Thursday, 8 July 2010

North Korea, Justin Bieber and the perils / pitfalls of UGC

A recent web poll on Faxo asked Justin Bieber fans where he should perform. The poll appeared to be a Bieber endorsed social initiative and posed the question 'Who Wants Justin The Most? Decide now.'

Justin Bieber North Korea vote
Tweetmeme report that this contest was tweeted about in excess of 12,000 times and (at the time of writing) there are 99,142 Likes on Facebook. As a result a huge amount of votes were cast in the Justin Bieber poll, and on closing yesterday the final results for the top 10 countries were:

10. Netherlands - 63,933 votes
9. Chile - 68,895 votes
8. Sweden - 69,821 votes
7. Spain - 75,948 votes
6. Venezuela - 77,793 votes
5. Colombia - 90,094 votes
4. Turkey - 107,388 votes
3. Poland - 513,867 votes
2. Israel - 624,803 votes
1. North Korea - 659,141 votes

Justin Bieber MyWorld Concert vote top 10 countries
So a landmark win for the North Koreans and a groundbreaking concert performance coming up? Er, no. North Korea is one of the least connected countries in the world and it is doubtful that 659,141 North Koreans would have been permitted to go online to vote in a Justin Bieber concert poll.

The North Korea win was a result of the poll being hijacked by messageboard 4Chan who (are reported to have) encouraged members and friends / followers to vote for North Korea, 'corrupting' the results of web democracy in the same way that they manipulated the voting in the Time Top 100 most influential people poll in 2009.

Since the Justin Bieber contest closed, record label Universal have called the whole Justin Bieber concert vote poll as a hoax and Bieber will not be touring in North Korea (Universal and Justin Bieber can opt out by stressing that it is a hoax contest - though fans worldwide continue to vote and leave comments on the voting site seemingly believing it is real.)

Others have nearly been caught out with this sort of thing in the past, only being saved by introducing a final shortlist with the winner chosen by judges, for example the new Wembley Stadium Bridge was close to being called the Dietmar Hamann Bridge after the naming contest was hijacked by an anti-English alliance.

Whereas a Dr. Martens DM boots UGC contest resulted in the actual production and sale of the infamous Penguin Snowboot after a UGC design competition went (horribly) wrong. (A short list / judging panel has been included on following campaigns):

The Justin Bieber world tour vote shows how viral attention can drive unpredictable results. The advance planning for any kind of UGC contest should therefore include a discussion about how much control to maintain. Too little and you end up having to tour North Korea or producing a Penguin Snow Boot, too much and there is no 'fun' to be had for internet users and the potential for viral spread is limited.

There is wisdom in crowds, but there can also be a cheeky subversiveness too - and both eventualities need to be prepared for!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"659,141 North Koreans"

Implying 659,141 votes = 659,141 voters.

"Corrupting... web democracy"

Hah hah hah. Oh wait, you were serious...