Forum Spam: An Explanation

Started by MountainDon, December 01, 2009, 03:51:02 PM

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The anti-spam community on the Internet has long grappled with a problem of terminology. Just as one U.S. Supreme Court Justice once said about pornography "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it'', we in the anti-spam community have generally preferred to leave our definition(s) of the term "spam'' somewhat loose and ambiguous, in part, because spammers have shown great inventiveness, over time, in finding new, different, and unique ways to annoy us, to invade our peace and privacy, and to use our equipment and bandwidth for their own entirely selfish purposes.

The main single characteristic of forum spam is that it is unsolicited information. A secondary feature is that there is usually a product or service for sale at the other end.

It is obviously spam if the unsolicited link goes to a site promoting cheap pharmaceuticals, colon cleansers, work at home schemes, xbox game copying, and of course pornography. This is not a definitive list, just a sampling.

When the links are to external sites that promote products or services related to homes and houses it can sometimes be more difficult to label the link as spam. Such a link in the first few messages of a recently signed on member will almost always be scrutinized by one of the moderators. Such links generally lead to the offer of tangible goods or services for sale. That is called advertising. Advertisements are not permitted here, other than the Google Ads advertising that has been instituted by the forum owner. That sort of advertising can be found on most long term forums on the internet. They are what helps pays the bills.

With few exceptions such a post will at least have the link removed or the entire message deleted. When such links appear the moderator may do a background search on the poster. Sometimes we find a history of repeated forum abuse across the internet. That's usually not good news for the poster.

Generally, it is not considered spam for a member to post a link to a website that has information relating to the topic at hand. A permitted example would be linking to a website that has battery information, or about a good place to buy batteries, in a topic on renewable energy. However, a link to a site that sells batteries, in which the poster has some direct interest, could be considered spam. General common sense should make the distinction an easy one.

A link to a site with any commercial nature or content in a Signature File or Signature Line is spam. That's pretty much black and white. A signature line with a reference to a personal, non-commercial, blog or website is fine and welcome. A signature link to anything that resembles a business is spam.

There is a line under each user profile that is for the address of a website. There are actually two lines, "website name" and "website URL". The forum software combines the two and presents a link to that website. If provided, that link appears in the public profile of every member. A link to that permitted website appears as under a members name and avatar in the left sidebar on the forum message pages.

That more or less defines what is seen as spam. Remember spam can be a moving evolving target.

Questions and comments may be added to this topic, by anyone at any time. Thanks for your patience.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.