Having run a big online poll and seen some abuse, I had to share this story posted on the Music Machinery blog. Every year, Time collects their list of 100 most influential people and conducts an online poll. Most years it’s a healthy ballot-stuffing competition between Stephen Colbert fans and fans of the Korean singer Rain.
You can see the list of the top 100 this year here. Does anything look strange to you?
Through a combination of seeding forums with misdirected vote links and clever vote bots, the fans of 4chan not only got moot to the number 1 position but spelled out a message with the first letters of the following positions. That’s a truly amazing hack, and a surprisingly mild response from Time’s developers.
This is also an interesting look into the kind of tactic used by web spammers. Funny in this case, but this is the kind of thing we’re up against.
I saw an AP story on MSNBC titled Oops: Colbert wins space station name contest. I’m a bit of an expert when it comes to letting the internet vote on a name, if there is such a field of expertise, and the article strikes me as wrongheaded.
It’s not an “oops” that Colbert won, nor is it a problem or a mistake. Assuming the result is due to voting viewers and the web’s general affection for Colbert, and not a voting bot, this is exactly what NASA wants. Or at least, what it should have wanted.
The point of putting something up for a vote online is to involve people in a fun way and come out with a result you might not have otherwise. You can’t have the wisdom of the crowds without expecting a bit of whimsy.
Here’s to NASA naming their module after Colbert.
Thanks to everyone who voted and sent us your suggestions. We’re getting very close to the due date, so I’m officially shutting down votes tomorrow. We’ve decided to make the final choice once the baby is born, just in case the kid has some suggestions of their own. Watch this space for news, hopefully soon.
In the mean time, here are a few things I’ve learned:
- Spreadsheets are the next frontier in web2.0 social networking. No kidding.
- Blog posts about babies are much more popular than posts about statistics.
- Let random people vote on a baby name over the internet, and a few will spam the form or enter nasty stuff, but the vast majority will give you helpful suggestions. Way to go, Internet.
Here’s the form, get your vote in by end of day Friday, November 14th.
If you can’t see the poll, follow this link to get to it.