Squashing the rise of the sock puppets

We’ve recently seen a rise in Sock Puppets here at MusicBrainz. We’ve observed editors creating separate sock puppet accounts who vote through the edits of the editor in order to get changes through MusicBrainz faster. This practice obviously side-steps our peer-review system, and up until now we’ve had to have other editors go through and follow the trails of naughty editors to clean up after them.

To avoid this from happening continually, we’ve update the main server with a minor patch that requires people to have more than 10 approved edits in order to vote on other people’s edits. This makes creating a sock-puppet account much harder — each sock puppet account created will need to have a lot of work invested in it before it can be useful. We’re hoping that this simple tweak will discourage sock puppeteers.

10 thoughts on “Squashing the rise of the sock puppets

  1. dG

    Three or four years ago I started wondering how long i would take until sock puppets become a serious problem. I had been tracking a sock puppeteer’s edits quite some time until he gave up. But I was lucky that he was too lazy not to create more than two sock puppet accounts (when three votes were necessary).

  2. voiceinsideyou

    This is great news. Can you confirm that PUID uploads or other reg-editor automods don’t count towards the edits required? (although this obviously requires some work by a potential puppeteer; it’s pretty easy a hurdle to jump?)

  3. James Henstridge

    Assuming that the edits were non abusive, I can kind of understand why people might be motivated to do this.

    If you are working on an obscure artist, you may get no votes at all during the two week voting period. If you have multiple edits that need to be done in sequence, this can be quite frustrating. An example of this that I ran into was inserting an extra track into the middle of a release then adding a Disc ID — adding the Disc ID was not possible until the edits to add the extra track and then change the numbering had been accepted.

    Being able to streamline the process would have been quite useful, although doing so with dummy accounts really only papers over the problem. A real solution would be one of:

    1. make voting on edits more visible / rewarding. I don’t know how to do this though. While the change to require 10 edits might reduce sock puppet usage (assuming that a user doesn’t have enough accounts to quickly reach that total for a new account), it also sounds like it might also reduce the number of legitimate voters, which would exacerbate the problem.

    2. Treat all cases where one edit must be accepted before a second edit must be made as a bug and try to fix them. If I can get all my changes done in one go rather than having to keep track of changes to make in 2 weeks time then there is less incentive to try and bypass the review period.

  4. Elias

    I’m an outsider (never voted, never edited), but I’ve always been fascinated by MusicBrainz.

    If I understand this correctly, there has been a problem that sometimes there are not enough people around to vote on something. As a result some editors found a workaround creating votes so that their edits are not worthless? But now you’re making it even harder to vote on something? (By strongly restricting the set of people who are allowed to vote.)

    Seems like you’re only fighting symptoms, and making the real problem worse?

  5. Lukáš Lalinský

    If there is not enough people to vote on something, the edits are accepted after two weeks automatically. No need to create multiple accounts for that. This change is to stop people from making edits that are against MB style guidelines. But if you don’t have even 10 edits (which is a few minutes of work, if you look at the quality of releases in the voting queue — there is a lot of things to fix), you hardly know MB style guidelines and so can’t really vote anyway.

  6. James Henstridge

    As I mentioned in my post above, 2 weeks is quite a long time to wait if you have other edits that are waiting on the first one to pass (it wasn’t so bad when the voting period expired after 1 week).

    Is there any pattern to the types of edits that people are using sock puppets to vote on? I’d imagine that the first votes a sock puppet made would be most instructive, since they would be the ones that pushed the user to try and game the system.

  7. Lukáš Lalinský

    The reason why I implemented this, were edits where the users (usually band management or members, but that makes no difference) disagreed with some MB policies and started deleting data from MB. There are, of course, also the cases you describe and people didn’t want to wait for 2 weeks. But it’s really easy to solve such “problems” even without creating sock puppet accounts. Asking of the users mailing list, web forums or IRC will help getting the edits closed very soon. But note that if such edits are made by new people (the ones with less than 10 edits, who currently can’t vote), they are usually incorrect and need to be fixed before accepting them.

  8. Freso

    I have to agree with Lukáš on this. I’ve seen once to many time people who thought they knew better than the MusicBrainz “collective” (I’m not saying this is always false though), and decided to act destructively on the database (like deleting artists with the same artist name as themselves). 10 edits aren’t a lot and anyone wanting to better MusicBrainz should be able to quickly reach this.

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