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At Best, Inappropriately Expressed Enthusiasm - Howard Tayler
Ramblings of a Happy Cartoonist
At Best, Inappropriately Expressed Enthusiasm
I blogged about the final round of the easily-spoofed Washington Post poll, and I made a mistake. I mentioned that it was easily spoofed.

This was not meant as encouragement to spoof, but apparently it was taken as such. For this I am sorry.

You see, when I blogged at 9:15pm local time, Schlock Mercenary had around 120 votes. Three hours later Schlock had 211,000. That, for those who are interested in this sort of thing, is more unique IP addresses than hit my own website in the course of an entire month. I don't for one minute believe that more than 1,000 of those votes are legitimate. And by curious coincidence, during the one minute for which I'm not believing, about another 1,000 votes arrived.

I'm embarrassed and saddened. It's much more fun to mock an easy-to-rig popularity contest when it's not one of your own fans doing the rigging. You see, now if tens of thousands of Penny Arcade fans visit the poll (and they will) they will associate "Schlock Mercenary" with dishonesty.

Whoever you are, mister or missus Inappropriate Expressor of Enthusiasm, you are damaging my name with your antics. Worse still, you are making all of the smart, discerning, tastefully dressed, and bewitchingly attractive Schlock Mercenary fans look dingy and disreputable.

Shame on you.
30 comments or Leave a comment
goodluckfox From: goodluckfox Date: February 4th, 2010 08:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Sometimes it *is* better to Lose With Honor.
ccdesan From: ccdesan Date: February 4th, 2010 08:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Well said.

It is always better to lose with honor than to win without it.

From: wizarth Date: February 4th, 2010 09:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Unless it involves getting paid twice for the same job. Then Tagon does a happy dance.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: February 4th, 2010 12:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
ccdesan From: ccdesan Date: February 4th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, nice Shogun helmet...
becky_black From: becky_black Date: February 4th, 2010 11:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh dear. Some people need to learn that just because something CAN be done doesn't mean it should be done.
herveus From: herveus Date: February 4th, 2010 12:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
As of a few minutes ago, it was clear that the message had not been received. Schlock had 88% of a million votes.
jenil From: jenil Date: February 4th, 2010 12:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
It almost makes me feel guilty for legitimately voting (just the once).

I say almost because I know there's no rational reason for feeling guilty, but I can't help but get that sick-stomach-twingey feeling.
amunthri From: amunthri Date: February 4th, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, yes and no. The reason you feel guilty or twingey, is because now, Like Howard and anyone else who voted legitimately, you're associated with the hacker-bot people.

The flip side is, the hacker-bots were already FIRMLY going. I don't for a moment believe that Perry Bible Fellowship- an admittedly amusing comic when it was running many YEARS ago- had such a devoted following so far in excess of all the currently operating comics.

Stark comfort, but the poll itself is firmly hacked to bits, and so at least we're not the ONLY ones tarred with that brush.
amunthri From: amunthri Date: February 4th, 2010 03:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
gah. If I could edit...

I want to mention that the earlier hackery took place in the previous round. It does look particularly bad for us to be the only ones being hacked in this round so far.
From: betsumei Date: February 4th, 2010 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll admit, I planned on voting from work and from home. But now, I just don't see the point.
seawasp From: seawasp Date: February 4th, 2010 12:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh ballocks. That sucks. I would've liked to have seen the poll go on and let Schlock have a decent showing, even if one of the more well-known comics won out.

Now the poll is screwed and the name "Schlock Mercenary" will be associated in at least some people's minds with "hacker scum".
unixronin From: unixronin Date: February 4th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
The poll was screwed from the start. I visited it a couple of times and it rapidly became clear that thanks to the WaPo's ineptitude in setting it up, it wasn't a poll, it was a contest of who had the best ballot-stuffing robot.
sff_corgi From: sff_corgi Date: February 4th, 2010 01:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
The regular column-commenters got all fussed when the Girl Genius fans hit (legitimately) their first one and ran the numbers up. After that, the hacker-gloves apparently came off. :(
lionsphil From: lionsphil Date: February 4th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's no bad thing—if everyone goes ballot-stuffing crazy, it's the poll that loses credibility, not the party that comes out on top.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: February 4th, 2010 12:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's kind of interesting, because when I last looked, a couple of days ago (Sunday I think), Schlock had something like 9,800 and was creeping slowly towards 10,000. This seems to imply that different people are seeing WILDLY different vote counts.

(Of course, as of Sunday night, 9,800 votes was about enough to make a narrow vertical red line at the left margin, compared to the two or three hundred thousand votes Penny Arcade and its only serious ballot-stuffing competitor had at the time...)

(UPDATE: I see I didn't realize they'd since added a new round.)

Edited at 2010-02-04 12:55 pm (UTC)
cymrullewes From: cymrullewes Date: February 4th, 2010 01:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I couldn't decide who to vote for as I have been reading Kevin & Kell about three years longer than I have Schlock. I like Questionable Content too. So I just didn't vote at all.
jecook From: jecook Date: February 4th, 2010 04:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
*shakes head sadly* Some people's children.

On the flip side, I recall having to 'unstuff' a poll for a convention whose web site I ran a few years ago when people would deliberately sign up with sock puppet accounts and multi-vote.
krenn From: krenn Date: February 4th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, it's often a good idea to leave the poll as "easily stuffed"; as long as you can tell who was doing the stuffing, you then null out their votes in postprocessing.

If you make it tricky to stuff, then they won't do idiotic things like have the bot stay on the same IP address. As long as the bot isn't moving around, it's really easy to eliminate its votes.
comatosedreamer From: comatosedreamer Date: February 4th, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
The problem is what people are seeing now -- as long as the ballot box is so clearly stuffed, people look at the "current results" and see garbage.

I'd wager 95% of the people who vote in this poll won't stick around to find out the final results... they just cast their vote and feel pleased if they see their candidate doing well. So the only thing that matters to them is what the CURRENT result are, not the results after all the falsified results are removed.
krenn From: krenn Date: February 4th, 2010 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know that it'd prevent initial voting, since it's "hard" (not impossible) to see the results without voting, but you're probably correct in that the obvious skew will put off people from coming back.

Although, for me it's giving me the opposite; I'm now more curious about the final outcome because I want to see just how much gets tossed out. :)
mmol_6453 From: mmol_6453 Date: February 4th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is it possible for a comic author to explicitly request their comic be removed from the running? That rather drives home the point of "Hey, we don't like cheaters either," to both the poll master/audience and to whatever scum unleashed their private botnet.
howardtayler From: howardtayler Date: February 4th, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I did that yesterday. No response yet.
From: msde Date: February 4th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, the blog at http://www.schlockmercenary.com/blog/ is responding either very slowly or with database errors... penny arcade effect?

I'm more amused at the irony than embarassed. You do realize you just told a bunch of mercenary fans that they would get paid (attorney drone plotline) if they performed a certain action (win the poll)?

I voted once at work and once at home, but nothing like a bot.
howardtayler From: howardtayler Date: February 4th, 2010 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, that's just because the Schlock website is broken, and the database is being held together with shoestrings and spit.
rlg From: rlg Date: February 5th, 2010 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

ah hah

I had wondered about that. Have to blame the mallinjas.
3fgburner From: 3fgburner Date: February 4th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I voted, legit. Once. No guilt here.
cforce From: cforce Date: February 4th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was pretty surprised when Least I Could Do jumped from "nowhere" to "front-runner" in the first round. No slag on LICD (I read it), but I'd be shocked if that wasn't a bot as well.
howardtayler From: howardtayler Date: February 4th, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nah, their vote-count climbed in reasonable proportion to the number of readers they get, and it coincided with the announcement on the blog. Same with Penny Arcade.

PBF, however, has no mobilization system for the grass roots, and they accrued (in the previous poll) 100,000 votes in 3 hours.
krenn From: krenn Date: February 5th, 2010 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now that's amusing - all the candidates have about 500,000 right now.

Looks like somebody's now running a votebot that votes for each candidate in turn.

PA is also way out in front again, so it looks like their fans are also inappropriately expressing enthusiasm. The real loser of this is going to be the poll itself.
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