Reputation and the Bot Crisis, Sybils, and Cheetah.

in steemit •  2 years ago

    Despite being a little tuna by power in our society, as the operator of one of the more successful bots I feel like I have some weight to chime in on the current bot issues we face. So I split it into three topics, and here are my ramblings.


Topic 1: Reputation and the Bot Crisis

    There recently was a back and forth between @dantheman and @williambanks, on the reputation system, the respose here, and then the last response on vilifying bots here.
    Here are some thoughts I had while reading this back and forth.

  1. Restrict access to the web socket: This didn't quite make sense to me at first; you cannot restrict access to the blockchain so doing this won't change anything for long. If the suggestion was for the website steemit.com to only reveal content that was transacted through browsers using steemit.com, then I understand the argument, and agree that this could be a way to "stop" bots. (Not that I agree this is a good solution.) It will also mute cheetah, however, and I am not sure if we are ready for that (topic 3).
     
  2. Focus on vote count rather than vote weight: This, as dan suggested does not work due to Sybils (topic 2).
     
  3. Help people improve their bots: I do not think this will work, unfortunately. Bot operators are not going to follow leash codes, if they have no incentive to do so. As much as I appreciate the effort from @williambanks, and wish it success, I am not leashing cheetah.
    In addition, I, and it seems some other anonymous members (p.s. I would like to chat strategy with these people if they are willing to come forward, I am anyx on steemit.chat), will continue to attack spam bots or one-liner bots with extreme prejudice in the meantime. You will notice most spam bots are already getting hidden.
     
  4. (Unwitting/stupid) people causing accidental harm: Not really about bots, but this is actually a funny problem that I encounter often, most notoriously when people upvote plagiarism. Perhaps cheetah didn't respond fast enough, or it was an article that slipped though. I try to remove the payouts (I need help to do it as a tuna), but I am not always successful in this. The best way to fix this is with reputation -- not just the system that dan proposes, but in general people need to watch what they are upvoting. Perhaps look at an accounts history of posting, before you decide.
    Seriously, just look at this post, and check the user's history. The same person even copied my own post, here.. We all as a community need to think harder about our upvotes, or we are going to incentivize this garbage to continue.
     

    As it stands, all these bots are harming our ecosystem and hurting our chance for mainstream adoption. Overall, I hope we can limit or remove bots by decreasing post rate somehow -- perhaps setting more restrictive bandwidth limits on replies, limit replies per day, and definitely reduce the ease of creating sybils -- reputation does not matter if one can continue to create new accounts.
    I also look forward to gaming and breaking the reputation system that dan is suggesting (or better plan, I hope to chat with him first to see if we can stop problems before they occur with it).


Topic 2: Sybils

    Sybils are becoming an interesting and increasingly important problem, especially if they remain easy to create when the reputation system is active. You may have noticed the low-weight downvote spambot, which was visibly removed from the website. The same user is now upvote spamming posts. Fortunately, that user does not have many accounts.

    On the other hand, there are some of us with many accounts, that actually do not want to cause harm, but are forced to if we want to use all our stake. The main source of this is the way that mining works; we essentially are required to make multiple accounts in order to mine continuously, or we are penalized. As a result of this, I have many accounts, and if I want to upvote with all my VESTS, I cause a sybil attack and can immediately start trending on hot (it is quite silly). But of course I want to use all my VESTS to upvote!

    One way to help us is to disincentivize the use of multi account spam by offering a more "official" means to the end. We currently have witness vote proxies, wherein the power of an account is applied to the leader, and their votes are funneled through. It would be nice to allow the same thing for upvotes too, so I can link my other accounts, and only upvote "once". This makes it not only easier to use all my stake, but also lets me do so without feeling guilty at abusing the system. For curation rewards with this, I suppose it should all go to the proxy leader, but some people may want to use this to follow curators as well. I look forward to other's thoughts on this. (I am sure I am not the only one who has thought of this, too.)

Finally, I have a few suggestions on account creation:

  • Stop allowing POW to create accounts.
  • Stop allowing reddit to create accounts.
  • Perhaps allow accounts by invitation only (and they still must use Facebook to sign up).

    I think it is necessary to invoke some harsh restrictions before it is too late. This is an actionable band-aid that we can do even before we begin reputation calculations. Oh, and change the hot algorithm...


Topic 3: Cheetah bot

    It will be interesting with a reputation system if cheetah will be able to stay alive (not everyone is fond of what I am doing). We have recently solved plagiarists (at least of the minnow variety) from downvoting the cheetah posts out of existence, thanks to some a few members auto-upvoting cheetah posts, and whales taking notice and increasing her power. She also got some power for the satire post we just wrote here (good for a quick laugh). Thanks for the support guys!

    I know some people would be interested in some statistics regarding catches that cheetah bot makes, especially with the 4 post payout change. Unfortunately, I still catch 100's of posts in a day, but at least the overall rate of posts has decreased. As I feared though, the change made little difference to spammers and plagiarists -- perhaps they are unaware of the payout changing after 4 posts? I am not sure if there a notification that warns them of this (if not, there should be)! Or perhaps we need to have a hard limit that simply prevents more than 4 posts, not just a soft one.

    Also, I have begun to notice Steemit reposts are being caught, and many users don't like this. I am leaving the cheetah comments; I think it is useful, as many users are duplicating their "introduceyourself" post, especially if their first was unsuccessful in getting thousands like some people get. I know I will continue to get hate for tagging the resposts, but I don't care. People should be aware it is a repost, and then they can vote accordingly.

    Finally, I am also seeking out some web dev help if possible. It is quick for me to spit out a log of catches, but I would be interested in displaying them on a website -- this way, users interested in cheetah catches and wanting to help manually curate could do so easily. I already have a server to host the website, just need the web interface and link to the logging.
EDIT: It looks like I have some help on this, thanks to those who offered!



    Thanks for reading, this is just a bundle of thoughts from this week. I was hoping not to do another post until my last one came off trending (seriously, even I don't want it there for that long, stahp it), but I had enough thoughts piling up.
As @williambanks points out, @cheetah is basically my pet, and I agree. So this will be my picture for this post.

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Interesting read. Personally I think one of the biggest problems is people trying to vote based on a sort of assumed value, rather than the merits of the item itself. I'm not a coder and it may be hard to implement, but I would love to see there be LESS rewards for voting for people with reputation or "form", and MORE rewards for voting for "underdogs" who create something great. This would mean less people sucking whale dick, and more people digging for nuggets.
Another step towards meritocracy and away from polarization, perhaps.

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I dont know... i dont have the perfect system but perhaps with your idea people would start to make a new account from time to time. why would i build a reputation if that is bad thing?

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I'm not talking about reputation being a bad thing. I'm talking about discouraging people from sport voting - backing the horses that always win.

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i understand that and agree with part of it... but if steemit do what you said, we could have a problem where people don't feel encouraged to build a reputation.

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Aye, it would have to be weighted in a way that reputation is most worthwhile. I do however think there is a serious problem with so called "curators" backing the horses that always win, while amazing content slips through the cracks. In fact, I think that's the biggest problem Steemit has right now.

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In an ideal world I think that this is a great idea. But as many have pointed out in trying to fix one problem without looking at all the angles is more likely to just create new one.

In addition to other problems listed is how to determine if the underdog post has great content. If you don't have a way of recognizing great content users will just start upvoting posts of users with little activity in mass with no regard to quality.

You would need to have dedicated people looking for great underdog content to upvote. Let's say I'm that person. I find quality underdog content and upvote it. Anyone else who upvotes it gets a better reward. I suddenly get a ton of users and bots upvoting the content I upvote without even reading the content. Which is just another problem.

If the suggestion was for the website steemit.com to only reveal content that was transacted through browsers using steemit.com, then I understand the argument, and agree that this could be a way to "stop" bots.

I think that would stop them! They only want attention! If they loose it then they stop!And that must do any future steemit.com like site!

It will also mute cheetah,

I love @cheetah but I prefer we have not spams and cheetah is not needed any more....

PS could they white-list good bots?

Thanks for keeping Cheetah up and running anyx. A couple disagreements:

Finally, I have a few suggestions on account creation:
Stop allowing POW to create accounts.
Stop allowing reddit to create accounts.
Perhaps allow accounts by invitation only (and they still must use Facebook to sign up).

No way, account creation should be as open as possible. And definitely not require using some third party dystopian nightmare service. Maybe eventually it could cost a nominal fee, although until there's a good crypto-friendly CC payment processor with global reach this is difficult. Also I think it's easier to fake a FB account than a Reddit account with minimum karma.

Or perhaps we need to have a hard limit that simply prevents more than 4 posts, not just a soft one.

I disagree on this too. It's too restrictive.

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Thanks for weighing in @pfunk!
Honestly I hope there is a better way to do it as well, but being too easy is also a nightmare in my opinion. A nominal fee is also already possible, given that users can create accounts with the reg fee, but limiting to that is a barrier to entry that we may not want. I don't know if the community will be able to come to consensus on the best way to approach this.

In regards to the post count, maybe it would be better solved with the interface; perhaps we should have a simplistic visual view in the webpage of "vote power" and "post power", so to speak, so people are better informed.

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OMG I agree with @pfunk on something 1000%?
Great way of putting it @pfunk upvoting you on this!

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:)

You will notice most spam bots are already getting hidden.

YES! I have noticed it, and I for one am very grateful to all involved in making this happen. :)

people need to watch what they are upvoting. Perhaps look at an accounts history of posting, before you decide.

^^^^^ THIS ^^^^^

Voting alone is not a path to Steem riches. Curation rewards (compared to posting rewards) are pretty small for just about everyone (unless you're a really early adopter or you've dropped some serious bitcoin into this already). Think before you vote. This one action can make such a difference. Unfortunately, IMO, many people are trained by Facebook and Twitter to like anything and everything because it doesn't really mean anything. Even after Dan specifically asked people to stop upvoting introduceyourself posts, people still do. Problems of this variety (stupid people) aren't going to go away with better algorithms (the world is always creating better idiots for any idiot-proof system).

All that said, I'm very optimistic. Things are actually moving really quickly here. What may seem like an eternity in the world of crypto is actually a quick pace for almost any other company. I'm confident the community and those with the most invested in the system will continue working hard to protect their own value.

Thanks for all you do, @anyx! I'm proud to give you my witness vote.

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Thank you @lukestokes, your support is always appreciated. :) I agree that the 'like everything' mantra needs to change here; perhaps by showing users their voting power in simple terms on the website.
I am also optimistic: I remain critical only in order to promote change!

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perhaps by showing users their voting power in simple terms on the website.

That's a really good point. Power users are hitting up steemd to see their voting power change over time, but most of the new 40k+ users probably have no idea about those details.

I greatly appreciate the work you are doing to make this community better. Thanks!!

I share your pain regarding mined accounts and scattered VESTS. Indeed, the ability to set a voting proxy similar to a witness voting proxy would be a welcome solution.

the website steemit.com to only reveal content that was transacted through browsers using steemit.com

Let's not centralize.

Stop allowing POW to create accounts.

But then how would new miners create miner accounts?

Stop allowing reddit to create accounts.
Perhaps allow accounts by invitation only (and they still must Facebook login).

Don't assume everyone has a facebook account. Also, if someone really wanted to create multiple accounts, it wouldn't stop them.

Unfortunately, I think most of these suggestions wouldn't help much but they would be very much inconvenient for most benevolent users. The only way forward is to empower the community with a solid reputation system to fight spam.

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@orly Thank you. You are spot on. I've upvoted because I agree with you 100% on everything except the rep system.
A better option is to upgrade minnow power, so minnows actually have power if they have followers who have power, would be the best possible reputation system.

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so minnows actually have power if they have followers who have power,

that is a great idea!

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Thanks for the feedback, here's my responses:
It isn't centralizing; it would be sanitizing the steemit.com interface in the same way they are no longer showing downvotes, and the same way hiding based on reputation will work. You can always use a different interface to the steem blockchain. (Not that I agree this is the best method, just explaining.)

I don't know how to solve the unfair advantage old miners would get, but the ease of creating accounts this way is a problem, and will continue to be. Perhaps figure out a way to have the same account in the POW queue multiple times.

Perhaps it won't stop new accounts, but it will at least cost the new account creation fee each time, and there would be a link in the blockchain between accounts.

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Sure I don't have problems with any kind of reputation that's embedded in the blockchain itself. I just don't want steemit.com to become a distinct entry point to the chain in any way. Like, if it didn't show content written to the chain by any other means, that would be bad.

Once a decent reputation system is in place, account creation shouldn't be a problem. Even with POW mining, you can't create accounts at a faster rate than users would flag them.

Thanks for creating @cheetah and making Steemit a better place for all!

good point about that introduce yourself reposts. What's the rule on that? only once? can you introduce others as well on introduceyourself too?

I support you and the value you bring through your bots in an attempt to better steemit as opposed to solely use them to get money for yourself like the one word bots do. It would be nice to see the cheetah or some similar bots use some of that money for bettering steemit and some to benefit a charity. (Positive connotations outside of the steemit community will do great things) but in the end the choice is yours and I hope you think about the long term as I am confident you will.

If you want to prevent spam, make it cost money to post.

Hey i came across your page when i was looking up about the cheetah bot that upvoted me, I was trying to figure about what it meant? I mentioned where i got the article from like the source, does this mean im in trouble?

@anyx one final thing...
What you're doing on reposts is fine, with 2 exceptions.
You need to scan the post itself for the words "repost", because if that's there then the user is making it clear that this is a repost, but they are cleaning it up and trying for better visibility. Many of our most upvoted tutorials actually encourage this.

Secondly, you need to watch for changes to any flagged post so a user can take your feedback into consideration and add some text like "this is a repost", at which time you need to remove any flags and delete the comment.
Otherwise this builds bot hate and resentment against cheetah.

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Thanks for the feedback on this bit, I have also thought about this, and am planning to change the message for detected reposts.
I have resentment for reposts in introduceyourself, so they can resent me back all they like.

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@anyx the cause of a repost could just be people getting too excited. They don't understand how to draw attention to themselves. They post and get nothing. Then they look around and they learn. They fix it, update and repost.

Most of my friends are doing this as I drag them kicking and screaming from facebook, twitter and the like. They're trying and it's legit content from a legit content creator. If people enjoy it now more than they did earlier, there just doesn't seem to be a reason to try and punish them.

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I agree with invitation only accounts from now on 8]

thanks for sharing with us.

Hi @anyx, sorry it's somewhat offtopic, but what's the best way to report @cheetah bugs? I believe I'm seeing one

I think it can be very difficult to distinguish a repost or straight up plagiarism, especially when some people may go through the list, upvote the titles that get their attention and then go back and read them but not do due diligence on if the poster is copy pasting.

I try to do my part and downvote if I know it's a copy, or if it can reasonably be construed as such, and I'll leave a comment saying why I down voted.

I think education is the most important way to combat the tide of copied content or reposting for perceived missed rewards. People are super excited about steemit and they want to get every steem they can, I can only imagine the creative scams we've yet to see.

Good thoughts, keep on trucking. Cheetah's #introduceyourself got all my upvote love. Asimov told me I write like Hemingway or Trump :/

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@prufarchy here is a simple algorithm to detect if it's a repost...
Have I seen this before? If yes, then who posted it. IF owner of posting now == owner of posting earlier, THEN repost = true ELSE plagarism = true

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Sure that works. I don't need one, I actively scan for plagiarism. I was being devils advocate for those who probably do what I outlined above, vote without realizing... Alls I was saying

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Reposts generally don't deserve much in the way of rewards anyway, so it doesn't really matter that much from the perspective of voting and abuse. It's like movies. First run = $. Old movie = late night on some obscure cable channel.

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@smooth That was a great comparison! Thanks, gave me a good laugh, have an upvote on me!

Voltron was always the best. Always.

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Lol, that's not voltron that's transformers.
But my idea would be to upgrade @cheetah like this...

Also @anyx I'm a little concerned that you've chosen a decepticon for cheetah, they are the bad guys and the image you linked, they just stole from the good guys and got caught :)

There is an autobot named cheetor...

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I do not see myself as a "good guy" or "hero" in this story.
Like you say, cheetah is my pet, and it follows my orders. My philosophy on plagiarized content is solely my own, and it is up to voters to decide if they agree with me or not.

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@anyx Fair enough, I can respect that.

Just understand, that mindset is literally the same mindset as every other bot builder.

You may wish to keep in mind, that most of the generation using this platform, grew up on transformers where the decepticons were the bad guys. Inept bad guys, but bad guys nonetheless.

It's cool for nostalgia, but psychologically it pokes little pinpricks in the back of the mind and triggers people to feel a bit less inclined to cut cheetah any slack when she misbehaves.

I just read this on Wykop.pl according to my 2 day experience on steemit.com it seems to be quite legit I made English translation
translation of the scam steemit.com post

lol, don't take it the wrong way, but you found your way of getting money out of the system by talking about how other should vote, should post, your bot etc...
That's nice but at some point it looks to me as much as spamming as what you are complaining about.
Sure the content is original, but repeated everyday it is just getting a little boring. My fifty cents...

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Repeated every day? My last post was 6 days ago, and brought Identity Theft to attention, a completely different topic.
If you are talking about my post from 2 weeks ago that is on trending, yeah, it is stupid that it's still there.

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that's probably what is happening here... yeah the trending thing is a bit misleading

I dont understand the content much as other people do but I do believe it is for the good welfare of the steemit community.

Bots can be good an bad for Steemit. All my posts are authentic.

https://steemit.com/geothermal/@steve-mcclair/building-a-geothermal-greenhouse

I found this interesting too. I think cheetah is the only bot that seems to have some use and I can understand why you created it. It is interesting that some whales have used bots for automatic upvoting of the very kind of plagiarising and content stealing posts that cheetah highlights.

Anyway some sort of solution needs to be found for content theft. I have posted on this issue before but a lot of people seem unable to understand the issue and/or choose to be wilfully blind to it (since it is earning them money).

Thank you for your contribution in trying to deal with this.

PS are you sure that the person in Topic 1.4 is really a person and not a copy/paste bot? Seems like it is just automated copying.

Hey @anyx
Just wanted to let you know, I link to you in my latest article here .. Up top, you're described as a "techie"

Well at least now I know why some of my more legitimate posts are stuck in no where land.. That makes me feel better.

(I wrote one today, and squinted at the 54 cents I made. I didn't get it until now)

I'd also like to thank you for posting about this problem. It will surely get abused. Some people can milk it for awhile, but when someone else gets the same idea, we'll spool forever into a crazy place that none of us want to go..