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An open letter to Allen Wastler

Allen Wastler is the managing editor at I just read his Open Letter to the Ron Paul Faithful (archived). It's short, but my shorter summary is: Ron Paul supporters allegedly “hacked” or targeted a campaign at the post-debate poll to get Ron Paul to 75%, and that's why they removed the poll from their site.

I emailed a response and figured it would be interesting enough to post here as well:

Hello Mr. Wastler,

I did not vote in CNBC's debate poll, but you seem to indicate that 7000 plus votes in a few hours is far more than expected. I am not sure why that is; did you expect the amount of viewers to be small and therefore not receive so many votes? 7000 seems a small number for a national debate.

As a computer geek I must also nitpick a bit. You referred to the poll either being “hacked” or the target of a campaign. “Hacked” is not the right terminology, unless you have actual evidence of your polling system being compromised. You might argue that it was “spammed”; that is, a small amount of people voted repeatedly to artificially inflate the numbers. Again, there would be evidence of that. Heavy traffic coming from Ron Paul chat sites is not evidence of spamming. It's pretty logical to expect that people in the Ron Paul chat rooms were aware of the debate, watching it live, or watching recorded copies of it shortly thereafter (Ron Paul fans are quite quick about getting video available online), and would thus vote in the poll. The only evidence you offer is that you have not seen such numbers in “legit” (term undefined) polls.

Furthermore, if it was “spamming” that caused the “high” vote count, then the software running your poll clearly does not check very well for such methods. Yes, you admitted it is “unscientific”, but still you turn around and complain that Ron Paul supporters “ruined” the poll in the way they participated. Well, it is your poll and your software. You can control how the poll is run and how people participate in it. If you don't require registration, verify email addresses, check IP addresses, and use other techniques to avoid “spamming”, then you cannot rightfully complain about people using your system in the way it is set up.

I do not advocate spamming online polls, but if your poll is not “serving your readers” then you should fix the software instead of complaining about the users.

UPDATE: Please see the follow-up post, A reasonable response.

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I find it interesting that you can't comment directly on his open letter, only send an email. Perhaps the mainline media is too scared to let the readers address them and each other directly in an open forum...

You raise an interesting point. I think mostly it's “major media” being slow to adapt new things, like the social web. I do see an increasing amount of news items that allow easier interaction via comments or forums, though.

Even without that, though, notice the relatively quick response from Mr. Harwood in the follow-up post.

This is an older post, so the public comment form is now closed. You can still use the form above to send me the link of your reply or sign in with your email to leave a comment. You can always send me a message, too.


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