I'm kinda bummed I didn't submit this myself. I would've loved to cash in on those most precious of internet points. Oh, well. :)
To address the question of discussing this publicly: I don't think I'm doing them any favours right now. I'd like to think that the developer crowd (especially the one at HN) is not as easily swayed by competitions, challenges and brands as to forget sleazy behaviour like this.
I'm calling them out publicly because our places of discussion are very rarely guarded by tall walls. Instead, they let everyone in (and that's what makes them great). The price is that every once in a while we all have to push some people out. That's what I'm trying to do by writing this post.
Also, I apologize for the spelling and grammar, I wrote it early in the morning and my brain was still complaining about sleep deprivation and whatnot. Stupid brain.
P.S. also, guys, can I ask a quick favour? If anyone notices the site is down, please drop me a line (my email is in my profile). It's shared hosting and I'm not sure how well it will cope with top-of-HN. Especially when PST wake up.
"Samsung agency is buying off StackOverflow users"
"NSA pays £100m in secret funding for GCHQ"
Eventually people are going to learn that the way you leverage a community like that toward doing something is to become a respected member of the community yourself. It seems that today is not that say for Samsung. Honestly, they would have been smarter to just have their engineering team dedicate time to answering questions on SO every week, then have a piece done in tech media about why. That is still a bit gimmicky, I guess, but much cooler than this method.
I know that I, at least, would be really entertained to have an exchange with a Samsung engineer about a problem I was having on SO.
And let's not have the illusion that HN an pg are too smart to be manipulated by people that are at least as clever as we are but who have specialized themselves in manipulating people instead of bits and bytes.
No place where human beings gather, virtual of physical, is safe from this. It's only the clueless an lazy ones that get caught like this.
"And let's not have the illusion that HN an pg are too smart to be manipulated by people..."
You're vastly underestimating how many people are interconnected in this hodgepodge of gray matter we call HN.
Blind allegiance (or antipathy) is not how things work here.
Part of the reason this community is different from others is that the best way to respect people like pg or tptacek or anyone else who's been around is to call them on something when you disagree. I think that's how they'd like it as well.
It has nothing to do with being "smarter". It's got everything to do with being genuine.
In that regard SO is at a marked disadvantage because it's such a tempting target for drive-by dropping of bait for marketing. With the exception of a handful of long time contributors, the vast number of accounts there have no discussion between each other (since that itself leads to the question getting closed) and so they have no means to get to know each other really. That's not what happens here.
You can follow people, you can read their past threads. You can even go back and watch people evolve in their thought process with the kinds of discussions we've had. Try that on SO.
You may have missed a few threads. HN has had brand/tribe/loyalty slap-fights. More than a few. And more frequently as of late.
Blind allegiance and antipathy tend to bump into things frequently. The noise they cause makes them easy to spot.
There's noise in any community, but if it's the same alley cats, you learn to ignore them. I always scroll below to the end of the threads (one of the reasons I never seem to get anything done after landing on HN) to see what I've missed. The populist upvotes aren't always the most interesting and below aren't the least so as long as you follow your own rhythm, not swayed by language, it's easy to tell when someone tackles ideas than sentiment.
And you're vastly underestimating how easy astroturfing is to do, and how cheap/effective it is to implement with a captive audience (i.e. HN).
And, no I am not finding fault with the connection to YC or the special status, just pointing out that the HN playing field is not natural grass, and that it is that way for very reasonable reasons and that it is, in my opinion, almost certainly to the benefit of the HN community.
On a site with a larger commercial tie in, "astroturfing" like "weed" in a horticultural setting lacks scientific definition.
Also, from what I've seen, astroturfing for ideology is far more effective than for products since often that's something the participant believes in. And it's easier to elicit emotions over ideology than products (unless we're talking programming languages, but then that's sacred ground to begin with).
 SO is most certainly not a "community".
It's only the clueless an lazy ones that get caught like this.
Those seem fairly contradictory to me. Unless you are saying HN and pg are clueless and lazy, then I guess not.
This is really no different than stuffing your mailbox with flyers, sending you spam or having the tv people write product placement into your favorite show.
Evidently it works, which is really disappointing.
I guess it can be surprising when you get asked to participate in it directly, but every type of site that's driven by "the public" (Slashdot, Digg, reddit, Twitter, Stack Overflow, etc.) is going to be a target for this type of activity.
It's usually pretty obvious, and I think if we ever want it to stop I think it's important to publicly shame companies who do it like this.
But the truth is, pretty much every company does this.. except Apple.
Ans Samsung are at the top of this game. They are number 1 in spending on advertising and they spend double the advertising budget compared to 2nd in place. ( And their Rate are pretty awesome too compared to others )
You see heavy advertising on a Newspaper from Samsung? Lots of bashing and irresponsible reporting while bending the truth on Apple. Coincidence? You should make up your own mind.
Compared to all other dirty thing that Samsung does behind the scene, these things are really tips of the iceberg.
Any evidence or even subjective reasoning why I'd believe Apple is any different from any other company? In the absence of evidence I wouldn't accuse Apple of anything but only a fool would give Apple a pass on something that "every company [supposedly] does".
Lots of bashing and irresponsible reporting while bending the truth on Apple. Coincidence
Good point; Apple never trashes the competition, that's above them.
As a semi-related example, I'm sure you're familiar with product placement in TV shows and movies. Most product placement is done because the company paid for it to be there (for example, all of the Windows 8 stuff I've seen in Arrow I'm certain is paid product placement). However, despite the fact that Apple products are used frequently in TV shows and movies, Apple does not pay for product placement; all the Apple product placement you see was free.
In any case, I personally don't think Apple is the only company that doesn't engage in astroturfing. I'm sure there are many large companies out there that don't do it.
And I really have no idea what you mean with the "gimped software and drivers for other platforms" claim.
"X" instead DO not even make software or drivers for other platform ( Mac and Linux ), what do you consider those company then?
I'm a Mac, I'm a PC? Classy, well-done trashing, sure, but straight up naming-names trashing it was.
When your customer satisfaction numbers are that high, who needs to pay for astroturf?
Except in this case I don't think this claim was true at all.
Other then that I can say nothing more.
The ones that don't get invited are those that buys stolen goods to be able to show off unannounced products.
2. You rarely hear about journalists getting blacklisted from events because a. the general public rarely cares or b. if they do they call the journalist, a 'whiner'.
I think one way it can be given away is not from an individual comment, but in the context of all the comments on that story. But if it's done well, it's impossible to distinguish.
That said, I'd be really, really surprised if Apple engaged in that kind of shenanigans. Their own customers are better product evangelists than any PR shilling company could ever hope to be.
I'd have to agree, but Samsung's flavor of astroturfing is pretty gentle and benign compared to the viciousness of microsoft' attack dogs.
Thank you and please visit our web site .... Oh wait, am supposed to paste this paragraph too? I better ask John do I paste the entire email body or just the first paragraph?
I pasted the email you sent as instructed. Is it $500 per paragraph per post? I have high HN karma so my rate is $500 per paragraph. Also I responded to several posts about child trafficking because it was a very interesting discussion, hope you don't mind.
Thanks. Still waiting FOR MY Check, John!
> I heard the best apps will win great promotional prizes and the latest Samsung devices.
yes I heard of it too and I am going to submit an app! Wish me luck. I am submitting my battery draining app. By the way do you know how Samsung Touchwiz manages to heat up my phone? It is an awesome feature and it seems to be unique to Samsung because I could not find the function the Android SDK! Can you believe that?! Ha!
I really look forward to winning the new Galaxy Note as I compared it to a bunch of other Android phones and it seems that it not only offers the best hardware but also the biggest surface for heat dissipation. I have a cold currently and can't stop thinking about how awesome it would be if I could use my cell phone as a portable hot-water bag.
That reminds me of a story about Samsung and illness: 2003 I had a heart attack. I was so shaky and panicked that instead of the emergency services I dialed the Samsung hotline.
I got to speak to a support agent instantly! He calmed me down and explained to me how there is a secret resuscitation function built into my current Samsung phone then he hung up. As my heart rate came to a halt I yanked up the vibration strength in the settings menu and with his callback a powerful electric shock ran through my body giving my heart the much needed kick to start beating again.
As I thanked him he explained that this function was not openly advertised because Bill Gates had a patent on breaking bones through muscle contractions caused by an electric shock for using a Linux product. But because the implementation was too similar Samsung hid the feature.
Beat that Apple!
1. The company engaging in these tactics was not hired by Samsung; they appear to have been sub-contracted for some promotion by the company they did hire. Now, it's obviously possible that they turned a blind eye, or don't want to know what methods are used, but in fairness, there's no evidence that they had any idea this was happening. And given the directness of it all, I suspect they'd have objected, if only because it looks so bad.
2. Everyone who was contacted due to being a user on our sites has now received a follow up communication from the company that sent the first message redacting the offer and apologizing for the inappropriate contact and request.
None of that makes any of this... lovely, but it does help clarify that any potential harm or noise this might cause seems to have been contained.
Is fb, for example, a more appropriate venue, selling likes and all that? They explicitly allow sponsored posts that appear to have been made by friends. I think the marketing person figured that stack overflow was similar to fb for nerds. Whoops.
It... did not end well.
Better yet, show up in person on a Saturday before 11ish when they sell out of all their meat and enjoy some BBQ for breakfast! ;)
Last year I finally ordered one of their briskets shipped - it was nearly as good delivered. (Even as the last of its dry ice evaporated upon arrival.)
Before everyone jumps to conclusions... could it not be the case that someone with just a very small bit of budget said "Wouldn't it be great if..." and then hired this little company "I know a few guys who could..." to help promote it, failing to understand what form that promotion would take.
Of course, it can and should be argued that Samsung (and their many departments and entities) had a tighter leash for their managers and such "little" projects and initiatives... but I wouldn't argue that not having a tight enough leash is tantamount to Samsung consciously trying to bribe users.
This is where I long for journalists over bloggers... perhaps someone could find out who hired FLLU? Then perhaps someone could ask that someone the basis for the campaign and whether it was authorised by Samsung.
So they knew who they're, what they do and how they do before hiring them. Do you think this is one time mistake, not the daily work of the firm?
When I heard this news, I didn't surprise because this is what Samsung does daily basis in Korea. But it was surprise that there's a person who can imagine this happen by mistake.
Maybe they know that the HTC One is a better phone?
> If a large percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons. Our advertising rates are quite reasonable; contact our ad sales team for details. We also offer free community promotion ads for open source projects and non-profit organizations.
That would have been a lot less sleazy, and probably would have gotten more views than most questions about programming contest code.
and William Gibson's 2003 book Pattern recognition that dealt with this.
This is a pretty old and known thing. Whether it's the street, bars or online forums, this has been going on for over 10 years at least.
Still sucks that legit users end up being contacted over it though.
Samsung know that developers are the key to apps and so they go to help promote them by getting questions asked on Stack Overflow. They didn't specify exactly what the questions should be, they didn't say that they had to link to a particular site.
I often hear devs bemoan the fact that the OS/hardware combo they love isn't used by anyone and how despite the fact that it's THE best platform/hardware combo around today they just don't have the apps on it they want.
The way apps to get built on hardware is that manufacturers support and nurture a developer community. So a company comes along and uses some pretty intelligent ways to go direct to the developer community (help increase the documentation around the system) and they're lynch-mobbed for it.
Granted, the questions were naive (about a competition rather than technical) but there's no need to hang the poor guy or publish his email for it. He's a marketer and doesn't realise SO isn't for idle chat. Instead of lambasting him as the mortal enemy of devs why not just write back to him and point out that SO is the wrong place to promote a competition?
Samsung was recently fined by Taiwanese authorities for an astroturfing campaign there, though, so it's not like it's new.
B. Whatever the forum, this sort of astroturfing is undermining discourse. Yes, it's particularly out of place on SO but it'd be equally bad on XDA (where they don't even need it! Samsung have such a huge following over there that it's almost a religion!) To me, these people need to be called out on it. They need to understand that underhanded tactics will not be tolerated and I stand by every decision in this case so far (explicit or implied).
Astroturfing is one of those things that by itself probably has limited impact, but a much worse side effect: fueling paranoia in online communities and giving dumb people one more tool in their flamewar toolbox.
I can't imagine that this is the last time we'll see people trying this trick though.
The morality question may not be so black and white, though. If it's ok to accept goodies to monetize a Klout score, why not for StackExchange? Unfortunately, it only takes a small amount of people doing this for a variety of products to ruin the site.
My impression of this as an outsider hearing only one side of the story is Samsung asked an agency to help get the word out in the tech community. The agency probably knows more about advertising than digital, or views digital advertising as Twitter and Klout. I think their less than subtle approach will backfire.
By "monetize a Klout score," you mean spam your followers on social networks sites, right? That seems pretty morally clear to me.
Kim Kardashian gets paid to plug god knows what, and it's not immoral to be a shill.
That isn't to say that I would do it. (I won't) But it isn't black and white. It might be a dark gray, but it's still gray.
Thankfully, I wouldn't know what Ms. Kardashian plugs, since I'm not from the US and our regular news coverage doesn't cover such events. But as for shilling not being immoral, I have to say I seriously disagree. Advertising may not be, but shilling certainly is, in my moral code.
This is an awesome post and it is fair to be in HN, but in some way just gave to Samsung what they wanted.
If people are discussing something then you've made them aware of it, you've shown them "this is worth discussing" and you've displayed it as normative. Ergo promotion.
Samsung have got more publicity from this guy than they'd have got if they paid for it. Indeed the conspiracy theorist in me wants to research whether this is actually the primary method of promotion that was intended ... but that's just madness.
But in this particular case it is. There will be people who are interested in the contest, and doesn't mind that dishonest promotional tactics was used.
I guess that one could have worked. A real question on some programming problem having this as a side note...
They didn't really understand SO, but they could have done worse.
What Samsung asked him to do is way worse than prostitution.
Assuming these posts would be moderated fairly quickly and thus not have that much impact on the site, would it not be worth posting one of these if it means a $1k donation to stackoverflow.com? How about 10k?
Surely at some point the benefits outweigh the damage.
$2 is about right (http://www.thepricegeek.com/results/my+integrity?country=us)
This just makes Samsung and the whole Android community look bad, regardless of who actually was doing it.
Would be interesting to see how this revelation affects any dealings with Samsung...
This subterfuge only seems to make sense if what you are promoting fundamentally sucks or if you have a very limited budget.
it might be pretty devastating to smaller companies, perhaps? although it's still hard to say, depending on how they deal with it, it might even result in a net positive publicity.
I'm not sure that Samsung hasn't won this round...
"Paying for followers will not get you the results you need. Follower growth needs to be organic. We like to keep things All Natural here at FLLU. It's all about Organic Growth! "
> Does Apple have to fall back on these kinds of tricks?
Are you suggesting that Apple is pretending to be Samsung and soliciting shills? That's impressively tinfoil-hat-y, especially given that Samsung has been caught practicing questionable marketing techniques before (http://www.techspot.com/news/52274-samsung-admits-to-posting..., http://brianford.newsvine.com/_news/2012/08/12/13234078-sams..., http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/samsung-sor...)