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Opened 4 months ago

Last modified 4 months ago

#5093 new defect

Proposal to allow users to remove URLs that they have added to their posts in the support forums

Reported by: carike Owned by:
Milestone: Priority: normal
Component: Support Forums Keywords: needs-privacy-review
Cc:

Description

The Problem:

  • Many users are asking that their posts be deleted or edited to remove URLs, which they included in their posts in order to get support.
  • We do not want users to be afraid to ask for help when they need it. Fear is not conducive to creating a positive learning environment.
  • Having these conversations take time and is taxing on moderators, as it can take a while to explain to a user why their URL cannot be removed. The outcome can often leave both the poster and the moderator dissatisfied.

The Constraints:

  • Removing posts / threads may hinder other users who are looking for answers to a similar problem.
  • Removing URLs currently require manual moderator intervention (time).

The Proposed Solution:

  • After the hour window to edit their own post has expired, offer the user a button that can remove URLs from their post instead of the box with their post contents.
  • This can be done by searching the post for http:// or https:// (these already turn into blue hyperlinks automatically upon posting) or www. and replacing them with:

"[URL redacted by poster]".

We could include a sentence about the tool being in beta, in the hopes that it will be useful to users, next to the button / on hover.
We could also specify that it will only work for links starting with http://, https:// or www. and that other links cannot be removed by the tool.

Change History (17)

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #forums by carike. View the logs.


4 months ago

#2 @sterndata
4 months ago

Which URL? The "page I need help with", or fragments of URLs in pasted debug logs, clarifications in replies? If there are multiple URLs in a post, which get removed?

As to only URLs beginning with http or https: This will lead to complaints that "I posted my URL and you removed X of them but not Y" and then we're right back to the moderators.

This is a can of worms and should probably be left alone.

#3 @carike
4 months ago

Which URL? The "page I need help with", or fragments of URLs in pasted debug logs, clarifications in replies? If there are multiple URLs in a post, which get removed?

"The page I need help with" link is only visible to signed-in users.
Giving the ability for that URL to be removed would be preferable as well, but it is generally less of a pain-point for users.

If there are multiple URLs in a post, they should all get removed.
The search would be for any instance of a recognized link.

As to only URLs beginning with http or https: This will lead to complaints that "I posted my URL and you removed X of them but not Y" and then we're right back to the moderators.

Just because we can't solve 100% of a problem (with one step in the first solution), doesn't mean we shouldn't take action to reduce it where we can.
In my experience, people tend to respond well to sincerity. While, yes, frustrated users may still be angry, I believe that a significant number of users will be appreciative of the good-faith effort.

Last edited 4 months ago by carike (previous) (diff)

#4 @sterndata
4 months ago

If there are multiple URLs in a post, they should all get removed. <

Excluding links to wordpress.org, stackexchange.com, etc. ?

My preferred solution is to no-index all topics when the first post is over X days old, where X is probably around 180.

If I quote a URL from the OP in one of my replies, is that edited too?

#5 @carike
4 months ago

Excluding links to wordpress.org, stackexchange.com, etc. ?

While some answers to questions in the support forums contain links to wordpress.org, stackexchange.com and the like on a relatively regular basis, I have only seen it in an OP's post on rare occasions.
I believe that, on a balance of probabilities, the benefit should go to the OP requesting the removal of the link in this case.

My preferred solution is to no-index all topics when the first post is over X days old, where X is probably around 180.

I can't say I disagree with no-indexing topics older than 6 months (for more reasons than just this one - consolidating / reducing content is actually likely to lead to a better user experience by means of facilitating more efficient search in this case), but this is not a sentiment shared by a number of forum volunteers and I'd like to acknowledge that.
However, I do not think that no-indexing alone is a sufficient solution to this particular problem.

If I quote a URL from the OP in one of my replies, is that edited too?

I thought about that, based on a recent incident.
I don't think it should be included in this proposal.
Personally I have been using

https://example.com/wp-admin/ (replace "example" with your own domain name)

in my replies to forum users.
While I do not think this practice must be required, I think it should be highly encouraged.
Again, there will be one or two edge cases that won't be covered, but our aim here is to reduce the issue as much as possible, not to chase perfection we can never achieve within the constraints.

#6 follow-up: @jonoaldersonwp
4 months ago

Not keen on blunt date-based dexindexing. Some older posts are useful and should be discoverable (often the crux of the "we should never delete anything" argument, even when posts are patently not useful), and noindex'ing has broader strategic and SEO implications.

If older posts aren't useful, we should be deleting/consolidating/merging them, not noindex'ing them but leaving them to haunt the server until the end of time for no reason.

#7 in reply to: ↑ 6 @Howdy_McGee
4 months ago

Replying to jonoaldersonwp:

Not keen on blunt date-based dexindexing. Some older posts are useful and should be discoverable (often the crux of the "we should never delete anything" argument, even when posts are patently not useful)...

I'm also not a fan of deindexing older threads.

If I quote a URL from the OP in one of my replies, is that edited too?

This will more than likely be a pain point eventually, if it's not already one now.

I don't think we should do too much to the URLs in the question itself. The only link that the user should be able to remove once the edit limit has expired should probably be the "Link to the page you need help with" box.

#8 @carike
4 months ago

I don't think we should do too much to the URLs in the question itself. The only link that the user should be able to remove once the edit limit has expired should probably be the "Link to the page you need help with" box.

The problem is that many users do not use the "Link to the page you need help with" box initially or that they provide additional URLs in their follow-up posts.

The "Link to the page you need help with" box also requires that a user be signed in to see it, which means it is not accessible to search engines.

Last edited 4 months ago by carike (previous) (diff)

#9 in reply to: ↑ description @Otto42
4 months ago

Replying to carike:

The Problem:

  • Many users are asking that their posts be deleted or edited to remove URLs, which they included in their posts in order to get support.

Why are they asking for this, exactly?

Solutions to problems require understanding the problem, not simply providing the requested solution.

#10 @sukafia
4 months ago

It seems some users don't want their client finding out they sought help to resolve an issue or build a site they were paid. This isn't really a privacy issue, it's more of some people trying to form "know all" after having got help to resolve a particular issue or achieve a feature.

There are pros and cons to this suggestion. I support this feature only because I've witnessed mods make a big deal out of removing URL for a user, in a situation I felt wasn't necessary.

I also fear this feature could be abused.

If it's possible to have guidelines under which mods can remove URLs from posts for a user, I'll certainly opt for that.

#11 @carike
4 months ago

"Because that is what users want" isn't a bad reason.

People's expectations around privacy / choice are changing.
YouTube's new Terms of Service allow users to delete their comments at any time. They previously had a perpetual license and there was no functionality for the user to remove comments.
(I may add that in some jurisdictions consumer protection legislation prohibits contracts in perpetuity and restricts long term contracts to those that can show a demonstrable benefit to the user of the service.)
LinkedIn have also increased their privacy options to give people more choices when it comes to what data is shown publicly - and the changes are retro-active.

In a democracy, the power is given to the people.
This isn't just supposed to be tokenism, it is supposed to be real and meaningful public participation, based on consultation.

We should not micro-manage them, or seek to subject them to quasi-judicial approval.
Democratizing publishing means listening to the needs of users and empowering them in a meaningful way to make informed choices.

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #forums by howdy_mcgee. View the logs.


4 months ago

#13 @bcworkz
4 months ago

Removing links could still "hinder other users who are looking for answers to a similar problem." It also could remove important context that hinders followup replies after some time that other users might want to add due to recent developments like patches, new features, etc.

I would support hiding all links from non-logged in users, similar to the page I need help with box. Doing so alleviates the need for the box in some respects, but leaving it still has some benefits like encouraging people to leave a link in the first place.

It's my perception that most removal requests are for links in topic content and not necessarily for the page I need help with box, so hiding all links could alleviate most user's objections to leaving links in place for all time.

#14 @carike
4 months ago

Removing links could still "hinder other users who are looking for answers to a similar problem."

The OP is under no obligation to keep those links up.
They can easily turn into 404 errors (and some who have asked for the removal of links have turned into 404 errors because the link was to a test. subdomain).
The issue is that for whatever their private reasons, these users do not want their username associated with a particular domain.

Our interest should be in preserving the links with the ANSWERS, not the links that caused the questions.

#15 @Clorith
4 months ago

So my extended worries are that by providing a tool here, we are legitimizing the request to have URLs removed, this will lead to _more_ of them, not less.

Oh, you offer a tool to remove my URL, but it didn't remove _all_ versions of it, fix it, we've now made it clear we will fix it, and therefore have to honor this and do the extra labor our selves.

The nature of links is that they are on the internet, they are discoverable in one way or another, so why go to all the extra work of trying to hide them?

This is as much a matter of convenience and staffing, and isn't really a legitimate huge concern in my opinion, we get far less requests to remove links than you would think.

We've introduced a field for users to post into if they wish to do so (I've seen your related topic), if they choose not to use that field, this is on them, and not us.

I'm all for looking at new alternatives, but to me, this is most definitely a detrimental approach that will lead to an unacceptable burden on our volunteer moderation crew, and that's just speaking from the international forum which has very active mods, now imagine the outcries on a rosetta site which only gets moderated once a week for example, any change we make has far reaching impacts on the other parts of our community, and this would not be a good one in my opinion.

#16 @jonoaldersonwp
4 months ago

Our volunteers and moderators aren't our target audience. The forums aren't "for" them. They're for the end users, and people who post messages. If we're providing a bad experience to end users (which is demonstrably true at the moment), then we need to solve for that first and foremost.

If solving that impacts the resources/processes of our volunteers, then we need to change those resources/processes. We can't just immediately shut down any discussion of improvements which impact/alter our resourcing (volunteers/moderators or otherwise/beyond) as a dead-end, unless we've actively decided that WordPress' reputation and market share doesn't matter to (all of) us - which as far as I know, isn't the case. Instead, we need to find a way in which the needs can be met, within the constraints (or, to alter the constraints).

Furthermore, a partial fix is better than no fix at all. Maintaining the status quo isn't an option when it's harming users.

So... Let's try to be a bit more open and productive around how we explore this, maybe? If volunteer resourcing is the issue, then let's not conflate that with the utility or viability of the proposal, and let's work collaboratively to find a compromise. I think that, perhaps, we're all over-reacting on the amount of additional resource required to police this. We already police it, and, it's evidently a drain.

What if we just gave the moderators the tool to remove the link, as a test? Then nobody's doing any more / different work than at present, but we create some more happy, positive interactions, rather than making enemies of the community? If nobody dies, then we circle back around, regroup with some learnings and insight, and discuss next steps.

Last edited 4 months ago by jonoaldersonwp (previous) (diff)

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #core-privacy by carike. View the logs.


4 months ago

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