The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam
In the quest for winning the not-really-so-coveted 'Shorty Award', our favorite fictional ad man, @FrankAdMan, found himself losing to a T-Shirt. No big deal, after all, Frank, himself, is fictional, so why shouldn't he be beaten by a T-Shirt?
But then he came across a 16 year old who's entire Twitter stream seemed to consist of '@twittername Do you want to be the best person ever? Vote for@iwearyourshirt to win a shorty http://bit.ly/Shortaaay' and Frank found himself thinking about fish and Denmark…
My first impression was that someone wrote a script that worked the way Twitter whores spam people (see my blog 'Twitter Followers Don't Matter, ask the porn sites'). But I was a little curious why all the postings came from 'Echofone' which is a legitimate Twitter client. I figured he could have spoofed the name to make it look more legit, but why not do 'from web' at the point?
Then I got a message from the spammy account. @jonacoca describes himself as 'I'm a fun, Energetic, and intelligent sixteen year old who loves Social Media, sports, and the business world!' and he assures me he is not a bot.
I did some quick research and he posted very similar messages about 125 times. Not as much as a bot would probably do, but way more than a 40 year old man would do. The behavior of 16 year old boys often seems unlikely to their older and slower counterparts, but my guess is that he's copying and pasting and soliciting strangers -- which isn't much different than sending a 16 year old down to the mall to hand out fliers (which I did when I was 16-ish).
Except this is the Social Media frontier and while it's still the unruly frontier with sex, profanity, and a sense of 'whatever I can get away with is okay,' there are some things we consider improper. One of which is soliciting strangers without their permission, consent or warning.
I don't know what the Shorty's are going to do with this situation -- a little forensics could probably toss out all the votes that were solicited this way, but part of the problem is that this IS the frontier. The fact that there aren't any hard cast rules of engagement makes it harder to separate aggressive campaigning from improper, ne, disqualifying tactics.
But I gotta love the silliness of it all in the midst of the moral quandary…
Clarification on January 28 My intent with this blog posting was to cover the issue of what constitutes spam, but the discussion below has evolved into a discussion about what makes a good Shorty submission. Now, the Shorty Awards has a fairly complex set of rules, and they did their initial audit of the votes to see how they comply with these rules.
Lee Semel (@semel) a co-founder of the Shorty Awards, posted this today:
@rafael_jornal can explain further over info[at]shortyawards.com email, but 'because...' votes, repeats and retweets weighted less
Which might help to explain how FrankAdMan with 346 votes is currently in first place while iwearyourshirt is in 6th with 361 votes. I'm pretty sure that iwearyourshirt wasn't docked heavily by jonacoca's enthusiasm, as the number of votes that iwearyourshirt got from the campaign was (at his estimate) very limited.
Food for thought, though…