Managing Discussion Groups

Hopefully your own team members will be polite and stay on topic in the private discussion groups on your server. But as soon as you open a discussion group to the public, you're likely to see two things:

• Spam: Spammers are getting good at posting advertisements and other spam to public discussion groups as soon as they find them, even rarely used discussion groups on quiet corners of the Internet with no visitors. They often try to post URLs to their own Web site in hopes of improving the Google PageRank of those URLs.

• General abuse: This ranges from personal abuse to copyright violations to merely off-topic posts.

Fortunately, FogBugz lets you use AutoSort to help keep this sort of nonsense under control. If you leave AutoSort turned on for a discussion group, it will take a look at all messages before they get posted, and if necessary quarantine them for approval, or even delete them. Anyone who is logged on to FogBugz as an administrator will be able to moderate discussion groups, removing abusive posts and spam. Over time, as you moderate groups manually, AutoSort will learn from your moderation and try to mimic what you did. For example, if it sees that you keep deleting posts from a certain IP address or posts containing a certain word, it will learn to delete those automatically. That way the post is deleted before it even appears.

FogBugz AutoSort is not 100% reliable, and sometimes it will be suspicious about a post but not certain that it needs to be deleted. In this case, it will merely hold the post for approval. A post that is held for approval will not appear to the outside world until a moderator clears it. Alternatively, the moderator can decide the post should be deleted as spam, and AutoSort will learn more about what you consider to be spam.

If you're an administrator, going to a discussion group home page from within FogBugz will show you a view like the one in Figure 5-22. In addition to the information that any user can see, the administrator is also told about posts that have been held or deleted by AutoSort (one of each appears in this figure).

Figure 5-22. Moderator's view of a discussion group

Each of the categories of posts has its own review link. When you click the review link, you'll see a screen such as the one in Figure 5-23. Posts that are held for approval are marked, and posts that were deleted automatically are shown in strikeout type and also marked.

Figure 5-23. Moderating a discussion group

Moderators are all-powerful. For a regular discussion group item, they can

• Click the info link to see the e-mail address and IP address of the poster. For an item that has been held for approval, they can

• Approve the item, making it visible to everyone.

• Click the info link to see the e-mail address and IP address of the poster. For an item that has been deleted, they can

• Click the info link to see the e-mail address and IP address of the poster.

Creating cases from items is one of the most powerful parts of the integration of discussion groups with FogBugz. As you saw in Chapter 1, this gives you an easy way to capture a bug report from a customer—even when that customer isn't part of a formal beta program. You can turn any feedback into a case to track it for later. You can also allow your team to use this feature to assign discussion group items among themselves to make sure that every topic gets a reply. When you create a case from an item, FogBugz also creates hyperlinks in both directions to make it easy to go from one to the other.

As the moderator deletes posts, undeletes posts, and approves posts that were held for approval, FogBugz AutoSort will learn from those actions. Over time, it will become more adept at recognizing the signs of bad posts, as well as the signs of good posts. So after a while, you won't have as much need to actively moderate a discussion group.

Whenever a post has been deleted, the original person who made that post will still see it if they log on from the same IP address or the same web browser. This technique helps reduce the number of people who become furious at having their precious post deleted and try to disrupt the discussion group in other ways.

FogBugz also uses a number of tactics to try to prevent spam from overwhelming a discussion group:

• It does not allow Google or other well-behaved search engine spiders to follow links in the discussion group to outside URLs, so posting an outside URL will not increase the Google PageRank of that URL.

• It does not allow new replies to topics that have already scrolled off the home page, so spammers cannot hide spam in old messages, which the moderator is unlikely to see.

• It uses AutoSort to spot and block spam.

• It prevents users from finding out that their message was blocked or deleted. If spammers notice their spam is being blocked, they will try to work around the block and try to repost their spam using different words. However since FogBugz continues to show even deleted messages to the IP address range of the person (if spammers are people) who posted it, it's very hard for spammers to even find out that their spam is being removed.

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