachim
    Feb 26 at 17:02
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    I upvoted but I don't think that the suggestion of a few, that removing all bronze badges from the list, is helpful. The Autobiographer badge is a mass giveaway awarded on multiple sites for a single action, while something like the Informed badge requires a trivial effort on each site; and other bronze badges for flagging and reviewing demonstrate positive behavior, to be encouraged. --- So it's worth (eventually getting around to) removing just that one tag from the list.
    – Rob
    Feb 27 at 18:25
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    @terdon The list of Recent Badges on the home page is also visible to users who are not logged in. I would say it looks somewhat unprofessional for the front page of an SE site to display a long list of spammer names (even if "only" in the sidebar). Mar 4 at 10:57
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    @TheAmplitwist Good point, I edited that into my question since that might be more compelling for others than it being a personal nuisance :)
    – Joachim
    Mar 4 at 13:47
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    @user1271772 No, there is a setting for that in the preferences page here: meta.stackexchange.com/users/preferences. The setting is "Hide hot network questions" Mar 9 at 17:22

1 Answer 1

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TL;DR: Yaakov took this on as a project and worked with Aaron Bertrand to do some magic that would make it possible to remove specific badges from appearing in this list network-wide and on a per-site basis. This is complicated by the fact that badge IDs are not universal network-wide, so we had to look for badge names rather than IDs.

The explanation below was created somewhat prior to the work Yaakov did but I think it adds some context to the thinking of the Community Team and how we came to requesting this solution.


The CMs discussed this recently as a team and we came to the conclusion that we agree that these badges are distracting and problematic and, until such time as we might have better spam account creation prevention we should do something about it.

That was the easy part of the discussion. Identifying that you should do something is often easier than deciding what to do.

During the discussion we went over the solutions y'all mentioned and identified pros and cons for them:

  • Preventing only the Autobiographer badge from appearing in the list.
    • Pros - This seems to be the absolute best option because it focuses only on the specific issue caused by this badge. It doesn't hide bronze badges that may actually require some effort to earn.
    • Cons - We don't have anything built to do this, so it would likely take longer and more developer work. It also may not be cheap from a performance side of things since we can't rely on the badge ID being the same network-wide... because they're not (and the names aren't the same due to our non-English sites). It's also slightly more confusing to only have one bronze badge be excluded but not horrendously so.
  • Only showing badges earned by users with some minimal amount of reputation.
    • Pros - Allows bronze badges (including Autobiographer) to show up for everyone who meets some minimal activity level while preventing all noisy badges from showing up (e.g. Informed).
    • Cons - Possibly "expensive" to do since we don't load the reputation of the users in the list on the page so we'd have to pull the info from the DB and then filter it to get the list. Would likely be even more complicated to build and nothing already exists.
  • Hiding all bronze badges from the list.
    • Pros - Easy to do since we already have it built. It should be a simple site setting change. Captures other sometimes noisy badges. Highlights the harder-to-get silver and gold badges. Simple to explain.
    • Cons - Could leave people who earn bronze badges feeling underappreciated - not all bronze badges are zero-effort like Autobiographer and Informed.

Considering all of this, the last option seems to us to be the easiest to do (since we just use a feature we already have) but maybe not the ideal solution - having a way to block specific badges. Our plan was to request the bronze badges be removed from the recently earned badges list network-wide but double check with the Public Platform Team first to make sure that removing specific badges was too difficult to do as a quick project.

The last time I'd checked in about this was when MathOverflow asked us to hide Autobiographer badges for them - at that time we opted to just block all bronze badges rather than try to only hide Autobiographer but we didn't discuss building a network-wide solution to this at the time. With this request, it seemed worth opening that discussion with the devs to get a sense of the effort required.

I asked Yaakov what he thought it would require and, rather than getting me an estimate, he went ahead and built a solution and then checked in with our SRE team to make sure his method was viable and to identify whether there were better ways to achieve this goal. Aaron Bertrand reviewed and made some suggestions and Yaakov made some adjustments and let me know it was ready to ship!

This is a big change because, while we're only blocking Autobiographer network-wide it's not hard coded to Autobiographer only. Here's what's possible now:

  • We have a site setting that blocks specific badges from appearing in the list of recently awarded badges on both a network-wide and per-site basis.
  • We can override that network-wide block on a per-site basis (e.g. a site specifically wants to keep Autobiographer in their list of recently awarded badges).
  • We can still block all bronze badges on a per-site basis.

Thanks so much to Yaakov for taking this on quickly as a project and getting it built and doing the research! If you have any questions, please let me know.

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    Will the blocking of all bronze badges on MathOverflow be revisited? Mar 9 at 17:26
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    Yep. I already asked the mods there and I'm planning to request the bronze block to be removed. :)
    – Catija StaffMod
    Mar 9 at 17:27
  • Just to confirm, this change affects the Recent Badges list on both, the Home/main page of a site as well as on the /help/badges page? Mar 11 at 16:59

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