Skewing forum votes must end!

This news has nothing to do with the development of Coolbasic V3, but I decided to share it anyways since the issue appears to be rather interesting. I’d like to start by telling I always enjoy seeing the community living vivid on the forums. It creates this feeling you’ve affected people’s lives by offering them means to showcase their creativity through game making. And that the community has grown and roaming. That said, I’m also very happy that the community features game making competitions in a regular basis and having fun with it.

However, while competitions tend to be healthy for any community (as long as it goes along the rules), there is always somebody who likes to manipulate the results given it’s possible in some way. It has come to the attention of the moderators and administrators (and me) that there exists some evidence of mischief within the results of voting. It appears to be that some users have created fake accounts which they use to cast extra votes for an entry of their choise. This, of course, distorts the votes and may result in declaration of false winner.

CoolBasic forums do require a unique email address for activation of new forum accounts. The main purpose of this is to discourage multiple users from the same person to be created. Even if someone wanted to activate more than one forum account for some purpose, he/she would need several working email addresses to get them running. That’s a nuisance I couldn’t be arsed to do, at least. But then again, I wouldn’t want to skew the votes either :/

What we’re seeing here, is someone motivated enough to carry over the pain and doing an annoying deed just so that he/she could cast some extra votes. The results must be very important to that user 🙂 Maybe we’re looking right into the face of the guilty when we’re declaring the winner. I don’t have the details of these cases (I haven’t consulted the moderation team in such detail), but I agreed that something has to be done to prevent this abuse.

We had a conversation on IRC what would be the best solution to solve this issue, and the common concept seemed to be that we’d simply move majority of the users into a different group and then allowing polls only for that group. The major factor was agreed upon to be the post count because, let’s face it, would someone really go through all this and, in addition, bother to increase all of those fake accounts’ post count above the treshold? A 3rd party MOD was suggested to be installed on the board. It was to be a new tool for administrators to mass-move users from a group to another based on some customisable conditions such as post count.

I did consider it, but I wasn’t quite happy with what would have been the outcome of that. Firstly, the administrators would regularly need to make this “pass”, say, in every week, where queried users would be moved to the poll-enabled user group. Secondly, it’d have been be just another user group with extra management and set-up every now and then.

Another option would have been to write a simple PHP-script that would perform this task automatically on page load (of which only certain people have access to). Umm.. naaah!

So what did I do? Without a word with the moderating team, one morning at work, I took the forum source, poked it a little bit, and uploaded a “tweak”. Just like that without any approval or discussion. I hope I don’t get blamed for this, and I hope the “fix” works and doesn’t cause any bugs or problems for the forums. I added a treshold value that a user must have exceeded in terms of post count in order to be allowed for voting. It’s a change in one certain place and easily modifiable should we come across the need to increase or decrease this treshold.

No error message is shown when a user with less than TEN posts tries to cast a vote. The forum simply reloads the page after pressing the “Submit vote”-button. It doesn’t completely eliminate the problem, but atleast it discourages more strongly the deceit. I look forward to see how this phenomenom evolves.

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