[OSM-dev] Various types and means of account blocks

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Mon Sep 24 15:57:07 UTC 2018


I would like to start a discussion/brainstorming about the technical
aspects and means of blocking OSM user accounts.

First of all, the wider OSM community uses a wealth of communications
channels, most of which are not even controlled by us; here I just want
to discuss the actual OSM account and the means of communication
associated with that.

Currently an account can be blocked (by the DWG for a limited time, or
by admins for arbitrary timespans). There's a UI for that (even though I
think the long-term blocks need manual database fiddling). A blocked
user cannot edit OSM data. They can, however, still use the various
communication functions: write personal messages, write or comment on
diary entries, comment on changesets, and open, close, and comment on
notes. And they can modify their user page, change their account name,
and "befriend" other users.

Currently, if we wanted to keep someone from using these functions, we'd
have to "suspend" the account altogether, which is almost the same as
deleting it: The account will not be visible any more, at all, and
nobody can log in to it (cf. discussion in

OSM has largely been spared from obnoxious nutcases that you find online
elsewhere, but our increasing popularity will certainly send a couple of
them our way in the future.

Some examples of borderline behaviour that we have seen in the past:

* user creating tons of playful/funny notes, and modifying his user name
several times a day

* user closing 100s of notes without actually doing something about them

* user "stalking" another user in changeset comments, writing rant-y
comments in response to everything the other user writes

* user writing longish, rant-y, unwanted, and off-topic diary comments
 to third party's diary entries

* user sending legal threats to other users in personal messages

* user adding a "shit list" to his profile page listing the account
names of other mappers they don't like

I wonder what the best way would be to deal with issues like that. The
ticket I quoted above is from a DWG member suggesting that normal user
blocks should simply be extended to block all the "communication"
functions as well. In the discussion it was suggested that someone
blocked for, say, participating in an edit war, should not necessarily
be prevented from writing and receiving messages.

Is the opposite true as well - would/should someone given a cool-off
period for being a dick in a discussion still be allowed to do mapping?

Should a normal user block perhaps simply come in two flavours, "block
mapping only" and "block all"?

It has been suggested that blocking *all* communication functions might
be problematic because one thing you might expect from someone you have
blocked is that they apologise, or set something right, which they might
not be able to do without the ability to write messages.

Do we need a full array of permissions - "can change user name", "can
edit own user page", "can write personal messages", etc. - and the
ability to short-time suspend any and all of them?

Thoughts are welcome.

This also ties in somewhat with a separate discussion, on how a
prerequisite for allowing children on the platform might be that we can
disable the "social" functions of an account. In that case it would not
be a short-term block, but a whole class of accounts that can edit, but
not participate in discussions (for their own protection). I'm not sure
that can work at all (given that the ability to contact a mapper is very
important to us). Maybe such accounts would have to be linked to a
"responsible" parent account who then gets the messages...


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

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