A New Level of Vote Gathering?

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UPDATE: I was right. The relevant votes were deducted overnight / early today, Feb. 1. Please vote for us anyway. :)

[FURTHER UPDATE: A friend said this is “petty.” Nothing of the kind was intended. It is obviously true that anyone actually trying to win these awards is “campaigning.” We are, Gil is, there’s even a contender who created an animated “Vote for me” graphic which he’s appending to every post. And there’s nothing wrong with emailing your friends and asking them to come read your blog and vote — that’s what JIBs are supposed to do, increase readership. It has already worked, by the way, and our thanks to David of IsraellyCool for putting this all together.

There is something wrong with two people running around to all the terminals in the computer lab and sticking in votes for your favorite blog. That’s what we suspected (myself and the other two CC writers who vetted my remarks), and we were right. And I was also right that the esteemed author of Hirhurim was in no way involved.]

This is the first of two follow-ups to Eytan Kobre’s piece yesterday. He spoke about the marginalization of the Orthodox in the media, and that, of course, is the reason we are unusually focused upon what would otherwise be a whimsical blog popularity contest.

You may not think there’s any importance to it. But someone does.

I was awake at 12:20 am this morning, finally checking on the affairs of the day. I decided to check our standings in the Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards, and noticed that Gil was catching up with us in the overall category, reducing his deficit from 40 to 25 votes.

A few minutes later I reloaded… and the deficit was down to 20. Either someone had just gotten all his friends on board, or something was amiss.

Over the next forty minutes, I watched as over 55 votes accrued. Between midnight and two a.m., the Hirhurim blog had pulled in over 100 votes — nearly three times as many votes as either of us scored on the average full day, and fully one-third of all the votes either of us had acquired by that point. A nearly thirty-point deficit suddenly became a nearly eighty-point lead, in the span of two hours of the early morning.

Was Rabbi Student behind it? Absolutely not, in my opinion. First of all because he denied any knowledge of it, and also because if it involved any sort of ballot stuffing or other shtick, Gil would have no part of it. But it is unusual, at least, to have more people voting at 1:30 a.m. than on any other full day of the week. Only an extraordinarily concerted campaign, one way or the other, could produce so many votes in such a short and low-traffic period of time.

And if so, is it possible that it’s not so much a matter of who is going to win, but who isn’t? Who knows. Avak Paranoia strikes again. :)

Now because of the JPost’s analysis tools, it is quite likely that any ballot stuffing will be detected and eliminated. But who can be certain? Maybe someone went around a computer lab late last night and simply got everyone there to vote.

One way or the other, we suddenly need your help to retake the lead that was ours… Vote for Cross-Currents, especially if you haven’t before.

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22 Responses

  1. Toby Katz says:

    Shlomo, lighten up, this is a popularity contest in a newspaper with nothing riding on it except some publicity for the blogs and the paper. It’s not as if someone tried to throw an election — the way the Florida Supreme Court tried to throw the election to Gore a few years back.

  2. Shlomo says:

    I still don’t understand why this had to be broadcast to the entire world.

    Forgive me if I’m being a bit dense.

  3. Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel says:

    Just to clarify– My last sentence was just to point out a hole in internet-based information gathering, not to justify the wrong done.

  4. Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel says:

    Why reveal this information?! The truth must be known to clarify that this sort of activity is not condoned nor will be ignored into silence by the frum community. If there is no clarification, then the rumors would fester and a greater chillul ha-shem would result from the appearance of denial and conspiracy. This situation would blemish the reputation of Hirhurim, the JIB awards, and the internet frum community. The two young men who perpetrated this scheme asked me to post this on their behalf to prevent just such a series of events. It is better that we know that what happened was the product of two young men who did something irresponsible and now realize that it was a bad spur-of-the-moment decision. How does knowing that create a hillul Hashem? I know the two young men who beefed up the votes- their intent was not malicious. I think that their impression of the vote was that it was somewhat of a free-for-all. Such an impression is not unwarrented considering that multiple voting is allowed (albeit over a period of days) and that gathering internet-based statistics is the wild-west of information science.

  5. Yaakov Menken says:

    Shlomo,

    It’s not the “best religion blog” but “best overall” that was tainted. Honestly, given the reaction of some of the other blogs to our solid performance, we suspected that an opponent of CC was as likely responsible as any adherent of Hirhurim. [Already, they have geared up to vote for Hirhurim while accusing me of blaming Gil for this.]

    You have two college kids doing a prank, either way. Wrong? Absolutely. But if (as argued above) we made too big a deal out of this, you’re over-reaching.

  6. Shlomo says:

    Another thought:
    I have no doubt that the story about he boys in the computer lab is 100% true. What they did was dishonest and halachically forbidden.

    However, I am unclear as to why the whole world needs to know about it.

    I can already envision the headlines: “Best Religion Blog Contest Marked by Cheating.”

    Considering the potential for Chillul HaShem, what overarching goal was served by publicizing this?

  7. Shlomo says:

    As Micha wrote, in what sense is this a religion blog rather than a political blog written by religious people?
    Let me be more specific, what percentage of your postings would require prior recitation of Birkas HaTorah (had I not already done so) or, had they been printed out, require disposal in a respectful fashion?

  8. Dani Taylor says:

    Thank you Rabbi Bloomenstiel, for the clarification.

    In general, polls can be easily skewed by whether or not an entrant’s respective fanbase votes in polls; e.g.- if most of the people who read Hirhurim are the kind to vote in online polls, then they would end up with more votes than CC if most of the people who read CC don’t vote in online polls. This can create issues in popularity polls and surveys, especially. Hence the need to ask for votes – that is, if CC’s readers don’t vote in online polls, CC needs to request that its readers stray from their norm and vote.

    Requesting votes is a very common practice nowadays; for example – elections. Elections wouldn’t be what they are today without the parties involved going out and telling people to vote for them.

  9. Larry says:

    To my friends at Cross-Currents from a member of a mainline protestant church, let me say:

    Let us not forget the purpose for the Jewish Israel Blog Awards. I have been able to introduce many folks who otherwise would not have read any of these pro-Israel blogs because of the JIB awards. I have also been able to send my thanks to many bloggers by voting for them and thus thanking them for their tireless (an unpaid) efforts to inform us about Israel.

    As I have conducted several online surveys, there are pitfalls in using the internet to conduct those surveys. Unless the survey is conducted in a secure website environment, there will be ways to stuff the ballot box. I trust the Jerusalem Post will be doing what they can to prevent ballot stuffing.

    Perhaps some young enterprising blogger should consider creating a secure website for the purpose of conducting internet surveys. There may be a potential market for such a product. I know that I would have been willing on several occasions to pay $100 to have a secure web site to conduct a survey where I would know there would be no double voting.

  10. Toby Katz says:

    “I thought the point was to find the most popular blogs. The whole idea of campaigning and “vote for me” pleas makes the entire survey meaningless.” –Micha

    In every campaign the candidates say “Vote for me.” You can’t /make/ people vote for you, though. You can only hope that they like you enough to actually do so. And I notice that C-C is hardly the only blog out there with a “vote for me” campaign.

    You complain that campaigning might skew the results. Well, a popularity poll with no campaigning might be skewed too, because people might like a blog but just not bother to vote at all if they aren’t pushed a little.

  11. Yeshoua says:

    Perhaps people were voting from here in Israel there are those of us here who find it hard
    to sleep with everything happening here and therefore that it where the votes came. I would like to hear or see some sort of comment from The charedim Rabbonim as to what is happening here in Eretz Yisroel.

  12. Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel says:

    To clear the air about the voting irregularities –

    I am employed at one of the larger Universities in the Baltimore, MD area. The midnight to 2:00 am ballot rally was put together by two students who are big fans of Hirhurim. I confronted them after overhearing their discussion about it at the campus Hillel. They have given me permission to post this message. I am likewise sending this notice to both the blog awards and to Hirhurim. Rabbi Menken – please look me up in the Eruv Book and contact me if you have any other questions.

    -ACB

  13. Nachum Lamm says:

    Rabbi Menken, 1:30 AM is 8:30 AM in Israel. There are millions of Jews in Israel, and the Jerusalem Post is an Israeli paper. I’ve just cast my first vote of this race, and it wasn’t for you. This is getting embarassing.

  14. Micha says:

    I thought the point was to find the most popular blogs. The whole idea of campaigning and “vote for me” pleas makes the entire survey meaningless.

    But in what sense is this a religious blog, rather than a political blog run by religious people?

  15. Bob Miller says:

    Based on the rules that allow more than one vote per person per round, I’d say that
    the principle of ballot-stuffing is built into the system. Anyway, Cross-Currents can always try to
    position itself as the blog for the elite if its vote lags. Someone who has the time and
    the inclination could check out the reader demographics to support this.

  16. Joe Schick says:

    Considering that Gil is an ordained Orthodox rabbi, there’s clearly no marginalization of the Orthodox at issue. Maybe some people don’t like Cross-Currents, or (more likely, I think) maybe some people really like Hirurim

  17. Michael Bergman says:

    PS – I have no time to look at all the blogs in this category but after reading the ‘about us’ section in your blog, you have one more vote…

  18. Michael Bergman says:

    Shalom Yaacov, – just a comment in passing from an outsider (I am Jewish, left Israel over 20 years ago, now lives in Asia and work for a charity). I write occasionally on Jewschool, which is how I got to the Jpost blogolimpics. So out of curiosity, I looked at some of the contenders.

    I find it disturbing to think that Hirhurim is so popular, when it advertises on its front a b book that put all Jewish ethics, and all human morals, to shame (Samson Blinded). An example: “In the Yom Kippur War, Israel should have used nuclear power and demilitarized Egypt to control its military development in the years to come.” – this is about a country we had (and still do) signed a peace agreement mere 4 years later. Who ever writes this must lack
    something in his soul, and any Rabbi that truly understands God’s love will not support such abhorrent views…

    You obviously know this Rabbi, and from your post I gather he is quite widely read. That is the sad reality of nowadays Judaism.

    With a heavy heart, Michael

  19. Yaakov Menken says:

    Ezzie, I would absolutely buy that argument — if it weren’t three times the number of votes either of us pulled in on the average day. I’m not saying it was ballot stuffing (if I were sure that it was, then JPost would disqualify it and we’d win). It was either stuffing or someone getting all his friends to jump in and vote at an odd time.

    Either way it’s an “irregularity,” and at least we can bring it up so we get people to vote again.

  20. Ezzie says:

    Cute (and really paranoid) post… but you’d be surprised. Gil tends to post pretty late at night a lot, and his readers probably know that – plus, many bloggers come on late. Finally, you’ve got to remember that the West Coast readers are 3 hours behind. Maybe (!) he’s just more popular! ;)

  1. February 1, 2006

    […] There seems to be a veritable slugfest going on between Cross Currents and Hirhurim. Yaakov Menken of Cross-Currents took umbrage with a large late-night increase in votes on the Hirhurim site in the Best Overall Blog category. He attributed this increase to some sort of undignified technique. No, not like covering yourself in the mantle of the Torah and claiming you are [email protected]_m’s fave blog, but rather, he implied the existence of some seedy email campaign. Hello Kettle? Pot calling on line 1! Anyhow, this should be a fun race too! Anything can happen in this three way race between Cross-Currents, Hirhurim and Dry Bones! Fun, fun, fun! […]

  2. February 1, 2006

    Lighten Up……

    It seems that my post of yesterday, asserting “foul play” in the blog award voting, has touched some sort of raw nerve among other J-bloggers—especially those who are contenders in some of the same areas.

    To review: I was up late o…