Blog Brawl announcement

We’ve discovered the source of the voting irregularities we’ve seen in the last few rounds of the Blog Brawl.

In the first round, we found that someone had written a script to automate the voting process. We were able to weed out those votes, and let everyone know about it — and how we felt strongly that it violated the spirit of the blogging contest. (Hence, our little ‘cheater’ videos.)

After that, though, we continued to find irregularities, but nothing as large-scale and obvious as the scripting. We did notice, though, that there were a large number of votes being cast from outside the U.S.

It turned out that there was a completely separate, er, process at work. We were tipped off by a person in Italy (!) that someone was paying people to cast votes for one of our competitors using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. While this is not cheating — you can’t cheat in a competition that doesn’t really have rules — we (and everyone we’ve talked to about it) think, like the scripting, paying the worldwide public en masse to cast votes violates the spirit of the Brawl.

After speaking with this competitor, we know for a fact that the system was set up by an outside party, not the blogger. Still, this person has agreed to withdraw from the Blog Brawl, and we appreciate the spirit of fair play.

Which leaves us with the question of how to finish the Brawl in a way that balances fairness with expediency (our winners will need to make travel arrangements, after all).

We have decided to re-run the Blog Brawl semi-finals. The contestants are…

Zone 1: Hampton Roads Virginia Real Estate (“Tina in Virginia”) vs. Virginia Real Estate News (Brian Block)

Zone 2: LoCo Musings (Heather Elias) vs. NRV Living (Jeremy Hart) [who would have advanced in the second round if not for the Turk votes]

The voting form will be up later this afternoon, and will end on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., EST.

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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9 Responses to Blog Brawl announcement

  1. Matt Wilkins says:

    For the situation that has unfolded I feel this is the most fair and even handed way to deal with it.

    It is unforutnate that a system setup without the blogger’s knowledge is the reason that the competitor had to resign and lose what would have been a free ticket to Inman.

  2. Jeremy Hart says:

    Thanks to everyone at VAR for putting so much into this. I’m sure it’s been a chore, excited to be back in it! How will I compete with someone who’s kissed a PIG?

    Wait … I won Dirtiest Camper once as a child. Maybe I’ve got a shot at this thing!

  3. Tony Arko says:

    What is the “spirit of the Blogbrawl”? Is it in the spirit of the Blogbrawl to solicit votes? It is okay to send direct messages on twitter asking/begging for votes? I am not sure what the spirit is. Are we trying to encourage good writing and blog development? Or are we encouraging solicitations, mechanical turks, and other dubious actions? I ask again, What is the Spirit of the Blogbrawl?

  4. Jim Duncan says:

    This is a good response to an unfortunate situation.

    But – look at is a lesson and a sign of the Blog Brawl’s growth – now, we clearly need to establish rules of play to ensure that everyone understands fairness.

    But let’s not mince words – it’s a form of human scripting that oversteps the bounds of the competition.

  5. Jim..I think you said it best, a “good response to an unfortunate situation”. I think that the contest in and of itself promotes good writing and blog development. I have been spurred to ‘raise the bar’ for my own blog since the competition started and have used it as an opportunity to introduce my blog to my sphere of influence and past clients. Let the voting begin! =)

  6. It is very unfortunate this happened. I feel badly for the contestant who ended up stepping aside. I do commend them for being willing to do so. I think this was the correct thing to do (as hard as it was I’m sure)

    I think that VARbuzz handled the situation as well as they could to make it fair for all involved. Certainly a rock and a hard place situation. Well done.

    Now, back to the fun stuff! Stumping on facebook, Twitter, 12seconds, ActiveRain and any other place votes can be garnered…

    Contestants, start your engines!

  7. Heather, you’ll like what’s coming up. We’re planning regular ‘Mini Blog Brawls’ that will focus on different things — best design, best single post, best use of language, etc. Hopefully everyone will think like you do and keep up their A games!

  8. Jeff Turner says:

    Andrew, I think you have handled this in the best way possible. Whatever the “spirit” of the blog brawl is, buying votes is certainly outside of that. Just my opinion.

  9. Looks like the Blog Brawl learned its lesson – establish clear rules next time. Without rules, you’re just betting on people doing everything “the right way”. But everyone’s version of “right” is different.

    And even if you establish rules, as with any popularity contest that involves a prize for winning, someone will push the envelope and do something that falls in the “gray” area in order to win. It’s called ego and greed.

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