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Another Tyobrien riddle of the week:

With two, I’m active
With three I’m first or second
With four, I set an example
With all five, I work backstage

Hint #1:

The usage of the word backstage may not imply its absolute literal meaning.

Hint #2:

I may do good if you use me, but bad if I use you.

Hint #3:

The last letter of the 3-letter word is not part of the 4-letter word.

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demon

With two, I’m active

on

With three I’m first or second

eon an era of time. Could also be mon as suggested elsewhere.

With four, I set an example

demo as in demonstration

With all five, I work backstage

demon. in computers, a background process that does work.

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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't bother anyone else here? In computing I've only ever seen it referenced as 'daemon' $\endgroup$ – TCooper Mar 6 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @TCooper I believe that is an alternate spelling used to try to avoid association with evil supernatural spirits. (Certain religious people consider the word cannot have any definition but their definition.) $\endgroup$ – David G. Mar 6 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ It is an alternate. Daemon is an older word in general, and particularly relevant in this case, it was less associated with evil than the more modern term demon. Something about spirits in general, some good some bad I believe, some even guide you, etc $\endgroup$ – TCooper Mar 6 at 17:31
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I think the answer might be

Toner

With two, I’m active

On = functioning

With three I’m first or second

One = which is either the first or second element of the natural numbers, depending on whether you include zero (similar with indexing in computer programming)

With four, I set an example

Tone = general character, quality, or trend (also a frame of mind).

With all five, I work backstage

Toner = a cosmetic preparation that is applied to produce a required effect, such as one that softens or alters hair colour or one that reduces the oiliness of the skin. Often used by make-up artists in theatrical productions.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is exactly what I thought it was (I was pretty certain about it too), but I'm guessing that since a hint's been added since you answered it it can't be what the OP intended?? +1 $\endgroup$ – Stiv Mar 2 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Stiv Indeed, I suspect it might be close though (maybe some of the answers are right). Trying to think what "backstage" could refer to - perhaps a replacement for "upstage" or perhaps it is more metaphorical. $\endgroup$ – hexomino Mar 2 at 13:00
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Could you be

Plego?

As in

"GO" - to "go" means to be active, as in "all systems go"
"EGO" - to have an ego means to put yourself first (or second)
"LEGO" - Lego builds commonly model larger structures and can be construed as smaller "examples"
"PLEGO" - a web application development company based out of Chicago, apparently, that plays in the front- and back-end development space; this type of company can be construed as "working backstage" of websites or business products

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  • $\begingroup$ Not quite, but the final answer is going somewhat about the right direction. So +1 for you ;) $\endgroup$ – Ébe Isaac Mar 3 at 0:38
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Third (incorrect) Attempt:

With two

on (on = active)

With three

mon (second of week, first work day)

With four

Amon (Egyptian god)

With five

Damon (Matt Damon is a producer who works backstage)


Second (incorrect) Attempt:

With two

on (on = active)

With three

mon (second of week, first work day)

With four

monk

With five

Monks (it's a band name so they most likely work backstage)


First (incorrect) attempt:

With two

on (on = active)

With three

con (pro and con / con and pro)

With four

icon (someone who is an icon sets an example)

With five

Eicon? (They make communication products that work "backstage" as in no one sees them, but they make everything work)

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    $\begingroup$ Not bad, rot13(bar bs gur nobir vf pbeerpg) have another go. $\endgroup$ – Ébe Isaac Mar 2 at 6:51
  • $\begingroup$ @ÉbeIsaac Is my second attempt closer? $\endgroup$ – DenverCoder1 Mar 2 at 7:08
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    $\begingroup$ Closer but not close enough :) $\endgroup$ – Ébe Isaac Mar 2 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ @ÉbeIsaac How about my third attempt (4th one is definitely more convincing than the others) $\endgroup$ – DenverCoder1 Mar 2 at 7:37
  • $\begingroup$ Still not closer, I’m afraid $\endgroup$ – Ébe Isaac Mar 2 at 7:40
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Strongly based on hexomino's answer, I think you are a

Phone

With two, I’m active

on (in the state of being active, functioning or operating)

With three I’m first or second

one (according to zero-based numbering, the element in position one is the second element rather than one-based numbering, where the element in position one is the first element)

With four, I set an example

hone (a sharpening stone used for removing the burr from the blade of a razor, thus setting an example that all razors should follow if you want to cut more accurately)

With all five, I work backstage

phone (a phone has most ─ if not all ─ of its processing inside, that is, in its "backstage").

Hint #1:

The usage of the word backstage may not imply its absolute literal meaning.

Backstage is not used literally here, since backstage means situated in the area behind a stage.

Hint #2:

I may do good if you use me, but bad if I use you.

I think it's something related to the idea of this article.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice attempt, but not close $\endgroup$ – Ébe Isaac Mar 4 at 2:11

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