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Ratings and auctions and the integrity of Whiskybase

WhiskyLovingPianist
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 08-08-2014 at 22:57 pm

Dear Whiskybase community members and administrators,


Whisky ratings trouble me a great deal and as a general rule i do not subscribe to them. There is however one particular issue regarding ratings that has greatly troubled me of late that could lead to the abuse of Whiskybase as a whole. My concern is this:


What stops a person or persons significantly boosting the rating of a whisky on the database that they are selling at auction. Indeed, what stops a person setting up a WB account with the sole purpose to boost the ratings of bottles they own and are due to sell. Im sure many buyers use [and should use] WB as a guide to buying bottles, and the value of that bottle and our decision to buy is surely influenced in part by its WB rating and inclusion. Worryingly this matter isn't exclusive to auctions.


A case in point. I was interested in an auction lot recently and duly looked the bottle up on WB only to find one WB rating, a particularly high rating and one that didn’t seem to reflect the general scores of that whisky/year/bottler/other community views etc. I looked into this member to gauge his/her experience, knowledge etc and what they rate other bottles. I subsequently noticed that that member had also been the only person to rate rather highly, another bottle that was in the same auction. I can’t prove either way whether this is a coincidence or something more sinister, but it does raise the issue - what deters that seller from rating a whisky outrageously high for possible monetary gain? What stops a new member, a few friends, a group or a company establishing a superb rating of a largely unknown bottle and pushing its rating into the high 90’s, thus affecting its auction price or sale? But more importantly, what helps us WB members to become more generally aware?


Another case in point is a similar situation of a bottle in auction that had one stupendous rating of 97.5 on WB. When i looked at that members info/activity, i noticed that they had just joined the WB as their whole collection had just been added hours before. So i concluded this was an inexperienced member who hadn’t got a wide enough knowledge of whisky.  If this was the case, i would disregard the rating. In fact this new member displayed a large and serious collection of bottles including some rare bottling many of which happened to be available on the most current online auction. So then my suspicions were raised once again. 


It was that members recent 'activity' which got me thinking - date stamp all reviews, notes and ratings and not just the last 15, just like forum posts. That way at least you’ll be cautious when a bottle comes up at auction the same day/week as a miraculously high rating appears. It wont trip up the long term cunning trickster but it will deter the quick buck opportunist.


Now you may be thinking, why does any of this really matter? These suspicions and hunches are small issues that don’t concern the day to day activities of trustworthy members and whisky enthusiasts. The fact is Whiskybase is based on trust and we all need to be aware of the possibility of abuse if the integrity of Whiskybase is to be maintained. It only takes one bad apple so the saying goes so we need to be super vigilant in this digital age as much as at any time and scrutinise everything we see and read, if we are to protect the provenance of this community.


I would be interested to hear your views, thoughts and experiences on this topic and urge Whiskybase to include time stamps on our activities for our protection.


JPF

  Edited on 12-08-2014 at 11:19 am
alectron
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 10-08-2014 at 04:29 am

Hey,
this has and will always be a problem as there's nothing (and no easy way to do so) that stops a malicious behaviour.
One notorious case here are the Glen Els bottlings from Germany... there's a few 'pusher' accounts that seem to have been created to push ratings for those up and it looks more than a little suspicious.
The only thing you can do is, as you did, do your research... get to know the regulars on here you can trust, and which of those align with your own taste to get some sort of indication.
c.

Remember - whisky scores and impressions are highly subjective and situational by nature - so don't go and buy whisky according to someone else's taste...
gilmab
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 13-08-2014 at 01:32 am

I'm curious to know how many new members have registered since the introduction of the marketplace.

maltmichel
Expert Junior Junior Expert
Posted on 14-08-2014 at 21:45 pm

At this moment it's pretty easy to manipulate scores on WB but I feel some simple changes could help to avoid this sick behavior. From the looks of it a single user can add an unlimited amount of rates to a simple whisky so there is not even a need for multiple accounts. There has been a topic about this in the past with regards to a Glendronach 2002 were 2 users gave really low rates multiple times. If you look at http://www.whiskybase.com/profile/maxheller you can see that he added 4 rates to the same whisky so limiting the amount of rates a user can give for a single whisky will help I think. An other option could be to not allow new members to add rates in the first month after registering or until they added a minimum amount of whiskies to their collection on WB.

Whisky does not solve your problems... but neither does milk.
gilmab
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 15-08-2014 at 11:51 am
maltmichel wrote:

An other option could be to not allow new members to add rates in the first month after registering or until they added a minimum amount of whiskies to their collection on WB.

Hi maltmichel. Follow the abuse would be a better option but I guess a hard work ... (To avoid penalizing the honest person.) I'm sure that a blockage of one month does not scare them. And adding any bottles to create a collection is very easy.




mrgood
Expert Junior Junior Expert
Posted on 20-08-2014 at 22:04 pm
"we need to be super vigilant in this digital age as much as at any time and scrutinise everything we see"

Unfortunately, we can be as vigilant as we like, but such vigilence is useless to the improvement of Whisky Base without the help of the Admins who are the only ones who can take real action against such abusers.  

Case in point, the account that maltmichel mentioned has been brought up multiple times and is a most obvious case of fake-membership-to-skew-ratings you are likely to see... yet the account still exists, so the Admins don't seem to be taking such complaints seriously.  Whisky Base really should be trying to get ahead of it before it gets too far out of control.

One obvious solution is simple.  If a complaint is lodged against a member, send the member a note requesting an explanation about the incident in question.  If no response is received from that member within a reasonable amount of time (which is likely), disable the account and disable all of that member's ratings.  If a response is received, well then I have no problem with an Admin playing the role of Judge Dredd of Whisky Base.
  Edited on 20-08-2014 at 22:05 pm
alectron
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 22-08-2014 at 02:07 am
maltmichel wrote:

If you look at http://www.whiskybase.com/profile/maxheller you can see that he added 4 rates to the same whisky so limiting the amount of rates a user can give for a single whisky will help I think.

I'm not saying this is not a fake/pusher account, but your interpretation of the data you see is wrong.
He/she/it left points as a rate and changed them 3 times afterwards. Not each of those 4 goes into the rating... if you look at the bottle page, you see maxheller only appear once (as everyone else...) - there was a bug ages ago that a single user appeared multiple times, but only with the same rate, but that has been fixed for a while I think.

As for actions against malicious users, I would welcome that as well to an extend.
But WB in the past seems to be more concerned with the numbers of members on paper, than to reduce those numbers by removing obvious fake/pusher/spam accounts in order to make it a better/healthier community.
My 0.02 cents.
c.


Remember - whisky scores and impressions are highly subjective and situational by nature - so don't go and buy whisky according to someone else's taste...
Dede
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 28-08-2014 at 00:46 am

Would it be possible for each member to make a selection in the rates ? For example, if i'd like to select Experts et Connoisseurs rates only, is it a complex thing to code to make it functional ? It'd be a great improvement to the site for me and could limit the impact of these malicious behaviors.

My 2 cents...

"I can resist anything but temptation." O. Wilde
dolzan
Expert Junior Junior Expert
Posted on 28-08-2014 at 16:54 pm
Dede wrote:

Would it be possible for each member to make a selection in the rates ? For example, if i'd like to select Experts et Connoisseurs rates only, is it a complex thing to code to make it functional ? It'd be a great improvement to the site for me and could limit the impact of these malicious behaviors.

My 2 cents...

This seems a good idea. I'd like to see this implemented as well.

a129
Newbie Newbie
Posted on 30-08-2014 at 19:27 pm
Dede wrote:

Would it be possible for each member to make a selection in the rates ? For example, if i'd like to select Experts et Connoisseurs rates only, is it a complex thing to code to make it functional ? It'd be a great improvement to the site for me and could limit the impact of these malicious behaviors.

My 2 cents...

Does seem like a sensible idea...+1

nathanyael
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 11-09-2014 at 14:09 pm

Starting to feel a little anxiety here... so first of all nothing against taking measures vs. fake accounts used only for cheating... those unscrupulous sods should get fired at once!

BUT I think it's starting to get difficult with something like this - and I quote jazzpianofingers: "...a particularly high rating and one that didn’t seem to reflect the general scores of that whisky/year/bottler/other community views etc. ..."

When I rate whiskies I usually don't give a damn about the opinion of everyone else even if that means that the whole world gives 30 points and I give 99 points. If you do question ratings that are apart from everyone else's (due to different taste perhaps?) then I strongly advise to drop the whole rating system - something that would be the best altogether if you ask me...

Ratings do trouble me everytime I see one... I admit that I use the WB ratings actively but that has something to do with "going with the flow..."

To sum this up: If there is a rating system then please be as democratic as possible and let the people rate as they feel they have to -  if they misuse it for some economic heist they're trying to pull AND you can testify that than to hell with them...

My Collection
mrgood
Expert Junior Junior Expert
Posted on 11-09-2014 at 23:51 pm
"please be as democratic as possible and let the people rate as they feel they have to"
Most of us would agree that if someone's genuine opinion is wildly different than the consensus, it doesn't mean they're wrong, only that they disagree and there's nothing wrong with that (though I do like people who go far against the grain to give rating notes, as it's always interesting to hear what it was they liked/disliked so much)

"if they misuse it for some economic heist they're trying to pull AND you can testify that than to hell with them."
To clarify the purpose of this thread.  It's not about how to silence those of differing tastes (everyone is entitled to an opinion) but rather how to weed out the exact people you described here.  Therein lies the debate, how to determine definitively that a rating/user is bullcrap, and then what to do about it.

That being said, it's a moot conversation without input from the admins, because they're the only ones who can take any kind of action against ratings abuse.  Maybe this conversation belongs in the Bugs & Suggestions group so the admins might actually notice it.
nathanyael
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 12-09-2014 at 11:28 am
mrgood wrote:

"if they misuse it for some economic heist they're trying to pull AND you can testify that than to hell with them."
To clarify the purpose of this thread.  It's not about how to silence those of differing tastes (everyone is entitled to an opinion) but rather how to weed out the exact people you described here.  Therein lies the debate, how to determine definitively that a rating/user is bullcrap, and then what to do about it.

Yup, I'm fine with that... but sometimes things have to be clarified...

My Collection
GN?
Member Senior Senior Member
Posted on 29-09-2014 at 15:20 pm

I always think about this when looking up a score. I have found several obvious examples in the marketplace of sellers rating the bottle significantly higher than others to obviously bring up the rating of the bottle. On the marketplace it is easy to tell if this is happening. That is not the case with other online auctions.

alectron
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 30-09-2014 at 23:10 pm
mrgood wrote:
That being said, it's a moot conversation without input from the admins, because they're the only ones who can take any kind of action against ratings abuse.  Maybe this conversation belongs in the Bugs & Suggestions group so the admins might actually notice it.

Can't agree more to the above, although moving the topic to Bugs & Suggestions subforum won't change a thing. I'm pretty sure the admins have seen this here, but rarely engage with the community, which I do not understand... but hey, it's their choice.

And yes - this is what WB as a community should celebrate - the differences of subjective impressions!
I get very curious when I see wildly varying ratings. If I just see numbers/rates that vary from 40-100 I usually just scratch my head.
If there are actual tasting notes of some of the individuals that rated rather extremely it becomes much more interesting if I have a chance to read what fascinated/troubled others about a given whisky.
This potential for exchange of impressions & opinions is the sole reason I make my private tasting notes public & accessible to others via WB!

c.

Remember - whisky scores and impressions are highly subjective and situational by nature - so don't go and buy whisky according to someone else's taste...
Bachess
Super Administrator Super Administrator
Posted on 30-09-2014 at 23:25 pm

Rates shall always be a point of discussion, i think. Giving the rates a timestamp or dont allow new members to rate whiskies for a month are propably solutions for people who are boosting the ratings of whiskies they are putting on the marketplace. On the other hand you always must look at the rates of a whisky, how many people have rated the people? Are those people trustfull? What rated the person who is offering the bottle? All those answers can help to judge the reliability of the rate. And i still believe in the power of the number of rates, the more the better.

Signature Picture
alectron
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 01-10-2014 at 04:27 am

There is the issue of people abusing the system on purpose though.
In some cases it's very obvious, in some it is not.
I am NOT for a police state in any case whatsoever; but people are people, and some will always try to play / and or / test the system to see how far they can go (often in order to get some sort of personal gain, read: money, out of it). I personally even have a problem with people who play the whisky market for 'investment' purposes, but that's just me as I think this is destructive to the industry and the consumers alike in the long run....

But, and this is just my opinion again, it is Whiskybase's turn to draw a line officially now that there is a marketplace and it is clear that some people are abusing the system as is. The tricky bit is you are the ones who will be alienating either:
-  potential customers of the marketplace if you are too extreme in your measures.
or
-  community members if you are not thorough enough and allow everyone to act as they please in their sales-effort...

A tricky balance act that is wink
Good luck!
c.

  Edited on 01-10-2014 at 04:28 am
Remember - whisky scores and impressions are highly subjective and situational by nature - so don't go and buy whisky according to someone else's taste...
Whisky Hamster
Member Senior Senior Member
Posted on 02-10-2014 at 12:23 pm

Wouldn't an easy solution be that sellers must click the whiskybase entry of the bottles they want to offer and in doing so (= adding them to the marketplace) their own ratings of the respective bottles are automatically erased from the score?

I don't mind people praising their offering at the marketplace, but this way they at least cannot refer to presumably "independent" great scores they actually helped create themselves.

  Edited on 02-10-2014 at 12:26 pm
Oh Laphroaig, where art thou?
GlenSikkes
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 02-10-2014 at 14:45 pm
nathanyael wrote:

Starting to feel a little anxiety here... so first of all nothing against taking measures vs. fake accounts used only for cheating... those unscrupulous sods should get fired at once!

...

When I rate whiskies I usually don't give a damn about the opinion of everyone else even if that means that the whole world gives 30 points and I give 99 points. 

...
Ratings do trouble me everytime I see one... I admit that I use the WB ratings actively but that has something to do with "going with the flow..."

....right....

But this 'doctor' does the opposite of maxheller ; http://www.whiskybase.com/profile/farsund

..and there are many others..



spoiled ape 4 life
Whisky Hamster
Member Senior Senior Member
Posted on 02-10-2014 at 18:43 pm

GlenSikkes wrote:

But this 'doctor' does the opposite of maxheller ; http://www.whiskybase.com/profile/farsund

This one particular Macallan 12 with 99 points must have been exceptionally awful...hehe

Oh Laphroaig, where art thou?
prestonclub
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 13-08-2019 at 09:19 am

Dear Whiskybase community members and administrators,


Whisky ratings trouble me a great deal and as a general rule i do not subscribe to them. There is however one particular issue regarding ratings that has greatly troubled me of late that could lead to the abuse of Whiskybase as a whole. My concern is this:


What stops a person or persons significantly boosting the rating of a whisky on the database that they are selling at auction. Indeed, what stops a person setting up a WB account with the sole purpose to boost the ratings of bottles they own and are due to sell. Im sure many buyers use [and should use] WB as a guide to buying bottles, and the value of that bottle and our decision to buy is surely influenced in part by its WB rating and inclusion. Worryingly this matter isn't exclusive to auctions.


A case in point. I was interested in an auction lot recently and duly looked the bottle up on WB only to find one WB rating, a particularly high rating and one that didn’t seem to reflect the general scores of that whisky/year/bottler/other community views etc. I looked into this member to gauge his/her experience, knowledge etc and what they rate other bottles. I subsequently noticed that that member had also been the only person to rate rather highly, another bottle that was in the same auction. I can’t prove either way whether this is a coincidence or something more sinister, but it does raise the issue - what deters that seller from rating a whisky outrageously high for possible monetary gain? What stops a new member, a few friends, a group or a company establishing a superb rating of a largely unknown bottle and pushing its rating into the high 90’s, thus affecting its auction price or sale? But more importantly, what helps us WB members to become more generally aware?


Another case in point is a similar situation of a bottle in auction that had one stupendous rating of 97.5 on WB. When i looked at that members info/activity, i noticed that they had just joined the WB as their whole collection had just been added hours before. So i concluded this was an inexperienced member who hadn’t got a wide enough knowledge of whisky.  If this was the case, i would disregard the rating. In fact this new member displayed a large and serious collection of bottles including some rare bottling many of which happened to be available on the most current online auction. So then my suspicions were raised once again. 


It was that members recent 'activity' which got me thinking - date stamp all reviews, notes and ratings and not just the last 15, just like forum posts. That way at least you’ll be cautious when a bottle comes up at auction the same day/week as a miraculously high rating appears. It wont trip up the long term cunning trickster but it will deter the quick buck opportunist.


Now you may be thinking, why does any of this really matter? These suspicions and hunches are small issues that don’t concern the day to day activities of trustworthy members and whisky enthusiasts. The fact is Whiskybase is based on trust and we all need to be aware of the possibility of abuse if the integrity of Whiskybase is to be maintained. It only takes one bad apple so the saying goes so we need to be super vigilant in this digital age as much as at any time and scrutinise everything we see and read, if we are to protect the provenance of this community.


I would be interested to hear your views, thoughts and experiences on this topic and urge Whiskybase to include time stamps on our activities for our protection.


JPF


Solution is : drink your whiskies instead of investing happy 

My Market
lincolnimp
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 13-08-2019 at 11:32 am

This thread  opened by WLP is exactly 5 years old, never seen it before but his original post covers what we are still talking about now and is still relevant. 

In a nutshell you can`t stop an avalanche of shite, merely try to slow it down, mods and admins on WB have my genuine sympathy trying to solve this issue and have made some good operational decisions on how to combat honesty issues but like credit card fraudsters the bad boys are always one step in front figuring out new ways to con you.

This is still the best whisky site there is, let us all hope it is not spoilt by a small minority of members for their own personal gain at the expense of everyone else.

I believe, I have faith, carry on the good fight WB happy

Dyno
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 13-08-2019 at 13:03 pm

lincolnimp wrote:

This thread  opened by WLP is exactly 5 years old, never seen it before but his original post covers what we are still talking about now and is still relevant. 

In a nutshell you can`t stop an avalanche of shite, merely try to slow it down, mods and admins on WB have my genuine sympathy trying to solve this issue and have made some good operational decisions on how to combat honesty issues but like credit card fraudsters the bad boys are always one step in front figuring out new ways to con you.

This is still the best whisky site there is, let us all hope it is not spoilt by a small minority of members for their own personal gain at the expense of everyone else.

I believe, I have faith, carry on the good fight WB happy


Word!  happy


maybe the base-members can help/contribute by continuing to point out the possible problem-users to the admins via the existing "ridiculous ratings" topic?

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