For a long time I have railed against the seemingly simple act of inviting someone to check out your TD via FanMail as akin to, and actually a form of, cheating. I realize that a lot of completely honest TDers disagree with me on this so I figured it would be a good time to explain why it is indeed cheating.
For starters, I'm talking only about FMing individuals or private groups...there is nothing at all nefarious about sending a link to a TD that is buried to the FanNation Community group, it's what the group was created for and there is no bias in that whatsoever as it goes out to every member of the largest group on FN. With 820 members receiving the FM it would be impossible to use that resource to one's sole advantage. If you have no ulterior motive to cheat, it just makes a lot more sense to send one FM to 820 people than to send out multiple individual FM's.
Where FM's cross the line into cheating is when they are sent to individuals. Yes I'm aware of the argument "but I don't ask for votes, I just ask them to look at it". You don't have to specifically ask someone to vote for you when you send a link to a TD, it's implied simply in the act of sending the private communication in the first place. Afterall, nobody would send a TD link to someone they thought WOULDN'T vote for them.
When a 'friend' asks you to look at their TD, you will do so with a biased eye even if you don't realize it. It's just human nature to look for the positive in something a friend asks us to view. A few members of this site are well aware of this phenomenon and exploit it to their immense advantage. I'm sure most reading this can think of a couple of such users without me having to name them. You don't think they send all those FMs out just for the hell of it, do you?
Other problems with private FM's include being able to pick and choose who you want to view a TD and taking advantage of brand new members. I'll address these separately.
If I'm doing a TD that is pro-Cowboys, it would be pretty stupid of me to FM a bunch of Redskins fans, right? Conversely, if I just sent a link to the TD to every Cowboys fan on the site, I could virtually guarantee they'd all agree with, thus vote for, me. It is a common practice of a few FN members to do exactly this, tailor their FM campaign to fit the profile of people they expect will agree with their premise from the get go. The homer votes. One TDer in particular went from about a 40% or so win% to moving well up the wins list almost solely using this tactic. No, his TDing skills didn't get any better, his FMing skills did.
That brings us to the vote.
Many may not be aware, but this is actually where the vast majority of the most notorious cheater in FN history's votes come from. Yes, he's been known to use dupes and everyone knows his penchant for FM's but many still wonder how he can continue to piss off everyone he comes into contact with yet continue to generate a tremendous amount of support. So let me explain how he does it...
From the FN community page you can see new members as they join. The user in question literally stalks this page and invites all of these noobs to be his friend right after they join. Most people new to a web site welcome a long time user offering to be their 'friend' and 'show them the ropes' and accept his invitation. After a few virtual smiles and a hearty 'welcome aboard' the noob now feels indebted to this user which is fully exploited with TD FM's for as long as the noob will go along with it. Being new they have no clue how any of this works, they only know this individual was seemingly nice to them and they want to return the favor. When you look at the play by play on this users TD's and see that the vast majority of votes for him are from users that haven't been around very long, often joined that same day, it's not because they are all dupes (though he has certainly used plenty of those as well), it's because he is taking advantage of new users before they know any better...it works because there is a never ending supply of new people joining the site. Once he's turned one batch against him, there's another set of noobs to take up the slack, he just has to take the time to put on the virtual smile again.
But C-C-C I don't do any of that and never would so what I do isn't cheating
Sorry, can't have it both ways. If it's not cheating for you to FM your TD's out to your 5 closest friends to look at, then by extension it's also not cheating when user A FM's 30 people he knows are likely to agree with his position or when user B befriends and takes advantage of 50+ noobs. At that point you are just in a war of who can FM the most people and the TD itself is irrelevant. Every TD tournament worth entering has a set rule against FMing with a penalty of disqualification for breaking the rule. People who have been around a long time realize the unfair advantage this tactic provides.
I define cheating as any action taken by one of the participants that gives one side an unfair advantage over the other. Direct FM's definitely fits that definition whether it's intentional or not.
And yes, before anyone asks, I am very well aware that I just gave a step by step guide on how to use FM to cheat on TD's. Unfortunately that's necessary in order to make everyone aware of the cheating that is going on and just how in depth it is. We aren't talking about a couple of people using multiple accounts when we discuss cheating, we are talking about a wide range of tactics used and the more people that are aware of and can spot these tactics the better. Sooner or later the cheaters will get tired of being called out for their cheating as more people know what to look for and how to spot them. The best way to get to a cheater is to embarass them by exposing their cheating.