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  #41  
Old 03-16-2006, 08:01 PM
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I side with the majority - even if the very idea were to float around that you, as an Administrator, were reading people's Private Messages, it could cost you respect, prestige, and most importantly, your valued members.

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Originally Posted by Wayne Luke
Anything stored in plain text should never be considered private.
Perhaps, but that does not absolve one from the accompanying responsibilities or the consequences.
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  #42  
Old 03-16-2006, 11:46 PM
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Theres no way that I know off without using a plugin. This comes from a person thats been using VB.
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  #43  
Old 03-17-2006, 12:19 AM
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even if the very idea were to float around that you, as an Administrator, were reading people's Private Messages, it could cost you respect, prestige, and most importantly, your valued members.
Good point... http://www.google.com/search?q=%22Ho...ad+Members+PMs
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  #44  
Old 03-17-2006, 06:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Archangel
I side with the majority - even if the very idea were to float around that you, as an Administrator, were reading people's Private Messages, it could cost you respect, prestige, and most importantly, your valued members.
That certainly happened to me. My forum is a ghost-town. But I'd do it again under the same circumstances. I'd rather have a quiet, humble forum full of sane members than a massive, roiling forum full of members casting aspersions on me and threating my family.

I had a moderator who went nuts -- she imagined that I hated her, that I was deliberately humiliating her, when in fact I was actively working to give her more opportunities to shine. But I guess I wasn't moving fast enough, and like a switch, she just flipped out one day. She posted multiple rants on the forum, which completely took me by surprise -- talking about how much she hated me, how she was leaving for a better forum, etc. When I removed her moderator status, it was a train wreck, very public, lots of members got involved. I should have just banned her immediately, but I kept hoping things would resolve and she would stay, at least as a regular member. Instead, things got worse.

One well-meaning member mentioned that he was directing her to another forum that might be better for her. I was worried that she was going to spam that URL to every single member, if she hadn't already. I was miserable, because I felt that reading PMs was a pretty terrible step. I might have even posted about it here, asking for advice. I don't recall much, other than being really unhappy. In the end, I was just too concerned, so I ran a query for that URL (I figured that way I'd only see the relevant PMs, and everything else could remain private). And it turns out, she HAD sent the URL out. But only to about 15 people, which I didn't think was very spammy.

But something else just flat-out shocked me. That well-meaning member? The guy who was "helping" to usher her to a new forum? One of his PMs came up in the search -- actually, a lot of his PMs came up in the search. One in particular floored me: to a friend, he wrote something like "you go with her to the new forum, I'll stay here and facilitate a quiet mass exodus, but cover the retreat."

It turns out he was a moderator at the competing forum, which I had naively never bothered to check, and since he couldn't afford all the advertising I had used to bulk up my membership, he just took advantage of a bad situation, to piggyback on my work. He was right in the middle of it when I checked. I hit the "lock PM system" button as fast as I could.

Since I had announced that I would be checking the PMs, and since I stupidly did NOT say that I would do a very limited search, people did freak out, and leave. I hated that, and maybe I deserved it. I was trying to do the right thing, and I felt that stopping an attack on my forum was a legitimate cause. But people got upset, and I mostly handled it badly (not because I was mean or a jerk to people, but because I said very little, and people speculated, and I never set anyone straight).

But what hurt most of all, the worst fallout from reading the PMs, was seeing people actively trying to cripple things that I had worked so hard on. It was insanely difficult to realize that someone out there was pretending to be my friend, so he could exploit me. That's the part that still sucks. I feel so stupid for trusting him -- I was days away from making him a moderator. But that's also the part that makes me really, REALLY glad that I found out and banned him (and his partners).

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  #45  
Old 03-17-2006, 08:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aboyd
That certainly happened to me. My forum is a ghost-town. But I'd do it again under the same circumstances. I'd rather have a quiet, humble forum full of sane members than a massive, roiling forum full of members casting aspersions on me and threating my family.

But something else just flat-out shocked me. That well-meaning member? The guy who was "helping" to usher her to a new forum? One of his PMs came up in the search -- actually, a lot of his PMs came up in the search. One in particular floored me: to a friend, he wrote something like "you go with her to the new forum, I'll stay here and facilitate a quiet mass exodus, but cover the retreat."
How awful, Tony. Still, you're one of the few I've heard (not just regarding this issue) who actually understands and accepts the consequences of your decisions. PMs seem like "forbidden fruit," in this instance, and once read, you can't unring that bell. What you found out is truly terrible knowledge. Still, plotting and coups are not very common, and don't justify reading the PMs. I can't advocate it because I don't think most would have handled it as you did.

You also made it sound like you were unraveling a sweater, following a trail of strife until the whole thing fell apart. Perhaps we should all institute a new checklist for potential Mods: "Are you on: a) Paxil; b) Ambien; c) Viagra; d) Anti-psychotics; e) All of the above?"
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  #46  
Old 03-18-2006, 01:33 AM
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I am thinking of a greater world view here, not my own personal beliefs. How you run your site is your business but to be realistic about this, there are 8000 members on this site and 8,000 ways to run their forums. Narrowing everything to my own personal beliefs shuts out a lot of viewpoints.

Whether you read the diary or not is actually irrelevant. You can't know that the person at the desk isn't going to read it or that someone else beside the owner won't claim it and read it. It is private to you but should not be considered private to the world. Only when people think of this greater picture will they be able to actually protect any privacy they may have. Giving them a false sense of privacy only fosters misbeliefs and allows media scares and identity theft to proliferate over the long run. There is more at stake than private messages.
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  #47  
Old 03-18-2006, 06:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne Luke
There is more at stake than private messages.
I think the main issue is that posters in this thread are actually talking about different things. There are those who are looking at it from a technical perspective, such as yourself, and then there are those who are aware and agree with the conclusions about the technical perspective, but are looking at it from a human relations point of view.
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  #48  
Old 03-23-2006, 08:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne Luke
Whether you read the diary or not is actually irrelevant. You can't know that the person at the desk isn't going to read it or that someone else beside the owner won't claim it and read it. It is private to you but should not be considered private to the world. Only when people think of this greater picture will they be able to actually protect any privacy they may have. Giving them a false sense of privacy only fosters misbeliefs and allows media scares and identity theft to proliferate over the long run. There is more at stake than private messages.
Very valid points, for sure, however it's not my job to educate my members on ways of protecting their privacy - they're adults, they can act for themselves, and I'm not their parent.
I have two kids of my own, and even they would not welcome such an intrusion on my part.
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  #49  
Old 03-23-2006, 10:23 PM
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I use a PM viewer hack for phpBB. It's useful in cases where one may not be able to trust his members or even staffers.
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  #50  
Old 03-24-2006, 12:32 AM
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The only thing I'd use this feature for is if someone reported something, such as spam, or threats, etc, and with their permission ONLY.
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  #51  
Old 03-25-2006, 08:38 AM
Artakserksis Artakserksis is offline
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Although spying your members' PMs is not pleasing, it may be inevitable if the member has been reported for spamming or PMing with abusive material other members.
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  #52  
Old 03-28-2006, 07:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shauniemac
All in the title really. I am sure someone told me you can do it as admin/mod.
Better not let your members find out. I would never join a forum that I knew did that.
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  #53  
Old 03-28-2006, 07:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexJ
Better not let your members find out. I would never join a forum that I knew did that.
Ha, as far as I know, my members have no idea. It's actually hilarious because on one of my forums, two brother PM each other back and forth in Dutch...I actually wasted a good five minutes one day running their conversation through an online translator.
I've seen it suggested on another Admin forum that one ought to let users know in the Privacy Policy or Rules that Admins can see all PM's, but I don't think that's going to help in the long run. If they know one can see the PM's, they'll just take shady conversation to other boards or instant messenger programs, and one will never be able to trust a copy of those conversations. If one has direct access to these PM's, especially when those writing them are unaware, it is a leg up on any rule breakers.
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  #54  
Old 04-03-2006, 07:51 AM
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SMF does not allow me the "freedom" to read my members PM. But I can always prune the database if i have to.

And I'm glad SMF does not. Because even if it did and none of my members could find out I'm reading PMs (SMF is more than capable of hiding admin's actions) I would never do it. I hate the thought of reading someone else's PM.

But in my forum rules I have stated that even in PM nobody should spam. And I have installed a "Report PM to moderator" function which members can use to report spam or inappropriate PMs to me or a mod. So apart from this I don't find the need to read my member's PM.

On the other hand, I've heard of sites where the moderators mock the admins in PM, mods try to promote rival sites through PMs and all sort of other nonsense. I just hope I'm never faced with such ridiculously idiotic scenarios... But If I am I will not hesistate to prune PMs to save my community.

take care.
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  #55  
Old 04-03-2006, 10:10 AM
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Definitely put that in your TOS or at a minimum in your Privacy Policy.

As described in this thread there are actual legitimate reasons that require the need to look at PMs such as spammers and troublemakers for forensic purposes. So let's not just all fly off the handle and take sides without thinking it through.
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