Over at Charcoal HQ, we run a headless chatbot called SmokeDetector which detects spam or offensive questions and answers from across the entire SE network. It posts all spam reports to the Charcoal HQ chatroom and some site-specific reports to various other chatrooms on the network.

According to our statistics, Arqade is the 7th-most spammed site on the SE network. So, I was wondering whether we would be interested in getting spam reports (for Arqade posts only) in The Bridge.

This means that approximately 6-10 reports per day can be expected, similar to the one below:

Example spam report

These reports will make sure that spam is deleted from Arqade as fast as possible.

If Arqade does want these reports, myself and the rest of the Charcoal team will take care of everything and get SmokeDetector running in The Bridge. Just have your say by voting on this question.

If you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment below or drop into Charcoal HQ and we can have a chat.

Some data requested by @GodEmperorDune:

I took the last 10 spam posts on both Arqade and AskUbuntu (whose main chatroom recieves reports, and is of similar activity to ours) and recorded the time taken to be deleted:

| Arqade | AskUbuntu |
| 1 min  | ~30 sec   |
| 1 min  | ~20 sec   |
| 8 min  | ~30 sec   |
| 14 min | ~30 sec   |
| 14 min | 1 min     |
| 1 min  | ~30 sec   |
| 1 min  | 3 min     |
| 3 min  | 3 min     |
| 4 min  | 45 sec    |
| 8 min  | 3 min     |
Arqade average: 5 min 30 sec
Ask Ubuntu average: 1 min 15 sec
  • 10
    Not sure. I'll not speak for the community as a whole, but we already nuke most of the spam pretty darned fast. The only times when we may not are usually the times when The Bridge is less active and a chat bot wouldn't help anyway. Our resident chatbot (Lazers 2.0) already posts every new site question to the room, and one must act fast if one of those is spam, because it's usually already mod-smacked or reached the requisite flags if you wait a minute or two. Detecting and reporting spam answers may be somewhat useful, but I get the feeling most of our spam is questions. Aug 14, 2016 at 2:56
  • @TrentHawkins the bot detects both questions and answers, and detects offensive posts too Aug 14, 2016 at 3:00
  • 2
    Several of the bridge regulars are very active in the review queues and will manually post links to any suspected spam/offensive posts in the bridge for others to jump in with flags. Like @TrentHawkins i don't want to speak for everyone, but I don't see the need for this bot right now. Do we have any data for how long it takes spam to be detected and deleted? Aug 14, 2016 at 3:07
  • @GodEmperorDune I can try and find out how long it currently takes, but with our bot we can delete spam in 30seconds-1minute Aug 14, 2016 at 3:11
  • 1
    @GodEmperorDune I have added some data to the question. Aug 14, 2016 at 3:37
  • 6
    The thing I question about this is that it encourages kneejerk reactions; we've had users from other sites come by from things flagged by the script, without really exercising judgement on the posts. If it's a false positive, do we really want users mindlessly hammering the spam flag because the bot told them to?
    – Frank
    Aug 14, 2016 at 4:20
  • 5
    @Frank re that last point, Arqade reports are already sent to Charcoal HQ, where about 20 off-site people are gonna see them anyway - I doubt adding them to Bridge would change that much. Alternatively, we can create a dedicated spam-reports room for Arqade and send reports there. (Smokey dev/admin here)
    – ArtOfCode
    Aug 14, 2016 at 9:06
  • 2
    And that's the point I'm making; we're already getting kneejerk reactions from those reading the reports. I think letting the spam survive for a couple extra minutes is better than risking false positive flags.
    – Frank
    Aug 14, 2016 at 20:46
  • @Frank let me assure you, Charcoal regulars are not the kind of people who do knee jerk spam flags. Each report is evaluated individually - our flaggers know that the bot isn't 100% accurate, so reports should be checked. There's a full quality control system in place to prevent kneejerkers.
    – ArtOfCode
    Aug 15, 2016 at 0:49
  • 1
    @ArtOfCode Except it has been happening; not for spam, perhaps, but for swear word detection. What good is this bot if due diligence doesn't follow?
    – Frank
    Aug 15, 2016 at 2:06
  • 1
    @Frank Look - at Charcoal we have lots of systems in place to stop abuse caused by the bot. If a report is marked by one of us as false positive, Smokey deletes the report automatically before anyone else sees it. If a post has profanity, but would otherwise be fine, we edit it out before it attracts any more flags. If a post contains hidden spam, we leave a comment so others know. You see, at Charcoal, we don't take things lightly - quite often you will find us having a lengthy discussion over what action should be taken on a post. Aug 15, 2016 at 3:14
  • If abuse of the system is happening, we want to know, so we can talk to the people involved. Aug 15, 2016 at 3:14
  • ^ That. I hate to sound like I think we're infallible, but any incorrect shotgun flagging is more likely to be done by people here on Arqade rather than Charcoal.
    – ArtOfCode
    Aug 15, 2016 at 7:43
  • @ArtOfCode More likely, yes. Because the whole point of it is to encourage speedy deletion. At most, our spam is sticking around for 15 minutes, it looks like. Is shaving a few minutes off of that really worth the risk of kneejerking a false positive? I'm a little leery about the value in doing so. I'd prefer we give it a bit more diligence to make sure we're not deleting actual answers. The site's not going to blow up if spam stick around for a bit longer.
    – Frank
    Aug 15, 2016 at 17:05
  • For everyone's information, this is what the bot has caught already on arqade
    – Ferrybig
    Aug 17, 2016 at 13:57

4 Answers 4


I personally see no need for the chatbot. I have no idea when the spam posts you located were posted, but I would guess that the ones that took 15 minutes to get rid of were posted at night when most Bridge regulars are sleeping (so having chat notifications for them wouldn't help much). I know most Bridge regulars will link spam/offensive posts for awareness when they see it, and a lot of them run Arqade in a separate tab/window with active sorted, so they are notified when a new post(q or a) is made. I don't think 5.5 minutes is a bad average, and I don't see why we need a bot to add another feed to our chatroom for the sole purpose of burning spam faster when it is already burned pretty fast as it is.

  • 8
    To add onto this, if you take the median time instead of the mean (which ignore the issue of outliers), we come in at 3 minutes - which is fairly solid. Honestly I'd like to see a much larger sample size than just 10 posts before giving a "Yes" vote on this one. I just don't think shaving off a few more minutes from an already good response time is worth spamming up our general chat.
    – Wipqozn Mod
    Aug 15, 2016 at 19:53

I agree that timeliness is an important factor when dealing with... pretty much anything on the site. Not just cleaning spam, but also commenting, answering, closing, voting. This is why we have Lazers: it posts the good, and the bad, and everything in between, so that every question has a chance to get some love.

I cannot imagine this bot coexisting with Lazers. For as long as we can afford having every single question posted on the site — and we managed to weather Pokemon Go's login servers' nonsense — I'd much rather do that instead.

There's a very large difference, psychologically speaking, between being exposed to all posts and all posts that may have a problem. The second leaves you tired and with a negative overall impression of the site, because you're seeing all of the shit and none of the gold. We already have that: it's the flag list and the review queue. Everyone that looks at those does so by free choice, naturally, but having those posted in a chatroom removes the freedom you have not to look or care about this firehose of shit.

If people have to drink from a firehose — and they do, if you ask me, Lazers has been invaluable — I'd rather the firehose occasionally dispensed water :)

When and if Lazers stops scaling for our size, then things will have changed, and our answer will probably change accordingly, but by then we will have bigger problems than just cleaning shit up. This is not to say that Charcoal is not useful, or that your offer is not appreciated. :)

  • Unrelated note: why is your icon for MSE different than Arqade? Aug 19, 2016 at 3:51

I'd say creating a new chat room or using an existing one where all the spam reports would be sent is a great idea, even though:

  • spam is usually deleted in minutes, if not seconds
  • it's rather luck to stumble across a spam post
  • the only thing that spam does on this site is gives new users free helpful flags

Spam is everywhere. It was here and will be. The question isn't how to stop spam but how to get rid of it as soon as possible. Delete it in a matter of seconds. (Almost) anything helping shorten the time that it takes to remove spam posts is good.

Adding a few spam reports to a chat room (new or existing) per day will certainly not harm, and will help shorten the time spamming posts last on this site by attracting more attention, so I'd give this idea at least a try.

  • it's not really luck to detect spam posts. When they are posted, someone notices them pretty quickly.
    – Dragonrage Mod
    Aug 15, 2016 at 19:35

Since most of the people who voiced their opinion here think that there isn't much of a need for the bot, I'm going to leave this proposal on-hold until Arqade feels that such a bot is wanted/necessary in The Bridge.


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