I will warn you, this is not a particularly interesting article — I just needed a place to record the results of some detective work.
I am a member of a number of “Groups” on “Linked-In”, one if particular: Business Process Management Professionals Group. I will be leaving that group unless something can be done about a particular type of spam. There are these email notices that get sent about interesting articles that members link to. But there is a problem. Here is a screen shot:
What you are seeing above is four nearly identical links to a site called “Tickled by Life”, posted by four seemingly different people, but with the same unimaginative comment. Who are these people?
shipra gupta – made comment on Aug 20 at 6:53am; claims the title of “Independent Computer Software Professional”, has no history, has five connections, and is a member of 14 groups.
robin corbin – made comment on Aug 20 at 6:40am; claims the title “Independent Computer Software Professional”, has no job history, no connections, and is a member of 15 groups.
prashant gaur – made comment on Aug 20 at 6:18am; claims the title “Independent Computer Software Professional”, has no job history, no connections, and is a member of 17 groups.
Anthony Jude – made comment on Aug 20 at 6:06am; claims the title “Tickler at Tickled By Life”, has no job history, one connection, and is a member of 11 groups.
I expect this last title is the only correct one, only “Tickler” should be “Spammer”.
I don’t have any particular problem with the site — some of the articles are pretty interesting — but they have nothing to do with “BPM Professionals” which is why I joined that group. I expect to get information relevant to BPM Professionals.
What we have instead is a flagrant attempt to increase the value of a site by making many many links to it, on many Linked in groups. The above posts are made dishonestly by creating fake accounts, and making it look like the links to articles come from independent people, when in fact they are all from the same person/team. The addition of these links causes me to get email i.e. real spam.
What can be done? – Clearly a Linked-In group needs to be policed in order to be valuable. There needs to be someone who actively kicks out people who join purposely for an agenda which has nothing to do with the goals of the group. Whoever runs the group has to balance the desire for a large group, with the desire for a quality group.
A simple test for membership is to check the history on the person asking to join, and see if it matches up with real life. This is work, to be sure, but like all things the value comes only from real work.
And where does this end up? Groups that are very hard to join, that screen carefullly the members to be sure that they are all who they say they are, and are most likely to not abuse the membership. Groups will get more exclusive, and the best groups will be very hard to get into — and the ones that are easy to get into I don’t want to be a member of.
Paraphrasing the old adage from Groucho Marx: “I don’t care to join a Linked-In Group that’s prepared to have me as a member.”
I actually witnessed those exact posts being made, I simply ignored them this time around but in previous occurences in other groups, I have contacted the administrator of the group to flag the post as being spam.
The admin can then take steps to ban those posters and actually remove the posts from the group.
Unfortunately, if the group is of high interest (a lot of members), this kind of situation is bound to happen more often because the “pre-authorization investigation” you suggest will be too time consuming for admins in may cases.
The “hard to join” groups can resolve part of that, but if it is too hard to join, then someone like myself who is by no means a BPM expert, but has more than a passing interest for it, might find it too much trouble to join a group just to “listen” to what is going on.
How do you balance the “making it harder for spammers to join” and the “openess to people interested in subject X?”
That balance is extremely hard to achieve.
Good news, the administrator of that group responded almost immediately by removing those fake members from the group. But this will get harder and harder as time goes by.
This group gets 200 requests/week for membership. There is no way that one person could check all these in any thoroughness. Even a team of people would be hard pressed. And if you make the group too exclusive, then appropriate people are excluded.
I guess the mode will be “admit, then monitor”. The members of the group themselves need to be vigilant in spotting abusers.
The is a mechanism to mark an articles as inappropriate, but you only get to mark a couple in any given day. I guess that seems reasonable: monitor every day and you should be able to control without exceeding the max. But the moderator of the group should not stop with removing the offending article, but should kick out the member who posted it. Thus anyone can be a member UNTIL a piece of spam is posted — then out the door with them!
I agree with your approach. Group managers are likely overwhelmed. Members will have to be the vanguard to get rid of the spam.
Good to hear from you – we met at process.gov in Reston.
Good post. In fact, I moderate a couple linkedIn groups myself, as well as an alumni list on yahoo with 1500+ members (and the linked in groups combined have over 1000 members).
I’ve been sorely tempted to drop my membership to these BPM groups as well. Only inertia has kept me from doing it, and the use of a tool called otherinbox (www.otherinbox.com) which prefilters this stuff for me. Beyond the spam posts you mention, I also find the incredibly repetitive job postings by non-value-adding staffing firms to be equally spamming.
I don’t believe we should accept that the moderator is absolved because of a large # of requests. When you form a group on linkedIn with such a large potential audience, you should know what you are signing up to do – or else don’t do it. Generally speaking, groups work a lot better when they are not “harder to get in” but when, instead, they have a more focused niche audience. If you are in the niche, it is not hard to get in, but if you’re not in the niche, it isn’t appropriate.
Some general rules that work for me:
1. no recruiting firms / staffing firms. practitioners only.
2. separate groups for people who “might be interested” and people who are experts or practitioners.
3. Simple criteria for the “experts” group: BPM experience clearly indicated on your profile. Without which you’ll be rejected, no questions asked.
It works for alumni lists, it could work for BPM. Or manage groups that are more vendor specific, to naturally limit the audience. Or geographically specific. There are lots of ways to make these groups more useful and less spam-ful.
Finally, I think linkedin needs to start to do something about these artificial users.
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Thanks for this post. I’m new to Linkedin so it was really useful. It would be great if you could post some more tips on what newbies should look out for.
I have over 2000 members in 3 groups and I have 3 simple rules to avoid this:
1) Only allow people with relevant interests (no recruiters, marketeers, social media evangelists, etc). Monitor requests to join
2) Only allow on-topic posts and messages (posting policy is a ‘featured’ topic on the discussion board)
3) Zero tolerance (breaking these rules results in removal from group)
There is a great feature available to managers: “remove, block and delete contributions”.
If you are a moderator, moderate. Don’t complain that your group is too big.