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Stopping contest cheaters Answered

I was casting my votes for projects in the Chirstmas Decorations Contest and noticed something strange. The project with the highest votes had a bunch of very brief and highly complimentary comments made by people with the generic avatar. It just looked funny to me. The author wasn't replying to any of the comments. Look at your instructables and i bet there is a sprinkling of generic avatars and also some actual conversations between you and your commenters. So i probed. And i noticed that a bunch of these seemingly generic profiles had been created just prior to the close of another contest. And guess what? They comment on (and i'm willing to bet - vote for) only the instructables of a single user. What are the chances? So i sent an email to TPTB and when the contest results were announced i felt better knowing that they hadn't gamed the system. So i was perusing the entries of the Craftsman contest to start casting votes and started with those with the most votes. And i found another project that had a bunch of generic avatars commenting - and on one case they messed up and replied to one of their fake compliments with a thank you but they used a profile that they complimented the project on instead of the profile that they submitted the project with. What is frustrating is that some of these projects are quite good and should stand on their own merit. The authors just ruin it by artificially creating conversation, inflating the registered user count, and seeming desperate. To prevent from seeming biased or hoping to have my project rank higher i have asked to have my project removed from the contest. (i have no expectation of even an honorable mention my project is so pale in comparison to the many great ones - the project i really wanted to do was impossible because of my Alaskan winter weather) I have a few suggestions... Instructables Staff: Perhaps a rule in the contest prohibiting the creation of multiple profiles for the purpose of voting for or increasing the comments (do they pop to the front page when recently commented on?) or hit count of their project. If you really have multiple personalities then this rule would not apply. (grin) Or maybe a "report this user" feature which browsers could use. Report as: possible duplicate, offensive, violating something or other... Instructables users: Perhaps the masses have a better chance of catching things like this. I don't think this problem will go away unless it is clear that it won't be tolerated. (Or am i just getting too grumpy and it should be tolerated?) We can post suspicious users or projects with comments that appear hokey. I guess the best question to ask right now is should this be dealt with quietly (the staff will ignore votes from the same IP address or use other non-public methods of dealing with it). Or should there be a public flogging? I'd hate to see a really great project with an honorable user bumped out of a prize or even have a lower vote tally than a project that has merits but an author cheating the system to boost their score.

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N1K1_1NC. (author)2013-05-26

A flawed system but what system isn't flawed. IMO I think that it would make sense for only entrants in the contest to vote so that you would know that every vote is counted for and there's an even playing field. 30 people in a contest = 30 votes and of course you can't vote for yourself but since the overall determination comes down to the judges (as I was told) what does it matter to vote anyway? Nice thread :)

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Kiteman (author)N1K1_1NC.2013-05-27

What you were actually told* was that the finalists are seleced by the votes of the general membership. Judges don't get involved until the finalists have been selected.

(Caveat: some contest sponsors select a proportion of the finalists themselves - see individual contest rules for details.)

*by me.

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N1K1_1NC. (author)Kiteman2013-05-27

Yes, that I know! The finalists are preselected by the members. The flaw in the system is when anyone outside of the contest itself can vote for a person which will then determine whether or not they become a finalist. So if someone can make multiple accounts and vote for a project undetected, then someone can have their "friends" vote for their project which would increase their chances of becoming a finalist. This is not against the judges because the judges only judge from the pool of finalists! There's two types of popularity votes that can take place...one being a vote cast because the project itself was good and the other being a vote cast because someone's relationship/following.

Also please not that you're not the only one that I've had a conversation with in open or in private. So when I said that I was told that the overall determination of who wins comes down to the judges I wasn't talking about you. I don't want to make this any uglier than it has been on the threads. I expressed myself and that's as far as it should've went. I didn't know of your existence prior to you replying to my thread as you didn't know of mine. So if you don't mind I would and I mean this in the most respectful way hope that we can go back to the way things were. Also for the record you don't have to the one person that replies to any and everything that I say on this site but by choice you choose to. I won't take that away from you because it's your right.

Take Care.

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Kiteman (author)N1K1_1NC.2013-05-28

If only the entrants could vote, most entrants would get very similar, low numbers of votes (you'll have to trust me on that one, but it's true), meaning the judges would have to sort through far more entrants than they do now.

With only around 20 finalists, judging is a day's work for each judge. Since most judges are volunteers, with other jobs to do, imagine the months of wait that would result from having to directly judge one or two hundred entries.

Yes, people vote for their friends, but that effect is lost in the noise of mass voting.

Yes, people try and create fake accounts to vote for themselves, but the admins have mysterious digital voodoo to weed that out.

Preventing non-entrants from voting is absolutely against the spirit of the site, and will never happen. It would also cut down the amount of participation in contests - think how many people would lose interest in politics if only candidates could vote in an election.

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N1K1_1NC. (author)Kiteman2013-05-28

I get it and understand what you're saying completely. It just seems a little simple for entrants in the contest to be the only ones to cast votes. Of course the number of votes will be lower but they will give you the diverse results needed to place finalists. For one not everyone is going to vote for the same entry so there will always be someone with a top vote and there will always be someone with the lowest amount of votes. I wasn't trying go against the spirit of the site but if the spirit of the site can be easily tainted by deception or unfairness then that to me says a lot. I had a new world; virginal perception of the site and it's "spirit" but I've learned. I've seen on threads where people have been "nice nasty" and attacked others in droves because of not agreeing with something they said or done. But because they've been members of the site for a while there's an alpha dog mentality and that is just my opinion. I had my concerns about the process and it's been answered. The answers may not have been what I feel the most logical, nicest or complete but nonetheless they are answers.

The mass voting process is based on the "general membership" as you put stated to me before. And that "general membership" pool of votes can be corrupted by the "friend" vote. So if someone has a group a "friends" voting for them; electing them as a finalist then what's the difference from when someone just create a plethora of accounts to vote for themselves. Of course one is against the rules/policy and the other is not but It will achieve the same results...

Everything is political but just on different levels. There's a responsibility that comes with any electoral process. I'll leave the broad topic of politics alone.

Also, If the contest is a popular then I think that the participation in it would remain the same. It may even increase when you truly leave it in the hands of the people who enter the contest. If a person chooses not to participate in a contest because they can no longer have people outside of the contest vote for them then they shouldn't have entered it anyway. That person is probably one of those people to have their "friends" vote for their projects and don't want to risk losing those votes for a more genuine process. I said it before that no system goes without corruption and this one is one of them. It's not to make you feel a certain way or to make the judges feel a certain. This is a personal attack on anyone. When I see some of the entries and most of them are in contests that I wouldn't dare to enter (lol) lose when it's clear that they should've won or placed as a finalist it just makes me question the process. When I say clear I'm not just basing this on my opinion but I do read some of the comments on the entries.

Is there a way to see how many votes were cast for the entry either before or after the judging process?


Anyways, no more love letters. I'm done and I'm not the only one to have concerns about the process and I won't be last. Take care ...peace



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jessyratfink (author)N1K1_1NC.2013-05-28

No way to view votes - votes count are only available to admins.

Like Kiteman said below, we did try to make them public at one point but it caused more problems in the end.

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Kiteman (author)N1K1_1NC.2013-05-28

Votes have been visible in the past, but that lead to tactical voting, and encouraged the creation of fake accounts.

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N1K1_1NC. (author)N1K1_1NC.2013-05-28

*This is not a personal attack* ...excuse the typos.


If I should clear one thing up it will be that line because of course someone will be bound to take that sentence and make it into a fight. By someone I mean anyone and that's not limited to you nor excluding you..

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DIY Dave (author)2010-01-24

I think that voters should have to have at least one instructable posted; that would keep people from creating extra accounts just to vote on their own instructable.

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guyfrom7up (author)2009-01-06

This is why I never liked voting contests, I think one group of people should judge all of them (even though that would take a lot of work, it would be the most fair, especially for such a big prize as this contest). Also, a super great instructable could like be on page 3, never seen, and thus never voted.

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mman1506 (author)guyfrom7up2009-06-24

i agree cause no offence i think some people instructable are way better than the winning one's .(like mine for example).it should be judged on quality .some instructables take hours to write with great picture and instruction and some take 10 minutes with webcam pics

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Gjdj3 (author)guyfrom7up2009-01-06

Totally true. Plus, all of the ones entered on the last day get to sit at the front page of the contest for recent entries. They get voted way more.

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kelseymh (author)Gjdj32009-01-06

One nice avoidance of that is that the default sort order (at least for Craftsman and the Holiday Decorations) is by rating, not by recent. If you published your I'ble early in the contest, but it was well received, then it can still show up early.

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killerjackalope (author)kelseymh2009-01-08

Though they have a fully functional random button search, why not use it for the contest groupings?

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gmoon (author)2009-01-06

Yes, this has happened before.

Over a year ago I noticed one entry that had over 100 "+" votes (the days before weighted voting), but less than 1000 views. Each rating account had a series of random letters that were extremely similar, and all the accounts were created within 48 hrs.

But the staff always vets each winning entry, and eliminates at least the obvious "cheats."

and I suspect that IP addresses are collected at signup for each account, as it's trivial to do so...

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Plasmana (author)gmoon2009-01-07

That is cheating! Making many accounts to just vote??

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gmoon (author)Plasmana2009-01-07

Yeah, but it was pretty transparent.

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zieak (author)2009-01-06

Full disclosure: I know of three people that have set up Instructables accounts because of me... They may or may not have voted for my projects in the past.

Cena my girlfriend at the time and good friend, my brother Kevin Dean (who collaborated with me on the project he comments on), and childhood friend Steve Buck

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jeff-o (author)zieak2009-01-08

My wife signed up because of me. I am trying to get her to submit some of her knitting projects soon - they're really good. I figured she may as well have her own account for that, instead of me submitting projects for her.

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fungus amungus (author)2009-01-06

It's been our policy to weed through the votes and look for suspicious behavior. It is our constant goal to have each contest be as fair as possible. We check carefully for fraudulent votes and all I can really say is that it's taken seriously and not tolerated. As to the rest of your concerns: New comments pop a project to the zeitgeist part of the front page, but that updates fairly often so it's unlikely to have a big bump. The hit count will only have a tiny bump from making multiple accounts. The effort required is too great for such a small return. Public flogging doesn't help anyone. Best to just make it clear that the extra effort didn't get them anywhere and shouldn't try again.

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Hello, as a newbe here I really must say that I am enjoying instructables and its community. Forgive me for what I don't know or understand...... We had this problem at a Chili cook off at a local bar. My friend who should have won or placed second didn't because of people stacking votes for their friends and not for what tasted best. We appeased the problem this year by creating a popular winner and a judged winner. Worked really well. Just having judges I think might have discouraged vote stacking. Sounds like TPTB and Craftsmen Tools are partially the judges here already and a system might already be working and in place here. Sounds like TPTB are monitoring for fairness and Craftsmen has the final say on a lot of it. Perhaps different channels for vetting to the finals would help, in the consideration of fairness, and might prevent and discourage cheating.

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We have a similar process for our smaller contests here. One of the first prizes is reserved for a user voted entry and two others are selected by judges. For this contest, there are two rounds of judging AFTER the user votes.

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kelseymh (author)fungus amungus2009-01-07

Ed, thank you much for taking the time to follow up! I think it helps these sorts of discussions when the Staff (to the extent possible) talks about what "really goes on."

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fungus amungus (author)kelseymh2009-01-07

I've entered contests before and know how it feels to be concerned about the fairness of the results. In fact, I've tried to enter as many of our own contests as possible and even enter contests on other sites to keep that fresh in my mind. I've even won 2 out of 3, getting me a $100 GC to Home Depot and a sweet new Vaio laptop from Sony! So our goal is to be as open and transparent as possible about the process and address concerns early. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.

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Lithium Rain (author)2009-01-06

Flogging! I vote flogging. :D

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Chicken2209 (author)Lithium Rain2009-01-06

hmmm lets go to dictionary.com Slang. a. to sell, esp. aggressively or vigorously. b. to promote; publicize. We're going to sell them?

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kelseymh (author)Chicken22092009-01-07

Sure, why not? >Cue best Jim Belushi impersonation< Your daughter? I'll buy your daughter! Fifty dollars!

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KentsOkay (author)2009-01-06

Some one told me the User Agreement has something to say about this...

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zieak (author)KentsOkay2009-01-06

"If you provide any information that is untrue, inaccurate, not current or incomplete, or Instructables has reasonable grounds to suspect that such information is untrue, inaccurate, not current or incomplete, Instructables has the right to suspend or terminate your account and refuse any and all current or future use of the Service (or any portion thereof)." And perhaps "Without limiting any other remedies, Instructables may suspend or terminate your Instructables account if we suspect that you have engaged in fraudulent activity in connection with Instructables or any Instructables Service." Although a generic profile with an anonymous username and no profile information isn't fraudulent. However - some of these accounts have listed different ages and that might qualify as untrue information. But proving it might be difficult.

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kelseymh (author)zieak2009-01-06

"incomplete" may be a useful placeholder to apply to the anonymous users and no profile. Also, "reasonable grounds to suspect" is good enough -- this is a private, for-profit Web site, not a public entity, so they can do what they choose, within bounds. Also, I'bles Staff have access to things we mortals don't -- the user's "true name" (hey, Rumpelstiltskin!) and e-mail contact. If those are false or forged, then the rest of the TOS kicks in.

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Lithium Rain (author)kelseymh2009-01-07

Heh. Only if you tell them your real name...

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KentsOkay (author)zieak2009-01-06

Hah!! Whoever told me told wrong!!

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Chicken2209 (author)2009-01-06

I think it will be fine, the ones with the most votes, dont necessarily win

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kelseymh (author)Chicken22092009-01-06

Right. The contests also have a judging phase, but the voting does act as a first cut (for the Craftsman contest, the top 30 votes will go to a judging, the top 15 from that round will go to Sears for final selection).

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NachoMahma (author)2009-01-06

. It's impossible to setup and run a large contest and make it 100% fair. Too many ppl, too many variables, &c.; In any large group, there will be cheaters. . As far as I can tell, Robot is doing an outstanding job with the contests. But I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the contests (I'm a forum rat). . Great detective work. When Robot trips up, it's good to know someone's there to help him out. . Why remove your entry? You made a very good point and presented it well. You weren't whining that things were unfair for just you; you pointed out that they are unfair for everyone.

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Chicken2209 (author)2009-01-06

it does seem fishy with recent join dates and simular names

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zieak (author)Chicken22092009-01-06

They really should just be encouraging their friends to join and comment. Perhaps that is some of what is going on.

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Tool Using Animal (author)zieak2009-01-06

It's a known issue, and they have their means for sorting it out, prolly using google analytics.

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zieak (author)Tool Using Animal2009-01-06

Thanks for pointing out that thread I didn't know the term "sock puppet" in that context. I realize they have dealt with it - but it seems like it could be preventable or at least could be discouraged a bit more. Maybe it is moot. The harder you try to prevent something like that the more people will try to circumvent any measures in place to catch it. Go to a public library or use an anonymous proxy or any of a number of other options... Pay people to create an account and vote for your projects... Like i asked - am i too grumpy?

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kelseymh (author)zieak2009-01-06

Nah, you're just dopey >ba-bing< I'm here all week, folks. Remember to tip your waitress!

Prevention is an arms race. What's more in this context, it would be difficult to identify any individual vote as being suspect. The method of analyzing the voting pattern after the fact is more reliable, and shouldn't affect the "correct" outcome.

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Gjdj3 (author)2009-01-06

I agree! It just totally goes against the way it should work.

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