Sliced Spam
Creative Commons License photo credit: lovelihood

Recently, I had a conversation with a member who has, more than once or twice, made sarcastic replies to obvious spammers. He is a veteran member, so I expected more. After pointing this out to him a couple of times, and seeing it happen again, I decided that a more serious chat was necessary and that’s what inspired this post.

If at all possible, legitimate members shouldn’t reply to spam. Instead, they should ignore it or report it to a member of staff. Replying to spam has two negative effects.

It Brings More Attention to the Spam

Even if it is the most obvious spam in the world, so bad that you’d never think anyone would want what was being offered, replying to it brings more attention to it. It brings it to the top of the most active threads, leading to more people opening it.

We have tens of thousands of perfectly legitimate, quality threads. Why are you spending time bringing attention to the little bit of spam that has now entered into our system and will likely be removed soon? Report it or forget it, but please don’t respond to it and allow it to take precedent over legitimate threads started by other people.

More Posts Have to be Removed

When spam is removed, the replies to the spam are also removed. This means the staff has to do more. Maybe it isn’t much more, but every second counts and every second takes away from some other, legitimate activity that a staff member could be spending their time on.

In other words, you are helping the spammers. Yes, we’ll take care of everything – everything – that needs to be done. But, if you don’t contribute to the pile needlessly, then there is less to do.

What to Do as the Administrator

There are a couple of key things. First, encourage reports of violations. A report posts feature works well, but even if you just have a report link that goes to a contact page, that is fine, too. Give members a means of reporting this stuff.

Include in your guidelines that members shouldn’t respond to violations and then, when a member responds to an obvious violation, contact them and tell them that, if they should see anything like that again in the future, to please report it. We have a contact template for this, it’s the “report, don’t respond” contact template.

The key is to push across the message that replying to spam isn’t a help, but a hindrance.