Weaponizing Wayfarer - The Portal Move
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.
- Delay portal moves until the portal has no links. Even if it takes forever.
- Attempt to "re-make" links after portal move.
- Don't drop links. Only "drop" links not possible (ie colliding) after move.
- 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.
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.
+1. When a portal is moved retain the links, especially long links. If something in the middle of a city gets moved and a few 50 meter links get dropped that's no big deal but any link longer than a certain length should be retained. Or maybe the calculation is more complex-- I can think of data-driven ways to predict whether a link is valuable. I would include factors like how frequently each of the portals is visited, how many players access the portals, how long the link is, how long it's been standing.
Post this on wayfarer. Pokemon people run the show now. Not ingress related.
The way Ingress responds to a wayspot being moved is 100% Ingress-related.
Couldn't agree more!
OPR and Wayfarer are simply tools to create more mess in game then solve it. Unfortunately it's a war now to remove valid portals, move correct portals because people can rig it and submit fake portals because it's easy to create a group of PokePlayers to mass create stuff that never existed
There is a side to this coin that you aren't truly acknowledging, and its the fact that agents often deliberately use misplaced portals as anchors to leverage an unfair advantage for themselves, because misplaced portals are often harder for opposing agents to reach. This behavior is far more commonplace than people deliberately moving portals just to break links, and the obvious solution for when agents weaponize misplaced portals is for Agents to move such portals to their correct location.
A portal that is misplaced by a meager 5-10 meters can easily turn that portal from an easy target into a formidable anchor. For example, lets say a portal for a trail sign is incorrectly submitted several meters off of the trail and into the woods. As a result, that portal may no longer be able to be ultra striked, the furthest resonators may be far out of reach, and if the portal is well shielded, it may be difficult or impossible to take down without burning an ADA or Jarvis, if you can even reach it with one of those at all. The same thing might happen with a portal where the real world object is at the edge of a fence, but the portal location is incorrectly located deeper inside that fence. Players frequently use these types of portals to their advantage.
A misplaced anchor portal is obviously going to draw more attention to itself as being misplaced than other portals would, and as such, it also significantly increases the likelihood that someone, or multiple people, will submit a location edit to move that portal to it's correct location. When more people submit a location edit on a portal, it becomes less and less likely that the original location will be the one that inevitably gets chosen as the proper location when that edit gets resolved. This is why a misplaced anchor portal will be more likely to be moved than other portals, and if the anchor was misplaced, it frankly should be moved. Agents who travel to the real-world location of an object should have a fair shot at taking the counterpart portal from the other faction, and should not be stifled in their gameplay because the opposing faction deliberately chose to weaponize a misplaced portal.
You used an example of an island full of portals, and asked why only that one anchor portal would be moved when everything is misplaced, but at the same time, you also acknowledged that it is very difficult to notice when even your own highly used anchors have been moved. You then jumped to the conclusion that malicious intent was obvious, when in no way is that true. You also admitted that you only bother editing portals that effect your day-to-day play. Have you considered that a commonly used opposing anchor might effect the entire opposite factions day-to-day play, and like you, those players might not care about the other portals? In reality though, you have no idea if other portals on that island were moved, you have no idea if other portals on that island still have pending location edits in the system and are bound to be moved, and you have no idea if other location edits were submitted and rejected. Something like a lighthouse, which is very obvious to see on satellite view, is far more likely to reach a quick, unanimous, and correct decision on Wayfarer, because it is obvious for reviewers to see. A trail marker or other small sign may be hard or impossible for reviewers to see and determine a correct location, especially on a remote location such as an island.
And the other thing is, Wayfarer edits generally take forever. There are some places that are very lucky to get quick edit turnaround times, but most are not. Personally I am still getting back edits that I submitted via Redacted. I am lucky to get an edit that takes less than a year of turnaround time, and there are places that, due to a lack of reviewers, just don't seem to ever get their edits resolved. Chances are, that when a location edit goes through, it wasn't a recently submitted edit. Looking at a portal and not seeing a recent photo, scout control, etc shouldn't be a sign for foul play because of this (Side note, new photos getting added to Ingress has also been bugged for like 9 months now). Niantic actually made a change in the Wayfarer algorithm a couple months ago and claimed that it was to help older edits get pushed through the system. If you are noticing more location edits go through, you may be seeing the ramifications of that.
If a location edit does go through quickly, it is also possible that the edit did not go through Wayfarer, and instead was done manually by a Niantic employee. Last year Niantic significantly restricted in-app location edits to a maximum distance of (I believe) 20 meters. Location edits further than this distance can now be submitted by making a post on the Wayfarer forum, or by using the Wayfarer abuse reporting form, and Niantic will review these requests and move the portal manually if they see fit. Additionally, sometimes when reporting an invalid portal, users have noticed that Niantic may adjust the location of the portal as part of their review. When Niantic does manually move portals in this manner, it is my understanding that they still do not restore links, even though they moved the portal manually and broke the links themselves. Why they choose not to restore links is beyond me, but perhaps they believe that if players utilized a misplaced portal, that they don't deserve to keep those links.
All of what I said above assumes that the location edits being submitted were legitimate fixes to a portal's location, and I am aware that there are people who simply move portals away from their correct locations or make tiny modifications solely to take advantage of the system. Niantic could (and should) reduce this problem by making a minimum distance requirement when submitting a location edit, to prevent people from submitting unnecessary microedits that only serve the purpose of gaming the system. This distance should be in line with whatever range Ultra Strikes have, i.e., If the portal can be hit with an Ultra Strike by standing at the real world location, the location should be considered good enough. That is the real solution to these types of egregious move edits.
In reality though, the "problem" of links being broken due to location edits is most often the product of agents weaponizing portals that are misplaced to begin with. The same agents that misuse these portals to gain an advantage will complain there is foul play when that portal is correctly moved. That seems awfully hypocritical to me. The more practical solution to this self-made problem is for agents to stop weaponizing misplaced portals. In your island example you noted that the island was full of portals, but when you go to a remote location and have so many options, surely that one portal was chosen as an anchor for a reason. I'm sure it was because it was the hardest one to reach, that is the nature of the game after all, but why was it the hardest to reach? When the barrier of entry to getting to a portal already includes needing a boat, why be greedy by choosing the misplaced portal behind a fence? Until agents stop the practice of taking advantage of misplaced portals, this problem will not end.
However, the system depends entirely on how Wayfarer operates - especially when we have Niantic staff dedicated to just Wayfarer. The thing that sucks here is there should be dedicated staff pertaining to the game board and how they affect gameplay to the perspective Niantic game. For instance, we're talking about a POI move that wouldn't change much of Pokemon Go but can flip gameplay with the usage of links and fields in Ingress.
@MoogModular I get what you are saying, but I think a cleaner architecture is for each game to just know what possible actions can come from Wayfarer. For example: New wayspot, moved wayspot, renamed wayspot, added photo, text edits, etc. And also I guess from Niantic's internal tools too, including deleted wayspot. Each game doesn't have to care how Wayfarer operates, it just needs to consume the results.
Wayfarer shouldn't know anything about games-- it should just do wayspot-related changes.
Each game then defines their own actions based on those changes. Each game can decide how it applies proximity and spacing algorithms to new wayspots and moves. Each game can decide what actions it takes on a wayspot move or a wayspot removal.
Or are you arguing that game-specific behavior should change whether or not a Wayspot gets moved or deleted?
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'.)
@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...
Is there any non-malicious spoof? :D
@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.
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.
@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.
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.