Weaponizing Wayfarer - The Portal Move

iBotPeachesiBotPeaches ✭✭✭

Hey you - lets chat. You may be Niantic, you may be an veteran agent to this game or an agent that was linked this to read this rant.

With the release of OPR (now Wayfarer) the hands of cultivating and adjusting the game board became possible for nearly all agents. This helped burn through the backlog that for myself was ticking over at 5 years waiting for results to submitted portals. A great feature that was quickly abused in every way possible whether moving lighthouses across continents, attempting to submit valid portals in invalid locations or submitting moves of portals to drop the links.

My light was quickly was extinguished actually taking part in the Wayfarer, because honestly a couple hundred of Disney portals will burn you out quickly. Kudos to those that take part in keeping the portal network up to date. That is not my cup of tea anymore.

So lets get into the abuse.

First off, its 2021 Niantic. Why are portal moves dropping links? This is incredibly abused and inline with bad actors just flat out spoofing portals. I thought it was isolated incidents, but here I am following chats of 5 different portals within 24 hours that were moved within 10 meters and that is only portals within a few hours drive of me! I can think of a few options to fix this.

  1. Delay portal moves until the portal has no links. Even if it takes forever.
  2. Attempt to "re-make" links after portal move.
  3. Don't drop links. Only "drop" links not possible (ie colliding) after move.
  4. Move the portal and allow cross links. Everyone knows you can trigger them in a race condition.

You know what the solution is now? Escalate to a VG after the damage is done, links are dropped and lanes are crossed to "lock" a portal for future moves. Who knows what locking a portal does behind the scenes, but it seems like the effort to build this feature (?) is just as costly in time and effort to just fix the problem at the source!

Listen, I get it. Portals are in wrong places. A few meters off though doesn't bug me at all unless the mistake favors someone specifically. Some of these portals were submitted by sending geo-tagged photos to Niantic emails almost a decade ago. Some were placed by various data sources to seed this game. Some were placed by people that make mistakes. Though, when I see a portal moved a few meters on a portal that has not moved in 8 years and that portal contains many links and fields - I'm seriously doubting that intent is to "perfect" the game board.

I can't even figure out what has moved or not. I only recognize the portals we use so often that have saved drawings or more to realize they've moved. When a portal I drive by daily is no longer linked, but still blue. I imagine the other ends got killed - I didn't piece it together that the portal was moved a few meters.

Or the alternative, such a large important portal with all its links is missing. You panic thinking a spoof is in play, but nothing in comms! The portal is still there - everything looks right, but lone behold - it was a simple portal move that went live.

I'm not going to lie. I only chase to remove/correct portals that bug my day to day play. Fake portals that need scans/images/proof to remove. Or portals misplaced to make them easier for x/y/z to access while at work. I attempt to correct them in their proper place and/or remove them. This is not easy. The amount of times I've worked together with agents to only be denied despite valid proof annoys me to no end. I push forward and one less intentionally wrong portal is gone/moved.

Though, at some point. I feel like I've lost the love of the game if my entire experience is chasing evidence and herding cats to collect more evidence simply to remove portals that should have not been approved in the first place.

I've seen so many things over the years that flat out spell faction vs faction instead of any natural pure passion to correct the game. Is this just a war of weaponizing a new thing? Or just a war of payback for each removal back n forth?

Take this one location. It was duped, two portals of the same thing on the same-ish location. It was like this years and years ago. No idea why, but one of the portals should have been removed. I attempted, but back then submitting removals/duplicates was like finding a needle in the haystack. It didn't work. We loved this location, but only shared/spread keys to 1 of the two portals. Guess which portal got removed and which one remained once OPR came around.

Take this other occurrence. A great island of various portals. Are they misplaced? You can only really tell when you are walking on the island, because any map is misleading, but sure they are misplaced. At one random time in the day, one portal moves. None other move, but the portal that moves is of course the one with many 200km+ links. Why not correct the entire island if you are a passionate player? The purpose is clear - move a portal, drop the links. The purpose becomes further clear, when the enemy team is crossing the once blocked lane shortly after the portal is moved.

Take this final occurrence. A portal so far away from normal activity that I doubt you hit the 50km range to edit these portals unless you are actually visiting the island. How did that portal just move 9.3meters and drop 15 links? The portal is still the color I expect. There are no new names on the portal. No scan leader. No photos. Nothing. How did an edit even get to this portal?

I can sit here and list a few more other durable portals, island portals, commonly a certain color portal and the story is the same. Everything is weaponized. I watch discord chats talk about moving portals among S17 cells because Pokemon only does this and that. I see chats warn of an impending portal coming to Wayfarer with instructions on how to vote in the description like "choose top" or "choose left" presumably referring to the distinction between two locations.

I don't understand. I'm barely floating with the constant low level accounts that spoof stuff down. I can't add intentional abuse for moving portals to my list. Please Niantic, stop this.

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Comments

  • TrerroTrerro ✭✭✭

    The easiest way to make sure a portal move is valid would be to have someone physically go to the location, verify that the portal is indeed in the wrong place, and that the suggested new location is where the thing actually is.

    The problem is, who, exactly, does this? Niantic, obviously, doesn't have the kind of staff or funds where they can drive (or ferry) out to every portal, especially those up a mountain, on an island, or otherwise in the middle of nowhere. You can appoint various player mods (XMA, VG, etc), but again, there's only so many of those, and if they decide to add say... 1000 of them, how would you possibly vet them all? Asking regular players if the move is correct works fine in places where no one's trying to exploit, as they'll simply verify it and move on... but of course, if a team of people caused an invalid move to be pending in the first place, they're going to claim it's accurate.

    So, I'd like to see a solution that stops people from moving things for personal gain instead of accuracy, but I'm not sure there's a reliable one that's actually feasible.

    What can be addressed is the whole "moving a portal 10m to break links" thing, and IMO, the solution is simple: preserve the links if the move is less than X meters. It makes sense to break the links if the move is long... say, an art installation got moved to the other side of a city, and its associated portal needs to move with it, but when it's a case of "they got the right city block, but the portal's on the building next to the thing it's supposed to be attached to", I would say just let the links cross by a hair just that one time. It's not going to significantly affect anything.

  • KonnTowerKonnTower ✭✭✭✭

    TL;DR


    Post this on wayfarer. Pokemon people run the show now. Not ingress related.

  • Dudex0xDudex0x ✭✭

    I find it interesting that you had to write a book to justify your manipulation of the system for personal gain.

  • @iBotPeaches : Just to be fair, there is a third "side" to this: players are very, very, very, very likely to attribute changes of any sort to malfeasance when those changes happen to negatively impact them. This is just human nature (and it shows up in many settings, not just Ingress - google "Hostile Media Effect," for instance); some of it is probably motivated cognition, but a lot of it is just salience. We almost never notice changes that don't affect us. We may notice changes that help us, but they tend to seem "normal" and don't generate a strong negative response, and we tend to forget them. Meanwhile, changes that hurt us are extremely salient. So now think about Wayferer, with its hordes of PoGo kids, random GPS obsessives, Ingress Portal Purity Ponies (TM), semi-randomized Niantic employees (dizzy from Dark XM exposure), phone GPS glitches, (probably, given Niantic's code) database errors, and who knows what else. That system probably tweaks all sorts of things in all sorts of odd ways all the time. To a typical Ingress player, though, even random tweaks are likely to appear to be weaponized against them, because they are going to selectively notice and remember the tweaks that negatively impacted them. (Meanwhile the Ingress players in the same community on the other side probably believe the exact same thing.)

    I'm not asserting that no one has ever tried to use the system that way - players always have (they did with OPR, to be sure). Sometimes, they are probably successful. But what I would suggest is that players are very likely to badly overestimate the extent of malfeasance, because their attention is selecting on events that they don't like. Checking a properly designed sample of portals, prospectively, would obviously help clear this up, but I doubt anyone has time for that. (I would suggest a stratified design incorporating initially blue, green, and grey portals, with another level for mean link activity over the previous month, personally. But doing this well would be a large PITA.) What folks can do is at least bear that bias in mind when discussing these issues, and to at least entertain the possibility that they are the victim of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune rather than a deliberate attack.

    (Also, if it's really an issue, the obvious fix is to delay all portal edits for e.g. 4-8 weeks. That's way beyond the attention spans of most players, and makes it impossible to use Wayfarer to break anything that hasn't been sitting around for a month or two already. I would also make sure that the delay is actually announced in-app, to discourage anyone who thinks they will get a quick fix from a portal edit. If you still have issues after that, they probably aren't due to malfeasance.)

    (Double also: @AisforAndis , criticizing agents for not choosing easy targets for anchors and such is certainly a creative take on the situation. Perhaps we should similarly rail against agents who have the temerity to put shields on their portals, who cruelly throw blockers across their opponents' lanes, who mercilessly destroy enemy anchors, or indeed who play the game at all. When we have successfully ended these scourges, then Ingress will finally have become...PoGo. Just sayin'.)

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @IncidenceMatrix is extremely smart and I listen carefully when he talks. Almost everything he said is 100% spot-on. He's missing one nuance, though. The things that have been standing for 4-8 weeks or more are usually the ones that have the highest value and thus are more likely to be the target of deliberate malicious edits. Well, malicious anything. Malicious edits, malicious spoofs, malicious removal requests, malicious social engineering...

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @GoblinGranate I would expect that some Niantic engineers have non-maliciously spoofed in order to test their system and probably a few players hacked a portal or something once just to try it out. However, the percentage of non-malicious spoof actions ever taken in Ingress rounds neatly to zero.

  • MoogModularMoogModular ✭✭✭✭✭

    The NL 1331 portal would be the test subject. Speaking of which, how would you have the November Lima portal work in this case, @iBotPeaches?

  • I never criticized anyone for "not choosing easy targets". I criticized agents whose idea of a "difficult target" is a portal that is difficult to get to because the portal is misplaced, and I criticized agents who use misplaced portals to their advantage but claim "foul play" when the location is corrected.

    Ingress is a game about controlling waypoints that are tied to real-world objects. The portal counterparts to these real world objects should be at their real world object, not 20 meters away behind a fence, in the woods off of a trail, or in a lake, etc. There are plenty of portals that are difficult to get to and are located correctly.

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MoogModular The NL portal is a very special case and doesn't go through the normal move formalities. I believe that the employees traveling with NL can just move the portal from their phones.

  • MoogModularMoogModular ✭✭✭✭✭

    The functionality of it is pretty much the same way as moving a portal. Any links and fields attached to its previous location are dropped when it's moved.

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