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Journal sllort's Journal: Slashdot-Modbombing-Disable-HOWTO 26

Modbombing Disable HOWTO for Slashdot

Author : sllort

Revision : 1.00, 02/21/2002

Revision History
Revision v.100 - Creation

Table of Contents

  1. Modbombing?
    1. What is Modbombing?
    2. Do Editors approve of Modbombing?
    3. Can Modbombing happen to me?
    4. Is Modbombing against the rules?
  2. Disabling Modbombing
    1. Archiving
    2. Getting comments Archived
    3. User History Basics
    4. Putting it all together
  1. Modbombing
    1. What is Modbombing?
    2. Modbombing is a pretty simple concept. Let's say that, for whatever reason, someone doesn't like you. Now let's say that person has moderator points. If this person is an Editor, they have unlimited points all the time. If this person is a User, they have some points sometimes. Modbombing is when a Moderator uses your Comment History to find old posts that you have made and moderate them down unfairly. If the Moderator in question uses Overrated, there is no accountability in Metamoderation for Modbombing activity. The point of Modbombing is to lower your karma under zero, rendering you effectively mute.

    3. Do Editors approve of Modbombing?
    4. That question is best answered by the Editors:

      "As for the other stuff, with a name like that, my guess is that many moderators will nail you anyway. Its your own fault I guess. If your comment history shows you has having [sic] trolled, many moderators will note that, and treat you appropriately." - Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda

      Trolling is just a subjective label from the particular discussion this comment was made in; the principle is Universal. Modbombing is an accepted practice for silencing dissent. In the words of Michael Sims:

      "If that's what you're bitching about, too bad. ... you should expect a bad result for that account." - Michael Sims.

    5. Can Modbombing happen to me?
    6. Well, there were 250,000 Slashdot Users at the time this document was written. If you post enough, or if you post things that someone doesn't like, the chances of you getting an enemy is pretty good. Slashdot Editors encourage retribution through Modbombing. The best way to answer this question is to wait and see it happen to your account.

    7. Is Modbombing against the rules?
    8. As they stand, only in spirit. It is entirely possible that every time you are asked to moderate, you decide that "User X" has 5 Overrated comments that he posted last week. Considering that Taco has publicly endorsed Modbombing, the chances of any consequences for the Modbomber or their account is essentially nil, especially since Moderation is anonymous.

  2. Disabling Modbombing
    1. Archiving
    2. First, we'll need to understand the Slashdot Archiving system. After a few weeks, older Stories (and their comments) are Archived. This means that Moderation totals are fixed, and the comments can no longer be moderated. Archiving happens to stories that are about 15 days old. You can find the Archival Event Horizon, which is the point at which one old story is archived but the next one is not. To do this, click this link, and then change the field in the URL that reads issue=YYYYMMDD to read the date that is exactly 15 days ago. Now, search for stories with the string "This discussion has been archived. No more comments can be posted". When you find the exact story which directly precedes an archived story, you have found the Archival Event Horizon.

    3. Getting Comments Archived
    4. Once you've found the Archival Event Horizon, this is pretty easy. Find the oldest non-Archived story, and load it at -1, Nested, Newest First. Find a very, very obscure AC post, and reply to it. In about an hour, the post that you make will be Archived, and the chances that anyone will find this post between when you make it and when it is Archived is almost zero. If you are clever, you can make your post almost minutes before the story is archived.

    5. User History Basics
    6. There's a very important Slashcode bug which is key to understanding how Modbombing can be disabled. Look at your User History. This is what all Slash users see when they look at you. Notice that there are at max 24 entries? This means that any comments except these 24 are invisible to other Users. A potential Modbomber wishing to find posts other than the ones in your User History would have to recursively load all of Slashdot and then search this file - and recursively loading all of Slashdot's database would get a User IP banned for a DOS attack. In short, it is impossible to find any post you have made other than the first 24 in your User History.

    7. Putting it all together
    8. Imagine for a moment that you posted 24 comments to a story that sat just minutes in front of the Archival Event Horizon. A few minutes later, every comment in your User History would be Archived. Archived comments cannot be moderated. Viola! You are immune to Modbombing! Now, whatever you post can be moderated down, but potential Modbombers can only spend one point on you before moving on. They cannot trash your karma and wreak havoc with your account. 24 comments may seem like a lot, but in my experience the time spent Disabling Modbombing can prove extremely helpful, especially if you have something unpopular to say. Not sure what to put in all those comments? Let me start you off with Chomskybot, a wonderful program that creates a unique, completely valid Slashdot comment that will pass the Lameness Filter every time. Keep in mind that Editors have the ability to look at every post you've ever made, so if you Disable Modbombing but still get Modbombed, you've just been Modbombed by an Editor. In this case, I can do nothing to help you. You're screwed.

    Please use this information to promote Moderation Fairness and to help others. Good luck!


This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.


Comments Filter:
  • I imagine this will get disabled (or, more likely, people who do it will be silently punished) soon, though.

    slashdot has never been very proactive in stemming the tide of abuse, and it's never been very effective at preventing the existence of a reason to do it.

    - A.P.
  • This post is dedicated to the famous nazi and pseudocelebrity, Michael Simms.

    Still moderating and metamoderating after all these years. Hello everybody!

  • I saw your journal entry because you're in my friends list, and that means that something you said once appeared intelligent to me. But now I can't remember what it was, all I see in your comments list is bot-generated tripe, and your journal contains a paranoid rant about how you're in danger of being persistently modded down by vindictive people who hate you.

    Oh well, I guess that's one less item for my friends list.

    • What you see in my comments list is not bot-generated, rather it is a hand-generated proof-of-concept for disabling Slashdot Modbombing. I figured I would at least make sure it was feasible before writing documentation about it; otherwise I would be providing untested functionality to my audience. If you're complaining that you can't see the entirety of the comments I have posted, I would point out that you are complaining to the wrong person.

      As far as paranoia goes, I'm providing this mainly as a service to others; I've stated repeatedly that the karma of this account and my other accounts is really not an issue. Modbombing happens, I'm just trying to let the people it happens to defend themselves in some way. Knowledge is power, so they say.

      I'm not really sure how or why you can characterize this piece of documentation as a rant, but that is, of course, your prerogative.

      Take care.
      • What you see in my comments list is not bot-generated, rather it is a hand-generated proof-of-concept for disabling Slashdot Modbombing.

        If that is the case, then you are rather further gone than I thought. What's the point of filling Slashdot with all that drivel?

        • What's the point of filling Slashdot with all that drivel?

          The point in my case was to make sure it was technically feasible to disable Modbombing. It would have been irresponsible of me to publish this HOWTO without making sure that my technique was feasible. The point in the case of other people would be to actually disable Modbombing. 24 comments deep in an old story is hardly even noticed, let alone "filling Slashdot". However, it may provide valuable protection to people who are regularly attacked by vindictive moderators. Please, read the HOWTO - it's rather clear on what the purpose is.

          It's about protection.
          • However, it may provide valuable protection to people who are regularly attacked by vindictive moderators.

            This is the part of your "mod-bombing" scenario that I find most implausible. There are hundreds of thousands of users on Slashdot, maybe twenty-to-fifty thousand of whom are regulars at any one time. Any one of those is potentially a candidate for moderator. Your scenario seems to require a small but dedicated band of sllort-hating users all repeatedly getting moderator status (five whole points) and then squandering the points on a vindictive and unjustified personal attack.

            Kinda, you know, unbelievable.

            • I lost 40 karma in one day to Modbombing. Not that I care, but some people do. Believe it or not, there was once a group of people running a PHP script known as the "Mod Farm", whereby they could generate on any given day hundreds of mod points using dummy accounts.

              Nobody thought that Moderators were mass banned until it happened. There are a lot of things that people don't believe... Modbombing, IP banning for non-abuse, Editor Mass Moderation... I've only been able to prove some of them. Read my other journal entries - recent events have been eye opening for a lot of people.

              Here's the thing: if it doesn't happen to you, don't worry about it. You've only posted 4 comments, so you are, as they say, a babe in the woods. There are a lot of more experienced users who are repeatedly Modbombed, and they have found this defensive technique to be useful. Now I'm making it Open Source. Please don't attack the tool just because you don't need it.

              • You've only posted 4 comments, so you are, as they say, a babe in the woods.

                It doesn't pay to make unwarranted assumptions about how long someone has followed Slashdot. It's easy to create a new account when your old one reaches 50 and things get a little boring and predictable. This whole Karma thing seems to obsess some people, but it doesn't have to because it only gives you at most a single point advantage over new registrations. It just isn't worth getting upset about. If you want people to read your comments, you only have to say something interesting.

                You talk about IP banning for non-abuse out of one side of your mouth, and out of the other you are recommending that people bomb Slashdot with over a score of fake comments generated by a botscript! In the circumstances, I don't think I can trust your assessment of what is and is not abuse. That you are capable of losing forty karma points in one day entirely through your own efforts seems to me entirely believable--no need to look for modbombers to account for such an event.

                • That you are capable of multi-account abuse and karma whoring out of one side of your mouth and finger pointing and wild accusations out of the other is entirely believable. You are an excellent metatroll, and you've taken me, what, five comments deep now? I salute your excellent trolling skills.

                  Well played.
                  • I don't think it's necessary to respond to your more eccentric observations You seem to have a seriously warped view of the nature and purpose of the moderation system, and I don't expect ever to find common ground with you. I'll leave you with the last word, should you want it.
            • This is the part of your "mod-bombing" scenario that I find most implausible. There are hundreds of thousands of users on Slashdot, maybe twenty-to-fifty thousand of whom are regulars at any one time. Any one of those is potentially a candidate for moderator. Your scenario seems to require a small but dedicated band of sllort-hating users all repeatedly getting moderator status (five whole points) and then squandering the points on a vindictive and unjustified personal attack.

              I disagree. I'm not one of the paranoids here, but Slashdot is not as large a community as you might think. There are approximately 600,000 accounts, yes. But what percentage of those accounts are dormant (aka haven't done a *thing* for six months)? How many are extra accounts. I iagine several users have three accounts: a moderator account, a real post account, and an account that alternately karma whores and trolls. (the proof that this goes on is easy to find: look at the fact that they IP block, not just account block).

              I'd say that on the average day, Slashdot has 30,000 unique readers (since they only have a million daily views and I account for in the low three digits of that, 30 page views/reader-day is probably reasonably accurate). Now, some percentage of those are anonymous. Say it's 40% (which I would tend to think is low). So 18,000 are logged in in a day. Forgetting the modbanning issue, let's guess how many people get mod access in a day. First of all, the newbie restriction. The latest few thousand accounts cannot moderate. Since the 18,000 active accounts likely holds many of these newbies, let's take 5,000 potential moderators out. So 13,000 are left. Of these, only those who are close to "average" in the page view department get selected. Figure it's the middle 60%. So 7,800 are eligible to moderate. How many have adequate karma? Maybe another 60%. So that cuts us down to 4,680 eligible. Now, what percentage are either unwilling to moderate or don't exercise it. I'd say that 40% is probably reasonable. That leaves us with 2,808 who are likely to get priveleges. Since only a portion of these can mod, it's probably reasonable to conclude that less than 2000 users moderate in a day. Many of these likely get priveleges on a regular basis.

              In short, modbombing is a threat, and a major one. What is the best solution? Metamoderation (although maybe not in it's present form). I while back, I wrote a journal entry about my metamod theory. In short, one step in the right direction is to defualt to rewarding up mod and punishing down mod. Only in the most glaring cases do I deviate from this approach.

              • I'm not one of the paranoids here

                Well I'm not so sure about that. You see, you seem to be as obsessed with moderation and metamoderation, trolling and "karma-whoring" as poor old sllort, here. One item from your journal, for instance:

                I guess maybe I'm depressed 'cuz after a couple of months of solid 50, I've been bouncing between 49 and 50...

                So you get depressed whenever somebody mods an article you wrote down? Why? You oscillate between 49 and 50, so it isn't as if you're going to dip below 25 and lose the precious extra posting point. There seems to be a severe failure to maintain a sense of proportion.

                Having said that, I think your guestimates on moderation figures probably aren't too far out. And I think the strategy of metamoderating plus points as fair as long as the article is okay, and minus points as unfair, is reasonable. A moderator should ideally use his points to mark up interesting articles, and we readers can choose our reading level accordingly.

                Another point I'd raise is that the friends/foes system now gives us more ability to choose whose articles we see. It's quite a simple matter to look for interesting articles, add the author to your friends list, and then visit their friends and check out their articles, adding the good ones to your friends list. Add a few trolls for entertainment, and then you can easily set your preferences to award a large number of plus points to friends, and then browse slashdot on a higher score level, such as 3, in which case you'll be able to follow the interesting discussions without spending all day on slashdot.

                My current friends list has been compiled from my interactions with users since the friends/foes system was introduced. Some people are there just because of who they are in real life rather than any contributions they make to Slashdot discussions (Brad Templeton and Bruce Perens, for instance), others have contributed to discussions I have posted to or read. Still others have occasionally trolled in a way that I found entertaining at the time. And then there are people who added one of my accounts to their friends list, and who on investigation seemed to be worth reading.

                I'm adding you and sllort to my friends list, because although I disagree with your points of view and think you're both becoming very nitpicky, you both do a good job of expressing marginal opinions that I might otherwise not consider. Who knows, you might one day even convince me that you're right! So I remain unconvinced, not to say extremely skeptical, but I haven't closed my mind to the real possibility of severe and widespread abuse of the moderation system. I agree with both of you that such abuse, especially if supported by the editors, would be worrying.

  • Your logic is correct, except for the fact that the editors can get access to all of your posts without tripping a DOS attack, and with unlimited points, they then can mod you down to obscurity. Mod bombing is really impossible for the normal moderator, because as you noted, they only have 5 points. Editor mod bombing is not inhibited by the archiving flags.

    I regret to report we live in a totalitarian state.
    • Correct, I cannot prevent you getting Modbombed by Editors (I stated this...). However, if you have protected yourself and you get Modbombed by Editors, at least you know it was them. I still don't know who did it to me - whether it was Editors or people farming accounts. It's a bit of a mystery.

      Modbombing is not impossible for an "abnormal" user, that is, someone using a script to farm mod points. To this day, I have no idea if I was attacked by an editor or a group of users or a script. This technique could definitely narrow it down.
  • I had no problem finding your comments with a google search [google.com].

    There's no 24 entry limit on google.

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. -- Niels Bohr