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Thanks to Winterbash, there are a lot of interesting and fun activities that gain you fancy headgear. Some of these activities are normal use of the site, and some are a bit trickier to get.

Some users, in their mad chase of the ever elusive perfect hair covering, have resorted to gaming the hatsystem. For example, using Incognito / Private browsing to force the system to allow them to create a suggested edit (instead of just editing directly).

Aside from any defacement or garbage filling our collective mindstreams (which should be dealt with the same as if it were hatless), how should we deal with hatwhoring?

Just ignore it, since they will be going away soon, back to Hatland in the Headware Galaxy where they came from? Treat it all as just good fun, or maybe even the point of the whole thing?

  • +1 for the wonderfully odd sounding question title that grabbed my attention in the Community Bulletin (-: – hippietrail Dec 19 '13 at 14:05
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As long as they don't impact the site negatively, I think they are a bit of fun at end of year and will be gone soon. So far, the only downside I see is a few older questions bumped to the front by minor edits

Conversely, if it brings in some new members then it could be very positive.

We should still stamp down hard on the normal infractions, and if something is causing problems, flag, edit or VTC and mods can help deal with it.

(disclosure - I did at least two of the activities which would come under this activity. One of which was to post an admittedly weak question that we were going to delete. Bizarrely it has already got 19k views)

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    To be clear, I'm not talking about hats in general, but the slightly-dishonest gaming, to get around the "normal" rules, like the example I gave. – AviD Dec 19 '13 at 11:55
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    Are we finding folks are reverting the edit after they have the hat? Or are they good edits? Either of these two use cases I wouldn't worry about. – Rory Alsop Dec 19 '13 at 11:57
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    It brought me to the site as a new user, not specifically to farm hats but the fun rewards did play a part in it. Hopefully I can contribute something worthwhile. I've already learned a lot just from browsing questions and getting used to the format of questions and answers. – thanby Dec 20 '13 at 19:38
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"Farming" calls for gaming comparisons. In the famous NetHack game (not related to Information Security, despite the name), some people have found a way to enhance their characters to arbitrarily high levels, through a tedious process called Pudding Farming. Many NetHack players consider it to be somewhat of a cheat, and a debate on whether this should be disabled in the game mechanics has been triggered. A member of the fabled "DevTeam" (the people who come up with new NetHack versions, albeit not very often) have responded with the pearl of wisdom which, mutatis mutandi, tends to apply to the present hat situation equally well:

The DevTeam has arranged an automatic and savage punishment for pudding farming. It's called pudding farming.

In plain words, hat-whoring is automatically punished through the tediousness of the operations needed to effectively hat-whore. In that sense, I agree with @Rory: as long as it does not break anything in the overall site mechanics, let it slide.

The difference with games on reputation (and badges) is that the rep count is permanent and is an element of what attracts users and keeps them active. Gaming the rep/badge system thus incurs what can be seen as permanent damage. Whereas all the hats will evaporate way before you begin to recover from New Year's hangover.

3

Treat hat farming exactly the same way you would treat anything else, including badge farming, reputation farming, and normal use of the site.

What disruption are these users causing? I've seen various behaviors, including

  • Spending more time in the review queues.
  • Piling on flags in the 10k queues.
  • Some bizarre comment threads on meta sites.
  • Chat stars being handed left and right.
  • More self-answered questions than usual. A few more bounties, too.
  • Weird edits (in various forms).

Some of these behaviors are good, some are bad, some are neutral. I have a hard time finding using incognito mode to create a suggested edit to be harmful. It could be used for review badge gaming as well (oddly enough, I've never seen that particular form of review badge gaming). Some users have been making bogus tag edits; this causes more disruption as it bumps threads for no good reason. Still, not a hanging offense.

If a user is truly disruptive, feel free to tell them not to have their fun at the expense of others. Whether they're doing it for hats, badges, reputation or sadistic enjoyment is irrelevant — if they're disruptive, they have to stop, and if they aren't, there's nothing to take offense at.

  • Honestly, I feel that gaming the system to make permanent changes (rep/badge changes) is indeed disruptive. If not, then let's have a "Summer Bash", a 2 week period which would be the only period in which we gain rep and then they disappear after that. – Adi Dec 22 '13 at 17:24
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Nope, we shouldn't let this one slide.

Whomever found guilty of engaging in those activities shall be suspended, have his offending post removed and the offending action reversed, all of his/her hats taken away, his lunch money taken, hanged on a high pole using his undies, and his/er browsing history disclosed on the homepage of Sec.SE.

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    You lost me at disclosing browsing history. Those browser bugs were plugged, you clueless noob. ;-) – AviD Dec 19 '13 at 16:30
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    Taking away lunch money is widely regarded as cruel and unusual punishment. Forcing the individual in question to eat his/her winter hats would be much more merciful. – Deer Hunter Dec 21 '13 at 19:00
  • The official answer is only suspension and hat removal. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Dec 21 '13 at 22:06

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