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I just received this email from XYZ@SOMECRYPTO.com (XYZ and SOMECRYPTO are not the real names):

I’m XYZ, a community member of SOMECRYPTO, a high-throughput and high-security blockchain platform. Our community has proposed a stackexchange Q&A site for users, enthusiasts and developers of SOMECRYPTO. We were wondering if you could help by pledging to our proposal on area51 (https://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/0/SOMECRYPTO) via your stackexchange account. In order to compensate you, we offer to pay you $10 in SOMECRYPTO and $10 for every friend you refer who has 200+ points on a stack exchange site. Please check this small video for reference. Best Regards, XYZ

Question: Do we have a policy about such monetary arrangements?

For instance, in the Wikipedia community there are special rules surrounding paid participation.

By the way, I have never written anything or released any software or asked any question about cryptocurrencies.

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4 Answers 4

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Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

As the other answers here note, our site lifecycle presupposes that the people who commit to proposals and help sites go through their beta phases do so because they have knowledge or an interest in the topic at hand. Given that, as you can imagine, cold emails to folks with no relation to the topic offering financial rewards (be they fiat or other currencies) do not make for good motivators for healthy and long lasting communities — as such, I've closed down the relevant proposal on Area 51.

We'll make sure to reach out to the folks who sent this to you.

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    The user that proposed the site has had an account on A51 for 3 months (basically they've proposed the site and don't know anything else). Why not just give them a warning? They didn't know that offering money to get people to sign up, could be seen as worthy of closing the proposal. This will be seen as unfair, since the rule was not made clear before the rule was enforced. This proposal would have closed down anyway since it already went 9 days without any commits (if it weren't for a follower withing those 9 days, it would have closed due to 7 days of no activity). They were also only at 8% Jul 29, 2020 at 18:43
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    @user1271772 Whether it's closer to bribery or fraud I'm not sure of, but this is inexcusable. If this is seen as unfair, fine, so be it. I think we can all live with that.
    – Mast
    Jul 29, 2020 at 18:59
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    @Mast I'm not disagreeing that it could be bribery and fraud, but if there is no policy prohibiting those things, then how can you penalize them for it? Can you punish someone for breaking a rule that did not yet exist? I think a warning would suffice in this case, and the user could send emails to the same people saying that now that they've received new information that you can't solicit committers in exchange for money, the offer is no longer going to be entertained. I'm sure the user would never offer money for commits ever again. The user might have made great effort getting through Def'n Jul 29, 2020 at 19:07
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    @user1271772 No, the user was already in violation for not having provided a ready community, one of the simplest and most important rules of Area 51.
    – Mast
    Jul 29, 2020 at 19:09
  • @Mast I disagree with you. The reason this proposal was closed was not because they did not have a ready community. It was due to "suspicious activity". Jul 29, 2020 at 19:11
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This would be a fraud. The whole point of Area 51 is to build a collection of experienced/interested users who are willing to participate in the site. This will not do that. This will be a waste of everyone's time.

If the proposal does launch (because people were paid to commit), then:

  • The site would probably get closed down due to very little activity

This means a waste of time for:

  • The people who asked questions during the beta phase
  • Stack Exchange for setting the site up

This is not right, I recommend using Area 51 contact us so Stack Exchange can investigate.

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    I believe it would be a waste of time (and money) for the company that created the proposal as well. Their target should be to find users who are genuinely interested. I have no idea what they're thinking. Jul 29, 2020 at 9:49
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    Done, thanks! Ahmed: Some crypto companies might not be interested in building a solid community as much as in quickly creating the appearance of a big community. Jul 29, 2020 at 9:54
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    Instead of using the contact-us, perhaps it's faster to flag the entire proposal, maybe even link to this question in the flag... There's a very tiny hidden flag button under each proposals description: i.stack.imgur.com/VrdAi.png
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 29, 2020 at 15:07
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This sounds off - and you probably should be letting the CMs know who "SOMECRYPTO" is.

Its actually a pretty clever scam since " In order to compensate you, we offer to pay you $10 in SOMECRYPTO" which... essentially has no value. I'd actually be more suspicious of real money in this case but you're literally getting nothing out of this.

Even if it was real money, other than blockchain funny money, the point of the beta phase is to attract a community that's around the subject, not whoever's willing to take some money on the side just for that.

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    we offer to pay you $10 in SOMECRYPTO" which... essentially has no value Ah! I didn't even pay attention to that. Jul 29, 2020 at 9:58
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    Or, it's a "pump and dump" scheme to generate temporary buzz over the crypto. Jul 29, 2020 at 13:26
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    If they actually pay the equivalent of USD 10 in SOMECRYPTO and an exchange accepts them, why is it not real money? Jul 29, 2020 at 17:34
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    @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q Because between insane volatility for these imaginary commodities, exchange fees, and network lag, the dollar value you can realize (ie the stuff you actually want) is all but negligible. Even more true for the $SOMECRYPTOs that have to go through such hoops as this scam to generate interest; which leads to the question about whether any major exchange trades the particular coin at all in the first place. $SOMECRYPTO is the pinksheets short con of the 21st century. Most are as imaginary as SE rep. Would you accept compensation in that?
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 29, 2020 at 22:47
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    Assuming an exchange accepts it and you get something close to 10usd... Sure. Bitcoin is slightly funny money. Some random crypto currency though... feels like funny money to me, especially when they don't have enough organic users to get a site up
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 30, 2020 at 10:44
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"Question: Do we have a policy about such monetary arrangements?"

There is no official policy about this that is available to the public, as far as I know.

However, I would be in favor of there being a policy that states that the proposer of a site on A51 shall not solicit for people to follow or commit to their proposals in exchange for any form of currency, and the site proposal will be closed if the proposer is caught doing this.

We now know that site proposals that do what you describe will be closed if caught, but it would be good to have this policy written somewhere too.

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  • We don't have a policy stating that if you create sock puppets to fast-forward your commit phase your proposal will get closed written down in the Area 51 FAQ page either, and that's still our policy. This is in the same spirit as that scenario.
    – JNat StaffMod
    Jul 31, 2020 at 9:52
  • @JNat two wrongs don't make a right :) It wouldn't hurt to have a network-wide sockpuppet policy too. In fact there is one, it's just not so clear. The user created an area51 account and agreed to several pages of terms and conditions in order to do that, I'm sure they wouldn't have complained had you put a couple more lines in there. Jul 31, 2020 at 10:28

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