3 min

My thoughts on accepting user-contributed content - April 2014

At Toledo Talk, users can create only one account per email address. Even though users can modify their email addresses through their profile pages, the original email addresses that they used to create the accounts are stored in a separate database column, and those cannot be modified. So when a troll wants to create another Toledo Talk account, the troll has to create or use another account at an email hosted service too.

I block some IP addresses. I also prohibit anyone from creating an account that uses an email address that's hosted at mail.com or something like that.

Of course, at Toledo Talk, a new user must provide a valid email address because the account activation link is sent to the user. Some users try to create Toledo Talk accounts with bogus email addresses, but that fails because they can never activate their account for usage.

At Toledo Talk, a new user must wait 48 hours before being able to post a comment and 72 hours before being able to start a new thread. I think that I erected this barrier in 2010, and it has been the most effective method for slowing down trolls and spammers outside of disabling new user sign-ups, which I do occasionally.

In fact, this week, I re-enabled new user sign-ups at Toledo Talk after a couple weeks without the feature. A few times per year, I prohibit new user sign-ups at Toledo Talk to slow down trolls.

Unfortunately, the dedicated nutjobs will go through all the hoops and barriers to create an account, wait for the time to pass, and post content.

At Swamp Bubbles, I don't know how hard or how easy it is for someone to create an account and post content. No one method exists for managing a website that accepts user contributed content, but in my opinion, the site owner should NOT make it easy for new users to create accounts and post content.

Barriers to entry won't stop everything, but the barriers do help a lot.

I've been monitoring the media industry for years, and once again, the issue of comments posted at newspaper websites is back in the news. Some newspaper and other publishing sites are ending comments altogether because of the trolls. Even Facebook comments don't solve the problem.

I think that one of the best ideas for a barrier to entry is the one that MetaFilter.com implemented several years ago. I've mentioned before at TT, that I patterned the initial implementation of Toledo Talk after MetaFilter.com.

If you want to create an account at MetaFilter.com, you have to pay a $5 "lifetime" membership fee. It's not $5 per month or year. It's $5 forever. MetaFilter uses PayPal to accept membership fees. And new MeFi users also have to undergo a one-week waiting period before being allowed to post. That's where I got the waiting period idea for Toledo Talk.


Instead of implementing the Facebook commenting system, I think that websites overrun with trolls, like some newspaper sites, should implement the pay-to-post idea. Initially, I would charge only $1 and give the money to charity. The fee is not intended to be a money-making idea for the site. It's meant to be an annoying barrier to entry.

If I ran the commenting system at a newspaper site, I would still permit pseudonyms for account names, but I would implement the following barriers. A new user would have to: - create an account with a valid email address that can only be used one time - pay a $1 lifetime membership fee - click the account activation link that's sent to his email address - wait 7 days before being allowed to post a comment

#forums - #comments

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