Yesterday the moderators and SE staff wiped out 1850 reputation points between three accounts. Our current understanding is that these accounts are held by three real people who know each other in real life. They had voted for each other prolifically, occasionally asking questions so that another could answer (and attract the points). But they were still helping other people at the same time.

Our problem with this sort of behaviour is — to put it bluntly — that it undermines the whole system. Reputation is supposed to reflect the technical quality of users' answers over time, but as soon as users engage in preferenced voting campaigns, reputation now also reflects the number of friends a user has and that is not something we are prepared to allow.

Yeah, it seems you can have too many friends...

The reversal of these votes has made one thing clear, the line between friendliness and "gaming the system" is extremely fine. I thought it might be time for a few guidelines on what to do when you know another user personally.

This might seem like common sense but some people struggle with these particular moralities.

  1. When you ask questions…

    • Don't prepare an answer for your friend and let them answer it. Answer it yourself.
    • Do give everybody an equal chance. Your friend's answer may not be the best.
  2. When you visit the site…

    • Do browse around like you would for anything else.
    • Don't overexpose yourself to your friends' profiles.
    • Don't open their answer list and vote for each.
  3. When you view a question with multiple answers and one of those is from your friend…

    • Do read all the answers.
    • Don't blindly vote for your friend.

Note: This list is by no means exhaustive. If people can think of some good additions, by all means edit them in. If you're unsure about things, leave a comment or an answer to discuss the point.

TL;DR: Treat your friends like any other user.

As soon as you're doing anything that could be perceived as showing a marked preference, you're probably straying the wrong side of the line.

Do this too much and you'll find out what losing a thousand reputation in a second feels like. If you continue past that point, you're an idiot and you don't want to know what hells we unleash. It probably involves a rusty spoon.

Nice to see an official opinion on this laid out in an st least semi-formal post. – hexafraction Oct 17 '12 at 21:05
None of my friends have AU account ;( – Tachyons Oct 18 '12 at 0:31
It's reassuring and most welcome to see that such steps are being taken. I can't help wondering what people hope to achieve by rigging their reps. – user25656 Oct 18 '12 at 6:23
It is sad that this needs to be pointed out. – MechMK1 Oct 19 '12 at 21:46
Just as a side note: Reputation does not reflect the "technical quality of users' answers over time" but rather the interest of AU-Users in the questions. I can write the best and most useful answer on a very narrow side topic and never get an upvote but once I write an answer with bad grammar on howto improve Youtube or Facebook slightly, I'll get thousands. That's okay and my answer still has to work, but it doesn't reflect the "technical quality" either. I still like the reputation system but its not all about quality. – con-f-use Oct 20 '12 at 10:36
A good move. I personally don't wish to see AU become another Twitter/Facebook where numbers matter more than quality (except that most people here are g33ks). – TomKat Oct 24 '12 at 17:46
TL;DR: ? Had to look that up... Too long, didn't read? – don.joey Dec 29 '12 at 10:48
@Private, Oli is trying to say that you don't have to read that part to understand the question and it is not essential to read. Another version of TL;DR is 'too long, don't read'. – Mochan Jan 14 '13 at 5:24
Few months ago we have one guy here and I think he was removed after one month or so. I found many times his reputation roll-backing. – Raja Feb 7 '13 at 17:31
That just had 42 votes. It feels somehow significant. – MadTux Mar 9 '13 at 0:13
@ALL-USER : Be Ethical. – Pandya May 2 '14 at 9:13
I would plus one simply for the image in my head after 'it probably involves a rusty spoon' – DaveM May 20 '15 at 17:33
+1 for 'it probably involves a rusty spoon'. – DaveM Jun 18 '15 at 14:45

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