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Big Brother cocks-up online voting

Site manager wants Caroline out

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Channel 4's virtual voyeur programme Big Brother has made a cock up of its promised online voting system.

The fly-on-the-wall project tracking ten individuals locked together in a house for nine weeks has been hit by a series of technology hitches.

Much hype was made at the launch of Britain's Big Brother about its Web presence. Punters were promised they would be able to log on 24/7 to snoop on the inhabitants of the house in East London. There was to be no escape from the cameras in this world wide web extravaganza version of The Truman Show, and surfers would be able to vote online to decide who to kick out.

But the technology didn't quite go to plan. Tonight will see the first Big Brother volunteer/victim eviction courtesy of surfer votes. And online voting would be a pretty essential part of the programme, no?

Unfortunately for Channel 4, there will be no cyber voting tonight. Or any other night for the duration of the programme, it seems.

According to Chris Short, content manager for Big Brother online, the original idea was to make Web voting an integral part of site. However, Channel 4 bosses were worried that proposals to put voting onto the Website would tempt hackers and distort the results. So they ruled the idea out.

Onto Plan B, which was to create a standalone piece of software to take the voting function away from the site. But to make this downloadable software immune from hacking, the software ended up being a whopping 3.5MB which would take 30 minutes to download.

This would be a tricky bandwidth problem what with Big Brother's claims of one million unique users, and around three million hits, on the site every day. "We would have needed to double the amount of servers we have with Intel, to 40," said Short. So Plan B was dumped yesterday - 15 days into the project.

Onto Plan C. Except there is no Plan C at present. Short said they aim to bring voting back onto the site, but they cannot do this until they convince Channel 4 that the system is hackproof.

So it's entirely possible that there will no online voting throughout the entire venture? "Yes, I suppose anything's possible. Though this would be hugely disappointing for us," said Short.

To stop any distortion of votes, surfers and viewers will have to register their preference by phone. This has already begun for tonight's eviction, with Short revealing that he himself will be voting to oust blonde Brummie Caroline.

But how can Channel 4 stop people casting multiple votes by this method?

"Er, they can't," said Short. ®

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