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Samsung agency is buying off StackOverflow users (delyan.me)
447 points by ZoFreX on Aug 1, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 155 comments

Hi all. Delyan here.

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.

FYI - the 'email' field is not publicly visible. You have to explicitly put your email address in the about section for us to see it on your profile.

I thought I had! Done now.

Fascinating that this story has far more upvotes and comments than another similar story, yet both boil down to essentially the same thing: money buys influence.

"Samsung agency is buying off StackOverflow users"


"NSA pays £100m in secret funding for GCHQ"


Think about it this way - capitalism is a positive feedback system, and thus unstable.

one of these two is not free-market capitalism, as it gets its funds not by selling a service...

Your website is working fast and up,which host you use? It scaled up brilliantly.

I'd love to say it's my amazing architecture and optimizations skills. But it's not. It's just a static blog, generated with Ruhoh (http://ruhoh.com/) and nginx. I'm on Webfaction's cheapest plan, on the Amsterdam servers.

Nice try Webfaction marketing guy

(I kid).

Bit off topic, just seen your CV and that you interned at TAB in 2011. Interned there in 2012, small world.

This is, in my mind, evidence that companies like this are out of touch. They want to treat Stack Overflow like a search engine and marketing tool to be optimized, and, in their ignorance, don't see it as something different than what it actually is: a community of people passionate about their craft and helping others with it.

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.

Out of touch? This guy maybe, but I would be surprised if SO, like most other communities, wasn't already successfully being gamed by marketeers a hell of a lot smarter than this clown.

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.

I'll bite.

"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.

> "Blind allegiance (or antipathy) is not how things work here."

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.

But among which parties?

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.

So you've gone from "that's not how things work here" to "if you ignore the bulk of what goes on here, you probably won't see it" ?

You're proving his point, you know.

> You're vastly underestimating how many people are interconnected in this hodgepodge of gray matter we call HN.

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).

HN is being used for astroturfing according to PG.

With it's connection to YC there's a bit of it implicit in the model - e.g. YC applications.

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.

Well to be perfectly blunt, any forum with any sort of fan base is being astro-turfed. Its the most popular robot search on Blekko ("Powered by <forum software>") and I'm sure elsewhere as well. Whether by aggressive PR firms, evil politicians, or well meaning communities trying to stop a new dump from being situated near them.

I'm certain I've come across these incidents, but the one thing they and the SO recruits will have in common is that they don't understand what makes a community[1]. That is still their biggest weakness.

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).

[1] SO is most certainly not a "community".

I would even bet you could detect it algorithmically without having access to the server logs. It's usually pretty obvious if you're paying attention to such things. What's interesting is that successful gaming of HN usually involves genuinely interesting content. It may not be front page interesting in it's own right, but there is a lot out there that could be on the front page. Some of it just needs a little push. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

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.

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.

Samsung is a big (really big) company. Of course some people, especially in the marketing dept, are bound to be out of touch. It does not necessarily means no one at Samsung knows what he's doing (even marketing-wise).

They aren't really out of touch at all. They (or more specifically their marketing arms) just don't care about abusing "communities of people passionate about *" for advertising purposes.

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.

Anyone who finds this shocking, I have news for you; every large company has been and is doing this type of astroturfing all over the internet for well over a decade now.

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.

Really? Come on. To be fair, since the immediate comparison that jumps to mind is between Samsung and Apple, let's put it right on the table: I don't think Apple does this.

I am sorry if this comment spark off any other pointless debate and argument or offended any Apple Fan boys or Samsung Fan boys.

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.

But the truth is, pretty much every company does this.. except Apple.

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.

Apple simply does not engage in anything even remotely resembling astroturfing. The simplest reason is that they don't need to, but the more accurate reason is that it's not in the company culture to do things like that.

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.

Apple has a team dedicated to making sure their products are easy to access and deploy in a movie/TV, and a preferred choice. They don't pay cash, but they absolutely push their products into movies/TV.

The point is they're not paying. Showmakers want them.

No, they "lose" phones in bars though (twice) and do other very sneaky things. Apple is super sneaky. They also do things like making gimped software and drivers for other platforms part of their business plan. I consider this worse than astroturfing.

What are you talking about? Trust me, when a prototype device gets stolen in a bar, that's absolutely not guerrilla marketing. That was serious business, and I'm certain the only reason the engineer didn't get fired is because it would have been bad PR. Apple takes its prototype hardware extremely seriously.

And I really have no idea what you mean with the "gimped software and drivers for other platforms" claim.

Apple instead making gimped software or drivers for other platform?

What ??

"X" instead DO not even make software or drivers for other platform ( Mac and Linux ), what do you consider those company then?

"Apple never trashes the competition, that's above them."

I'm a Mac, I'm a PC? Classy, well-done trashing, sure, but straight up naming-names trashing it was.

> "subjective reasoning why I'd believe Apple is any different from any other company"

When your customer satisfaction numbers are that high, who needs to pay for astroturf?

So how many happy Samsung customers does that translate to, when the rest of their phones are not doing so well and GS3/GN2 are hardly as numerous as any model of iPhone?

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".

Except in this case I don't think this claim was true at all.

If you really want to know you should go deeper down the rabbit hole.

Other then that I can say nothing more.

There's the problem, stating that "all companies do this" when some big ones get caught is wrong. Some companies do this, but not all.

Apple can get their customers to astroturf for them. Psychological tools are quite effective with a large enough audience.

If you don't write favorably about Apple, then they don't invite you to the press releases. So their hands are no cleaner, just far more transparent and public.

That's just silly. Pretty much the whole tech press are critical if Apple and still gets invited.

The ones that don't get invited are those that buys stolen goods to be able to show off unannounced products.

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/apple/apple-prs-dirty-little-secre... Leo Laporte and several of the tech journalists on the TWiT network talk about it as well. I've actually heard this so frequently, I just thought it was common knowledge.

Honestly that guy was not convincing at all. He pointed out how some journalists refused his request to ask apple about the address uploading issue and then completely speculated on the reasons why... then went on to makeup some BS reason as to why AllThingsD can criticize apple while still remaining in contact with him. After being in litigation with apple, this guy is clearly biased. If you read the comments people point out his agenda.

1. It's not silly to think that. See: Game Industry and Game Blogs.

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'.

Samsung _advertise_ a lot. That doesn't mean you'd expect them to astroturf; it's an illicit practice in many countries.

Based on previous cases, it's not surprising: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/04/samsung-taiwan-market...

Most of this is not astroturfing.

Anything "growth hacking" and "social media" are literally jobs where you're paid to shill and spam.

On reddit, I often see comments about upcoming games that really strike me as astroturfing... It's mainly that it makes so much sense for manufacturers to do this (word of mouth is more compelling than "advertising"), that I can't imagine them not doing it. So when a post is just emptily positive in a generic way ("Really looking forward to this!"), with no content to suggest it's not astroturfing, I assume it is.

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.

And that is not the only example.

It's been fun watching the shills from Redmond squirm this year after all the stumbles...

Citation needed. If what you said is indeed true, then can you explain why people are so outraged when such things happen?

Mm, probably the reason that everyone "knew" that the US was engaged in extralegal spying for quite some time, but the outrage didn't legitimately start until the actual documents were leaked.

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.

Except those sites are driven by votes and comments float to the top via lots of anonymous voting. Which is both a boon and a bane. It helps drown out the crap but also helps to promote idiotic groupthink and censor dissent.

Which means that combatting voting rings and astrovoting is an ever-present challenge if a site wants to remain clean.

> "I have news for you; every large company has been and is doing this type of astroturfing all over the internet for well over a decade now."

I'd have to agree, but Samsung's flavor of astroturfing is pretty gentle and benign compared to the viciousness of microsoft' attack dogs.

Wow, this is an interesting topic. I especially like the informative news link. I was also wondering if anyone here has heard of the Samsung Smart App Challenge because I was thinking of entering. I heard the best apps will win great promotional prizes and the latest Samsung devices. I also heard that Samsung devices are 4X faster than leading competitors devices because of their advanced technology. Does anyone else here have questions about Samsung's latest products and services because I heard they have great brochures and contests all the time and amazing fast technology in their devices that are affordable for all budgets.

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?

Hi John,

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!

Hey snorkel,

> 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!

I work at Stack Exchange, and contacted Samsung as soon as this was brought to our attention last night.

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.

Big company decides to pull a grassroots-focused marketing campaign. Picks an inappropriate venue. Backs off.

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.

Yep. Reminds me of the time WalMart paid a couple to blog about their RV trip across the US, without the couple disclosing the entire trip and blog was a WalMart marketing experiment: http://kevin.lexblog.com/2006/10/13/fake-blog-walmart-gets-c...

I try to refrain from being a spelling nazi here, but "So, I shot back this brisque email" made me laugh. It's like a portmanteau of "brusque" and "brisk."

For a more daring approach, try sending a brisqué email.

brisqué | adjective abrupt or offhand in speech or manner which is showing a wish to deal with things quickly and slightly indecent and liable to shock

also tastes faintly of crab.

I once tried to send a brisket email.

It... did not end well.

I've gotten brisket in the mail. It is surprisingly good considering it was shipped accross the country. http://www.rudysbbq.com/store/c-10-smoked-meats.aspx

if you're going to get BBQ shipped to you, you might as well go a little bit further than Rudy's (Rudy's is... OK I guess...)


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! ;)

Excellent. Not being in Texas anymore has me stranded in a sea of poor BBQ (if you can even call it that). There is simply nothing worth eating in Omaha. The more options the better.

I wonder how well Fat Cow BBQ, (local joint in Lewisville), ships...

Came across Rudy's during a visit to TX a few years back.

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.)

I suppose it's appropriate to rub in the fact that there's a Rudy's 10 minutes from my house. What you call a special occasion, I call lunch :-)

Wow, even Rudy's BBQ is astroturfing!

The agency (FLLU) seem really small. Too small in fact, because most companies would engage a substantially larger firm and have account managers and would handle all of this stuff coherently from one place rather than use potentially hundreds of firms this size (3 people).

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.

There are a lot of big companies who cannot even function without hiring tiny companies and freelancers to do the work. I've done marketing contracts for public companies as a one-man operation and had a shocking amount of control over the messaging. It's likely you'd find people at Samsung who think this sort of stuff is great and others who think it is abhorrent. That's the nature of big organizations.

(1) Size of company doesn't justify abusing and lie. (2) Hiring external agent doesn't clean client's purpose. (3) No big Korean company hires unknown firm.

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.

Samsung hires lots of small companies, usually on a per-project basis.

They could have just bought some ads on Stack Overflow. From the Help Center:

> 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 now you should know the price was not the issue.

And then you put it in HN front page. It is probably a lot more than the visibility in StackOverflow... =)

I would argue that HN is much easier to game than SO, which makes it doubly ironic.

Reminds me of


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.

And their example questions would be off-topic on Stack Overflow and likely closed immediately. Whoever is behind this seems to have no idea what SO is and how it works beyond "it's a huge site with programmers on it".

This. Folks try this kinda crap all the time; the community and/or mods just delete it.

Still sucks that legit users end up being contacted over it though.

Why is this so bad?

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?

This is astroturfing; that is, a form of marketing where the advertisement is disguised as natural behaviour. Most countries have laws to limit or ban it. It's not normally considered legitimate marketing.

Samsung was recently fined by Taiwanese authorities for an astroturfing campaign there, though, so it's not like it's new.

A. He published the email himself, in a comment on a public blog post.

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).

I really hate the practice of astroturfing, but what's even more annoying is when someone accuses someone else of doing it in an online forum. For every time someone maybe, possibly legitimately calls someone out for being an astroturfer, it seems like there are 100 or 1000 instances of someone doing it just because they disagree with what the other person is saying, and they're too immature or whatever to realize that reasonable people can come to different conclusions about things without one person being paid to do so.

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.

"Make it look organic" is a lofty goal, but I don't think it's realistic. As Misery from Ruby Gloom says, you don't tell people you're starting a craze, a craze just happens.

I'm the developer of a small but "better than current offerings" product. Everywhere my product gets mention two or three shills jump in to recommend theirs. Wecome to WebSpam 2.0

This is the main reason that the entire "product or tool recommendation" category is off-topic on Stack Overflow. Those types of questions invite that kind of spam.

Soooooooo... Anyone know anything about SSAC?

Wouldn't have heard about it except for this article :) Could I get some feedback on this app I'm about to submit to the SSAC?

That's sleazy, but it's to be expected now SO is such a significant player in the online developer market. The interesting thing being a question along those lines would be flagged, and closed pretty sharpish.

I can't imagine that this is the last time we'll see people trying this trick though.

I'm very interested in how this plays out. Right now I add Stackexchange to search queries in Google, precisely because the SEO effects haven't hit.

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.

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?

By "monetize a Klout score," you mean spam your followers on social networks sites, right? That seems pretty morally clear to me.

Is it morally clear though?

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.

Kim Kardashian gets paid to plug god knows what, and it's not immoral to be a shill.

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.

You realize you're promoting it on HN now right?

It doesn't exactly put it in a good light. It's quite stomach turning actually. Having said that, I'm a little tired of HN's never ending ability to find something to be outraged about, so despite this particular thing pushing everyone of my buttons I'm going to pass. The internet is a big place, filled with lots of people doing things, and there's probably enough material out there to always be outraged every day of your life if you really want to be.

They explicitly just wanted visibility, even if it will be downvoted.

This is an awesome post and it is fair to be in HN, but in some way just gave to Samsung what they wanted.

Merely discussing something is not promoting it. The GLBT community has fought this battle again and again, when various parties sought to suppress any mention of homosexuality in public schools, because that would be "promoting the homosexual lifestyle". This discussion may make more people aware of the Samsung contest, but it is in no way a promotion of it.

Max Clifford I think it was said something along the lines of "there's no such thing as bad publicity".

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.

> Merely discussing something is not promoting it.

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.

So would you have preferred that the original poster not bring it up on HN at all? I could just as easily claim that someone who was planning to enter the contest before learning about Samsung's practices will now choose not to. We have no data. In the absence of data, I think the OP did the right thing by letting us know about this.

Everyone keeps saying this, but what's the option? Discourage exposing scammy behaviour whenever someone could theoretically profit from the attention?

"Need some feedback on the app I am about to enter for the Samsung Smart App Challenge."

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.

Half the scumminess here is that they don't understand StackOverflow isn't a general purpose forum, I think. It would be less offensive if they were paying a popular forum member to mention the contest. On StackOverflow, however, you are supposed to post questions about something you are programming, however. So it really isn't valid to just bring up a contest as a contest. I suppose theoretically, if they wanted to do something close to what they want they'd have to pay someone to try using their APIs and post questions they encounter and mention the contest on the side. Although even that is kind of stretching it.

$500 to be a whore. No.

Actually, I don't thing being a whore compares to this. Prostitution does not involve deceiving anyone and is not unethical.

What Samsung asked him to do is way worse than prostitution.

I would have asked a few questions on a message board for $500. Sorry everyone.

So is it just a matter of price? At which price would it be ok?

When you can enough for the community using the money you'll get to outweigh any damage this spam would cause.

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.

looks like a significant overvaluation to me:

$2 is about right (http://www.thepricegeek.com/results/my+integrity?country=us)

500BTC is my price.

I dare say you are simultaneously too cheap and too expensive!

Bitcoin, just like a quantum bit, in all states at the same time!

Well he did post the email and now WAY more people have heard about this thing they are doing. He better get his $500.

We should make a collection of 500$ and give them to him as a reward.

Gumtree (Craigslist equivalent in UK) offered me money to do similar kind of stuff for the sake of "Word of mouth" marketing. They offered bonus if I could post a blog on my personal blog too.

Another warning to big companies who are employing sketchy marketing companies. With more and more of these stories coming out, I'm wondering when companies are going to stop taking chances with these "agencies" and simply bring their marketing back in house. Then they can have more control and oversight on what goes on with their brand.

This just makes Samsung and the whole Android community look bad, regardless of who actually was doing it.

I'm pretty sure that SO/SX already run various promotional products, like the Microsoft Windows Phone app challenge/contest. That said, I'm also sure such promotional deals come with a set of rules to ensure SO integrity. After all, a lot of work has gone into making SO one of the best (if not the best) places to learn and interact with dev community.

Would be interesting to see how this revelation affects any dealings with Samsung...

The Stack Overflow Microsoft app contests rewarded people for asking legitimate Stack Overflow questions. In fact some of the contest prizes were hard to obtain because they required X questions/answers with a score X or more votes. Many of the topics were sufficiently covered already, making additional questions/answers duplicative. However, this ensured that the integrity of Stack Overflow was maintained even if it did make the contest more difficult.

But it's the right way to do it!

What is so difficult about promoting it via the usual channels? Advertisements, (legitimate) posts on appropriate forums, mailing lists, blogs, etc. Assuming they are presenting an attractive value proposition I don't see why it would be hard to get the message to the right people without resorting to this kind of thing.

This subterfuge only seems to make sense if what you are promoting fundamentally sucks or if you have a very limited budget.

Does anyone else besides me think that this is a very cheap technique to use in a smear campaign? Throw up some fake "viral marketing" company website, offer to pay $x to some people for fake reviews / secret paid promotions but don't actually pay, and wait for public complaints from either people with ethics or people who didn't get paid?

cheap yes, effective not so sure. I really wonder what the net effect for a giant company like Samsung will be for a little scandal like this. any of the big electronics corporations seems to have scandals or fuckups or unethical actions of some sort or other.

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.

Okay, be honest. After reading this, how many of you searched for "Samsung Smart App Challenge".


I'm not sure that Samsung hasn't won this round...

Hilarious, especially in light of this text from the front page of their website:

"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! "


Looks like they're already in damage control mode. My buddy just received this e-mail from james@fluu.com


Those kind of competitions are really just work with non-guaranteed pay.

Why do sites like this disable pinchzoom? What purpose does it serve?

Yup, AirBnB did (kinda) the same thing to listers on Craigslist.

Whatever. If you don't think this sort of thing isn't happening at EVERY web top-100 web site, you've got another thing coming.

They'd be better going after people who center themselves around Android dev and have a lot of followers on Twitter, G+, etc.

What is even better is that you complained about this in a blog, and posted to Hacker News. Before this I didn't know anything about the Samsung Androids, but thanks to your blog and posting on Hacker News probably more people know about this than any fake $500 posting on stackoverflow. And, Samsung didn't have to pay a cent for your publicity -- or maybe they did pay you for this clever bit of marketing.

You didn't know Samsung had androids, really? Because the only real information content about whatever this 'Challenge' is is that they want you to buy some.

No surprise for Samsung is doing this. Abusing community by ad is the only their real professional at.

Astroturfing via StackOverflow has to be the most pathetic possible form of unethical marketing.

They ended up getting some amazing free advertising out of this via this HN post!

So everybody now know about Samsung Smart App Challange. Mission accomplished.

And no change at all on brand image. If their brand value is already -INFINITE.

What's up with the blatant Samsung bashing recently? Does Apple have to fall back on these kinds of tricks?

Sorry, pointing out Samsung's use of unethical marketing is "bashing"? What?

> 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...)

You've rumbled him. The only reason he's bashing Samsung is because Apple came back with a better counter offer.

Believe incompetence before malice...

So in the end you've chosen to advertise it on HN?

Shame on them.

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