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What to do about sock puppets in Site Proposals?

+7
−0

The process for site proposals here seems to be that someone makes a post, then (usually) Monica comes in with an answer asking for anyone interested in the site to comment in order to gauge interest level. I don't know if there's anything so formal as a threshold for number of interested participants before a site is launched, but number of people interested must be an input of some sort to the process.

I'm not trying to start a harassment campaign on the slim chance that I'm wrong, so I'm going to refrain from naming names publicly, but I've noticed four accounts here which I'm pretty sure are all one person with a pattern of commenting multiple times (once with each account) on these interest-gauging posts, presumably with the intent of artificially inflating the perceived interest. Similarly, sometimes one of these accounts will be the OP for the site proposal and one or more of the others will chime in. Either way, the effect is that this one individual effectively gets up to four ‘votes’ for site proposals while the rest of us without sock puppets only get one.

If you're reading this, knock it off.

Everyone else, I have two questions:

  • Should there be something in the ToS or CoC that forbids this sort of behavior? Sure, it's not nearly as bad as harassment, but it's pretty dang sleazy and not technically against any rules that I could find at the moment.
  • Flagging the Monica post (since I can't flag the comments) gives me a 500 error—I don't know if it's impossible to flag staff, or if I don't have flagging privileges, or what. Is there some other way we should report specific instances of something like this to the staff?
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1 answer

+3
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There is some amount of subjectivity in evaluating proposals, which is not ideal. It's important for us (all, together) to figure out how we can improve our process. Ultimately we probably need to make some software changes to better support proposals, but right now we have those "indicate your interest" posts. We're caught between the goals of not creating ghost towns on the one hand and not holding back communities on the other.

Suspicious voting does not help. Inflating a proposal's apparent support makes "ghost town" more likely, which harms everyone. I wish people would not do this.

We are aware of some situations that call for scrutiny, and we're taking it into account.

(Separately, that flag issue sounds like a bug, and I've asked someone with database access to look into what happened there. Thanks for the report.)

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