The fake expert is not that concerning but providing affiliate links with no disclosure is a real concern and is rife across the internet and growing . Obviously this company came clean once the journalists got onto them.
The only practical way to avoid what you’re calling “shoddy journalism” would be to have a single international register of vetted and accredited blog authors.
Is that really an outcome you want?
One verifies as feasible, but one also punishes intentional violations of trust severely.
They changed their story, but we don't know that what they say now is true and they have a track record of intentional, per-meditated deceit.
Though the most successful founders are usually good people, they tend to have a piratical gleam in their eye. They're not Goody Two-Shoes type good. Morally, they care about getting the big questions right, but not about observing proprieties. That's why I'd use the word naughty rather than evil. They delight in breaking rules, but not rules that matter.
Sam Altman of Loopt is one of the most successful alumni, so we asked him what question we could put on the Y Combinator application that would help us discover more people like him. He said to ask about a time when they'd hacked something to their advantage—hacked in the sense of beating the system, not breaking into computers. It has become one of the questions we pay most attention to when judging applications.
For instance, it makes sense to all people to choose for themselves whether to smoke. It also makes sense to protect people from food poisoning. Does it make sense to disallow the sale of raw milk because somebody might get sick but allow the sale of cigarettes with a big sticker that smoking will kill you?
Sometimes the sense of something changes between the small picture and the large picture. So it is with deciding which rules are ok to break.
Assuming that lawmaking systems are altruistic and incapable of folly. In practice that doesn't work
I want you to adhere to this principle only up to an admittedly subjective bar (e.g. circumventing a tyranical regime). But a lot of the "mischief" being described here is probably well within the threshold.
As opposed to assuming all those that will individually assess and decide what rules are worth following won't diverge in "interesting" (read as dangerous and life-threatening) ways occasionally as the inexperienced, the unethical, or the just plain stupid make choices we would all rather as a society they not.
Again, all rules involve trade-offs. It may be that those trade-offs or preferentially unfairly benefit some special interest group or otherwise aren't worth the cost to society, but it's not up to profit-seeking hucksters to unilaterally make that determination.
(obviously, I'm not saying that no one should ever break an unjust law, but I don't believe for a second that we should allow profit-motivated companies to be good judges of what are just and unjust laws)
This isn't even a No True Scotsman, it's literally contradictory.
You first implied that there are plenty of rules that are completely pointless - mitigating no negative externalities. I challenged you to provide an example of a start-up whose business was based on breaking those kinds of rules - since usually the reason you can make money off rule-breaking in the first place is because you're externalizing the costs onto the rest of society.
I then said that rule-making is a trade-off, and that you don't get to unilaterally decide those trade-offs are illegitimate because you want to make money. In the case of medical marijuana, yes, obviously, there are negative social consequences to selling marijuana and there are people who would vigorously argue in favor of federal drug laws. But these clinics are not unilaterally operating in defiance of federal drug laws; they have the backing of the government of their states.
Of course, there are also plenty of profiteers who just break the law and then reinvest the profits in the task of forcing communities to accept their social irresponsibility and lawlessness as a fait accompli (AirBNB, Uber).
If you really want to think seriously about these issues, you need to move beyond just name-dropping 'logical fallacies' to try and win arguments.
You crossed into personal incivility here and again later. Would you please not do that, regardless of how wrong someone else is?
Long tit-for-tat back-and-forths are tedious anyhow, and it's better to abstain from them on HN, though I know how hard that can be.
I do want to think seriously about these issues, and I think that's exactly what my challenge accomplished.
As a further question: why is a startup imposing externalities on its surrounding communities (like those two) necessarily in the wrong, whereas a state can do the same (legalizing marijuana has effects on neighboring states) without moral qualms?
Is the problem really the law breaking, or that you just dislike the motives for doing so?
Honestly, I think this contradiction is a bad example to show a "rule that can be broken with no negative effect" and more a hint that you guys have some bigger problems that should be addressed.
But if you do take it as an example, I think it comes down to who decides a rule is "non-essential". In the marijuana case, it was itself decided by an established and elected body (the state administration) yet in the OP's case, it was the the rule-breakers themselves who decided that rule is OK to be broken.
Regarding the who decides, I agree that makes a difference inside the state itself. But what about its effects on the neighboring states, which had no say on the matter? To reuse my example in the other post, if a democratic country decides to dump pollutants on a river that goes to their neighboring country, is that action less wrong than if a company decided to do so?
And further, what if that company is a coop with a democratic decision model?
If it is, I apologize. I've re-read your first post (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16928822) a number of times and sincerely cannot find it.
you're apparently now seriously arguing that there is no difference between handful of guys in a start-up making a decision to ignore regulations for profit and a policy decision made by a body of democratically elected representatives
I think there's a difference inside the territory controlled by that democratic body, but not outside. If a democratic country decides to dump pollutants on a river that goes to their neighboring country, is that action less wrong than if a company decided to do so? In my view, not really.
At the margin, yes. LendEDU's behaviour, here, is far from the margin.
One element is in choosing sensible battles. Uber and Airbnb fought municipal governments. Zenefits got creative with states and Theranos with the federal government. They (EDIT: Uber and Airbnb) each also fought their battles in a way that made (a) investors money and (b) consumers happy. In this case, the ones being deceived are the consumers. In the process of being sold lending products. That's stupid, desperate rule breaking.
Pardon me, I mis-spoke. I was using Uber and Airbnb as (limited) examples of productive rule breaking and Zenefits and Theranos as counter-examples of imprudent illegality.
If you "break the rules that don't matter" and leave the resulting mess for others to solve, that's not "naughty", it's just plain amoral.
Uber undermined labor laws only in the sense that they tried to get states to overrule local labor laws that were crowding their ability to keep drivers as contractors. That's just normal business, calling it "undermining" is, again, disingenuous at best.
What's the Reason?
For if it prosper:
None dare call it treason.
Concepts like validated learning and kaizen are more useful IMO.
It's not. And if you do this, you're likely doing it at least as much for yourself and the increase in social capital you are afforded for playing along as you are to actually make the other person feel better.
The truly honest person or the person that really was just looking to help the other the most would probably look for a middle ground where more truth was used, while possibly attempting to minimize pain.
This doesn't necessarily mean stop doing it (society runs on this), but at least own up to "pumping her state" because you get benefits for being the one that did the "pumping".
That is, the lambasting is purely about paying more attention to the transactional nature of these things, instead of viewing them as a matter of someone gives, and someone takes.
The "doesn't necessarily mean stop doing it (society runs on this)" portion is mainly about societal transactions in general. If you stop, you'll be ostracized unless you have enough capital of one form or another that it doesn't matter.
This seems 100% true.
They did not disclose their connection to LendEDU and if LendEDU profited from their fraudulent pretenses or representations then there you have it.
I'm no lawyer, but making a fraudulent identity for the sake of controlling student lending seems on its face very wrong.
With Drew Cloud and The Student Loan Report, they pretended to be a single person who has personal experience with whatever, but definitely no affiliation with LendEDU. So if LendEDU paid them (or gave them any other benefits) to talk positively about them and steer business towards them, it is fraudulent.
Are tech entrepreneurs viewed as inept at communication and thus need a proxy to speak publicly?
Why not make such statements through a spokesperson or the CEO?
edit: I'm not seeing any deep description of the audience, other than as sheep who provide clicks, which is worrying. Surely knowing the audience is important?
Curious to hear how this got past their vetting processes.
So the fact checking focused on the surveys conducted, the methodology, etc - not whether Drew Cloud was a real person.
(Also, I'm a real person so it's possible they do this type of vetting and I never experienced it because... well, I'm real)
2. Curious to hear how this is even slightly relevant to the issue.
And then it was changed to the current, more clickbaity one. Why? (I'm saying "clickbaity" because the fake person's name, which was relevant information, was omitted.)
Is this for real or just bogus results from an unscientific survey?
>Mark Kantrowitz, a well-known student loan expert, said he suspected there might be a connection between LendEDU and Student Loan Report because both claimed a statistical degree of precision from their surveys he said was inconsistent with their sample sizes.... "It stood out as something both sites do, but no one else does," Kantrowitz said. "The use of two decimal points of precision also suggested that some of their surveys were complete fabrications."
I'm not a statistics expert, so could someone tellmy why using two decimal points of precision suggests survey data fabrication.
If you use too many decimal in a report in the physics lab the T.A. will yell at you and ask you to redo it.
I'm not sure that the two decimals is a sign of fabrication, but it's a sign of sloppy work, like someone that just copy all the decimals that Excel shows in the screen, probably because they don't know enough statistic or they don't care, and I'd take all the conclusions with suspicion, and even take a look at the methodology to collect the data (and try to ensure the data is not fabricated).
To get a result with two decimal points, let's say something like 26.21%, and be sure that the 1 has some meaning and it is not a just a blob of ink you need a lot of subjects in your sample. A naïve analysis is to have at least 10000. If you have only 103 you get the last 1 in the division but it's meaningless, you can't expect that if you make a bigger and better pool you will get a result that has a 1 there. But it is worse, because the confidence interval decrease like the square root, so you need something like 10000^2. (There are some constants here and there, so perhaps you can get away with a smaller sample, like 10000000 instead of 100000000, but I'm never remember the details, but 100 is not enough.)
He's going to have to stop describing himself that way.
I am not against personas per-se, but that should be evident.
I always thought that some scammy websites use pictures of models in place of the actual author but I didn't expect a downright fabrication!
I am familiar with the term from usability testing/profiling, where it is a tool used internally. Pretty sure the originators of the concept there did not mean the "personas" to be presented as real people to... well, anyone at all. I don't understand them as being meant to be shared with the public at all. I don't think those who developed the concept in the field of "user experience" would take the "innovation" in the term as a compliment.
A persona is a character played by an actor. In this case, ghostwriters are playing the part of the expert.
Cause he was a fake 'expert' meant to shill products too. In that case, a fake movie critic created by Sony to sell its worst movies.
As it turned out, misleading customers that way was illegal, and hence as mentioned on the wiki page:
> On August 3, 2005, Sony made an out-of-court settlement and agreed to refund $5 each to dissatisfied customers who saw Hollow Man, The Animal, The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, or Vertical Limit in American theatres, as a result of Manning's reviews.
Wonder if something similar could happen here?
Can a pseudonym legally advise someone?
My opinion is that the pseudonym is a clever way to share things that you don't want directly associated with yourself, or things that are embarrassing, etc.
It should be allowed, pseudonyms have been used for thousands of years in literature.
If you're not face to face with a legal adviser and able to ask for ID, then you DON'T HAVE a reasonable expectation of authenticity, although I don't know if that factor matters, by the letter of the law.
This is thought provoking stuff!
Potential issues are more around advertising standards, disclosure etc...
Once pitched a similar idea (without the fake persona) in a previous role - we create a separate news source for the industry, and post the occasional "sponsored update" about our company. I scrapped pursuing it as the CEO didn't want the disclosure statement that it was connected to us prominently on every page. No way I was going to do it under the table, for exactly these kind of reasons.
If a blog about, say, coffee was run by this company under the name "Drew Cloud," nobody would care.
In my view this should mark the end of their careers. They should be welcomed to see the error of their ways and try again with better ethics. Unfortunately this is not how it will go. There is great demand for professional liars, and these authors will not have to stop and think over.
If you're going to lie, make sure your motives are above personal gain.
Well, have I just binned the entire industry of ghostwriters as liars over this minor outrage? Or is it different if the person I'm writing for actually exists? I'll have to mull this over.
I'm not convinced it isn't illegal, given Shop Tutors, Inc. d/b/a LendEDU works with lenders.
Their "Best Personal Loans for 2018" page  lists SoFi, Citizens Bank, Goldman Sachs, Prosper, Upgrade, FreedomPlus, Upstart, Lightstream, Lending Club, Payoff, Best Egg, Avant and Lending Point, as well as itself, lenders who presumably pay LendEDU a referral fee. If you have a relationship with one of these firms, it might make sense to drop them this article in a support message.
If you borrowed through LendEDU, or know someone who did, file a consumer complaint with (a) the FTC , (b) your state financial services regulator and (c) your state attorney general .
I would also suggest filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) .
 https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/ | (855) 411-2372
While I emphatically agree with the gist of your comment, the one problem I have with the quoted part above is that I don't see how the first sentence squares with the second.
When Stephen Glass was found to have fabricated stories for the New Republic, he wasn't given a do-over. He had to switch careers. I think that's the right way to handle fabrication.
Maybe those are minor differences, but "Ann Landers" "Dear Abby" "Dear Prudence" and similar feel different than a corporate team of people working on behalf of a loan refinance company giving you advice about loans.
In a related vein, learning that Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene (famous for _The Hardy Boys_ and _Nancy Drew_ novels) were really whole teams of ghostwriters surprised me. I had always thought they were similar to the advice columnists, with one person adopting the pen name for a long run.
One day I came into the kitchen and he was studying the newspaper. "At first, was very concerned..." he said, in a thick-but-very-clear Russian accent. (Georgian, I think, though I wouldn't know) "...giving so much power to a woman." Indeed, he was speaking with great gravitas. "But is very wise, this...'Dear Abby'"
Another time he bought a used car from a woman and one day he had the hood up and was shaking his head. "Can tell was owned by woman. Very dirty." Note he wasn't talking about anything INTERNAL, but the actual external surfaces of the engine. Same issue...pretty sure he was serious, but not positive.
He was, however, greatly impressed by the female nurses he encountered (when having liver issues, likely due to using vodka in place of water) - his version of Russian female nurses sound more like a movie brute orderly than an RN.
I have a hard time believing that if the question was posed "are you real?" the answer would have been "I'm traveling between conferences."
Edit: it was Esther Lederer, linked to from another comment
Undisclosed conflicts of interest are an issue whether or not you sign your real name.
If this is a crime lock me up.
Who isn’t lying in some way at work everyday?
Most people. A chief commercial skill is knowing to keep quiet or change topics instead of saying something unambiguously untrue.
Whether it's sufficient is a different story.
Journalists allow unnamed sources to get the truth out. In doing so, they substitute their own reputation for that of the source.
You’d never heard about Watergate or Abu Grhaib without anonymous sources.
which harkens back to when AirBnB spammed Craiglist users (violating Craigslist ToS and users' stated contact preferences) with fake inquiries about rental properties.
The parallel I see is that in both cases, you're introducing things into the news cycle for your own benefit. In the Submarine article, PG even talks about how shaky statistics were made more credible by insertion into publications (like a PR-driven version of this xkcd).
The difference between submarine tactics and what happened here was that the data was outright false instead of merely cherry-picked or optimistic. However, a journalist who is doing their job will catch both: they will not allow information to be presented as having a higher confidence than it actually does, whether that means promoting a number from "made up" to "reported somewhere," or promoting a number from "reported somewhere," to "credibly sourced."
So, the similarity that I see in both cases is the willingness of journalists to serve private interests by reporting error bars as less wide as they actually are; so long as they do not mis-report the mean values being focused on.
The same? No. Similar? Yes, they both involve exploiting the same bug in the system.
That's just PR.
I'm tired of PG's submarine essay. Although he's got a cute hook with the concept of "the submarine," what he describes in the article is just bog standard PR. But somehow HN folks (most of whom have no direct experience with PR themselves) have come to believe, based on PG's essay, that anything involving placing a story with a reporter is some special thing called a submarine.
Anyway, yes, this fake person is an example of PR, but the reason it's worth writing about is that it's a great example of truly shitty PR. Reporters live to find out The Truth, and they hate to get lied to or fooled. Anyone who put Drew Cloud in their stories is going to be pissed off at LendEDU for a long time. Pissing off reporters and editors is generally considered to be a bad PR strategy.
As others have pointed out, the practice of writing behind a pseudonym, in of itself, doesn't seem all that nefarious. Think: ghostwriters or reddit making up a bunch of fake accounts to simulate website activity.
The practice of spreading misinformation is bad, but none of the misinformation they spread seems practically damaging.
Not sure why, but this seems to be getting a lot more attention than it deserves. Give them a break?
smallgovt is a psuedonym; you're not claiming it's a real name of a real person, and making up a fake backstory, and getting quoted in the Washington Post.