Andrew Pollack's Blog

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Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogant

By Andrew Pollack on 06/21/2008 at 07:42 PM EDT

Someone pinged me on IM today and pointed out that it was very likely someone had used a hack similar to one I pointed out to Yancy a few months back that could allow someone to "game the system" as it were and rack up endless link count numbers on Planet Lotus. It's not a difficult hack to accomplish and fairly tricky to defend against (though not impossible).

I don't really know if the post in question is actually being manipulated that way. I'm told it has more link hit numbers than there are daily visitors to the site though. I also have no idea if the blog site owner is behind it. I somewhat doubt it.

At the very least, the numbers mean that someone posted a link to the blog story on a busy site using the Planet Lotus link rather than a direct link to the blog story. Even that much is clearly a manipulation of the system. There is a way to be much more manipulative than that. I know, I showed Yancy a proof of concept months ago. It doesn't require a rocket scientist to figure out either, so doing it doesn't prove you've got any kind of skill. If someone is going to the trouble of doing that kind of thing (which I'm not going to detail) they're a real loser.

Planet Lotus has been a great boon to the Domino blogging community. For readers, it has brought together a really great way to see across the breadth of the community in a glance. You see things you otherwise wouldn't have seen by just subscribing to one blog or another. For writers, it has added a little competitiveness to the game that can drive us to write more of the kinds of things other people want to read.

Some bloggers will claim it doesn't change what or how they write. It may even be true for some. I know it has had an influence on my writing. I try to keep it a positive influence and I still write only what I want to write, but it definitely makes me think a bit more about what others might find of value.

I have no idea really if what's going on today is anomalous or part of a purposeful attempt to game the system. It doesn't really matter. My message to anyone who thinks that gaming the system is funny or shows how clever you are is simple. It's a loser play. It isn't original, it is trackable with a bit of research, and ultimately your own reputation will suffer for it, and worst of all it ruins some aspects of an otherwise fantastic resource.


There are  - loading -  comments....

re: Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogantBy Vitor Pereira on 06/22/2008 at 09:52 AM EDT
Almost stopped using Planet Lotus since the kids started playing. Can we know
who is it? I will probably want to remove the loser from my feed reader.
re: Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogantBy John Head on 06/22/2008 at 12:13 PM EDT
it is easy to figure out ... scan down the front page now, and look for the
post with over 4500 'hits'

as much as I would like to blame the person, it is probably someone who just
posted the planetlotus link to prove a point. Oh well.

Maybe yancy can just remove the hit count stuff from the main page. We really
do not need it. But even with the hit count game, planetlotus is still the best
thing to happen to our on-line community
re: Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogantBy Vitor Pereira on 06/22/2008 at 01:42 PM EDT
John, like I said I stopped using it, but I'll go in and scan the front page.
re: Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogantBy John Head on 06/22/2008 at 02:59 PM EDT
don't stop using it ... its still the best single source for info. Just ignore
the hit counters :)
re: Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogantBy Vitor Pereira on 06/22/2008 at 06:08 PM EDT
I can't live without unread marks.
Lets keep in mind, we do not know....By Andrew Pollack on 06/22/2008 at 05:01 PM EDT
....if this particular instance is a case of abuse or gaming the system. It
looks like one, but its also about the Jesus Phone so the clicks could be real.

It should be easy enough to wait a few days for google to pick up the link and
then just search for it to see where it is embedded.

It would also be easy for Yancy to post the referral sites (though this risks
referal site spam)
re: Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogantBy Greyhawk68 on 06/23/2008 at 11:38 AM EDT
If they are valid hits, I personally don't have a problem with it. My guess is
that someone posted a link to the story in question on something like Digg.com
but used the planetlotus.org link. If people hit the link, it would up the
counter.

In my opinion, I would love to see everyone use the planetlotus.org links when
promoting their stories on Twitter or FriendFeed or Facebook or whatever. Then
we would really see which stories are getting hits from all over, not just from
people reading planetlotus.org. To me that's a bigger indicator of a stories
worth than just hits from the homepage.

As long as it's not a bot, and the links are indeed valid clickthroughs, I
would be okay with it.

Am I missing something that would make me way off base?

-Grey

I can't find the post in question (must've been removed by now) but I'm
assuming it was the Iphone clone piece? If so, I could see that getting that
many hits...
re: Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogantBy Ed Brill on 06/23/2008 at 12:46 PM EDT
but those hits weren't coming from planetlotus.org readers. IMHO, it's exactly
the opposite effect of what the community should want -- planetlotus is a site
designed to show what the *community* is interested in, not the whole Internets.

I believe the offending post that got so much attention didn't mention anything
about Lotus. It was a "score: 0" posting from someone whose blog is included
on planetlotus, though whose postings often shouldn't be.
re: Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogantBy Greyhawk68 on 06/23/2008 at 01:02 PM EDT
Well, my thought is I almost never read planetlotus.org. So even though I see
and read the majority of posts on planetlotus.org, I never vote for them, and
thus my vote isn't counted. I actually use my feed reader, and other social
networks.

I think someone posting a planetlotus.org link in their twitter stream, or on
facebook or something like that should be perfectly fine, because most people
reading those would be within the community anyway and it would be nice to see
those numbers included.

Maybe posting on something like digg isn't a good thing because it casts the
net too wide.

I just think that by only counting people that go to the site itself and click
on a headline isn't really giving us real numbers or what might be really hot.

I guess I dunno a good answer for it, but I don't see a bad thing with self
promotion if it's within the community.

-Grey
You're after something different.By Andrew Pollack on 06/23/2008 at 01:16 PM EDT
What you want is more global, and would be handled by something on the blog
pages like an image load that triggers a counter at a central location. That
would provide a sort of hit counter. It wouldn't mean anything much though.

The Planet Lotus counter is designed to show relative interest among those who
read Planet Lotus. It isn't designed to show "total clicks" or "all interest"
only relative to others who play by the same rules.

The failure comes when you break the rules. I've proven that I can easily make
any link on there grow by at least one hundred hits per hour without the people
who are "voting" even knowing they are doing so. That, however, adds no value
to the experience on the site for those using it. It removes value.

Just making something popular on slashdot and using your planetlotus link to
redirect causes high hits but doesn't help people on Planet Lotus know what
others are finding interesting related to Domino.
re: You're after something different.By Greyhawk68 on 06/23/2008 at 02:06 PM EDT
I get that by putting something on slashdot or digg, that is moving stuff
outside the realm we're looking at here.

What do you think about mentioning the link on say, my Twitter stream. The
vast majority (not all mind you) of my followers are domino community folks.
So would them reading the story not be a good thing?

I'm not sure. As is, the numbers of what is hot are fairly meaningless to me,
and I'm not sure of a good way to make them any better.

At this point, it's all about who writes the most enticing headlines and what
time of day they post.

Like I said, I don't have a solution, but maybe it's something to talk about it
a broader sense...

-Grey
Well, as far as twitter, links in IM, etc...By Andrew Pollack on 06/23/2008 at 02:16 PM EDT
I've done it, and once considered decided it wasn't appropriate and haven't
done it that way since.

I've sent links back and forth with Nathan that way -- mostly just to pull on
his leash a bit.

The fact is, if we want the link counts to be meaningful, we shouldn't be
posting them anywhere.

Yancy could make the links javascript onclick functions with document.location=
in them that launches the actual redirect link and that would stop all but the
most deliberate use.
re: Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogantBy Vitor Pereira on 06/23/2008 at 05:18 PM EDT
*ahem* It's not a blog Ed.
re: Gaming Planet Lotus is juvinile and destructively arrogantBy Yancy Lent on 06/23/2008 at 06:01 PM EDT
I've cleaned up the mess. With a band-aid, not fixed it, i don't want this to
turn into pi$$ing contest.

It's all pretty straight forward. This is what I want:

- I want to count clicks
- I don't want to make people log in.
- *I want the clicks to work 'off property'.

It's impossible to simultaneously have all three of these and prevent
manipulation.

* If Chris and Tim want to plug the next YellowCast episode i want them to use
the planetlotus.org/blahblah on their blog. I want them to get credit. This is
the reason i put all the work into generating a small url; think twitter.

I have caught someone in the act in the past. They foolishly used a buried
iframe on their site; something easily uncovered. This latest attempt is more
likely impossible to track down; but if anyone wants to look into it with
me.... Here are the IP's and the hit counts.

5625 customer-reverse-entry.208.96.29.51
1330 mail.urban-online.at
920 infong117.kundenserver.de
175 42.c8.5646.static.theplanet.com
125 75-146-62-233-Washington.hfc.comcastbusiness.net
109 66.228.208.165
100 66.228.208.166
--those less then 100 omitted.

I skipped adding them to the robot.txt and went straight for the .htaccess
file, deny rule. My robot.txt is huge and even includes yahoo, yes, yahoo. I
don't want their, or any other crawlers adding to the click counts. Googles are
accepted but then deleted from the click totals every hour on schedule, so if
you ever see your count go down one or two this is why.


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