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Monkey Clicking game was a horrible success

Randy Simms baited me several times this morning on Open Line.

He and producer Pat Murphy referred to yesterday's post, and actually blamed me for the fact that their online Question of the Day poll was being stacked. At least twice, Randy Simms said this was Geoff Meeker's fault, and tut-tutted me for it.

I was too busy this morning to call in and correct him, but I was on VOCM's Nightline last night and had a great chat with host Linda Swain about this. She understood what I was doing and did see the humour in it.

But here's the truth of the matter: VOCM's poll has been abused for many months, possibly years, by people with an agenda. Any fool who visits the Question of the Day will have noticed that, whenever the question is politically sensitive, the poll results go wacky sometimes as high as 25,000 votes with answers invariably running in government's favour.

The poll was already corrupted. I just pointed that out.

It is clear that supporters of the provincial government are behind this. The question is, are they officially sanctioned or are they acting on their own? Do they actually work for the government or the party?

I have written about this before, and it's not news to Randy Simms. (I know he was just baiting me to call, and I respect that.) All I did, in yesterday's post, was expose the techniques that these operatives use to fix the poll.

I told people how to easily override the server's one-vote-only function, so that they could vote multiple times, and asked them to vote yes to the question.

The reason? Yesterday's question was "Do you think radio call-in shows like VOCM Open Line influenced Government's handling of the breast cancer testing scandal?"

I saw some irony in the question. I also noticed that, at the time (about 12:30 pm), there were almost 2,000 votes at the site, with 63 per cent disagreeing.

My prediction was that, if the Yes votes made a sudden resurgence, the Trained Monkeys would immediately start clicking No and the voting numbers would go into the tens of thousands (they usually like to maintain a 70 per cent share of the vote).

And my prediction was correct. People did want to play this game. Within an hour, the number of votes had doubled, and the Yes side was out in front. At 2:30 pm, I had to go to a meeting, and at that point the Yes side was still leading, with 55 per cent of 10,000 votes cast.

That's right, ten thousand! It was wild.

When I got home later in the evening, the No side was winning. Votes at that point were around 25,000, and they were back around 60 per cent.

While I was talking live on the radio with Linda Swain, the number of votes was actually increasing by the thousand, as the minutes went by. The last tally I saw was 53,000 votes, with No holding at about 60 per cent. Here's the final tally.

Then the poll crashed. There was an error message, telling us that the site had overloaded. It was down for the rest of the night.

But here's the thing. The Trained Monkeys did exactly what I predicted. They clicked away dutifully, apparently unaware of my blog post, and sent the results into the tens of thousands. They fell into a trap and exposed themselves, right before our eyes.

I feel bad about the poll crashing. That wasn't my intent. In yesterday's post, I made it clear that I wanted people to play this game for that day only to make a point. As I said, it is offensive and stupid to do this every day. Voting multiple times for Canadian Idol or even a hockey town is one thing; expressing a view on political issues is quite something else.

In the meantime, I may have actually democratized this poll; given the power back to the people, as it were.

Today's VOCM Question of the Day is "Do you think Danny Williams owes an apology to breast cancer patients and their families for his recent comments on the Cameron Inquiry?"

At 12 noon, there are 11,831 votes cast which is away above the norm and indicates that people are voting multiple times. However, they are voting multiple times for both sides of the question.

And the results are actually close. This is rare indeed.

At this time, 41 per cent say Williams does owe an apology to cancer patients, while 43 per cent say he doesn't. Interestingly, 16 per cent are not sure.

What's significant is that the No side doesn't have the majority.

There are things that VOCM and other online polling sites can do to restore order to this process. More on that later.

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  • Dennis
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    The VOCM poll is, just like giving airtime to drones like Tony the Tory, an insult to honest public discussion and debate. Both simply hamper real dialogue.

    If VOCM wants to reflect public opinion, they should pony up the money for an actual, randomly sampled poll. If they're too cheap, or simply lack the resources, then the poll should include a disclaimer along the lines of These figures reflect the opinion of whoever was able to get more supporters clicking in a given time period, and does not reflect, at all, the opinion of the populace it is meant to reflect.

    Anything less is misleading and, quite simply, dishonest.