MeFi is getting gamed. November 12, 2011 4:55 AM   Subscribe

MeFi is getting gamed.

MeFi's filter rules for spam and self-promotion have always been that if a poster's identity data (from signup and IP lookup)
  1. match a cursory google search indicating direct involvement with the site or item being linked
  2. match the linked site's whois registration
  3. match the ip of the linked item or the IP of an ad firm promoting the item
the post is deleted and the user is banned. For years this has been an adequate filterset but it's no longer enough. Consider post 109343. Here we have a an FPP by a 3-comment user linking an obvious viral ad for Nike. We have vapid, "Great post would click again!" replies by other low-comment posters, one of which was banned after making his third and last comment.

So the mods know what is going on. Yet his comment is still up. As are the comments of his three obvious compatriots. As is the original post itself.

Seeing as mods are obviously aware, I take it that these people and this post just didn't quite meet the hard and fast criteria above. Nike's marketing firm got smart enough to use proxies and obfuscatory user data for its churn accounts. The only thing they don't pass is the smell test.

I've seen quite a bit of this link bait slipping through and it stinks. These people are getting shrewder and the deletion criteria need to keep up. This is a call for MeFi staffers to start following their noses.
posted by clarknova to Etiquette/Policy at 4:55 AM (82 comments total)

I'm not sure where you get the "3 comment user" thing from. astapasta24 has been a membr for over a year and a half and has 17 posts and 178 comments across all subsites. But maybe signing up and participating on MeFi for more than a year was part of Nike's diabolical marketing scheme.
posted by bjrn at 5:02 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The person who was banned wasn't banned for a throwaway comment in that post, but for posting a spam site. I don't know what your basis is for accusing astapasta24? Can you elaborate on that?
posted by taz (staff) at 5:06 AM on November 12, 2011


Does this really need to be a Saturday morning "call for MeFi staffers to start following their noses", rather than a private enquiry via the contact form?

This is harshly-worded public badgering and mod-shaming, IMHO.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:07 AM on November 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


This is the post iqternet was banned for. Pretty clearly nothing to do with Nike. I hate spammers infiltrating MeFi like nobody's business, but I think your spam detector may be misfiring.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:09 AM on November 12, 2011


What's with the nothing outside? This is stunty and gamey.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:13 AM on November 12, 2011


Sorry, eight comments on the main site, not three. That's huge difference and I stand abashed.

Seriously, you think people who work for advertising firms aren't employed for more than a year? They can't spend five bucks and a few cumulative hours cultivating a promotional tool? They're professionals. It's their job.

The person who was banned wasn't banned for a throwaway comment in that post, but for posting a spam site.

This is the post iqternet was banned for.


So this guy was banned for spamming, and I'm calling out an hours-earlier post of his for also being spam, and you're defending it. Because he didn't get canned for that post.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you guys are asleep at the switch after all.
posted by clarknova at 5:16 AM on November 12, 2011


yeah, meatbomb, I just edited it to repeat the title in the above the fold field.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:17 AM on November 12, 2011


What? Are you saying that we should delete all three posts that the spammer made his obligatory three-comments-before-you-can-post throwaways in?

Seriously, if you have any kind of evidence about the post/poster you are pointing out, please let us know.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:24 AM on November 12, 2011


How do we know this is a viral ad for nike ?

How do we know you simply aren't a rather clever agent provocateur yourself ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:27 AM on November 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm sure there's a way to do this that's somehow more melodramatic, but I don't know what. I'm pretty sure a less melodramatic way would be to just send the mods a polite email expressing your worries. I'm thinking that's what really should have happened here.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:28 AM on November 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is this for real or am I missing the joke here? This iqternet just picked three easy posts to add his comments to, and one of the posters of those, with over 160 answers to askme is suspect and called a 3 comment user?
posted by Ms. Next at 5:30 AM on November 12, 2011


Hang on a sec, how is that an obvious viral for Nike? I see some paranoid ramblings in the thread, but nothing approaching evidence.

The advertisers have won if people see everything as an advertisement, whatever the content of the work.
posted by jack_mo at 5:33 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


What the fuck is going on? Can somebody throw in a graph, or a map, or something?
posted by angrycat at 5:33 AM on November 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


> How do we know this is a viral ad for nike?

You see the shoes of the guy in the video a few times, and a few of those times you can see that they have the Nike swoosh on them. So it's obviously a viral video.
posted by bjrn at 5:34 AM on November 12, 2011


And if astapasta24 is a shill for Nike, why is she recommending Puma shoes on Ask MetaFilter? ;-)
posted by jack_mo at 5:35 AM on November 12, 2011 [29 favorites]


Because she's that sneaky.

TRUST NO ONE!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:37 AM on November 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


Times like this, I want to be able to send the mods a cup of tea over the internet.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:38 AM on November 12, 2011 [38 favorites]


if astapasta24 is a shill for Nike


So says the viral marketing major domo for tranmere rovers season tickets.


THE CONSPIRACY DEEPENS
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:40 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, eight comments on the main site, not three. That's huge difference and I stand abashed.

And 161 answers on AskMe. That is a fairly huge difference from 3.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:43 AM on November 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


"call for MeFi staffers to start following their noses"

Before that, I would like to get a mod ruling on the heavily debated cereal conundrum. Clearly a Kellogg's,
General Mills or Quaker shill.
posted by lampshade at 5:43 AM on November 12, 2011


Spammers on this site don't tend to have been contacted by another longstanding MeFite from the same state, who they've apparently met in real life.
posted by gman at 5:46 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The filmmaker has got some kind of shoes connection. In the same Vimeo channel, here's his "small edit of my perspective of the DC Shoes commercial starring Chris Cole" (whatever that means). OTOH, he just seems to like focusing on shoes in his videos (like at the start of this one ). Filmmaker's name appears to be Brock Mitchell.
posted by beagle at 5:53 AM on November 12, 2011


Times like this, I want to be able to send the mods a cup of tea over the internet.

Yes. Some delicious Rainforest Alliance Certified LIPTON® tea.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:53 AM on November 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Brock Mitchell.
posted by beagle at 5:54 AM on November 12, 2011


We're all sleeper cells. And since it's Saturday, I will be going back to sleep now.
posted by keli at 5:54 AM on November 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


So the mods know what is going on. Yet his comment is still up.

The comments themselves weren't bannable offenses, nor were they worth deleting. I suppose if you were a hard and fast 'no noise, all signal' MeFi admin you'd go back and delete the comments, but really there's no point now. They're parts of other conversations, and deleting them without comment is weird and unnecessary.

As are the comments of his three obvious compatriots. As is the original post itself. .... This is a call for MeFi staffers to start following their noses.

You'll notice that the criteria as you lay out for detecting spammers and other users-not-in-good-faith of the site are based on verifiable facts. You're now proposing that security be tightened by adding which verifiable fact vectors to the list? Oh, right, the updated, improved, and sanctioned by clarknova techniques that need to be adopted are Paranoia and Nose-Following.

Good suggestions, thanks a ton on behalf of our local pros, and hey maybe shove off.

Not saying that we as a community shouldn't be vigilant about this sort of stuff (props to scose for favoriting all three of iqternet's 'neat!' comments), but clarknova your suggestions and the way you go about suggesting them are really laughably bad. We have standards here, you know.
posted by carsonb at 6:05 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Worst. Callout. Ever.
posted by kmz at 6:08 AM on November 12, 2011


THE PHONE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!
posted by killdevil at 6:13 AM on November 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


And if astapasta24 is a shill for Nike, why is she recommending Puma shoes on Ask MetaFilter? ;-)

OH SNAP YOU GOT SERVED
posted by nathancaswell at 6:14 AM on November 12, 2011


MeFi is getting gamed.

Comes off a bit more self-descriptive than accusatory, now that I think about it. Congrats on gaming MetaFilter, clarknova.
posted by carsonb at 6:19 AM on November 12, 2011


Unless astapasta24, under the employ of NIKE is propping up PUMA to weaken ADIDAS in an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend-move. Propping up one brother to defeat another brother. It's insidious! SNEAKY. WHO KNOWS HOW DEEP THE RABBIT HOLE GOES.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:21 AM on November 12, 2011


My entire online persona is a long, slow shill for Cavaricci pants.
posted by mintcake! at 6:22 AM on November 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hey guys, if all this MetaTalk drama is getting you stressed, allow me to recommend relaxing with a smooth, clean Marlboro (TM) cigarette. Marlboros provide just the right mid-morning pick-me-up to get you through the rest of your internet commenting day with a feeling of calm and confidence. Marlboro--for frustration free electronically mediated conversation today and everyday.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:23 AM on November 12, 2011 [49 favorites]


And if astapasta24 is a shill for Nike, why is she recommending Puma shoes on Ask MetaFilter? ;-)

Maybe she's working for a firm with multiple contracts? Maybe this moth's campaign is "Crosspost the hell out of this vimeo video with Nike product placement"? Maybe, as she was cultivating a forum presence, she answered a lot of questions honestly, for the hell of it?

Look. As a promotional tool MeFi is ridiculously effective provided you do it right. I've seen SLYT fpps with only a dozen or so user replies lead to tens of thousands of views for the video. And it only costs five bucks to join. There's no way that hasn't attracted the notice of marketing firms.

There are people who get paid to do practically nothing but scan and post on forums and social networking sites. Most large companies have a social networking professional or two on staff for in-house promotion. It stands to reason Madison Avenue firms have entire floors of them. If you got paid high five figures to "cultivate new media resources" wouldn't you spend a few hours a week posting on the MeFi subsites you like? It's not like it's hard. Most of you are holding down a job and

How do we know you simply aren't a rather clever agent provocateur yourself ?

As long as our culture is polluted with sophisticated marketing, and as long as the social media branch of the industry rakes in around 60 billion a year everyone is a suspect. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you.

We have standards here, you know.

I do know! In fact I posted them!

Maybe astapasta24 was well meaning. Maybe she wasn't knowingly posting a shoe ad and just got suckered like several other well-meaning users who sniffled because of its appeal to mom and apple pie. Do we still need the shoe ad? Will we all miss the deep and meaningful conversations it engendered?

Spolier: the answer's no.
posted by clarknova at 6:26 AM on November 12, 2011


* Most of you are holding down a job and doing it gratis.
posted by clarknova at 6:28 AM on November 12, 2011


What if clarknova is also employed by the ad agency, and gets paid to come to MetaTalk and accuse astapasta with dubious evidence, causing us to defend her thereby entrenching her further in our community?
posted by nathancaswell at 6:29 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because she's that sneaky.

TRUST NO ONE!

It's insidious! SNEAKY. WHO KNOWS HOW DEEP THE RABBIT HOLE GOES.


Is sneaky the adjective of sneaker?

Snicker.
posted by ersatz at 6:29 AM on November 12, 2011


Stop shilling for Snickers bars.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:30 AM on November 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


MeFi is getting gamed.

Aw, hells no — Mefi got game.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:33 AM on November 12, 2011


What if clarknova is also employed by the ad agency, and gets paid to come to MetaTalk and accuse astapasta with dubious evidence, causing us to defend her thereby entrenching her further in our community?

clarknova only has 1000 comments! What's a few hours of commenting on a website to a marketing agency! OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE
posted by graventy at 6:40 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


What if clarknova is also employed by the ad agency, and gets paid to come to MetaTalk and accuse astapasta with dubious evidence, causing us to defend her thereby entrenching her further in our community?

Oh shit! We need to go deeper!
posted by kmz at 6:40 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I didn't think it was a shoe ad, but I didn't particularly buy that video ("break every bone in hr body" with CPR?? Minor child given sole power of attorney over adult?). And in the comments he claimed he only new the kid for 15 minutes before he opened up with his story and let the guy set up all the equipment he carries everywhere to record the story about his mom and also do a bunch of standard-issue DSLR focus-pull shots of him skateboarding.

However I assumed it was somewhere on the spectrum between a) me being too cynical and b) Script the guy wrote for his actor friend to play on people's sympathies
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:42 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm on team Clarknova Is A Marketing Shill, since the only thing this MeTa has accomplished is that I've gone and watched the video in question.
posted by phunniemee at 6:44 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


clarknova, you're paranoid and being jerky. knock it off.


saatchi paid me to say that.
posted by liketitanic at 6:44 AM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was just thinking after perusing the MeFi timeline, "Hmm, I wonder if anyone else is reading this and getting into internet detective mode."

And here we are. Coincidence?

Then again, humans are built to find patterns, and they do.
posted by Mooski at 6:46 AM on November 12, 2011



There are people who get paid to do practically nothing but scan and post on forums and social networking sites. Most large companies have a social networking professional or two on staff for in-house promotion. It stands to reason Madison Avenue firms have entire floors of them.


That kind of box ticking intentionality doesn't work, what does work i'm not telling you unless you make me a job offer.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:47 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clarknova, we have more info than you do, and everything I've seen convinces me that this poster is completely legitimate. Again, if you have something concrete, let us know, but at this point you're making a baseless attack against another user.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:49 AM on November 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


taz on the payroll :(
posted by nathancaswell at 6:50 AM on November 12, 2011


Oh, wow.

MeFi is largely built around people posting things they find interesting. As a direct consequence of that model, I'd say many or even most posts here could theoretically be an advertisement for something if you're willing to be paranoid enough.

As such I think accusing other people of being potential spammers with evidence that thin is pretty poor form. The community aspect of this site wouldn't last a day if we all decided that the second somebody posted something that could maybe be construed as an advertisement if you squint at it the right way, they're a shill.
posted by lwb at 6:51 AM on November 12, 2011


Spolier: the answer's no.

Please let this phrase become a meme.
posted by gubo at 6:52 AM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also: I would a thousand times rather see the occasional well-concealed shill go undetected than have people be afraid to post things they think are interesting in fear of getting randomly made an example of in a callout like this.
posted by lwb at 6:54 AM on November 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


what does work i'm not telling you unless you make me a job offer.

If you're not already getting them from recruiters it's not working. If you want to collaborate, though, I'm prepared to offer you 10% when my firm goes IPO.

Please let this phrase become a meme.

It's an old meme already. You're fired.
posted by clarknova at 6:55 AM on November 12, 2011


Aggressively accusing someone else to distract from one's own freaky-sneaky activities is the perfect dodge. I used to do it all the time in the '50s.

Just sayin'.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:56 AM on November 12, 2011


Because she's that sneaky sneakery.

fixed that for ya
posted by spitbull at 6:57 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ahm. What's with all the mixed metaphers? If Nikes don't pass the smell test, have a look at the feet they've been hosting. Just sayin'.
posted by Namlit at 6:58 AM on November 12, 2011


Asleep at the wheel. You are being incredibly rude, in case you didn't know.
posted by h00py at 6:59 AM on November 12, 2011


Also, yeah it's Saturday. Have some nice Brunch, mods! And don't let your Nikes sneak up from behind (spoiler: you'll smell them just before they strike).
posted by Namlit at 7:01 AM on November 12, 2011


Follow the money people. The money is always behind trite vimeo flicks.
posted by Think_Long at 7:05 AM on November 12, 2011


When this kind of MeTa drama gets me down, I grab a thirst-quenching Mountain Dew Baja Blast™. The extreme refreshment is Dew-tastic!
posted by Trurl at 7:07 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, you're being a tremendous asshole. Have a nice morning and quit shitting on everyone's Saturday. There are ways of interacting with people and making your opinions heard without being a grade-a jagoff.
posted by absalom at 7:10 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is going nowhere good. clarknova doesn't have any evidence, and it's not clear where this aggressiveness is coming from. Might be a good idea to close this up so the mods can enjoy their Saturday and clarknova can cool off.
posted by Dasein at 7:17 AM on November 12, 2011


Clarknova, we have more info than you do, and everything I've seen convinces me that this poster is completely legitimate.

I've got a pretty good idea what kind of data you have. I'm saying the rules of evidence aren't enough anymore. Go with your gut. Give us a good purge. A good gut purge. We need more content bulimia. I could extend this to the stinky shoe metaphor too: how they can be used to induce vomiting.

Let's never stop!

I would a thousand times rather see the occasional well-concealed shill go undetected than have people be afraid to post things they think are interesting in fear of getting randomly made an example of in a callout like this.

Sometimes you need to burn villages to save them.


Asleep at the wheel. You are being incredibly rude, in case you didn't know.

Cry me a river. While you're asleep at the boatwheel.

OH YEAH!

Incidentally, Jonestown was the best product placement Kool-Aid ever had. Think about it.
posted by clarknova at 7:19 AM on November 12, 2011


Every one of is advertising for The Man. The internet is one giant ad.
posted by spitbull at 7:22 AM on November 12, 2011


Err. OK. That's a reasonable response, sure you don't want a nice breath of fresh air?
posted by arcticseal at 7:22 AM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Purgatives and heroic medicine. Are we sure clarknova isn't a shill for homeopathy?
posted by Scattercat at 7:24 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, this is entering the realm of performance art. Really shitty performance art.
posted by Dasein at 7:24 AM on November 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Spolier!
posted by brainwane at 7:24 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you still up from last night or did you wake up this morning for this?
posted by nathancaswell at 7:25 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


J'accuse! I'm looking at you.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:25 AM on November 12, 2011


Incidentally, Jonestown was the best product placement Kool-Aid ever had. Think about it.

Except there was no kool-aid at Jonestown. You didn't even get this right.
posted by inigo2 at 7:26 AM on November 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


And the reason I'm standing here, annoyed, is because I thought this would be a MeFight Club post.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:27 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now that the conspiracy has been revealed, it is time for the big red button of doom.
posted by lampshade at 7:30 AM on November 12, 2011


Can we close this, please? It's going nowhere good.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:33 AM on November 12, 2011


Further indication that the title/front-facing line of this post is self-referential.

3/3 chance clarknova is being totally moronic.

0/3 chance anyone willfully stops feeding this troll.
posted by carsonb at 7:34 AM on November 12, 2011


>Incidentally, Jonestown was the best product placement Kool-Aid ever had. Think about it.

Except there was no kool-aid at Jonestown. You didn't even get this right.


I was going to say that perhaps clarknova was aware of Jones' use of Flavor Ade, and that somehow benefited Kool-Aid, but that doesn't make any sense either.

We need more content bulimia.

Yeah, maybe you should just stop.

Also:

MetaFilter: I've got a pretty good idea what kind of data you have.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:36 AM on November 12, 2011


I think you mean, Will anyone stop feeding the troll?

Spoiler: no.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:36 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cocaine is an evil drug. I'd recommend sleep pronto, followed by a healthy meal and a wondering about whether the rage is worth the feeling that you alone have the answer.
posted by angrycat at 7:37 AM on November 12, 2011


I was thinking it could be booze, or methamphetamine. But I am not much of an expert about meth, so don't know. I guess cocaine would work here.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:45 AM on November 12, 2011


So, good morning.

The big reason we're hard on self-promotion on Metafilter—not just the robotic v1agr4 spam that everybody in the universe agrees is bad but even Go Check Out My Stuff plugs that some other sites are totally fine with—is that it mucks up the character of the site in a way we think is bad for this place. When people are posting stuff because they have a promotional self-interest or are being paid to do so by their employer or client, they don't show the same community-minded judgement that we're hoping for with the normal mix of posts. So, we trust the userbase in general, but we also say: no, don't do that. And we keep a close eye out behind the scenes. And we delete and ban when we see it happening.

It's for that same reason, that desire to have Metafilter be a community space where we generally trust people and people can post what they want to withing the guidelines, that we don't want to encourage this kind of "hey I think it smells, LET'S GET 'EM GUYS" stuff in Metatalk or in threads themselves.

I am paranoid so that the userbase doesn't need to be. And trust me, I spend plenty of my day actively looking for spammers and checking out things that feel a bit off and making notes when something smells. The rest of the team does this as well. We're actually pretty good at it; not perfect, because we don't catch everything up front and not every single spammer is as sloppy as most spammers, but I think our hit rate is pretty damned solid.

If you think you see something that's weird or sketchy, send us a note at the contact form. We will look into it if we haven't already. Provide details if you have them.

Please do not do public HEY THIS SMELLS stuff on the site itself unless its an extraordinary circumstance. Having a weird feeling is not an extraordinary circumstance.

I say write to us instead of being publicly noisy about it because often times one's gut is wrong. And the price of failing to publicly make noise about a gut feeling is just about zero: let us know in private, we'll look, and if it's something after all then good eye on you and if it's nothing, not a big deal. But the price of publicly falsely identifying a fellow mefite as a spammer is putting them on the spot publicly for no good reason and engendering some bad feelings in the community, something we'd really, really rather not have people do.

I've got a pretty good idea what kind of data you have. I'm saying the rules of evidence aren't enough anymore. Go with your gut.

We start with our gut, a lot. We don't ban people for what's in our gut, though, we ban people because we establish that something is up. In the rare, rare edge cases where we can't put two and two together but something really feels off (and this situation with astapasta24 is absolutely not one of them), we contact that person directly and put a fine point on it to figure out what's up, and go from there.

If you aren't satisfied with the level of work you imagine we are doing to keep this place spam free, that is your prerogative but I'm doubtful you have a clear idea of how vigilant we are about it, especially compared to basically every other site administration team I've encountered even for considerably larger sites. If you believe that us banning people on vague suspicion of bad action is the only acceptable solution, you are going to be sorely disappointed.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:46 AM on November 12, 2011 [47 favorites]


Yes, we can close this... sorry, had to take the dog out for peepee (her, not me).
posted by taz (staff) at 7:47 AM on November 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


WHOA THATS A FULL RAINBOW ALL THE WAY
OH MY GOD ITS A DOUBLE RAINBOW ALL THE WAY
WHOOOOOA OH MY GOD OHHH MY GOD
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 7:47 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or somebody just watched the Serpico episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:47 AM on November 12, 2011


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