The quality of moderated forums

I’m not sure how to get into this topic…

I’ve registered myself in this forum a few months ago and also wrote a lot in the beginning. However, my motivation waned over time. I noticed that my frustration was growing stronger and stronger when I read through some responses. I have been working in the IT security and data protection environment for a quite long time. I assume that most here are not in the IT-Sec or Data Privacy Industry and probably much younger than me and just repeat a lot of what they have read or heard somewhere instead of having actually researched or documented it.

However, I noticed that many posts contain a lot of misinformation - some of which are not even noticed. If they are noticed, they are not corrected. And some tips I consider extremely dangerous to advertise as “safe”. If the person is answering the question really has that knowledge, is unclear to the questioner.

It goes that far that I wonder how useful and good for society forums actually are that are democratically moderated. I mean that every user in Discourse acquires certain rights over time that allow him to partially intervene in the moderation. The factors are only time and the number of posts, not the quality or the actual content. This can lead to a forum being moderated by people who can’t separate sense from
nonsense. I am particularly critical when many answers to certain questions are repeatedly answered with “it depends on the thread model”.

Am I the only one who notices this? What do you guys think about it?
I will consider whether it makes sense or not to continue posting here. Just wanted to share my thoughts on this.

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I think I understand where you’re coming from. I started a short thread a while back including my frustration with the cliche “it depends on your threat model” answer. Sure, that’s true, but it’s not an answer, and it doesn’t need to be repeated constantly. A few workarounds for that were suggested for exactly that issue. The most practical one I saw was including a brief description of your threat model in your profile, and I applied the suggestion immediately.

I may be wrong, but I always understood this forum to not be for security experts, while certainly not excluding them. (that would be silly; we’re all here looking for reliable information)
I’ve found that in a conversation if I say something wrong someone will simply point it out and I can correct myself. I think this forum is more of a large conversation than a strictly credentialed IT sec professional-only help desk.
Imagine if your friends excluded you from any conversation where you couldn’t prove your expertise on the current topic. (“Stay in your lane, dude!”)
Since you are an expert, your advice and shared experience is extremely valuable to me (and I’m sure to everyone else as well) and I’d appreciate your input on anything here that you see as incorrect. It helps everyone. But I also understand that you’re not here to just put out fires for everyone else.
If you can help out without making your life worse, great!
But if it’s frustrating you----it’s entirely optional.

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Hey, great and important topic. My personal opinion on the problem is as follows.

I can see how it can be frustrating for experts such as @strawberry. That being said, @Cdf describes my point of view precisely.

I am personally not in IT-Sec and never will be. Nevertheless, I want to learn as much as possible whenever there is some spare time. Not as a serious field of study, though. I take these security and privacy forums more like a conversation you would have in a bar with random people, some more educated about the topic at hand than others. When there is someone with deeper knowledge about the issue, others tend to listen to them. When there is no one well-educated, people just chat back and forth, trying their best to come up with something better.

If you can help correct our mistakes whenever some catch your eye here and there, that would be amazing. If you find yourself being frustrated way too much, we will just have to try our best until either someone with the knowledge educates us (like you would) or we come up with something actually working by some miracle.

I approach these communities with the knowledge that these forums are not IT-Sec-only communities, quite the opposite, actually. In a sense, experts cannot gain much from these communities, I think, because there will be not enough of other experts around who could enlighten them. Therefore, for someone with the actual knowledge, there are only slight chances of discussing the problems with their equals who could give educated answers to their questions. People without a proper background just try to work with what they have. And because they do not have the formal education, they may even not realize they present their opinions as truths, which may seem to you as obvious nonsense, simply because they do not know they are wrong.

To sum it up, it would be great if you could help where you can. Otherwise, if the situation frustrates you too much, we are sorry for giving you a hard time :wink: and feel free to just stand aside and observe, or do not listen to the conversations at all. Wish you all the best.

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Firstly, I had the same concern with reputation being based on frequency of posting. My concern is that this results in the most ideological commentators having the most power. This could obviously dilute factual discussion, with ideology.

With regards to whether you should keep posting, only you can assess the impact that the frustration caused would have on you mental health long term. What I can say however, is as someone starting my IT career, I greatly appreciate the input that comes from more experienced professionals. Form what you say, you have a lot of relevant experience, the platform would be poorer without that.

That thankfully is only one factor, for example, you have to receive a certain amount of likes to become a member or a regular and, to become a regular you have to not have been warned or flagged in the past 6 months.

I do strongly agree with all the points made here. Especially,

It is good to have someone in a profession relating to the topic correcting mis-information as they will have more experience in that field, therefore, being more knowledgable in the topic.

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Something I find funny is that I had no idea there was some kind of reputation scoring going on until I read this post.
I have no idea what that’s about, and it sounds creepy enough to not want to know more.

Regular is a participation trophy. Anyone can get the badge, they just need to post a lot, and they will get the likes needed. That is what the badges mean, the person who has it is very active on the forum.

Do regulars get moderator rights on this forum?

I have it on other forums, and it does allow you to remove spam and some other minor things, but you normally don’t get to run the forum.

Wait! Do I have unrealized powers here?!
Mwahahaha!

No, the most you get is the ability to change the titles of topics and recategorise them. Also, if you flag a TL0 (brand new user) the post is instantly hidden from the public.

Seems like standard discuss, typically regulars are not completely unhinged and can be trusted to do the most basic moderation, like flagging spam.

The OP just made it sound like being active on the forum automatically would make you an actual moderator, with the power to moderate the forum and discussions.

I thought of a possible middle-ground here.
How about starting your own thread that is clearly labeled For Experts Only or something like that?
You’d probably need a title that doesn’t sound too arrogant if you want to avoid the inevitable trolling, but it might work. Maybe you can start a new Category but I’m not sure if that’s allowed.
Then we get to keep you on the forum for sound advice, and you get to converse with the people who don’t annoy you.
How’s that for a diplomatic compromise? (and I don’t have any degrees or other credentials in political science or mediation! :smile:)

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First off, thanks for the kind words and the understanding. I haven’t decided what to do yet but I don’t have much time at the moment to think about it.

Ok, I never saw it that way (and still don’t as this makes no sense to me). Why would someone sign up in a special forum to have a bar conversation?
Why should I listen to someone’s opinion how I should handle something if this person has no clue what he’s talking about? I mean if I would post a question on a “car repair” forum I would expect good advice from someone who knows what he’s talking about and not someones opinion, or something that worked for someone someday (by accident) that could actually break my car without me even knowing. That’s actually quite dangerous. I expect that people here who have quite concrete questions, what a solution for that but most answers (i don’t consider that anyone does it on purpose) actually lead to the exact oposite the person was asking for.

I can accept that and that’s what’s actually happening as I don’t participate on talks where I don’t have any expertise. I just listen to them.
I don’t feel the urge to talk about anything and give my opinion about everything if I don’t even know what I am talking about :wink:

Totally agree with you.

Yep…I agree with you.

Indeed that would sound a little bit arrogant :wink:
If it this forum is considered as a bar talk only an experts only label wouldn’t stop people from posting personal opinions.

I know what I’ve wrote in my introduction, but I haven’t considered the large amount of misinformation (and again, I don’t think it’s on purpose).
Unfortunatley, if someone is asking a question and the first 3 answers are non-sense most people on the internet don’t read any further or consider this as “the truth”. Sad but true. I wanted to start counting the threads where this is happening, but while researching I found an “old” post of mine.

I’m talking about this one: What are your security, privacy, and technology content creator recommendations? - #8 by strawberry
I have stoped reading the answers as I was just putting out recommendations and most answers where like “but why cause xyz is saying it’s good?”.

So I also did not see this talk until just now:

(oh and sidenote - i’ve never been on reddit as I never understood for what it’s actually good for ^^)
and beside the attack and trolling I am wondering why it’s okay to have public personal attacks on a forum? I know they said it’s not okay but I would delete stuff like this. If I wouldn’t be more or less here with just a nickname would it be then okay as well? Cause I also consider private and against good manners ruining someones reputation.

If this is a bar for most people, I’m fine with it but I don’t have the time (and I literally mean that, as I have a 60+ hr week) to discuss with people (and I don’t mean it in an arrogant way) who speak just because they want to say something or putting out a personal opinion as this is draining if you actually would like to help people and answer their questions.

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You’ve made some strong points here. I think I’m going to quit now too. :grin:
I think Henry or Jonah should respond to this or consider shutting down the whole thing.
I’m not sure the car repair analogy is totally applicable to this situation, but it’s pretty good.
I think the bar analogy mixed with the car repair analogy would only get us to the point where someone says, “Hey, I’m looking for a new set of tires.” and someone else says, “My cousin Ignacio has a tire shop near you. I can get you a discount.”
I’ve had many of my questions answered here to my satisfaction. Every question I have is not a life or death situation, and the vast majority of things I’ve seen posted in this forum do not require an expert to be pointed in the right direction.

I see you had a run-in with QubesFan.
I think that was like an initiation rite about a month or 2 ago. Been there.
He’s gone now btw. It just kept ramping up.
Well, sorry to see you go.

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I would just like to stress that, as stated above, the “bar analogy” is only my view of these kinds of forums. The problem why I do not approach them as a proper precise and well versed question and only expert’s advice forums is because there are simply not enough experts in these types of forums to actually give those advices. Therefore, I must assume everything I read on such forums can be misleading, or simply wrong altogether. If I was a paying customer of a service and I would write on their official forum, I would expect an expert on the topic to answer the question, and even than some might say it is a bit presumptuous of me. The reality is I will probably get just some basic tips from an employee who reads them from a list of “what to try to do if …”, and unless I urge them again and again that the auto-suggestions does not work for me, I might not get an expert to even look at the question. Henceforth, I have learned to doubt everything I can learn from community forums, unless you know that the person answering you is an expert in the given field.

But does the person asking always get what you are saying? I think that your example describes exactly what the answers will be on that forum. There might be one or two actually high-quality answers from a few educated individuals, but ultimately, it will be just people recalling what helped them back in the day or someone else’s opinions. Unless there is a paid employee answering the questions who is coincidentally also an expert on the matter at hand, the answers will be mostly inaccurate or, exactly as you say, even dangerous.

This is the state of the internet nowadays. However unfortunate it is, I believe that this will not change any time soon. The opposite is what was mentioned above as well: An expert-only forum, where no one who is not a certified expert can answer. Such communities exist, for sure, but they are a dime in a dozen, I would say. And probably closed-off under some kind of subscription-based model, for example.

If we take into account the people in IT, the state is even worse, I would say, than as in your example of a car-repair forum. Take open-source developer communities, for example, there are certainly some knowledgeable people, but again, it is mainly just a bunch of people with different backgrounds and various level of education trying to come up with a solution better than the current one. No one can guarantee you that the proposed solution is the best one or even the right one. But in the end, someone comes with a good enough solution which satisfies the requirements of the original questioner.

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I read the thread, you got called out for telling people not to use Proton and Mullvad.

To which you reply

I have a strong feeling that I’m being lectured here with weird ads and I can’t tell if it’s a troll attempt or real. I signed up here to share experiences, that’s what I do. If someone don’t want to hear them, no one has to read them. I’m not particularly interested in long discussions. I don’t have time for that.

You literally posted the misinformation you are complaining about, and respond poorly to criticism.

I have never called anyone out for using something. I just posted a list what I recommend and what I don’t recommend. That’s it. For me it was done, after that people started me asking question why I don’t recommend it and I explained it after that people want to justify that it’s good anyway but I never wanted that sort of discussion.

Why did I post misinformation? I have used sources.

See? That’s interesting to me. I haven’t read that yet. I haven’t read much against Proton or Mullvad.
Now I will.
PLEASE DON’T GO, STRAWBERRY!
(but seriously, folks. that’s useful info)

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No, you didn’t.

You didn’t provide any evidence or sources to back up your claim that people shouldn’t use Proton or Mullvad, which both are seen as privacy-first companies.

I referred to an actual event and to the law and never told anyone not to use anything. For brave I posted almost a whole research.
However, you made the decision easy for me.

@cdf @Adda thank you for your kind words.

@Jonah or @Henry Please delete my account (incl. username). I don’t think it makes sense for me to be here. It’s too draining. Anyway, you are welcome joining our work anytime or collaborate with us/me.

This user was silenced and eventually suspended for behavior like this. Would you all prefer we delete the comments like this?