10K Challenge - Addressing the Drama

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10K Challenge - Addressing the Drama
Hello builds.gg Members,

Our very first contest has concluded, and we have already begun to contact the winners so that they can claim their prizes. Unfortunately, some users who have had their vote counts adjusted have expressed their extreme displeasure, and have even accused builds.gg staff of bias and dishonesty. In the spirit of transparency to the builds.gg community, we would like to set the record straight.

What happened?

If you've been following along, we have done a deep dive into the votes cast to make sure that they are legit. Through our final sweep, we have discovered a number of suspicious events, and have adjusted the votes cast accordingly. Once this was done, several users have begun to disparage the site and our staff, attacking everything from our professionalism to our personal bias, and, in some instances, have alluded to possible legal action.

One user by the name of Phil Corner (now PMC86) has gone as far as to call this entire competition a "scam", calling members of our staff "rude", and accusing us of unfairly fixing the contest result. He has made his displeasure known on a number of social media platforms, and has been spamming this site and our forum. He has also expressed interest in contacting the sponsors of the contest in order to disparage the site and the people behind it.

While we can understand that having votes taken away can be frustrating, we take accusations of fixing contest results very seriously. After all, people are not going to want to participate in contests with results that are unfairly manipulated. In light of this, we wanted to disclose what we found, and the justification behind the vote adjustment for this user.

What did you find?

While we can't disclose everything that we trying to detect, one of the things we look for are unusual voting patterns - behavior that is inconsistent with the way normal votes are cast. While reviewing Phil's votes, we discovered a disproportionate number of votes from Russia. While this would normally not be conclusive evidence of foul play, the timing and frequency was highly suspicious.

Below is a screenshot of our vote log, which records things like voter name, account, location, and timestamp. While we can't show all information contained in the logs, they do contain the account name and timestamp when the vote was cast. You can see that the first vote on Phil's build was by himself - totally normal. However, after this vote, you can see a massive influx of votes from Russia:

This is highly unusual since:

  1. Our contest was not advertised or promoted anywhere in Russia
  2. Having a long string of votes exclusively from a region the contestant is not located in is extremely unusual
  3. Several of the IPs detected were from known Russian voting farms
  4. The timing of these blocks of votes (right at the beginning) was highly suspect
  5. This pattern was not seen in any of the top 10 builds

This combined with the timeframe (i.e. right at the start of voting) leaves little doubt that this was done deliberately. In fact, this pattern happens several times to Mr. Corner's entry during the contest, as shown by the following screenshots:

Having boosted vote numbers, especially given the leaderboard on the contest page, made it very unfair for other entrants in the contest. Given this compelling evidence, it was determined that votes for Mr. Corner that originated from Russia would be removed.

Final Words

The adjustments to vote counts at the end of our contest were based on evidence discovered while reviewing vote logs for inconsistencies, and are in no way a result of personal bias or malice to any particular user. We have absolutely nothing to gain by fabricating drama like this, and while it would have been much easier to not review vote logs at all, we felt that this would be an extreme disservice to those users who have worked hard on their builds and have spent time to promote their builds through legitimate methods.

Builds.gg was created to be a useful resource for PC builders and enthusiasts around the world. Our contests are meant to be a fun and free way for our users to win some sweet prizes from our sponsors. While our first contest was in no way perfect, we have tried our very best to keep things as fair and transparent as possible for everyone involved - our multiple news updates during the contest period is evidence of this.

At the end of the day, the results of every contest should reflect the will of the community as a whole, and not a pay-to-win exercise. We will continue to refine our contest rules and methods as time goes on, and hope that the majority of users here can see the effort being poured into the site. While bad actors on the Internet are not a new thing, we will not be deterred in our mission to make builds.gg a place that builders want to come back to again and again.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions on how to make things better.

The builds.gg Team