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  • User Screening

    Hello,


    I run a forum receiving 80,000+ unique daily visits that I'm considering moving from ezboard to vbulletin.

    Among other glaring deficiencies, ezboard doesn't allow us any way to pre-screen forum trolls and spammers. Their 'membership by approval' feature only shows a user's screen name and profile - nothing more.

    Does vbulletin offer a way to require that, for example, a user's IP address MUST match their email domain upon registration? Failing that, is there at least a block list for email domains so that we can eliminate the use of registration from free webmail accounts?

    Our forum is far too large for IP bans to be effective, we need some means of restricting account creation in order to force our members to comply with our rules, while still allowing legitimate new users to easily join the board.


    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    There is a list of free email addresses along with a list of IP addresses of known spammers which is available and can be entered into vBulletins banning options. vBulletin also allows you to set up moderation of new users posts so that they are not visible until after they are approved. You can have them moved to a group that does not have moderation of posts once they have had some posts approved.

    Comment


    • #3
      IP bans tend to cause a great deal of collateral damage since so many innocent users often share the same ISP with spammers/trolls. So, we try to steer clear of that.

      Our forum may be a bit too large for the moderation method to be effective. Thousands of new users join our community each month and hand-screening their initial posts would be a bit overwhelming for us.

      Prohibiting registration from freemail accounts would be a big help, though.


      Could you describe how this appears to the end user? Let's say someone tries to sign up using a hotmail account, and we've added hotmail to the block list. How is that person notified that we can't accept registration from that address?


      Also:

      I notice in your feature list that it we can import our users and posts from ezboard - is that correct? How is this handled considering ezboard administrators don't have access to the underlying database files?

      Comment


      • #4
        Could you describe how this appears to the end user? Let's say someone tries to sign up using a hotmail account, and we've added hotmail to the block list. How is that person notified that we can't accept registration from that address?
        They should get a message which you can easilly change to your needs.

        EZ Board imports are handled by jelsoft employees. They cannot get all of the information, like passwords, but I think they import the threads and posts iirc.
        Plan, Do, Check, Act!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by RakimAllah View Post
          Among other glaring deficiencies, ezboard doesn't allow us any way to pre-screen forum trolls and spammers. Their 'membership by approval' feature only shows a user's screen name and profile - nothing more.

          Does vbulletin offer a way to require that, for example, a user's IP address MUST match their email domain upon registration? Failing that, is there at least a block list for email domains so that we can eliminate the use of registration from free webmail accounts?
          EZBoard "screening" is non-existent. This is one of the many reasons I moved away from it. You couldn't view IP or e-mail until AFTER they registered and by then it was too late. You couldn't easily view their signature, weblink, etc. until after they were already posting spam.


          With vBulletin:

          * You can allow users to register but not post until you approve.

          * You can allow users to register AND post, but the posts are queued/hidden until you approve. Then you can set it so once they have X approved posts, they get an Automatic Promotion into a higher usergroup with permission to post freely like Registered (Confirmed).

          * You can approve posts and threads without having to login to a control panel. You can do this all from the front-end by tagging posts (clicking a checkbox next to each post) and selecting "Approve Post" from a popup menu and hitting OK.

          * You can restrict users to not post URLs until they have gotten a certain number of posts approved first.

          * You can restrict users to only post in certain forums until they are approved and get bumped into a higher usergroup.

          And of course vBulletin has advanced Image Verification where they must type in those letters and numbers during registration. This keeps out all the automated spammers.

          I suggest the Moderation at a Glance add-on so you can see, at a glance, how many users, posts, threads, etc. are awaiting approval before they become visible to your forum. This is one of those things that I hope will be built into vBulletin 4 but it's very easy to add it to vBulletin.


          I too was an EZBoard refugee. I fortunately switched before the EZBoard disaster of 2005. Here's an article I've written about the transition from EZBoard to vBulletin!

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks for the helpful replies.

            It sounds like much of the ezboard importation has to be done manually - which would be a bit prohibitive for us as we have just under 60,000 members. I'd love to allow everyone to keep their join dates and post counts, but there's no way we can enter all of that manually.

            It would be nice to take our archived posts with us, though.


            Hopefully one of you can answer this for me, as long as we're talking about configurable user levels:

            Is it possible to

            1) Limit the number of TOPICS (not posts, but new topics) a user can create? This would solve so many problems for us.

            2) Automatically change user levels by DATE rather than post count? In other words, if I want a user to 'graduate' to the next class after 6 months of successful use rather than, say, 100 posts. The promotion by post count method encourages users to clutter the forum with useless posts. The date system is more difficult to "game," especially when paired with a screening system that restricts the number of accounts any one person can create.


            Also, what degree of automation exists for user WARNINGS? On ezboard, we had to create a hidden administrative forum with a different thread for each letter from A-Z, in which we alphabetically file a record for each user and catalog their warnings. It's a headache, to say the least.

            I'd love to have a feature whereby we could simply click a "warn" button and have the contents of the post and any accompanying notes automatically added to a user record, with configurable thresholds for automated banning. So, if a user exceeds X warnings, they're automatically banned, and any mod or admin can view a user's record either by searching for them in the database or, even better, by clicking their profile. Ezboard's next gen product, Yuku, will supposedly incorporate SOME of this. I could care less about their myspace/"dating" functionality, but we would at least like to retain all of the substantial benefits offered in that release once we go independent.

            I too was an EZBoard refugee. I fortunately switched before the EZBoard disaster of 2005.
            Yeah, good call on that. The hack was NOTHING compared to the management change that took place last year. Apparently ezboard got in over their head and now a venture capital firm has controlling interest. So Vanchau Nguyen and Steve DeMello, who I found to be fairly nice guys who actually seem to care about and understand the concept of community, were replaced with - get this - the husband of the woman who owns this venture capital firm. The guy has zero experience as a CEO and he's proven both greedy and inept. They don't even let you put ads up on your own ezboard anymore, they want a cut of everything. It's insane. I have horror stories for days....

            Our problem is that we have 7 & 1/2 years of experience managing a forum, but no experience in webhosting and technical maintenance. So, this is a pretty big leap for us - but we're eager to leave ezboard as soon as we can find stable footing.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by RakimAllah View Post
              Thanks for the helpful replies.

              It sounds like much of the ezboard importation has to be done manually - which would be a bit prohibitive for us as we have just under 60,000 members. I'd love to allow everyone to keep their join dates and post counts, but there's no way we can enter all of that manually.

              All of the threads, posts, and forums come over.

              Users must re-register and re-set their avatars and signatures. This is no fault of vBulletin's and a characteristic of EZBoard being a closed, proprietary, prehistoric system. After their colossal security failure in 2005, they promised that Administrators would be given the ability to backup their data. After 2 years ago, that, along with many other promises remain unfulfilled. EZBoard's name is mud as far as I am concerned.

              Originally posted by RakimAllah View Post
              Is it possible to

              1) Limit the number of TOPICS (not posts, but new topics) a user can create? This would solve so many problems for us.


              This is not a built in feature of vBulletin, however you can set it so threads must be approved before they become visible. Moderators, Super Moderators, and Admins (depending on permissions you set and roles you define) would be able to approve these threads and/or posts with 2 clicks and then they become visible.

              vBulletin has a fantastic Plugin ability which lets people write add-ons that extend the Usergroup and Forum Permissions systems without editing any files. There seems to be a Post/Thread Throttle add-on at vBulletin.org (the official sister site of vBulletin.com) that would do what you want. Plugins are installed by uploading one or more XML files.

              By the way, they're called "threads" in vBulletin. Just a minor difference.

              Originally posted by RakimAllah View Post
              2) Automatically change user levels by DATE rather than post count? In other words, if I want a user to 'graduate' to the next class after 6 months of successful use rather than, say, 100 posts.

              You can use date, posts, or reputation (if you allow users to vote on other users, I do not allow this), or any combination thereof. You can absolutely go by date.

              Originally posted by RakimAllah View Post
              Also, what degree of automation exists for user WARNINGS? On ezboard, we had to create a hidden administrative forum with a different thread for each letter from A-Z, in which we alphabetically file a record for each user and catalog their warnings. It's a headache, to say the least.

              vBulletin now has a built-in infractions or Warning system as you describe, where users get "points" every time they break a rule. This is all stored where admins and moderators (if you allow it) can read it. You can define how many points warrant a ban and of what length. It's all quite flexible. And giving infractions is a 2 click affair. Also, vBulletin has a "report post" feature. Users can report a post as inappropriate and that report will be displayed in the forum of your choice (such as a moderator-only or admin-only forum) as well as e-mail and other notifications. Admins or Mods can decide what, if anything, to do with the reported post.

              Originally posted by RakimAllah View Post
              I'd love to have a feature whereby we could simply click a "warn" button and have the contents of the post and any accompanying notes automatically added to a user record, with configurable thresholds for automated banning.

              This is built into vBulletin as of 3.6.

              Originally posted by RakimAllah View Post
              Our problem is that we have 7 & 1/2 years of experience managing a forum, but no experience in webhosting and technical maintenance. So, this is a pretty big leap for us - but we're eager to leave ezboard as soon as we can find stable footing.
              EZBoard spreads a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (collectively called FUD) about how hard it is to set up your own forum. Actually, it is not at all difficult, and if you have been able to muddle through the poorly-conceived, incredibly slow and tedious control panels that EZBoard offers to try to manage your forum, you'll find vBulletin a piece of cake.

              After I got a bill from EZBoard for their Gold support/extortion (in 2001) to get rid of the borderline pornographic ads and multiple popups which was about the same as a year's hosting and a vBulletin license, I crossed my fingers and took the leap. I was astounded at how easy it was to get vB up and running. Most of the settings are logically organized where you would expect them to be.
              Last edited by feldon23; Wed 4 Apr '07, 8:14pm.

              Comment


              • #8
                Also, vBulletin has a "report post" feature. Users can report a post as inappropriate and that report will be displayed in the forum of your choice (such as a moderator-only or admin-only forum) as well as e-mail and other notifications. Admins or Mods can decide what, if anything, to do with the reported post.

                We managed to implement this with ezboard, but not without a LOT of work. As you know, user modifications are a royal pain on ezboard. Yuku is supposed to be completely modular and far easier to customize... but they've been stringing us along with Yuku related promises for the better part of a year now. The real clincher is that they put their own ads on Yuku profiles and we would see NONE of that revenue. It's amazing, they act as if they're a monopoly. We're one of their largest boards, accounting for around 1% of their total network, and they seem to think we're completely disposable.

                This is not a built in feature of vBulletin, however you can set it so threads must be approved before they become visible.

                Yeah, we have an approval system in place in our classified forums to prevent fraud and attempts to sell counterfeit items etc... but we get thousands of new posts each day and it's virtually impossible to keep up. It's like fighting the tide with a bucket.

                That add on looks like it should do the trick, though. Limiting the number of threads per user will go a long way toward curbing spam/troll attacks and emphasizing post quality over quantity. There's little more annoying to grizzled forum veterans than watching a new user start 12 new topics to present his/her every waking thought.

                It's good to know that vbulletin has a strong user-development community. At this point, I'd be willing to bet that other users will be able to code the types of additional features we're looking for faster than ezboard/yuku will.

                After I got a bill from EZBoard for their Gold support/extortion (in 2001) to get rid of the borderline pornographic ads and multiple popups which was about the same as a year's hosting and a vBulletin license, I crossed my fingers and took the leap. I was astounded at how easy it was to get vB up and running. Most of the settings are logically organized where you would expect them to be.

                I'm glad to hear it. A lot of other forums I'm familiar with have been hacked recently, which has given us cause for concern, but at this point it's become both a financial issue and a simple matter of self-respect.

                In the old days, you could pay for community gold and replace ezboard's atrocious advertising with your own ads to cover the cost. Well, the new CEO is remarkably greedy - even by CEO standards - and in contradiction to their own TOS, Ezboard currently demands its users enter a revenue share agreement if they wish to support the cost of "premium" functionality through advertising. We're running nothing but bottom of the barrel AdSense units, (which is only supposed to cover for UNSOLD inventory...) because we chose not to expose our userbase (which contains a large number of teens) to ads from military recruiters and online casinos. They even ran a Girls Gone Wild ad at one point. Suffice it to say, we can do a better job than their "professional" sales team, which does nothing more than sign up for tribalfusion et al. Great if you're a tiny forum, I guess, but our site is large enough to qualify for all of these services without their help. Even if we negotiate our OWN ads, they want a cut. It's like they think they're the mafia.

                They're promising the world with Yuku, but as long as we can get most of what we want on VBulletin I'll be more than happy to try my luck on an independent host rather than go down with ezboard's sinking ship
                .

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'm amazed that anyone is hanging on for Yuku after all the broken promises of EZBoard. Why would anyone run their forum at a site that has no certainty to their backup regime AND offers no way for admins to download a backup? They could lose your entire forum any time and they'd just say "too bad, so sad."

                  I think if I had a 10 minute conversation with every EZBoard site owner, I could get a lot of them to look seriously at vBulletin. Once all the myths and falsehoods are disproved that EZBoard has spread like how "hard" or "expensive" it is to get your own website and your own forum (it's actually not that hard, and for mid-sized forums, your own hosting at $8 a month + vBulletin is cheaper than EZSupporter Gold).

                  I couldn't believe it when I heard that people were collecting/paying over a thousand dollars a year to EZBoard to keep their forum running ad-free that they don't really "own" but are just leasing and their data could be wiped out at any time. You can get a dedicated server with 60GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM, etc. etc. that you have full control over for like $120 a month.

                  It is fortuitous that vBulletin has the only decent EZBoard import script (which is executed and supervised by the Jelsoft staff). There is an ezboard script for phpBB but it is even less complete and requires a lot of work by the site admin.
                  Last edited by feldon23; Thu 5 Apr '07, 5:43am.

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