Vote Spinners

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.  We would run a contest in which we got people to submit essays or short video about a “deserving dad” and we would crowd source the voting and selection process, so the people could choose the most popular ones. Some of the first entries we got were heartwarming, including this video from the near by town somewhat unfortunately called Bumpass.

Then came the vultures.  There is apparently a significant collection of people who spend a lot of their time on online contest, which i dont have a problem with.  But there is a subsection of this group which cheats.  The easiest way to cheat is to buy votes, they start at $10 per hundred.  The top vote getting winning entrant got fewer than 350 votes.  Which means you could have secured a $150 hammock for $35, if you did not get caught.

Hawina and i late at Corbs sleuthing thru the internet

Hawina and i late at Corbs sleuthing thru the internet

But we did catch a bunch of people, multiple entrants by the same people, tips from upset participants about cheaters, votes from Facebook accounts which had 0 friends, many votes for single sentence essays who did not bother to promote their essays on their own FB page. A number of our cheaters were notorious enough to have warnings about them published by other companies running contests, usually after they disqualified them.  Facebook is apparently very slow to close profiles of even the most blatant abusers, reminiscent of their position on sexual assault friendly humor,

buy votes bannerAnd there are “legit” vote exchange services as well, where money is not changed hands about people to agree to vote up other members context entries.  This is where is started getting a bit hazy.

Then we started getting tips.  The first few were quite useful.  They told us about known cheaters who were on our site, pointed out the information given by one woman to open three of the top four vote getters was sufficient to prove that they were all the same person and so disqualify them.

And then it got more fuzzy.  Relatives of participants contacted the contest organizers with tips on people who were cheating.  Then some people who we did not think were cheating were implicated.  Then we started getting tips about cheaters from people who were implicated, but their information seemed legit/verifiable.

In the end we were pretty convinced the people we eliminated were trying to scam us and only a couple of the winners were questionable.

[To be clear anyone can be a "deserving dad" and win our contest, including for example a 5 year old girl.  Just not cheaters.]

Here is the criteria we used to disqualify people

How we determined the winners of the Dozen Dads competition

We learned a lot about online contests in selecting these winners, much of it distressing.  In the end we disqualified 7 of the top ranked contestants for what we believe was inappropriately gaming the contest.  The method we used was somewhat complex and included judgement calls on our part.  This is the outline of our methodology:

  • Anyone who got more than a few votes from facebook profiles which had 0 friends were determined to be harvesting votes from fake accounts and were disqualified.

  • Anyone who had been identified online as cheating in other online contests, by contest sponsors, and who also entered our contest, was disqualified.

  • Participants who had combinations of the following criteria were disqualified: extremely short essays & hundreds of votes & no mention of Twin Oaks Hammocks or the Dozen Dads contest on their FB wall during our contest & really new FB accounts with very little personal information on them.

  • Contestants who made more than one entry under different names were disqualified.

All 3 contestants entering videos we granted hammocks because this showed significant effort.

We are aware that some of the winners know each other and voted for each other as they have in various other contests.  We also know some winners are involved in what we have deemed “acceptable” vote exchange systems.

All decisions are final. Contestants who have concerns about this selection process are encouraged to write to: dozendads@twinoaks.org