I've come across an example of reputation gaming on VMware Communities where users are using ServerFault to boost reputation over there by asking questions here. We've discussed the pattern of verbatim posts of VMware Communities questions by certain users (ToreTrygg and his aliases\buddies who is clearly involved in this particular example too) before but it seemed that if the questions were OK and the answers were good it was no major problem.

However I just had the odd experience of reading a thread on VMware Communities only to realize as I was reading it that I'd written the comments even though I never post answers there. There were answers of mine from ServerFault cut and pasted verbatim as a series of comments along with an answer by Chopper3 to the same question. This all appears to be a gaming exercise by some enterprising users of the VMware Communities site but they're gaming the rep system over there, not the system here.

The VMware thread is here. The ServerFault question with the answers and comments from Chopper3 and me that got lifted is here.

The original question on the VMware Communities site by a user called Rick is almost certainly genuine, the question was lifted verbatim, posted here and then the answers posted here were poured back into the VMware communities site in order to bump up their rep level there (chasing the vExpert tag I assume). At least one vExpert (Anatoly Vilchinsky) seems to have no problem participating in the exercise.

I'm going to take it up over on the VMware communities site which is probably where this needs to be sorted out but I'm wondering if this is an issue that is a concern for the sites here, after all this is blatant lifting of our content without attribution but it does generate (some) good questions and answers here. If it is undesirable is there anything that can be done about this sort of thing? Are there other examples out there?

Edited to add
I've raised this with VMware but I don't expect a rapid response, there is no specific "report this post\user" contact info in the Communities site so I've had to go through VMware's main web site contact form.

While submitting my request that the posts be corrected with the correct attribution I noted that VMware's own copyright notice ("Except where otherwise specified, the contents of this site are copyright (c) 1998-2010 VMware, Inc.") seems to raise serious issues about the reposting of the original question here. There may be issues with the question itself (and others) since posting it here appears to contravene VMware's copyright even if the original poster here was the same person who posted it on the VMware Community site (which is possible but doesn't seem likely).
(I'd mistaken the site wide VMware legal notice for the specific terms of reference for VMware Communities, waiwai933 pointed to the correct Terms of Service which are more permissive)


6 Answers 6


John Troyer from VMware here --

Helvick, thanks for alerting us to the situation. We are investigating right now and we'll take appropriate action. Posting material to which you do not have rights to is a violation of our Community Terms of Use. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions: [email protected].

  • 6
    @john: thanks for getting involved.
    – John Saunders
    Mar 30, 2010 at 2:19
  • I have found at least a dozen other recent instances within the last 2 weeks. All are copies of VMware Communities threads, posted from unregistered SF users with usernames identical to the original questions. No doubt there is some rationalization going on. How would you like to clean up on your side?
    – Anonymous
    Mar 30, 2010 at 4:19
  • @john - if anything has been posted to SF in violation of license, then I would suggest either listing them here, or using the "flag => requires moderator attention" button on SF, and I suspect it'll get removed. My ♦ doesn't apply on SF, so I can't do it myself, but I'm sure someone will be along promptly.
    – Marc Gravell
    Mar 30, 2010 at 6:49
  • @john: thanks for asking; as @Marc: says, I'm sure someone will get that done if you will post the links; I, personally, have no powers over on SF, so can't help you.
    – John Saunders
    Mar 30, 2010 at 13:39
  • John, if you comment back with the post numbers I'll have them removed thank you.
    – Chopper3
    Mar 31, 2010 at 20:30

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Alex Maier of the VMWare forums was kind enough to contact us and let us know he is following up on his end, and we are following up on our end. There will be consequences for these users.

  • 6
    Might these consequences include permanent pink unicorn avatars?
    – Chester
    Apr 2, 2010 at 6:49
  • 6
    Permanent unicorn avatars? That would just encourage them.
    – Donal Fellows
    Apr 2, 2010 at 7:34

This is Alex Maier (http://communities.vmware.com/people/amaier650), Communities Manager at VMware.

We have found several examples of such misuse where legitimate questions from VMware communities have been posted on Serverfault and answers given by users there were copied back into the VMware communities.

I will be reaching out to the admins of Serverfault/Stackoverflow to solve this issue. If any of the ones reading this thread are admins, do let me know how to best reach you. For now, I will use the team@ email addresses.

Cheers, Alex


SOFU is licensed under CC-BY-SA. As long as they cite your username, link back to the post, and make their own work CC-BY-SA, there's nothing wrong with what they're doing, at least as far as SOFU is concerned.

If they do not meet the conditions of the CC-BY-SA license, you should immediately, issue a DMCA Takedown Notice to the OSP, which would be VMware communities (and their host, if they fail to comply). Ensure that you meet all the requirements listed here. While it may seem excessive to issue a Takedown Notice, this is the proper legal way to do it. If you feel nervous about this, then you may want to just email them and inform about this violation informally but politely and firmly. If they decline, issue the Takedown Notice.

Regardless of whether or not you are credited, I do suggest you inform VMware communities because they probably have some sort of their system being gamed.

Edit: Regarding your update on the situation, please note that VMware Communities is bound to a different copyright license. Regardless, Section 6 of the Terms of Service states that you grant certain rights to VMware Communities that CC-BY-SA doesn't allow people to grant unless they're the original poster. So it's looking like it depends on whether or not the user was the OP here.

  • I know the implications of the SOFU license - if they were pointing back here (or even just mentioning the source) I wouldn't even have mentioned it here. The point I'm making is that there is no attribution - they lift the answers verbatim and claim them as their own.
    – Helvick
    Mar 21, 2010 at 1:02
  • 6
    In that case we should be hanging them by the yardarm. Or rather, reprimanded/penalty boxed/banned for breaking the SOFU licence.
    – Ether
    Mar 21, 2010 at 1:12
  • 1
    @Ether: But I would only consider banning from SOFU (which would be justified by license violations) after talking to both them and the VMware moderators. (Not that I get any say in it.)
    – Gnome
    Mar 21, 2010 at 1:26
  • @Helvick I've updated my answer to reflect your comment.
    – waiwai933
    Mar 21, 2010 at 3:06
  • @waiwai933 - My web-fu is obviously weak today, I couldn't find the Communities terms of service.
    – Helvick
    Mar 21, 2010 at 23:21

This isn't a direct answer but more of an expanded comment.

I say this practice can be fair, IF and only IF they provide a link to the original source and community wiki all copied posts.

This can make it easier to add extra knowledge to the trilogy. But we also do not want reputation being given when it is not deserved.

NOTE I do say that the currently attrition-less posts should be taken down.

  • @downvoter, comment please?
    – Earlz
    Apr 2, 2010 at 7:01

The user who posted the question, could very well be the same person who posted the original. So there doesn't appear to be a problem there.

This response on VMware from Anatoly Vilchinsky is definitely a copy of this post on Server Fault. Which does appear to be a license violation, because Anatoly Vilchinsky does not appear to be the same person as Helvick.

There appears to be another license violation with this response from ToreTrygg. Which is nearly an exact copy of this post on Server Fault. Although ToreTrygg could be the same person as Chopper3, it does appear unlikely.

The main problem from the Server Fault point of view, is that they violated the cc-wiki license.

There isn't much we can do, other than inform the people behind the VMware community site. And possibly suing them for copyright violation, if they refuse to add an attribution, or take down the offending posts.

  • 5
    It's not me Brad.
    – Chopper3
    Mar 27, 2010 at 21:10

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