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Shill Posters.

Discussion in 'MEMBER RULES, GUIDELINES & ANNOUNCEMENTS' started by JonSidneyB, Aug 1, 2010.

  1. JonSidneyB
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    JonSidneyB Uber Prepared
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    Shill Posters.

    Very few days go buy that I don't find a shill poster joining the forum.

    Some do get past me and I find those on a regular basis. Shill posting is dishonest and tries to the idea of heard mentality to sway people. There have been shill posters on this forum from the first week it has existed. It ends up taking a lot of time and now that I have been talking to quite a few other forum owners most of them say it cannot be stopped and it takes to much time to fight.

    Every once in a great while I reveal a shill poster but that is the rare exception. Some businesses that practice this are ones that I have contacted and told them about the forum, some of these say they are not interested in the forum or never reply back but they do seem to be interested in being a member and be active posting acting like a happy customer.

    While taking care of routine business I found another shill poster that is a company everyone knows about out here. I had called them before and have emailed them. Well now I found they have been out here since last year. Not long after I contacted them initially. The poster did offer something to me at one time that would not have made one lick of difference to the forum but would have got that products name out there.

    I didn't like shill posting the first month this forum existed and I don't like it now. Let your customers speak in your behalf but do not encourage them to do it. Let them do it on their own. I want this forum to have at least a shred of integrity and with shill posting it does not have it. I guess this is true of all forums since it is epidemic and very time consuming to catch.

    Shill posters make it feel to me that having the forum is not worthwhile. If I have to keep dealing with it I will start keeping an organized shill posting list and it will be public or we might consider putting the product on the banded word list.. It does not matter if it is a company that supports the forum or is a company that slaps the forum in the face. We cannot for the sake of integrity allow shill posting to go on. Some of the members out here will not like it so as a company and you are shill posting, absolutely no more.

    I will be calling a company in the morning and be having a talk with them about this. If they want to try and continue this practice their name will be on a list I will keep and perhaps I will post that list one day. Not sure.

    This is avoidable guys....don't shill post!

    From wikipedia with link

    On the Internet

    In online discussion media, satisfied consumers or "innocent" parties may express specific opinions in order to further the interests of an organization in which they have an interest, such as a commercial vendor or special interest group. Websites may also be set up for the same purpose. For example, an employee of a company that produces a specific product may praise the product anonymously in a discussion forum or group in order to generate interest in that product, service or group. In addition, some shills use sock puppetry where they sign on as one user soliciting recommendations for a specific product or service. They then sign on as a different user pretending to be a satisfied customer of a specific company.

    In some jurisdictions and circumstances this type of activity may be illegal. In addition, reputable organizations may prohibit their employees and other interested parties (contractors, agents, etc.) from participating in public forums or discussion groups in which a conflict of interest might arise, or will at least insist that their employees and agents refrain from participating in any way that might create a conflict of interest. For example, the plastic surgery company, Lifestyle Lift, ordered their employees to post fake positive reviews on websites. As a result, they were sued, and ordered to pay $300,000 in damages by the New York Attorney General's office. Said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo: "This company’s attempt to generate business by duping consumers was cynical, manipulative, and illegal. My office has [been] and will continue to be on the forefront in protecting consumers against emerging fraud and deception, including ‘astroturfing,’ on the Internet." [4]
    [edit] Sock puppets

    Sometimes shills may be used to downplay legitimate complaints posted by users on the Internet. See Spin (public relations) and sock puppet (internet).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shill
     
  2. muskrat72

    muskrat72 Loaded Pockets

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    I did not know this existed but makes sense especially looking back at some of the posts. :sigh:
     
  3. Rawls

    Rawls Loaded Pockets

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    I put a lot of stock in what people recommend here. I would love to know which companies are using shill posters so I can avoid those companies (or at least take their tactics into account). That way you don't have out individuals and you can get to the heart of the problem. Obviously you'd wait until you've contacted the companies and they refuse to do legitimate business here.
     
  4. JonSidneyB
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    I sent this message to the company today.

    Here is the message minus any names.

    I am very concerned about something that would be ok for one of your customers to say but when we found it came from your IP address it looks bad. It looks like a case of of handful of shill posts. My forum is not that big so I would not have thought it would have been worth it for the handful of sales you would get from it. The only reason I am sending you this message is just in case it might be one of your employees acting on their own. If it were not for this thought I would reveal what IP address this person has posted from.

    We are not near as big as many of the boards that your product get mentioned in. 19500 members and 3.5 million page views a month. I had tried to contact your company a couple of times to try and do business but it seems there was not much interest. That was fine, I moved on though there is the appearance that your company is interested in the forum. But it is concerning to go into the forum acting as a customer and not an employee I would think we would be way to small to risk the negative stain shilling would put on your reputation. I actually could profit from shilling very easily but I would rather close the forum than to resort to tactics of that sort.

    If there is going to be any honesty and integrity on forums and the internet people cannot condone shill posting. I am not wanting anything for this in fact even if you assure me that this was just the act of an individual employee I cannot know this and there will always be some doubt. Due to this even if you wanted to help support the forum I would have to decline. I am telling you this just so you will know that I am not seeking anything from you in this communication.

    I would however like an explanation as to why someone in your company would resort to shilling.

    It is possible that you might not know what I am referring to so I will provide information on shilling. I hope this was the act of an individual employee and not the way your company operates.

    On the Internet

    In online discussion media, satisfied consumers or "innocent" parties may express specific opinions in order to further the interests of an organization in which they have an interest, such as a commercial vendor or special interest group. Websites may also be set up for the same purpose. For example, an employee of a company that produces a specific product may praise the product anonymously in a discussion forum or group in order to generate interest in that product, service or group. In addition, some shills use sock puppetry where they sign on as one user soliciting recommendations for a specific product or service. They then sign on as a different user pretending to be a satisfied customer of a specific company.

    In some jurisdictions and circumstances this type of activity may be illegal. In addition, reputable organizations may prohibit their employees and other interested parties (contractors, agents, etc.) from participating in public forums or discussion groups in which a conflict of interest might arise, or will at least insist that their employees and agents refrain from participating in any way that might create a conflict of interest. For example, the plastic surgery company, Lifestyle Lift, ordered their employees to post fake positive reviews on websites. As a result, they were sued, and ordered to pay $300,000 in damages by the New York Attorney General's office. Said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo: "This company’s attempt to generate business by duping consumers was cynical, manipulative, and illegal. My office has [been] and will continue to be on the forefront in protecting consumers against emerging fraud and deception, including ‘astroturfing,’ on the Internet." [4]

    source:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shill
     
  5. JonSidneyB
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    JonSidneyB Uber Prepared
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    I have never had anything against this company. I have actually never used their products. They have shown a little bit of disinterest in us it seems but thats OK and understandable as we are not that bit, still didn't have anything against the company at all. It is just not my kind of gear but this company is heavily talked about on the forums.
     
  6. jujigatame

    jujigatame Loaded Pockets

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    I'm all for naming names of the posters when it comes to this stuff. In addition to a roster of all the shills maybe their user category listing could be changed to reflect that status so people can see it right where their posts are made. [I know, more work.:brickwall:] I would perhaps not go as far as blacklisting the brand name since that may impede legitimate discussion of products by regular forum members.

    Wouldn't hurt to hammer out a standard version of the letter you sent to keep on standby in case you need to contact other companies re: this issue.
     
  7. JonSidneyB
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    JonSidneyB Uber Prepared
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    While I have mentioned names once in a while it is rare that I mention them. I don't like doing it as it is unsettling and there is something else to consider. When it is a company with 50 or more employees how do we know it is not just one person acting outside of company policy? I want to find a way to discourage shill posting but I also wonder if it is the act of one person if you act or not you mention the company. The other argument is the company is responsible for the actions of it's employees. Surely I should complain to the company about this practice but once something like this is done how do you know if what you are told is the truth or not?
     
  8. TECENG
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    Yeah, I'm on the fence about exposing the company names. Believe it or not, there are many people out there that do not frequent forums and have no idea that this kind of stuff is frowned upon. They think of it as a simple means to get product exposure. Think of a new marketing guy fresh out of school, impressing his boss by some huge spike in product sales.

    I think you are doing the right thing, bring it to the company's attention. If it continues, you need to be more agressive so that the company makes it a policy that no employees are to do this kind of thing. If they ignore it, a threat of exposing the company name might make them take it seriously. I think you have to pursue all possible means to give them the chance to fix the problem before names are named.

    My $0.02
     
  9. JonSidneyB
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    I am on the fence about it as well.

    Shills for monetary reasons are not the only one. I have found it during debate as well. I have seen cases where you might be discussing a point with someone and you disagree, next thing you know you are debating with several people holding the same view. You might not be having a disagreement with the five people but is in fact one person who has created multiple accounts.

    I should not reveal this but I have five ways of uncovering this information. Someone tells me there are a dozen ways but I don't know them all. Sometimes catching a shill just produces a better shills. Each time you catch them they use a more sophisticated way of going about it until it get to the point where you suspect but cannot prove it. There are some software methods to help locate suspected shills but I don't have any of that. The software also produces some false positives so they would still have to be looked at individually.

    Shills from some businesses will talk about how they bought the item which does not raise an eyebrow until it is repeated over and over again when most people only mention how the bought it couple of times unless asked where they got it. Then a little digging you can sometimes show absolutely that they are and other times there is not enough digital evidence and it could be just an eager owner of a new item. People that are a little better at this sometimes set up two people to have a conversation about something answering each others questions. Sometimes it is the happy owner and the inquisitive member.

    Many of them are found by accident. I would suspect nothing at all and when doing some routine task on the back end it slaps me in the face. The evidence was not being searched for but the proof was setting in the thing I would be working on at the time.

    When I discover this I do contact where it came from. Sometimes I get an apology and other times I get a so what. Usually there is no response at all. One company flat out told me they have people everywhere when confronted.

    It does not just happen here, it seems to be all over the place. Shills are common where ever products are talked about as well as political sites. Of course on the political sites it is not to create revenue.
     
  10. Boy SureFire

    Boy SureFire May The Bridges I Burn Light The Way

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    I've noticed 3-4 Chinese business (sales websites & manufacturers) doing posts for their products, but they were easy to spot/report due to the blatant nature.
     
  11. 50ft-trad

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    I think it's right to let the company have a chance to identify the cause of the problem (in the case of rogue employees), or apologise in the event of bad corporate decisions/methods, but I also feel that it would be in members interests to know which manufacturers/traders are prepared to use underhand methods. After all, this could well be reflected in other areas of their business practices be it quality or customer service.

    I would welcome a hall of shame, or if you wanted to play it safer, a hall of potentially dubious conduct etc - where those companies (or members) are not playing the game are flagged, and inappropriate behaviour detailed. I think this would be better if moderator controlled (locked thread) though, so as to not descend into an angry/malicious free for all. It would also be beneficial if there was a clear way for the "guilty" parties to appeal / resolve the issue.

    It's your choice Jon, and I'll be happy with whatever you choose, but the "Rogues Gallery" approach may discourage many shill posters if they know it will give them a bad rep.

    my $0.02
     
  12. primal

    primal Loaded Pockets

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    My current Internet access is crippled because we just moved. I'm relying on an unstable tether, and won't get fully connected again till Wed.

    However, I had to chime in on this issue.

    I believe shill posters should be named. I'm guessing that at least a few of them have caused grief on this forum by way of not just promoting their company's brand/product, but by also knocking other brands, and perhaps inciting flames. That's a double-whammy in my book.

    Also, I have a feeling that the majority of shill posters are involved in sales for their company/s, which means that their company's are probably not only aware of this particular sales tactic (shill posting), they more than likely instructed and/or encouraged it, again, in my opinion.

    All that said, since these companies have benefitted from all the previous shill posting, it's only right that these individuals be exposed, especially since they (the companies) had to have known, I believe. Regardless, if they didn't know, they should have. Those who have been contacted in the past by Jon certainly knew.

    No accusations and/or posturing is necessary. Just list the facts. List the person/s connected to the company IPs, and which posts were sent from those IPs. After reading the post/s for themselves, let the Membership judge, for themselves.

    I bet once the shill posters & IPs have been exposed, those companies will be quick to reply to our Admin (Jon) with a response/s intended to explain the "confusion" and/or "misunderstanding".

    Frankly, I think these companies and their employees are relying on the honor of EDC Forums to not expose the shill posters, which is why some may just ignore Jon's emails.

    I can appreciate sales strategies, I really can. But, shill posting is just outright dishonest, and I think it speaks volumes about whichever companies do it.

    I'd like to know which companies are doing this, so I can make sure not to deal with them in the future.

    I have a feeling I won't be too surprised if/when a list is ever posted. I've seen way too many herding techniques here.
     
  13. JonSidneyB
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    These are Americans....and I want to see Americans do well but not with these practices.
     
  14. primal

    primal Loaded Pockets

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    Yep, as expected, which is why I won't be surprised if it turns out these shill posters contributed to knocking other brands, especially foreign brands.

    Hey, it's the American Way. Actually, I take that back. It's the way of the United States.

    No reason to bring down the rest of the AMERICAS (the U.S. isn't the only American country, and they don't own exclusive title to America/American).

    Argh! Tether slowing down. Will try to check back tonight. Would like to see this thread's outcome.

    Thanks for letting us know what's going on, Jon. I truly appreciate it. It's why I joined.
     
  15. JonSidneyB
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    I don't know if they have done that. I have not spotted them bashing any products. Just subtly trying bumping a thread here and there and making a few posts. From what it looks like they are just trying to keep the name more visible. What I don't like is they happened to have the products...well the IP address goes back to the manufacturer.

    It seems like this behavior happens at the entire spectrum of quality. Stuff that is very good and is going to get known anyway just by virtue of the products. Sometimes it is stuff that is getting plenty of free publicity from customers, sometimes it is middle quality stuff that is either a good price value or a poor one down the the cheapest items. I don't think they are afraid of the product being compared to other products in the price range. The regular members are doing that a bit already which is the way it should be.

    Some companies don't really need much advertising by the time they get here and I understand that. If they don't need it they don't need it but it seems that some want to pump it up a little more while acting like a customer.

    The person in the company that I should talk to is not available at the moment. I have sent the email and will give it a couple of days and see if i hear back from them. Part of my concern is that this could be just one employee and that the company does not behave this way as a rule. I was actually quite surprised when I saw the company name associated with the IP address. Though I have never seen their products they have too much legitimate going on I would think to shill. There is no way for me to know if this is normal for them of just a fluke.

    The biggest reason for this post is to let shill posters know that if it continues no matter how much I don't want to do it I will eventually have to do something to reduce how often it happens if it continues.
     
  16. primal

    primal Loaded Pockets

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    (Gonna try this directly from my Droid.)

    The thing is, if it's coming directly from the company IP, then it's most likely happening on company time, during the course of employment. Again, the company either knows or should have known. Regardless, they're accountable, imo.

    If it is decided to post a list, at least it will limit the focus on specific individuals. As it stands, now that the cat is out of bag, we don't know who to trust. Unwarranted suspicion may run rampant. Okay, maybe not rampant. Still, it is a distraction.

    I'll support Jon's decision, either way.
     
  17. JonSidneyB
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    I just got an email from them. I will explain what has me wondering. When i look at posting history there are several IP addresses that were not a match then the companies IP address itself appeared. The company IP caught my attention fast but was quite by accident. It looks like the other IP addresses were while traveling and possibly at home.

    Now that someone has contacted me I will have a talk with them. The email does say they would like information as they realize that trust can be lost and might not be able to be fully rebuilt. That was the right answer to give. Much better than most companies give.
     
  18. TECENG
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    I'm not trying to protect anyone here, just trying to give people the benefit of the doubt. How could a company know exactly what their employees are doing 100% of the time? Should they hire an IT person to sift through corporate emails one-by-one to find any potential wrong-doing? Or should you put a certain amount of trust in your people? I know I have better ways of spending my time than looking over the shoulders of my employees all the time.

    Again, I'm not taking sides here, I'm just sayin...
     
  19. JonSidneyB
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    I got a message from all parties involved finally. We may have a case where it is an employee making posts about something they know about that they happen to have with a post in particular that was promotion but they might not have realized it was in bad forum as they sound line an ordinary owner.

    What created some concern is I frequently get message that were not intended for me where I know that some post bumping was done here and there to keep things a bit more visible. This person might not have known how it looks on our end. I was going to do some serious digging to see if I could find them talking as an owner to another ID associated with the company. After getting a message from this person I don't think I will find anything like that. While I do not know if this is the case it could certainly be just an employee not in seeing how it could appear from this end as I have seen a bunch of odd things.

    It does not mean we don't have a shill problem as we do. Usually we see this with smaller companies and it is quite often the owner doing it or someone in charge of marketing. Like I said I don't know for sure at this point but the explanations I have gotten are plausible. Some others are not so plausible.

    There are quite a few manufacturers that do visit the forums or at least their employees that come out here quite a bit and have been unusually quite about their products. One company that comes to mind that seems to be too good about appearances. Since this is a positive thing I will mention them, several employees of Leatherman visit the forums and not once have I seen the remotest appearance of anything that with the wildest imagination be seen as promotion looking like a common owner.

    I reacted to this one as it was one of the larger companies I have seen that looked to be doing this. Some of it looks awkward but is possibly innocent as Tom has mentioned.
     
  20. primal

    primal Loaded Pockets

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    Right on, Jon!

    Respect is always key.

    Good luck!