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Introduction to the VSTF

Sactage April 10, 2013 User blog:Sactage

Hi everyone!

My name is Sactage, and today I am guest blogging on the staff blog so I can introduce you to Wikia's Volunteer Spam Task Force, or VSTF for short. We're a group of users who have volunteered to help make Wikia a better place for readers and editors alike. In order to effectively perform this task, we have access to several global tools, such as global blocks and global spam filter, as well as the ability to delete pages and block users on most Wikia wikis. However, we do not have any authority over local wiki tasks like an administrator does - I usually equate our responsibilities to that of a janitor. We are here to help, but aren't the leaders on the wikis we visit.

What we do

359px-The Janitor

The VSTF can be thought of as friendly janitors who help to keep your wiki clean of vandalism and spam.

As VSTF, our primary job is to keep Wikia clean from spam. Most of this spam is the product of automated programs known as spambots, and it usually takes the form of pages that have no relation to the content of a wiki and blatantly advertise a website or product. When we find a spambot, we block its IP address globally (and user account if applicable) and delete any of the spam it has created. When we begin to find obvious patterns of spam, we can also block common phrases and links globally using our global spam filter.

Our other responsibility on Wikia (arguably the one we are known best for) is helping to revert and prevent vandalism, often on sleepy or inactive wikis. Most of the vandals we block only perform a few edits on one or two wikis, but there are times when organised attacks are executed on wikis or when one user is vandalising on many wikis at the same time (this is known as cross-wiki vandalism). For organised attacks, we have the ability to restrict local editing privileges for small period of time so that essential cleanup can be done without further interruption. We also have access to AbuseFilter, which we can use to deter serial vandals on a per-wiki basis. We usually deal with cross-wiki vandalism by blocking the perpetrator for a small amount of time, but with extremely complicated cases we will ask for advice from Staff and our other members.

Contacting us

Vstf wordmark

By this point, I'm sure you are wondering how you can contact the VSTF if you need help or want to report some spam or vandalism. There are a multitude of ways you can contact us, but here are the methods that are usually the fastest:

  • The VSTF Wiki: This wiki has a multitude of pages where you can report spam, vandalism, and other important things. It also has a few in-depth pages on our group and our policies.
  • Our message walls here on Community Central are another great place to contact us. We cannot always respond right away, but we make an effort to get to your messages as soon as possible. We also watch each other's walls, so a message you leave for one member may very well be answered by another!
  • IRC: This is the fastest way to contact us in an emergency. IRC is a live chat room, much like Wikia Chat, where most of the VSTF reside during the day. You can get our attention by saying !vstf YOUR MESSAGE HERE, but please only do this when absolutely necessary. If no one happens to be around, please leave a message on the wiki.

However, there are some things that we don't deal with, and should be reported to staff or other users. To avoid any future confusion, I'll outline when you should and shouldn't contact us below:

When to contact us

  • You notice a wiki without any active admins is being vandalised, and the offender(s) should be dealt with.
  • You find a spambot! These should be reported with the utmost haste at our spam reporting page.
  • You find a wiki being attacked by several vandals at once!. The sooner you notify us of the issue, the sooner we can prevent any further damage.
  • You find a cross-wiki vandal. They should be reported to our vandalism reporting page.
  • You find a wiki that is made only for spam: Many spambots create wikis just for this purpose. They can be reported to our wiki reporting page.
  • Your wiki is being terrorised by a persistent vandal. The VSTF will be happy to look into serial vandals and make recommendations about what can be done. We may direct you to contact Wikia staff if we feel it needs special attention.

When not to contact us

  • You were blocked by an administrator on a wiki you love, but you think the block was unfair: Social issues like these should be brought to the attention of staff via Special:Contact.
  • There's a vandal on one of your wikis, but the local administrators are active: Most vandals will give up after you revert enough of their edits and can wait to be blocked by a local administrator.
  • You think you've found a sockpuppet (alternate account) of someone on your wiki and you want a Check User performed: VSTF do not perform Check User requests. Social issues like these should be brought to the attention of staff.
  • You don't like a particular user and want to get them banned from a wiki/globally: Social issues like these should be brought to the attention of staff.
  • An administrator is abusing their powers on a wiki: VSTF cannot demote administrators or bureaucrats. Social issues like these should be brought to the attention of staff.

Please note that the above list is only an outline - there may be other situations where you aren't sure if you should go to the VSTF or to Wikia staff for help. As a general rule, VSTF deal with vandalism and spam, and staff deal with all social issues.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to any of us or leave a comment below!

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