Sunday, 22 March 2009

Shock horror at Authonomy

Yesterday evening I wrote a comment for a rather good book on Authonomy, What About the Boy?, and had trouble loading it. The site was s-l-o-w. Today I found out why.

A writer called Vineet Bhalla, username Klazart, a computer gamer, has got his friends to join and back his book. Lots of them. 697 and rising. His book is currently at 18 in the charts; his chums have now replaced all the people at the top of the talent-spotters chart - the chart that was brought in so that its algorithms would defeat people doing what Bhalla is doing. My own T-S rank has plummeted from 12 to 167.

He has demonstrated that the algorithm can only cope with people who load dozens of friends - the most one person has recruited hitherto is 150, from Facebook - it is powerless against a man who can rally the support of hundreds.

I wonder how many of the 697 have read Bhalla's book? Any of them?

Last summer, on this blog, I said that Harper Collins' encouraging people, in the F.A.Q., to get their family and friends to join Authonomy and back their book was a cheat's charter. That passage in the F.A.Q. is still there.

HC staff will come in on Monday and see what is happening to their site. I'm interested to know what their reaction will be.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
UPDATE: Harper Collins are happy with the way Bhalla has used the site, and their only concern is with the performance issues that occurred with so many extra people visiting Authonomy.
See their post here.
UPDATE 2: Harper Collins has changed the talent-spotter algorithm, to 'encourage the type of behaviour that most people here would like to see in future'.
See their post here.


  1. I agree that the problem is with the rules that HC made and they were made aware long ago that this could happen. My talent spotter ranking fell by 400 overnight and all the books on my shelf are climbing steadily.(went from 270 to 900 in a few days) Can't login into autonomy right now (same problem last night), but am going to pull my book. Don't want to be on a site with cyber crooks.

  2. Anli, your reaction is understandable, but don't be in too much of a hurry to leave.

    Harper Collins will not be happy at this skewing of the charts. I think they will take action; if they don't, the site will become useless. Where Bhalla has led, others will follow.

    It may take them a little time to decide what to do...

  3. I believe HC will find a way to address this but I bet it will take them several days to do so. It's a tricky situation.

    Supposedly, Bhalla posted a YouTube video to gain support, but I can't find it.

  4. Chris, I think you have to be one of Bhalla's friends to access his video.

    HC could just say this is not the way to go on, and delete all his supporters' accounts. That would be quick and simple.

    And speed is important to stop people getting fed up and leaving...

  5. Think HC can solve the problem. But I got criticised when I said these people should be flushed out. Suspect many supporters are just clones/robots. And think they are all computer experts. This guy is on linkedIn as a computer software consultant.

    Anyway I can't even login at the moment - same problem I had last night. Have complained to Rik this morning before I realised what was going on.

  6. Yes, I saw that, Anli - but that's just Nick. Take no notice of him stirring things.

    How about creating a new temporary identity to log in? People have done that before now - Toscka logged in as Toscka 2 when he was locked out...

  7. Hi Lexi,

    Yes, I saw the gamer attack. Until the gamers and the sock puppet army are gone, I will have trouble taking Authonomy seriously.

    George (Seamus33)
    The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue

  8. I had a lurk around Authonomy to have a look at what’s going on.

    Thing is, the guy doesn’t seem to have broken any site rules. He’s used an army of genuine supporters and taken the Authonomy ethos to its logical conclusion.

    Although if they’re all sock puppets, that’s a different matter.

    Is it true that racist insults have been thrown at this guy? That's very sad if it is and I hope HC do something about that.

  9. I can't even get on to the site. Either somebody is overwhelming it or H/C is having their own look around.

  10. Here's the link.

    They couldn't have read it because he states in the video it's their first glimpse at it.

    I'm really just quite said that the system seized up. I just like being in the community.

  11. 'Genuine supporters', HJ?

    They support Bhalla all right, but they haven't read his book.

    Authonomy is about getting the best books to the top of the chart; this involves reading the darn things, not voting for your mate because he asks you to.

  12. Managed to log in early this morning. Figured out this bloke was operating from the UK/Greenwich Time Zone - as the evenings were the worst time the last 2 days to get onto the site. Have now read that he is from Ireland.

    I liked Authonomy for the community of readers, the comments I got on my book, the very useful tips on a wide range of topics. That was invaluable. I have pulled my book, will stay as a reader. As long as my TSR is so low I may as well not bother reading other books as they wil not benefit greatly from me backing them. And the fact that these newbies have such high TSR's smacks of hacking. So I am off the site for a month and will then re-consider. Maybe just what I needed to get back to writing.

  13. Anli, I hope you get a lot of writing done while you're away.

    I don't really see that HC can let this pass, even if technically no rules have been broken. It's like handing over their site to Bhalla's supporters, to run how they choose.

    And I know from last summer, when a lot of people got their friends and relatives to back them, that without intervention the talent-spotter chart will take months to return to normal. That's after the gamers have accomplished their mission and gone.

  14. 10:55 AM Mountain Standard Time: authonomy is currently undergoing "maintenance"

  15. I hope that means what I think it means...

  16. I kinda doubt it.

    I haven't read what this new fellow has put on Authonomy and doubt I will. Doesn't matter if it's good or not, I think this episode just is another sign that Authonomy and any other supposedly "Let the people decide" sort of effort is bound to be plagued with all sorts of variables and manipulators that render the whole thing a lot less than effective.

    If H/C wants to know how skillful a writer is at generating buzz (and why wouldn't they) then I understand why they have no problems with what the "Lesser Sins" fellow is doing.

    And honestly, it does give a person a bit of perspective on just how hollow any sort of ranking is when looked at in a What It Matters to The World At Large sort of picture.

  17. Alan, you are right, as so often.