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Author Topic: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things  (Read 11885 times)  

Online Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« on: July 16, 2013, 06:03:50 AM »
If you ever wondered why I rage like I do about unethical behavior, this is why.

So were in open voting for the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards. This is supposed to be a fun way to celebrate the indie community and encourage readers to explore indie books. Last year, we had a few isolated problems with people who didnt play nice, but for the most part everything went off without a hitch.

I guess because now that the awards have a little visibility, people have decided its time to try to break them. Over the last week, Ive banned over two dozen users for creating multiple accounts to vote for their own books. Im talking over a hundred fake accounts that were created specifically to try to game the system. It was so bad that I had to send out a general email to all attendees reminding them of the rules. I didnt know what else to do. My gut instinct was to post the names of the offenders online for public shaming, but I dont want to start a flame war that would ruin the good vibes Im trying to generate for indie authors.

But now I am furious, because I got an email yesterday from an author who was very upset because someone emailed her to convince her to exchange votes. Apparently this person actually sent emails to several other finalists offering to exchange votes. But here is the thing, you can only vote ONCE in the poll, so it seemed like this persons goal was to trick people into voting for him/her by promising to vote for them. And while I had a very nice conversation with the author who alerted me to this issue, she is obviously upset. She wanted her book pulled from the contest because she felt voting was corrupted.

I have busted my ass to protect the integrity of these awards, and these cretins crap on it.

I dont even understand. There is no money involved for the winners. Its bragging rights, an award seal, and a sense of camaraderie. It isnt like Amazon is going to give you front page space for winning.

I keep telling myself that it is only a small percentage of indies who do this stuff. But thats not true. Its widespread. The number of ballots I had to disqualify during the initial nomination process was obscene. The number of sock puppet accounts being created is obscene. I dont understand. This makes everyone look bad.

Ranting here isnt going to change the behavior. I know that. But I had to get it out of my system.

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Offline Rick Gualtieri

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2013, 06:09:28 AM »
If you ever wondered why I rage like I do about unethical behavior,

Regardless, I for one appreciate it. The more people who stand up and say "I'm not gonna tolerate this crap!" the better it is for all of us who take this seriously.


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Offline A.A

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2013, 06:11:54 AM »
That's craptastic :( :(

(I will say it's not just indies though. You see writers from all walks asking for everyone and their dog to vote for them for things. True they may not be 'fake' votes but the people voting will often not have even read the book they've voting for.)

Offline David Adams

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2013, 06:13:18 AM »
:/

Honestly, I would take an outwardly soft stance, but an inwardly hard stance to this kind of thing. First warn, then uncompromisingly ban. By allowing the sockpuppets to cheat without punishment, there's no risk regarding cheating. In gaming terms, you might as well spend a move action to attempt a fast dismount while riding, even untrained in ride, because if you fail it's just a move action which is what it is to dismount normally.

I'm reminded of the time, back in university, we realised that our DC++ file sharing server could access file sharing servers in other Australian universities without having that internet meterd. We immediately connected and starting downloading to our hearts content.

Of course, this was completely transparent to the university admin guys who saw the huge spike of traffic on those ports almost instantly. Instead of jumping down our throats, they sent us all a brief email saying something like,

Hello <studentid>,

This is <head of the IT infrastructure department>. I know exactly what you're doing with DC++. Stop connecting to other universities or I'll have to report it.

Cheers,

<head of the IT infrastructure department>

I suggest something like that. "We know you're making fake, sockpuppet accounts. You've been reminded that this is against the rules. If this doesn't stop, you'll all be banned, permanently, no appeals process."

Alternatively, you can just list the votes like this:

Book I (Votes: 19 Disqualified: 410)
Book II (Votes: 46 Disqualified: 1)
Book III (Votes: 14 Disqualified 0)

Etc. It's a subtle way of going, "If you cheat, you won't win. So play nice."
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Offline NicoleSwan

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2013, 06:14:55 AM »
It's the gold-rush fever. A reasonable portion are going to go out of their way to game the system and find their winning nugget.

You can almost appreciate why places like Amazon forums just loathes authors making comments.

Offline Rick Gualtieri

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2013, 06:16:55 AM »
It's the gold-rush fever. A reasonable portion are going to go out of their way to game the system and find their winning nugget.

You can almost appreciate why places like Amazon forums just loathes authors making comments.

Yep. This isn't much different than the dotcom or housing booms. As with any new market, the gold diggers come out and start claim jumping.


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Offline MegHarris

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2013, 06:17:30 AM »
Wow, seriously? I have a book that's a finalist, and I just sort of assumed people would vote for it if they liked it, and not vote for it if they liked something else better. I guess that was naive. I've been on the internet long enough to know that people will cheat on just about any poll or contest.

Quote
If you ever wondered why I rage like I do about unethical behavior, this is why.

Raging is good. You're trying to run a fair contest and these people are making it much harder. If there are going to be contests open to indies, we need to not make life difficult for the people running the contests.

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2013, 06:18:03 AM »
Alternatively, you can just list the votes like this:

Book I (Votes: 19 Disqualified: 410)
Book II (Votes: 46 Disqualified: 1)
Book III (Votes: 14 Disqualified 0)


I like that. It's definitely a good poke in the eye with a sharp stick.   :)


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Online Martitalbott

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2013, 06:18:21 AM »
Some people really don't understand there is something wrong with it. Some are so instant results driven, they will charge into the industry without learning or thinking about what it takes to succeed. When that doesn't happen, they resort to cheating. Very sad, but not surprising after watching what happened with the tags and likes  

Is it possible to program some way to keep people from voting twice? Just a thought.

Offline NicoleSwan

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2013, 06:19:27 AM »
Very sad, but not surprising after watching what happened with the tags and likes  

I was wondering what happened to Zon's tags.  Shame, they were useful :(

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2013, 06:21:25 AM »
Etc. It's a subtle way of going, "If you cheat, you won't win. So play nice."

The problem unfortunately is that indie authors are not the same as students. As a student, there were real consequences for your actions, so all you needed was a warning. You've been around long enough to know what would happen if I sent out that email. All those newly created sock puppet accounts would be leaving 1 star reviews on my books and badmouthing me and the festival all over the place. And what is worse, a couple of these people have street cred. I WOULD BE THE BAD GUY. They accuse me on their blog of unfairly accusing them of something, and it is my name that gets dragged across the dirt.

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Offline B. Ashcroft

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2013, 06:22:56 AM »
Sad day. But isn't this just life in general? In college, I hated when lots of people cheated. At work I hated when people gamed the system to do less work. Dishonesty is just rampant. I mean a trad pubbed guy basically brought the the sock puppet thing to light by using his sock to bash other authors.
But yes, indies have been very guilty too.
I'm genuinely sorry that these people are ruining a contest that you organized just to build the community. No good deed goes unpunished. Bad people ruin things for everyone else.
I still see new authors all the time with clear socks in their reviews. Not so much from this board though, but from people who seem to think they are the first people to think of fake reviews. At least it looks like it. And there are new books every day teaching people to do anything to make the dollars.
As for that author wanting to leave, I can totally see that. No one wants to put their pride on the line when other people are rigging the game. Are you able to take out the fake votes and disqualify the bad eggs? If so, announcing that you can may warn the jerks and alleviate the fears of the honest. Personally I think that guy should be out of the contest or outed publicly so he can't trick others.
Man it just sucks.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2013, 06:28:18 AM by B. Ashcroft »

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2013, 06:23:24 AM »
Is it possible to program some way to keep people from voting twice? Just a thought.

It's a forum poll that is set to only allow one vote per account. But the site doesn't restrict by IP address because people share IP addresses all the time. I've been manually policing it looking for suspicious behavior because I know the flags, but it isn't the kind of thing you can just block an IP address to resolve.

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Offline B. Ashcroft

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2013, 06:26:39 AM »
The problem unfortunately is that indie authors are not the same as students. As a student, there were real consequences for your actions, so all you needed was a warning. You've been around long enough to know what would happen if I sent out that email. All those newly created sock puppet accounts would be leaving 1 star reviews on my books and badmouthing me and the festival all over the place. And what is worse, a couple of these people have street cred. I WOULD BE THE BAD GUY. They accuse me on their blog of unfairly accusing them of something, and it is my name that gets dragged across the dirt.

Blargh.....dang it. I say just take out the bad votes then and let them know if there is backlash you will publicly shame them here. You aren't alone here.

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2013, 06:27:05 AM »
Personally I think that guy should be out rod the contest or outed publicly so he can't trick others.
Man it just sucks.

My knee-jerk instinct is to publicly out people, but I know that if I do that the focus will be on the negative stuff and distract from the positive stuff we are trying to do. If I pull a book from the finals, it will look suspicious and people will start talking about that and accusations start flying. I'm sitting here shaking with rage because every part of me wants to post the names of people who did it but if I do it's going to cause a flame war that will hurt the festival and the other authors who play fair.

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2013, 06:28:15 AM »

Blargh.....dang it. I say just take out the bad votes then and let them know if there is backlash you will publicly shame them here. You aren't alone here.

I have been deleting the votes. When I delete the bad accounts I also delete all of the account's activity, which includes posts and polls.

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Offline David J Normoyle

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2013, 06:28:35 AM »
Sucks.

It just seems that something like this with evoting, often the winner will be the one most dedicated to rustling up votes, whether it be with family/friends/author groups or fans.


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Offline Zelah Meyer

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2013, 06:29:42 AM »
I just don't get this sort of thing.  I mean, I do, I guess - but it's just so alien to me that I shake my head in disgust when I hear about it.

Where is the accomplishment if you cheat?  Where is the self-respect?

Not to mention all the bad karma.

The one consolation, is that people who want to cheat (as some kind of fast track to success) are less likely to stick around - because they don't have the patience to do it honestly.

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2013, 06:30:48 AM »
That really sucks. I did get the general message you sent and thought it must be one or two people, which is bad enough. I was excited to make the finalists and now this makes me just feel sad. The funny (odd, not humorous) thing is, I had one person ask me if they could vote multiple times! I said no. This person is someone I consider honest, yet they obviously would have seen nothing wrong with voting for me numerous times! I just don't get people. It also irritates me when people use social media to ask everyone to vote for their book. How about asking through social media for those who actually READ the book and loved it to vote for it? Isn't that how an award should be won? Why would you feel good about winning if you knew the votes were from people who had never read of heard of your book, but voted for you because you follow each other on twitter or something? Kind of a hollow win. Now, please know, I doubted from the start that I would win, as my book is the 3rd in a series, which makes it kind of tricky to vote for, so this isn't sour grapes. I am just happy to have made it to the finals. But, I do think you should show the number of invalid votes each book has. That would teach those who created sock puppets a lesson by embarrassing them. (Although, what if friends do that and the author doesn't know it? That would suck, too. I doubt other people have so little time that they would do that, but then I would think authors should be spending that time writing...as should I, instead of hanging out on kboards...)
« Last Edit: July 16, 2013, 06:32:57 AM by Caddy »
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Offline B. Ashcroft

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2013, 06:31:12 AM »
I just think some of them might be pretty intimidated by the idea of you posting them here. I'm just thinking of your books and you're right that they may do something to them. Anyway it sucks, but if anyone can work through this it's the Sith witch.

Offline Dan C. Rinnert

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2013, 06:34:51 AM »
Are you only allowed one account per eMail address?  That sometimes narrows down the options, as some people either don't know how or won't bother to set up multiple eMail accounts.  Of course, that's not a deterrent for everyone.

What about limiting participation in polls to members that have reached a minimum post count or have been members for a minimum number of days?  A sudden rash of "me too" type posts might help to eliminate fake accounts.  Requiring people to have been members since prior to the start of the poll may also help to stop people from setting up accounts just to vote for their books.

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2013, 06:43:09 AM »
Are you only allowed one account per eMail address?  That sometimes narrows down the options, as some people either don't know how or won't bother to set up multiple eMail accounts.  Of course, that's not a deterrent for everyone.

What about limiting participation in polls to members that have reached a minimum post count or have been members for a minimum number of days?  A sudden rash of "me too" type posts might help to eliminate fake accounts.  Requiring people to have been members since prior to the start of the poll may also help to stop people from setting up accounts just to vote for their books.

It is one account per email address, but that doesn't stop people from creating multiple disposable accounts. Really, some don't even try to hide it. They think I'm not watching (they obviously don't really know me.)

And I don't want to put a lot of restrictions on voting because I don't believe in treating everyone like potential criminals. I WANT people to sign up and vote and hopefully come back in August for the festival. If I make people jump through too many hoops, they aren't going to want to be involved at all.

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Offline David J Normoyle

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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2013, 06:44:58 AM »
It also irritates me when people use social media to ask everyone to vote for their book. How about asking through social media for those who actually READ the book and loved it to vote for it? Isn't that how an award should be won?

Exactly. I was a member of an author group where a lot of people were going for awards in something like this, and they were all asking for others in the group to vote for each other. Then they were all delighted and self-congratulatory when so many in the group did well, instead of realizing that the awards meant nothing when won like that. I remember knowing that a book that was second in the sci-fi/fantasy category had sold only 2 or 3 books.


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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2013, 06:46:47 AM »
Quote
My knee-jerk instinct is to publicly out people, but I know that if I do that the focus will be on the negative stuff and distract from the positive stuff we are trying to do. If I pull a book from the finals, it will look suspicious and people will start talking about that and accusations start flying. I'm sitting here shaking with rage because every part of me wants to post the names of people who did it but if I do it's going to cause a flame war that will hurt the festival and the other authors who play fair.

Yeah, you are right about that. How about just banning those people's books in the future? Not even telling them, so that they can't start flame wars or hurt your books, but keeping a list of authors who do this and, in the future, if their books get nominated, just tossing the nomination because of past behavior?
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Re: Why Indies Can't Have Nice Things
« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2013, 06:50:16 AM »
Yeah, you are right about that. How about just banning those people's books in the future? Not even telling them, so that they can't start flame wars or hurt your books, but keeping a list of authors who do this and, in the future, if their books get nominated, just tossing the nomination because of past behavior?

Oh, you know me. I have lists. Oh, yes. I have lists. :o


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