Wednesday, July 20, 2011

#oow11 Survey says...RICHARD DAWSON (or Larry Ellison) IS AWESOME!

In non-totalitarian systems, the wishes of the population are surveyed via elections or polls or the like. (Actually totalitarian systems sometimes do this also, but the one candidate in any election usually gets a very high percentage of the vote.) Theoretically, elections provide the people with a voice in how things are run. Practically, elections are often marred by various things termed as "abuse," "fraud," or "irregularities." These range from having dead people vote, to having someone helpfully fill out a ballot for someone else, to getting people drunk before they go to the polls, to voting multiple times, to candidates promising to lower taxes if they're elected, to candidates promising better city services, to candidates promising to keep the local military base open, to...

Wait a minute.

Just a question - what is the difference between a candidate paying five dollars for my vote, and a candidate promising me several thousand dollars in tax breaks for policies he/she will implement for my vote? One could argue that the REAL voter fraud is when politicians go to city hall, the state/provincial house, or the national capital, and then send the gravy train back to their constituents. One person's pork is another person's essential service in the public interest.

Which brings us to Oracle OpenWorld. If you want to present at Oracle OpenWorld, there are four ways to do so:

  • Pay a ton of money to be an Oracle sponsor and get a keynote slot.

  • Have your presentation approved by Oracle via the regular selection process.

  • Sign up for the Unconference. I have used this technique to present at Oracle OpenWorld.

  • Win in the "Suggest-a-Session" election.

For Oracle OpenWorld 2011, the "Suggest-a-Session" voting took place late this spring. The voting was conducted via Oracle Mix, an Oracle service originally developed by the fine folks at the AppsLab.

Back in late June, the AppsLab linked to a Greg Rahn post which analyzed this year's Suggest-a-Session voting. One point he made at the beginning:

With Oracle Mix Suggest-a-Session, people generally vote for a session for one of two reasons:

1.They are generally interested in the session topic
2.The session author asked them to vote because of their social relationship

The latter point is not really anything new. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas both asked Illinois citizens for their votes because both were from Illinois. Theodore Roosevelt asked war veterans for votes. Al Gore asked snail darters for votes.

But Greg Rahn dug a little deeper into the Suggest-a-Session data, and extracted two specific numbers. 828 of the voters cast votes for exactly one author. 826 of the voters voted for every session by a given author. When you couple this with the fact that the top five vote-getting sessions were all submitted by the same author (Tariq Farooq), Rahn concluded:

That’s community for you!

Brian "Bex" Huff reached a different conclusion.

Well, that ain't right... once you dig further, you see what probably happened: the Oracle MIX community has been invaded by a spammer...

Specifically... somebody out there has a mailing list with a few hundred people, and contacted them all asking for votes. Probably repeatedly. I don't know about others in the MIX community, but I personally got three such emails begging for votes... One of them was so shady it probably violated Oracle's Single-Sign-On policy. The line between self-promotion and SPAM is fuzzy... but it was clearly crossed by a lot of people this year.

Huff was not personally affected by this, since he did not suggest any sessions. But he has suggested some reforms, including a maximum of two submissions from any one entity, and a maximum of one selection from any one entity. And Huff also suggested some limitations on how to canvass for votes.

Yury, who was competing in Suggest-a-Session, had a different take on canvassing:

— Email blast to networks —
I think this it where the “gray” area starts. This maybe a bit brighter “gray” area than others. The question is – is it a fair competition if some competitors use/have it and some don’t/have not. My opinion is: if we are strict enough and want to get as fair results as possible this wouldn’t be necessarily fair. However under conditions given there is no way organizers could restrict it. Therefore it could be used.

Yury also tweeted and wrote blog posts, and used one more method:

IM: This I think was another less bright “gray” area. I must confess I used it anyway :( I did contact some of my Oracle friends directly via Instant Messenger and asked them to vote. I am sorry to my friends for that, but I know that if you would have had 2 weeks time you definitely would have voted for me anyway ;) And besides, you know I’d do it for you.

Huff offered the following comment:

I have nothing against people using their networks to boost their sessions... as long as these people have "skin in the game," meaning they are actually going to attend your session. If not, then they're just taking away sessions from people paying real money to go to Open World. Naturally, there are exceptions... but these are the minority.

The whole thing is a gray area, whether you're talking about Suggest-a-Session, your national election, or the selection process that the International Olympic Committee uses to decide where the Olympics will be held. And, as the World Socialist Web Site reports, that selection has been tarnished in the past:

A bribery scandal has forced the resignation of the leaders of the Salt Lake City group which is organizing the 2002 Winter Olympics. The revelations of the past month have demonstrated anew the pernicious consequences of the takeover of international sport by giant corporations, especially the American-based media monopolies.

Frank Joklik, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC), resigned January 8 after acknowledging that cash payments and other benefits were provided to members of the International Olympic Committee to influence the IOC's 1995 vote which awarded the 2002 games to the Utah capital city.

Senior Vice President Dave Johnson also resigned, and SLOC ended a $10,000-a-month consulting contract with its former president Tom Welch, who headed the successful campaign to bring the Olympics to Salt Lake City.

The fallout extended to elected officials, as was noted by the World Socialist Web Site, an organ of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), which "consists of Socialist Equality Party national sections throughout the world." The U.S. national section, the Socialist Equality Party, was (re-)organized in 2008:

The Congress elected a new National Committee of the SEP. Joseph Kishore was elected SEP national secretary and Lawrence Porter assistant national secretary. David North, who had served as national secretary of the Workers League and, later, the SEP, since 1976, was elected by the Congress to the new position of national chairman. Barry Grey was elected national editor of the World Socialist Web Site.

And if Greg Rahn wants to analyze the data from that election, he can go to...well, where?
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