Archive for coppa schmoppa

all your site are belong to kids

I observe that Matt is compensating for the loss of his beloved default blogroll by sneaking a link to his blog into the footer of wordpress.com:

pimpage

Cute. He’s got couple of years at most before people cease to find his obsession with being #1 in Google endearing and start to think it sad (it is rather adolescent, after all), so he might as well optimise while the sun shines.

Also, they have done away with the stupid faux-blog design of the forums and made the fonts teeny-tiny to further discourage participation by anyone over the age of fourteen. Yay!

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world of penguin

In case you missed today’s bout of penguin spam, I’ve archived it for your viewing pleasure here. If you or your family live in the US and have been personally affected by the issue of allowing children to blog here without parental consent, you may be interested to learn that the FTC have made it much easier to file a complaint about COPPA violations. If you are a staff member of Automattic, they have produced a useful checklist to help you comply with US data protection law and pre-empt any such complaints here.

Perhaps once they have ensured that they’re not going to get hammered with a fine they will be less afraid to deal with children when they misbehave. Right now, when they ban a child they run the risk that they or their disgruntled parents are going to grass them up and let them in for a world of pain. Taking personally identifying information from children and claiming to be unable to delete it? Inadvertent pron on kiddy dashboards? Ads for dating agencies on kiddy blogs? World. Of. Pain. It’s a good thing that penguins and their guardians are neither that smart nor that malicious.

(I’m also not wholly convinced that ‘your mom!‘ is an especially constructive approach to take towards trollkids, but if staff think it’s acceptable who am I to argue?)

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army of meatpuppets

Is it me, or has the ‘tone’ of the .com forums, along with the level of staff/moderator presence, significantly failed to improve since the holiday purges which were supposed to fix everything? I mean, some of the responses to user discontent with the new dashboard were just snide. And while it’s your right to refuse to rush to the aid of penguins, because the ongoing transformation of this place into MySpace really doesn’t need any extra help, this might be best accomplished by, you know, not responding to them, rather than swearing at them and feeding them wrong answers. It’s not that I abhor cruelty to penguins, more that I’ve seen others banned for less (come to think of it, I’ve seen others banned for nothing) and double standards irk me. Plus, said wrong answers sit in the archives waiting to mislead the innocent. Collateral damage, I suppose.

(To be fair, I do think language is an issue too. Mods working in a second language can come off as extremely abrupt; moshu on .org is the prime example, of course, but I’ve also see isadora come out with some things a native speaker would get ‘inactivated’ for.)

Raincoaster is safe for the time being at least. Is she the first volunteer to be publically backed up by staff when complaints are made, rather than being hung out to dry? Is she also the first volunteer to have a high-enough-traffic blog to scare them off canning her? You don’t want to be messing with people who could potentially raise an army of meatpuppets and get your unique approach to human resources mentioned on Valleywag. That would not be smart.

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unhappy feet

A new feature for the Big Blue Navbar, possibly prompted by this forum thread

april penguin!

(I don’t know what on earth Isadora thinks is the main problem. I thought all the ‘bad elements’ were banned so as not to get in the way of her and the happiness engineers? Something’s scaring Trent and the happiness engineers off posting, and it ain’t me.)

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burnt orange joy

It doesn’t sound as if the launch of 2.5 proceeded entirely smoothly, what with the usual site breakages and warnings that the ‘official’ release is a development version.

Maybe they should have waited till Tuesday?

I don’t mind the fact that .com has been left to tread water for a few months while the team focused on .org, because it was the other way round for a long time, but long-term (and I know I keep saying this) they’re going to have to learn to juggle a little better. At least this time round it gets to be beta-tested by tech-savvy volunteers rather than Snow Lovers. That was sensible.

I suppose I’m going to have to download 2.5 now so I can tear it to pieces figure out how to turn it pink, and then do a Stylish version for .com should we ever get to share in the burnt orange joy.

Oh ,and here’s your daily dose of penguin wank. Notable for CP’s denial that they ever told Mark to appoint himself an admin on some kid’s blog and shut it down. Enjoy. (No, I don’t think that post is by Mark either. See how there’s no space at the start of each sentence, the way people type when they’re not used to it? and how the blog is still up rather than ‘suspended or archived’? That is the special joy of CP wank, nobody is ever who they say they are.)

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bad words and immaturity

Please tell me I didn’t just read this:

Well today my blog got almost supspened. The reason: Mark said “there were complaints from people about the bad languge on this blog”.

What, so if somebody complains about your use of profanity, you risk deletion? Fuck that.

The correct response to any such complaints would be ‘kids under 13 aren’t supposed to be here anyway, because it’s illegal for us to hold data on them without parental permission’. Except of course that abiding by US law is far less lucrative than allowing the place to be overrun by children whose mummies and daddies are happy to buy them domain names and custom CSS for as many usernames as their sweet little hearts desire.

Or ‘tough, we don’t censor content unless it’s actually illegal ‘. That would work too.

I just get the feeling that people over 12 don’t really belong on this host anymore. I wonder what long-term effect this will have on the brand? And it surely brings forward the day of reckoning with the authorities.

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bbpress.com

Well, OK, it’s not going to be bbpress.com. bbpress.com is taken, as is bbpress.net. This is just as well since, let’s be honest, the name ‘bbpress’ sucks almost as much as the product. No, it’s going to be TalkPress, currently home to a delightful phpBB installation, which if nothing else will teach them about COPPA declarations:

i fail to see the irony

This is clearly hyperbole, as phpBB is a bloated piece of crap which is only about twice as good as bbPress, but in addition to COPPA maybe they will be able to figure out stuff like thread-splitting and post counts from it.

This will actually work. If you’re looking for a reliable free forum, you’re not in a position to quibble about features; you take what you can get. Plus of course it will be plugged over here in the manner of signmyguestbook.com on diaryland back in the day, when pretty much every diarylander had an smg account to match. The forums themselves will look like hell, of course, all massive fonts and unnecessary whitespace, but they’ll probably allow colour customisation and custom headers, plus the ads won’t be as conspicuous as on the average free host, so your average Snow Lover will be in clover. bbPress can’t compete on the self-hosted front — it remains a toy for dedicated fanboys and career moderators — so this is a smart move.

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things of which we cannot speak

Has everyone else noticed the recent flurry of forum posts about being excluded from global tags? Either something’s broken or there’s a serious crackdown going on. Conspiracy theorists may wish to dissect the following Mattquote:

Things may or may not show up on the tags pages based on a variety of factors, many of which we can’t talk about. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

One of these things of which we cannot speak, presumably, is that global tags don’t work for future-dated posts, which turned out to be the solution to the poster’s question, and neatly much disproves to the argument that volunteer support sucks and staff always know best. (Sometimes volunteers are better placed to give an answer, because they actually blog here on a daily basis and are not afraid to say that something is a bug.)

Oh, and speaking of things of which we cannot speak, staff have admitted that ‘[b]logs created by young children outnumber mature blogs many times over’. OK, there goes your COPPA deniability. I hope you took legal advice before doing that. Or at least checked that Matt was happy to pay the fine.

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above the law

Root says, in the middle of yet another thread about global tags (I don’t know where Lorelle gets this strange idea that if we complain, they might change it):

Of course strictly speaking there are no *kids* at WordPress dot com anyway.

Which seems as good a moment as any to mention that Xanga got fined $1million for COPPA violations last year. They had well over a million kids, though, so I don’t expect Automattic are worried. We have a lot fewer than that, and at less than a dollar a child, the ads on the kiddieblogs would easily cover the fine 😉

What I would like? I would like wordpress.com to wipe the illegally-obtained email addresses of under-13s from its database. (Yes, I know they’re not going to do anything bad with that data, but do any of us know where we’re going to be in a few years time? You can’t promise that any future owner wouldn’t sell addresses on, any more than Danga could promise that there would never be ads on livejournal.) I would like some way of telling wordpress.com that I am over 18 and I don’t need protecting from content that they or one of their users considers ‘mature’. And I would really like somebody to explain to me why, if both wordpress.com and livejournal are based in California, only one of them is required to abide by US law.

(Before you try, I don’t think the ‘common carrier’ argument is going to work on a host which actively monitors content for links it doesn’t like the look of. And I’m not going to be convinced by ‘we don’t ask for birthdates so we don’t know how old they are’ either. If I go to a blog’s About page and it tells me the author’s twelve, I’m going to go ahead and assume the author’s twelve. And you should probably be grateful that I am neither a paedophile nor a Daily Mail reporter.)

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bad words and maturity

I was commenting on the whole censorship imbroglio over on adam’s blog t’other day (you missed this? erotica bloggers were bitching about being kicked out of the global tags system. I tend to think the best riposte to this would have been to ship their content, traffic, and all their friends to a more welcoming host and let wordpress.com become a kids ‘n’ Christians ghetto, if that’s what they want. Bitching a lot and slamming the door on my way out, obviously.) My line remains — it’s shouldn’t be up to wordpress.com to protect me from content they (or whatever random who clicked ‘flag as mature’) think is unsuitable by hiding it from my tag searches or keeping it out of my dashboard. It’s up to me to tell wordpress.com whether or not I want or need it to be hidden from me. Which naturally got me thinking about COPPA again, and the fact that Automattic doesn’t ask for reassurance that we’re over 13.

So here’s a thread and here’s another where drmike has to think fast and censor the age of the original poster. Because a disclosure that they were under 13 would automatically put wordpress.com in violation of COPPA for knowingly having users under the age of 13 and not requiring parental permission to keep their email addresses on file.

It’s nice that they have an experienced webmaster looking out for them on this, because left to themselves I’m not sure they’d have a clue. At the moment, they’re still got deniability. Yes, drmike knows there are users claiming to be under 13, and anyone reading the forum can surmise that there are users claiming to be under 13, but we’re not employees so it doesn’t matter. But the moment an irate parent comes along saying ‘why did you let my twelve-year-old daughter sign up to this pervert-ridden site without even asking her to lie about her age to do so?’, the game is up.

I’m not sure kids can be reasonably expected to understand or abide by this ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ age policy they have in operation here. And I am not especially happy about the fact that adults can’t choose for themselves what they can and cannot view in the shared spaces of wordpress.com because of a child audience that officially doesn’t exist. So please. Flag the users, not the blogs.

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