What kinds of "questionable" or "illegal" gaming have you seen on any of the Stack Exchange sites? How did you figure out that it was gaming?

  • I don't know if this would count as "gaming the system" but a recent example might be where I answered a question by Jon Skeet and he offered to withhold giving the check mark until I had hit my daily rep limit. That way the +15 would be added on top of the rep limit.

  • I have not seen this personally but I assume it would be possible for a user to post a question, then answer it with a zombie account, vote it up or accept it so that the zombie account now had enough rep to go on and function in the system to serve as an upvote machine for the user. If I am mistaken and this methodology is not possible, even better.

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    To your second point, I believe it's possible until you get caught. And there are systems in place to attempt to catch this. – Timothy Carter Jul 7 '09 at 2:25
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    I will confirm that there are systems in place to detect this. – Bill the Lizard Jul 7 '09 at 2:35
  • Good to know. I was hoping that I was not the first person to think about that. – TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 2:39
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    I was wondering if anyone would comment either way on the "withholding" approach. That doesn't feel like gaming to me - whereas if I'd withheld it until the start of the day (to effectively "deny" you the bonus due to the rep cap) that would certainly have been mean. – Jon Skeet Jul 7 '09 at 6:05
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    @Jon: it's for those kind of reasons I want to make the rep system consistent so it doesn't matter when you accept an answer. It's just silly that timing of accepting answers matters. – cletus Jul 7 '09 at 7:05
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    @Jon: I can't speak for Jeff and Joel on this, but that doesn't feel like gaming to me either. – Bill the Lizard Jul 9 '09 at 11:56

Does asking a question and then immediately answering it with a lengthy pre-prepared answer count?

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    I have actually talked about this briefly on another thread (not quite sure which one it was though...). People asked if answering your own question was fine and for the most part it is. But I believe that if it's an obvious rep ploy that could be viewed negatively by the community and it might be punished with downvotes by some members. – TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 2:23
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    Answering your own question is fine. – GEOCHET Jul 7 '09 at 2:28
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    SO.com is part blog after all. – GEOCHET Jul 7 '09 at 2:29
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    No, it doesn't; the FAQs specifically encourage this somewhere. – Lawrence Dol Jul 7 '09 at 2:35
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    Answering your own questions is fine, even encouraged. There's even a badge for it. – Bill the Lizard Jul 7 '09 at 2:37
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    I thought 1 minute between question and answer was a bit suspicious. I couldn't even type that answer in that time. – pgs Jul 7 '09 at 2:44
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    What's more interesting, is that most of the time those questions, and answers see very little attention. You are likely to receive more rep if you don't answer your own question immediately. – Brad Gilbert Jul 7 '09 at 3:04
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    If I do this, I will usually try to put a warning in the question. – waffles Jul 7 '09 at 3:04
  • If you want to be tricky, ask the question as an alt, then post the answer on your main. – MiffTheFox Jul 7 '09 at 3:26
  • There was also the question on here about migrating a technical blog solution to SO. That is valid and it would involve a question and answer coming in in quick succession – colithium Jul 7 '09 at 6:06
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    Asking a question and not answering it, but admitting that you knew the answer, drives people utterly mad. – Earwicker Jul 7 '09 at 6:25
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    I'm not against FAQ-like or "technical blog solutions" being posted, but please say "My answer below", and consider making it a community wiki. – pgs Jul 7 '09 at 6:34
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    +1 to CW. I'd also argue that if you're planning to answer the question yourself, it's good to prepare the answer before posting the question. That way it's incredibly obvious (even more so than explicitly stating it in the question IMO) that there's an answer ready. That's what I did for stackoverflow.com/questions/247621 (which reminds me - time for a c#3.5 tag hunt...) – Jon Skeet Jul 7 '09 at 6:54
  • I think this is perfectly fine. It's a way of sharing an answer you found if it hasn't been asked yet. Pre-preparing the answer to your own question, to me, seems within the spirit of the site. No need for CW imho. If people think it worth of getting voted up then why not get the rep? – cletus Jul 7 '09 at 7:06
  • Hmm, I guess I'm pl acing more importance on helping people solve their problems than on gaining points, to the point where it looks odd when someone posts an answer when there's no one with a problem that needs solving. – pgs Jul 7 '09 at 7:47

Well... The whole thing's set up to be sort of a game, so most of what comes to mind is probably acceptable usage (rushing to get a brief answer in quickly, then editing it, etc.)

Undesired gaming usually tends to be subtle; otherwise, what's the point? But i do recall seeing a question where the author promised - in the question text - to upvote anyone who posted anything in reply. I don't believe that worked out so well for him though...

  • Things like quick posting doesn't feel like gaming to me because you are still going to end up posting an actual answer and hopefully get voted for it. Your other item about an author offering to upvote anything that posts seems a little like gaming, especially if you were to answer the same question a bunch of times. – TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 2:15
  • I edited my Q to clarify a bit, but gaming would be unexpected/undesirable behavior. Quick posting is a desirable behavior. – GEOCHET Jul 7 '09 at 2:17
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    It's "gaming" because you're adjusting your behavior (the manner in which you compose and expose your answer) to achieve a certain behavior from the system that will (usually) result in an improved reward. But yes, it is largely desirable. – Shog9 Jul 7 '09 at 2:18
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    Shog9: I can understand that definition of gaming. To me, gaming gives more of a negative connotation that would almost be like some backdoor way of achieving lots of rep. – TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 2:21

Most gaming seems to happen when a question is fresh, old questions seem to receive less attention and people can not be bothered to game them.

I see this happen sometimes:

  • Post bad/funny/incomplete answer quickly
  • Get down voted to -1
  • Correct answer, get upvoted.

I also see tactical donwvoting happen sometimes (which has been discussed in another question, and IMHO is a really bad practice). Which is downvote good answers so your answer will be on equal grounds.

I personally will tactically upvote good answers, I try to upvote good answers on questions that I also post an answer, if I think my answer is better. It encourages participation.

I see people post vague/simple questions lots of times to attract lots of views and random upvotes.


I don't think it was intentional, but this question was just answered then closed by the same person 2.5 minutes later. I don't know if it's "gaming" per se, but it's questionable in my mind.

Update: It definitely wasn't intentional (you'll notice the answer has been deleted), but it's possible other people with intent and enough power can do this to game the system somewhat.


OK, I'm new here and everything, but what would be the point? Yes, your rep would increase, but why would that matter? Is there a prize to be won?

How could someone benefit by gaming the system? Is this site really just all about ego?

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    What's the point in gaming World of Warcraft or any game? No, there's no prize to be won. No, reputation doesn't matter beyond the ability to do things like editing posts and voting to close questions (although that's one reason someone might want to game the system). However, many of us do view it as a sort of game, so the same sort of game behaviour is likely to crop up here too. – Jon Skeet Jul 7 '09 at 6:03
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    Ego and ponies. But, mostly ego. – Shog9 Jul 7 '09 at 14:08

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