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Shill posts

Akitist Mar 10, 2011 10:29 AM

I've reported a few that cropped up on the Los Angeles board, but not many. Generally what sets me off is when one is written like the smarmiest deicriptions on a menu. Beffore reporting I'll check the poster's profile to see if they have some history as legitimate Hounds or are hit-and-run. I certainly hope I can discriminate between a hired gun and someone who may just be blown away by a certain restaurant. I try to give the benefit of the doubt and of course the moderators have the final say.

Anybody else have views on this subject?

  1. CapeCodGuy Mar 10, 2011 10:59 AM

    Yes. Shills, bad. Reporting them, good.

    1. kaleokahu Mar 10, 2011 02:41 PM

      Akitist: I think it's really difficult to say what's shill and what's not. Sure, there are some that are shamelessly and overweeningly laudatory, but that's not any proof of anything beyond shamelessness and overweeningness. Likewise with the posters--not that a long-time poster couldn't be shilling either, BTW.

      I do not envy the Mods on this issue--theirs is a tough call to make here. Without investigation (which the Mods sometimes claim to do), I think the best anyone can say is that a post is suspect. Therefore, I think we all ought to be a little circumspect about hitting that Report button.

      And the reverse shills may be even harder to ID.

      17 Replies
      1. re: kaleokahu
        mcf Mar 10, 2011 03:16 PM

        I report them if (like the one for foodies in Riverhead in the NY not NYC today) they sound like promotions, name one particular company/resto and the poster hasn't got a history of board participation. I knew that there was no basis for what the poster wrote about food in Riverhead, but the wording obviously passed the smell test for the mods, even though the poster has never posted on CH ever before.

        The post is still up, and while I feel pretty much 100% sure it's a shill, I can understand why they left it there. I figure once I report it, I'm out of it; I don't feel I have to be circumspect because I think the mods generally have a better idea of what's acceptable or not. The decision isn't mine.

        1. re: mcf
          kaleokahu Mar 10, 2011 04:26 PM

          mcf: "...they sound like promotions, name one particular company/resto and the poster hasn't got a history of board participation."

          This is a fair description of a lot of legitimate favorable restaurant reviews on CH. By that standard, a lot of good information would be lost and participation discouraged. I can see why the mods have no basis for taking that one down.

          I've been participating here for about a year. How long does a new member have to participate before their resto reviews are suspect?

          1. re: kaleokahu
            mcf Mar 10, 2011 05:04 PM

            It wasn't a review I referred to today, and that one is still up. At other times, promotional posts appeared in several threads, all extolling the same place, by someone who'd never posted before.

            And, as I said, it doesn't matter how many you or I report, the mods are deciding if they pass the smell test and TOS or not.

            1. re: mcf
              kaleokahu Mar 10, 2011 05:28 PM

              It may well matter how much extra work the mods are put to, and raises the specter of good posts getting poofed.

              1. re: kaleokahu
                mcf Mar 10, 2011 05:48 PM

                It's not extra work, it's the work they've created a report button for.

        2. re: kaleokahu
          Quine Mar 10, 2011 03:25 PM

          reverse shills I report just as often.

          1. re: Quine
            kaleokahu Mar 10, 2011 04:30 PM


            Help me out here... How does one recognize a reverse shill?

            If the answer is new member + bad review = reverse shill, there's an awful lot of reporting (and not much moderating) to do. Can that be the standard?

            1. re: kaleokahu
              Quine Mar 10, 2011 05:00 PM

              I am not a mod, I do not make standards. When I see a *nasty* review, with no content only slams, I report it as such. The mods do the rest. I KISS.

              1. re: Quine
                Indirect Heat Mar 10, 2011 05:33 PM

                One of my first posts on Chowhound went down the memory hole. I had a review for a restaurant in suburban northern Virginia. There was a whole thread devoted to how fabulous it was, which is why we went. My steak was overcooked, my salad was little more than old iceberg lettuce and carrot shavings and our wine didn't arrive until the meal was nearly done. I reported what an awful experience we had, and my post was up for all of a day before it got removed, sans explanation. I think someone reported me for being a reverse shill. I don't think my posts would disappear now, but sometimes people write their first post because they really have strong feelings about something, and it inspires them to stop lurking.

                1. re: Quine
                  kaleokahu Mar 10, 2011 05:34 PM

                  Quine: I have learned to avoid second person personal pronouns here.

                  But one who reports as a shill is stating their belief that the post is a shill. That person would be trying to enforce their own standard. For all anyone knows, EVERY uninvestigated review, positive or negative, *could* be a shill, even low-content and "nasty". Reporting everything and passing the buck to the Mods to decide isn't right, is it?

                  1. re: kaleokahu
                    mcf Mar 10, 2011 05:50 PM

                    "But one who reports as a shill is stating their belief that the post is a shill."

                    Not belief. Suspicion.

                    1. re: mcf
                      Quine Mar 10, 2011 06:10 PM

                      Yepper mcf, a report is merely," geesh this smells to me?\! Does to you as well?"

                      It is not trying to enforce one's own standard, or judgement, merely saying "Can you smell that smell? If not, ok. If so maybe a decomp was found. I love CSI.

                    2. re: kaleokahu
                      Akitist Mar 10, 2011 06:12 PM

                      The kind of thing that sets my shill-0-meter off is something like "Chef Jeff personally selects each head of cruelty-free heirloom lettuce to ensure that each diner has a peak salad experience. All steaks are grilled to perfection over sustainably-grown hardwood charcoal and served by a well-trained and attentive waitstaff. There is a marvelous assortment of rich, yummy deserts."

                      There's a big difference between that and "Hey, we ate at Chez Jeffrey last night and everything we ordered was good and the service was, too"

                    3. re: Quine
                      squid kun Mar 11, 2011 12:09 AM

                      >When I see a *nasty* review, with no content only slams, I report it as such. The mods do the rest. I KISS.

                      My approach exactly. Sometimes they agree, sometimes not, but I'm convinced after years of doing this that it's a thoughtful judgment based on long experience with just what shills (or anti-shills) will try to sneak in here.

                      1. re: squid kun
                        jen kalb Mar 11, 2011 07:53 AM

                        In addition, I feel no obligation to give the suspected shill the benefit of the doubt. the decision of whether a post is a shill or not belongs to the moderators, not me. but the moderators cant possibly read every post, so its our role to bring the possible shill posts to the moderators' attention promptly. Its much more disruptive to delete these once a discussion develops.

                2. re: kaleokahu
                  The Chowhound Team Mar 10, 2011 05:34 PM

                  Please, use the report button liberally. As others have noted, a report is not a deletion. We'd very much appreciate the chance to take a look at any situation you think is suspicious.

                  1. re: The Chowhound Team
                    Quine Mar 10, 2011 06:14 PM

                    TY, While I might get deleted sometimes, I learn, I find the mods here for the most part are very respectful, thoughtful and have never said to me, *Zang!* You is wrong! They have given me an insight that allows me to see other frames of reference.

                    My personal viewpoint is I hope I stop learning about 20 minutes after I am dead.

                3. nsxtasy Mar 10, 2011 05:47 PM

                  I like the way Akitist expressed it in his/her opening post in this topic.

                  1. Veggo Mar 11, 2011 01:36 AM

                    Identifying shills and reverse shills is not an exact science. Sure, some stick out like a sore thumb and giving them the 'ole John Bobbitt is easy. Others are more subtle. But as one does when sifting through data - determining means, modes, averages, standard deviations - it is prudent to throw out the highs and lows before one reaches a conclusion.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Veggo
                      porker Mar 11, 2011 02:56 AM

                      Delete them all and let God sort them out - hehe.

                    2. CindyJ Mar 11, 2011 06:09 AM

                      I've often seen what look like "shill posts" from first-time posters, and the replies to those that I like are the ones that go something like, "Welcome to Chowhound, NICKNAME. Thanks for your rave review of RESTAURANT. We'd love to hear your spin on other local restaurants, too -- those you like, and those you don't..." If they never post again, you can pretty well guess it was a shill.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: CindyJ
                        Servorg Mar 11, 2011 06:33 AM

                        "If they never post again, you can pretty well guess it was a shill."

                        Perhaps. But not always. Some first time/only time posters get here because they have Googled their favorite restaurant and up pops a CH thread on the place. They then leave a comment, not knowing or caring about any other aspects of the site. Googling in is like parachuting into the middle of some wild place, and then along comes a virtual helicopter to pick you up again. It's the only and last time you'll ever visit. But you leave a mark carved in the big tree to show you were there.

                        1. re: Servorg
                          Veggo Mar 11, 2011 07:26 AM

                          "to show you were there" - like dogs visiting hydrants? I don't attach much cred to one- timers for the example Alan cites below, or to those who just blew a thou at EMP or Robuchon and need to crow. The good guys here hit a lot of infield singles and have a respectable on-base percentage.

                          1. re: Veggo
                            Servorg Mar 11, 2011 07:53 AM

                            I'm not holding the first time/only time Google in poster up as a paragon of chow virtue. Simply pointing out that not all one timers are shills. They come in without knowing anything about CH, simply because they clicked on a link that showed up when they Googled something. They then decide to register and post because this place is their favorite, or they have a story to share about when they went there back in the day, or they knew the owners and just wanted to tell someone about them, and then they are gone like a ship passing in the night. That may be clueless but it's not shilling.

                            1. re: Servorg
                              Veggo Mar 11, 2011 08:14 AM

                              I completely agree, first-timers' raison d'etre is unclear. I found CH by Googling "Malinalco", a tiny Mexican town where I used to play golf on weekends, and I hastily signed up to advise some poor hound not to spend a whole week there as he was contemplating, unless he was a golfer.
                              It took a LONG time for me to figure out the rub of the green on CH.
                              And he went for the whole week.

                        2. re: CindyJ
                          The Chowhound Team Mar 11, 2011 09:51 AM

                          Please don't point out the newness of newbies or subject them to interrogation. Even if the welcome is sincere, and especially if it isn't, it ends up suggesting that they don't have enough credibility to be taken seriously, which is tremendously unwelcoming for new members.

                          If you believe that a post may be from a shill, please just flag it instead of replying.

                          1. re: The Chowhound Team
                            rworange Mar 11, 2011 10:17 AM


                            I can see the above example as being a bit on the investigative reporter side, but I often note that someone is new if the rec is good, just to know someone takes them seriously ... as in

                            Hey, welcome to Chowhound, xxx. What a great post. I'll add xxx to the list of restaurants I want to try. Then I might add some info to engage them in conversation further. Often I get some sort of positive reply back.

                            So you think dropping the "Welcome to Chowhound" would be a good idea?

                            In the far past I did some welcomes pointing out people were first time posters because I thought they were shills, but I stopped doing that when the report button came along.

                            1. re: rworange
                              The Chowhound Team Mar 11, 2011 10:24 AM

                              We imagine it's possible for people who are genuinely being welcoming to welcome someone and not make it feel like it's a call-out. Unfortunately, we most often see people being welcomed in the circumstances described here -- where the poster is suspicious of the poster and their motivations, and that suspicion comes through loud and clear.

                              1. re: The Chowhound Team
                                CindyJ Mar 11, 2011 01:52 PM

                                I do believe we're on the same page here. I'm all for giving everyone who posts here -- first timers and old timers alike -- the benefit of the doubt. But for me, a post of a restaurant review carries more credibility when it's not a once-and-done event. I think a welcoming message to a newbie is a nice thing, and an invitation to post again isn't necessarily intended as a *wink* *wink* to everyone else reading the post. It should be sincere in its intent and content. AND, if it results in a "hidden agenda" being revealed, oh well, that's what the mods are here for.

                                1. re: CindyJ
                                  kaleokahu Mar 11, 2011 02:02 PM

                                  CindyJ: No, we were told in a Mod post in this very thread that we should not welcome new posters, that it insinuates that they lack credibility. But we should still report their restaurant posts freely.

                                  1. re: kaleokahu
                                    Quine Mar 11, 2011 04:48 PM

                                    I am sorry, can you cite me, a copy and past from this thread is fine, where you see specific instructions, or as you say "CindyJ: No, we were told in a Mod post in this very thread "
                                    to "not welcome new posters"?

                                    I Cannot imagine a CH mod telling anyone not to "not welcome new posters" so I missed it,

                                    Please show me.

                                    1. re: Quine
                                      kaleokahu Mar 13, 2011 03:44 PM

                                      Hi, Quine: I would give you a cite, but it was deleted along with my and rworange's posts about it above.

                                      As the Team's response below *now* says, it might be OK if you have good "intent" with enthusiasm and without reservation. The point being that there is no rule, just ad hoc moderation.

                                  2. re: CindyJ
                                    The Chowhound Team Mar 11, 2011 03:40 PM

                                    If your only intent is to enthusiastically and unreservedly welcome a new poster (rworange's example is a good one), then that's often going to be okay.

                                    But in cases like the scenario you've described above, we've found through painful experience that if there's even a glimmer of suspicion behind the welcome and questions, it comes through loud and clear as distrust of the new poster. Plus, it doesn't bring the possibly shilly post to the attention of the moderators. In those cases, we'd really prefer that you omitted the welcome, and let us know about your suspicions privately. That way, we can investigate, and if there's nothing to them, the new poster isn't scared away unnecessarily.

                          2. Miss Needle Mar 11, 2011 08:07 AM

                            Keep on reporting. Sometimes the mods remove them, sometimes not. What I don't advocate doing is calling people out on the forum. Sometimes what is perceived to be a shill can be a legitimate posting. I remember getting kind of miffed when somebody asked me if I was shilling for the particular restaurant I was posting about (and this was within the past year -- and I've been posting for a long time).

                            1. Kagemusha Mar 11, 2011 10:55 AM

                              The mods on my regional board either nuke 'em outright or act on the kvetching of demonstrably sane posters. Frankly, shills are obvious in most cases for their vague ridiculously positive reviews from drive-by posters. Crank posts are just as annoying and misleading.They're all a PITA but part of the landscape.

                              1. alanbarnes Mar 11, 2011 07:34 PM

                                Okay, my last post was deleted because it gave some specifics about a particular shill that might provide details on how to shill more effectively. Suffice it to say that the mods have resources the rest of us don't when trying to determine whether a post is on the up-and-up.

                                A single slightly suspicious post may be completely harmless. Or it may be another piece of information the mods can use to suss out inappropriate behavior. But unless it's called to their attention, they can't use that information.

                                To paraphrase Arnaud Amalric, report 'em all and let the mods sort 'em out.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                  Quine Mar 11, 2011 07:42 PM

                                  hey I KISS, I see a post that has any question for me, I hit the "report" button, try to add a comment as to why I felt it was off, but know that "report" is the key.

                                  After that, YMMV but I am cool, Looking back means I can't see the cool stuff coming into my view from all directions.

                                  1. re: alanbarnes
                                    porker Mar 12, 2011 03:08 AM

                                    I went a tad further...

                                  2. d
                                    DGresh Mar 13, 2011 05:26 AM

                                    Funny, just this morning I saw a new post on an old thread about a particular restaurant in our town. This restaurant has gotten very mixed reviews, and several times obvious shills have appeared by the infamous "first time poster", full of the usual advertisement-speak. The first thing I did before I even read the post was to check the history of the poster. First time. Ok, so I read the review. It was so mixed that I didn't report it as a shill-- but I'm guessing that the owner might be suggesting to people who come that they post here. Just a guess, since there hadn't been any movement on that thread for a long time, so I'm wondering why the person posted.

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