Friday, February 16, 2007

Acie Law for the Cousy Award: A Moral Delimma

OK. So here's the deal. Texas A&M point guard Acie Law is one of 17 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award this year. 1 Vote out of the 31 votes for the award is determined by fans voting in an online poll. The guy who put together the website ( decided to outsource the web poll using a company called The web poll that websitegear made is supposed to only allow 1 vote per email address per day, but....

It doesn't work properly. Some fans at the University of Virginia figured that out and (first of all) created a web form that generates a fake email address and votes for their candidate. People at figured this out when Acie (who had been leading handily from normal fair fan votes) fell behind quickly to Sean Singletary from UVA. As a response, we did what any normal person would do, and we put ourselves on equal footing. I changed the code that UVA was using to vote for Acie Law instead and posted it here.

A little more research determined that the online poll application was even more worthless than it originally seemed. Because of the way that the form validation was set up, you didn't actually have to put in an email address at all. You could simply refresh the aspx page and the application would take the argument from the web address (a "code" that they assigned to each player) and add it to the votes.

Since the voting process could be subverted so easily, and since the ballot boxes were being stuffed with fake email addresses anyway, I went ahead and made a page that uses javascript to refresh the form submission every 2 seconds automatically. You can find it here. This required about 3 lines of code (optionally it could be done with a Firefox browser extension). Needless to say, after posting the link on, Acie retook his lead in the poll. The people on the UVA message board ( stole my code and changed it to vote for their guy and hosted it on another site. There are many more Aggies than Wahoos, though, and Acie's lead is slowly growing.

The Aggie Code of Honor:
Aggies never lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do.

Is what I did a violation of the Aggie Code? It is an act of intolerance of the cheating being done by the UVA folks, but hypocritically violates the code itself. I looked at the situation as a technical challenge and didn't anticipate the competition getting so heated.

The guy who posted the original form (with the random email addresses) took it down, but it is clear that there are many people still using their version of the auto-refreshing form that I made. If I take a moral stance at this point and take down my voting forms then it is likely that we will lose the poll. So if you make a decision that in retrospect violates your principles, at what point do you draw the line?

It'll be interesting to see how all of this shakes out. Hopefully they'll nullify all the fake votes, but I don't think that they can filter them out well, because the email addresses are not stored in their SQL database. The best that they can do is to filter down the results to 1 vote per IP address per day or something like that, or just disqualify the entire online poll from having a say in the Cousy Award ballots. In the end, it is not my problem. told the guy that made the Cousy Award website that it would handle 1 vote per email address per day, and it doesn't do that. If I were on the Award committee, I would be ticked off at those guys.


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