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Mac fans pervert Forbes tech-CEO popularity poll

Scripting pro-Jobs votes

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It's hard to decide what's more pathetic: scripting an electronic ballot stuffer for a trivial on-line poll of tech-CEO popularity, or creating a trivial on-line poll that begs to be abused.

Both have happened. First off, Forbes did create a trivial on-line poll of tech-CEO popularity and did leave it absurdly easy to exploit.

Rather than use some lame CGI which only half the boneheads connected to the Web know how to subvert, they decided to use hotlinks to register each vote, which every bonehead connected to the Web can subvert.

Once a vote is cast, a unique URL related to it is displayed prominently in the browser's address bar, easy to capture and tinker with. It's really no more complicated than http://vote.for.Steve.Jobs or http://vote.for.Carly.Fiorina.

We've bolded the identifying bits in the real-world examples below to make them even more painfully evident:

The Jobs thumbs-up URL:
http://forums.prospero.com/n/mb/viewpoll.asp?
webtag=fdc_ceorate&tid =219&lgnF=y&dlink=1
&vote=1&submit=%A0%A0Vote+Now%A0%3E%3E%A0%A0

Jobs thumbs-down:
http://forums.prospero.com/n/mb/viewpoll.asp?
webtag=fdc_ceorate&tid =219&lgnF=y&dlink=1
&vote=2&submit=%A0%A0Vote+Now%A0%3E%3E%A0%A0

Mind the word-wrap. We leave it to the occasionally evil, always inspiring, ingenuity of El Reg's beloved readers to do the right thing with them.

Then there's the business of taking this little reader distraction far too seriously. Mac fanatics apparently grew alarmed by the nose-dive their cult hero began to sustain in this meaningless electronic vox pop, and this week set about correcting it. Users of the Mac Daily News forum suspected foul play from some "Anti-Mac Wintel Sufferers" who they suspected were siphoning off Jobs votes by some diabolical means.

To correct this injustice, they circulated a script to automate their pro-Jobs votes, and a battle of the ballot-stuffers commenced.

We've heard from one 'Anti-Mac Wintel Sufferer' who says he scripted a Jobs thumbs-down ballot stuffer for Windows to counter the Mac fanatics' thumbs-up ballot stuffer. Not that this could make the Forbes poll any more meaningless than it already is, mind you.

Both sides in the dispute claim the other started it. According to the Mac Observer forum, "the Wintel crowd is bot-voting (using an application to auto-vote again and again) against Steve Jobs AND for Steve Ballmer (approx. 20-30000 votes per day). The only way to compete is to auto-vote, too." (Here again the pro-Jobs script is available.)

Meanwhile, our 'pro-Wintel' source says he only reacted to ballot-stuffing by the Mac boosters, while the Mac mob says they only reacted to him, or him and his MS-boosting Anti-Mac compatriots.

Our source, who calls himself 'GK in Little Rock' and who has shown us his anti-Jobs voting script, says he's had enough of Mac evangelists calling Microsoft users 'sheep, lemmings, losers and idiots,' so he decided to "strike back at a small group of zealots that had been pouring this constant badgering down on myself and a host of friends."

"The funniest part of this is the truth," GK says. "Mac users had been stuffing the ballot box for months already."

Of course this is not something we can verify, having just now been brought into the dispute. But it's healthy once in a while to hear from an MS booster who doesn't mind fighting fire with fire:

"OSX is becoming more and more like Windows with every release, and they think every feature that is robbed from Windows is some new AAPL innovation. It's pathetic. I used to think that there was an extreme segment of AAPL that made most of them look bad. After today, pouring over dozens of AAPL sites, I now know that the vast majority of them are extremists, and they make the few good guys look bad. It's really a shame that they are this lost."

Whether strictly true or not, you have to admire the conviction in that. Though when GK moves in for the kill he forgets that the contest is not quite binary: there's a third OS lurking in the field.

"The one question I really want them to answer is...'If Steve Jobs is doing such a wonderful job for AAPL, why is AAPL's market share decreasing quarter after quarter with an all time low of 1.9%'" GK wonders.

The problem with asking a rhetorical question is that someone may answer it. There's an obvious reply: because Linux rocks the party that rocks the par-tay. Jobs should show a lot more fear of Linux than Gates already does. Tux will eventually do what Billg never could: bury the Mac and dance on its grave.

At any rate, there clearly is a battle raging between Jobs' personality cult and at least one angry MSFT booster on lightweight issues of CEO popularity and somewhat more substantial issues of operating-system prejudice and the relative merits of continuing to produce a lot of translucent plastic boxes. The weapons are roughly the same, though the MS script is immensely simpler than the Mac script if that matters.

And as for the person who started it, we'd forget the Mac and MS lobbies altogether and finger instead the unbelievably sloppy Webmaster at Forbes who made it all possible, or perhaps inevitable. ®

PS: for automated Ballmer fun try these:

Thumbs up:
http://forums.prospero.com/n/mb/viewpoll.asp?
webtag=fdc_ceorate&tid =220&lgnF=y&dlink=1
&vote=1&submit=%A0%A0Vote+Now%A0%3E%3E%A0%A0

Thumbs down:
http://forums.prospero.com/n/mb/viewpoll.asp?
webtag=fdc_ceorate&tid =220&lgnF=y&dlink=1
&vote=2&submit=%A0%A0Vote+Now%A0%3E%3E%A0%A0

Mind the word-wrap.

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