Friday, March 27, 2009

Voting on the Web- Beware Colbert

What do The Hungarian Government, NASA, and my nephew have in common? (this is not a joke) They all lack an understanding of voting on the web.
  1. In 2006 The Hungarian Government set up a website to take a vote on what to name a particular Bridge in Hungary. Stephen Colbert urged his viewers to vote for The Stephen Colbert Bridge. (At the time The Chuck Norris Bridge was leading in the vote.) The Government overturned it since Colbert is not Hungarian and he is not dead. They should have NOT allowed writeins OR not have an election.
  2. In 2009 NASA set up a website to have a vote on what to name a room on the international space station. They already had two of the three rooms named: Unity and Harmony. I've read that they were hoping the last one would be Serenity- claiming that they wanted world peace to be a theme, though I think they were fans of the TV show Firefly. Once again Stephen Colbert urged his viewers to vote for Colbert. And this name won. NASA could overturn this (they will decide in April). I've read on websites statements like Stephen Colbert embarrassed NASA and NASA made the mistake of allowing writeins. However, if they just go with Colbert and say they are happy with it this will be far less embarrassing then overturning the vote. I hope the don't overturn it. But if they do then why have an election in the first place? They can say It was only a Poll but it sure looks like a election to me. But, to be fair, they have not overturned it yet so I can't be mad... yet.
  3. When my nephew's wife was pregnant my nephew set up a website for people to vote on the name of the baby. No, Stephen Colbert did not urge his viewers to vote for Stephen as first name and Colbert as middle name. And my nephew did not allow writeins. But they didn't end up using the top vote getter! This upset the family terribly if by the family you mean Bill Gasarch and by upset you mean told them that they destroyed democracy. They named the kid George even though Al had won (this is a joke, though the rest of the story is true).
Hungary was just naive in a transitional time for things like these. NASA has less of an excuse. Both did not realize that you cannot control votes on the web. And my nephew did not realize that once you hold an election, if you overturn your results, you might get your uncle annoyed.


  1. Colbert might get his name on a more appropriate fixture in the ISS.

  2. Another interesting case a few years back is the Rory Fitzpatrick NHL All-Star mess. They used Internet voting. A bunch of fans decided that Fitzpatrick deserved to get into an All-Star game for his years of dedication. As it became clear that he was going to, he all of a sudden started to stop getting votes and he didn't make the cut. The concensus was that the NHL tossed out 100,000 of his votes to keep him from making the All-Star team. This is a WORSE case in my opinion since the fans actually WANTED an actual HOCKEY PLAYER to PLAY HOCKEY and they still got told "your vote doesn't count" by the NHL.

  3. I actually think that Stephen Colbert getting involved on those polls was a good thing. Both of them had already started to veer off course. And in taking the top spot, Colbert gave the poll organizers an excuse or two not to use the poll results (he's a living person), and gave them some one who could and would gracefully accept that decision on behalf of the voters.

    ALso I think that these cases spotlight the effect that knowing a decent approximation of an ongoing poll/vote can have. And is something that should be considered for any voting system. online or not.

  4. After the Colbert incidents with Wikipedia, the Hungary thing, and the Saginaw Spirit mascot (now named Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle) the entire idea of write-ins for Internet voting should be long past the point of being an "acceptable idea" for ANYONE who doesn't want Colbert as their name.

  5. Add TIME to that list.

  6. "Add TIME to that list."

    Why? The only thing that comes to mind is their "Top 100 Influential People" poll, for which it is FINE for Colbert to try to influence people to vote for him (also, he lost out to Shigeru Miyamoto by a nose).

    Was there something else with TIME?

  7. Colbert would not be a bad name for the space station, anyway, he's done a lot of consciousness-raising on various scientific issues on his show.

    The satellite interview with the astronaut on board the space station was very good.

  8. Yes, TIME had an Internet poll with Moot in it, prompting 4chan /b/ to act as a human bot-net.

  9. Apparently the same thing happened to Obama at his town-hall meeting where people could submit and vote for there favorite questions on the internet: Says Daily Dish, "In this moment of national economic crisis, the top four questions under the heading of “Financial security” concerned marijuana; on the budget, people voted up questions about marijuana to positions 1-4; marijuana was in the first and third positions under “jobs”; people boosted a plug for legalizing marijuana to No. 2 under “health care reform.” And questions about decriminalizing pot occupied spots 1 and 2 under “green jobs and energy.”

    Obama kinda answered it. He laughed and then said that he does not believe legalizing Marijauna will help.