Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Beijinger Bar Awards farce continues

I complained last month how this year's The Beijinger Bar & Club Awards seem to be even more of a cock-up (and a fix) than usual.

I sent an e-mail objecting to the opacity - not to say the sheer stupidity - of the voting 'system', and was surprised to receive a prompt reply from Michael Wester of True Run Media (which owns The Beijinger) - although it might in fact have been from one of his clone drones, or a purely automated e-mail. I elaborated my criticisms in a further e-mail and never got a reply to that.

"Michael's" e-mail had simply said:
it's not an automated system, so the vote is not instantly verified by email. Once the voting has closed, all voters will receive an email asking to confirm their selection. If a response is not received, the ballot is discarded.

That's information that should have been on the poll widget website, but it's still far from complete. No reference to DATES: when will the poll close, how soon afterwards will we receive the supposed confirmation request, and how long will we then have to respond in order to ensure our votes are counted?

As I put it in my second e-mail harumph:
"People really expect to be able to complete the polling process in one sitting. There are many reasons why one might overlook or disregard a confirmation request sent weeks after the votes were entered...

Last year, I'm pretty damned sure I never received a voting confirmation e-mail. And several other people made similar complaints to me. [Maybe they got eaten by spam filters??] I rather fear the same thing is going to happen this year.

I'd like to make my votes count, but.... well, this is a secondary e-mail account that I don't use for much other than online registrations. I only check it once or twice a week, sometimes not at all when I'm travelling. So, unless a confirmation request arrives when I'm expecting it (which is to say, immediately after I've voted) I'm very likely to miss it.

This does give the impression that the system is set up to contrive ways of disregarding people's votes rather than to encourage and facilitate their voting."

I find it quite staggering that the poll is "not automated". Obviously, there are some write-in elements that need to be transcribed manually. And the "verification" process, I suppose, would have be done by human labour too. (If there is any meaningful verification, that is. I don't think they were asking for mobile numbers this year. And it's pretty easy to run multiple e-mail addresses. Even if they were able to check e-mail submissions against IP addresses [could they automate that, I wonder?], proxy services would probably prevent that. And anyway, you can't really legislate against multiple voting from a single computer: it might be partners, friends, flatmates, colleagues, family members or whatever sharing a computer. I think the only way, really, to guard against multiple voting with fake identities is to require people to give their mobile numbers and then call a large random sample to check their ID info with them.... or at least to ask for "vote confirmation" via SMS rather than e-mail [a request which probably could be automated].) However, there is absolutely no reason at all why the initial submission of the online ballot cannot be acknowledged - and "confirmed" - immediately by an automated e-mail.

Well, at least I finally received that "confirmation request" today. Yes, in that e-mail account that I hardly ever use. I had been checking it with a vague but unconvinced optimism at the end of last week, because I'd happened to notice an e-mail "reminding" me that voting was to close on the 5th. However, I still hadn't heard anything by close of play on Friday 7th, and I was too busy to check any more over the weekend..... so I kind of gave up on the whole business. I wouldn't have bothered to check again today had not one of my bar owner friends suddenly invited me to the Awards Ceremony this Thursday.

The "confirmation request" e-mail is itself a real nightmare of poor communication. It doesn't explain how the asked-for "confirmation" is to be made, but instead provides a welter of other information. The link for confirming your vote is hiding right at the bottom of the page - and it is the only one of several links on the page that has no explanation as to what it is supposed to be. Moreover, there is no reference to any deadline for completing your confirmation. And when you suss out that this is perhaps the link to follow for confirming your vote, you encounter more confusion where a second 'Confirm your vote' page pops up (very slowly - you could easily miss it) after you've hit the 'Confirm your vote' button on the first one. Do you have to click the button on both pages in order to make sure your vote is counted??

Well, there is no explanation of what is going on here. And you receive no confirmation that your confirmation has been accepted. So, you're never going to know.

The whole thing has been just exasperatingly badly organized.

Ah yes, and one final gripe. I was asked to be a nominator for the Awards this year. I was promised that I would be invited to the Awards Ceremony in thanks for contributing my nominations. No such invitation has been received, so I am once again left to tag along with friends..... or just 'crash' (not at all difficult). The very late-in-the-day "confirmation request" e-mail was apparently sent out at getting on for midnight last night. It was advertising an opportunity for voters to secure invitations to the event - by submitting an online bar review on The Beijinger's website before noon today. 50 'tickets' to be given away! How generous!! How many of you were able to check your e-mails first thing this morning and then take 15 minutes out of your working duties to compose a qualifying bar review? I thought not. I guess they still have about 45 unassigned tickets on their hands....

Jeez, these guys are starting to make Chinese universities look vaguely competent......

No comments: