/ Money, Technology, Which? Membership

Welcome to the new Which? Conversation

Fireworks

Welcome to the new Which? Conversation website. Read on to hear about some of the site’s new features.

Following feedback from our community, we’ve been hard at work redeveloping Which? Convo. I’m very pleased to unveil it today, and I’d love to hear any feedback you have. Here’s a brief round up of some of the new features, but I’m happy to answer any questions you have in the comments.

Finding conversations you’re interested in

There are now nine Which? Convo topics – find them at the top of the site or on our homepage. So if you want to chat about slow broadband speeds, head on over to Technology. Peeved about supermarket special offers? Shopping’s where you need to be.

Within each topic you’ll find communities of people interested in the same stuff, so watch out for car enthusiasts in Motoring or financial experts in Money.

Your own profile

Everyone now has their own profile, not just authors!

Sign in with your existing Which? Convo credentials, then have a look at your profile to find a list of all the comments you’ve made. If there have been any replies to your comments, you’ll be notified of them here too. You can even @mention people in your comments – try @patrick and I’ll be alerted!

You can add some information about yourself, including any hobbies and interests. This will help others with similar interests find you in our new Community Members search page. And if you find someone you like, you can add them as a friend – this means you can more easily see what they’ve been talking about by filtering by ‘My friends’ on our Recent Activity page.

Recent activity

What’s the Recent Activity page? Well we heard you loud and clear that you were fed up with only being able to see just nine of the latest comments on our homepage. So rather than just increasing the number of comments you could see by a small amount, we thought we’d let you access all the comments that have ever been made in the past five years. That’s what the Recent Activity page is for – you can filter by comments, Convos, what your friends are saying, and more. If you want to come back to one of those comments so you can reply later, add it as a ‘favourite’ then you can filter by just your favourites too.

Got an idea for a convo?

You can now share your ideas for new conversations in our Ideas lounge. And if you’re not feeling inspired, why not vote for the ideas others have shared?

We’ll regularly check out your ideas and will be interested to see how popular they are with the community. We’ll let you know whether we’ve picked one of your ideas and may be in touch to ask if you’d like to write it!

Much, much more

You now have the chance to edit your comments for 15 minutes after you posted them, meaning you can now say goodbye to those peskey pesky typos. If you feel so inclined, you can sign in with your Twitter, Facebook or Google+ account – that makes registration all the quicker and will use your name and photo from your chosen account.

There are all sorts of other new things that I’ll leave you to discover, but in short welcome to the new Which? Convo! I know it’ll take some time to get used to, but I hope you like it. Of course, as with any new site launch there will be things we need to fix, so if you spot anything, please just add a comment here and I’ll look into it. Finally, a big thanks to all those who were involved in testing the website – we couldn’t have done it without you.

If you need any help finding your way around the new Which? Conversation, we have a Help Getting Started guide as well as a Frequently Asked Questions guide.

If you would like to discuss the closure of Which.net, you can do so in this dedicated discussion area.

Comments

There is one advantage (among many, I suggest) of asking commenters to register for Convos. Many people bring a problem to a Convo, get a response, then we hear no more from them. We would like to know the progress or outcome of their problem for the benefit of the wider community. Were they registered Which? could contact them directly to follow the issue up and we could all learn from the outcomes. It seems to me an opportunity is being missed.

I have never understood the reluctance to make posters register before posting. Members have to log in to view product reviews and other articles so logging in here is no difference. It might be helpful to have a single log-in but not essential.

Mumsnet is a very vibrant community where posters have to log in to post. They also appear to have no profanity filter as swearing is commonplace and a little surprising as mums could have children sat next them when they read and post.

Finding answers to questions is one very good reason for logging in to post especially when we have gone out of our way to research answers that may never be seen. Follow-ups is another good reason.

Registering would give a sense of belonging to something and as posters build up a history, instil that sense of affinity so encourage more posting.

I am still willing to create avatars for all the new regulars.🙂

I think it might be a good idea to set up a ‘Corner’ within Which? Conversation where two or three people who know a lot about something and like sharing their knowledge could converse with each other for their mutual enjoyment and the possible interest of others. Good indexing would be a pre-requisite.

SIGs (special interest groups) are very useful, and would be a welcome addition to this place. Unlike the off-board topics I’ve proposed in the past these would be viewable by all, but would still allow those interested in more esoteric matters to natter and exchange information and ideas.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho – Hi Jon. I think we may have gremlins. I was logged out and could not log in and now the most recent Convo is not accessible.

All sorts of issues at the moment it seems – affecting us all. We’re on it.

Updating on this, and a couple of other issues:

We’ve staved off the major site gremlins (aka a database error that’s causing the site to effectively run out of server space) for the moment, but aren’t quite at the root of the issue. We’ll be monitoring this very closely, so hopefully shouldn’t see too much, if any, downtime.

Among a number of other issues we’ve also fixed the Report Comment button, so feel free to use that to flag up anything which you need to bring to the moderators’ attention.

Maybe we should write fewer and shorter comments in case Which? Convo suddenly stops wo

WordPress unable to establish a data base connection Jon ?
Or is one or more data bases “unavailable” ?
Or happens when the website is busy ?

On the 7th June, Patrick S argued he was no longer ‘wedded’ to the idea of thumbs. We had an ensuing debate about it, and apart from Alfa – who felt there was some value in retaining them – the rest of those contributing were happy to see them go.

However, the current flood topic is providing concerns that the thumbs are being manipulated to promote certain view points. I’m certain this is so, but I believe it goes a great deal further.

We have no idea how many contributors are posting in any topic because the site resolutely opposes registration. We know aliases are used a great deal, but more worryingly we also are fairly certain that ‘sock puppets’ – contributors posting under several aliases to perpetuate a point of view – are increasingly common. We also have reason to believe that at least some Which? staff may indulge in the deception.

As the administrator of several forums over the past 23 years I have learnt a lot about those who contribute to them. Social media – by virtue of its apparent anonymity – brings out the very worst in some people. These people are often suffering from personality issues or they have a precise agenda and we’re fooling ourselves if we don’t accept that the political parties – all of them – are not exploiting, at this very moment, weaknesses in forum administration everywhere to perpetuate lies, half-truths and unsubstantiated rumours to gain an advantage.

I once demonstrated just how simple it is to ‘game’ the thumbs; I awarded Malcolm 18 or so thumbs up but in a well managed forum that ought not to be possible.

So why is it? Well, firstly the lack of registration means there is absolutely no check on who is posting under what alias. I strongly believe, for example, that the same person has posted under seven different aliases in the same topic. There are numerous clues: same errors, similar sentence misconstruction, same type of invective, exceptionally odd intervention and so on.

This is primarily down to a lack of registration. Simply requiring someone to register prior to being able to post is the ‘de facto standard in forums everywhere. There’s good reason. Certain types of people maintain lists of forums which require no registration or where registration is not accompanied by a confirmation standard such as an email. They watch these forums and once they spot a topic which offers opportunities they move in and start work.

Registration is not the cure all but it does make life far, far harder for the casual troublemaker. And this is where the thumbs come in.

Thumbs are notoriously easy to manipulate. But registration wouldn’t cure that. The simple fact is that thumbs are used to manipulate the perceptions of debate outcomes. Some will go through a topic ticking Up or Down but never actually posting. In effect, the thumbs have lost any real relevance in terms of the ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’. They are, however, divisive, as we saw only yesterday, and they continue to be used as tools to disparage and undermine.

If we want this to be a healthy debating community, then I firmly believe there are two things that have to be done ASAP:

1. Eliminate all thumbs.
2. Require registration, confirmed via email, to be able to post.

Ian, I agree with your analysis and proposals.

I have also came to the same conclusions Ian ,I have had years of experience of this “paid bot ” type of posting on international websites but the worst experience was on a Scottish newspaper where in its forum wholesale condemnation, foul, nasty invectives were directed against one party in Scotland .
They took it in turns 24/7 to post this inane and gutter level language so much so I was easily able to understand it was highly organised and the posters were part of a paid “organisation ” shall we say that when I called their bluff , after some denials and — “your paranoic ” when the paper started charging to post on it and I said I was leaving for good , two of them “fessed up ” and admitted I was right and the”organisation ” worked on shifts out of ********.
I just hope they are paid enough to compensate for the very low moral attitude and total lack of any human principles relating to “uprightness ” in life.
While the said newspaper presents an pseudo intellectual stance “for the public good ” underneath its a veritable sewer.

I strongly support getting rid of the thumbs for the reasons Ian has given.

The Convo team and/or Which? have obviously been opposed to requiring registration, possibly because this would reduce the number of posts and maybe reducing the justification for expenditure on Which? Convo. The fact that it is necessary to register to post on other forums is a good reason for adopting this. Many of us use a pseudonym* or use a common name such as Ian or John that may be real or a pseudonym but would not allow them to be identified.

If there is evidence of people deliberately posting under multiple usernames then it’s reasonable for us to call for action and as Ian says, registration should deal with most of the problems.

* From the terms & conditions: “Maintain your privacy. When registering, you will be asked to provide a screen name, and we recommend you use a pseudonym. If you are using Which? Conversation under a pseudonym we will keep your true identity secret unless we are legally obliged to reveal it.”

In summary, +1 for the proposals.

If registration isn’t compulsory there is a limited amount of data a website can obtain via its server -IP address -general location , what system you use ,apps, screen size etc but some more powerful cookies and web bugs etc can add extra data, your last location ,what you clicked on and more .
Its possible by interpolation and looking at your browser set up (fingerprinting ) they would have a rough idea of who you are and using web bugs in HTML5 where they are stored in flash/silverlight caches and other places so deleting cookies and cache doesn’t really do it ,so if the same guy posts multiple aliases they could know generally who it is to make a decision but its not 100 % accurate .
Theoretically if enough poster snooping is done intensively in the end yes you could get a 90 % chance of knowing exactly who it is but I don’t think Which Conversations is really trying to do so as its got pretty low cookie/information gathering bots and most are First Party anyway.
Registration is a totally different ball game and I perfectly understand for several reasons why it doesn’t want to make it compulsory.

I don’t see how you can vote for something more than once, unless you have more than one ip address and more than 1 computer

Most people won’t, and won’t be able to vote for something more than once

There’s also a problem with email harvesting and hacking. It puts people at risk to provide their email address. All forums can be hacked and harvested for personal data, especially email addresses. If hackers get your email address, they will hack that too and get your address and bank details. I once registered on a computer forum using a new gmail address, and the next day my gmail account was hacked and the password changed. And this is suppose to be a computer forum that takes security seriously. If they can’t protect their database from hacking, why would Which be able to?

I sincerely hope that Which? is more careful about security than some organisations. I’ve certainly not had any problems, but I can understand your concern. I suspect that if anyone had a hacked Which? account we would get to know very soon. Since it’s possible to have more than one email account there is no need to use the one that you give to your bank.

One of the advantages of being registered is that others can look back at your earlier contributions.

The Which? security has always been very good and most breaches of forums come from within the forum itself. Which? staff members are far less likely to leak details.

In terms of the voting more than once, I can assure you it’s extremely simple.

wavechange, it isn’t possible anymore to make more than 1 free email address if it’s a Gmail or Yahoo. Both now ask you to provide your telephone number, and won’t let you make one without giving it

And if your email gets hacked, the hackers get at a minimum your phone number, which can lead to problems like identity theft, bank phishing and nuisance calls

I think we are at risk of looking at this from the wrong end of the telescope. We need to keep this website free of unfriendly and contravening behaviour and Which? also needs a way of contacting someone who has raised a case and not returned for the response or for whom there is further important information. I don’t think registration raises any more serious issues of personal security than are found with having to log-in to all the other sites that users commonly enter.

Registration will also deter those who might try to manipulate the comment ‘scores’. or to bias the perception of support for comments through anonymity and multiple user-names.

It is fairly obvious to me that there is a degree of false voting going on because some comments seem to attract thumbs up in double figures within a very short time of posting. Manipulating the comment scores can be stopped at a stroke and uncontroversially by removing the Agree/Disagree buttons for all or for selected Conversations [such as the mass outreach ones].

In practice I’ve not found any problems with creating multiple free email addresses on Gmail or anywhere else.

Wev: it’s easily possible to make as many free email addresses as you might want.

Wev – Responding to your post, I have two active Gmail accounts. I don’t think there is an associated phone number with either, but they were not registered recently. I take your point about identity theft and generally give my mobile number if required to supply one, on the basis that it would be easier to change than the landline number if needed.

Look, Ian is right when he says clues are invective, style of writing a post etc can help to spot multiple postings by the same poster under aliases ,read this by three Swedish professors on this subject-
https://www.foi.se/download/18.7fd35d7f166c56ebe0b1000b/1542623725639/Detecting-multiple-aliases_FOI-S–4608–SE.pdf
Think on this— if a website gets different information of who you are then to them you are a “new “poster.

Duncan – I cannot work out whether you are for or against the use of a registration process to enable people to leave a comment here.

If people do not register there is no traceability and Which? is not able to intervene even if there appear to be suspicious multiple postings. Some people are well able to disguise their writing style to defeat interception and other completely unconnected people might use the same words and phrases as a previous poster and could be wrongly accused. A secure reference back to an e-mail address is all we need to deter bad behaviour.

People seem quite happy to register in order to read a newspaper on-line and I have not heard that much harm has come of it. I cannot see how access to Which? Conversation would be any different.

Multiple posting is not the crime of the century so let’s keep a sense of proportion on this and if there is a general and serious concern over possible data breaches then let’s find other ways of dealing with the problem.

I think we should lose the Agree/Disagree buttons, though, whatever happens over registration.

The problem being addressed by the Swedish academics was related to the misuse of the internet by
terrorists and extremists for illegal purposes and for fomenting hostile attitudes and behaviours. This is a far cry from multiple posting on a community website which does not justify the kinds of analytical detection that the academics identified as ways to combat such activity and which it would be ridiculous for Which? to employ. They did demonstrate how it could be done, though, if the circumstances required it, although I was not satisfied that it was entirely conclusive and it was certainly not infallible so just one stepping stone on the way to an identification process.

We keep debating thumbs and registration. My view is to abolish thumbs; I’d prefer to see a comment responded to if it is disagreed with so the Convo can advance. I’d also like to see all posters register and provide an email address; Which? can then follow up problems they raise – CPCW, Amazon, Consumer Rights for example – for the benefit of all.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho, perhaps Which? would like to give their views and reasoning.

anonymous says:
8 December 2019

I have not really explored posting comments without registration, so forgive me for trying an experiment.

wavechange

I see that I was able to post using a different username and an email address that was mine but is no longer active.

You can like each of your posts with the doppelganger other too!

“If people do not register there is no traceability and Which? is not able to intervene even if there appear to be suspicious multiple postings. ”
I’d be very surprised if the IP address of each post isn’t visible on the admin screen. Ok there might be two people in the same household, and individuals can of course link via proxies, but Mr Average using sock puppets would stick out like chapel hat pegs in admin login (or at least they should do. If not then the forum software is lacking in a fundamental feature.

I still think a physical log-in would exercise a degree of restraint and let people know that they can be easily traced if necessary.

Which? has been asked for a comment so we shall have to wait and see whether the current policy will be maintained.

I 100% agree with the need to log in to post, but I do not agree with removing the thumbs.

Thumbs keep posters in check to a certain extent. They can tell posters their post is out of order without having to explain why. Without thumbs, you can get dominant posters who can bully and impose their views that can sometimes be extreme and you either stand up to them by posting a response or leave the forum. Dominant posters and bullies tend to attract supporters so it takes guts to stand up to them but the likelihood is that you get cut down and will leave. This place is already a boys club and I wouldn’t like to see it attract other regular posters who try to dominate.

You all use the thumbs so why is it every time a post is marked down and someone is asked to explain themselves we get this uprising of ban the thumbs again?

Don’t tell me you are not happy to receive some appreciation for your posts? Ian, don’t you like to see a few thumbs up on your morning quips? Not all posts warrant a response but when you have put a lot of effort into a post, just a single thumbs up can it can make all that effort feel worthwhile. The alternative to thumbs is thousands of posts taking up space that say you agree or disagree or +1 as wavechange has put.

Politics seem to bring out the worst in people and invitations to verbal diarrhoea always bring a strange mixture of comments and as actual conversations rarely take place are often best avoided especially as replies are unlikely to ever be read by the original poster when they don’t log in to post so have no history. Yes the thumbs are abused, but those posts don’t reflect everyday use of this site. I would hope logging to post and would solve the problem somewhat or at least make it harder for the abusers.

I agree with what you have said here, Alfa – you’ve managed to change my mind through your explanation of the virtues of the thumbs up and down. If we keep them, I would like to revert to the simple scoring for and against instead of the current amalgamated scores.

I endorse your comment on the ‘boys club’. I think it’s getting worse. And the language between commenters can be quite pugnacious at times. I am sure if they were talking to each other face to face they would not express themselves in such a challenging way.

Thank you John. I would also like to see both the thumbs up and down scores separately.

It is interesting the thumbs have given a voice to another person who agrees with them but hasn’t posted possibly because they haven’t wanted to wade in and be the lone voice against here.

Inappropriate posts can be removed through the reporting system.

My issue with thumbs is half-hearted. If someone simply agrees with a comment that has been made then a thumbs up is a good shorthand to say so. If someone disagrees with a comment, simply indicating disagreement without explaining why seems, to me, to add nothing useful to the debate. I would like to know why a proposal, for example, is seen by someone to be wrong. Surely the whole purpose of many Convos is to explore and examine topics and see if some conclusions can be reached. Thumbs down do nothing to achieve that.

Alfa, your cogent and perceptive post would make a lot of sense, were it not for the fact that the thumbs are so easily manipulated. Yes – I agree the odd up tick is encouraging, but the problem is that currently we cannot be sure just how those ups and downs are being posted. And there’s another issue, which goes to the root of how and why a forum operates.

Let me put the alternative view: the very existence of the thumbs allows people to comment without commenting – if that makes sense. It is. after all, the easiest thing to simply tick a box; far harder is to compose a thoughtful and reasoned response. Now, in most forums that use any variation of the thumbs (‘karma’ is usually the name) the contributor adding an up or down tick is identified through the admin portal. Because I don’t know of any forum, apart from this one, that doesn’t insist on mandatory registration prior to posting, anonymity isn’t valid. Thus those who choose to disagree with a post can be clearly identified and that militates against both manipulation and spite.

On the second point, however, what really worries me is that the ability to up- or down- vote a post without attribution leads to a community in which covert bullying can become endemic. That does happen when any sort of political debate is underway. One person with strong views can effectively marshal large numbers of illicit down votes to reinforce their own opinions and prejudices. That is a particularly nasty form of the bullying you correctly identify, because the recipient has no idea who agrees or disagrees.

You have, of course, aimed squarely at my weak point, Alfa ( :-)) with your observation about the morning quips. And of course I like seeing if folk have enjoyed what I’ve laboured hours over found in a book and yes; it does make it worthwhile. But I would still do it – and do do it elsewhere, in fact – without the thumbs because another way of showing appreciation is by an emojii – 🙂 – which takes barely any time at all and is, I suspect, more meaningful to the poster. And avoids me puzzling about exactly who it was 🙂

Bullies and dominant posters are different beasts, I think; John, for example is an excellent example of the latter but certainly not of the former, as are you yourself. Bullies have to be dealt with by the administrators and moderators.Which can make things difficult if one bullying is also a moderator.

John says he would be content to retain the thumbs up but without any form of aggregation, if I read his comment correctly. In other words, each person would only ever see a single tick up. That I could live with but only if compulsory registration were to be introduced.

I understand that there may be moves afoot to replace the software for this place and I hope that when that happens our thoughts in here will be considered. But I still believe in the short term we need to introduce compulsory registration without doubt and until a better form of up ticking can be devised I also favour, for the moment at least, eliminating the thumbs completely.

I see your “investigative powers” are like mine Ian ,cant help noticing those things , I would really like those who mark you down to at least put up an argument for doing so otherwise “personalities ” could come into it , no technical forum I have been on would allow that sort of thing the poster would be told in no uncertain terms to “put up or shut up ” -maybe in more polite way but the same result.
I also understand why Which might not want the UK public to register for several reasons but I would rather Which talked about that.
I don’t mind justified criticism but not “secret ballot ” stuff I would rather argue it out one way or another its the only way human beings gain knowledge by listening to others point of view and massive media companies make big profit from it..

Unlike some of you, I have to search for emoji and don’t have them readily to hand, thus I don’t use them. I have never used a negative thumb and feel that any negativity should be explored verbally. Likewise a negative thumb is not appropriate for expressing confusion when something someone says is unclear. There is a momentary smile when someone agrees with one of my comments and gives it a tick (especially when I delve into matters where I lack expertise but have an “opinion”.) and I do use the positive thumb when I like/support a comment but either have no time -or no inclination – or no ability – to reply. If Ian gets a wry smile, a chuckle or even a roll of the eye in the morning that usually merits a thumb up as does the witty response from others.
I am sad Alfa thinks of this space as a boys own talking shop. Her interesting and informed contributions should convince us that there is plenty of space for all of us. Who else has been so prolific with graphic, appropriate and amusing graphics? Perhaps the ladies are less inclined to reflect at the keyboard over a brew than we are, but there is no hint, that I can see, that we are dismissive of any person who has something useful to say. I don’t detect much bullying either. If I can exist here, then anyone can.

Hyphen + Colon + RH Parenthesis is the smiley emoji, Vynor, and there are others.

🙂

B )

See here for some suggestions:-https://www.wikihow.com/Type-Emoticons

Ian wrote: “Hyphen + Colon + RH Parenthesis is the smiley emoji…)

I thought it’s colon, hyphen and rh parenthesis: 🙂

I do this but believe it works without the hyphen: 🙂

Derek: thanks. Excellent link.

🙂

I think basically everyone is in agreement; there needs to be – as a matter of urgency – a compulsory registration system introduced. If not, then the issue of manipulation of both posts and thumbs will simply increase. At some point what faith there remains in the site will be gone. And that can’t be good for Which?.

-:)
Mmm?

Hmm. I suppose that this is like writing a sentence. The words have to be in the right order. 🙂

Vynor – : – ) and : – D (if exceptionally happy) or : – ( – all without the spaces, will probably give all the emojis you’ll need 😀

Sorry Vynor… it’s 🙂 colon and rh parenthesis. Profuse and abject apologies.

🙂

🙂
Thanks!!!

-:-) 😀 :-(-
1 out of 3. not bad, I’ll stick with that.

A word of warning about emoji,s Vynor be careful where you get them and hackers (as usual ) have implanted many with malware .
Thunderbird automatically blocks them as companies use them to gather data and scam emails can lead you on to “click on it ” with that nice friendly cuddly face.- quote-

There are way too many cases when free emoji keyboards spread viruses or other malicious content. So if you would like to use one, at the very least choose one from the official app stores”, ******** expert Daniel Markuson suggests. “Viruses and malware usually slow down your computer as they mess around with everything – from pushing ads or phishing sites to hijacking your browser. So if this happens after you install an emoji keyboard – remove it and run a malware scan right away.”

And then there is another way how cybercriminals use the cute emotion pictures – emoji malware scam. In recent years, emojis have become their bait of choice, especially when various studies show that emails and newsletters with emojis in the subject line are opened 66% more frequently. If that works for pesky marketers, why not use it for malware scam campaigns?

“Such scammy emails often contain deals that are too good to be true. However, the smiling emojis winking at you at the end of the sentence have a way to convince us that this is a real thing sent by a friendly person,” says Daniel Markuson, *******Digital Privacy Expert. “You open the email, press the link and get that malware into your computer. Those adorable emojis may lead to serious headaches.”

Which is why we’re using only text translation emojis.

😀

Thanks Duncan, good advice.