Your Torrenting Past Affecting Your Future (at TPS)

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othersna

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#1
I've written numerous blog articles about how members should conduct themselves if they have any kind of negative "past" in the private tracker world, and how to handle it as a TPS (and tracker) member. Now I have no control on how individual trackers handle such issues, and different trackers will handle things differently. Some may just ask you to never do what you did again, and others may put you on the "bad user list" for all trackers to see.

However what I can set guidelines for is how we handle this at TPS. Also note these are more guidelines than hard rules. Because of the circumstances, I may handle the case of one member differently than another. (Every situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.) The staff was having a discussion about this in the staff forum, and we thought about laying down more rules, but since the issue is complicated, I'm writing a blog article instead. (Plus potential applicants can read this and see how we stand.)

First, here ARE some hard and fast rules. If you have ever sold invites before, there is NO amnesty. Do the right thing and leave TPS, as we will never forgive invite selling. This is no n00b error and takes considerable effort to participate in this, and invite selling is one of the worst things you can do as a private tracker member.

If you have ratio cheated - specifically if you rigged your torrent client to give you buffer or a higher ratio without properly earning it, also get out of TPS and don't come back. This is also no n00b move and usually involves you going to one of those "bad user sites" to learn how to do this. Now some trackers consider giving out bonus points on invite forums (if against their rules), or manipulating the bonus point systems of trackers (usually involves collusion between you and another user) a form of cheating and will cause you to be banned. On rare occasions, we have forgiven those transgressions if we get a full and honest confession. Not all who have done this will be forgiven - depends on all of the circumstances.

If you have made dupe accounts at trackers, we also don't forgive that. There is no n00b excuse for doing that. Usually dupe account members are also traders and sellers who were banned and then came back under a new identity.

If you have a "past" (or even a "present" ) and are not upfront with it soon after joining, and you are reported to us by tracker staff with proof of the wrongdoing, you will also be banned without any possible amnesty. Part of the benefit of being at TPS is that members can feel relatively safe in inviting their friends here. Someone who lives a "double life" and pretends to be a good user here compromise the security and safety of our members. For example, if you get an invite from a TPS member and then you get banned and the TPS member gets a PM from tracker staff saying he invited a bad user, you are going to get banned from TPS.

OK, enough about the hard and fast rules. Here is the "kinder, gentler" part of this blog article.

It is already written in the rules that if you joined an invite forum (which may or may not allow trading) as a n00b, you must end your membership to those forums. We would also highly recommend you tell us you were a member of such forums and what you did there. Some of these places may have reviews or discussions, and you can still go there and lurk - just don't log in because that raises suspicion. If we get evidence that a long time TPS member is participating at these places as a member (such as receiving or offering invites there) it could lead to a ban here. After joining TPS and being active here, there should also be no reason for someone to join one of these places. (Note I am not talking about torrent forums, but forums created specifically for activities which break tracker rules like trading, selling or illegal giveaways)

If you have traded in the past, chances are you cannot remain at TPS. We have made very rare exceptions, and only for very special situations. (For example one person confessed to all of his activities to his trackers, got banned at some of them, and stayed at some of them. The main thing with him is he let his trackers know exactly what he did, and then came to us, all very early in his TPS membership.) Anyone who has traded on a regular basis, even after being a member of his trackers for awhile, won't come back to TPS. (should know better)

If you have purchased an invite, we will only forgive you if you did this as a n00b, did not do it often, and came clean with your trackers. Note by coming clean with your trackers, you will probably get banned at the place you bought the invite at and might get on a "bad user list." But by being upfront at TPS upon joining, we will let you stay. If you do it after being here for awhile, you will not be able to stay. ;)

The above also holds true for giving or receiving invites at an "invite forum" if against tracker rules. (like the ones on our No Movement List) Chances are this will lead to a ban at the tracker where you did this, and we may forgive you if you are upfront about this early upon joining TPS. (meaning full disclosure of everything you did) If you are reported to us by trackers and you were not upfront about it, we have to let you go. Obviously you will stop engaging in invite offers and requests there after joining TPS.

P.S. These guidelines can change based upon input by our longstanding tracker staff or by consensus of TPS staff.
 
Deku-shrub

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#2
If I may make a counter point. On the internet there is no single identity. To be banned 'forever' is not that, it means 'burn this identity now, start another one'. Interesting ideas about reputation systems come from this.

By having absolute punishments this disincentivises people retaining an identity, good and bad, meaning communities as a whole need to deal with more almost-no reputation people and less less-than-perfect reputation people. It is more work for staff to check if someone has reformed their evil ways rather than simply banning them. However this work simply shifts the burden of management onto new users who will viewed with more suspicion.

Years ago when I ran forums with a fairly tight-knit community I had a policy of no permanent bans ever. This ensured trouble makers were openly known and that sock puppets were near non-existent. Also this means the punishment for covertly running an alternate account without staff knowledge was absolute. Then again, I was banned 'forever' from that site which turned out to be 6 years until there was a change of administration so...
 
dieNal

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#3
May I give gold to such an awesome blog, you fellas at TPS are the most kindest staff ever I have known.
 
texteditor

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#4
actu
If I may make a counter point. On the internet there is no single identity. To be banned 'forever' is not that, it means 'burn this identity now, start another one'. Interesting ideas about reputation systems come from this.

By having absolute punishments this disincentivises people retaining an identity, good and bad, meaning communities as a whole need to deal with more almost-no reputation people and less less-than-perfect reputation people. It is more work for staff to check if someone has reformed their evil ways rather than simply banning them. However this work simply shifts the burden of management onto new users who will viewed with more suspicion.

Years ago when I ran forums with a fairly tight-knit community I had a policy of no permanent bans ever. This ensured trouble makers were openly known and that sock puppets were near non-existent. Also this means the punishment for covertly running an alternate account without staff knowledge was absolute. Then again, I was banned 'forever' from that site which turned out to be 6 years until there was a change of administration so...

It's funny because I stumble into your username across wikipedia or reddit or whatever enough that I figured you, of all people, would understand how people can be driven to keep and maintain pseudonymous reputations by, among other things, fear of having an identity gain ill-repute. It's a good thing that newbies are treated with suspicion and why building an identity takes time, it's because of how varied policies are across the internet with regard to reputations
 
Deku-shrub

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#5
fear of having an identity gain ill-repute.
This goes both ways though. I participate only in forums where I trust their governance structures and technical policies these days. If there is insufficient precedence or policy, I'm opened up to the risk of harassment etc. (which happened on a site I recently joined, and I had to muster a lot of effort not to quit over this)

I won't go on say 4chan and say this is my online handle because that's a user reputationless system.

That said, this is my second long term handle, it turns out several forums I used to participate in basically owned the content. e.g. you can't delete old posts so it's there forever. I only participate in media that's either not on the open internet (Facebook, TPS) or I have primary control over (My blog, Reddit, Wikipedia, Twitter).

Interestingly, apparently being a spy in the future is going to be a lot harder because the 'typical' online web footprint is getting increasely costly to fake. :D

Anyhow, my original point, there is an ongoing arms race between reputation tracking by organisations, and reputation gaming by individuals. My recommendation is by avoiding bans, you slow down the race a bit.
 
jammyone

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#6
By having absolute punishments this disincentivises people retaining an identity, good and bad, meaning communities as a whole need to deal with more almost-no reputation people and less less-than-perfect reputation people.
Interesting idea Deku-shrub Deku-shrub .

I guess my counter-counter point is that in my humble opinion someone that has sold invites shows blatant disregard for tracker communities, security and their invitees customers. What sort of meaningful contribution to TPS do you feel an invite seller could offer? If such a person doesn't receive a permanent ban, do you think a temporary suspension or some other non permanent punishment would make them change their ways?
 
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Deku-shrub

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#7
Interesting idea Deku-shrub Deku-shrub .

I guess my counter-counter point is that in my humble opinion someone that has sold invites shows blatant disregard for tracker communities, security and their invitees customers. What sort of meaningful contribution to TPS do you feel an invite seller could offer? If such a person doesn't receive a permanent ban, do you think a temporary suspension or some other non permanent punishment would make them change their ways?
It's all about how many management time is worth putting in.

For example, publicly branding a person (via an uneditable profile attribute for example which shows on all relevant view) for their past transgressions would allow such a person to participate in the community with a walking disclaimer.

I prefer activities like that to in public, otherwise you end up having to run systems on secret forums and effectively spy on your users. Having a binary 'okay vs ban' is of course simpler to administer.
 
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cherwonk

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#8
If I may make a counter point. On the internet there is no single identity. To be banned 'forever' is not that, it means 'burn this identity now, start another one'. Interesting ideas about reputation systems come from this.
I agree with this, as I have belonged to a few of these "Forums". Not for the reason of buying, selling, or trading. More for the catching of such people. But even those caught were using "other" names than what they use on sites.
Hell since I've been on I've had a few different names.... Spunky, Fatal, Setup, c0der and of course cherwonk. Each name had its own email, the only thing tying them was the IPs. Even that used to be changeable, although these days with digital phones and the need for 911 to place an address with it... its a little more difficult but not by much.

While I agree with this post, I feel that its unenforceable. Anyone that makes it in here is hopefully smart enough to thwart any trace linking them to such forums. We need to remember that almost everyone in these sites are actually "unknown" , they are who they want to be on that day at that moment.
 
Dwarsligger

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#9
If you have a "past" (or even a "present" ) and are not upfront with it soon after joining, and you are reported to us by tracker staff with proof of the wrongdoing, you will also be banned without any possible amnesty. Part of the benefit of being at TPS is that members can feel relatively safe in inviting their friends here.
Not only friends should be safe inviting friends but also tracker staff should be safe inviting members and know they are trusted ones. So I would strongly suggest to take othersna's tip on coming clean when joining or soon after joining quite seriously because 9/10 times your past will come to haunt you.

Anyone that makes it in here is hopefully smart enough to thwart any trace linking them to such forums. We need to remember that almost everyone in these sites are actually "unknown" , they are who they want to be on that day at that moment.
You can try to delete any traces linking you to previous 'identities' and for some it will work. But people are people and often give theirselves away by just general behaviour, posting styles, tracker histories,... It's not possible to delete your entire history even if it was some alter-ego, or maybe it is possible but many who tried have failed.
 
isharci

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#10
I'm curious, is it a transgression to join one of those sites or does the fault lay in being an active participant/member. I mean, I joined AshleyMadison.com but it was out of curiousity, I never cheated on anyone!
 
Dwarsligger

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#11
I'm curious, is it a transgression to join one of those sites or does the fault lay in being an active participant/member.
They are so open people can see almost everything without joining them. Joining out of curiousity is the first step, many will from there go in further and find themselves in trouble later. To me anyone who signs up there is crossing a line but that's my personal view.
 
othersna

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#12
isharci isharci - We talked about people who join "bad user" sites but haven't done anything. The analogy is if you walk into an XXX shop but don't buy anything your motive was still an interest in what was inside. ;) A lot of those sites let you lurk there, and you only need to join to participate in the selling, buying and trading. So yes, we will be suspicious if you join. Similar situation with some infamous "bad user" sites, like one which teaches you how to ratio cheat. There is no good reason to join that place since you can lurk and read the forums.

Re: other issues. Yes it is "unenforceable" to keep all bad users out of TPS. You can imagine my shock when active users get exposed as bad users by tracker staff. I actually didn't want to believe the reports until I saw the hard proof.

Regarding: giving someone a "second chance." Unfortunately, the majority of bad users will continue their bad activities. To name names, we forgave a guy named NaveedKhan because he was also one of the most active members here. Well he screwed up again. One tracker staffer chided me by saying former bad users will "always" screw up again. Another really active user, the.communicator admitted to trying to buy an invite right after he joined. So we kept him here at TPS. Then we banned him after he tried to buy an invite to THE EXACT SAME TRACKER a second time.

So, those here "with a past" we advise not to give out invites or receive any invites with anyone here without disclosing their past first. Some we have removed their access to the invite section.

Re: Spying on TPS members. Before I became staff, it was rumored some TPS staff would "spy" on the members they suspected of being bad users by going to the bad user sites and trying to match members at those sites with members here, and then banning them. I don't know how they did it, but as you can see from the ban lists at 2009 they caught a lot of bad users here. Currently, our staff would really like to spend our time improving our site and don't have time to "spy" on our members. (Plus it sounds kind of creepy to do that. ;) ) Usually we ban a bad user here when tracker staff report them, or if a fellow member reports them based upon direct evidence. (We always need direct proof to ban someone. We never ban based upon rumor or hearsay.)
 
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Dwarsligger

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#13
Currently, our staff would really like to spend our time improving our site and don't have time to "spy" on our members. (Plus it sounds kind of creepy to do that. ;) )
I find it more creepy to have bad members here pretending to be good ones so you know I always make time for some snooping around :D
 
isharci

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#14
I will continue my streak of good torrent citizenship.

P.S. Don't look for me on AshleyMadison!
 
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#15
This has made for very interesting reading, and I can't believe how incredibly naive I have been. I did not know you could buy invites, until I joined TPS. tho I have seen on a tracker site the blurb "have this, would like that" ...trader ?? As to ratio cheating, good gracious I should be so knowledgeable :D.
I am truly glad that TPS does the vetting, because as an individual one does not have the werewithal to determine if someone is a good user or a louse. So @Dwars, you just go ahead and snoop :)
 
othersna

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#16
Speaking about not fessing up and being honest with us - we just banned Root. For now there was no "smoking gun" of him doing bad things, but he's said some suspicious things which was a good reason to see what he was up to. ("Targeted" spying if you will.) Then when we confronted him he lied to us.

So..... when confronted, I already said the best policy is to be honest with us, because once you lie to us, we ban you. Period. Even if we don't have the hard proof of wrongdoing.
 
isharci

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#17
I was wondering how someone with 400+ posts was a new recruit.
 
thedeh

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#18
the best policy is to be honest with us, because once you lie to us, we ban you. Period.
Just to expand on this. Anyone who has ever had a run-in with tracker staff (anything from getting an inactivity disabled account re-enabled to something more serious) should know by now that usually when trackers ask you a question, they already know the answer, they're just testing you. TPS is no different. Be honest with us and you have a far greater chance of keeping your account.

Personally I like root, but I was the first person to vote for a ban. Unlike most forums out there, in the torrent community, personality is not the main reason for a ban. It's whether you're a selling/cheating scumbag, or somehow otherwise connected to that scene.

For anyone out there reading this and worried about your account, I suggest opening a support ticket here. Be as honest as possible. Because I can tell you now, if we catch you ourselves, getting banned will be the least of your concerns.
 
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dakka

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#19
should know by now, that usually when trackers ask you a question, they already know the answer, they're just testing you.
Its very surprising how many people don't understand this and want to argue about something we already know. Yes we are testing you, you fool! I myself will forgive quite a lot, but if you lie to me I will just ban you. I can't handle liars...so yea be warned...a lot of staffers of my ilk. We are pirates but there is honor amongst thieves, break that trust and we will send you up the gang plank to join Davy Jones Locker!

:plank2:
 
othersna

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#20
Although it is not in our rules (or even the blog article), it should be clear if you lie to TPS staff you'll get banned here and if you lie to tracker staff you'll get banned from the tracker. Then all discussion stops and the issue is over. (Like we said, we really have more important things to take care of.)

I suppose the advice I can give is, someone who did bad things in the torrent world can expect to get banned from trackers and probably from us. Lying to cover it up just prolongs their agony and wastes our time. By being honest, at least they have a shot at redemption. But I've had some users in IRC confess knowing they will get banned, but at least I appreciated the honesty. (Then there's no hard feelings and we part amicably.) The ones that lie, get caught and then banned stick in my memory for a long time...

Another example - There was a guy tracker staff reported to us as a suspected bad user. In IRC, he told me that "his brother" was a bad user and not him, logged into his tracker accounts , and then did the bad things. (Now if you believe that I have a plot of land in the desert to sell you. ;) ) But to worsen the lie, he was in IRC with another TPS staffer and said that it was "his neighbor" who logged into his tracker accounts and did the bad things. (Sometimes you really want to pull your hair out when this crap happens.)
 
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