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Darren, Trolls and other creatures lurking in the shadows of this forum

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#1 Fred



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Postad 05 december 2011 - 11:12

Sorry for hijacking this forum, but I was asked to help out trying to get some feedback from a “special interest” forum (and only being active in BeerSweden the choice was sort of pre-made), to see if there is anything unique when it comes to destructive behavior in this particular part of the social media scene.

The strength of online communities lies in the freedom of speech and the acceptance of anyone’s opinion. At the same we are all aware that they are mere opinions and yet the vast majority of us take what is being stated in forums and other social media channels as the truth. A truth sometimes valued even higher than the truth projected in doubtful sources such as Wikipedia.

This “innocence” is taken advantage of by scrupulous people, in the form of trolls that simply wish to destroy and cause havoc and by others who plant information that suits their own agendas.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to trust what is being said and the means to defend oneself against misinformation are extremely limited. Ratings and reviews are becoming dubious at best. Once you realize that the new start up restaurant’s fantastic reviews were planted over a vast amount of sites and channels, all coming from the same source closely connected to the proprietor, then a suspicion starts growing also towards fully legitimate reviews as well.

There are some tools available today, such as key word based filters and “ignore”-functions. The problem is that they are fairly static and frequently filters out more than you would actually have wanted to, had you had access to all the posted information. This will change.

Sentiment based analysis together with pattern recognition that not only finds the correct key words, but also evaluates the context of the postings is now emerging. Forums dealing with financial information are to some extent regulated since there is a counterpart on information management in the legal world. For most forums most of the regulating power is in the hand of moderators who have little time to do anything but suspend extremely obvious cases of abuse. The damage caused to a forum could be quite severe if robots or trolls are allowed to ruin the normally nice and friendly atmosphere that we associate with forums. Hence new algorithms (lacking a better word) are being developed that puts the member as the decider but with the aid of sophisticated tools to help you filter out unwanted information. In our forum this might sound a bit over the top but imagine the massive forums in the US and UK that are now more frequently plagued with BS-postings and malicious attempts at simply destroying all the good work that has been put in by the members.

Here is where some recent events on this forum come into play.

In many social channels you can see a set of “untouchables” emerge, either by earning the respect of their peers or as a result of a status they have earned outside of the forum. The thing with untouchable is that when confronted in forums other untouchables and regular members will normally close the ranks and fight off the infestation.

My hypothesis was that here at BeerSweden Forum, Darren is one of a limited set of untouchables. I have really struggled to find a way of upsetting the forum by going after an untouchable even though I had my eyes on Manker for quite some time. The problem is that this forum is very small and we are all so bl%#dy nice to eachother, but after a minor misunderstanding quite some time ago I spotted the one thing that really can get Darren going is “questioning” his integrity when it comes to mixing his work for a large beer producer in the UK and the work he carries out here at the forum.

For that reason I wanted to run a few threads were I tried to provoke him into helping me create threads that would stir up some emotions. Being quite inexperienced with all this I blew it immediately since I got way too personal and it turned a bit too sour to pursue any further. The plan was to flank him using a couple of subs as well that would form the second wave with the nick Fred as the point man, and at the same time record how the rest of the forum reacted.

Well that all went tits up, so let us leave it at that.

I would still like to take the opportunity to gather some info on how you react when threads get out of hand so to speak.

First I should probably clarify I have no kickback from the guys working on sentiment based filtering (pretty cool stuff in my opinion) I just agreed to use my nick in a specialty forum, hoping that it wouldn’t be totally destroyed in the process. Since I am no expert I screwed up by being too aggressive and was told that the reactions would hold little to no empiric value. So rather than analyzing how the forum reacted I hope you don’t mind me asking a few questions?

Can technology play a role to mitigate destructive behavior in the social media context or is it simply best left to self-regulation (for forums primarily through members and moderators)?

What do you do when your favorite cyber-hangout is taken over by social misfits and corporate BS?

Finally for the record, I am Fred and everything that I have written in this forum up until the last few days do reflect my personal opinion. I think Darren is doing all of us an unsurpassed favor through his work for better beer awareness in Sweden, and I do think that the BrewDog:s are twats, that every now and then produce some pretty good beer ;-)

Anything else is normally read into late night postings by people who fail to understand what they are reading. Forum posts are not the truth. Some members will heavily inflate their persona using the forum as a tool to establish themselves in a way they are not capable of doing in real life. Others, like myself, simply treats this as a very nice hangout where you get together with “great minds that drink alike” (to steal a tag from one of my fav brewers) and sometimes you take discussions very seriously, but for the most part your posts are simply tongue-in-cheek remarks.

I could go on ranting about these things forever, but I have already used up too much community space that really should be focused on beer instead.

Take care, cherish what we have here and don’t let morons take it away from us!

#2 BeerSwedenDarren



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Postad 05 december 2011 - 12:32

And here I was thinking you'd had a few too many Imperial Russian Stouts on Saturday night and was spoiling for a fight!

Although I feel just a tiny bit dirty and misused I am in one way glad I buggered up your experiment Fred, even though the motivation behind it sounds fascinating. I'll consider it an MVG in how to handle a troll :)

I'm totally open to any debate about 'innocence', affiliations, self-regulation etc as I obviously have a personal interest in gauging the community's views on such matters. I also want this Forum to be the best beer-related hang-out it can possibly be and so any concerns or suggestions for improvement that could result from such a debate would be very welcomed.

So Fred - I'm really glad we've made up now you've revealed your hand. I would also like you to know that I never once contemplated pushing the 'Delete Member' button this weekend......(Ok, maybe that's not strictly true).

If other members can give Fred some feedback to help him out that would be great.

Have fun and be safe out there everyone!

#3 BeerSwedenDarren



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Postad 05 december 2011 - 12:44

And I'm totally digging the fact that Fred had difficulties implementing his devious plans because everyone is so bloody nice to each other around here :)

Says a lot about all you awesome members. Have yourselves an extra beer this week as a reward!

#4 Manker



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Postad 05 december 2011 - 12:49

Pjuh, I thought we had lost a member I like. good luck with the project and just like Darren I am sorry we are all so nice in this forum :)

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#5 Stefan - Ölsvammel

Stefan - Ölsvammel

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Postad 05 december 2011 - 12:57

Long post but I will do my best to make a short answer:

1) I bet technology could help moderate forums, but it probably needs the human part to work. Like moderators and other members. A simple action like "not feeding the troll" helps allot. Just ignore them and they loose interest fast.

2) Tbh I tend to just stop reading it. I've done that to two forums in the last few years. But it has only been due to social misfits and crap like that. Corporate BS hasn't been a big issue for me.

Nice post. However I wonder how long it takes before this discussion goes off the rails due to one of the last paragraphs :P ... or maybe it's just another test ;)
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#6 BeerSwedenDarren



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Postad 07 december 2011 - 07:46

Fascinating piece on blogging and ethics from the UK's top beer blogger Pete Brown. I agree 100% with what he says.


#7 AdamB_


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Postad 07 december 2011 - 09:06

Q: Can technology play a role to mitigate destructive behavior in the social media context or is it simply best left to self-regulation (for forums primarily through members and moderators)?
A: Technology could play a role in mitigating destructive behavior but somehow I think it will require more computing power than most are willing to spend and forum owners will simply find it more cost effective to leave it up to the people that create the content aka the members and moderators. The key is finding moderators that'll keep a cool head when the discussion gets heated or personal, something Darren and Manker was able to during this social experiment.

Q: What do you do when your favorite cyber-hangout is taken over by social misfits and corporate BS?

A: That depends on the user base and their actions, if the community takes a stance against the behavior I dislike I'll continue to visit the community. Otherwise I'll probably stop visiting the community and find a new community with the same focus matter. :)

On the subject of bloggers, who they are influenced by and how they are influenced I only have one thing to say and it is in line with what Darren and Pete Brown think. If they are open with their affiliations, when the beer they review was given to them as a gift or when they are treated to an experience by a brewery and the words they write are their own I'm OK with it. I can't see why a blogger should turn down an opportunity to review a beer for free or be treated to an experience by a brewery if it in the end generates an interesting post that is honest and truthful. :)
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Disclaimer: Jag jobbar på en av de stora drakarna inom svensk bryggerinäring, det jag skriver är mina egna ocensurerade åsikter.

#8 Fred



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Postad 08 december 2011 - 20:53

Hi guys, thank you for taking your time to respond.

A special thanks for the reference to the Brown post, Darren.

The latter is exactly what I was referring to as corporate BS and planted reviews. Most of us are still spared or at least we think we are, I heard that the beta version of the pattern recognition plug-in finds a shocking amount of planted reviews in all areas of the retail business ,spanning from blogs, forums, rate n review sections and editorial material "with fake quotes".

As a purely personal reflection i do hope that we will be able to handle any issues using people with common sense rather than relying on add-in software on forum platforms In general. I am still part of the naive generation that thinks the internet should be open to anyone, and that it should honour everyone's opinion, rather being policed like a modern version of 1984.

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