The death of the Internet poll

This was long predicted and actually happened a long time ago but now the mainstream media is starting to figure it out.

Time magazine just found out that 4chan’s moot is the world’s most influential person.  One wonders if Time really understands how comprehensively they were hacked.  They went as far as to write about Will this stop them from using polls on the net?  I doubt it.  Polls seem to be the highest form of interactive news out there (sad indeed).

About once a week a silly poll surfaces on reddit (or some other community).  The latest is the Des Moines Register asking about gay marriage.  The community then mobs the poll.  This is the power of the slashdot effect.  It doesn’t require clever hacking like Anonymous did for the Time poll.

Some systems try to improve the value of voting by having some kind of registration.  This prevents trivial spoofing but is still very weak.  Large active online communities like reddit and 4chan can utterly swamp any voting system.  The more embarrassing the outcome for the poll sponsor the more likely that someone will mob it.

Ultimately this all comes back to the fact that identity is a remarkably vague concept.  The only reason “real” voting works is because it requires multiple factors and most importantly physical presence.