Gaming the Slashdot Firehose

This is a little rushed because something came up, so it's not as polished for the moment as I would like. However, I already had the images up so let's get right to it.

Notorious troll Will Hill a.k.a "twitter" of Slashdot maintains a stable of so-called sockpuppet accounts on the site, which he uses to actively get around the moderation system, disrupt discussions and generally just be a source of embarrassment for other users. Having essentially ruined 14 accounts (in the sense that under the Slashdot "karma" scoring system, they all post below the default viewing threshold of 1), his new measure of success seems to be how many stories he can get to the front page, which by Slashdot standards hasn't really been very successful anyway, considering he's been on the site for more than eight years if my calculations are correct.

Last year (I think), Slashdot introduced a new feature called Firehose, which is a more community-oriented ranking system for stories like the ones made popular by Digg and Reddit. Until a few weeks ago, the Slashdot editors didn't seem to be paying much attention to the Firehose, and continued to mostly feature articles submitted in the traditional way (with no voting involved). But in December of 2008 they also introduced a new feature, a sort of dashboard that replaces the default user page view (which used to display only comments). This dashboard displays the user's activity within the site, including comments, submissions, journal entries and articles which have been tagged or voted up in the Firehose. It's actually quite nifty. It also turned out to be very useful in figuring out the other ways that these accounts are used to influence Slashdot.

Contrary to claims that he uses his accounts because he has been "censored" (although he can't explain things like these) and can't post more than a few times a day (Slashdot limits the number of times someone with "terrible" karma can post), and in an amusing parallel of his claims that the Firehose is being manipulated by other people to his detriment, I noticed that almost all of the dashboard pages of his 14 accounts share an interesting quality:

They vote up the main account's Firehose submissions, or submit the same story multiple times.

In the Attachments section below you'll find screenshots (taken using FireShot) of the Slashdot dashboard for nine of his accounts. These were taken December 1st, 2008. As can be seen, all of them have been actively used to vote up submissions by the two "main" accounts (Erris and twitter). I didn't take a screenshot of those two, but since they're still being used that way, you can see them for yourself. One account is used to vote up the other's Firehose entries, just like the others, except that those two have more activity as of today.

These files are "large" in that they are actually images of entire web pages (not just the visible portion), so you'll probably have to scroll down a bit depending on what viewer you're using.

Also of note here: The first entry for the "freenix" account, along with the 4th for "ibane", the 4th for "Odder", and the 3rd for "westbake". Notice a theme there?

That's pretty interesting activity for someone who constantly bemoans "dishonesty" - just in case operating 14 accounts on the same website wasn't enough.
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Gordon Michaels,
Dec 2, 2008, 7:11 PM
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Gordon Michaels,
Dec 2, 2008, 7:12 PM
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Gordon Michaels,
Dec 2, 2008, 6:48 PM
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Gordon Michaels,
Dec 2, 2008, 7:10 PM
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Gordon Michaels,
Dec 2, 2008, 7:11 PM
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Gordon Michaels,
Dec 2, 2008, 7:11 PM
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Gordon Michaels,
Dec 2, 2008, 7:11 PM
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Gordon Michaels,
Dec 2, 2008, 7:12 PM
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Gordon Michaels,
Dec 2, 2008, 7:12 PM
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