Meet Peter1955, Trailspace's Reviewer of the Month

9:24 a.m. on October 4, 2013 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Meet Peter1955, Trailspace's Reviewer of the Month"

Congratulations, Peter, Trailspace's newest Reviewer of the Month! An avid hiker whose gear reviews were among the highest rated in September, Peter wins a pair of Hillsound Super Armadillo Nano Gaiters, plus a gear goodie pack.

Full article at http://www.trailspace.com/blog/2013/10/04/meet-peter-trailspace-reviewer-of-the-month.html

10:24 a.m. on October 4, 2013 (EDT)
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Congratulations, Peter! Jasper is an amazing place. You're so lucky to have it in your area.

Thanks for being part of Trailspace.

1:45 p.m. on October 4, 2013 (EDT)
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Congrats Peter!

2:17 p.m. on October 4, 2013 (EDT)
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YAY PETER! Always love to read your reviews!

2:23 p.m. on October 4, 2013 (EDT)
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Way to go peter.Well done..Congrats. Like GOG I like to read your reviews..

3:21 p.m. on October 4, 2013 (EDT)
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Kudos!

9:24 p.m. on October 4, 2013 (EDT)
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Congrats Peter, rack another up for those Canadians!

7:23 p.m. on October 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Way to go Peter! Always enjoy interacting with you in the forums!

7:41 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Congrats, you and Mr. Moose are both awesome trip reviewers.  

12:27 p.m. on October 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Congratulations, Peter. Athabasca Falls and all of JNP is a fantastic place.

1:56 p.m. on October 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Thank you, everyone. It's nice to be appreciated, especially by my peers.

2:15 p.m. on October 7, 2013 (EDT)
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I like that "Yay!" picture Peter!

10:19 a.m. on October 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Well deserved!

6:02 p.m. on October 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Your last answer was great...persons with so much experience really can help those less-experienced to have a positive time in the outdoors.

2:09 a.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Oh!...that's not good at all Peter1955...not good at all:-(

12:02 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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I had noticed his absence a week ago and, after doing a quick search on Trailspace, discovered that he had been banned for fraudulently boosting his own reviews. I have wondered why a person would go to such lengths when little or no monetary gain was to be expected. Was the reason then to garner the praise of one’s peers on a relatively small outdoor forum?  I don't know, but in the end, I guess, people who do such things are only fooling themselves.

Good work to the staff of Trailspace for keeping it real.

12:24 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm confused. How do you boost your own reviews? Vote that it is helpful? I think there is a preventative in the system that doesn't allow you to do that. Alicia, Dave?

Regardless, people will always try to buck the system. I know that Peter's comments and reviews were often well considered and interesting. I am also aware that his other website, the Edmonton one, lists a number of sponsors. If you have a business relationship with someone or some company, or they give you a discount, or you want to date their sister(maybe don't reveal the latter) be honest about it. As a cinematographer for three + decades, I worked on commercials and documentaries and straight news. If it was a commercial, I could eat the client's food, use their hair care products, but if it was news, it was a different story. One CBS station I worked for, wouldn't even let us eat the sandwiches at a press conference. Hard to do when the ABC affiliate guys were chowing down, but I followed the rules and believed in them. Even if there is no conflict of interest, the appearance of same can be an issue.

So sorry to hear about this breach of trust just for a bit of swag.

12:39 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Erich...if you read the "update" to Peter's "reviewer of the month" award you will see that he was using false accounts to up-vote his reviews by some 600 points. I must give it to Alicia and Dave for discovering it...because if he was clever enough it would've be impossible to know with any certainty. My guess is that he didn't use a different IP...didn't up-vote others with the false accounts...just silly things like that which probably made it obvious.

I'm with you North...worst of all it seems he might have down-voted people with the false accounts:-( Too bad too...because I liked some of his reviews and talking with him in the forums.

12:51 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks, Joseph, I saw the thread header after I posted. I wonder if he has any apology for his actions. Trust is a very dear issue with me, and I find it hard to believe that anyone would do such a thing just for a bit of false ego boost or a pair of gaiters.

1:42 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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It was a pretty upsetting discovery. I'm choosing to remember a lot of the positive contributions he made, because I can't figure out what drove the misbehavior.

Some good did come of the whole affair. It confirmed that some of the steps we take to root our fraud are effective, and suggested some new ways we can go about keeping Trailspace honest, open, transparent and useful.

Alicia just wrote a very good post on the value we assign to honesty here: http://www.trailspace.com/blog/2013/10/30/preventing-deceptive-online-reviews.html

4:02 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Couple comments -

I was a university professor for about 20 years and later worked in the aerospace industry for another close to 20 years. In both careers, I had to go through evaluations and get a "rep" score. In the academic world, there are many ways to "game" the system (one of which is to make the minimum grade given to students a B or higher, something I saw done by a couple of professors, both of whom have very high "reps" according to the news media, and they both get prestigious political appointments). Professors in the hard sciences tend to receive low "rep" scores in the required "distribution" courses ("Everyone must take a survey science/history/literature/etc course to broaden their experience" - that type of course). Science courses do tend to be difficult for non-science majors, so the non-majors tend to downgrade their science professors. So I tend to be more than a little skeptical of "rep" ratings. Since I do have a rather high "rep" rating here on Trailspace, I am speaking from a fairly non-biased position and no "sour grapes".

Next, a while back, when the "rep" scoring system was being devised, I recall that the scoring system was posted somewhere. You get a certain number of points for posting a review, a certain number for each thumbs up, a deduction for a thumbs down (both for the reviewer and a different amount for the person giving the thumbs down, to discourage "vengeance" negative votes), and a bonus for a "killer review" (maybe, but I don't remember for sure). The "reviewer rep" points don't include anything from the number of forum post, IIRC. Since I don't remember where the description was, nor how many points for each source, I have tried to puzzle out how Peter could have compiled 600 extra points. With all my reviews, including a bunch of "killer reviews" (12, exactly half of my reviews), I am at 1256 points as I write this for the 24 reviews I have written (an average of just over 50 points per review). Andrew, the highest "All Time" reviewer has 1772 points. When I look at my reviews and the number of "thumbs up" on each review, Each "thumbs up" must be a lot of points!

Somehow, the 600 extra points seems a lot to have come from just votes. As someone noted above, you can't vote for yourself. I thought there was also some sort of lockout that prevented voting more than once, although you could change from a "thumbs up" to a "non-vote" or "thumbs down" or conversely, but not multiple votes on a given review. I do not recall how many points each "thumbs up" gets, but think it was something like 5 points. An extra 600 would require something like 120 votes, each of which would require an additional "membership". This is a bit hard to conceive. But maybe the voting system is easier to game than I thought. Actually, the only way to game the system that would compile that many points that I can think of (if the safeguards I thought were there really are there) is write and post a LOT of "killer reviews" (hmmm... 12 reviews at 50 points each would do it - I better get to writing!). I would like to see what the scoring system is again.

As several have noted above, Peter wrote some really good and informative reviews, and made some really good contributions in the forums. I would consider him to be in the top dozen of positive and helpful contributors to the forums and a good counterweight to certain posters who have posted misleading and downright dangerous "information". So a question I have is this - is there some way that he can be "rehabilitated" and returned to "polite society" so we can have the benefit of his positive contributions - reviews and forum posts? Maybe some sort of "probationary" period, or a "half-way house"?

In any case, I am still very skeptical of the value of any "rep" scoring system.

6:57 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Bill...I got the 600 number directly from Seth's update...I have no actual first-hand  information...but as you pointed-out...to have acquired 600 illegitimate points would have required a concerted effort.

Also...what university?...in what field is your PhD?. Funny you should mention it...I teach courses on how scientists "work" the publication game to future physicians and researchers (guest lecturer?).

8:31 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Joseph,

My degrees are in astronomy and astrophysics. For a number of reasons, I will not name the particular professors nor the school.

9:26 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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I believe the thumbs up are worth 10 "points" and 1.5x if it's the first review of any givin product. So 15 points, maybe two shadow accounts, makes 30 each time and he does it on his well over 20 reviews. The math is really irrelevant though. This seems to be the darker side, and the competition...or perceived competition, many were concerned about when this idea was introduced. With the increased prize value for a reviewer of the month im really hoping this doesn't get out of control.

9:28 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Bill...I didn't want you to call folks out by name (lol)...I was just curious what university you were at:-)

10:32 a.m. on October 31, 2013 (EDT)
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I think it was wrong to make such a public display of Peter. Whatever he did, we certainly only get to hear one side with how this was done. That certainly isn't the way we do things in America...and where is the graciousness? Do we need to see a public flogging to know what we should and should not do? The dramatic lining through of his interview was not nessasary and really mean spirited. isn't banning the man enough without then beating him whilst imposing a gag order on his side of the story?

12:21 p.m. on October 31, 2013 (EDT)
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Bill S, I am in agreement regarding Peter positive contributions. As well, any rating system has flaws. Sometimes, it seems like a popularity contest. Do we vote for our "friends". Do we really have long first hand experience with the product? And begs the question, "what is long first hand experience". If someone has been back packing for forty years, and has been through a half dozen stoves, and still considers, for instance, his or her XGK the favorite, that is helpful information to me. I just bought it last year and used it two weeks, is also helpful, but less so when I have been backpacking since I was 16 and I'm now 21. And that doesn't mean to disrespect people with less experience. Only that we are all guilty of hubris at some time.

In short, the reviewer for me is as important as the review. I want to know that person's perspectives and experience. Many good reviews don't have bios at all.

7:35 p.m. on October 31, 2013 (EDT)
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I think it was wrong to make such a public display of Peter

When these sorts of things happen, we prefer to handle them privately. I can't think of another instance in 12 years that we've made this sort of public disclosure about a user's indiscretions.

I personally spent several days trying to resolve the situation directly with Peter, but he chose not to acknowledge or show remorse for his actions and their effects on other members of the community.

In most cases, a member in this situation would have been banned from the site and the incident would have passed without mention. However, we had just given Peter very public recognition as our Reviewer of the Month -- an honor that would have gone to another member had Peter not been manipulating the system. While Peter made some meaningful contributions to Trailspace, he also willfully cheated the community.

Allowing his Reviewer of the Month honor to stand, leaving the original post intact, was clearly not a tenable option. It would be unfair to the community and other reviewers, an insult to every member who is honest and forthcoming.

Deleting this post was a tempting option. After all, we screwed up here, too: first by not catching this behavior sooner, and again by not doing a closer vetting for Reviewer of the Month. It would have been easy enough to sweep our mistakes under the rug, but our covering up the truth would be no better than Peter's covering up the truth.

In the end, we decided that the only option for Trailspace's long-term credibility was to own up to our mistakes and be honest about what happened.

10:38 p.m. on November 1, 2013 (EDT)
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I wasn't suggesting sweeping mistakes under the rug. I just disagree with painstakingly lining through the entire interview. A simple short statement would have informed and also shown your own contriteness given the mistake you perceive as your own. Maybe it is the prosecutor in me that pushes me toward that because since he has no voice in the matter and we are left to never know his side, reasons, or defenses, it seems self serving.

8:29 a.m. on November 4, 2013 (EST)
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giftogab said:

Maybe it is the prosecutor in me that pushes me toward that because since he has no voice in the matter and we are left to never know his side, reasons, or defenses, it seems self serving.

 

What possible extenuating or mitigating circumstances could there be to:

1) deliberately create multiple TS accounts.

2) use said accounts to up-vote your own reviews (and, conversely, down-vote others') -- which is cheating/fraud/dishonesty.

3) when confronted by the moderators, fail to show any remorse for the harm your actions caused the TS community.

I'm curious as to what you may believe is a  perfectly reasonable explanation as to why Peter did this, or some defense he could invoke to minimize his deceit. 

10:04 a.m. on November 4, 2013 (EST)
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Earth Pig said:

giftogab said:

Maybe it is the prosecutor in me that pushes me toward that because since he has no voice in the matter and we are left to never know his side, reasons, or defenses, it seems self serving.

 

What possible extenuating or mitigating circumstances could there be to:

1) deliberately create multiple TS accounts.

2) use said accounts to up-vote your own reviews (and, conversely, down-vote others') -- which is cheating/fraud/dishonesty.

3) when confronted by the moderators, fail to show any remorse for the harm your actions caused the TS community.

I'm curious as to what you may believe is a  perfectly reasonable explanation as to why Peter did this, or some defense he could invoke to minimize his deceit. 

 You have made several assumptions. I never said there was a perfectly good explaination/mitigation/justification. I said he has not been even allowed to voice his side in this open forum, yet one side of the story has not just seen fit to make a determination to oust him (fully within their prerogative) yet gone the extra step of publicly humiliating the man. His side of the story may very well differ from that which was represented by this thread. He may claim that he was remorseful. He may claim that he did do something wrong. Instead we are lead to believe that he was absolutely resistant and you clearly bought that hook line and sinker without his side being told. That is my only point. If there was defensiveness on his part, perhaps he has a reason to state as well. In the absence of ANY input from him...not hearsay from one side about what he did or did not do, but actual input, he should have simply been dealt with privately. That is the gracious thing to do. Not gag him and then put him in the stocks for a public beating.

But then I look at this like it truly is. Just a small blag where a guy did something wrong and isn't here anymore. Not a crime against society. If there was an actual criminal act here then why not call in the authorities? Because we all know what this is...a small little blip on a map. However, if it makes ya'll feel better to demonize the guy then glad ya feel better now about yourselves and your place in the world. Having spent my morning with a SWATt team surrounding me while I am side by side with a multiple murderer, just seems ya'll have a pretty thin skin and a pretty skewed perspective on how to treat people.  

6:08 a.m. on November 5, 2013 (EST)
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Dave's house, Dave's rules.  Or I should say Dave, Seth and Alicia.  Peter's actions put him in the intentionally and knowingly category.  I'm sure they had a difficult time reaching the decision to ban him.  I'm on this forum not to boost my reviewer points but to interact with others who have similar interests and learn some stuff along the way.  Having multiple accounts to boost your score is deceitful and a detriment to the forum causing valuable members, like Rick (if this was a reason for him checking out), to leave the group and go elsewhere.  Do away with the reputation points altogether.

JMO 

8:46 a.m. on November 5, 2013 (EST)
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My 2 cents: I didn't know any of this was going on until I clicked on this link this morning. Peter sent me a FaceBook message telling me he was leaving TS. He never mentioned this issue.  I told him we'd miss him here.

He responded with harsh words regarding TS, saying it wasn't what it use to be and that he'd give it a year before it was out of business. He told me he had deleted all of his reviews, except the one's where he received review corps equipment. I thought that was a bit of an extreme response, but I never responded to it. Now, it seems his reviews were deleted for other reasons.

The reviewer rep can have the effect of bringing out the competitor in many of us. I don't know that Peter was trying to steal prizes as much as being recognized by his peers as an outstanding reviewer.

I was a member of a forum when it first introduced post count status--the higher your count, the more elite your status. At 1,500 posts you got to chooser your own status. Such a small, meaningless gesture, but it changed the whole tone of the forum. Suddenly everyone was racing towards that 1,500 prize. Many times, the substance of the post was meaningless, the goal was to boost your post count to get to name your own status.

10:21 a.m. on November 5, 2013 (EST)
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rob5073 said:

Dave's house, Dave's rules.  Or I should say Dave, Seth and Alicia.  Peter's actions put him in the intentionally and knowingly category.  I'm sure they had a difficult time reaching the decision to ban him.  I'm on this forum not to boost my reviewer points but to interact with others who have similar interests and learn some stuff along the way.  Having multiple accounts to boost your score is deceitful and a detriment to the forum causing valuable members, like Rick (if this was a reason for him checking out), to leave the group and go elsewhere.  Do away with the reputation points altogether.

JMO 

 I do agree. Their house their rules. My point was more about how we as a human race decide to respond to things like this. It seemed as petty to do what was done in response as to do what he was accused of doing. Perhaps the big take away is as you suggest...do away with the rev rep and let the rev stand on their own. the hijinx in seeking prizes is not limited to this incident...several of us were skeptikal of the reviewer who appeared, did 5 reviews...flawed as to many aspects of the reviews... and as a result pumped her chances to win what was the most valuable prize to date in the drawing. is there anything different there? Five reviews, all to boost a chance at a prize, flawed and when read at once clearly appears to have lelment copied. Prize collected, reviewer gone. But when this was brought up it was met with resistance as to the FACTS that she had not provided honest, personal use reviews..she simply wanted that prize and increased her chances to do so by faking five reviews and submitting them. Same result. Let one ride, death penalty for the other.

11:53 a.m. on November 5, 2013 (EST)
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Karen, I had not heard of the person who did five reviews and then disappeared. But you, Rob, and Bill bring up an interesting point regarding reviewer "points". Certainly, review points were devised to increase the number of reviews written. But it can have the detrimental effect of making it a competition for the number of reviews one can produce. I think that there are a number of good reviews that have been written. And I do see an improvement over time. My first review was but a blip, written before I knew that an extensive analysis of the product was what was needed and wanted. In some ways, reviews are a self regulating process. Those faked reviews, or reviews written from an "I just got it and love it" perspective are obviously not helpful and the writers should be embarrassed to produce them until they have extensive experience with the product.

12:31 p.m. on November 5, 2013 (EST)
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I enjoyed his reviews and thought his comments reflected some very good real-world knowledge.  i don't think the voting irregularities change that.  however, to the extent the 'reviewer rep' or positive votes for particular reivews influence people who use the site, intentionally falsifying that arguably harms the site's users and could, unchecked, compromise the integrity of the site.    

the internet and forums like this can be a different reality for some people.   It is easy to forge a persona on the web that isn't necessarily who you are out in the world, when you actually interact with other people as they work and play.   

I guess it was important to Peter to have the high score or ranking - made him feel good about himself, perhaps.  who knows.  to me, opening fake user accounts to vote for oneself is like writing one's own fan mail.  it makes me sad for him, that he felt the need to falsely enhance himself to impress others.  It seems pathetic, because however others might have reacted, he knew the truth of this fraud. 

 

2:18 p.m. on November 5, 2013 (EST)
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giftogab said:

...several of us were skeptikal of the reviewer who appeared, did 5 reviews...flawed as to many aspects of the reviews... and as a result pumped her chances to win what was the most valuable prize to date in the drawing. is there anything different there? Five reviews, all to boost a chance at a prize, flawed and when read at once clearly appears to have lelment copied. Prize collected, reviewer gone.

 To counter that. I had used TS for years as a "guest." Their January contest got me to register and post a couple of reviews. After winning the prize, I felt a profound sense of gratitude and a desire to give back. So I started writing more reviews, not to win another prize, but because I had already won.

I do hate the short, useless reviews that tend to reflect a chance to win a prize, rather than a desire to build the review database. But I don't know that it's avoidable.

8:56 a.m. on November 6, 2013 (EST)
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"and as a result pumped her chances to win what was the most valuable prize to date in the drawing. is there anything different there?"

I would say it is extremely different. 

She may have been dishonest by posting fake user reviews to get prizes, but those allegations are entirely unverifiable with any certainty within the legal, ethical, or practical means available to the TS staff. Also the very fact that her involvement here was short is a factor- she did not have a longterm or ongoing detrimental influence because of dishonesty and covert malicious behavior. 

The other engaged in concrete, verifiable, and systematic dishonesty to overtly manipulate the review and reputation system, his fellow TS members, and the TS staff, and he used fraudulent accounts to harass other users and downvote their content. He broke numerous Community Rules and the Terms of Service, each instance of which justified his expulsion. Meanwhile, the TS staff went to extended lengths to give him the opportunity to be honest about what he was doing, but he chose to repeatedly and boldly lie. Through the whole process, Dave, Seth, and Alicia expressed their sincere desire for him to come clean and to figure a way to work out the mess. His response was to vilify them, lie to other people about what happened, and then to delete everything he could that he has previously contributed.  What viable option was there but to recall the fraudulently acquired award and to end his membership? 

I honestly had not even considered that lining out the original article could be perceived as punitive, as that was the opposite of every sentiment expressed in discussing what needed to be done. The update to the original article was direct and factual, and contained no vilification of any kind. The extent, details, and intensity of his offenses, which went beyond the review fraud, weren't described either.  

It is also important to consider that had no announcement been made as to why Peter was gone, many questions would have been raised. On at least two prior occasions when members were banned because of serious breaches of the TOS and Community Rules,  outrageous accusations and angry comments were posted by other members likening the removals without explanation to the actions of the SS and Gestapo.  So, this time it was decided in light of the prior requests and demands for transparency that a public explanation was necessary. And yet the honesty and forthright explanation still results in similar upset and accusation.

I honestly do not understand. It seems Dave, Seth, and Alicia are being made victims of "Condemned if you do, Condemned if you don't." 

12:03 p.m. on November 6, 2013 (EST)
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Stories about electronic hate mail and death threats abound.  i'm not suggesting that has occurred here, but there has been a lot of reaction to this and some other people who lose their privileges.

most people have a conscience and some social skills.  as a result, open threats and insults aren't the way we interact with people in the real world.  in the electronic world (text/web forum/social media/email), some people seem to think that the normal rules don't apply.

but they do and they should. 

3:19 p.m. on November 6, 2013 (EST)
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giftogab said:

...several of us were skeptikal of the reviewer who appeared, did 5 reviews...flawed as to many aspects of the reviews... and as a result pumped her chances to win what was the most valuable prize to date in the drawing.

 A correction and addition - The person in question joined Trailspace and posted 6 reviews in a single day (not just 5), has posted a total of 6 reviews plus two forum posts (one of which was "thanks for the prize"), and nothing else in the over 2 months since. In the Feedback forum, in the thread started by Dave, I posted an analysis on Sep 15, of the list of the "7 recent winners" of drawing prizes that Alicia gave, the first in the list being the one Gifto is referring to. One of the 6 reviews (a piece of climbing gear) shows clearly that the person had little or no experience with the gear and suggests a risky method of using it. All 6 reviews are short (under the canonical 300 word minimum at about 150-290 words per review, including the pro/con bullet points) and all are pretty sloppy, not a lot better than a "bought it, opened the package, and it's great" review. The prize given (a satphone with 2 months free service) is expensive enough that, even though I have a use for a satphone on a regular basis, I have hesitated to spring the cash for one (the research project has 2 satphones for use during the project).

I realize that this was a drawing prize, not a quantity or quality prize. But I agree with an earlier comment that drawings are likely to attract lower-quality reviews, and in this case, someone who apparently has no interest in becoming an active, long term contributing member of Trailspace. Maybe there should be a required minimum level of participation in Trailspace before becoming eligible for the prizes (including drawings). 

Back on the subject of the thread, I do not know Peter's motivations, and even after having reviewing the reputation point scheme, have a bit of a problem understanding how or why he would have expended the effort needed to add 600 points. Adding thumbs-up votes to a review gives 15 points per vote for a review that is first-time for the product. 600 points requires 40 votes. Is there a restriction on voting more than once for someone else's review or a requirement on membership or minimum membership (you can't vote for yourself, I believe)? If there is such a restriction (and I think there should be), that would require 40 fake personas.


I do thoroughly agree that people should play fair, whether it has to do with posting lots of low-quality reviews, outright plagiarizing reviews, a company rep posing as an uninterested reviewer, or stuffing the ballot box (I spent yesterday working from 6AM to 9PM as an Election Officer in our local precinct - the ballot had only one measure, albeit a very controversial one about Senior Housing).

3:38 p.m. on November 6, 2013 (EST)
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As mentioned before, that monthly drawing winner did play by the rules of the game - and didn't take advantage of them.

Why not this: make the prize proportional to the type of drawing.

Small stuff for the prize drawings and chance raffles, and more substantial gear for, say, "Reviewer of the Month."

I've won both a monthly drawing and an ROTM.

Ironically, however, my prize package from the drawing (AAC 1-Year Membership and a Mountainsmith Scream 25 Daypack) was worth considerably more than the one I received for winning ROTM (Innate Portal Billfold Wallet, TS Pint Glass, TS Trail Runner Cap, and a couple other assorted goodies). I'm simply stating the numerical facts, and trust me, I don't mean at all to sound like an ingrate - I was thrilled to receive both.

But, in retrospect, it does seem inversely proportional.

I think it'd be wise to offer ROTM's more sizable prizes, and things they could not otherwise afford. Heck - that SmartWool package wasn't something I would ever to be able to buy on my own budget in one fell swoop!

8:13 p.m. on November 6, 2013 (EST)
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I did a bit further research. There is some basic information I do not have, such as whether my conjecture about votes being restricted to 1 vote per member for a given review. Peter had 53 reviews. If he added one vote per review through a single fake persona, and all those reviews were "first time the product has been reviewed on Trailspace), that is 15 points per "first time" for 53 reviews, or 795 points, more than enough to explain the 600 extra points reported by the Staff. If none were "first time", then at 10 points per vote, it would be 530 votes. In other words, Peter would have needed only a single fake persona voting on all his reviews plus a second fake persona for 7 reviews. Alternatively, if 14 of the reviews were "first time", then he could have done it with a single fake persona voting one vote per each of his 53 reviews (14x15 points + 39x10 points for "non-first timer"). Still a lot of work for the 600 points (set up a fake persona, then go to 53 reviews and vote once each), but more feasible than my earlier impression.

So can we derive something positive out of this incident? First, a number of Peter's reviews are labeled as "Killer Reviews", despite the erasure of his fake persona(s)' votes. I have read through them and a number of the others. They look to be properly reviewed (that is, actual field trials in a variety of conditions as appropriate to the item). Second thing is that his contributions to the forums are, by and large, positive contributions. So perhaps those positive contributions can be let stand. The other question, which is pure and simple Dave and Alicia's choice and whim, is whether and how Peter could be "rehabilitated" and returned to making the positive contributions to Trailspace, while avoiding future misbehavior. In other words, find a way to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. OTOH, maybe the Macleays consider him far too much of a "security risk".

In view of the offense as presented and not having the behind the scenes information, retrieval of the prize and cancellation of the ROTM label seems justified in Peter's case. In the other situation, I have to disagree with HRH about the monthly drawing winner who stuffed the ballot box - joining and posting 6 mediocre reviews in a single day shortly before the drawing is indeed a way of gaming the system - just like buying huge number of tickets at your club's monthly meeting. It isn't strictly against the rules, but it does load the odds in your favor, and is not really fair to the people posting well-researched, well-written reviews, especially when the person vanishes with the prize and makes no further contribution to Trailspace. It may not be outright fraud, but it was not fair to longer-term contributors to Trailspace who have posted well-thought-out and thoroughly researched gear reviews. How about requiring that the poster be around for some minimum time, say 6 months, and have participated in Trailspace by having posted several reviews spread over the 6 months and/or posted some reasonable posts in the forums - somewhat like the minimum requirements to be able to post in Off-Topic or to link URLs in the posts. Given the value of the prize in the particular case, I believe she should have not been eligible for the drawing yet and should return the prize, namely the sat phone.

9:35 p.m. on November 6, 2013 (EST)
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Didn't know she plugged those reviews in at the buzzer. Guess it doesn't help her case. However, if she won a smaller item, like a t-shirt, water bottle, etc - I doubt there'd be as much a fuss as there seems to be. Was it right? No. Was it against the rules? Also no. She got away on a technicality. 

And I get it. Trust me. I spend a lot time and effort writing my reviews, and a lot of other people here do, too - and I know some folks just want to see their hard work rewarded. If the prize was earned with hard work - instead of awarded by blind chance - maybe that's the ticket.

Make the prizes relative to the contributions that are winning them, and I think half of the battle is won. Hopefully the security measures are in place to prevent the system from being "gamed" as it was, here, and come then it would take legitimate effort - along with community support - for those larger prizes to be won. 

At least then you can still dangle some bait to reel the new fish in, while keeping the pond fully stocked with long-time, quality members, too (and that's the extent of my fishing analogies for the day).

I think we've got to look beyond that satellite phone, and past Peter, and start constructively working toward forward progress. Positively, and together. 

At least that way, at the end of the day, some part of this thread can have a happy ending.

11:56 p.m. on November 6, 2013 (EST)
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One of the issues for me, is that I feel that Trailspace is a user forum, a place where people's experiences with particular products are well vetted, in the modern parlance. To have performance information that is false, can cause someone to buy a product that will not perform. To cause someone to use a product in a way that is dangerous, is not just risky, it could potentially put someone's life in danger. And this raises valid liability issues for Trailspace and its users. I agree with Bill, that there needs to be a certain level of validity granted to a reviewer before they are recognized. As the poster in question promoted dangerous techniques or uses, is not only poor writing, it is potentially as dangerous as saying that drinking lighter fluid will help your cholesterol.

7:29 a.m. on November 7, 2013 (EST)
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We covered these issues pretty thoroughly in the Community Engagement thread. I don't think we need to rehash the whole thing here, but for those who missed it, the nutshell version goes something like this:

  • Trailspace is a place for all people to be able to review their outdoor gear. We believe that everyone's perspective is important -- from newbie trail runner to gristled mountain guide.
  • Length and depth of Trailspace participation does not equate with length and depth of outdoor experience. Just because someone is new here, or doesn't hang out in the forums all day, doesn't mean they don't know what they're talking about.
  • If we don't welcome and encourage new voices Trailspace will wither and die.
  • Personally, I'm not crazy about contests and prizes. But they have been a vitally important tool for increasing participation among people who are new to the site or have been longtime lurkers. All random-giveaway winners have played by the rules and met all the requirements for winning. 
  • We've been working on getting upgraded prizes for Reviewer of the Month. The first person to reap the rewards of that effort was Peter.
  • If you believe a review is fraudulent, please tell a moderator or staff member. We take review fraud quite seriously. The reviews that won the SPOT have been carefully vetted and we have seen no evidence that they reflect anything but that member's genuine experiences.
  • The reviewer who won the SPOT continues to be actively engaged with Trailspace, even if she hasn't posted any other reviews lately. (Check our Facebook page, for example.) Given the outright hostility on display in this thread -- in violation of the Community Rules, by the way -- it's a small miracle that anyone steps up to make a first-time or repeat contribution.
  • There are always going to be reviews of varying levels of quality and detail. Overall, the average quality of new reviews is at an all-time high.
  • If you see a review that you think is misleading or could use improvement, there are a number of great ways you can help make it better: Post a comment on the review in question. Ask clarifying questions. Offer helpful suggestions for improvement. Instead of slamming a new reviewer, encourage their efforts. Be a mentor; help them improve; welcome them to the community.
  • If you've had a different experience with the product, write a review of your own. The more people that contribute reviews, the better our overall understanding of each product. And that's the whole point.

This is really important stuff. Trailspace cannot and will not be an exclusive club of highly-vetted expert reviewers. While we value and celebrate those people's experiences, we also embrace the views of everyday Joes and Janes. Like Yelp, or TripAdvisor, or Amazon, Trailspace is a place where anyone can share their experience. As we say on the About Trailspace page:

From professional gearheads to outdoor novices, everyone has an important point of view to contribute.

Anyone can write a review, as long as they're honest and transparent about their experience.

The more people who participate, the more useful it becomes.

2:59 p.m. on November 7, 2013 (EST)
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Hmmmmm ..... Dave, you said:

Given the outright hostility on display in this thread

In re-reading the thread, I see a pretty rational, calm discussion with no hostility I can perceive, in fact one of the calmer threads in discussing a controversial issue. I see that several people expressed surprise that Peter would have done such a thing and wondered/asked how he could have pulled it off (I was one trying to figure it out, and I think I have figured out a probable mechanism, as I have noted above). I see that several people asked if there were a way to preserve Peter's positive contributions ("when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade" approach), while at the same time mitigating the negative aspects.

The universal consensus that I take from the thread is that pretty much everyone is perturbed that Peter did such a thing and wonders about his motivation. Several posts are to the effect that the punishment was perhaps a bit harsh, in effect publicly putting him in stocks. I tend to agree that the situation could have been handled better (not "sweeping it under the rug" either). I see none of this as "hostility", much less "outright hostility". I see it as an expression of support for Trailspace as a community and as an expression of support for honesty and openness in the community.

3:46 p.m. on November 7, 2013 (EST)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
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I agree that by-and-large this has been a good discussion. I was referring specifically to the unsubstantiated allegations -- repeated in this thread and elsewhere -- that the SPOT contest winner somehow committed fraud or was unworthy of winning that prize.

"Outright hostility" was probably a poor choice of words, but I'm sure that in reading this thread, that reviewer wouldn't feel very welcome on Trailspace right now. And that's disappointing.

September 16, 2014
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