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Hi, This is Wayne. This is my site, my stuff, my blog, blahblahblah. The site itself is powered by WordPress and the Scary Little theme. I thought it was cool, and I still do.

[The Duran Duran fans out there will recognize ‘Thank You’ as the D2 Covers Album from 1995…]

Well, the contest is over.  The gist is, we don’t think she made it, but we won’t know for sure for 9 days.

Duran Duran artwork entry

I’ve flirted with the limits usually ascribed to “friend” and “acquaintance” and “fellow blogger” by invading Twitter feeds, plastering onto Facebook walls, infecting email inboxes and exploding forth with word-of-mouth tenacity.  I’m sure some people are fed up to “here” with whall and his constant reminding to vote.

Then again, I’m sure some people… dare I say more people… are happy to have helped and are hopeful for her entry.  They’re truly excited to find out results and have wished her the best the whole time.  It’s these people who mean so much to me.  They know I don’t go on daily, weekly or even monthly “help me” online frenzies.  I think everyone’s entitled to a little wacky-involve-everyone-you-can-this-could-be-big excitement every once in a while and I’m glad for those of you who helped.

As far as status goes, the contest is currently in the Judging phase:

Winners announced in 9 days

To be brutally honest, we’re not thinking she made it.  But there’s still a slight possibility she might make it, so we’ll stay tuned to see what happens.

There’s more detail in the extended entry.

Here’s what we know for sure:

Her entry was in and out of the Top 10 for the past few days

This shows how awesome my friends are.  There was a time in the beginning where she was #1.  She was all over the place, and it was great to see her way up there.  I’d see a marked improvement in her standings a few hours after I’d send out my blast, and I knew it was my friends’ assistance and willingness to spread the word that helped so much.

THANK YOU.

We are both happy with whatever happens

My wife won’t be devastated with the results of this contest, no matter her placement based on voting.

She gets that this is an online popularity contest, and we’re both humbled by the response from our friends, both in-real-life (IRL) and online.  There are people I haven’t even met who are responsible for dozens of votes based on their forwarding of my request alone.  She was excited to have entered, and happy for my online group of friends.

THANK YOU.

A few entries shot up from nowhere into the Top 10 recently

I suspect a few of the entries of benefiting from illicit voting.  I’m not saying conclusively that cheating occurred, but several entrants were scratching our heads when one of the entries, a pencil drawn image evidently different from all the other submissions shot way up in no time and with barely any comments.  Most of the other entries in the top 10-20 had dozens of comments, both from Facebook-authenticated users and otherwise, and this one only had 4 or 5 anonymous comments but clearly a massive number of votes relative to the rest of us.

There were also a small number of entries that shot up to the Top 10 in a matter of minutes, where I hadn’t recognized the entry in the first say 50 entries (I looked through a lot of them), and 5 days into it they shot from  > 50th place to 8th.  The entry I’m talking about ended the contest in 3rd place.  I grant that this could possibly happen legitimately… say, someone’s speaking at a conference and asks everyone to go vote for their entry.  Or they have a highly visited website, twitter feed or facebook wall and they posted it, and that’s when everyone voted.

For those of you who put up with my ranting and unique style of logic in this section, I

THANK YOU.

There’s a bit of drama in the comment section

This is to be expected, so no big deal, really.  There will always be haters, trolls, and immature people sharing their opinion or stoking the fires.  Some of it was a little funny, actually.  I think it could have been a little mitigated had the company running the contest allowed the “nickname” to be shown with the comments, and it probably would have been a little more fair if they required an email address and verification link be clicked in order to count the vote.

Some of the drama came from inconsistencies with the contest rules as written and the implementation of the contest rules in the voting app.  The contest rules specifically stated “Limit one vote per person per day” and for almost three weeks, all the entrants had to go on were the contest rules.  This is not my first rodeo – I’ve seen online voting contests before that allow one vote per day.  In order to win, you have to get as many people as you can to vote – ONCE PER DAY.  This is where I knew we had the upper hand over most of the other contest entries — I knew people who would actually be willing to click once per day. I had a twitter feed, and a facebook page, and a blog.  I’m not even a big deal on the internet, and I knew I could move the troops.

I even registered a domain name just to point people to the entry.  It was a vanity name, easy to remember, easy to type, and easy to tell people when you meet them.  With a domain name like voteformedaily.com – how could it not succeed?

Well, the contest started.   THE ONE FLAW IN MY OTHERWISE PERFECT PLAN.

Despite the contest rules stating people could vote once per day, the actual voting app stated people could vote once per entry for the entire contest.  So now people assumed that if you asked people to vote once per day, you must be cheating somehow.  My new domain name was not only useless, it was worse; it was a liability.

I changed the domain to point to my blog entry about the contest instead of the contest entry itself.  I made corrections about voting once per day and explained things a little better.  I did damage control.  I didn’t want to cheat and I didn’t want anyone thinking I was cheating.  I didn’t want to jeopardize my wife’s entry in any way.  I started getting emails, texts and DM’s from people on the second day of the contest saying “I tried to vote again, but it wouldn’t let me.”  I patiently explained the issue and then decided I needed to change tactics.  I needed more people to vote, not just more votes from the people already willing to vote.

That’s when the email and facebook message barrage started. Fortunately, everyone either voted or ignored the email; no hate mail arrived, and no people demanding to be left alone for the rest of their lives.  Some responded with best wishes, some responded with sharing on their wall, and some lamented not being able to vote twice.  Truly I have the best Internet friends humility can buy.

THANK YOU.

Christy was in 13th place right before voting ended

I checked the status of the contest every day, multiple times per day.  I had the web page saved as a favorite on my phone and my computer so I could quickly see if she’s disappeared from the first page, or doing comfortably well.  I toyed with the idea of writing a quick script to pull the first page of entries, sorted by votes, every 15 minutes, then alerting me if she got out of the top 10… but then decided that that itself might be seen as cheating or some sort of tampering from their weblogs.

For the last day of voting, her entry danced between 11th and 12th place consistently.  A couple of times, she was in 9th place.  Then 10th.   Then OMG 13th place!  RALLY THE TROOPS!!!!  I knew *all* the contest entries in the top 25 would likely be pushing everyone to do what they could to increase votes, so if I didn’t do the same, the entry would be yesterday’s toast.  So I did another tweet, another email, and it seemed to help because she held her place.

About 10 minutes before the contest ended, I checked again and she was 13th place.

Out of > 350 entries.

13th place.

THANK YOU.

There are 18 hours between voting and judging

I noticed the contest ended midnight on the 28th, but the judging period didn’t start until 8:31 PM the next day.  That’s 18 hours that I assume will be used to validate the voting.

Why validate the voting, you might ask?

Well, there are many ways to cheat in this contest.  I think Wildfire did a decent job of trying to mitigate fraud, although it’s always possible to do more.  I think they struck an acceptable balance between the effort required to have a 100% error-free voting system, the ease of voting, and avoiding most forms of fraud.  If you make it too hard to vote, people avoid the contest or complain. If you make it too easy to vote illegitimately, people avoid the contest or complain.

I expect them to categorize the massive number of votes a few ways:

Facebook votes

I would expect counting Facebook votes to be an easy process.  After all, a person’s vote is tied to their Facebook login, and they don’t need fancy computer terms like “cookies” or “forms-based captcha authentication” to verify a vote.  If you’re logged into Facebook and you cast a vote, that vote should be a 100% certain non-duplicate vote.  The only issues that might come are from Facebook accounts that are new (ie, say someone created a bunch of Facebook accounts just to vote with – those would be cheaters).

Non-Facebook votes

I found it extremely easy to vote without being logged into Facebook.  This is a good thing for those of us who don’t have Facebook accounts or who aren’t comfortable sharing their Facebook information with the company running the contest.  Privacy is a big deal to lots of people, after all.

However, the system needs a way to reduce duplicate or invalid votes.   You no longer have a one-to-one mapping of human being to their vote like you did with tying a vote to a Facebook account.

In order to do this, the voting app did two things — first, it popped up a window with CAPTCHA word authentication.  It presented two disfigured word-like forms and you had to decypher the letters and type them in.  This helps validate that the entity doing the browsing is not a computer, but rather a human.  Secondly, it stored a cookie on the person’s browser, which is like a little breadcrumb designed to help servers recognize you when you return later.

If a person re-visited the site again later to vote, the voting app would check for the presence of the cookie, and if it was there, it wouldn’t let you vote again — instead, it replaced the “Vote now” button with an “I voted!” button.

Now, the web-savvy people out there are already saying “well, what if you removed the cookie?”  Without the cookie there, the “Vote now” button would return, and you could vote again.  All browsers have a menu option to remove cookies.

I’m sure several people did this.  A few people even commented on the entries and said as much, instructing others how to clear their cookies so they could vote again.  Some used that to call foul, and things got a little more heated, because with a little knowledge and a lot of emotion comes drama.

More than CAPTCHA and Cookies

However, they probably weren’t aware of a third mechanism that I expect Wildfire to employ, and that’s of logging identifiable information with each vote.  When you visit a website, your IP Address is used on that website, and is almost always logged.  Every device on the Internet must have a unique IP Address in order to work, although in many cases, multiple devices share a single IP Address, such as in the case of multiple devices in a home, or multiple computers at a single company.

So, Wildfire needs to figure out a way to still count valid votes (ie, 15,000 Dell employees potentially sharing one IP Address) while weeding out the cookie-clearing-cheaters who just stayed at one computer, clearing their cache, and voting again over and over.

There is other information typically provided by your browser to the voting app as well, and that’s the version of browser you’re using.  For example, if you go to ipchicken.com, it will tell you the IP Address you look like on the Internet and the browser you look like (you will also get a chicken, but that’s beside the point).

In my case, it’s

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.16 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/10.0.648.204 Safari/534.16

Wildfire can use that information, along with timing of votes, to attempt to identify cheaters.

Now, the super-web-savvy people out there are already saying “well, what if I used a different browser?  and a different IP Address?”  Yes, yes, yes, there’s always another step you can take towards cheating and there’s always another step the contest has to take to prevent cheating.  The trick is — how much fraud prevention should they do?  What’s an acceptable amount of risk?

As I put in one of the entry comments, I fully expect Wildfire to do their due diligence with this contest. This is what they do for a living – online promotions, online contests, and voting.  They do this to promote an idea, a band, an album, or a brand.  They wouldn’t be in business if they didn’t at least have some basic protections against these types of fraud.

Therefore, I’m thinking that 18 hours between voting and judging is so Wildfire can toss out the obvious duplicate votes and provide Duran Duran with the real Top 10 winners.

And to Wildfire, I pre-emptively say

THANK YOU

Our hope at this point

As I said above, I don’t think she made it since she was in 13th place in the last remaining minutes before contest end.  But there’s a lingering chance that some of the 12 entries ahead of her had duplicate or otherwise fraudulent votes, and would then be thrown out.  Or, if not the entry itself thrown out, maybe the duplicate / fraudulent votes themselves are somehow removed, and a new ranking of eligible votes is used.

If that’s the case, and her entry had the Top 10 eligible votes, then it could be she goes on.

Also, as shown on the Judging tab on the website, it describes how the winners will be selected.  It says

We’re looking for a fan artist who captures the feel of the All You Need Is Now album and does it with passion, creativity and beauty.

We all know art is subjective, and several of the entries in the top 10 don’t look like it captures the feel of All You Need Is Now album at all – it just looks like fan art (not that fan art is bad… just that it’s not inspired by the latest album).

My wife’s entry was inspired by the latest album – the electricity, the colors, the chaos… even the letters themselves are from the font being used on the latest album.  So, it’s possible that the judges take that more into account than most people realize, and that would help her entry be counted in the Top 10.

Either way, we won’t know for 9 days.

At this time, Wildfire has closed down the listing of all entries by vote count.  They only show the top 5 on one page, and all entries on the other page.

In closing, it’s been a fun ride, and I’m thankful to Wildfire, Skin Divers, Facebook, and Duran Duran for hosting or helping with this contest.  Duran Duran fans truly are brilliant, creative and fun folks, and Duran Duran has known that for a looooong time.  I’m glad they saw fit to run a fan artwork contest — how cool was that for the 350+ fans making artwork for their favorite band?!?!?

But most of all,

THANK YOU

And lo, the people did comment thus:

14 Comments

  1. Geekytaitai says:

    I was happy to vote for Christy because her art is beautiful!

  2. martymankins says:

    Even before you mentioned the title of this blog post, I knew what it was for DD.

    Hoping that once everything is broken down into brass tacks, she’ll be in the top 10.

    Was happy to vote for a fellow DD fan and her creative side.

    • whall says:

      martymankins – many thanks, my friend. I thought about submitting my own art, which was going to be a video collage of me riding a scooter around in the snow on Sunday, singing out New Moon On Monday, but you know, the time just got away from me.

  3. Sybil Law says:

    Best of luck – and you’re welcome!
    Don’t worry about the whiners. People who know you know you wouldn’t cheat.

  4. Sarah says:

    Some people suck and just always want to whine.

    I voted and I hope they remove the duplicate votes and we can see the REAl winners! And I hope she made it because I DID like hers the best.

  5. Absurdist says:

    I actually read this entire blog entry. Wayne, you are so not allowed to complain about my verbosity anymore.

    I enjoyed it because it was kinda like the first five minutes of a convo with you. hehehehe.

  6. Tug says:

    You’re welcome. 😉 Hopefully things will at least be fair, much luck to Christy!

  7. Avitable says:

    I found her work to really feel like it belonged with Duran Duran – it was excellent, and I do hope she wins, and if she doesn’t, she should have.

  8. miranda says:

    hi all,i can’t see her entry on the duran contest site in the top ten, or am i looking in the wrong place! help! http://apps.facebook.com/contestshq/contests/94045/voteable_entries/list?ogn=facebook&order=votes&view_entries=1

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