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Well, thanks for making me harass a user over attempting to vandalize a post!

Got a flag on a question notifying us that a new, low-rep user submitted a bogus edit suggestion. Okay, so I went and took a look at it.

enter image description here

Well, that certainly looks spammy.

I then checked out the user's account, which looked normal, having no signs of spam whiff. Since this person is new, I contacted the user asking what happened with the edit.

me:

We just got a flag that you attempted to deface a question with an edit

[snip details]

Can you explain?

user:

No i didn't do anything

me:

This isn't a horrible nightmare of a mess or anything, its just odd. Your account appears to be that of a real person, but this kind of behavior is indicative of a fake account.

Can you please just explain what happened?

etc etc until the point where Brad Larson figured out that this was probably a Suggested Edit audit, which was then confirmed to be the case, and I sincerely apologized to the user for harassing them over bullshit.

How is using actual accounts of random users acceptable in this situation? Why are these audits recorded in the post history just as if they are real?

This is kinda bad, guys. You gotta stop using unsuspecting users as vandals and stop recording these incidents in the post history.

share|improve this question
    
I agree.. they should pick a random unregistered username, e.g user3998493843 –  staticx Mar 7 '13 at 17:43
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If it is clearly labeled as an audit already, why does it even need to have a username? –  W5VO Mar 7 '13 at 17:46
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@W5VO: To try and not tip you off that its an audit and its only marked after you pass or fail. –  staticx Mar 7 '13 at 17:50
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@W5VO It's only clearly marked as an audit after the person has been audited. –  Robert Harvey Mar 7 '13 at 17:50
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I'm curious as to why someone would flag a post for a moderator when they're already reviewing it correctly. Letting the review process work would have avoided this entirely. –  Wooble Mar 7 '13 at 18:15
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@Wooble: this user wasn't just suggesting a bad edit (which wouldn't require a moderator's attention)- it distinctly had the appearance of a spambot or vandal (which would) –  David Robinson Mar 7 '13 at 18:17
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Well to be fair if I hadn't seen the MSO post about failing one of these audits by trying to improve the post before I actually got hit with one myself, I would have though the user was drunk stacking. –  Wooble Mar 7 '13 at 18:24
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that may have just become my most favorite SE related phrase: drunk stacking –  jcolebrand Mar 7 '13 at 18:49
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I want to see an audit where Jon Skeet or Shog9 suggests a crap edit :p –  ThiefMaster Jun 24 '13 at 9:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Woops, that's not good. I suppose we always suspected this would come back to bite us, but perhaps not so spectacularly.

Showing fake users on audits is non-ideal, because it creates an easy way to quickly detect audits: Does the display name look fake? Even if not, does clicking the display name bring me to a real user profile?

We just pushed a change (that will go live shortly) that will hopefully alleviate the problem:

Once the audit is passed/failed, then we'll always show the edit as having been created by the Community User.

But while a suggested edit audit is still reviewable, the behavior is unchanged – an unsuspecting user is randomly selected and displayed as the proposer of the edit.

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... until something like this happens! "Tuttle? His name is Buttle! There must be some mistake!" –  Pëkka Mar 7 '13 at 19:15
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Read to the bottom, and I'm not entirely satisfied with that –  Sam I am Mar 7 '13 at 19:18
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Why not just un-link the username field in the suggested edit queue (or not show it at all?). Having reviewed 4,000+ suggested edits, I can't say I'd miss that functionality. If I really really found myself in a situation where I'd need it, I could always navigate to the post, and find it in the suggested edit pane there. This will make user profiles easier to fake for the audits. Alternatively, you can just link to the Community User, or link to page saying "Haha, you caught us out, this user doesn't really exist; it was just an audit". –  Matt Mar 7 '13 at 19:38
    
The worst part is that Suggested Edit audits don't out themselves as audits. –  Dennis Mar 7 '13 at 19:49
    
@Matt We don't want people to be able to easily identify (and thus avoid) the audits. –  Anna Lear Mar 7 '13 at 20:13
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@AnnaLear: I was thinking about removing the hyperlink for a username on every suggested edit review, not just on audits. As for my additional suggestions (which would give a slight hint of a audit), if a user is inspecting the page well enough to notice the target of a URL, chances are they ain't a robo-reviewer. –  Matt Mar 7 '13 at 20:15
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@Matt I don't think removing the link from all edits would be good either. If someone is making terrible edits, reviewing their profile might be handy. And I think you underestimate the desire some folks have to grind out review badges. Putting a hover over the user link into their "routine" to make sure they pass every audit wouldn't cost much time at all. –  Anna Lear Mar 7 '13 at 20:18
    
Humm, for a moderator maybe, but as I said, in the 4,000+ reviews I've carried out, I've seldom needed it... linking the username once a review has been performed, and having the link available by navigating to the post would be enough in those rare situations IMO... and haha, I'm beginning to wonder whether there is a limit to the lengths these robo-reviewers go to ;). –  Matt Mar 7 '13 at 20:26
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Can I please opt out of the fake author candidates? –  toscho Mar 8 '13 at 2:39
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Another option would be for links on audits to redirect elsewhere. I suspect it may be enough to just skip that audit item if they click on anything other than the review response for that item. I assume that audits are there mostly to pick up when people respond to a review without thinking and suspect that if someone being audited is checking the user or other links, it's because they are thinking about the post and are thus probably a pass, or at least not a fail. *8') –  Mark Booth Mar 8 '13 at 11:36
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What sort of display names would you say look "fake"? And which users that are too lazy to bother reading the edits they approve have the wherewithall to bother checking out the edit's author in any detail at all? Sounds like we need a review (lol) as to which users we're targetting with the audit feature. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 13 '13 at 7:40

I couldn't agree more. This is impersonation in an explicitly negative scenario, which amounts to libel if you look at it too closely. I thought it was kinda creepy when I first figured it out (which took a while), but got used to it. You've reminded me that I shouldn't have done that.

On a practical note, if you're a user who accepts edits blindly (which the audit is supposed to weed out), it seems unlikely that you're gonna spend time investigating the editor. Thus it seems that there is little benefit in co-opting an authentic account, other than the dev time required to present a fake one that passes even just cursory examination.

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I agree with this; the inconsistency in the defense of audits is quite puzzling to me. Shog has said, I believe in more than one place, that they're only meant to test that you're paying the minimum of attention, but Anna Lear and Emmet reply here that an audit needs to stand up to scrutiny. –  Josh Caswell Mar 12 '13 at 22:42
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Thanks for posting this, I was going to post the same thing. I think assigning random people to vandalizing-suggested-edits is completely unacceptable, and also completely unnecessary. –  Ben Lee Mar 14 '13 at 19:25
    
@BenLee: Much more succinct than I could have put it :) –  Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 18 '13 at 11:45

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