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Effective Forums

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A Story by dw817

I labeled it, appropriately, "Doomsday" and it was written in QBasic 1.0. One thing I noticed was many people tried to login this new system attempting to guess my own password ... ?




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Some ideas and musings I've had on effective and useful messaging forums

© February 2019 Written by David Wicker
Please do not reprint without permission

There have been many forums since the internet was founded back before 1990.

Unfortunately with increased communication comes cyberbullies and trolls, trying to ruin it for everyone else.

Many years ago, BBSs ruled the phone waves. There was Tritel, Telegard, even a rather interesting one for the Commodore 64 called Professor Plum's BBS.

I was running my own BBS years ago, using a system called Telegard, and at the time I called my BBS the, "Scenario BBS." As for forums, there was Primrose Erotica (run by my G/F), Philosopher's Stone (run by me), War Board (silly place to insult others, run by Goldschlager), and other boards talking about interest in Anime series, cartoons, video games, and junk food.

In it you also had 16-color 320x240 .GIFs and .BMPs you could download (remember, .PNG didn't exist then). And you could also download .MID music to play and enjoy in CUBIC.

But one day I got home from work to see my air-conditioner had given out, and as for my computer ?

My internal 32gb hard-drive was fried, literally. And my phone was ringing. Ringing off the hook ! It was people trying to reach my BBS. So what could I do ? I sat down and in 2-very hard days of programming, wrote my own BBS from scratch that would run on a single 5 & 1/4 inch floppy disk, the surviving medium to my computer.

I labeled it, appropriately, "Doomsday" and it was written in QBasic 1.0. One thing I noticed was many people tried to login this new system attempting to guess my own password so I guess they could try and mess up the system ?

At the time I wrote it, I did indeed have a 20-character password memorized that no-one should surely guess as t truly was random digits and letters.

But I also saw some people log in who were bad. Cyberbullies and trolls, trying to mess it up for the good people on my board. And at the time I had no security measures so I had to manually weed through posts each day to delete them.

Now if I was running Telegard like I was earlier, the only thing I could do is ban them, and of course, they could log back in under a different alias. So I thought to myself, I can be clever here and do something interesting. Something involving reverse psychology.

I left an announcement on the board that it would be down all Saturday and I would be working in it. What did I do ?

I made some interesting changes to the login method.

First off, I created a table of names I did not want. I can't remember them now but let's say there were two cyberbullies I didn't want on my Doomsday board. RedTower and RatFink.

So I would flag their names as undesirable in the following way. It asked are you a [N]ew or [R]eturning user ?

[1] Returning ? They entered in their alias.

[2] They entered in their password.

[3] Even if they got the right password I had my program say:
"The alias or password you have entered is incorrect. Please try again."
And it would disconnect after 3 times of this.

Now if during this time anyone tried to login as a NEW user and they used any alias at all:

"Doomsday is not accepting new users at this time. Thank you for your interest."

And also disconnect the phone and then further deny incoming calls for 5-minutes.

I thought it was genius at the time.

I further cinched this by having any posts appear for the person who was logged in, no matter how nasty they appeared (before I banned them, if I so chose to).

Even though their own posts appeared to them I still manually set it so I would have to approve of every single post that went through in order for it to appear for EVERYONE ELSE. That was the key. And I didn't mind this as it kept me appraised of conversations and topics at the time on my board.

Anyone else, if I had not "approved" of a post, provided it was not their own who was currently logged in, it would not appear at all. Doing this would give the cyberbully or troll the appearance that their hateful post was indeed visible to everyone else when in fact it was visible ONLY to them !

Systems today I see have the SysOp or moderator merely delete offending messages (or SPAM) and as this is perfectly visible to the cyberbully, they add another message, perhaps even more spiteful and hateful than the last.

At the time I thought I was just being silly and a bit of a smartass with this curious method of mine, misleading those users I didn't like.

Today now I can see this being a very effective method for curbing cyberbullies and trolls. In fact today internet boards and forums can BAN IP so you could already know the aliases of people you don't want on your board, like RedTower and RatFink, and enter those names into a "ban" pile.

Then whenever anyone logs in attempting to use that alias or a variation of that alias (cull digits, symbols, etc), then the system would politely say like mind did those years ago.

"This board is not accepting new users at this time. Thank you for your interest."

And in ADDITION to this it could BAN IP so even if they logged in seconds, minutes, or months later with ANY alias at all, they would get the same message, not that they were banned, no that the board was merely just not taking new users at the time. That's all. It's not their fault. :)

And then wait for a different IP to appear and provided they didn't choose an enabling alias, accept it and let them in.

I feel it is boards today that proudly tell a user in bold red letters they are BANNED or whatever, that the user will then try to get even by using IP spoofing software and try to log back in as a new user using even a different Email address, etc. All in an effort to get around the BAN.

I think it's better that the system lie and tell them very simply that no new users are being accepted at this time and then - that same cyberbully or troll - just goes away.

Simple, direct, effective.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour down memory lane and some ideas I've had rolling in my head for a few years that may be useful to future internet forum developers and owners.

Next Monday I'll post a method of directly increasing interest and communication in forums by media method (no matter where they are Online). And I have yet to see this method in use at all today so it will definitely improve activity.

That's all for now ! See you then ...

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Fort Worth, TX