How Should WordPoints Handle Spam?

TL;DR—Go to the bottom for a list of questions I’d like some user feedback on. Thanks!

WordPoints 2.1 is currently under development (and is getting close to being done). The release date might come a little later than planned, but I think we can use that extra time to our advantage. As I was working on the code, I came across something that I’d like your feedback on. So if you’d like to help shape the future of WordPoints, now is your chance!

First, a little bit of background information.

WordPoints 2.1 is going to be completely redesigning the points hooks, inside and out. As a part of the changes to the underlying code, I found myself asking a question: how should WordPoints handle spam?

I’d like to explain what I mean by that with an example. Say, for instance, that a user leaves a comment on your site, and gets awarded 10 points. Then later you mark that comment as spam. You probably don’t want a user to be awarded points for a spam comment. So, what should WordPoints do?

Historically, how WordPoints responded has varied somewhat. Originally WordPoints actually let you configure the number of points that should be removed when a comment was marked as spam. That was one of the settings of the Comment points hook. Later, this setting was removed from the Comment points hook and turned into another points hook in its own right: thus the Comment Removed points hook was born. But it had a short life. Today, the Comment Removed hook has been deprecated and is no longer available by default (though it is still made available for legacy reasons on some sites). The Comment hook once again handles removing points when a comment is marked as spam, although this now happens automatically and you no longer have to configure the amount.

The reason for this evolution is that I haven’t had a clear philosophy about how WordPoints should handle spam. But over time, I’ve been moving in the direction of making WordPoints as simple as possible. Today I’ve come to believe that it is best for WordPoints to just automatically handle spam behind the scenes. After all, nobody likes spam, and you shouldn’t have to waste time configuring how WordPoints should handle it. Ideally, it should just be like spam doesn’t exist.

So today, when a comment is marked as spam, WordPoints will automatically reverse any points transactions associated with that comment. If the user was awarded 10 points for the comment, that 10 points will be removed.

In WordPoints 2.1, I’m planning to make a few more changes that will take this philosophy a step further. But because of the implications, I’d like to get some user feedback before I finalize them.

First, I’d like to make it so that the points are only removed when a comment is marked as spam specifically—currently the points are also removed when the comment is marked as unapproved or is moved to the trash. I don’t think that deleting a comment actually matches the intention of the automatic reversals, which is to combat spam. My reasoning is that sometimes perfectly good, non-spam comments might get deleted, not because they were bad, but just because they had served their purpose for a time and were no longer needed. In a case like that, when you, the site admin, haven’t actually marked a comment as spam, WordPoints shouldn’t be removing points just as if the comment were spam.

This change would also help to clarify the nature of points. Points are meant to be an accumulation of past awards, not a measure of current stature. In other words, you have points because you left a comment at some point in the past, not because that comment is currently being displayed on the site today. The difference is partly pedantic, yes, but it is significant. It can be important to consider, for example, when points are also being used as a spendable commodity. What if you’ve cashed-in your points, but then one of your old comments is deleted; you now have no points to be removed, and WordPoints cannot go back and un-spend the points that you’ve already spent, just so that it can remove some. This is one reason why I’d like to begin treating points more like an accumulation by default. Fortunately, the new version of the plugin will be flexible enough that it will allow for points to be treated like an accumulation, or, more like a meter of how many things you currently have published on the site, if that is desired.

The second change that I’d like to make is for WordPoints to stop logging the transaction removing the points. This is uncharted territory, but I think it makes sense not to bring attention to spam by trumpeting it in the logs. Instead, when you mark a comment as spam, the points will be removed automatically and completely silently. In addition, the log for the original transaction that awarded the points will be deleted.

But before I make these changes, I’d like to know what you think. Will this break how you are using the plugin? Do you think that these changes make sense? Please leave a comment answering the following questions:

  1. Did you know that WordPoints automatically removes any points that were awarded for a comment/post when it is deleted?
  2. Do you think that WordPoints should remove the points only if an item is marked as spam, and not when it is otherwise moved to the trash?
  3. Do you think that WordPoints should stop logging the transaction when it removes the points?

Feel free to include any other comments or questions you may have. Even if your answer is “I don’t care,” it is still helpful. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and will help chart the future course of the plugin. Thank you!

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About J.D. Grimes

J.D. is the creator of WordPoints. In addition to web development, he also enjoys nature photography. The most important thing about him, though, is that Jesus Christ died for him to pay for his sins. He looks forward to meeting Jesus face to face in heaven one day, and he hopes he'll see you there, too.

One comment

  1. J.D. Grimes

    I received the following reply via email. My responses are interspersed.

    1) I did not know this, but, hey, we’re just getting started here. 🙂

    This is actually good if folks using the plugin don’t notice it, because it is supposed to happen behind the scenes.

    2) Yes, the default should be to automatically reverse points if it is marked as spam. If *possible and easily implemented*, maybe implement a simple tickbox for Yes/No to reverse points on non-spam deletions, with the default being that non spam deletions do NOT create a points reversal, UNLESS the tickbox is checked. If you feel it is getting away from the ‘simplicity’ model, it’s not really necessary, just a thought.

    That is an interesting suggestion. I think if people find that useful, maybe that feature could be offered as an extension. That way we get the best of both worlds—the plugin is simple by default, and people who need the added feature can have it.

    3) While I think a logging of the points removal is of benefit in an ADMIN-only log, the logging and display of any points reversal on the users log or public-facing side is really not a good policy.

    Currently there isn’t any distinction between the public facing logs and the logs the admin sees. However, I have thought of this idea, and maybe that’s what I’ll do, if not in 2.1, sometime in the future.

    Thanks for the feedback!

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