The history of the Internet is littered with online polls that “went wrong.” Way back in 2008, when Twitter and Reddit were barely off the ground [it was all Fark and Digg in those days - kids, ask your parents!], it’s how the New York Mets got “Rick-rolled”, and ended up using Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up as their eighth-inning song for their home opener that year. It wasn’t a success. Other examples since, of varying humor and malice, include:
- Taylor Swift’s contest to perform at a school ended up being won by Boston's Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. [She donated to the school instead]
- A similar contest for Latin rapper Pitbull was won by a Wal-mart in Kodiak, Alaska - the country’s most remote branch [Pitbull embraced it, and went there]
- Mountain Dew’s poll to decide a new flavor name had to be brought to a sudden end after the leader became “Hitler did nothing wrong.”
- Perhaps most famously, early this year, the British National Environment Research Council opened polling to decide the name of their new ship. The landslide winner: Boaty McBoatface. [It ended up named after Sir David Attenborough, though the McBoatface name was given to one of its underwater vehicles]
So, yeah. Asking the Internet to decide anything is a risky endeavor. And it proved thus with our Rookie of the Year balloting. Initially, things seemed fairly normal. But late on Wednesday evening, there was a suspicious, massive spike of votes - literally, several hundred - for pitcher Matt Koch. Good though Koch was, he threw less than twenty innings for the team and appeared in only seven games. It seemed likely there was a social media campaign, attempting to stuff the ballot boxes on his behalf.
However, on Thursday, things got even weirder, as an even bigger surge of voting for another pitcher, Jake Barrett, involving well over a thousand votes, took place. Digging in to this, for a yardstick, I compared the SnakePit stats for this Wed-Fri to last week, when we ran the Game of the Year poll:
- Total votes: 64 vs. 2000+
- Site visitors: 2,508 vs. 4,197
- From Facebook: 114 vs. 2,077
Hmm. After further investigation, I think I was able to locate successfully the “Patient Zero” for this (identity hidden to protect the over-enthusiastic!)
Going by the string of response and replies, pretty much all I can say is “Well done.” :) [Though who is “Jake Blakeman”?] However, it does present me with something of a dilemma. When this poll receives well over thirty times the number of votes of the previous one, and turns into a battle of who has got most Facebook friends, I’m inclined to say “This is why we can’t have nice things” and abandon the whole thing. On the other hand, the obvious passion can only be lauded, I appreciate the site visits, and it seems unfair to punish an innocent victim like Jake Barrett, for his fans being a bit over-enthusiastic. It’s not as if he would have been undeserving, after all. A bit more restraint and they might easily have got away with it!
There’s no easy answer, but by the power vested in me, under the ‘best interests of the SnakePit” clause, my Solomon-like proclamation is as follows. The Rookie of the Year ‘Pittie is being withheld this year: no award. It would set a dubious precedent. Jake Barrett will receive an honorable mention as the poll “winner”, albeit with a stern warning regarding their future conduct to the perpetrators. It would have been a lot easier if Barrett had been clearly the best rookie, and conversely, harder if their actions had cheated another candidate who obviously deserved it more.
But overall, I find myself surprisingly comfortable with this decision. It’s a good reminder not to believe everything you read on the Internet - as Abraham Lincoln once said...