Cheaters waste thousands of dollars trying to win a free wedding from Fiverr

Buying fake votes can get expensive!
Buying fake votes can get expensive!

In my last post I detailed the extreme cheating that was happening in Fiverr’s “Save the Date” contest.  At least 10 desperate couples tried to win a $25,000 dream wedding by ordering or manufacturing tens of thousands of fake votes.  The cheating reached obscene heights the night before the deadline as some entries were gaining dozens of votes every few minutes.  And these last-minute votes weren’t just coming in at 9 or 10PM.  They appeared all night long.  In fact, the cheating seemed to peak around two o’clock in the morning.  Maybe because 2AM Chicago time would work out to be about 1PM in Bangladesh.  Here’s what Fiverr’s Top 9 looked like about 12 hours before the voting ended.

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Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous.  Obviously I don’t have access to Fiverr’s traffic and activity logs so I can’t say for sure that these folks were cheating.  But the judges must have realized that the voting had been compromised because in the end, those giant scores didn’t mean a damn thing.  The grand prize went to a couple who didn’t even have enough votes to make the top 10.  Here’s the winning entry.

Fiverr’s Grand Prize Winner.  Prize:  A $25,000 dream wedding:



I think it’s kind of funny that Fiverr let all these people waste so much time cheating.  But I do feel a little bad for them.  They didn’t just waste their time; they also wasted a ton of money.  To vote in this contest, you needed to have a facebook account.  Nobody outside of Southeast Asia has access to 8,000 facebook accounts so these people probably had to order votes from a Vote Farm.  And those type of votes aren’t cheap.  If they bought their votes from Fiverr, these people were spending about 20 cents a vote.  So 7,900 votes would cost $1,580!  But sellers on Fiver only do about 25 votes at a time.  So most of these people probably ordered their votes in bulk from a site like buycontestvotes.com.  Their prices are slightly less insane. (They’re listed at the top of this post).  That website sells 1,000 votes for $100.  So that works out to be ten cents per vote.

So let’s do the math:  The videos in Fiverr’s Top 9 had a total of 35,800 votes when I took my last screenshot (the night before the voting ended.)  I know that a few hundred more votes were added the next day but let’s just round up to 36,000 votes.  If they were paying ten cents per vote, these 9 couples spent at least $3,600!!!  Keep in mind that the rules of this contest said that votes would only count for a percentage of each video’s score.  I’m as competitive as the next guy but spending $800 to slightly improve your chances of winning a $25,000 grand prize is freaking bonkers.

 

Fiverr’s “Save the Date” contest turns into a ridiculous cheat-fest

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Fiverr.com is a “micro job” site where independent sellers post “gigs” that they’re willing to do for five bucks.  You can find all kinds of weird and helpful gigs on Fiverr but a lot of their sellers offer shady gigs that violate the terms of service for sites like Twitter, Yelp, Google, Facebook and Youtube.  Do you need more twitter followers?  Well for just $5 you can gain a thousand of them over night.  How about Facebook likes?  For five bucks your page will look popular in no time.  Wanna be a viral video star?  Thanks to Fiverr your new video will have 10,000 views by the end of the week.  Sure they’ll be fake but only you and some dude in Bangladesh will know that your view count isn’t legit.

Fiverr also happens to be a popular tool for cheaters.  If you go search Fiverr right now you’ll find plenty of gigs just like this one:

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Basically Fiverr is a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to LOOK popular on the Internet.  So when I heard that Fiverr was running a video contest of their own, I knew it was gonna get ugly.  Today is the last day for entries in Fiverr’s “Save the Date” contest.  It was created to help promote Fiverr’s wedding-related services.  To enter, couples had to share their personal stories and explain what they would do with the $25,000 grand prize.  The rules for the contest state that the winners will be….

“the wedding couple that received the combination of the highest number of votes via the campaign landing page, as well as votes by a panel of internal Fiverr judges and campaign partners.”

Do you see the problem here?  The rules don’t say how important the votes will be.  Will votes count for 5% of an entry’s score?  50%?  75%???  Nobody knows.  So I guess a lot of contestants decided to play it safe and try and get as many votes as possible.  The huge prize, the vague rules and the fact that Fiverr literally sells fake votes guaranteed that the contest would turn into a massive cheat-fest.  With just a few hours left to go before the vote deadline, here are the videos that are in the top nine.


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The couple in first place has 7,900 votes!!  That’s awesome.  I’ve seen some really brazen acts of cheating before but I am genuinely impressed by these folks.  It takes serious balls to say screw it, I’m just gonna order myself 6,000 votes.  At this point, I don’t even blame these people for cheating.  The judges are the ones who let this contest get out of control.  No sane human being could believe that a non-famous couple could get thousands and thousands of people to vote for their entry.  Fiverr should have shut down the voting or disqualified people weeks ago.  But they just let the cheating go on and on and on.  So can you really blame these folks for trying to keep up?  To be totally honest with you, if I was in this contest I’d probably order a few hundred votes.  It’s obvious that the judges don’t care so it’s almost like people have to cheat just to have a shot at winning.

Now obviously I don’t have any hard proof that these contestants are buying fake votes.  But I have noticed some pretty hilarious clues.  Most of the people in the top 10 have realized that 4,000 votes will look suspicious if their video only has 500 views.  So when they ordered their votes, they also ordered a fat stack of youtube views.  But if you know where to look, youtube will show you a video’s view history.  So check out this entry that has 1,300 votes and over 7,000 views.

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This video managed to get about 7,000 in one day.  That’s amazing!  And what’s even more amazing is that it’s been getting zero views a day ever since.  What an incredibly mysterious phenomenon.  I wonder what could have caused this weird, random spike in views?

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m trying to bust anyone here because I’m really not.  Like I said, I can’t exactly blame people for cheating in a contest that’s run by a website that sells fake votes.  In fact, I actually feel sorry for most of these people.  Fake votes are freaking expensive!  If you’re paying $5 for 50 votes, you’d have to spend $600 to get 6,000 votes.  And 6,000 votes won’t even get you in the top 3!  It’s a real shame that Fiverr is letting so many people waste so much time and money on this contest.  I have a feeling that when all is said and done, the judges are just going to ignore the vote counts and pick the video they like best.  But I guess we’ll know how things shake out soon enough.  The rules say that the winners will be announced on July 19th.  So check back here next week to learn the final results.

Post Script: It looks like a ton of fake votes were added while I wrote this post.  The top 3 videos gained a total of 1,000 votes since I took my original screen shot 2 hours ago.  By the way, I’m writing this at 2AM.  Yes, I’m a weirdo but I like to write late at night.  And I guess a lot of “people” like to VOTE at 2AM so maybe I’m not so weird after all.

Youtube no longer gives you 301 “free” views

Image via https://twitter.com/youtube
Image via twitter.com/youtube

When Youtube first launched in 2005, it was easy to rack up really high view counts; all you had to do was go to your video and reload the page over and over and over.  The site counted each page view as a video view so if you wanted to have an impressive (but fake) view count, you could install and run a plugin that would “reload and refresh” the page every 5 or 10 seconds.  Youtube’s engineer’s caught on to that trick pretty quick and soon the implemented the site’s mysterious 301 rule.  You’ve probably noticed that sometimes Youtube videos get “stuck” at 301 views, right?  Well there’s a technical explanation for that phenomenon.  The first 300 “views” were actually just page views.  So if you refreshed your browser over and over, you could generate a bunch of free (i.e. fake) views.  But once the counter hit 300, Youtube would start scrutinizing the source of your views.  If too many views came from the same IP, the counter would freeze until the TRUE view count caught up to the page view count.  And if a video was actually going viral, and if multiple views were registered at the exact moment the counter hit 300, the view count would freeze at 301, 302, 303, etc views.

Confused?  If you are, don’t worry about it because last year Youtube refined their code and did away with the 301 system.  Now that the changes have been fully implemented and tweaked, I decided to run a little experiment.  On June 23rd, 2016, I uploaded a very boring video to Youtube.  I gave it a simple title that probably wouldn’t come up in anyone’s search results.  Here it is:



I let the video sit for a few days so the file could spread across Youtube’s servers.  (When you upload a new video, copies are sent to severs around the world.  Once the process is complete, the view count starts showing views from other regions).  Then I used a Firefox plugin to reload my video’s page over and over.

When I started this process my video had 4 views.  I set my browser to reload the page every 10 seconds.  Every time the page reloaded, a new view was added to the counter.  After 50 reloads, the counter froze at 54.  I let the plugin keep going got another 10 minutes but the counter was stuck.

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I shut off the plugin and closed my browser.  I then left the video alone for a few days to see what would happen.  The next time I checked it, the view count has actually gone down.  That means Youtube automatically checked the validity of ALL of my views.  It found too many from the same IP address and so those views were removed.

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I can understand why Youtube made this change but frankly I think they went a little overboard.  Where’s the harm in letting people generate a few free views?  A brand new video with only 2 or 3 views looks a little pathetic.  So I used to reload my videos 20 or 30 times just to rack up some views before I sent it to anyone.  Now that I think about it, these new changes will probably inspire more people to buy fake youtube views.  And it’s those folks that are really damaging the integrity of the site.

How to set up a perfect Green Screen shot in less than 30 seconds

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My pal Dave rocks out in his driveway

Setting up a green screen can be a real hassle.  It used to take an me at least 45 minutes to hang and light my old 10×16 green drape.  But I was never really happy with the final result.  My lighting would usually be a little off and there was always a stray shadow or wrinkle that I couldn’t get rid off.  So I’d have to spend even more time in post-production playing with masks and the keyer effect’s settings.  But no matter what I did, I could never get the effect to look absolutely, 100% perfect.

And then one day an idea hit me: What if I put away all my LED panels and work lights and just set up my Green Screen outside in the shade?  I did a quick test shoot and I was amazed by the results.  The lighting on the subject and the screen were beautifully smooth and even.  It turns out that when everything is in a shadow, nothing is in a shadow.  I think the process is pretty self-explanatory but I went ahead and made a how-to video that shows off the final effect:



So long story short, if you want to try this trick you need to:

  1.  Use a portable green screen
  2.  Set up outside in a shaded area
  3.  Film while there’s still a lot of ambient sunlight
  4.  Adjust your exposure and white balance for shade-shooting

Trust me, once you try filming this way you’ll never want to waste time lighting a green screen again.

@Midnight surreptitiously changed the entry that won their #HowIGetAround video contest

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@Midnight’s #HowIGetAround winner checks out her new Jag.

@Midnight is one of Comedy Central’s biggest hits.  It does incredibly well for a show that starts at 11:59:59PM.  So it’s not all that surprising that @Midnight’s “How I Get Around” contest wound up being a huge success.  Back in May, host Chris Hardwick announced that one lucky viewer would win a brand new Jaguar XE plus enough cash to cover the taxes on the car.  To enter, participants had to post a photo or video to Twitter, Instagram or Vine that showed how they currently got around and use the hashtag #HowIGetAroundContest.

After the deadline passed I searched Twitter, Vine and Instagram for posts that included the relevant hashtag.  I was amazed by how many entries came up.  My plan was to look at them all but I gave up after about 200 submissions.  With hundreds of entries spread over three social networks, I figured judging this contest would be a nightmare.  But in the end, the producers were able to settle on a winner.  On May 27th, Chris Hardwick gave a brand new Jaguar to a a young woman who entered using the twitter handle @Asheriee_.

@Asheriee_ was brought up on stage and Hardwick talked to her for a while.  But for some reason, they didn’t show her entry until the commercial break.  And when they did show it, it was framed by a bizarre graphic:
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Screnshot from the 5/27/16 episode of @Midnight

To see exactly what Comedy Central aired that night, follow this link and skip ahead to the 19:30 mark.  For now, I’ll summarize the version of @Asheriee_’s entry that aired during the show: @Asheriee_ and her brother play rock-paper-scissors to determine who gets to use the family car and who gets to use the family bicycle.  @Asheriee wins and she picks the bike because the car is a piece of junk that smells moldy.  Cut to the brother as he gets in the car and puts on a face mask.  The end.

It felt like a pretty complete entry so the “see the entire winning video” graphic was a big red flag.  The rules said that entries were only supposed to be 30 seconds long.  The version that aired on @Midnight was about 18 seconds long.  Why would the producers bother cutting 12 seconds from the video?  I mean, this entry was good enough to win almost $50,000 in prizes.  So why not show us the whole thing?  Hundreds of people entered this contest.  Didn’t they deserve to see the actual video that beat them?

I jumped on twitter and discovered that @Midnight hadn’t even posted the full entry yet.  But I did find @Asheriee_’s original submission:
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So the missing 12 seconds just happened to include a very un-funny joke about gun violence.  (I live in the south suburbs of Chicago and unfortunately around here “They Shootin’!” is a common joke-response to fireworks or other loud popping noises.)  The missing joke presented me with a mystery; did Comedy Central cut it for time or did they intentionally remove the joke because it was offensive?

Believe it or not, I actually figured out the answer.  It looks like the joke was intentionally censored.  When @Midnight finally posted the winning entry to Twitter, the missing 12 seconds were back.  But this time something else was missing….
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The bang, bang, bang of the car door was still there but an editor removed the line “They shootin!”  In fact, the line wasn’t just removed; it was carefully covered with audio from a different part of the video.  So an editor cut the line and then selected, copied and pasted a section of background noise to fill in the hole.

I’ve been running this website for 7 years now and I’ve never seen anything like this before.  The judges in this contest picked a video that included a joke about gun violence and then multiple people worked together to sanitize that entry for public consumption.  And to make things worse, the producers went out of their way to hide this act of censorship.  If  @Asheriee_ had deleted her original entry, no one would have seen the “real” video that won one of the year’s biggest video contests.

I can understand why the producers (and presumably the sponsors) wanted to remove the “They Shootin!” joke.  Even though the this episode aired a few weeks before the tragedy in Orlando, it was still offensive and stupid.  It mocks gun violence, it mocks fears of gun violence and it perpetuates negative stereotypes about African Americans and African American neighborhoods.  What I don’t understand is why the judges would pick an entry that needed to be censored.  Like I said, hundreds of people entered this contest.  A lot of contestants broke the rules by including copyrighted music or images but there were easily 50 decent, eligible submissions that could have won.  So why did the judges pick a video that they couldn’t even air on TV?  Unfortunately that question is rhetorical because I’ve yet to figure out how or why this particular video was selected as the winner.