Please be aware that we do not permit swap-related content on profiles or in blogs. Please post this content only in the For Sale, Swaps, and Wanted forums, or in the Wishlists topic. ~from Swapping 101
As we mentioned before, one of the things the moderators/admins are trying out is keeping you more informed. A lot of stuff gets discussed in the running of a major forum like this, but you folks don't hear most of that. We'd like to rope you in a bit... hence this blog! We'll be using it to keep you updated, toss out some ideas, and if I (Belladonnastrap) am making the post, at some point I'm gonna rant about something that has absolutely nothing to do with the forum. Why? Because that's how I roll!
FORUM UPDATE A GO GO GO!
First off, we would all like to say thank you for your patience while (whilst?) we go through a bit of construction. The membership has been really patient with us, and while we understand that all recent changes haven't been met with butterflies & unicorns, we appreciate you sticking around. We're going to do our very best to ensure that bpal.org is a place where we can not only discuss the wonderfulness of the Lab/Post & their works, but our own awesome corner of the web. Sort of like Oh No They Didn't, but smelling better and less obsessed with Britney Spears.
Moving to the country, gonna buy me a lotta scrubs.
Retail Therapy. We admit that the RT organization did not go completely as planned. We're still working on that. In the meantime, please continue to leave your feedback in this thread, and believe us when we say we're working on it.
SKINS! And not the crappy MTV show either!
Diana goes much more into depth about this then I ever can, so please check out her announcement for news & where we stand when it comes to making the forum look shiny!
Changing of the Guard
As Diana previously announced, quantumspice is no longer a member of the admin team. We wish her well. We wanted to take the time to just remind you of the moderators.
Admins: ShriekingViolet (aka Diana), Morrig
Moderators: Silvertree, Ivyandpeony, Andra, alicia_stardust, Jessica, WickedGoddess, parrot_suspect, Belladonnastrap, emzebel, jenpo, Shollin, Sarah, LiberAmoris, maewitch, Noumenon and Heartbeast
Please note: These are all of our active moderators. We have some moderators who are on hiatus, so if you should message them with any sort of forum concern, please be aware that they might take a bit to get back to you and/or forward it to another active mod.
Odds & Ends
A couple of general reminders to the forum population:
1) Please watch your image sizes! Images are to be no bigger then 480 pixels wide. If you upload an image and it's been scaled down, that means it's too big. Please resize.
2) No swaps outside the swaps forum. This includes "Hey, by the way, I have XX available. If you're interested, PM me!" in any section. If you say "I think this is allowed, but I'm not sure..." chances are it's not. Remember, you can always PM a moderator if you have any posting questions.
3) Please search to make sure your topic hasn't been made into a thread already. We're actually doing well in the dupe topic department, but a reminder never hurts!
So that's it for February! We'll try making these monthly, although we don't want to spam you all! In conclusion: Tyler from the Vampire Diaries? You're a tool. Seriously, dude: WTF were you thinking?! I'm gonna be vague because I know that not everyone is caught up, but OOOH. You make me so mad. I've been like all night because of your antics! I hope you get kenneled.
NEXT TIME: I swap! You Swap! Everyone Swaps!; Working at the Grindhouse; and Lupercalia: What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?
We've got a new tool that'll be released later today - the Stash Manager. It's been something people have been wanting for years (literally! There are posts from 2004 asking for stash tracking), and it's something I've always wanted to do, but with the software I built our feedback off of, I was finally able to give you - I've had planned for a few months, and like feedback, it stalled as I had to wait for a patch to be released.
What is the Stash Manager?
At this point in time, it's a private tool that will allow you to keep track of what BPAL you've tried, how well you liked it, whether or not you've bought it/kept it/sold or swapped it, and your personal notes about it. It's got a few custom views, with more coming. Eventually, you'll be able to share your wishlist from the stash manager (no more having to constantly update your wishlist post - it's automatically updated from what you've entered in!).
Let's talk about the pages it's got!
Your Stash Manager: On this page, you can enter in perfumes and view what you've entered in - the perfume name, whether or not you've tried it, whether or not you've bought it, whether or not you're swapping it away, your rating of it (or a note that you haven't rated it), your notes, and a button to update the scent. With your notes is also a link to your review (or a link to add a review, as applicable). It's a very good idea to rate things (as you'll see later!). Your ratings are private - not shared with the Lab or the public in any way.
Your Wishlist: This page displays what BPAL you're wanting. Eventually, I will be adding something to the User Control Panel to allow you to choose to make your wishlist visible by other people. (If you choose to make yours public, there will be two additional filters for people who viewing your wishlist: "show perfumes I have" and "show perfumes I'm swapping" - convenient for people who like to go and add frimps of things the other person likes.)
Your Inventory: This page displays your current BPAL inventory, ratings, notes. You can edit or add perfume from this view as well.
Your Current Swap, Sale, and Purchase Activity: This page shows what you're getting rid of, what you intend to get rid of, and what you're getting. Your notes are viewable here, so you can note where you're getting it from or where it's going to (and what you're getting in exchange), any pertinent dates, etc. This is just one way to help you manager your swaps outside of PMs. Eventually, I plan on having a "show all things I want to swap or have listed" pop up that will let you copy and paste everything, to easily be added to your swaps page.
Your Untried Stash: Want to know what you've got and haven't tried yet, and your cat's knocked into your carefully separated box a few times too many? This is the place to go! It'll show everything you've listed as owning, but haven't tried.
Your Unlisted Stash: Analogous to Your Untried Stash, this shows everything you haven't added yet.
Your Loves & Dislikes: This is a page that's in the works. I'm in the middle of writing a tagging system for the scent database, for notes. Once that has been completed, this page will tag clouds of notes that show up frequently on scents you dislike (rated 0-1) or on scents you liked (rated 4-5). There won't be any analysis of combinations of notes. It'll be an easy way to track this. (I know we all have a general sense of what we like, but when there's hundreds and thousands of perfumes, things can sneak by you!)
Your Recommendations: One of the biggest reasons Netflix took off - or at least, amongst my friends! - is that it'll recommend you things based off of your previous ratings and what other people rate. This is a huge project, but I think in the end, it'll be a super useful tool for new forumites and old alike. This probably won't be out until May or June.
The Swap Matchmaker: Tired of going through swap page after swap page (and then their wishlist!) to find someone that's looking for things that you're trying to get rid of and, at the same time, is trying to get rid of something you want? Never fear - this is the page for you! Like the Wishlist, you will have to opt into the Matchmaker to be able to get results beyond "you have matches!". Because members have to opt into it, and it won't give you any results if you're banned from swaps, we do consider this to be part of the swaps section - so feel free to message anyone who pops up! It's still a work in progress (I have to get the configuration part written yet), but once it's up, I'm sure many will find it super useful. Right now, it just shows you how many matches you WOULD have if it was live. (I have two!)
How to enter in perfumes
There are two ways to enter in perfumes: import all of your previous reviews (from a button on the Stash Manager), or individually add them. If you import them, they import that you've tried them, but don't have them, want them, etc, so you'll have to individually edit that information into the database (along with any rating or notes you've got). You can keep importing your reviews as time goes on.
Have questions or comments about the Stash Manager? Found a bug? This topic is the place to go to let us know!
Our chat room has had a small upgrade. Nothing really changed from a usability standpoint, but some minor back end changes were made.
An option to automatically kick inactive users has been added
An option to disable the "user has left/entered room" messages has been added
An option not to show the recent chats when a user enters the room has been added
An option to launch the chat in a minimalized popup has been added
I don't really talk about the software development process here, because I figure that outside of a few technically inclined people, nobody really cares. I also don't really talk about the things I'm working on for the forum very much because it takes quite some time for me to go from "idea!" to something I can release for you to use, and I've already had a few instances of people trying to profit off of my ideas for things to do with the forum (such as when someone went and manually queried my scent family database and tried to sell the contents on eBay for about $20).
But, today, I've decided to share with you some of the things I'm working on!
Oh, feedback. You are the bane of my existence! But I am (slowly) taming the beast. As you all have noticed, even with the sixty thousand-some old feedback reviews from the old system, it's lightning fast & nobody has login or skin issues anymore! Of course, the flip side of this is that nobody has their individual pages anymore.
I was lucky enough to be selected as a beta tester for the next version of the software platform I use for the development of our apps. I don't have it running live here (just retailtherapy, a site I've been playing with developing but haven't actually released), but I've been able to play around with development. I'm happy to announce that when this version goes live, I will *definitely* be able to finish the personalized pages for the feedback.
I consider this to be a "priority development" issue, and as such, I have decided to update it in two phases. The first phase will have the consolidated page with feedback & swaplift reports. This will eliminate the current problem of getting others' feedback mixed in with yours (for instance, feedback for the user "luna" may show up with the feedback for user "LunaKitty" right now). The second phase will have some statistics as "header" to the page, and it will probably clean up the display.
The Future of Feedback
Are these features that would interest you? Comment and let me know!
Something for the front page to show who has recently given and/or gotten feedback - probably limited to just who has recently given you feedback.
A profile tab (like "About Me") that summarizes your feedback statistics
The ability to "draft" feedback, so you can start it earlier in the process of swapping
The forum no longer deletes PMs (it uses a "soft deletion" that keeps the PMs in the database). I could enable something that would allow you to attach a PM to feedback (as a link, not the actual text) & give a link to recover the PM if you have left the conversation.
The BPAL Perfume Database, Price Caps, Reviews, and the Scent of the Day FB App
This database is more encompassing than just listing the price caps. It's also the back end for the BPAL site catalog database and our facebook app.
If that wasn't enough, it's *also* going to be added to the review forums, to replace the BBCode descriptions/images. Basically, the top of the page of the review topics is now going to have the description, pricing information (Lab cost & our price caps, when available), image(s), release & discontinuation dates, and a link to purchase from the Lab.
I've got the actual code written now, and am working on the integration part.
The Scent of the Day Facebook App
I believe the time has come to retire the existing SotD application. The way Facebook worked and was used when I created it is worlds different from what it is now. Facebook killed the way feeds used to work. They have also, for all purposes, gotten rid of boxes and of the profile side bars that many of us have used to display it.
But never fear: I am working on something that will allow you to "push" your forum SotD changes to Facebook or Twitter if you've got them set up. I will be starting this with Facebook first, so I can cleanly retire the app, and then adding Twitter as an option. When it is done, it'll be very simple -- it'll just attach a link to the forum's review page. This will be an "opt-in" thing, not a default.
I have been flirting with the idea of incorporating some sort of tagging with scent families, but I can't think of a way that will do it smoothly. I thought using a poll in the topic would work, and then I could do a nightly synchronization and display the results as a tag cloud & pick the top one as a "user based The review topics will become automatically generated by the database (making it easier for us to maintain -- right now Shollin does all of that, and we'll be distributing the work between Shollin & our swap mods, Silvertree, maewitch, and Noumenon), and I don't know how to automatically add a poll (and with about 3000 topics, it would need to be done automatically). I may talk with some of the code mod developers about this, because I think having a general sense of the scent family would help find other scents you might like.
I am also flirting with the idea of using a tag cloud for the notes. This might be fairly easy to do, but will depend on how the tag cloud goes on retailtherapy.
Finally, once the SotD app has been revived, I am considering allowing people to opt into pushing their forum reviews to facebook.
We recently updated the forum software. As these things tend to go, there were a few unexpected bumps.
When we updated, BBCode, the Gallery, Feedback, and Unresolved Swaps were not functional. They now are, hooray!
Now to tell y'all about the updates!
Forums had actually a really boring update - it just fixed bugs and was setting things up for the big update that's scheduled to come out in Q1 2011. I know, all that fuss and nothing changed as far as what we see! There will be a new skin, but that's independent of this update.
Blogs update is actually pretty big. Many of the changes were back end related, but here are some of the things you might notice!
New "Like" system on Blogs and Blog Entries.
Notification support for new blog entries, and new comments, so you can watch a member's blog or an entry.
Uses a new comments system.
New "Manage Blogs" area.
Facebook Like and Twitter Tweet buttons on blog entries.
Cleaned up design.
Single column layout on individual blogs.
Gallery has returned to us!
Feedback / Unresolved Swaps / Price Caps / Cookbook all had backend updates that will let me start working on some cool things, but you won't see it for a few months yet!
SugarCookie created several duplicate accounts on 14 June 2010 after receiving less than stellar feedback.
On 24 June 2010, we instigated an investigation into the duplicate accounts due to the sheer amount found by the analyzer (three mostly unused secondary accounts: shadowdoll, Cygnet, fairydoll; two primary accounts: SugarCookie, sakuratart) and gave them all restricted access.
Between 24 June and 10 July, we had PMed both accounts and found many inconsistencies, and abnormal similarities in IP addresses (including finding that a cell phone had been used to go between the accounts a few times).
On 13 July 2010, we received credible documentation from a member who had sold to SugarCookie and had reviewed their paypal account to see that sakuratart's email address was now listed. The secondary accounts were indefinitely suspended and the primary account (SugarCookie) was given a 30 day suspension.
On 15 July 2010, SugarCookie created another duplicate account, playingwithaloadedgun, and all accounts were subsequently banned.
Moral of the story: when on suspension for duplicate accounts, it is most unwise to create another one.
After some drama blazed about her e-tail business, Atropa's Cottage, ebonykawaii created a sock puppet account, httpoo (on 17 May 2006). We were aware of its existence, but didn't do anything about it because initially, it was not being used.
On 11 Sept 2009, httpoo was used to troll in a topic about the Black Butterfly Moon (August 2009) update. At this point in time, httpoo was put on the restricted duplicate account group and ebonykawaii suspended and warned that if another duplicate account was linked to her, she would be banned.
On 22 Sept 2009, ebonykawaii created the raineygirl account, and was promptly banned.
When we say we do not tolerate duplicate accounts, especially for sock puppet and trolling purposes, we mean it!
In 2008, shelldoo and two other forum members collected money and goods for Beth and Ted's wedding present from the forum. Shelldoo insisted on collecting the money for the charitable donation and was supposed to donate over $1,500 of the collection to the ACLU in Beth and Ted's name. The donation was never made. While we didn't ban her for the massive swaplift that she also did around this time (spanning from approximately October 2008 - April 2009), when this problem was brought to our attention, we felt that this sort of abuse of our members' trust is intolerable and she was banned.
From roughly June 14-June 30, beneathglass contacted in excess of 100 members, offering to swap and/or sale.
By July 3, we had received so many reports about slow swap/non communication that we restricted her access to the swaps forum.
Around July 7, she was restricted from the private areas of the forum.
On July 8, she created Lia and loviatorthertip to get around that restriction and was informed that another duplicate account would result in her getting banned.
On August 5, she created herokitty and was banned.
In the past, there's been a lot of speculation and false assumptions made concerning the banning of member accounts on this forum. Among many there seems to be a lot of false impressions over how often and how easily it is to get banned here. This may be in part our fault, as we have never drawn attention to the banning process, nor did typically discuss member banishments after the fact. This was because we felt it unfair to speak out about someone when they're not able to return and make a counter argument in their defense, because often the person still had friends on the forum and we didn't want to put them in an awkward position, and simply because we didn't want to further the unpleasantness of the situation. It was a decision we thought sound for a time, but clearly our silence on the subject has allowed people to believe that this is something we do far more often than we actually do and that we do it for simpler or pettier reasons than is the truth. So, to try to clear up any confusion or misconceptions about this touchy subject, we've decided to be more open about it and have all past and any future bannings presented in the public record. We hope this will help demonstrate that this not something we do often or lightly. And because of the sensitive nature of the subject, we're posting this information here rather than in the announcements area of the forum.
To this date, we have banned 9 individuals: Unseelie, diabolique, BlueStar, wax, AngelFireHeart (aka: RainDropAngel), Black Medicine, wichapi (aka: ShyinChi, aka: MaineEvent), MissAnthropy (aka: InanimatusConjurus, aka: paintahappylittletree, aka: SeeYouNextTuesday), and tehriaz (aka: asunderpants, aka: omgriri). Details on the events leading up to each of these decisions will be posted as I have time to go through the various records.
UPDATED 6 Oct 09: We have since banned 2 more individuals: beneathglass (aka Lia, aka loviatorthertip, aka herokitty) and ebonykawai (aka httpoo, aka raineygirl)
On December 12, 2004, Unseelie sent a brand new member a harassing PM and blocked her from being able to respond and received a 30% warning and a notice that further similar actions would be taken seriously. On April 17, 2005, she created a topic devoted about how "horrible and wretched" another member's signature was, and received a warning because her tone and words again violated the good manners rule. One month later, she altered her profile to verbally attack a moderator, and because she had already shown a pattern of harassment (both member and moderator), she was banned. (Incidentally, if this happened now, it would probably have been handled differently; these days, we prefer to give a suspension before banning.)
On May 31, 2006 after registering a new account here, wax attempted to hack our forum. As a result, he was banned.
On June 26, 2006, Rain Drop Angel (RDA) posted that AngelFireHeart (AFH) at committed suicide. After noticing that AFH had been logging in after her so-called death, we started doing a little investigation into her forum activity, and discovered AFH had been using the PM system after her "death," and that the person known to be behind the AFH account had made at least one account elsewhere (specifically on lost.fm) as RDA. Because of our suspicions, we did contact her local coroner's office, and was told that nobody had died at that address on or around the date we were told AFH had died, making this a case of pseudocide. As a result, on July 23, 2006, both accounts were banned for their outrageous abuse of our community.
Note that if this happened today, our duplicate account tools would be able to catch any account switching and new account creating, so the extent that was gone to prove to ourselves that this really was a case of pseudocide would be unnecessary.
We're going to be doing a bunch of updates in the next two weeks. The last I heard, the forum's going to be down on SATURDAY, Sept 15, for a period of 12-36 hours (depending on how long it takes us to verify and debug).
Most of the updates are pretty boring and won't effect you overly much, but there's one big one: we're implementing a brand new the search engine for the forum. It's faster, allows us to let you search for one or two character things (though we've forced it to require at least two characters), better results, and in the coming weeks, should be querying the topic descriptions along with the titles. Also, right now, it's just set up for the forum itself, but it's got the capability to be integrated with the upcoming wiki and our blogs as well, which is pretty cool.
On August 22, 2007, MissAnthropy created a new account (InanimatusConjurus) for the purposes of trolling in the Conjure Oils thread. She was subsequently put on a 1-month suspension. Within an hour of her suspension, she created a second new account (paintahappylittletree), presumably to continue monitoring the situation with Conjure Oils. At this point in time, she had an additional 6-months added to her suspension for attempting to circumvent her suspension. Within two hours, she created a third new account (SeeYouNextTuesday), using a transparent proxy and sent me the following message. At this point in time, she was banned.
There have been rumors floating about administrative action dealing with secondary accounts and banning. (I'm saying "secondary account" rather than "duplicate account" because we're now seeing forum members loan their accounts to other people - so the second account that's involved isn't necessarily "duplicate", but it's not an approved usage.)
Like everything else on the internet, these tools create logs. We review the logs both in batches and individually. We occasionally target individual accounts that have been suspended from swapping, reported as a swaplifter, or suspended (in general) for non-random screening -- to ensure that people who aren't supposed to be accessing the forum or particular areas of the forum aren't doing so by other means and to ensure that people who are ripping off forum members aren't doing it with multiple accounts (such as last year's love.is.suicide/simple.delight incident).
We could probably do away with all of these tools by forcing users to use services like ConfirmID to prove that they are who they say they are, but that requires all users be over 18, doesn't work for all countries, may not work if you've not got ready access to your proof of identity papers, and costs money -- and that doesn't work for us.
Let me repeat: at the end of the day, all of this is to make sure that people who aren't supposed to be accessing the forum/parts of the forum (banned users, suspended users, and users who are restricted from certain areas of the forum) cannot do so, and that people who are trying to rip off others can't do so with as many accounts as they care to create. Furthermore, things like occasionally logging in at a friend's house, or a coworker's computer, or a computer lab rarely trigger our asking questions, and being picked out as having unusual account traffic patterns doesn't usually result in any more than just a standard questionnaire.
But I digress.
We have been hearing rumors about how wichapi's account became banned, and since some of these rumors allege some shocking activities on our part, we are going to address this issue. Normally, it's not our practice to publicly disclose the specific reasons for banning someone, but with these allegations roaming around about the reasons for this banning, we've decided to what happened a matter of public record.
On February 11th, May 17th, and June 23rd (all in 2007), wichapi violated our price caps. Our policy on price caps states that on the third offense, users' accounts are barred from swapping for two months; on a fourth offence, they are permanently barred from swapping. I'm not going to discuss the merits of barring frequent price cap violators in this post -- that's its own discussion. Obviously, any swaps that were already in progress at the time of her banning could continue to their rightful conclusion -- but until late August, she could not start new swaps here at the forum. (Obviously, there was nothing stopping her from swapping on LJ or NALF or other locations.)
Swaps were initiated on or around June 30, July 9th, July 10th by wichapi - despite having her access to the swaps forum taken away on June 23rd. Our logs showed that during this period of time, wichapi was using the account of a coworker ("Black Medicine") to access the forum from her computer. Literally: someone(s) was logging out of wichapi's account, logging into the "Black Medicine" account, look at topics in the swap forums, log out of the "Black Medicine" account, log into the wichapi account, and go about her business (including arranging swaps, as evidenced by shipping notifications and timestamps on the swap posts she had been responding to). Whether they were doing it together or it was just wichapi is irrelevant - both types of actions intentionally subvert wichapi's ban on swapping on this forum.
On July 13th, the "Black Medicine" account was banned for abusing one of our members, abusing one of our moderators, and a long-established refusal to follow our guidelines. As is standard when we ban someone, we banned not only the account, but email addresses and IP addresses associated with it.
On July 14th, wichapi contacted us because she was unable to access the forum. This initiated the duplicate account analyzer while we were waiting to hear back about what IP address(es) she was attempting to access the forum from.
On July 15th, the account "ShyinChi" was created from wichapi's computer at home. Unlike most new users, this account accessed the New Members Validation Center (required by all users), scanned topics in the Introductions forum (which is where you go after you verify that you've read our rules), and visited several topics in the various swaps forums. Even when they don't read topics or participate, almost all of our new users visit other forums as well.
On July 16th, it was established that while wichapi's computer was behind a network both at home and work, to the best of her knowledge, she is the only person that uses her computers. (Incidentally, this does imply that she had obtained the password for "Black Medicine".)
On July 18th, wichapi mentioned that "Black Medicine" had accessed the forum from work - something we had already known. Nothing was said regarding home access, or about the "ShyinChi" account.
On July 22nd, wichapi's account was suspended from the forum as a whole for 6 months, and at the conclusion of her suspension, it would be suspended from the swaps section for an additional 3 month. This suspension was entirely due to the fact that two secondary accounts (one legitimate account, "Black Medicine", and one duplicate account, "ShyinChi") were used to access the swaps forum from wichapi's computers at home AND work while wichapi was banned from swapping. In her suspension notification, she was informed that any additional duplicate account activity would result in her account being banned from the forum.
On July 23rd, the account "MaineEvent" was created from wichapi's computer at work.
On July 24th, wichapi's account was banned from the forum, with the caveat that if we saw account activity from the two accounts that wichapi claims she did not create that demonstrated that they were in fact separate accounts (that is: not using her computer or network accounts), we would reverse the ban and continue on with the suspension.
On July 29th, wichapi provided the names of the individuals she claims created those accounts (two visiting artists), and complained that it wasn't fair that we were pegging her reinstatement on them. Additionally, she accused us of illegally penetrating her firewall in order to determine what happened on individual computers.
On July 31st, we notified her that her account was permanently banned.
To summarize: wichapi was initially barred from swapping for two months because she violated the price caps three times. It wasn't permanent, and it only applied to the swaps forum. Everything after that stemmed from her attempts to circumvent that barring, first by using other people's accounts, and then creating multiple accounts. After more than a dozen e-mails exchanged between she and we, during which she blamed co-workers at work and guests -- despite the fact that the log-in patterns clearly demonstrated that some of these other accounts were primarily logging on to spot potential swap partners, then logging back off so wichapi could contact them. At the end of the day, she was persistently attempting to circumvent the rules, and when we presented her with the evidence of that, she went so far as to accuse us of hacking her computers in obtaining that evidence. (For the record: we didn't.) As a result, we decided that she was not going to abide by our rules and had no wish to: we banned her.
If you remember during last year's raffle, we moved to a dedicated server. It seemed large and huge at the time - a 3800+ dual core server with 2GB of RAM. A few months ago, we had to upgrade the RAM to 3GB. Not a big deal, we expected we'd need to have more member eventually, and our estimates for the third GB were pretty close to when we actually needed it.
As those of you who surf late at night are aware, over the last few months, the forum has been slowing down (and occasionally locking up) during our nightly backup, and we've locked up during the day a few times. The technical support staff at LiquidWeb, our host, recommended that we upgrade the RAM.
After considering our options, we ultimately decided to do a major server upgrade. Because Liquidweb is having a large sale on their top-of-the-line machines, and we were willing to do some modifications to our setup (namely, eliminate our RAID set up), it was cheaper to do the upgrade ($5/mo) than to add another stick of RAM ($20/mo). The biggest reason to do this instead of just another stick of RAM is that 4GB maxes out our current server's RAM capabilities. (The extra processing power certainly didn't hurt!) After that, we'd have to build a new server - and the prices wouldn't necessarily be as advantageous then and it could cost as much as $1,200/yr more.
Anyway, our new server's still being built by LiquidWeb, and we don't know when exactly it'll be ready for us to start moving things over. It's quite the powerhouse, though: two of Intel's Clovertown processors (which are quad-core, with each core being 1800 MHz), with up to 12GB of RAM. We're only going to have 4GB, though - going to 8GB will cost an extra $100/mo, and going to 12GB would be $200/mo more. If that wasn't enough of a speed bump, we're having them install the php accelerator, and in the coming months, Invision is releasing a new version of the forum that has database improvements, which should also further speed things up.
This is a forum mod that's related to a forum update!
When we come back from our software upgrade, around the 26th, there will be a super cool new feature in the Swap forum, in the form of a little button.
This button'll only show up in the Swapping forums, and only in topics that you've started. Clicking it will do three things:
Close the topic, so no more entries can be added to it,
Archive the topic to the Dead Swaps Cemetery, so it'll no longer be in swaps, and
Award you one point for the trouble of closing your swap topic.
Once the forum update occurs, you'll no longer need to click the "Report" button and wait for a moderator to archive your topic - you can do it yourself!
In the next month or so, we're planning on doing a small forum upgrade (the one I talked about a few blogs ago). One of the new toys we're going to install is eAccelerator, which is something that really doesn't affect you other than it makes the server go faster - kind of like how you can boil water faster in the microwave than you can over a low burner on the stovetop.
Or at least, that's how the theory goes!
I really am not sure if this should go in Guidelines or Forum Mods, because it's both.
One of the cool things that IP.Board 2.2 did was create "user notes". Now, these "user notes", as originally implemented, could only be added to the warning log through the Admin Control Panel (or ACP), which is all and good but useless if we want our moderators to use them.
So, I wrote a fairly small modification to the warning system (and language and skin caches) so that our moderators could add them through the warning system without actually changing a user's warning level. (Unrelated, while I was there, I also added something so people will always get a notification when a warning is added or removed or a new reminder is added - we'll always be on the same page).
This will impact how things are done around here in several ways, and we're still working out what exactly will happen.
Right now, it looks like what may happen is this: for most things (duplicate topics, swapping outside the swap area, etc), instead of getting a PM or a warning, the first time will get you a reminder. A second offense will get you a warning. We may or may not take time into consideration (but, of course, will let you know how it ends up), so it could be that if it's been a long time, that second offense will just get a reminder as well. There will still be things that go straight to warning - but these are major offenses like trolling or abusive behavior.
Three of the IP.Board mods I'm working on for the new forum version are things that better integrate the censura feedback with the forum.
The zero-th thing - something that's not a mod, but a feature of 2.2 - is that we're going to restrict login names to a-z, A-Z, and 0-9. It's unfortunate that we'll need to do that, but censura poops on characters.
The first thing - we're going to be adding a "feedback" button to the skins for the swaps forums, or something along those lines. This way, even if someone doesn't post their feedback link, it's immediately available. We've actually got the skin doing this in our test forum, we just need to make buttons! We actually cut this from our additions, because it doesn't work for all the skins (and I mean that in an aesthetics sense, not in a technological sense).
The second thing - I'm going to set it up so that feedback pages are created when people register. It's actually mostly done, but we can't test it until we transition the forum to 2.2.
The third thing - top secret because I'm not actually sure if it's do-able, but it involves a new way of having the swap feedback in the user profile. (Update: doable, but I don't have the time to do it right now, so it's on the back-burner.)
Invision, the company that developed the forum software we use, recently released the next version of the forum software. This doesn't mean that downtime is imminent - we'll announce it a few days before we begin the upgrade. But, it is coming.
If you want to see what the default forum looks like with version 2.2, you can visit the Invision forum. I don't believe they've got any mods up, but I could be wrong.
One of the more interesting changes is a slight change in how the warning system works -- in addition to being able to give warnings and reverse them, moderators will be able to add notes. I'm not sure how exactly we'll use them, but I'm guessing that things that aren't warnable on a first offense (things like violating our signature image restrictions, or having an avatar that doesn't meet our work safe standard) will be noted in there. One thing that I do know: I've already modified the system slightly, based on feedback we've gotten - now, whenever you get a new note (beit a new warning or just a note), you'll get a PM letting you know that it has been issued.
And that brings another change to mind: no longer will people with full in-boxes have their PMs from the moderating staff bounced. Right now, if someone's in-box is full, we can't send PMs and in fact, have to give them a bigger capacity to contact them.
One of the things I regularly hear is how hard it is to read the guidelines, especially if you're looking for something nuanced or aren't sure what section it would be in. So, we'll likely be adding a FAQ system for the guidelines. This will probably come out sometime after we upgrade to 2.2, and after we finish a complete revision of our guidelines.
So, if there's anything guideline-related that confuses you, you think people aren't sure about, you hear rumblings about when talking to your friends or reading the forums, please be sure to mention it here! Beyond getting an answer to your question, I'll keep it in mind when we're compiling our FAQ!
A few of our long-existing code tweaks are here for duplicate account detection. For the most part, we haven't done much with them. We've got a great set of members here, and most of our members wouldn't purposely make duplicate accounts. A few have made new accounts in the past when they've forgotten their logins or passwords, or who weren't able to get their account to validate properly, and that's ok. I was actually surprised at the number of people who PM'd me after last Sunday's reminder about duplicate accounts telling me that they'd made accounts but never used them. Kudos to you for letting me know & straightening it out! I really do appreciate it.
But, we've had some people that, for whatever reason, create duplicate accounts. Some of them do it to get around account restrictions (like the swaplifters I mentioned in my previous post). Others do it to troll, others do it just so they've got a sock puppet ("just in case").
And I'll say it again: most people do not realize what all is recorded whenever you use the internet. Not to sound all "big-brother" like, but every click you make, every hotlink you make, every time you view anything, every time you log in to check your webmail, or log out of your amazon account... it all gets logged, and by multiple people. Your ISP. The ISPs along the route. The server. If the site you're viewing is database driven, likely that database as well. Nobody may be paying attention, but it's all there. This is standard practice, and we're no different.
Anyway, back to the point of all of this, I won't get into specifics as to how our duplicate topic tools work, except this:
IP addresses can vary between times of logging onto (especially for people who use dial-up internet, where you'll get a different IP each time you log-in to your ISP), and people can legitimately have the same IP (for instance, people who use AOL will often have the same IP, or people who work at the same corporation site, or people who use wireless). Cookies, however, do not. They're unique to your computer.
As a result, if someone comes up as a duplicate account on our cookie analyzer, it's given much more weight than someone who comes up as a duplicate account on our IP analyzers, and they will be contacted with a short and painless survey to get a brief idea as to what is going on. 99% of these people are legitimate - people who are using a computer lab or sharing a computer or signing into approved specialty accounts (such as the "switch witch" account), or again - people whose accounts weren't validating properly.
To date, there's only been one person who flat out refused to answer my questions about this. And people, these questions aren't rocket science. It's things like "Do you share your computer?" or "How do you connect to the internet?"
Though, I should correct my statement: she answered them on her duplicate account I found the answers to be questionably at best (there were alot of inconsistencies with what she claimed and what she answered). For instance, she claimed to have found the Lab through NALF (the North America Lush Forum, for those that aren't familiar with it - who is members-only for their "Retail Therapy" equivalent). She also claimed to use the same username everywhere. Well, you know what? It doesn't take more than 5 minutes to go to NALF and scan through their member list to determine whether or not the account exists there.
And I looked, because I am nothing if not thorough. If I am going to tell my moderators and co-administrator that we have a duplicate account - ESPECIALLY when it's a person that we (as a whole) do not have the best relationship with - I want to be damn sure that I have as clear an idea of what is going on as possible.
There comes a point in time where coincidences are stretched too thinly, and when the story I'm told by one account isn't holding up to examination, I have to use Occam's Razor: that the simplest explanation that accounts for all of the evidence is the most likely explanation.
And I'm not stating this to "argue my position". You can take this, or you can leave this. But I prefer transparency to what goes on around here, especially in something that has become so drama-riffic.
So here are the facts, as I see them, on anxious1 and her duplicate account usage. This is not a comprehensive list, as that would be quite long. First, a timeline.
(Unrelated) Mid April, anxious1 basically gets kicked out of NALF for breaking their e-tailer policies. A note, for those that aren't a member of NALF, that their e-tailer policies are very similiar to ours - especially . If you search for her username (also anxious1) and show just the posts, you'll see she made 12 posts, of which 1 was a negative review about a LUSH product. The rest were pimping her business.
On 6/12, anxious1 originally gets reminded about the e-tailer rules, which state that she cannot be here for just pimping her goods, and that she needs to participate in the forum as a whole and cannot use the forum to support her business.
In early July, we posted an announcement in Retail Therapy reminding e-tailers about our rules. This is unrelated to anxious1 - we'd just been noticing a bunch of e-tailers coming in to pimp their business.
On 7/21, she gets moved to the "e-tailer" member group, as she is continuing to break our rules.
On 7/26, after much discussion, this group (of which anxious1 is NOT the only member) has its ability to see most BPAL-related forums (including: Suggestions, Recommendations, Swaps, BPAL Chatter, TAL Chatter) taken away. This is unrelated to anxious1 and had been under discussion, off and on, for a few months. For clarification: here, I refer to restricting what the member group can view, not the member group itself. We've been using the e-tailer member group for over a year.
On 7/27, anxious1 creates the account "Testing123" from her home computer.
On 7/28, she PMs several of the e-tailers that follow our rules (and thus aren't even part of the "e-tailer" member group). I wouldn't be surprised if she also PM'd the individuals in the e-tailer group, but most of them left after we asked them to stop only posting about their products. Incidentally, I know this because these individuals contacted us.
On 10/17, we notice that there was a rather suspicious-sounding account ("Testing123") that was accessing some weird topic that one of the mods was looking at. The moderator who noticed the Testing123 does a quick IP-post search and finds out that the only person who has posted from that IP is anxious1.
On 10/17, I start working with our analyzing tools to see what's going on with those accounts, and to go ahead and do a sweep for duplicate accounts. (As you know, duplicate accounts are not allowed. So, the analysis on IPs and what not started happening then. It's a slow and painful process, because there's quite a bit of information to go through.) I also given both accounts vastly restricted forum permissions (the same permissions everyone who hasn't certified the original set of guidelines is in, incidentally).
Around 10/18, anxious1 obtains a third account. One of her customers had created a second account in July 05 (jasperzwrath) when she was having issues accessing our forum, and gives her the login because anxious1 "wants to check in the H&E thread". Incidentally, this individual came to me to tell me what happened with her duplicate account shortly after the duplicate account announcement was put up. It's important to note here that I can tell, by timestamps & IPs & cookies, which user (anxious1 or the original owner) accessed which topics. So when I say that anxious1 accessed, on this account, a topic, I really do know that it was her and not the original owner. And these duplicate accounts accessed more than the H&E topic - including some Recommendations, Suggestions (mostly for foody oils, incidentally, the very kind of oils she tends to sell), Swaps, BPAL Chatter, as well as the other perfume shops. The first four of those, to reiterate, anxious1 cannot access under that account.
By 10/18, the anxious1 analysis is more-or-less complete. The cookie analysis was incomplete, but the IP analysis showed that the vast majority of her posts (108 out of 112) were made at three IPs - two I identify as "Work" (being her Fortune 500, day job employer, which had 72 posts), one I identify as "Home" (being a typical broadband provider for the area). The other four posts were made from other places. Of these seven IPs, there are exactly THREE accounts with any traffic: anxious1, Testing123, and jasperzwrath.
By 10/19, the cookie analysis is complete. The cookies show that at the Work IP and the Home IP, anxious1 switched back and forth between jasperzwrath, Testing123, and anxious1 during the previous week. We'd also found three other accounts that used multiple accounts. All accounts get a PM & restricted access.
By 10/21, all outstanding accounts have answered the survey EXCEPT for anxious1 (who stated that "Are you saying that I have dual accounts? I do not and am not going to be subjected to questions" when we originally asked, and never did answer my questions). Despite not having a firm answer from anxious1, feel there's enough evidence between the IPs, the cookies, the statement from the jasperzwrath original owner, and inconsistencies with what Testing123 was saying and anxious1 was saying to call it a duplicate account. Incidentally, one of the inconsistencies that Testing123 had said is that she didn't know who anxious1 was, but that "she frequently visited the H&E topic".
If it was just an IP similarity, it could be a coincidence that someone works near anxious1 and happens to also live near her. It becomes less so when you take into consideration that the cookies are showing the accounts regularly share a computer, and nobody claims to share a computer. It's even less so when you have someone tell you that anxious1 was using their duplicate account. And less so when one of the accounts is flat-out lying in their responses (such as when Testing123 claimed to use Testing123 everywhere, hear about us via the NA Lush Forum, and when checking, there's no member with the ID "Testing123" there).
Note that here, I have not said a WORD about how anxious1 runs her business, though there are two blogs that I've seen that sort of talk about it. I am ONLY commenting on our duplicate account policy and a little bit about how we uncovered one specific duplicate account.
And, if you're still reading this, I applaud your ability to listen to me ramble.
I'm sharing all of this for several reasons:
First and foremost, I do think people need to know that we can, and do, identify duplicate accounts, and that in most cases (thus far), it's nothing major. Nobody that has been honest and up-front with us have been warned for making this mistake.
Secondly, I want people to realize that when we bust someone for having a duplicate account, it's not just a matter of two IPs matching. It involves a pattern of traffic (both in IPs and in cookies), personal discussion with the accounts, and some fact-checking.
Finally, with the to-do with anxious1 being suspended, I thought people should know what happened. And that at the end of the day: she was suspended not for the e-tailer violations (though it was a consideration in the duration of the suspension), not for the creation of the duplicate accounts... but for lying about using other accounts, about misleading us via one account, and for trying to claim that it was all one giant coincidence.
One of the non-mod-related modifications that I've done in the last few months was set up the feedback to show a note for the people that have been banned from swapping on our forum. This is mostly for the LJ folks, because there are people who will list their forum feedback with their LJ feedback, or LJ folks that search for usernames on the forum to check the feedback.
So, there you go. Unsure if someone has the ability to swap here? Check their feedback.
Though, the same note shows up for people that have lost their access to the swap forum because of violations to the price caps - but if they've got feedback, chances are if they lost access to swaps because of swaplifting, they'll have feedback reflecting that.
HOWEVER, that said, keep in mind that we have been analyzing our logs and finding a few swaplifters that have made duplicate accounts. Some using 'em, some not.
The swaps feedback, links, and gallery are finally live!
I hope y'all find the swaps feedback useful, and if there are things you want to see changed, please mention it here, Forum Ideas, or shoot me a PM. There's a great deal of things I can't change (the core of the program is encrypted), but there's a great deal that I can. I've already modified a HUGE amount of the code to get it to work with the forum and to look nice -- it originally looked something between this and this. And you know us, we don't like those ugly, bland default layouts!
In other news, the "original poster can view invisible threads" modification works again -- and I'm sure those who have been dinged for price cap violations will be much relieved to have direct access to their topics once more, as well as those who start decant circles (so they can report 'em to be checked).
In unrelated news, I've been working on my new pet project: moving my foodie ramblings from LJ over to a proper food blog. I've got about 12 of 62(ish) entries over, and then I have a ton of recipes here and already on my site that I want to move over... I think I should be done in about two weeks. My friend Mike is supposedly making a layout for the blog (not because I can't, but because he got inspired by the name), but until then, I'm just using a public template.
Roar, one of the mods that I've been wanting to install for ages (a mod that basically takes images more than 480px wide and resizes them to be 200px wide) isn't working with the changes with the latest update. This makes me sad, very sad.
Another mod that's making me sad? The trash can mod. Boo, hiss!
Another thing making me sad? AFAIK, the chat is still broken. And this is something I absolutely cannot fix because we don't host it!
What's making me happy? Our links engine works. Our gallery works. Our feedback works. I fully expect that we should be announcing them as "live" this week, as soon as we get our ducks in a row.
Entry title: April Showers / April Tears.