Makar Feb 15, 2013 @ 9:58pm
Returning /me in a reasonable way, while preventing scams.
Alright...

Alright.

So a couple hours ago, this whole fiasco was one huge, huge storm of flame wars, debate and insulting. It got people nowhere, and all that happened was several threads were filled with over 300 pages of fighting. All of which was understandably locked.

So... I'm - personally, at least - going to apologise to the moderators and developers on this forum for my own, and really everybody's behaviour. I want all that crap to be put in the past, and I'd like it if we can focus on this issue from a sensible standpoint.

For those of you who missed the previous monsoon of anger, here's the basic gist:

The latest update to the steam client, in an effort to prevent people mimicking steam wallet system messages, removed the /me function from chat. An undocumented function that was originally included as "a fun little extra" that nevertheless exploded into huge usage by a large community of people. An "Ascended Extra" if you will.

Notably, it's removal sparked anger and aggression from both sides. One side wanted the function back, and the other was essentially telling the first side to "stop whining" and backing up Valve's decision 100%.

Both sides got into a huge fight, yadda, yadda, yadda, let's avoid that dirty business this time around, shall we?



First up, here's the initial problem: Scammers.

Due to its undocumented nature, the existence of the /me command was being exploited by scammers and used to mimic steam system messages, fake steam wallet details, and a number of other heinous things.

Naturally, this was all the developers saw of the issue, with support ticket after support ticket flooding in related to the problem, the normal response was "Well, if it's causing so many problems, get rid of it."

Unfortunately... Scammers weren't the only ones using the /me command. Whether you approve of it, participated or even were aware of its existence, there was a sizable community of people who used and enjoyed the /me command on an almost daily basis.

For myself, and many others, it added a whole new, wonderful element to the chat client: The ability to roleplay. Me and a close friend have been roleplaying over steam since 2010. And in that time frame, I've recorded down enough stories, character arcs, plots and the like to exceed the forum word limit at least ten times over.

Roleplaying - regardless of what many people think of it - was an important and often-used feature of steam's chat for myself, and for many others. It caused zero harm to anybody else outside a closed chat, it wasn't malicious and it helped me form one of the strongest friendships I've ever had. If not the strongest.
So, naturally, when the function was removed, rendering the medium through which we'd lived out whole new stories effectively ruined, many people were upset. Hell, "upset" is skimping over it, people were mad


Right now, as it stands, /me is still gone. There has been no compromise that I'm aware of, and thousands of steam users are missing a feature that they've enjoyed for a long, long time.


So how do we solve this problem? I know that there are those of you who are content for things to stay the way they are. And that's a fine opinion to have, but for us, we're not content. We want to sort out a reasonable compromise.


THIS IS NOT A THREAD FOR FIGHTING, NOR A THREAD FOR DEBATE OR ANY SORT OF CONFLICT.

THIS IS A THREAD FOR REASONABLE DISCUSSION, KEEP IT THAT WAY, PLEASE.

The ideal situation here for the long term is as follows: The /me command still exists, but scammers can no longer use it for malicious purposes.

Here's one of the ways in which this could be accomplished:

Step 1) Document the /me command as you would any other command:

This is essential as the unknown nature of the command was one of the primary contributions to it being exploited. Just as it is documented that you can edit your profile, change your display name and avatar image, document that /me is a thing you can do.

Step 2) Provide a detailed steam message warning in order to combat abuse:

Again, this one should have just been done from the start. We already have a message saying "don't tell your password to anybody!" So why not one that says "Remember to read the user guide to avoid being fooled!"? Not a big ask, I'd hope.

This would be helpful to people regardless of if they use /me or not. 90% of all scams are accomplished through a lack of knowledge on the victim's part. The best thing Valve can do is educate people on the subject.

Step 3) Make system and steam-wallet messages easier to discern from chat:

Users should never, ever be able to mimic system messages anyway. And that is not on them, it is on the developers. This entire fiasco could have easily been avoided in the first place had the steam system messages - notably the steam wallet figures - been more easy to discern against real chat.

This solution could be accomplished through something as simple as a change of text colour, or as complex as a whole new side-window exclusively for system messages. Either way, no user should be able to mimic them, in any fashion.

Step 4) Add /me as an optional extra, and have it off by default:

This idea was the subject of one of the more lengthy threads that recently got shut in the lockdown. But that doesn't excuse it from being a good idea. Here's the basic gist: When a user installs steam for the first time, the ability to use /me is turned off. However, with this suggestion in place, a simple on/off button would be added to the settings menu (off by default) saying "Allow Steam Emotes."

EG:

Chat with "Allow Steam Emotes" off (the default setting):
"[user]: /me does something."

Chat with "Allow Steam Emotes" on:
"[user] does something."

Step 5) Make /me commands visibly unique from all other kinds of text:

Another problem that existed with /me is that it was easy to confuse people as it made all your text blue or green as opposed to white. Even with documentation, this could understandably become an issue.

The solution would be to make /me commands look and feel far different to any other kind of chat. Here's one possible example:

Normal chat:
"[user]: Hey, how's it going?"

/me Emote chat:
"ᴇᴍᴏᴛᴇ | [user] bids you good day"

This is, of course, only one suggestion. Simply making /me emotes more obviously emotes would go a long way to preventing scams.

_____________________________________________________________________

OTHER IDEAS, FROM OTHER USERS:

Originally posted by ChrisW:
How about my idea of allowing the /me command on select roleplaying groups? That way everyone in those groups will already know about the command and you guys can pretend to be vampires or whatever you do. And the command will not be available for the rest of the people on Steam chat that have probably never even seen this command used.

Originally posted by Quick!SaveTheChildren:
If /me were made optional (if), Someone can come up with a tutorial or support page (not Valve, a /me supporter) that pops up in a window every time /me is enabled. Documentation is good, but I think if someone presented an actual document for Valve to look at they might consider it.

Originally posted by Gordon3465:
more chat formatting options and adding a drop-down menu to the chat titled "chat formatting" or something along those lines. the button is there to insert the chat commands, kinda like how it works in the forums.

on to my reasoning with this idea. it pretty much operates on curiosity, anybody new to the chat would naturally look at things and try figuring out how they work while long-term users would take a quick look at this new button as well..

this would allow us to add /me back in and put bold, italics, underlines, and whatever else into that drop-down menu. so, not only do we document /me and add it back in, we open up even more function for the chat.

Originally posted by Torment:
Suggestion:

Allow anyone to use /me again, but of course, render it differently. Make it display as *asterisk* emotes by default, plainly looking the same as if someone had typed out the emote manually, eg `Torment: *jumps on the bandwagon!*`.

Add a default-off advanced option that allows them to be shown IRC/classic style instead, eg `* Torment jumps on the bandwagon!`. Indicate the difference in display when the option is changed.

Originally posted by mendel
here's my entry: have the chat client track when a message starts with "/me", and make that clickable. When you do click it, the client stores the name of the sender and displays this message and all subsequent messages from the same sender in emote format. So if you roleplay, you need to click once on every message from every member of your group, and then you're done. Other people outside that group whom you may want to trade with will not be affected by that setting. Since it's locally stored, there's no server load; you may need to reactivate this if you reinstall Steam or switch to a different computer, but since the activation is just one click per person, that's not really much of a hassle.
You deactivate this on a per-sender basis by clicking on the emote message again. The sender's name could be the clickable link in this case, since that would suggest "if you want to find out more about the sender, click here", and that would uncover that it's just something the guy typed with /me in front.
(If Steam were open source, this would the point where someone could submit a patch to the client, since it doesn't even require anything on the part of the server guys.)

Modified proposal: the easy way to implement this is to not store the names of the senders persistently at all; that way, it's not even necessary to implement file operations. The roleplayers would need to do some clicking at the start of each roleplay session if they want it to look nice, but compared to actually roleplaying, it's still a small extra effort.

The advantage of this proposal is that the direct manipulation of the /me message communicates to the user that a normal message that this sender typed has now merely changed form and is displayed differently. The "modified form" mental model would keep users clued in: a user can't say "I thought this was a system message" when the user changed the format himself mere minutes before and can change it back with a simple click. Thus, the knowledge "this is a normal chat message that a normal user wrote" is kept present in the mind of the users. Other advantages: no kludgy warning messages, no settings hidden someplace that you need to find, no penalty to simply ignoring this feature altogether (you'll still understand the meaning of "Gustav: /me slaps you with a trout"), yet its activation process is very visible -- many people are going to try clicking on /me if it looks like a link and thus discover what it does, and it's also really obvious how to do this yourself.

Originally posted by Grady Vuckovic:
OK! How's this for an idea..

A simple set of rules for the application:
* When the application starts, /me is turned off and /me commands will not show formatted. This is true every time the application starts.
* Using a /me command turns /me commands back on. Receiving a /me command doesn't count.
* Beginning a trade turns /me commands off.
* /me commands cannot be turned back on while a trade is in progress.
* While /me commands are off, they show up unformatted with /me prefixing them.

Pros
* It's automatic, there's no checkbox to toggle, there's no need to store it as a setting. Easier than a saved configuration setting for the application.
* Unless the user actually uses '/me', then /me commands won't even be turned on, hence those who don't know about /me won't be tricked.
* The only way to turn it on, is to actually use the command, hence the only way to turn on the command is to personally use it and see it in action. Even if a person is told to type "/me text", they will see immediately what it does, thus educating them on what it does.
* The /me can't be used while in the middle of a trade, hence there's no danger of someone receiving a /me command in a trade and thinking the text comes from Steam.
* Accidentally turning on the command doesn't matter, once a trade is started it's turned off automatically and won't come back on till the user uses the command again.
* All the benefits mentioned before for having an optional /me command, like the fact that scammers won't know who they can and can't trick, thus making /me unusable for scammers.

Cons
* Can't trade while using /me. But.. who cares?
_____________________________________________________________________


Got a suggestion of your own? Add it in! I want this thread to be a forward thinking one.

Instead of fighting over this issue like a bunch of children arguing over a toy, let's find a viable solution that benefits everybody, please.
Last edited by Makar; Apr 3, 2013 @ 1:02pm
Showing 1-15 of 605 comments
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Firepower Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:03pm 
Removing it was such a lazy way to fix a relatively easy to fix problem. If you make it a toggleable feature like the OP suggested users would have to be aware of it's existence, which would mean that they wouldn't be scammed by a command that was previously unknown to them.
Rex Ormunde Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:05pm 
Moderators, please moderate this thread. Dont let it turn into fighting and end up locked. We need at least one area to continue the discussion, and it might be easier for the moderators to not have hundreds of copies of the same topic. Please and thank you!
Last edited by Rex Ormunde; Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:06pm
Makar Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:06pm 
Originally posted by Firepower:
Removing it was such a lazy way to fix a relatively easy to fix problem. If you make it a toggleable feature like the OP suggested users would have to be aware of it's existence, which would mean that they wouldn't be scammed by a command that was previously unknown to them.

Please don't start throwing around insults to the developers. We've had enough of that.

I believe that it wasn't removed to be "lazy" - simply the developers didn't realise how widely used it was in the first place. It was originally just a "fun little extra", that's all they intended it to be. I don't think the people removing it were aware that it had a huge community around it.
Rex Ormunde Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:07pm 
Originally posted by Ona:
Originally posted by Firepower:
Removing it was such a lazy way to fix a relatively easy to fix problem. If you make it a toggleable feature like the OP suggested users would have to be aware of it's existence, which would mean that they wouldn't be scammed by a command that was previously unknown to them.

Please don't start throwing around insults to the developers. We've had enough of that.

I believe that it wasn't removed to be "lazy" - simply the developers didn't realise how widely used it was in the first place. It was originally just a "fun little extra", that's all they intended it to be. I don't think the people removing it were aware that it had a huge community around it.
A lot of the people who use it didn't even know it was being removed. It almost felt like a stealth change, but I'm fairly sure Valve announced the change before implimenting it. We probably just missed it, possibly hinting to some reform being needed for Steam's news functions.
Matt Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:09pm 
Originally posted by Rex:
Moderators, please moderate this thread. Dont let it turn into fighting and end up locked. We need at least one area to continue the discussion, and it might be easier for the moderators to not have hundreds of copies of the same topic. Please and thank you!
We moderate, but we don't babysit. I'll keep an eye here, but you guys need to keep this thread on topic and free of fighting.
Rex Ormunde Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:10pm 
Originally posted by Matt:
Originally posted by Rex:
Moderators, please moderate this thread. Dont let it turn into fighting and end up locked. We need at least one area to continue the discussion, and it might be easier for the moderators to not have hundreds of copies of the same topic. Please and thank you!
We moderate, but we don't babysit. I'll keep an eye here, but you guys need to keep this thread on topic and free of fighting.
We'll try... but humans are humans. :(
Last edited by Rex Ormunde; Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:10pm
Makar Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:14pm 
Originally posted by Rex:
Originally posted by Ona:

Please don't start throwing around insults to the developers. We've had enough of that.

I believe that it wasn't removed to be "lazy" - simply the developers didn't realise how widely used it was in the first place. It was originally just a "fun little extra", that's all they intended it to be. I don't think the people removing it were aware that it had a huge community around it.
A lot of the people who use it didn't even know it was being removed. It almost felt like a stealth change, but I'm fairly sure Valve announced the change before implimenting it. We probably just missed it, possibly hinting to some reform being needed for Steam's news functions.

Agreed.

I only became aware of the change when my client automatically set to the beta. I had no prior information about any change to the steam client until yesterday.

A better news function is a definite must-have as well. But a separate issue.

Originally posted by Matt:
We moderate, but we don't babysit. I'll keep an eye here, but you guys need to keep this thread on topic and free of fighting.

Keeping an eye on this thread is all I'd ask. I'm going to stay here and try my darnedest to make sure people keep it reasonable this time.

We have had enough flame wars on this issue. We've blown off our steam (heh), it's time for some cool heads.
Last edited by Makar; Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:15pm
Rex Ormunde Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:17pm 
My /me actually still works for some odd reason. I'm hoping it stays this way for as long as possible, as I use it for roleplay and not any scamming purposes. Though I suspect Valve will send something through Steam that'll force mine to update or something. I'm not currently taking any measures to prevent it, and my Steam hasnt flagged me to restart the client yet.
Last edited by Rex Ormunde; Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:18pm
Makar Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:18pm 
Originally posted by Rex:
My /me actually still works for some odd reason. I'm hoping it stays this way for as long as possible, as I use it for roleplay and not any scamming purposes. Though I suspect Valve will send something through Steam that'll force mine to update or something. I'm not currently taking any measures to prevent it, and my Steam hasnt flagged me to restart the client yet.

If you haven't turned off your computer or restarted your steam for a long time it'll still likely be in the old state.

It'll change when you restart, I suspect.

Unfortunately, same goes for any of your friends who likes /me.

If you try to send them an emote message, it won't show up for them. This is how me and my best friend originally found out about the change. Yesterday we tried to roleplay, my friend had restarted their system, I had not. I saw their messages as "[user]: /me something" and my own /me messages didn't go through at all.

Wasn't a very pleasant occurrence, I can tell you.
Last edited by Makar; Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:24pm
ChrisW Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:25pm 
How about my idea of allowing the /me command on select roleplaying groups? That way everyone in those groups will already know about the command and you guys can pretend to be vampires or whatever you do. And the command will not be available for the rest of the people on Steam chat that have probably never even seen this command used.
Mondai Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:26pm 
I don't use Steam for roleplay, per se, as much as I use it for interacting in general. Because I communicate online in a similar way to how I communicate in real life, if someone asks for my opinion on a matter that I have no real preference, I don't say "I don't know" or "It doesn't matter to me," I say "/me shrugs." And for people as OCD as I can be, if I type out "/me shrugs" with the intent of seeing a "Strawberry Octopus shrugs." or whathaveyou, and I get a "Strawberry Octopus: /me shrugs." I will feel frustrated, and it takes me a while to shift my paradigms.

The only reason I knew that this change was coming is because I was talking to someone else who mentioned it was a change in the beta. But I feel that the suggestions here seem reasonable, and while I can't really expect the developers to cater to our every whim, I would be ecstatic to see emotes re-added. It is an expansion on text-based forms of communication that I've come to use heavily and appreciate greatly.
Makar Feb 15, 2013 @ 10:26pm 
Originally posted by ChrisW:
How about my idea of allowing the /me command on select roleplaying groups? That way everyone in those groups will already know about the command and you guys can pretend to be vampires or whatever you do. And the command will not be available for the rest of the people on Steam chat that have probably never even seen this command used.

This is another valid idea, I'll add it in, thanks!
EpicShenanigansMoo Feb 15, 2013 @ 11:33pm 
I'm going to agree with changing the text to white instead of blue. It's the most reasonable idea in my opinion without having to do a lot of work.
Makar Feb 16, 2013 @ 1:11am 
Originally posted by Negative Wintermoo:
I'm going to agree with changing the text to white instead of blue. It's the most reasonable idea in my opinion without having to do a lot of work.

Unfortunately, without more measures, this would still be prone to abuse.

Currently, no /me works as a TEMPORARY solution, but if they're going to return it (please, devs, please!) they might as well overhaul it while they're at it. Why not provide a better experiences for roleplayers and chatters alike while keeping users safe from scams?

The solution that results in the most people being happy is always the best one.
Shinki (Miky) Feb 16, 2013 @ 2:09am 
Well i liked the /me command.I know the scam is bad,but the scam was here since the community was realesed.The hackers send you link for free games or steam wallet and boom your account was gone.Valve can make it optional and also add warning don't fail to scam.People will always find new ways for the scam.Scam will never stop.
Last edited by Shinki (Miky); Feb 16, 2013 @ 2:10am
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Date Posted: Feb 15, 2013 @ 9:58pm
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