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It is interesting to notice that a similar suspicious activity for the same proposal has already been reported in 2013

Yet, it has started again. It is the Roblox proposal again. It has surprisingly high number of new users (51-rep users), who have been added within a very short timeframe.

enter image description here

So, I also doubt the voting on the example questions. If this continues, then I'm sure it wouldn't make it through the commitment phase, but still it is a malicious activity, so I thought it'd be better to report it here.

25

What makes this proposal so suspicious, really? The only thing usual here is someone is using Area 51 exactly the way it was intended:

  • "someone posted a link on a high-traffic site"
  • "78.90% of the followers following only that proposal"
  • "surprisingly high number of new users added within a very short time frame"

I happen to know this proposal is legit because I spoke with the author beforehand. An organization saw SE as useful tool for a new audience and reached out to their community to build it. I guess that can look "malicious" if you rarely, rarely see it. But we might have asked them how they got so many followers instead of calling out the villagers to shut them down.

Area 51 was never intended slice up this same Stack Overflow pie into increasingly smaller pieces for the same audience. After 7,200+ failed proposals, the vast, vast, vast majority of activity in Area 51 is from folks rehashing the same ideas with no plan on how to actually build them. Area 51 was designed to expand into new audiences, but folks often lose sight of that.

The next round of Area 51 improvements are likely to address the need to have an existing, ACTIVE audience to build a site quickly. That might mean raising the bar on what it takes to keep a proposal on Area 51; too many proposals are simply drifting through the process waiting for someone else to build them. When those failure modes are so easy to spot, it becomes really painful to sit and watch year-old proposals amble into proportionately weak sites, or to watch folks work on proposals that are running down the clock waiting to be shut down.

  • Thank you for clarifying the issue. Guess it may be worth it to put a notice when an organization sponsors a proposal, though. – Deer Hunter Jan 10 '16 at 21:23
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    @DeerHunter Organizations don't actually sponsor proposals. Groups of people come together to create it. Sites can only be created through a grass-roots efforts of a community, but when a proposal happens to be about a subject or service, sometimes the project team gets behind it, but usually they don't. Regardless, once a proposal is out there, we require organizations to cede all control back to the community... so we never want to imply any type of ownership or sponsorship of a site by a third-party business or organization. – Robert Cartaino Jan 10 '16 at 21:36
  • Robert, you may want to review your stance after this post appeared. An unabashedly organized voting ring is the last thing SE needs - such cases destroy the very foundation of the network, viz. users' trust that voting is more or less fair. – Deer Hunter Mar 1 '16 at 22:27
  • @DeerHunter It's concerning but it's not totally unknown to us. I received a copy of that post over a month ago. I turned it over to a very helpful rep I've been working with at ROBLOX whose been heading up this project. I don't know what they did with the situation on their end, but they took the reports very seriously. If these users insist on continuing with this activity... best case, they'll only get suspended and lose a big chunk of their account. Worst case is they'll only usher in the failure of a proposal they think they are trying to help. – Robert Cartaino Mar 1 '16 at 22:41
  • @DeerHunter Incidentally, 62 new users (and counting) just signed up for the ROBLOX proposal. You can imagine how really easy it will be to see who's gaining any undue levels of rep (and from each other, to boot?). I wouldn't worry too much about it. – Robert Cartaino Mar 1 '16 at 23:06
  • Robert, I don't worry about Roblox either way, thanks for following up. – Deer Hunter Mar 1 '16 at 23:21
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    Hi, ROBLOX employee here, just wanted to chime in. We've made several announcements about the Area 51 sites to our community, the most recent on our blog: blog.roblox.com/2016/02/… While we certainly want the participation of existing SE users, we also think that the site has a lot to offer our community, most of whom probably haven't heard of or used SE before. – UristMcSparks Mar 2 '16 at 18:39
12

I can confirm that they are cheating actually the members with high rep are cheating off each other.

As Mark Otaris noted here32, we do not want the ROBLOX StackExchange proposal to fail because we didn't meet the 100 users with 200+ rep on another StackExchange site requirement. This is the second proposal for a ROBLOX StackExchange -- the first one failed because we didn't meet that. To prevent the second one from failing, I'm starting up a ROBLOX StackExchange Advancement Group on Skype.

The purpose of the group is for all of us to post links to questions we make on StackExchange, and for the rest of the group to go to the question and upvote the OP's question and any comments by them or other members of the group. If you're not comfortable coming up with a question, I or someone else in the group will be happy to provide you with one that you can post. We'll essentially be farming reputation, and will be able to easily award 200 rep to anyone that wants it. Hopefully with this, we shouldn't have an issue passing that 100 member with 200+ rep threshold and we can get the ROBLOX StackExchange into beta.

Some things to keep in mind If you are not committed to the ROBLOX StackExchange proposal already, make sure to do so. You can find more info about the proposal here

Make sure the account you post question / comments on is the same one that committed to the ROBLOX StackExchange proposal

While we can sort of "cheat" around the requirement, it would be a bad idea to upvote random bad questions because in addition to having to fight downvotes from regular users, someone might find the behavior suspicious and report the post to a moderator who may in turn catch on to what we're doing. Make sure to post good questions. Knowing that, we should also avoid upvoting questions too much to where it doesn't seem normal. Keep upvotes on comments, questions, and answers to a reasonable level. If you need more rep, post helpful-looking comments or another question. In short, use common sense to avoid anything that might draw attention to what we're doing

Regarding morality The 100 members with 200+ rep requirement exists because StackExchange believes that without members who understand how to use StackExchange, the site cannot survive. That is the sole purpose of that requirement. The requirement is a means to an end -- it's meant to verify the site has 100 people with basic knowledge of the site. So long as we have 100 people who know the basics of the site, we've fulfilled the purpose of the rule.

Luckily, every single person who has posted on the developer forums here knows the basics of StackExchange already. The main guy behind Discourse was also one of the founders of StackExchange, so there are a lot of similarities between the sites. We all know how to post questions and answers, how to edit posts, and what the flagging system is and how to use it. The only thing we're not too terribly familiar with on StackExchange is the upvoting/downvoting, but that's pretty self-explanatory. As such, I think it'd be pretty silly for the proposal to be failed just because we've not specifically used StackExchange even though we inherently know how to use it. The feel for it that we lack can be gotten during the beta. If ROBLOX truly isn't ready for a StackExchange site, it will fail the beta, and no harm is done.

As someone who is apart of this community (although not doing this) I didn't feel it was right so I felt it best to inform someone. I've also sent an email to the stackexchange team and they said they would keep an eye on it. I do want our proposal to succeed but I want it to be legitimately done naturally.

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    For someone who prides themselves on knowing how SE works, whoever wrote that post somehow completely missed that having a comment upvoted does not get you reputation... – YviDe Mar 1 '16 at 20:41
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    That post was made in our development forum shortly after we announced that the Area51 site. We have since followed up to that post emphasizing to our users that we want to participate in this community in good faith and don't want to game the system. We are actively monitoring our community for discussions of this nature to make sure they are addressed. – UristMcSparks Mar 2 '16 at 18:46
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    The users in mention continue to 'cheat the system' even after your comments you made on the forum. We shouldn't be allowed to cheat the system, don't get me wrong I want a stackexchange so much for ROBLOX but I don't want to cheat for it. – RandomUser111118 Mar 2 '16 at 19:12
5

I agree that this is suspicious. To add to the evidence, look at the graph of followers over time:

enter image description here

All that nothing, and then a sudden huge burst? It's possible this is legit (someone posted a link on a high-traffic site), but it's unusual.

Additionally, we have 78.90% of the followers following only that proposal. Again, it's possible that this is legit, but it's unusual. The last time this was reported and confirmed, 90-something percent of the followers were only active there.

That said, the answer by Adam Lear on the last report does explain it pretty well: creating false accounts just to push the site through the process doesn't help, because even if it doesn't fail commitment it'll never have enough active users to make it through private beta. If it does that too, then we win anyway, by gaining another good site.

Win-win. It's probably not worth doing much about this, except perhaps warning the users involved.

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