Main site karma requirement for posting broken?

by AdeleneDawner1 min read9th May 201143 comments

11

Personal Blog

I just noticed that calcsam, who just posted two top posts in the main section of the site, only has the 100 karma that he has, so far, gained from those posts.

I don't object to those posts being there, but how did he do that?

Edit: Question answered; Eliezer mucked around with the karma system to make this possible in this specific case.

43 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:40 PM
New Comment

calcsam has 20 karma that is not accounted for by any of his posts or comments. This means that he created an account, gathered twenty karma from comments, then deleted those comments. This probably means that he wanted to have a clean account with the ability to post ready, probably before he knew what he was going to do with it. (I keep a 20-karma, empty-history account in reserve myself. It's an obviously useful thing to have, when you think about it.)

(EDIT: Wait, no he doesn't. I was looking at the sidebar to count upvotes, but that has a bit of delay between updates that the karma bubble doesn't.)

Bloody munchkins!

I keep a 20-karma, empty-history account in reserve myself. It's an obviously useful thing to have, when you think about it.

Help me out... why?

To quote Quirinus Quirrell

Delusions that are truly widely held and not merely believed to be widely held are far too dangerous to attack. There are sociopolitical Eldritch Abominations that it would serve LW well to stay well clear of and perhaps even pretend they don't exist for the time being.

The next time you feel that way, make yourself another identity, and use it to say the things you wouldn't otherwise. It really is quite liberating. It's very rare for a delusion to really be too strong to attack, especially here; it is only that you fear backlash.

20 karma so you can post. Empty history so you can keep it in long-term storage without risking losing karma, so that if you need to post on short notice, you don't have to wait for something else to be upvoted. Fresh account in case anonymity is required.

That sounds laborious enough to set up that I don't think I'd consider it a serious vulnerability, but I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with a scenario where it'd be worth the trouble. There are situations where I might benignly want to write an anonymous top-level post, but relatively few that absolutely have to be outside the discussion section, and essentially none that also have to be done on zero notice.

At least aside from perpetrating some kind of drama, and I hardly need to emphasize why that's a bad idea.

It's not about being able to post anonymously on zero notice, but about removing the temptation to skip making an anonymous account in borderline cases by converting it to a sunk cost.

The discussion section does change the calculation somewhat, but getting 20 karma on a clean account is not much more effort than getting 2 karma. (Someone explained the strategy elsewhere on this thread.)

removing the temptation to skip making an anonymous account in borderline cases by converting it to a sunk cost.

That sounds genius, and simple. Do you have some more examples where this way of preemptive barrier removal proved useful?

Eliezer gave me Karma.

This all grew out of a couple extended discussions I had with Eliezer, Will and Divia.

Sam Bhagwat to Eliezer, William, Divia

Eliezer, Will, Divia,

I wrote a couple of posts based on our discussions. I tried to post them; however, I lack 20 karma points. Do any of you have the power to just magically give me those points? If not, I quickly posted seven relatively banal comments. If you all upvote all of them, that will give me 21 karma.

http://lesswrong.com/user/calcsam/

Thanks, Sam

Eliezer Yudkowsky to William, me, Divia

Actually, I just upvoted the two posts, since I can see the drafts. 10 points each = problem solved, I hope.

That sounds plausible in general, but I just loaded calcsam's profile in a different tab, and it's showing that he has 160 total karma, 7 upvotes/70 karma from one top post, and 9 upvotes/90 karma from the other top post, and a handful of comments with zero karma. I don't see where you're getting the extra 20 points from.

Huh - I reloaded, and now it matches up. I was looking at the post scores on the sidebar (it was showing the post scores blanked out on the user page, which it does for posts that are too new), and the sidebar has a bit of delay between updates that could easily explain it. On the other hand, that leaves the original question unexplained. Hmm.

This seems strange behaviour for a new user, and I can find no evidence that the calcsam account belongs to someone with another account (and I've looked so this is evidence of absence). It seems more likely that an Editor gave him some karma.

and I've looked so this is evidence of absence

Only to the extent that you'd expect to find a connection if you looked, and I expect connections between accounts can be hidden pretty reliably to withstand a causal examination if that's seen as a goal. So very weak evidence (however the coin actually happens to land).

The first explanation I posited, before the karma for his most recent post became visible, seems to be incorrect, but I don't think calcsam is a new user.

I've just created an empty account, and turns out it has the power to upvote posts in the main section, effectively creating 10 Karma points for another account out of thin air. This is a serious vulnerability: if calcsam is indeed a figurehead of a Mormon conspiracy (!), most of the upvotes on the posts could come from such dummy accounts.

This is a serious vulnerability

I'd question that. I'd call it "a bit of a vulnerability."

  1. On a community site, I think you have to assume almost all people aren't malicious. And I think that's been shown to be the case here - some cluelessness or insanity, but the only malice from spammers and the very occasional troll.
  2. What's the expected damage? A bad post? Moderate it to oblivion and possibly an editor will need to zap spam.

tl;dr: it's not a problem unless and until it's actually a problem.

On a community site, I think you have to assume almost all people aren't malicious.

We also need to optimize the extent to which this is the case. My point was about vulnerability to small groups of outsiders, for which the state of the community is not particularly relevant.

What's the expected damage? A bad post?

Moderately bad posts that appear to be warmly supported by the community. This sends incorrect signals about the community to members of the community.

What's the expected damage? A bad post?

Moderately bad posts that appear to be warmly supported by the community. This sends incorrect signals about the community to members of the community.

I see what you're saying here, but this strikes me as difficult to sustain, and liable to working too hard to defend purity at the cost of the valuable good faith outside view. YMMV, of course.

On a community site, I think you have to assume almost all people aren't malicious. And I think that's been shown to be the case here - some cluelessness or insanity, but the only malice from spammers and the very occasional troll.

Spammers do not qualify for the label 'malicious'. They simply have other goals that happen to be served in a way that is detrimental to lesswrong. Malice means actually assigning utility to decreases in utility of the other not mere indifference.

I do not object to that definition of malice, but according to it, most of the harm in the world is not done out of malice. Instead, it's done through selfishness and (to the extent that one's motives are not selfish) insufficient interest in thinking through the consequences of one's actions and through the natural human tendency to accentuate the good and not see the bad in oneself and one's friends.

I do not object to that definition of malice, but according to it, most of the harm in the world is not done out of malice.

Boom! ie. Terrorism would seem to have a significant degree of malice involved, as would the majority of murders. Spreading lies about another person is often motivated by malice, the exceptions being at the higher end of political intrigue or sociopathy.

Instead, it's done through insufficient interest in thinking through the consequences of one's actions and through the natural human tendency to accentuate the good and not see the bad in oneself and one's friends.

There is certainly a lot of that. There is more stupidity than there is evil.

But note that it is not just insufficient thinking about consequences. Simply having different preferences wherein you just don't care about negative consequences as measured by the other results in the 'harm' of which we speak. Neither malice nor ignorance is required; mere rational self interest is sufficient.

But note that it is not just insufficient thinking about consequences.

Good point, so I added, "selfishness and (to the extent that one's motives are not selfish)".

Good point, so I added, "selfishness and (to the extent that one's motives are not selfish)".

I like it!

I'd almost say "malicious" is anthropomorphizing - they're malicious like an UFAI.

I somewhat see where you're coming from, but this definition of "malice" appears to me to take the word "malice" rather too far from conventional English usage for usefulness in communication to others. Conventional usage includes gross negligence where the agent knew or should have known of the consequences.

but this definition of "malice" appears to me to take the word "malice" rather too far from conventional English usage for usefulness in communication to others.

You are mistaken. I provided the standard English definition, correcting your somewhat misleading usage. Maliciousness refers either to taking pleasure in the thought of someone coming to harm or the deliberate intent to do said harm.

Reference to google: define confirms this. The exhaustive list of non tautological (that more than simply refer from 'maliciousness' to 'malice') is as follows:

  • Of, pertaining to, or as a result of malice or spite; Deliberately harmful; spiteful
  • maliciousness - malice: feeling a need to see others suffer
  • Maliciousness - Malice is a legal term referring to a party's intention to do injury to another party. Malice is either expressed or implied. Malice is expressed when there is manifested a deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a human being.
  • wanting to cause harm or pain to another

Basically it is about one of intention, desire or taking pleasure. Other usages (if there are any) are far more obscure. This is good because we need a word to refer to having a reduction in someone else's utility as a terminal value and 'spite' has somewhat different connotations. Spammers only interested in advertising their products simply do not qualify. 'Evil' would be a legitimate word in the context.

That's not new; new accounts have always been able to upvote things, and I suspect that we get most of our new accounts made because people see something that they want to vote on. Requiring 20 karma to make a top post in the first place should keep that from being too exploitable, I think, but we might want to change it.

but we might want to change it.

The more ways we have to encourage lurkers to register, the better. I think having a way to upvote any post will make people feel more engaged with the site, and encourage them to post comments and discussions as well. The benefits probably outweigh the harms.

But there's not much point in that, is there? If he can already post to the main section without any karma, what use is there in giving himself more karma?

I suppose members will probably be more receptive if they see that the posts have been upvoted rather than downvoted, but I doubt it would do much to swing the influence on the ideas in this community.

Readers can be expected (whether or not it's so) to be more receptive to upvoted posts made by a user who has significant positive Karma.

(The account probably had 20 Karma at some point.)

I remember reading comments from a proponent of the LDS church which are not in calcsam's backlog. Either we have multiple LDS members who openly discuss the church (we definitely didn't until recently, and the posting style seems similar, so I'm inclined to doubt it,) he created a new account under a different name, or he deleted his old comments. If it's the last one, he would still retain the karma he got from making them.

Considering how I posted a post on trolling that suggested this as a way of trolling I can understand the concern. We are different, I was quite surprised to see the top level posts mentioning the church.

I have not deleted any of my comments.

I also do not intend to make any top level posts, probably ever. Testing out my idea of spamming would be interesting, but not my place to do.

Not me. This is the only handle I control.

I suppose we have at least one other LDS member then, but I haven't been able to find who I was thinking of with a quick search.

I think that's who I was thinking of, thanks.

This seems to be right, we have a bug or an against-the-rules workaround has been used. As AdeleneDawner notes, there is a number of comments with zero Karma and 2 posts in main section, with 9 and 7 upvotes, which contribute 160 Karma points, which is exactly calcsam's total Karma. This means that there should've been no possibility to make these posts (or even a discussion post, which requires 1 Karma point).

So either the publication requirement is broken (at least for calcsam's account), or one of the admins facilitated the publication in some way, or calcsam somehow first added 20 points to some of the comments (using other accounts), then published the posts, and then subtracted the points (the subtraction part is entirely too complicated, but given that the posts give a bit of publicity to the Mormon cult, not out of the question, assuming for example that motivation for that strange action comes from the idea that it's possible to track active upvotes).

I just asked calcsam in a PM

I just did a quick test, and posting to the front page from a brand new account is, at least, blocked in the user interface. I haven't tested whether it's possible to post by invoking the API directly (ie, hand-typed URLs).