In a surprise turn around, the U.S. orchestrated a strong come back today tying the U.K. 3-3 in the overall medals count for Creative Caption contest. We are pleased to announce that hometown favorite Bruce Pilgrim has taken the prize for June.
Pilgrim, CEO of Bruce Pilgrim Marketing Communications, LLC, and author of Talking to My Cats: A Small Business Journal, won with the caption, "Lot's wife and her sister at the mall." Despite the confusion and subsequent storm of controversy surrounding the disqualification of two other finalists for cheating last week, Pilgrim wooed our international panel of judges and emerged the winner. He was able to get three first-choice and one second-place pick to secure the win.
"This is the highlight of my long and extinguished career," Pilgrim said. "It totally eclipses the religion medal I got in the 7th grade at Precious Blood Elementary School. I was this close to entering the priesthood until I looked up 'celibacy' in the dictionary."
Pilgrim, shown left with his religion medal, plans to use some of the $1,000 prize money to help fund his campaign to make failing to use the serial comma a federal offense. "The rest I'll probably spend on pornography," he added.
Congratulations Bruce! Best wishes with the serial-comma prevention campaign. It is such a horrible affliction that plagues the PR profession. We applaud your courage and selflessness. What a great example of the American spirit put into action.
U-S-A... U-S-A... U-S-A!
We'd like to thank Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications for sponsoring this months contest.
We are saddened to report that we’ve been hacked; our contest poll has been compromised; and two finalists have been disqualified for cheating.
As you are likely aware, this last Monday we incorporated an online poll to give our audience the opportunity to pick the winner for the June Caption Contest. By early Wednesday we were quite suspicious of the results as there was a huge spike in votes cast. Granted, we like to think we’re popular but 298,625!; that's almost ten times the size of our audience.
We immediately contacted the poll hosting company Blogflux and confirmed that security had been breached. Not only were multiple votes coming from the same IP address, it was apparent that it was being done with a hacker’s automated bot script. It was also apparent that two of our contestants were involved: Doug Halsam and Rodd Simonsen.
We confronted Halsam and Simonsen. Both confessed, apologized and directly withdrew from the contest. See apologies below.
Lesson? There's a nice little case study here. All along we've held that the mechanism for vetting quality on the Net is dysfunctional. We've argued that it's a popularity contest that can be readily compromised.
So, are we through with Net polls? No. The techs at Blogflux have assured us that this vulnerability can and will be securely closed. In the future, we'll probably use them sparingly. We won't be using them where cash prizes are involved.
Well, it's back to the drawing board literally. Our panel of independent judges will reconvene and vet June's winner the old-fashioned way. We will diligently revisit the qualifications and assess each of the finalists independently and carefully. We hope to announce a winner early next week.
Thank you for your patience.
From: Doug Haslam
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 3:10 PM
To: Amanda Chapel
Subject: Concession Speech
I am officially bowing out of the photo caption contest. I fully acknowledge that there was some scripting going on on my behalf, which I did not discourage. That’s still cheating. The resulting “bot war” ruined the poll and for my part I apologize to Strumpette, to the other contestants and to all the people who voted legitimately.
Why did I do this? I have no excuse but here’s what happened: Early in the contest, I suspected there was a bot in play for one of the other contestants. The way I saw to find out was to engage similarly and flush it out, prize money be damned. My suspicions were proved pretty quickly in the swift response. And as you saw the poll results were totally compromised growing geometrically from that point forward.
For the record, I began the contest with a genuine get-out-the-vote call to my friends on Twitter, Facebook, and several email groups, including one for a non-profit group to which I would donate a chunk of the hoped-for prize money. I eked out a modest—and honest—early lead. On Monday afternoon, I noticed “Red Dye” had shot up in the voting suddenly, and I voiced my concern on Twitter (http://twitter.com/DougH/statuses/120367772). A friend responded asking if I needed a bot for myself. I didn’t say yes, but I didn’t say no either. Very quickly I was winning again, and obviously I knew why. Then “Red Dye” came back with a vengeance, erasing any doubt that there was a bot behind those votes.
At that point, Monday evening, I had already disqualified myself in my mind, realized I could not keep any prize money. But I did let it continue until Wednesday afternoon when Strumpette stopped the voting with “Red Dye” nearly 200,000 “votes” in the lead.
Lesson learned. In retrospect, I should have called this to the attention of Strumpette immediately. Again, please accept my apology.
From: Rodd Simonsen
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 3:43 PM
To: 'Amanda Chapel'
Subject: RE: Strumpette Poll
I am very pleased to have been chosen as a finalist in your Photo Caption Contest. I regretfully decline and remove myself from the contest. I have participated unfairly in the contest and do not feel that any prize would be appropriate, even if fair judging could be determined. I apologize for any inconveniences this may have caused. I am also very sorry to the other contestants, and wish the best of luck to all that remain in the running for this contest.
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