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I encountered a user with an anomalous activity pattern while going through the Suggested Edits queue, just now. It seems like they might be trying to game the system somehow.

The suggested edit which first caught my attention looked like it might have been done on autopilot, rather than considering the audience and purpose of this stack - expanding out "2fa" to "2fa(Two-factor authentication)", and added some tags that I felt were (e.g., adding lastpass despite it being about password managers in general rather than LastPass specifically). The username also looked pretty generic.

After seeing another similar (but IMO marginally worthwhile) edit from the same user, I decided to dig a bit.

Some things I noticed while doing so:

  • The user's activity is mostly comprised of suggesting edits, and from a quick glance, they look like they're all fairly surface-level and wouldn't require any infosec knowledge (edits to punctuation, capitalization, tagging, etc.). This seems like rep-farming, without regard (on their part) for whether it actually adds value or not.
  • In the activity log, there ARE 4 bounties that they've offered, on questions by a different user. That seems odd, but maybe they want an answer to those questions?
  • But then, I noticed that the bounties were all placed on questions asked by a single other user. At which point, I decided to post on meta with "this looks overtly suspicious".

Two concerns I have currently:

  • This doesn't look like the sort of activity pattern I'd expect from a genuine user, and I'm wondering if this is some attempt at gaming the system.
  • Even if it's not, this feels like an annoyingly bad signal-to-noise ratio in the edit queue. Do we really want a large batch of capitalization-related edits, when the original capitalization is unlikely to impede comprehension? (I should perhaps ask this point as a separate question)
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    To double-check Meta usage on this stack: posting here IS an appropriate way to put a low-urgency message where mods can see it, right? I'm pretty sure it is, but it's the first time I've had a need to do so. – Ethan Kaminski Oct 9 '18 at 17:41
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    I believe this is the correct place, yes, since it's more than just a suspicious activity report. – forest Oct 10 '18 at 4:45
  • @EthanKaminski Yes. – Jeff Ferland Oct 11 '18 at 2:12
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I see no apparent overlap from a moderator's perspective. The "generically named" account has a presence on other network sites and positive contribution going back years.

If the edits aren't helpful / worth it, they can be rejected and that will carry a signal. For now, I'm not inclined to step in. That said, I think you asked the right questions about the right things in the right place.

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they might be trying to game the system

In a way, it's the right way to use the Stack Exchange network. Which is largely based on... well, gamification.

If you need to get your question answered on a site which main idea is gamification, then you need to put up a decent bounty for someone who is eager to get it. To put up the bounty, you need enough gamification points. If you don't have enough expertise for answering questions, the only way to get gamification points is to do a lot of meaningless edits. So, although indeed irritating for those frequenting the review queue, this strategy is fairly within the guidelines and one could say even encouraged.

After all, those who frequent the review queue may comfort themselves with new badge. This is how gamification works.

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