Based on the dating, it looks like it was posted before this PadMapper post.
1.) Read and comprehend complex / sketchy instructions
2.) Take the trouble to vote
3.) Not instinctively click the confirmation link
4.) Actually forward a personalized, coded email back to AL?!?
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence -- certainly the burden of proof is on them!
(Edit: so far the only AL user to step forward created a new account 3 minutes ago)
I sort of doubt that that explanation is legitimate, since they didn't publicly ask people to do that on any of their voting campaigns and I think the voting volumes were high enough that a secret campaign using friends of friends wouldn't have been able to cause this kind of swing. The Webby Awards admins would likely have the original voting times, though, and if that's actually what it was, I'd say it was a neat hack.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
EDIT: Could it have been Mike Larsen that caused the swing? https://twitter.com/#!/Marleybonez/status/196998708292894720
As peer comment mentions, though, there's no mention of the confirmation scheme on that video or the related site (assuming no retconning).
The ones that rely on public votes are very obviously always worthless but the ones relying on a judging panel are, in their vast majority, just as meaningless.
This is actually why entering awards is a great strategy for cash-poor startups who can't afford to pay a PR person. Anybody can win awards. In fact, I haven't personally tried that strategy, but I'm certain that you don't even need to have a product, or a business at all, to win awards. Put together a pretty looking web page for a non-existent product, write a convincing enough description, enter a few random awards and, soon-enough, you should be the proud owner of an award-winning non-existent product.
There are two reasons why it's worth spending a few minutes from time to time entering awards as a startup:
- Many people don't understand how awards work and believe that they actually mean something (well, they do mean something: that you're better at winning awards than your competitors). So having an award-winning product does increase your credibility with clients.
- More importantly though, the reason people organise awards is generally to generate PR for themselves. So they'll generally have a PR company lined up to make sure that the award gets covered in the media. Which in turns means that the winners get free PR. And that, for a startup, is priceless.
EDIT: Apparently the domain belongs to Denis Grosz (http://grosz.com/about) who is on the Ap. List team...http://blog.apartmentlist.com/about/
EDIT #2: I just had a thought...Grosz may be attempting to increase clicks through the organizer url to make it appear more valuable.
That being said, there are lots and lots of bots on Twitter and given how easy it is to program one, and the fact that folks might pay for it, wouldn't you like to have a 'twitter army' in your pocket that for the right price could give you a shout out? Heck people do it with zombie PCs all the time.
I am speculating that this sort of abuse will lead to the emergence of a nominal digital ID implementation. A point where an individual will not be allowed to participate in some online activities that they might wish to participate in because their lack of proof that they are real, and unique.
The OP speculates a voting robot, however if you did it with Mechanical Turk which uses real people you might find that they procrastinate and only pick up tasks that are about to go off the lists or something. That would be especially true if price per hit went up as it approached the deadline, one could arbitrage the value vs the number of hits you could do in time to meet the deadline.
Not a great motivator for 'random' people.
The 'constant rate' allegation is serious, but given the number of 'votes' involved if there is any truth to the claim it should be trivial to suss out. Humans suck at cheating statistics. Even someone with a good model for human behavior in these circumstances isn't going to have a good handle on faking all the metrics picked up by third party web analytics in conjunction with server logs.
So, let's see what comes out of this.
Here's an alternate explanation to the events observed: The Webby admins started removing what they considered to be fraudulent votes during the blackout period. Most of these removed votes came from PadMapper and Zillow, which increased (linearly) Apartment List's percentage.
Full disclosure: I have no dog in this fight. I haven't used any of the services mentioned, and I've only really heard of Zillow.
I doubt they'd begin this process while voting was still taking place.
Even after allowing for discounted entry fees, the back of
the envelope says the Webbys could be taking in more than
$2 million from its contestants.
There's no way theyd be able to get a significant number of people to not only go vote, but then forward a registration email
Here is an example:
Of course, any of these could easily be them; there are hundreds of anonymous posts paying for votes. It's so easy and common to scam online votes that it happens all the time.
Note the distorted use of page view statistics to help put the explanation in context. If you have a look at Alexa you'll see padmapper gets substantially more traffic than Apartment List.
For the record I don't think they've used a bot, but I do think they've used outside(paid) help to generate votes.
Just wondering out loud some.
Those are still murky waters. Copyright law allows the compilation of a third-party's data as long as you are creating something original with it.
Seems a bit disingenuous but then again Ebay bidding seems to have been this way for a while and now the strategy is moving to other areas if this is the case.