Thank you for the example. Unfortunately I can't really try any of those examples without logging in to that app...
Anyways, I probably won't add it to my project because, while I think it could be useful, I don't really like how it looks and I think the error handling could be improved. For example, when I clicked the login button in the example you sent the guider just disappeared.
There doesn't seem to be much drawbacks to this strategy.
I can think of very few startups that failed because of shady early tactics, as long as it stayed only a way to get to traction, and wasn't a decisive part of the business model. If you're small, nobody will care enough about you to learn about your tactics. If you're big, you should have enough money to rebuy a reputation with marketing/PR.
Mmm, I think you may be confusing perception vs. reality. As much as we'd like to think the two are inseparably joined and it's impossible to fake being genuine (or vice versa, impossible for a really genuine thing to be perceived as inauthentic), I don't think the facts support that idea.
I would't like if a startup fakes. They'd lose my credibility. However, some of the examples seem reasonable - like the case of reddit. It is more about providing value to the early adopters - clearly reddit needed more users to contribute, so no harm in creating fake users to seed the content. The example of PayPal seems bad - i am not sure if PayPal was a paid service for merchants back then, but if it was, they were just being evil.
It doesn't really work in the areas where it is easy any more. Too many people are doing it. Reddit clones ESPECIALLY do this, usually by creating crawlers that crawl reddit.
But yeah, it still works for dating sites (I know someone that started one) and the like. Normally you have to have a couple friends help you, because activity is great, but eventually people want you to jump on the webcam.
If a person is not sovereign over their own body, aren't they the most wretched slave imaginable? Certainly he hurt those around him, but ultimately I believe that it was his right to die in the way he chose.