feature

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Most of you probably haven’t heard about it.
That’s ok. I hadn’t either, until today.

It’s a LinkedIn term. It refers to a “new” feature that LinkedIn introduced about a year ago. The abbreviation SWAM stands for Site Wide Automated Moderation.

LinkedIn apparently initially introduced this feature to reduce the amount of spam being posted to the LinkedIn groups in such a manner that if one group moderator would indicate someone’s a spammer, this particular person would automatically be put on a “blacklist” for ALL groups to prevent him from also spamming other groups. That way all group moderators would help each other weed out the bad seeds.
However, this backfired massively, because people all over the world are wrongfully SWAM-ed. If it happens so that you get into a quarrel with a group moderator over something completely insignificant and the group moderator blocks/deletes you just because to him/her you are a nuisance, this will affect your input in ALL the groups you are a member of.
Anything you post into any of your groups (unless you’re a moderator of a group yourself) will go into the “Pending Submissions” queue and will most likely stay there until your dying day.

A little background story, which I will tell with name and shame, just because this is annoying on very many levels.

It started out on the Photography Group, a sub group of the Adobe Photoshop Group, both for which I’m one of the administrators.
A person by the name of Victoria Cavendish-Hamiliton opened a thread in the Photography group with the header “i-need-photographs”. This person pretended to be some sort of art-mediator, buying photography for her clients. She had a 500+ network of people (which of course doesn’t mean very much, but still). In her thread she inquired with the members about their interest in joining her group and from there we could see if there was material in our portfolios that would be suitable. A good number of people indicated interest, and I was one of them. The photography business is a very competitive business, and every connection to clients is a potential source of income, so… Of course, being photographers and being paranoid as hell, we all had our questions, which we posted in the group. Some were answered, some weren’t, or only vaguely.
The group was private, and myself and a number of photographers joined and were accepted.

Along the way the group name changed into The Photographers Innercircle (or something along those lines, I can’t quite remember).
In this group Victoria asked people to put the link to their portfolio, so she could see some of our work.
Everyone did so, as did I.
I entered my www.stockphotography.nu.
It was not posted.
I tried again, and noticed that my posts (and probably all others) were pending review. So I sent Victoria a private message on LinkedIn:

Hi Victoria,

I keep on trying to add my portfolio -as requested- to the Gallery thread, but apparently it doesn’t get past the review stage.
Is there a problem with my post?

Arno

A few days later I get a reply:

Hi Arno,

It is because it’s stock footage. We can’t support any stock footage site because of the rates they pay to photographers. Sorry Arno.

This leads me to believe that she hasn’t even checked the contents of the website, because if she would’ve, she instantly would’ve seen that the URL is merely a marketing tool, and that “my rates” are totally fair, because I’m paying myself, and I have to pay for my living. And I reply as such to Victoria in another private message:

I’m a professional photographer, Victoria, just because my portfolio has “stockphotography” in the URL doesn’t mean I charge like iStock and Shutterstock.
My rates are professional rates. If you were to buy one of my images, you pay a “normal” fee, because I have to pay my bills. I don’t do this for a hobby.

If I would’ve lead you to the same portfolio on Flickr, you would not have said a word and have publish the link.

Arno

After that I indeed post the link to my Flickr pages, which have the EXACT same images, and surely that link was promptly allowed.

There were some discussions in that group, which were deleted after a day or so. And then Victoria put up another thread.
In this thread she explained that she was going to make a book (emphasizing that she would hire someone to make this book, all on her own expense) and requested the members in the group to all send her ONE (only) high-resolution tif image to put in the book. She said that she had no intention to publish the book, only make one copy of it, and the participating photographers would not be compensated for the image they supplied for this book. The book was solely for the purpose of showing her clients the material she was able to deliver, so she said.
She did add that photographers could order their own copy of the book, and in that case she would try to get some of the production costs of the book reimbursed.

Well before this point a good number of alarm bells had started to ring in my head already.
I’ve been around for some time, and I’ve been creative (or so I’d like to think 😉 ) for quite some time already. I write poetry at times, and in my previous Life -“back in the day”- I wrote a good number of blog posts (just around the time that the word “blogging” became a well-used word, and that blog is no longer up and running) about Vanity Presses. Back in the day that was for example Poetry.com, National Library of Poetry, National Library of Photography… All companies that had the strategy to use someone’s ego against him or herself. You wrote or created something, and you got a mail which basically told you that you were the next best thing and they wanted to publish you. And you were so up in the clouds about being published that you bought a 60$ book without a second thought (yep, been there, done that 😀 ).
So when Victoria explained her plans about getting pictures from everyone to put in a book, and that we -the photographers- could buy that book, all the red flags went up.
I didn’t tell her straight that I thought it was a very dubious plan, but I simply replied in the thread with a couple of questions about her plans with the book.
For example that I thought it wouldn’t be really correctly representing the photographers if we could send ONLY one image, because that one image would instantly categorize a photographer into something he may not ONLY be. A photographer can have a wide portfolio and not be “just” a landscape or portrait or studio or wildlife photographer. I also suggested to her that maybe she should consider a spread per photographer, including a bio of the photographer, several images and a link to his or her website. Additionally I questioned her idea of making only one book and using this for her clients. Since I assumed that her clients don’t all live in her street (or even her town), and she wouldn’t really meet with most of her clients in person, the purpose of ONE book to show clients didn’t sound very practical.

Obviously, THAT post also never made it past her review, and again I wrote her a private message.

Hi Victoria,

I get the impression that you really don’t handle criticism very well.
My comment was fully constructive criticism, which everyone has a right to read.

Is there a valid reason why you deleted that from the queue?

Arno

To this I didn’t get any reply.

I reproduced a similar response as what I had intended to post in her group and posted it in the thread in the Photography Group on LinkedIn where the whole “i-need-photographs” story started off.
Not very long after that the whole thread disappeared. She deleted it.Subsequently I copy-pasted the response in a number of other LinkedIn groups where I was a member and she had posted the exact same thread, and what I didn’t realize then, was that at that point I was already SWAM-ed, blacklisted, because she had blocked and deleted me from her Photographers Innercircle group.
Because of the beauty of this feature from LinkedIn I was now automatically put on a moderation list for ALL groups I was in and for future groups I would sign up for.
As a result my replies in the other group never made it past the moderation queue, because I guess most moderators/admins don’t really check those messages for content.

I sent her one more private message, which was still delivered, but I found out a bit later through a LinkedIn message that “this user has deleted his or her account”.
So there was definitely something very shady going on with this.

But now what…?

This SWAM feature on LinkedIn clearly isn’t functioning as intended.
The problem, however, is that it’s a non-reversible action, unless LinkedIn decides to disable it. Many people have fallen victim to this thing, and the only thing LinkedIn support tells us is that we have to individually contact the moderator/admin of the groups we’re a member of to beg and plead if they can take us (manually) off the moderation list again. These messages will go in the moderation queue, which most likely won’t be read, so we’re stuck in a vicious circle.
Basically f you piss against the wrong tree, you’re fucked with everything you do on LinkedIn. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a paying member with a premium account or just a user of the basic account. This SWAM hits everyone once you get deleted and blocked from a LinkedIn Group.

In the end I’m not really dying from this, I’m an administrator for the two groups that I am most active in (and yes, I have also deleted and blocked people, but only those that are blatantly breaking the Group rules, like those irritating “Get a job online now, work from home and make 5,000$ a day!” type of posts). But sometimes I do feel the need to reply to posts in other groups, and that possibility has now basically been taken away from me, even if I didn’t do anything wrong.

LinkedIn has been made aware of this problem, but until now has refused to do something about it.
Let’s see where this is heading…

 

Oh, by the way…
I really did a number on the poetry.com thing back in the end 90s. When I found out I had been scammed, I put up a name and shame website and wrote the whole thing down, with correspondence, and proof and everything. The best part of the proof was one of my best works so far, which was selected to receive an Award of Excellence and ended up being the second runner-up in a Washington D.C. poetry convention (but only if I bought the book that it was going to be published in, which I was not going to be published in if I didn’t buy the book (see where it’s going? :D) ).
I wouldn’t want to keep you from this literary masterpiece (I kid you not, I still have the invitation and selection letter somewhere that it was selected and all that shit 😀 ).
It had the very catchy title “Gawaa… Aghwawawa!” and it went like this:

Rasaa kagavalaa awawawawaaa
Brrrrgrrrrwaaaaa awawaaa
Grababababa awaaa grababaaa
Knsieieie mrraaa wababaa
Swggggieieieieie
Trrrblieieieieie
Konnokonnokonno wafwafwaf
Derrewerrewerrewed

This was a poem
by the talking horse Mr Ed

(I kid you not 😀 ).