May 15, 2016 at 5:46AM, Edited May 15, 5:50AM

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On Forum Spam and Lack of Moderation

I, and many other users are growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of an option to report spam on these forums, as well as an astounding lack of admin moderation. Multiple times per week, a user by the name of "Alex Ferrari" posts what are essentially free ads for his own blog: snippets of a text post with huge amounts of unrelated tags, clearly trying to get as many free clicks as possible off the backs of the NFS site. This clearly should be against policy. Not only is it taking advantage of the site itself for monetary gain without going through the proper advertising channels, but it is cluttering the boards and not rarely provides any sort of meaningful basis for discussion. What is worse is that he is not the only user acting in this manner. He just happens to be the most prolific, and the best example of this problem in action.

As evidence, here are posts from just this past week:
- http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/film-gear-cinematography-today
- http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/save-cat-screenwriting-story-...
- http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/how-marketable-your-film-idea...
- http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/hayao-miyazaki-animations-mas...

That's four in a week. This is absurd.

I feel that we need a spam button on these forums, or at least a method to alert admins to cases such as these when they pop up, for the good of the community.

What are everyone else's thoughts? Have you seen this happen to? What do you think we can do about it, since the admins seem to so often ignore what goes on here?

38 Comments

On Feb 26, 2016, NoFilmSchool.com announced that they greatly expanded their editorial capacity: http://nofilmschool.com/2016/02/no-film-school-new-staff-office-liz-nord...

If NoFilmSchool follows in the footsteps of most other large social sites, they will first try making subtle changes that nobody really notices, and nobody will really notice. Then they'll try larger stuff, unannounced, and that will create a huge backlash. Then, they will publish some new community guidelines that had no actual community input, and the backlash will be even larger. Finally, they will listen to the community, make changes, and with the help of the community, good people will stay and contribute while toxic individuals are either managed out or lose their posting privileges.

Or, they could actually start a conversation with the users to get input for making the site better for everybody and skip the first three steps. Time will tell whether they want to do things the hard way or the best way. But I do agree--I've seen no changes to the BOARDS part of NFS as a result of these hires. I'm also getting impatient, though more about other things than this topic.

May 15, 2016 at 9:45AM

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Feel free to go into detail about the other issues you've been having. That's kind of why I started this thread, I want everyone to start having that open dialogue about our problems with the boards.

May 15, 2016 at 6:26PM

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Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer
1334

Hey guys, wanted to let you know about www.FilmSumo.com, a new boards site for NFS users, complete with active moderation and lots of features lacking on these boards.

Details here: http://nofilmschool.com/boards/questions/filmsumocom-new-boards-classifi...

June 26, 2016 at 6:14PM

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Jordan Mederich
Documentarian / Filmmaker
1428

There are several things that video.stackexchange.com does better than NoFilmSchool:

1. There's a lot more transparency about downvotes. My score dropped 50 points between yesterday and today. And since I saw that I had a few upvotes, it means that something I said caused it to drop more than 100 points. But I cannot tell what. I have my suspicions, but that's a stupid way to manage behavior in a forum. There should be transparency. I should not have to fear that every single posting I make could be a trigger for some posse of haters. Or, more positively, I should learn how to say things in ways that don't create a posse of haters--because that's not my intention.

2. There are way, way, way too many people who post here, get answers, and then never acknowledge those answers with an upvote. Some may say "Thanks! That helped a lot!" I occasionally reply that a proper thank you is an upvote, and sometimes they actually do me the favor of giving me that upvote. But video.stackexchange.com has moderators who can actively normalize that behavior, and a messaging system that highlights when credit is given, when credit is due, etc. NoFilmSchool.com has no notifications. Followup is a completely manual process of reading and re-reading and re-reading until one finds an action or a reaction. That's great for pageviews, but a terrible waste of time.

3. There must be three threads a week, every week, with somebody posting the question "what's the best low-budget 4K camera that will give me a cinematic look?" or "what's the first lens I should buy?" Those are perfectly natural questions for a relatively new forum, but after a while, one would expect that either (1) there's some conventional wisdom that everybody can point to, or (2) there's some moderator juice that can direct people to at least read one of the dozens of threads on the topic that perhaps already answer the question.

I think that most of the editorial content of NoFilmSchool.com is fantastic and addresses a meaningful audience of filmmakers and aficionados. I wish the forum discussions better represented *that* audience, rather than mostly people looking to spend their first $1000 on a consumer camera to be used for shooting "shorts, corporate events, music videos, and weddings".

May 16, 2016 at 7:40AM

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1) It sometimes feels like somebody is just downvoting everything. It would be better to reply with a better answer or disagree in a reply than a down vote when you don't agree.
Or people tap it while scrolling :-p

2) Without a notification system it is harder to keep track of replies

3) The navigational structure of the boards is a nightmare, because there is none.

May 17, 2016 at 5:13PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9082

Indeed, from last night to this morning, somebody came along and down-voted your comments and mine. Another -20 day for me already. Are my comments really so off base? Without any articulated replies, only mysterious down-votes, there's simply not enough information for me to either correct or defend my own behavior.

May 19, 2016 at 5:36AM

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I think most of the board is fine. People will ask beginner questions, some less so and that's the nature of boards. Definitely arguments and disagreements but I believe it's all good.

But it's the inherent abuse of the system by the likes Alex Ferrari who are just using it as a free advertising platform. Like you have already mentioned, he is very much abusing and just using the boards to spam. There are many responses where Alex Ferrari doesn't even respond to the board, he just links to his website which after I have clicked on it is just a giant spam filled website where he regurgitates and plagiarizes other articles and calls it his own(and that is another entirely different issue, *cough* copyright).

May 17, 2016 at 3:54PM, Edited May 17, 3:53PM

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And I believe he is up voting his own posts, probably using other accounts. From the other posts where most of us has complained, there's no way theres enough people here up voting for his posts.

May 17, 2016 at 3:56PM

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I agree with this. The forum clearly needs some sort of report function. The person you are talking about constantly self-promotes with posts that have titles that seem meaninful, but then just link back to a website. If I self-promoted as hard I'd be on here every time our TV station had a sports broadcast that I was camera op for.

May 18, 2016 at 1:22AM

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Charles Duoto
Studio Floor Director
1477

Thought I would post Alex Ferrari's latest post just to bring light:

http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/how-make-money-today-selling-...

And when you actually look, he's just copying the info from other sites and just posting it, giving very little or ambiguous credit to the original author.

May 18, 2016 at 10:56AM

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And naming all red cameras again, although totally unrelated to the topic.
Plus the always present enigmatic 'Array Alexa' tag, which clearly shows he is an expert in obscure fake camera brands ;-)

May 18, 2016 at 4:15PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9082

Wait a second!
I figured out why he uses such a badly written tag: nobody will use it, but him. That increases the odds that when you read one of his posts the only 'related posts' are his posts.
At the same time he uses many popular tags to seem relevant when someone is ready a post that is not his.

So, not only does he spam the boards with multiple unrelated tags to get attention. He 'hacked' the system to create a tag based funnel where once you are reading on of his posts there are hardly any 'related' posts shows next to it that can get you out of the rabbit hole.

Pretty clever, but still annoying as hell.

May 27, 2016 at 5:47PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9082

Alex Farrari needs banned. We need some mods. We need a BEFORE YOU POST HERE IS WHAT 4K CAMERA AND FIRST LENS YOU SHOULD BUY thread.

May 18, 2016 at 7:10PM

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Clark McCauley
Spaceman
1607

Where is freedom of speech? Some may find his posts interesting, some may not. Since you can see who posts what, before clicking on it, there is no reason to ban him - just ignore him if you feel so. He never said he is not self-promoting and AFAIK there is no such policy and guidelines against self-promotion here.

As for the same questions asked over and over again, there should be some kind of guidance for the beginners. Either a "sticky"/pinned post, or some content-related suggestions before posting. It will be better for everyone since maybe there is a more detailed thread already posted - for example I am not going to devote my time to answer again, if I have already given a detailed explanation for the same subject in another post. People need to be reminded about the "search" function, it seems! ;)

May 19, 2016 at 5:06AM

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Stel Kouk
Filmmaker
3157

We know there aren't any policies as of now, but there should be. As it has been pointed out before, everyone who advertises on this site pays for it, and he should too. Some self promotion is fine, but this is an abuse of the system, especially considering his use of tags and constant encouragement to "see the rest on his site".

Excellent idea about the sticky posts though, that should definitely be implemented.

May 19, 2016 at 5:56AM

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Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer
1334

I agree: I don't like banning anyone.
But forum etiquette is also nice: cluttering search research in the boards with unrelated tags, just to get eyes on clickbait leading to often recycled material (just look: often his topics are 1 to 3 weeks behind NFS articles), is pretty annoying, because it is rude.
Rude because the displayed attitude is not about helping others (even if his articles are helpfull), but an egocentric attitude where everything is permitted to achieve his own goals.

If you are really looking for info on Red Raven on the boards you need to weed through unrelated nonsense, because a selfimportant spammer thinks it is a great way to promote articles about amazon or crowdfunding or whatever, but not about what you actually were looking for.

In essence that is like littering on the streets: it creates mess.
Even without policies it only takes common sense to not litter.
Why should anyone only behave when there is the threat of punishment?
Without the promise of punishment people show their true character :-p

May 19, 2016 at 9:10AM, Edited May 19, 9:10AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9082

"Beginner queries" that are specific are not the same as stock queries such as "What is the most cinematically perfect 4K camera that I can buy for $20 that will make my movies pro-level and gorgeous and instantly distributed."

A sticky about the factors to take into consideration when looking into a camera
wouldn't necessarily change the fact that new people are going to ask similar questions
all the time. As others have said, that just happens with online forums.

But... I totally agree that there should be some form of moderation to curtail the
overtly spam-like posts. A "report" button would create more "work" for moderators,
but would improve the quality of the NFS boards.

I suppose the Discussion/Question forum divide is supposed to be a way to separate
the beginner questions about gear from the informed discussions. But I'm not sure
if that's the best way to organize a board. The "answers" are hidden in the Questions
forum and have to be clicked to be opened. So if you want to peruse the responses
that have been given, it is much more difficult and clunky.

May 19, 2016 at 11:24AM, Edited May 19, 11:33AM

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Sean Bokenkamp
Animator
368

Is the forum moderated at all?

It really does need notifications and a way to mark things as spam. Downvotes only go down to 0 and I've yet to see an unhelpful comment get hidden or removed.

May 19, 2016 at 5:23PM

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Eric Buist
Producer | Creator
506

Private msg would be real nice too

May 22, 2016 at 12:14AM

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Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer
1998

I think more of a traditional forum layout would be better and more easy to navigate. And maybe change Boards section so that when I first go into the section the newest post is available first and if I want to see the Hot topic I can click into that. This alone will better help weed out duplicate style (what camera for me) posts.

May 19, 2016 at 5:24PM

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Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer
1998

I think the moderation on the forum needs help either by NFS or a couple forum members with mod capabilities to deal with streamlining things

May 19, 2016 at 5:27PM

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Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer
1998

I'm glad somebody finally said something. Alex Ferrari's posts have been bugging me for so long. I always figured he had some sort of advertising deal with NoFilmSchool and that's why they allowed him to post his shameless plugs.

May 21, 2016 at 9:51AM

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Tobias N
Director of Photography
1278

He dropped another 3 articles within the last 24 hours, all following the same suit. The bigger this post gets, the harder it should be for the NFS staff to ignore. Assuming they care, that is, which perhaps is a bigger issue than any of these Alex shenanigans.

Links to today's posts:
http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/secrets-how-submit-film-festi...
http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/gut-check-what-does-it-really...
http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/akira-kurosawa-breaking-down-...

May 21, 2016 at 11:18AM

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Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer
1334

Well to be honest I noticed it too. Kinda annoying and kinda irritating no one seems to do anything about it.

May 22, 2016 at 4:07PM

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David R. Falzarano
Director / Writer / Editor
1332

Obviously they don't care because there hasn't been a response by anyone!

May 23, 2016 at 5:56PM

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Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer
1998

Let's keep this topic alive until it gets noticed!
There are some good ideas in here, like:
- notifications
- a clearer navigational structure for the boards
- at least some moderation that can at least delete unrelated tags to at least keep search results as clean as possible

May 24, 2016 at 7:49AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9082

Agree!

May 24, 2016 at 10:07AM

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I was checking out Roger Deakins forum, if you haven't been definitely check out, it's awesome you can get access to one of the masters of cinematography.
rogerdeakins.com

But it seems like they have moderators that cut down on all that weird spam, it's awesome because we just want to hear what Roger says, not open up weird forum topics.

May 24, 2016 at 3:47PM

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I wish there were a way to block, I find most of the trolls are the same people and hijack good threads. There are a couple on here I privately refer to as "Dumb and Dumber" but are likely the same person. They have no interest in filmmaking, their interest is in killing discussion. The beauty of blocking people is that all of a sudden discussion become more civil when you read them. I am happy for Trolls to block me if they feel my experience or opinion is threatening. That way everybody wins.

May 24, 2016 at 8:48PM, Edited May 24, 8:48PM

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Too bad there is no DM system either, since I'm curious about the double identity thing. I haven't noticed it yet.

I don't think blocking is a smart way to deal with fora, because it can make the surrending messages look weird, because you removed part of the context.

May 25, 2016 at 8:47AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9082

Another spam post has risen to the popular: http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/vilmos-zsigmond-cinematograph...

I just wonder how it works, there's no votes up or down, maybe a vote from the person who posted. But I expect this post to go down in popularity but somehow it rises into the popular posts.

May 25, 2016 at 10:03AM

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I think new posts show up in popular for a moment, otherwise new posts will always dissappear, and older popular posts would always consolidate their position. (I noticed most threads dissappear from the list to make space for new ones?)

May 26, 2016 at 3:24AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9082

Thanks, all. Just for the record, we are listening! We actually addressed your question on Indie Film Weekly last week, Jacob: http://nofilmschool.com/2016/05/ifweekly-051916-podcast

As some of your have pointed out, we've had a major upgrade around here lately in terms of adding staff, creating original content, dealing with some process stuff on the backend, and starting some new initiatives like the No Film School podcast. Thanks for your kind words about these!

We also have been keeping a big log of technical changes and upgrades we'd like to make on the site, from our own perspectives as daily users, and from feedback from the boards, Facebook and other readers. I hope you'll bear with us...we are still a very small team and these changes will take time, but we are paying attention to your requests on here and we will be implementing as many changes as we can over the next several months.

Oh, and for those of you who have said we have no community guidelines, we actually do...here they are! http://nofilmschool.com/guidelines

Thanks, as always, for being part of this community!

May 26, 2016 at 3:54PM, Edited May 26, 4:03PM

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Liz Nord
Documentary Filmmaker/Multi-platform Producer

Awesome!

May 26, 2016 at 4:08PM

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Thank you for the response, we all appreciate the feedback on your end. I hope we don't come off as too irate or obnoxious. We're just trying to make the forums, a place we use regularly, a better place for everyone, and it can be frustrating to encounter issues that we can't fix on our end.

Just to clarify, as well: on the note of the guidelines, even though many of us are aware of them, we rarely see them enforced, so it's easy to to think that while they might exist on paper, they don't in practice.

Thanks again for your help.

May 26, 2016 at 11:51PM

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Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer
1334

"Violations of any of our Community Guidelines may lead to suspension or deletion of your No Film School account. "

Sadly, I don't have much faith in guidelines if they aren't enforced. Alex Ferrari is in breach of many of these rules, and his posts just continue...

... oh look, there's another one.

May 27, 2016 at 10:56AM

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Jordan Mederich
Documentarian / Filmmaker
1428

Wait a second!
I figured out why he uses such the silly "Array Alexa" tag: nobody will use it, but him. That increases the odds that when you read one of his posts the only 'related posts' are his posts.
At the same time he uses many popular tags to seem relevant when someone is ready a post that is not his.

So, not only does he spam the boards with multiple unrelated tags to get attention. He 'hacked' the system to create a tag based funnel where once you are reading on of his posts there are hardly any 'related' posts shows next to it that can get you out of the rabbit hole.

Pretty clever, but still annoying as hell.
Or is it just a simple mistake?

May 27, 2016 at 5:49PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9082

Hi Liz,

thanks for the heads up! :-)
Just knowing you are aware of this thread is already great :-)
I know changes take time: I've seen it on multiple fora. Sometimes it takes years to implement.
I hope you'll be able to implement some low hanging fruit quickly :-)

May 27, 2016 at 5:51PM

17
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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9082

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