Back on March 7th I wrote and submitted an entry for "What's Your Connecticut Story?" which is being put on by Visit Connecticut , the official website for the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. You may remember all that from the post that I wrote here but if you're new to the blog, the gist of all this is that the contest is asking people to submit and share their favorite people, places, and experiences that make Connecticut special in a short story which I did when I wrote about my grandfather, my cousin, and a really fantastic rollercoaster at Lake Compounce. Once you submit your story, if you want to win the Grand Prize you need people to vote for it and so I have made sure that I've asked every day via Facebook and Twitter and word-of-mouth and email and all other methods of
When I first started the contest, the only way for people to be able to vote was to go to Visit Connecticut's website, register with a user name, wait for a verification email, and then go back to the website once it was received so that users could then log-in and vote. Once you went through the process you could vote once per day. There were a few hoops to jump through but people were nice enough to do it and I was getting a very respectable 20 to 30 votes per day and within about five days I moved into the lead. "Yay me!" - right?
So, what's the problem you ask? Well, on March 14th I noticed that there was a third place story that had literally come out of nowhere and was gaining ground fast on my own story. The story had originally been posted on February 22nd but I hadn't noticed it as it had been pretty far in the back of the pack but I sure noticed when all of a sudden it was gaining on my story and just two short days later it had caught up and passed my story by. On Facebook I lamented that perhaps I should have written about a deli rather than my grandfather and was a bit discouraged but then I decided that I wasn't going to go down without a fight so I mustered the troops and got friends to get their friends and family members to vote.
On Sunday evening, the 18th, I had finally gained some ground and caught back up to the first place story but just as I moved into first place again, I watched in amazement as all of a sudden my story had dropped back 5 ... 10 ... 15 ... 20 votes again all in the space of ten minutes! Now, I know you're going to think that I'm a bit obsessed but the reason I know this happened is because I kept hitting the refresh key and watching my story fall farther and farther behind in votes with each click. What in the blue hell was going on?!?
As I sat there trying to figure out what the heck had happened so quickly, another co-worker came in and offered to sign up and vote. When he signed up though, instead of a message being sent to his email for validation, he was able to just click on a story and vote once he had a user name and password - no validation was required. Huh? When had that changed? So then we tried something else and another co-worker registered to vote but he deliberately put in a made-up email address and sure enough, he was granted access to vote - with an email address that didn't even exist! I should mention that he didn't use the made-up name to vote as that wouldn't have been fair but it sure made us all wonder what the heck was going on and why the registration process had changed from needing a validated email address to be able to vote to just faking it and gaining access.
Feeling frustrated but resolved that I wasn't going to just throw up my hands and give up, when I woke up Monday morning I once again implored everyone on Facebook and Twitter to please vote to try to close the 20-vote gap and friends and family answered the call and voted throughout the day and we rallied to within just a few votes of the lead but then just like before, something happened and the lead story took off and gained a 28-vote lead between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. Once again I thought it was downright odd and like something was really wrong but what was I going to be able to do about it?
Again last night, during the same time frame as Sunday evening, the lead story started racking up vote after vote until they were now 38 votes ahead. When I woke up this morning, in spite of the fact that some of my co-workers who do the overnight shift voted, I was a big 40 votes behind. Still not quite ready to admit defeat yet but seeing the Grand Prize getting further and further out of reach, I once again put a call out for votes before going into work for the day and even though the call was answered and it was a great response, as of this writing I am now still 37 votes behind again.
At this point all I can think is that something is going on in Westport and that somehow, this story that sat practically unnoticed since February 22nd either miraculously found a major following that casts huge amounts of votes each day - sometimes all at the same time - or that they found a way to manipulate the system and are cheating. Of course, I can't prove any of that and that is what has kept me from picking up the phone, calling the Department of Tourism and asking them what the heck is going on?? I came very close to doing so on Monday but then decided not to as I didn't want to come across like sour grapes that I was no longer in the lead as I'm sure that's how they would have taken it because again, I have no proof that anything shady is going on - just a very strong suspicion.
In my gut it sure feels like something is not right and I have become quite depressed about the whole thing. I entered this contest thinking that it was a great way to promote the State of Connecticut with the spirit of the contest being one of state or hometown pride but after reading a lot of the other entries it seems like it's become more a great way for people to ask for vacations (like this story here) or promote their own businesses (like this story here) and there was even one person who had submitted twelve different stories with links to her photo galleries which was clearly in violation of the rules that state there can only be one entry per person and that there should be no weblinks in the story either (though lots of stories contain them). I've noticed that her stories are gone - as they should be - but so should the ones that contain weblinks as they are in clear violation of the rules.
My complaint though isn't with them though other than the fact that they aren't following the rules (what can I say? I'm a rule stickler!) but with a story that I am now 53 votes behind as it managed to accumulate another 16 votes between this paragraph and the one above when I was 37 votes behind. (I spent a little more time doing screen refreshing and counted one more vote with every two refreshes until they were 53 ahead.)
So here's my dilemma - what do I do about this? Is there anything that I can do about this? Do I call the folks running the contest and ask if there is a way that they can investigate the voting without sounding like I'm whining because I'm in second place or do I just walk away and try not to let it bother me that someone possibly found a way around the system in order to win the Grand Prize?
This contest goes on until May 25th which is a darned long time for me to fret over this so I need to make up my mind and either admit defeat or try to do something about it but I just don't know if anyone is going to believe me when I tell them that I feel like something is rotten in Westport being that I have no proof other than what I just related here. At this point it's not just about losing the Grand Prize though that would have been nice - it's about fairness as I don't mind losing as long as I lose fair and square. I just don't like feeling like I - and the rest of the people who entered this contest as well as the State of Connecticut which the contest was promoting - were cheated. But right now, that's exactly how I feel and it's leaving a very sour taste in my mouth.