Jov sez: How2Forum Moderate

May 5, 2009

I know it’s not in keeping with the rest of the blog, but the largest chunk of my WoW-time that’s not filled with raiding is probably the time I spend moderating at PlusHeal.  Also, as has been established in an earlier post, I have no life.  (Also known as “Jov’s brain isn’t working, so she’s doing another fluff post” or “It’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to.” >.>)

Matt may be pleased as punch that he founded such a popular, high-profile healer’s community.  The downside to that, of course, is the fact that high profile attracts a lot of things, primarily spammers.

work-in-progressPoint out how much work needs to be done

Just like the squeaky wheel gets the grease, the easiest way to become a moderator is to send PM after PM after PM to the owner of the forum pointing him at the most recent spambots.  Then, suggest he do a sweep of the entire member list to weed out undesirables before they become a problem.  You’ll be getting mod privileges in no time!

Is it a spam bot?

Many of these suggestions are probably fairly forum-specific, but you’ll start seeing trends in the spammers to your forum.

Have they posted spam on your forum? Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Go straight to the Control Panel and ban that turkey.

Does their name reference wow gold, viagra, or tamiflu? Probably the quickest and easiest way to spot a spammer is to look at their username.  If it references something you know is for sale (or the drug du jour) you can say with 99% certainty that it’s a spammer.  PlusHeal, being a healer’s forum, sometimes finds users with cute pharmaceutical names, so it’s not a 100% guarantee.  Move on to the next step.

Do they have a webpage listed in their profile? If it links to something that’s not armory, a guild webpage, or a blog, they’re probably a bot.  Don’t click the link if you’re uncertain! Use Google to search for the site in question, it will usually reference what they’re selling or you’ll find a link near the top where the site is specifically said to be linked to a spammer.

Do they fill in the optional fields in the profile information? Often, fora will include a place to fill in your occupation and interests.  Most of the time, people don’t actually fill that stuff out.  Most of the time, spammers do, and they mention stuff that has nothing to do with the forum.  For PlusHeal, specifically, while people don’t include their occupation or interests, they DO fill in the fields for class and server.  Most of the time, if server is not filled in, I know it’s a spammer.  However, like with the healers having pharmaceutical names, it’s not a guarantee


Does the email or IP Address show up linked to spam elsewhere? StopForumSpam is my FAVORITE tool as a forum moderator.  It’s a listing of known spammer IPs and email addresses.  It’s fully searchable, and you can look by username, email, and IP Address.

How do I mod like Jov?

Check for Reported Posts in the Moderator Control Panel. Before I do anything else, I check here.  Usually, it will be people reporting spammers, but if a topic is moving to flame war territory, people will usually report those posts as well.  Spammers are first priority, ban them, delete their posts.  If there are problem posts for other reasons, make a note to come back to them later.

Get friendly with the member list. Check the member list sorted by reverse join date (so most recent is on top) and keep mental tags on who has joined since the last time you checked.  Overnight, PlusHeal can have anywhere from 5 to 25 new members, but keep in mind they’ll come in during the day as well.  Go through the steps outlined above on each of the new members.

Don’t forget the inactives! Inactive Users are those who’ve signed up, but haven’t finished the registration process (meaning they’re sitting on the email “please click this link” you get when you first sign up for something.)  Accessed through the control panel, this is another place to weed out spambots.  This adds anywhere from 15-50 users needing to be checked out a night as well.

IP, not email. As everyone knows, there’s pretty much a limitless supply of free email addresses out there.  Banning by email prevents that address from being used to create a new account, effectively preventing the spammer from posting but not from reading (and not from getting a new email address as a work-around).  Banning by IP prevents that IP from accessing the site at all, and IP addresses are a bit more difficult to replace.  Sure, that person who sends out spam might actually want to read your content, but do you really care?

Skim the threads. Or, go back and check the posts reported earlier for things other than spamming.  This is mainly to keep an eye out for disagreements which aren’t resolving or actual flame wars going on.  Luckily, PlusHeal doesn’t really suffer from this, so it’s the smallest part of my jobtime_frame_clip_art

Enjoy the content. Ask or answer questions, go back and look at the interesting stuff, make your guild recruitment pitch.  Don’t get so wrapped up in the job of it that you lose track of why you care so much about it in the first place.

Check back often. Murphy’s Law states that the site will be hammered immediately after you’ve checked it out.  Don’t expect to look once in the morning, and have nothing to deal with until you look again at night.  If you’ve got a free 15 minutes, give it another poke.

I know I said earlier that PlusHeal takes up as much of my time as raiding; I don’t want it to sound like my style of moderation (read: totally OCD) takes up large 4-hour blocks of my time, but that the ~12 hours I spend raiding each week is about equal to the time I spend wading through member lists and forum threads a few times a day, nor do I want to imply that I’m the only person on PlusHeal who does any moderation.  PlusHeal has between 5 and 10 very active moderators, with an additional 5-ish who check back less-often.  So be careful what you ask for; you don’t know what you may be signing up for.

Note:  5/27/09 — I’m disabling all comments for this post.  In an example of irony being totally not amusing, this post is a spam-magnet, and I’m having to delete 10-20 spam comments a day to it.  Considering that otherwise the spam inbox is pretty empty for this blog, I think it’s safer this way.  If you would like to continue discussion on this topic, mosey on down to PlusHeal and send me a PM, or simply give me a poke in another post.  ❤ Jov



  1. The first thing that must be understood about spammers is that most of them are not humans but programs. In fact, I don’t recall having ever encountered a human spammer…
    That is the key to all solutions regarding bots.

    Being (and have been) the administrator of several boards of small communities, I have had my share of bot-fights. I learned 2 things:
    (1) The worst solution against spammers is moderation (ie: deleting posts and users). It takes you 1 minute to remove a bot and all his posts while the spammer just lets his bot do another sweep.

    (2) The best solution against spammers is prevention:
    – it prevents malicious posts in the first place
    – it consumes far less time than moderation

    Perhaps the focus should not be in moderating bots but preventing them? 🙂

    “Enjoy the content” is a very important point. Moderating is a neverending, repetitive, caring job. It’s almost comparable to being a parent, I suppose. It is a crucial motivator for moderators in my opinion.

  2. I spent many years moderating, first at CompuServe (you can Google that if you need to ;)), then an Asheron’s Call 2 fansite, finally with Vault Networks, where I eventually became a contracted manager.

    To say I don’t miss that stuff would be an understatement.

  3. Since Matt’s using phpBB for the PlusHeal forums, have him check out some of the different spam prevention mods that are available through that community.

    We had heavy, HEAVY spam on our vB forums that we couldn’t get rid of due to not moving our forum responsibility to current members and when they finally died (for unknown reasons, the hosting went kaput) instead of paying for a new updated license we switched to phpBB. We were using the custom profile fields, but what we’re currently using is a mod that blocks specific time zones that bots use but where people don’t live. Since we implemented that one we haven’t had a single spammer (knock on wood).

    We also have an arbitrary amount of initial posts moderated by default so that if we do get a spammer who gets past the members aren’t bothered by it and the officers can handle it. Then we go searching for a different mod to prevent spammers. 😀

  4. Note to self: roll a new priest named Tamiflu >.>

  5. Jov is a godsend. I don’t know what I’d do without =).

    Some great suggestions here in this thread about forum moderation and spam prevention and I do agree. The best way against diseases and such is to prevent catching them. Likewise this is the same with spam.

    If I had like a readme file or a site with some step by step instructions on how to implement some of this stuff, I’d clear out an afternoon and just do it. 😦

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