Within the last half hour, there was some spamming on WPSE.

The post were created by different unregistered users sharing the same name AirMaxUK. So far, all posts have been removed, one of the accounts has been temporarily suspended, the others have been removed.

Apart from the fact that spammers are quite useful on the journey to flag-based badges, they are, of course, pretty annoying.

I read some questions and answers regarding my keywords, still here are some things I'd like to share for dicussion (and maybe eventually implementation).

Unregistered Users vs. Registered Users

Should they be treated differently when it comes to being flagged? I mean, most of the spammer accounts are unregistered users.

So one easy-to-implement but quite handy feature could be that unregistered (maybe even newly registered) users that have been flagged F times in the last T minutes automatically will be suspended for S minutes/hours. A possible setting for these values could be:

3+ flags within 10 minutes lead to a default suspension lasting 60 minutes.

That penalty is not that hard and, in my opinion, justifiable to be induced by common users. Of course, moderators still would have to take a look at the users, their flags, and eventually take action - but these spammers most probably did not have the time to plaster WPSE with their ... information.

Sub-Zero Reputation

Currently, the lowest reputation value is 1, right? In general, this is okay. New users come here to get an answer to their question, maybe did not read the rules, their questions maybe seem inappropriate, are unclear, duplicates of existing and already answered questions and the like. All of that may lead to being downvoted and thus having negative reputation. So, once again: in general, I'm fine with how the reputation is handled.

But I strongly suggest to let downvotes induced by a spam flag decrease the reputation, even below 0. So, if a new user's post gets flagged as spam, the user first has to earn some reputation (a suggested edit is already enough) before creating a new post.

This, again, is an easy means to prevent multiple spam postings, yet it is absolutely justifiable to let common users take these action as spam flags will be observed by moderators anyway.

Unique User Names

Why is it possible to choose a user name that is already taken? Or does this apply to unregistered users only? Of course, I know the accounts can be separated/identified by the user ID, however, allowing to choose a name that is already taken may/does confuse other users.

So, I would really like to collect your 2 Cents on this. ;)


Partial Answer as I don't have references for the issue Registered/Unregistered users.

The zero or sub-zero reputation is considered excessive punishment. The following is a extract from Why does reputation have a lower bound of 1?. It's not directly related to the spam problem, but the consensus seems to be 1 is the lower a user can arrive.

This. A rep of zero or negative seemed cruel.

Plus, everyone starts out as "a one" instead of "a zero".

Normally spammers and trolls are dealt with quite fast, given the high community moderation features of Stack Exchange. The sub-zero reputation could give the wrong message to regular users not aware that a punishment is in course, and the blocking/suspension/deletion of accounts are considered enough.

The unique user name problem is not considered a problem until it crosses certain boundaries. The following is from Discourage people from using non-unique usernames:

Let's say for the sake of argument that people always put in their real name. There are always going to be certain names with high frequency, and there's nothing we can do about it. Regardless, from my experience, it's pretty rare to have situations where two users are confused or misnotified in comments, for example, which is a bigger issue than a full page of users with the same name. I suppose if you really want to look someone up, you can use Data Explorer.

Another interesting one: Somebody stole my nic

Crossing the boundaries:

Who the fluck is Jon Skeet?

  • Okay, I guess it's just your 2 Cents, then... Thanks for the detailed feedback, anyway. – tfrommen Apr 19 '13 at 21:24
  • yep, that's what I've seen around, but can't point to a canonical answer about the issue. – brasofilo Apr 19 '13 at 21:58

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