/ 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.

from which free email providers, Ian?

Well I just made a new Twitter account and it blocked me from using it until I provide a phone number

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 thought I should clarify my views on the presentation of results for use of the Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons.

At present, the scores are shown in a composited way, so that if ten people vote I Agree and ten people vote I Disagree a net score of zero is shown. If six people have voted I Agree and four people have voted I Disagree, a net score of two [Agrees] is shown. If it’s the other way round then a net score of minus two is shown. But in no case is it possible to see how many people have voted overall.

In the previous system, each button had its own cumulative score shown, such as Agree 10, Disagree 6. This gave a feel for the number of people voting and the relative margin. No new vote could cancel out the record and reduce it to zero.

Personally I prefer the original system and if we are going to keep some form of rating system I would like to revert to that. Where strong contention occurs there could be a case for removing the buttons from that particular Conversation.

On balance I think there is a good case for keeping a quick and easy method for signifying agreement or disagreement to avoid filling space up with superfluous comment boxes and I think the identification requirement would deter people from showing a snapshot of their opinion. I would also encourage dissenters to explain themselves but that should continue to be optional. I appreciate that down thumbs irk some contributors, especially if their comment was entirely factual, but the world is like that unfortunately.

A further possibility would be to grant the privilege of being able to use the thumbs only to those who have registered.

On the thumbs issue, this has come up a couple of times and I don’t think there’s been a clear indication of preference one way or the other?

By way of context, the comment voting system exists as a way of light touch engagement for people visiting the site, providing a way to invite people who may not want to comment for whatever reason to take part in the discussion. Like many communities the vast amount of people using the site tend to comment very infrequently, if at all – with Convo there’s about 9700-ish registered users who are listed as active on the site (either logged in or have logged in recently – I need to work out what timeframe constitutes “recent” when I have a spare moment), and traffic-wise I’d expect there’s a couple thousand more than that who visit the site on a monthly basis. This, along with polls and quizzes, give the site an even lower barrier to participation. It’s also a very underused feature by members, with some 1200ish users (roughly 2% of the site registered population) making use of the vote buttons one way or the other.

And in general, the count you see is accurate. Having had a brief skim over the voting logs now there’s nothing to suggest a widespread abuse of the comment voting system that I can see, and looking at a couple of the high traffic conversations (the Consumer Agenda and Thomas Cook collapse conversations are two that I’ve checked) I’ve not seen any evidence of widespread manipulation, double voting, or gang voting by specific individuals.

It’s not perfect, and there’s been a couple of instances where the technology has failed and enabled users to vote multiple times while logged in (literally a handful among many thousands in the logs); if memory serves on where the timestamps for these seem to coincide with times where the site was having other ongoing cookie issues. This is a bug though, not a feature, so if you do see this occur please do flag it up herein with the comment in question and we’ll get it sorted.

With a new platform there’ll be scope to develop this in a more dynamic direction – perhaps arranging threads by best/controversial (similar to Reddit), hiding comments that hit a certain threshold, etc.. This we’ll park that for the moment as that’s the scoping project. At the moment, we can:

  • Disable voting entirely
  • Disable guests from voting (users must register to vote on comments)
  • No restrictions on voting (current setup)

Some options which would require developer time (if possible):

  • Disabling the downvote button only
  • Disabling the vote count (user sees their vote only)
  • Showing independent counts for up and down votes

I’d say a poll is in order – will get that set up and embedded above when I have a free moment later today.

Thank you Vynor for your kind words and I agree that the regulars are very welcoming of non-regulars.

But, there are many times heated exchanges would put people off from posting when it is the same few people who post. This place would fall apart without them but I would love to see more people participating regularly.

The thumbs give people a voice when they have taken the trouble to come here but don’t post for whatever reason. Jon has stated it is rarely abused so that is not a valid reason for removing them.

Seeing the names of voters might work on some sites, but I have seen where they create little groups who up-vote each other all the time and gang up on people causing bad feeling. It won’t happen here at the moment, but could if there were more regular posters.

Jon’s figure of 1200-ish using the thumbs doesn’t include non-registered users so is it fair for a minority to keep bringing it up the thumbs and browbeating the site into removing them when thousands use them? Is it fair to suppress visitors their say in whatever form they wish to express it?

Alfa: you say “Jon has stated (thumbs are) rarely abused but the question there is how can he possibly know?

Good question Ian and just for that I will be “non-abusive ” and give you a thumbs up.
How technically advanced is Jon or is the new software I take from AWS got new facilities to make it easy to make those types of value judgements ?
Its something I haven’t spent any time looking into but I will now.

It’s a pretty straightforward look at the voting log. You’d be looking for occasions where a specific comment has multiple votes listed against a specific user identifier. If the number listed against the identifier is anything more than one, that would suggest abuse of some of the voting buttons. Easiest with a pivot table and a fair bit of coffee.

This data actually comes from WordPress rather than AWS or elsewhere. Having something more robust would be nice, but that’s something to be scoped out and planned for at this stage.

Thanks for those replies Jon , I did not realise how big an issue this is worldwide especially on technical forums .
My initial investigations (subject to change ) is that moderators while having a lot of tools at their disposal do not know who is marking up or down ,one moderator said if they themselves had the advantage of changing points/marks /etc then they could mark their own up every time.
It was agreed that the person able to find out who marked a post up or down was the developer of the software .
Its interesting learning some of the techniques of moderation never thought about it before.

This has been discussed so many times. Perhaps now is the time to have a vote (by registered contributors) so Which? Convo managers have an indication of the general feeling. Up to them what they then do, of course.

Jon Stricklin-Coutinho says: Today 14:46

On the thumbs issue, this has come up a couple of times and I don’t think there’s been a clear indication of preference one way or the other?

I beg to differ. Most of us are happy without them, and many feel they add nothing. Some feel they actively impede debate.

As a point of interest why even have them? I do have them on a forum I administer, but with a very marked difference: a member who clicks on the thumbs sees the names of the others who’ve voted. And, by popular request, we abolished the down votes.

Down votes serve no purpose; they’re indicate of negativity, can damage the flow of debate, add nothing to the context and leave many unsure of whom to trust.

Just like in here.

What Ian mentions is the only satisfactory voting system that I have encountered on forums, but whether that could be implemented depends on the facilities available in the Convo software.

For years I thought we should leave it up to those running Which? Convo to decide how best to run and develop the site, hopefully taking into account general views expressed here. I’m now so fed-up about the thumbs issue I would be glad to see them gone. Is it not better that the Convo team have more time to help us getting colleagues in Which? to respond to our comments?

The reply ordering has been changed in here; replies now appear immediately beneath the post to which they’re related.

If that is true Ian then to me at least that would be a major improvement ,I have seen my replies way down the convo making zero sense or purpose .

It would make sense indeed, Duncan, but it only seems to happen in here, oddly. Possibly only in this thread, too. Look at the timings on the comments in this single thread.

I see, however, that this is a sub-thread. Wonder if that makes a difference?

This is to do with threading and subthreading rather than any structural changes on our part. If you reply to a thread using the “reply” button on an individual comment it appears below (as a child comment) to the original (parent) comment.

If you reply using the larger box on the bottom of the screen (under “Join the Debate”), that creates a new parent comment at the bottom of the page. That’s probably why your comments are appearing at the bottom of the page @duncan-lucas rather than inline within the thread.

Posts will order comments by prioritizing the thread and then the chronology, so a new reply will appear inline with an older comment, while a newer parent comment will appear further down the thread, or perhaps on a separate page. The Latest Activity page however, will order these purely on chronology, so you’ll see the latest comments regardless of where in a thread they will appear.

This is likely where the confusion is arising over in the older Mince Pies conversation, and often how an older conversations get reawakened after some time.

Still don’t get mince pies, either, but I’m learning to live with it!

I tend to post replies directly under the child comment to which they relate and they remain there until either I go back to Latest Comments or close the session. The next time I join the Conversation the comments I had posted previously have been shuffled into chronological order and, as Duncan says, end up at the bottom of the thread even though the comment to which they relate might be many items higher up. For that reason I try to anticipate that and put something in at the start of the new comment that will help locate its birthplace – such as the contributor’s name or a reference to the specific point discussed. Identifying by timing doesn’t work because by the following day everything has lost its timestamp.

As Ian has mentioned, something has happened to the ordering of comments in this thread because they are not exactly as I remember them last night.

I’ll see if I can get to the bottom of how these comments may have been shifted around. I don’t think we’ve implemented any changes that would have affected comment display or flow, but then again this old house of a platform has its quirks. How did you remember them last night John?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but a helpful tip if you’re looking to hold onto a specific comment or comment thread is to grab the URL of the specific comment from the timestamp. If you right click on the timestamp in the upper right corner of the comment and click “Copy URL”, that’ll give you the specific comment URL. Could prove useful if you’re looking to see where something may have moved.

So far as I can recall, there were no interruptions in the continuity of 10 December comments, but now there are some of Today’s comments mixed in.

Copying and pasting the timestamp is a useful facility, albeit a bit cumbersome in a running thread but excellent for referencing a much earlier comment or one in another Conversation.

To: Jon Stricklin-Coutinho
What is happening is new. We’re all familiar with the child / parent structure, and we know about specific URL references.

What’s happening in this thread at the moment is a behaviour I haven’t seen before and which now seems to have changed again..

Your comment:

https://conversation.which.co.uk/which-membership/welcome-to-the-new-which-conversation/#comment-1582943

dated 10th Dec is followed immediately by Alfa’s comment

https://conversation.which.co.uk/which-membership/welcome-to-the-new-which-conversation/#comment-1582986

(NB look at the final two digits in each case)

which then, several comments further down is followed by Malcolm’s post dated 10th December

https://conversation.which.co.uk/which-membership/welcome-to-the-new-which-conversation/#comment-1582924

Now, this is unique on this site. For years it has laboured under an absurd system which epitomises illogicality. A reply to a sub thread post will always display directly beneath the post to which it refers, but then – once the screen is refreshed for any reason – will appear in chronological order – often at the very bottom and deprived of context.

It’s a foible of the software, obviously, but an incredibly infuriating foible. Now – for the first time I can remember – this thread – and only this thread from what I can divine – was behaving logically. However, that now seems to have stopped, as this post seems to testify. This post has been placed directly beneath John’s and yet above Duncan’s.

Something has changed. Again.

I wish that were true Jon but its not I have never used the box at the bottom of a webpage to reply to a poster direct.
Yes if its a new point on the convo topic but I like to reply directly to the poster if I want to comment on his/her post.

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.

Morning all, and apologies in the delay in coming back to this thread. It has been a busy time complicated further by being on holiday over Thanksgiving.

There’s a couple of issues in the above threads where people have called for a Which? response. I’ll endeavour to separate these out into separate comments so as to make replying and ensuing conversation easier.

On enforcing mandatory login
Put briefly, this is going to happen, but in a way that will add value–rather than complication–to the user experience.

Let’s start with a lot of the concerns that have been pointed out. Summarizing the comment which re-opened this discussion, and the follow up parent comment also from 8 December, I’m hearing that the concerns are:

  • The site opposes registration
  • There is no check on who is using the site
  • Registration would make harder for people to abuse the site
  • Registering makes it easier to trace comments and follow up with users

(I think I got them all in there, if not let me know in a reply)

While registering for the site and verifying your email address is beneficial to addressing these concerns (and has real benefits to using the site), it wouldn’t actually address the concerns above, nor does it prevent us in any way from mitigating and addressing each one.

We’re not actually opposed to registering for the site, and in the Terms & Conditions for the site we actually consider commenting without verifying your email address as a light registration for using the site. In doing so you still agree to abiding by the T&Cs and guidelines, but do not get the full experience of the site.

Roger was also spot on in how the system displays on the back end. We’re able to see very clearly who is commenting on the site, and those who are using multiple names, fake emails or other methods of gaming the system to abuse the conversation. When this happens we will step in and address the situation as is merited, where possible we aim to contact the user in the first instance.

There’s a degree of nuance that needs to happen here, particularly as having a less-straightforward registration process means the majority of genuine users who are new to the conversation will comment without registering in the first instance. If you suspect someone is abusing the site with false IDs, I’d advise you to get in contact with us rather than publicly accuse them on the site as in my time here there’s been at least two or three instances of others forming a mob mentality against a first time commenter whom they judged to be a sock puppet, but according to the data we see as admins was an actual person.

Completing the full registration for the site helps to cut down on this abuse, but again hasn’t blocked it entirely, as many fake users have registered with a temporary email address for the purposes of spamming. A rough skim over the logs shows this has happened just over 1000 times in the past 12 months, with varying degrees of success on the part of the spammer. We’ve additional tools here in the spam filters and other commenting features that screen for these to keep them out of the flow of the conversation.

In terms of following up with users, we aim to do this publicly wherever possible. Again, having an email address verified for this is helpful if we need to go into greater depth with a commenter in a way that will be out of public view, however not having this does not necessarily prevent this though as an unregistered commenter can check back into the conversation (albeit much easier if they’ve registered).

Two concerns that weren’t mentioned earlier were the technical stability of the platform and the not-straightforward login process. As you may recall we had some recurring issues earlier this year with deploying site updates which ended up knocking logged in users off the site after less than a minute. While we’ve managed to remedy the problem we’re not yet at a longer term solution with technical back end, so I’m very hesitant to deploy a mandatory login change while that risk is still present.

There are, as you know, logins for the Which? Conversation, and for Which.co.uk, and because of this a lot of what comes through the Conversation.comments inbox (and the Member Services Centre in Cardiff to a lesser extent, and even raised at this year’s AGM) are questions on why peoples’ logins aren’t working. I see more value in being able to welcome more perspectives and consumer issues into the site with a very low barrier of entry than I do in enforcing the login and swallowing the cost of maintaining the login and at risk to more people participating.

Why I say a mandatory login will happen, though, is because this is the solution to the not-straightforward login process currently present on the site, as well as movement in further renovating the site as a whole.The aim here is to have Single Sign on, enabling you to see the comments you’ve left in particular Convos, and the rest of your engagement with Which? as well – what you’re subscribed to, what reviews you might have saved, etc. Beyond this, we’d also be aiming for more integration around the site, a more personalised experience for users, more member-focused (and members-only) forum spaces, public spaces open to everyone, and so forth. I would imagine that an alternative to the comment voting feature will also be part of this new platform, though that depends on scoping.

This is part of a wider (and much larger) package of work within the whole of the Which? digital estate, so this will take some time (and a lot of my time as well behind the scenes). Not much to report at the moment as more of this is going to kick off in the new year, but I will, of course keep you posted.

That’s probably a longer answer to an already long question, but I hope it’s given a bit of insight on where we are with the logins.

Jon, Thanks for this detailed post. It is useful to see your views on these matters.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho, suppose an unregistered commenter relates a problem with, for example, a retailer – let’s say, mis-selling laptops, wrongly supplying 2 pin plugs, burning tumble dryers, shattered glass in washing machines, denying CRA rights, ……..Are you able to make direct contact with the commenter to follow up their problem in more detail to accumulate similar complaints and enable a case to be put together for action?

Thanks Jon. Perhaps it would be useful if we were provided with some insight into why apparently simple changes have other ramifications. My own interaction with site developers at work was quite humbling. I look forward to single sign-on, which is long overdue.

If mandatory login happens, I may stop visiting the site

I’ve already said why I think it’s a bad idea in another place here

Nothing is unhackable. It’s already worrying that the Which website records ip addresses, which could lead to hackers getting the ones of posters they don’t like and directly access their computers. Some regulars are probably already moderating what they say about consumer rights and other issues, in case they get hacked for saying the wrong thing

Dont stop posting Wev everybody should be able to express an opinion even when it disagrees with another while I see where you are coming from in getting emails from those disagreeing or not liking a poster they are going to have a job directly accessing my PC unless its via a government dept.or my ISP.
Moderating my posts ?? just ask the other regulars if I do that or even Which . When I had Windows I had many attacks but I enjoy getting malware emails with Linux as they are so amateurish and easily seen through ,even the one or two “good ” repros of BT can be checked by myself for malware they give up eventually as they get nowhere with me.
Its actually interesting being sent malware it keeps my mind active I have removed all the “big boys ” of the web from my PC and that includes all the apps .
Found one yesterday related to fonts by Google will be removing it shortly on my old PC or disabling it by stealth as its part of another programme .

wev says: Nothing is unhackable. It’s already worrying that the Which website records ip addresses, which could lead to hackers getting the ones of posters they don’t like and directly access their computers.

Wev: every website you visit records the IP address; that’s normal, but using the IP address to directly access someone’s computer is an entirely different ball game, and far beyond the means of most people.

Some regulars are probably already moderating what they say about consumer rights and other issues, in case they get hacked for saying the wrong thing

Extremely unlikely, and people don’t hack users on here ‘for saying the wrong thing’.

Look, despite what you may have heard on the panic mill, accessing someone else’s computer takes real skill and a fair bit of technology. And almost all hacking is done through social engineering – not by simply getting the IP address.

Frankly, your online shop, bank, insurance company and GP are far, far more likely to be ‘hacked’ than Which?. And Which? has a lot to lose if they were to be hacked, so I’d bet the security is pretty good.

Most places that do get hacked are hacked because someone on the inside helps out. Now, that’s as likely to happen here as anywhere, but so long as you don’t give out any important information, they only have your IP address which changes all the time, anyway. How could that possibly help the hacker?

Wev – Ian is right about your IP address being available to website administrators. I discovered that 25 years ago when an administrator sent me a log of visitors. Many users have a dynamic IP address that may change when the router is restarted but will identify your ISP and possibly give an indication of your location. Most people are not concerned and I’ve never had an account hacked. If you do want to change your IP the usual way is to use a VPN (paid-for or free). It’s legal in the UK and simple to use. I used one when I was working at home for (legitimate) access to student records and other secure services intended for use at work.

We don’t want to lose your input. 🙂

Add my name to Ian,s post he is right Which ? is pretty safe in comparison to many websites online , why do you think I comment on the low third party cookie collectors on which most are First party and that does make a big difference to safety .
Some websites have 100+ and not just your standard cookies and as far as I can see they don’t use a tracking server otherwise I wouldn’t be able to reach Which ? website let alone post on it.
He is also right about hacking a computer not easy unless you “help them “, why do you think I say it takes my ISP or the government services to force its way on .
With Windows 7 I was forcefully attacked quite a few times so I know the way its done .
For the record I gave Ian,s post a “thumbs up “.

Thank you, kind sir 🙂

I remain logged in and only have to sign in again about every couple of weeks when it takes a few seconds. If a similar process were used for single-sign-on I can’t see that anyone would be seriously inconvenienced.

There are such juicy hacking targets out there I don’t see Which? users as being particularly exposed to hacking attempts or malware implants.

I stay logged in as well. Occasionally find I’m asked to sign in again, but not often. I have had no problems, and no hacking.

I stay logged in too, but the Convo team presumably takes account of those who make worthwhile contributions but do not log in for their own reasons. Not everyone has given their reasons, but Wev did recently.

@malcolm-r We would certainly endeavour to try to do so, keeping in mind the context of the situation in play. In either case we’d comment publicly to ask for more information and/or to contact us via email with more details. If the user had registered or had commented with what appears to be a valid email address we would also attempt contact via that route.

Depending on the situation we can also bring in experience from other parts of Which?, for example having the Consumer Rights team or Which? Legal team provide their input and expertise.

Long answer short – yes!

We’ve got additional mechanisms in place to prevent hacking if that’s any help, wev. While Which? Conversation may not be the highest or most valuable target to hack, that’s a headache that I’d rather avoid in the day.

You’d mentioned having multiple accounts earlier as well. Having a single login would be a move to simplifying the number of accounts that a Which? Member would have, and having an account generally would give you credentials to access parts of the site that would be more generally, so a login would become mandatory if you were to wanting to use the paywalled parts of which.co.uk, or access more specific areas of the community space.

On the other hand, I do not want to move away from the conversation being a public gateway into Which? and consumer rights issues, as that’s been core to why this community has been founded. Nor do I want to create something which forces people beyond the level of privacy with which they are comfortable. I’d be to maintain a similar public-facing space and, if one does register, that they’re able to have a say over what level of themselves they’re displaying publicly.

Jon Stricklin-Coutinho says Today 10:10

I do not want to move away from the conversation being a public gateway into Which? and consumer rights issues, as that’s been core to why this community has been founded

Not sure why a simple registration moves away from being a public gateway. It certainly doesn’t seem to concern just about any other forum on the internet. If people are concerned about not revealing emails and such they can grab any one of a host of free services. They can even use e4ward which allows them an unlimited number of free email names.

I’m not clear about the single sign on proposal. Will Which? members simply use their main account user name and password for Convos as well? How does that help when those many other commenters we want to attract are not members?

I’m sure I’ve missed the obvious.

What I do hope we will see is a section of Convo that is only accessible to Which? members so that certain issues can be discussed out of the public gaze. Is that likely to happen?

I do tend to visit, read, comment, post and then register as a natural progression. The site allows this and prompts a registration as an end process. The only way to change that, is to make registration a process of entering the site and that would stop instant comments from passers by. It would probably narrow the contributions to those who regularly post and are prepared to spend time typing log-ins to get here.
The thumbs issue never really bothers me. I don’t see it as much of an irritation for a group thumbs down to be organised and the effort of doing this is hardly worth the result, as is a group thumbs up. Words count, they can be analysed, thumbs don’t convey much except, perhaps, as a straw pole of public opinion among those who read our comments.
A thousand spam comments is quite a lot. I am not clear what is gained by faking e. mails or pretending to be someone else. Regulars are well known and, as far as I know, no one has written using our names. So any comment can be read as a contribution to a debate. It can be moderated with the rest of the input and it hardly matters who has said it or what they have said. We are not going to be influenced or persuaded to take any significant action from fake comments, and hopefully lies and propaganda will be seen for what they are. This is a discussion site not a legislative one. We are invited to opine and that’s all.

Kevin says:
10 December 2019

I’m a Which member, but have not registered for convos since I have hundreds of accounts already for other services (online shopping, travel, bank etc) which I use infrequently and I don’t want another pointless social account when I should be able to use my Which account. So bring on single sign on ASAP.

I’m not suggesting banning non-which members; force them to register or not as site requirements dictate. Maybe only let Which members vote though?

No worries at all Malcolm. In principle the aim is to have simply one login for everything, so your login for Which.co.uk would enable you to be signed into the entire site (including Convo) rather than one subdomain of Which.co.uk. In theory, one could then create specific site areas accessible to certain segments of membership, the members only area a good example.

In practice, there’s a lot of tech scoping and website mapping that will need to happen, not least the platform that powers the community functionality of the site. While the specific functions will differ, most platforms I’ve seen will enable this public/private space dynamic, and it’s in my requirements to do so.

Long answer made short – yes!

@jon-stricklin-coutinho, thanks Jon. I understand the convenience to Which? members of a single log in. But what will non-members do? Still register in the normal way? I’m not clear how Convo will benefit. Perhaps I should read your reply more carefully.

Non-members of Which? would use the same login as well, but wouldn’t have access to what a member would have using the same login (e.g. content behind the paywall, member-specific areas of Which.co.uk, etc.)

For Convo (or a future community platform) and Which.co.uk, the register/sign in page effectively becomes the same process. Hope that helps clarify?

A single log-in can offer many benefits. At present, to look at the magazine archive we have to log into Which? and then log in again to see the archive. At work we had access to a dozen different services, all password protected, and when single-login arrived logging in once provided access to everything the individual had permission to use.

In the context of Which? that could include free services which you have signed-up to (e.g Which? Convo), services that have to be paid for (e.g. Which? reviews and the magazine archive), and services restricted to those subscribers who have paid their 50p for membership. This has got to be done while maintaining the current services until the change is implemented.

Thanks Jon. 🙂

Roger Pittock says:
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

You and I have more than 40 years between us of running forums, Roger, and we both know that it’s relatively easy to fool the system – especially if the one doing the fooling is an admin. Now I know you said ‘Mr Average using sock puppets’ but the problem is that those who employ sock puppets are very much not your Mr Average.

However, if things are going to stay roughly as they are – which seems likely – then we will simply have to treat all postings with extreme caution and even scepticism.

There remain many unanswered questions on this topic. Let’s hope the imminent Xmas celebrations don’t impede normal functioning.

Does Which? censor comments? I posted a comment about half an hour ago but it hasn’t appeared. There was nothing offensive in it – I was commenting on product safety – but I did criticise Which? for failing to point out a major safety issue around mattresses.

Hey Dekkasofa,

Sorry about that! Your comments went straight into the spam queue. I’m not 100% sure why this has happened, however I’ve restored your comment, will check into it and make sure it does not happen again for you.

In answering your question we will edit or remove comments to remove offensive language, defamatory content, are attacking or trolling other users or other specific people, or any other reason outlined in either the Community Guidelines or the site’s Terms and Conditions. We wouldn’t remove a comment solely for criticism of Which?, instead we’ll make the product testing team aware of what you’ve said and endeavour to get a reply for you thereon.

Again, sorry about the slight runaround here!

George Martin or Jon Stricklin-Coutinho, if you’re around?

Which Conversation has had a problem for a few months, and I was told it would be looked into

If I post a message with no website link, it appears instantly
If I post a message with a website link, it takes a few hours or days to get approved by moderators, and it’s pushed to the back of the Latest Comments page

Most visitors just look at page 1 or 2 of Latest Comments, so if my post appears on page 7 or further back, it won’t get read by anyone

Moderator approved posts should appear at the top of Latest Comments with a just now posted time and date, not the original time and date they were submitted

wev – thanks, that’s a sensible suggestion.

Wev – as a longstanding contributor, I am surprised the trusted link-posting facility has not been extended to you.

I agree with Derek, your suggestion is eminently sensible.

I would like more of our regular contributors to be trusted to post links without the need for a moderator to approve them. I suspect that Which? might require anyone granted this privilege to be signed-in, and I understand why Wev is not keen to do this.

You can get round this by posting just the text of a link.

Derek has provided plenty of examples of this. Leaving out the http://www will avoid the software identifying a link and notifying the moderators. I cannot remember any member of Which? staff commenting about contributors doing this. All the reader has to do is to copy the link and open it in a new tab or window.

Yes indeed. As a somewhat part-time software engineer myself, I find it quite curious that the robot W?C moderators only look for text strings starting with strings like #http#//#www# (but without the #’s), as opposed to strings containing those characters or strings that become valid URL’s with the addition of those characters.

Many other places, including YouTube and Facebook seem quite happy to allow posters to include web-links in their posts.

As a much smaller publisher, I wonder if Which? is worried about any potential liability, if it ever publishes fully working links to “bad” places on the web. If so, then any links that required deliberate user editing action before they can be opened may reduce but not eliminate those liability issues.

As an example of the potential risk to users, I did once end up in a bad place, after clicking a link on a motorcycle enthusiasts’ website, and then got quite a bad virus on my Windows 7 PC. So in that case, I think my ISP and all my security software let me down, by allowing me to get there at all. [Not long afterwards, I stopped using Windows as my main home computing platform.]

Hey wev,

We’re here! Happy New Year as well!

This is actually a pretty complicated challenge to try to solve, as it’d involve changing how the system records the timestamp on each comment (at the time posted by the user) and how the moderation system would interplay with this (currently it does not affect the timestamp). I don’t have an answer for you yet how possible this is in our current setup (if it is possible), but it’s something I’ve raised with the dev team as well as a requirement on future platform scoping More to come!

One way around this in the shorter term (apart from text links) would be to create anaccount, as this would allow you to gain the trusted link posting ability that @johnward mentioned below. This trust has to build – your first few posts with links would probably go into moderation, but your approval history would then be able to recorded. I know you outlined why you don’t have an account earlier in the discussion, but if you did want to consider setting one up though and wanted to go through privacy settings or anything in more detail (and more in private), feel free to email me at conversation.comments@which.co.uk, and we can discuss in more detail.

The other, more practical way in which we’re also dealing with this is by being far more proactive as moderators to get things approved so legitimate links aren’t sitting in pending for as long as they have been. This’ll continue to improve this year as well.

The log in process issue has reappeared, it seems. A few times, recently, the system has asked me to log in, despite the simple fact that I haven’t logged out.

This used to be an issue, but then seemed to improve, so one was not required to log in, with the system remembering who we were. So this is a new behaviour.

I’ve noticed this too – and assumed it was a sensible precaution by ensuring cookies had a condimental expiry date 😉

While in curry’s a few weeks ago I was told by a Sony rep that manufacturers pay to be included in which? Tests. Is this true?

Hi Dandiddly – I noticed that you had posted this in ‘Your ideas’:
“Curry’s In store Sony rep sewed a seed…
A Sony rep in curry’s told me that manufacturers pay to be included in which? tests. That’s why there are no Sony TVs in the best buys. Can any one confirm or deny this?”

I very much doubt that Which? would accept payment to have their products tested. At present there are four Sony ‘Best Buy’ TVs (out of the 54 tested), so I would not trust what the rep has said.

Trust Curry’s rep or Which? Which would you choose?

When I worked in marketing and sales, I always seemed to suffer at the hands of colleagues who told blatant lies and regarded that as an acceptable business practice.

I was told, perhaps unfairly, that it was the 90% of salesmen that got the other 10% a bad name. 🙂 Just in jest! I do dislike it when whole industries, organisations, or groups are tarred with the same brush when a minority give problems. We see it particularly with businesses, banks, utilities, and the like from time to time. As if the rest of us lead fault free blameless lives.