16

This question asks how to fake bittorrent traffic. It received some up- and downvotes, 7:7 by time of me writing this. :) Wow!

Obviously, some massive commenting had been started, and Marco Ceppi suggests to open a thread on meta, if we like to close the question.

Given the large volume of discussion regarding this I encourage all those who believe this should be closed on grounds of ethics to open a meta question for discussion.

Now I don't suggest to close the question. It isn't fair play, but maybe there are legitimate reasons to fake the traffic. It seems unfair to me, but not such an issue to close the post.

On the other hand, the user should pay the price for such unfair behaviour, so I would suggest to downvote, but not to close.

Now I observed an paradox effect: While 7:7 looks like a neutral question, with 0 reputation gain, the secret balance is 7*5 reputation in upvotes vs. 7*2 reputation in downvotes. And the people, playing the judge, are those paying the price.

But I don't open a new thread on core-meta, suggesting a very new ruleset for reputation in all aspects, but that we live with it heroically.

23

I think that topic should remain open and should be answered if there is a program to fake a ratio.

It might be considered un-ethical but besides it not being illegal in any country a method to create a fake ratio should be considered a bug in the torrent program/protocol. And it is not the Ubuntu way to keep a bug to yourself.

Making it open to all that there is a method allows for the torrent program creators to also create counter measurements (even if it is just blocking that version of a torrent program).

Please don't be concerned if you receive downvotes – members of the community may simply disagree with your bug, feature request, support issue, or the nature of the discussion."

... so the downvotes I am not concerned about: the upvotes will always outweigh the downvotes.

  • So you agree with me not to close the topic, but you don't say anything about up- or downvoting, but it sounds more like a suggestion or sympathy for upvoting. Right? – user unknown Sep 10 '11 at 0:31
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    The faq is rather clear on downvoting ;-) – Rinzwind Sep 10 '11 at 1:07
  • Though I think the community should warn about it being a bad practice and state the reasons why it is a bad practice. We don't want to give rise to bad practice. – N.N. Sep 11 '11 at 13:12
  • sure but the question already stated it as 'unethical' (though I also assume that is what caused the downvoting...). – Rinzwind Sep 11 '11 at 13:16
  • @Rinzwind I agree with your general point. But what you've quoted about downvotes applies only to meta, and not to main. On main downvotes should not generally be used to express disagreement. – Eliah Kagan Mar 6 '13 at 0:15
9

I think the question should remain open. We are not here to question ethics of people's inquiries, we're merely here to answer Ubuntu-related questions in a quick, precise manner.

  • I also think the question should remain open but not for these reasons (see my answer for reasons). This site is for learning about community and how to use Ubuntu systems in a good way and this is somewhat reflected by votes. It's absurd that there'd be no ethical or qualitative aspect to inquiries that we should care about. Would you answer any question even if it asks for something awful? – N.N. Sep 11 '11 at 13:08
  • @N.N Well, within common sense. Answering this question does not hurt Ubuntu or its users in any way, unless an Ubuntu user is a peer on that same torrent. I'm sure the person asking the question knows the rules he is possibly violating on whatever torrent site he's using. If he wants to get in trouble, it's on him. We shouldn't really worry about it. – Thomas Boxley Sep 11 '11 at 18:31
4

Close for immorality/unethicality only when it's truly important.

We might close some posts because they are unethical or immoral, but the unseedy character of this post is far too trivial to justify that. This particular post (and most posts asking how to do things that some people don't like, so long as there is nothing else wrong with them) should remain open.

I think that if we are going to close a question on moral grounds, we should consider five factors. These are loose guidelines, and I do not want this idea--or anything else--adopted as an official policy on this issue. (I cannot imagine how any formal policy about this could avoid causing hugely more harm than it could ever hope to offset.)

  1. Is it asking for something that is overwhelmingly considered immoral/unethical by members of our community?
  2. Would generalizing the question to something considered ethical (or to a gray area) be inappropriate?
  3. Is the nature of the immorality considered severe, rather than minor? In particular, is the harm that would likely arise from the act large, rather than small or negligible?
  4. Is the question more conducive, or at least more directed, toward helping people perform the wrongful act, than it is to helping people oppose or defend against that act?
  5. Does the community overwhelmingly agree that the particular question should be closed? (Or, at least, is there little reason to believe otherwise?)

To be closed based on morality/ethics objections, a post should almost always meet all these criteria. If it does not, it should be possible to explain what is special about the post, so that it merits closure even if one or more of those criteria are not met.

Here, the question is asking how to deliberately misreport one's ratio while using bittorrent. Criteria 3 and 5 completely fail to apply.

  • Should people fake their ratio? No, at least not hardly ever and, if ever, then only under special, weird circumstances. Is the harm caused by someone learning to do so here very great? No, it's negligible.
  • Does the community agree this should be closed? No, the opposite is true. Right now it has 13 upvotes and 12 downvotes, has remained open even after substantial discussion, and the answers here in favor of allowing it are far more popular (by votes) than the answers in favor of prohibiting it. Please note that this point still holds if we ignore the part about what's been expressed on meta.

(By the way, 1 is also a hard sell, and even 4 is not totally clear.)

Disclaimer: Please let's not create any formal, general policy about this! The guidelines I've presented here are one idea that should be considered together with other ideas (including competing ideas) when making decisions about this, not a set of rules to apply formally!

A code of conduct violation?!

@psusi has presented a possible alternative reason to close the question, saying that it violates the code of conduct.

In comments there so far, the fundamental issue of whether or not it does has been obscured by discussion of who is required to abide by the Code of Conduct, and to what extent. Actually, psusi is quite right to say that our actions on this site are subject to the Ubuntu CoC, whether or not we have signed it on Launchpad. psusi should be credited for raising awareness about this. (See the Stack Exchange network's terms of service, which explicitly specifies this for Ask Ubuntu; see also our FAQ.)

However, this question does not violate the code of conduct. It does not even come close.

This is the argument that it does violate the code of conduct:

Lieing to others ( about your ratio in this case ) is disrespectful, which the CoC forbids.

Let's make this a little more formal. Please note that, while I've formatted this as a blockquote so it's clear where my restatement begins and ends, I am not attributing this specific forumlation to psusi, only claiming that I believe it to be a faithful formalization of what he did say.

  1. Faking a ratio is necessarily lying.
  2. Lying is necessarily disrespectful.
  3. Acting disrespectfully is necessarily a violation of the Code of Conduct.

Therefore, any question asking how to fake a ratio violates the Code of Conduct.

As it stands here (and as it's written in psusi's answer), this argument is not valid. That is, its conclusion does not follow from its premises. To make it a valid argument, it's necessary to add another premise, which I presume was intended to be considered implicit to the argument:

  1. Faking a ratio is necessarily lying.
  2. Lying is necessarily disrespectful.
  3. Acting disrespectfully is necessarily a violation of the Code of Conduct.
  4. Asking how to do something that would violate the Code of Conduct if done, is itself a violation of the Code of Conduct.

Therefore, any question asking how to fake a ratio violates the Code of Conduct.

Now this is a logically valid argument. But it is not sound. That is, we should not believe its conclusion, because at least one of its premises is false. In fact, all of its premises are false. (Only one has to be false for it to be uncompelling, of course.)

  1. Faking a ratio is necessarily lying.

    Causing a computer to report false information to another computer is not lying. It might constitute lying under some circumstances. It doesn't under most circumstances.

    Let's assume for the sake of discussion that questions asking how to lie should be closed. If causing a computer to report false information to another computer is lying, we better close all those firewall questions! Reporting that a machine isn't there, or that an open port is closed? Tsk, tsk. And don't get me started on port knocking.

    Anybody ever configure a BitTorrent program to look like another BitTorrent program, or a web browser to report it's another web browser? Liar! Use a web browser that doesn't send your actual email address as the password for anonymous ftp? Liar! Take a job as a penetration tester, and actually do the job? Liar! Scan a network with nmap and spoof probes from other IP addresses? Liar!

    Most of these examples involve real deceptive intent, so it would be nontrivial to show that ratio faking is categorically different.

  2. Lying is necessarily disrespectful.

    Lying is not always disrespectful and in fact is sometimes the only respectful action possible. This is for the same reason that deception in general is not always disrespectful. Even people who are generally against lying recognize this.

    But faking a ratio, that's disrespectful, right? Well, to whom? Disrespect is not the only source of wrong. Faking a ratio can be wrong even if it is not disrespectful. What's the human relationship in which disrespect is occurring, when my computer lies to some other computers?

    Suppose I'm on a crappy Internet connection that sends a lot of corrupted data. This doesn't corrupt anyone's whole download, of course, since BitTorrent has excellent error checking. But it may render me an inefficient and poorly contributing member of a swarm, even if enough good data are received that my ratio is high. Is this disrespectful, too? Who makes that judgment?

    To see how ratio-faking is fundamentally not an issue of respect, consider the following hypothetical scenario:

    Mary writes and publishes a proprietary book, so making and distributing copies of the book breaks copyright laws somewhere. To her chagrin, she finds a torrent that claims to provide the audio version of her book. To investigate the matter, she decides to download the torrent, but doesn't want to help others to get it this way, because:

    1. If it is her book, she doesn't want them torrenting it (and perhaps is concerned that if she uploads part of the book, then as the author she may be implicitly grating permission to distribute it this way).
    2. If it is not her book, then she would be helping to fool people, which she does not want to do either.

    So she decides to disable uploading, but she cannot download the whole audiobook. So she decides to fake her ratio.

    Is this controversial? It is possible that it's wrong for Mary to do this? Yes, that's a reasonable position. Is it disrespectful? If it's not disrespectful for Mary to do this, then even if it somehow is in other contexts, this is hardly an edge case. Copyright holders find torrents offering their proprietary content all the time.

    In any case, even if faking a ratio is disrespectful, thus far this has not been demonstrated. All we have is a false generalization, and that is not enough reason to form an opinion, much less condemn something as a CoC violation.

  3. Acting disrespectfully is necessarily a violation of the Code of Conduct.

    I'm looking at CoC 2.0, since that is the current version. If something goes against an ealier CoC but not against CoC 2.0, I think it's quite unreasonable to say that it violates the Code of Conduct, especially for purposes of site moderation.

    CoC 2.0 says:

    Be respectful

    Disagreement is no excuse for poor manners. We work together to resolve conflict, assume good intentions and do our best to act in an empathic fashion. We don't allow frustration to turn into a personal attack. A community where people feel uncomfortable or threatened is not a productive one.

    The CoC is telling us to act respectfully when we communicate with one another. It's saying we are to treat each other with respect when disagreeing with each other.

    So for example, if I have failed to write this post respectfully, that clearly falls under the CoC and I should be called out on it; in that situation, I should apologize and act to remedy the situation.

    If I hang up on a telemarketer, or pay by check at the grocery store where they allow it but prefer cash/credit, that is not covered by the CoC even if it is "disrespectful" in some larger sense. Even if the telemarketer or store clerk incidentally turns out to be Mark Shuttleworth.

  4. Asking how to do something that would violate the Code of Conduct if done, is itself a violation of the Code of Conduct.

    The Code of Conduct does not say that, nor anything like it.

Why have I picked the argument apart like this?

I have done this because, with loose enough interpretation, the Code of Conduct can be used as a hammer to make any point or knock any controversial question down. Or, worse but just as easily, to knock down any person, though fortunately, I do not believe that is happening in this situation.

Arguments that a question violates the CoC and should be closed are not universally bad or wrong. But if we want the CoC to retain its utility, then I think the more aggressive or broadly applicable this sort of argument is, especially (as here) when it's about what the CoC "forbids," the more carefully critical a view of it we must be prepared to take.

3

Sometimes a question asks for what is considered bad practice. Giving a direct answer to the question might be a clear description on how to achieve what's considered bad. In writing such an answer I think that, if the person writing is aware of it, it's important that writer warn about it being a bad practice, e.g. "don't do this!" or "you should try to find another way to solve this because this is bad for this and that reason!". After all the OP is asking for help and if they've misunderstood or are ignorant about something they might be happy to learn about it. This is also important to stop other ignorant people reading the answer from taking up the bad practice.

There might be indirect answers to these questions too, some way to not end up where you'll have to do something bad. Keeping questions open gives the chance of these sorts of answers to appear.

Also, there might be questions that are so bad for the community that we don't want them, e.g. "How do I violate this software license and get away with it?", "How do I cause damage to x part of Ubuntu's infrastructure?"

  • Your "bad for the community" examples seem off-topic, and not obviously bad for the community. For example, to be narrow enough in scope to have any possibility of being on-topic, wouldn't the latter example essentially equivalent to "Is x part of Ubuntu's infrastructure vulnerable to attack A?" (But I do strongly agree with your point about directly answering a question with both an explaining of how to do it and why not to is often a good thing.) – Eliah Kagan Mar 5 '13 at 23:43
2

It violates the code of conduct and so should be closed.

Lieing to others ( about your ratio in this case ) is disrespectful, which the CoC forbids.

  • 1
    I didn't sign a CoC. – user unknown Nov 5 '11 at 16:39
  • @userunknown, so what? It still describes policy for the site. – psusi Nov 7 '11 at 14:46
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    Maybe I misunderstand you. Are you talking about Canonicals CoC, or an AU-CoC? Can you link to this CoC? – user unknown Nov 7 '11 at 22:33
  • @userunknown, I'm talking about the Ubuntu CoC, which I would think we would be promoting here as part of the Ubuntu community. – psusi Nov 8 '11 at 1:11
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    Are you refering to this: ubuntu.com/project/about-ubuntu/conduct document? I would never sign a conduct, where I promise how to behave in private e-mails. If you read it, for example Wherever possible, we should work closely with upstream projects ..., you'll notice, that it is made for Canonical stuff, not for arbitrary users. It is off topic. It is important that we resolve disagreements and differing views constructively and with the help of the community and community processes. We have the Technical Board, the Community Council, and a series of other governance bodies ... – user unknown Nov 8 '11 at 1:54
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    @userunknown, it is for all members of the Ubuntu community, not just Canonical employees. I believe askubuntu.com is part of the Ubuntu community, and so we abide by and/or promote the principals of the Ubuntu CoC. – psusi Nov 8 '11 at 20:19
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    Do you have a Technical Board to solve disputes? Where is it? What and where is the Community Council and said governance bodies? I don't feel bound to this CoC; I was not involved in creating it, and never participated in a voting about it. Nobody asked me to sign it, and I wouldn't sign a contract, which rules my behaviour for public meeting or private correspondence. That is a totalitarian claim. – user unknown Nov 9 '11 at 2:00
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    @userunknown, whether or not you agree with it or signed it does not mean this site does not promote it. – psusi Nov 9 '11 at 19:11
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    The CoC is quite ubiquitous for users active on Launchpad. – ζ-- Aug 29 '12 at 12:53
  • You only want to fake ratio with private trackers that serve mostly illegal content (at least I have never seens any private trackers that require some ratio that server legal content). So yeah.. the lie seems not as bad then, when you are lying to make your contribution to the illegal activity less impactful (as you wont be uploading as much) – Emile Vrijdags Mar 23 '17 at 18:09
1

I initially upvoted the question, but after giving it a second thougt, I'm all for closing it.

I just don't see any legitimate reasons to fake traffic, so answering this is nothing but enabling the user to break an agreement between him and the tracker operator.

In contrast, asking for zero upload clients seems fine to me. Disabling the upload might be a way to (temporarily) get the user full upload bandwidth for other purposes, or prevent expensive traffic with mobile internet solutions. Most importantly: the BitTorrent protocol doesn't force you to upload, so you aren't violating any agreements like in the above case.

  • A agreement between the user and tracker operator? Your argument only makes sense if such an agreement is universal, which seems very unlikely. I have used many trackers that did not ask me to agree to anything. Furthermore, even the weaker claim (which is insufficient to support your thesis) that such agreements are common requires sources to back it up. – Eliah Kagan Mar 5 '13 at 23:40

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