Hi, I'm Randomtime, I'm a member of the VSTF, a volunteer group from the Wikia community that helps wikis deal with spam and vandalism. In this guide I'm going to offer a little advice on how best to spot and deal with a vandal, and how to encourage behaviour that will reduce the number of vandals that show up on your wiki.
Spotting vandalism: Recent ChangesEdit
The Recent Changes special pages (at Special:RecentChanges) is the best way to quickly find vandalism on a wiki you edit. It's also a good tool to use to find out what people are editing at your wiki, which could alert you to users who need help, topics to work on, and all kinds of other stuff that you might miss otherwise, it's well worth using. Each bullet point on Recent Changes looks like this:
The (-41) in this context told us that the user has removed 41 characters from the page. Looking for large changes might tip you off to what might be vandalism, but it's not a sure-fire way, you'll need to look at what was actually changed to make that call.
In order to see what's changed in an edit, you need to click the "diff" link on Recent Changes, which is the first link after the bullet point. You'll go to a page where the previous text is on the left hand side, and the new text is on the right hand side. Additions and removals are highlighted on this page.
So, for this example, it's fairly clear that this edit is vandalism. To get rid of it, press the undo button, wait for the page to load, and then save, and the page is back to it's pre-vandalism state. Admins, and people with "rollback" rights have an extra tool - the rollback button, that does this in one click.
Deleting pages and commentsEdit
If a vandal has made any pages and comments, any admin can delete them. Just click the delete button on each page, and enter a summary.
If someone's going around vandalising, you need to stop them. If they just started, it's a good idea to warn them first - they could be testing out the editing tools, and perhaps don't realise that what they're doing is wrong.
Have a look at their contributions page (which you can find linked from a diff, or from Recent Changes), which gives their entire history of edits (you can quickly click the rollback button for all of them if needs be). If they respond rudely to a talk page, or are obviously just vandalising, feel free to block them from editing to stop them in their tracks.
The block page has a few of options:
- Length of the block
- For IP addresses, I suggest a 3 or 6 month block, IP addresses get re-assigned due to how the internet works, so the vandal probably won't be on that address for that long anyway.
- For users, it really depends on how bad the vandalism was. Remember, you can always block again, so - a 2 week block might be the best for a first offender.
- If you type in "infinite" - the block lasts forever. Don't do this for IPs, but it can be a good way to get rid of a more persistent pest.
- The Reason
- Don't be rude here, a small summary of what they did wrong can help the user find out why they're blocked if they want to appeal, and can be a good tracking tool for you as an admin, too.
- Automatically block the last IP address used by this user, and any subsequent IP addresses they try to edit from
- This will only appear if you're blocking a user, and automatically blocks for 3 days the user's IP address, this prevents them coming back with a different account. You'll want to tick this box.
- Block anonymous users only
- This will only show up if you're blocking an anonymous users, you'll want to uncheck this in most cases, there might be the odd time where you know that the IP is shared, and you want to keep a user unblocked, but not their IP address, but it's rare.
- Prevent account creation
- You should tick this if you don't want them to keep making accounts on your wiki, be aware that they can create an account at another Wikia Wiki, so don't rely on this (use an automatic block to make sure)
- Prevent user from sending e-mail
- This stops them sending emails to other users, sometimes people might email you to contest a block, but it's very rare, I'd probably tick this, just in case.
- Watch this user's user and talk pages
- This adds the users's userpage and talk page to your watchlist, which could be useful if you want to monitor them appealing the block on a large wiki.
- Allow this user to edit own talk page while blocked
- This will allow the user to appeal the block on their talk page, if it's a user you think might want to appeal, you might want to tick this.
Advice: Don't Feed the TrollsEdit
A vandal vandalises wikis because they want to disrupt the wiki. Often, they do it to see a reaction in people. Overreactions to vandalism encourages more vandalism, because you're giving the vandal what they want, a reaction. This is sometimes known on the internet as "feeding the trolls".
Yes, it can be annoying to deal with what a vandal's done - but there are tools that can make it easier, don't panic - just go to their contributions page, block them, delete any pages they've made, and revert their edits.
Get other editors involved, encourage them to watch Recent Changes whilst they're on the wiki, so it doesn't just feel like one person's job.
If you don't overreact to vandals, and you have a nice community, there won't be that much vandalism, and it won't be a big deal when there is.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm a volunteer with a group called the VSTF. We're a group of experienced users who have been trusted with administrative rights on Wikia. We aren't replacement administrators, but we have tools to help in emergency situations, such as times when there aren't admins around to deal with vandalism, times when admins need extra help with a vandal or when there's a vandal that's moving from wiki to wiki. If you need our help, you can contact us at our Vandalism report page, or talk to us via IRC. If you request help, please include as much information as possible about the vandal, a link to their contributions is very useful.
If there's a vandal that keeps coming back, then a rangeblock may help. Whilst a normal block only blocks one IP address (or one user) - a range block blocks a whole range of similar IP addresses. If you're a geek, you can look up the technical details, but all you need to know is that if the first 2 numbers of a group of IPs match, you can use a rangeblock. To calculate the range you need to block, go to this page and type in a list of IP addresses.
This won't work if it's people with usernames who are vandalising, as their IP addresses are considered private information and aren't given to anyone on the wiki. If there's a long term vandal that you want us to look at in order to see if there's a rangeblock, you can contact the VSTF (see above) we'll need a list of their recently used usernames.