Recent posts in my Voting Category

January 29, 2013

What can news organisations like learn from the BBC’s approach to online voting fraud?

When systems fail and embarrass a news organisation, the temptation is always to blame the technology or the programmers. But no computer forces editors to commission content based on flawed sources.

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November 9, 2008

I wouldn't be voting for this as my interaction of the year

If you are going to produce a celebratory issue with lots of charts and lists of the 'the best of they year', then now is the time to get the punters voting for what to put in the list. Last week I was prompted to vote in Q's poll on the best album of the year. [1] I'm always astonished at the things that seem to go live on the web without having had any serious QA or testing on...
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March 19, 2008

Woman's Own gets a print 'blog'

You'll do almost anything to keep yourself amused in an airport whilst waiting for a flight. On Monday in Heathrow's godforsaken Terminal 2, that included flicking through a copy of "Woman's Own". Well, a man has to get his fill of celebrity gossip, female health problems and lead interviewee Piers Morgan. At the back of the mag was the "Woman's Own" 'interactive' section, called 'Chat Room - Your life, your opinions, your page'. I was more interested in this than...
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February 1, 2008

Vote Super Furry Animals!

I noticed last week that my favourite Welsh band, Super Furry Animals, were adding an interactive element into their North American tour. They are visiting the US to promote their most recent album, 'Hey Venus!', and are allowing people to vote for the songs they most want to hear included in the set-list. It reminded me of a couple of earlier attempts at doing this kind of interactive set-list. In 1986 Elvis Costello went out on tour with the 'Spectacular...
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December 17, 2007

I'm not convinced online voting shows Rhydian was robbed on X-Factor

"In years to come when someone asks the question Where were you at 10:35 on 15th December 2007? most people will instantly know." Well, I'm not entirely sure about that, but there has certainly been a furore over the result of the X-Factor voting at the weekend. I always loved these spats - I remember well disgruntled Fame Academy and Strictly Come Dancing fans having it out with each other on the BBC's Points Of View message board with the...
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December 10, 2007

Voting for your American Idol in Greece

One of the causes of the recent ITV premium phone line vote scandals was the re-showing of programmes on their +1 chaanel without giving the viewer information that the competition had closed. There doesn't seem to be any similar pressure over here in Greece. At the moment, on Sunday nights the ΣΚΑΙ channel is showing "American Idol". After each contestant sings, Greek television shows the presenter giving viewers the instructions on how to vote. Not only doesn't Greek TV indicate...
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September 29, 2007

The Blue Peter cat flap - when online voting goes bad

A couple of people have expressed surprise to me that I have not yet commented on the great Blue Peter online voting catflap (I refuse to use the term 'Socksgate') since the BBC and Voting are two of the regular topics on this site. Full disclosure up front by the way - I used to be a Senior Development Producer in the BBC's New Media department (as was), was responsible for voting applications, and I'm currently doing some work as...
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September 24, 2007

The London freesheets and the web - Part 3: Voting

Last week I started looking at how London's free newspapers incorporate online and user-generated content into their printed editions. So far I've looked at music reviews, and at films and celebrity gossip. In this post I want to look at how the papers handle something I've worked on a lot online - voting. Voting Of the three London freesheets, it is The London Paper that seems to have gone into reflecting their reader's views via voting in a big way....
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July 19, 2007

"Show must go on" culture at the BBC more to blame for errors than a calculating culture of deceit

In all my time working at the BBC there was never anything as high-pressured, stressful, or as worrying as having an application with a 'TX critical' deadline - meaning that it had to go live and work at the appointed moment that it was mentioned in the broadcast stream. Software updates could be put back, new content publishing could be delayed, whole website launches could be shelved, as long as it wasn't going to be mentioned on TV or Radio....
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July 12, 2007

National Television Awards vote seems wide open to multiple vote fraud

Like a good Doctor Who fan I was gently shepherded along by the Outpost Gallifrey site RSS feed this week to go and cast my vote for Freema, David and the series in the National Television Awards 2007 vote. It seems slightly early in the year to be handing out gongs, but there you go. There were a couple of things that struck me about the voting process itself - particularly with the announcement this week that the BBC has...
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May 27, 2007

Joseph and the BBC's amazing technicolor nightmare vote

I see that the BBC has got itself into a bit of a pickle over the online voting for the school choir competition that accompanies the current 'talent' search programme "Any Dream Will Do". Often when these kind of issues occurred with an online vote it would happen because the television or radio production team had consulted with the new media department about their plans too late in the day. After all, if you are not au fait with the...
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March 30, 2007

The White Horse bridge comes back to haunt me in Salzburg

It is funny how things can come back to haunt you - in the way the F.A. are currently being haunted by their decision to employ Steve McClaren for the England job. With the much delayed opening of the new Wembley stadium taking place last weekend, it was the White Horse bridge that came back to haunt me. A couple of years back I worked on the vote, hosted by the BBC's Radio Five Live station, to determine the...
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February 22, 2007

The Sun's sexiest barmaid vote goes a bit tits up

If you are running a high-profile national vote, then it is always vital to get the little details right. Sadly The Sun doesn't seem to be doing too well with one of their online polls today. The Sun is running a quest to find Britain's Sexiest barmaid: BEER we go, lads - it's time for the final of our fantastic Pub Idol contest. We've whittled down the entries to a final eight hopefuls who believe they deserve the title of...
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January 12, 2007

More politics over the BBC's political votes

Following the publicity that surrounded the Today programmes Christmas vote, and the suspicion that intense web activity by the Countryside Alliance had swung the result, another political BBC vote took a pre-emptive strike the other day. The Daily Politics is holding a vote to ask people who they think is their favourite post-war Prime Minister, and editor Jamie Donald wrote: "Anyone can vote anytime between now and Easter by visiting The Daily Politics website, and following the links. And as...
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January 9, 2007

Today and the Hunting ban repeal vote

Being a behind-the-scenes veteran of several BBC Today programme online votes, I've been watching with interest from the continent as the saga of this year's vote has unfolded. For those not in the know, listeners voted overwhelmingly to repeal the law that attempts to ban hunting with hounds, and on air the programme suggested there was something "suspicious" about the outcome. Even paragon of virtue Ann Widdecombe was quoted as suggesting "We did hesitate on the panel to put this...
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September 27, 2006

Did the BBC pull, then re-instate, a poll about holocaust denial?

The GIYUS pro-Israel 'troll-supporting political malware' was back in the news this month, and blogged about this week by athenaeum. They were quoting an article from The Register earlier in the month claiming that BBC Magazines had withdrawn a BBC History Magazine online vote about legislation on holocaust denial because it was being manipulated. Athenaeum also cited my own take on the GIYUS software in their post, pointing out the editorial guidelines I noted, which prevent online votes on BBC...
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August 16, 2006

New media pensioner and president in the old media

Yesterday's old media seemed to have a surfeit of "drop the dead donkey" style stories about the internet - you know the type. YouTube's geriatric1927 made the transition from viral internet success to print marvel in a Daily Mail article by Nick Craven and Liz Hill: On paper. he makes an unlikely celebrity for the 21st Century But on the computer screen, Peter the pensioner is the latest big thing. The Daily Mail even printed an appeal for Peter to...
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August 10, 2006's Megaphone Desktop Tool - the web turns their 'malware' against them

Thanks to Frankie who pointed me at Tom who had been pointed by Simon to the Megaphone software being used by GIYUS to direct people to online votes to register pro-Israeli opinions. I was immediately interested in it as I worked for about three years at the BBC on their online voting back-end systems. Whilst a lot of people have got rather hot under the collar about it, it doesn't seem to me to be as near to bringing about...
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July 27, 2006

Vote for your 50 favourite number one albums

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of the UK's official albums chart, and to celebrate there is a vote to work out the nation's top 50 number one albums of all time - a ruse always good to gain a few column inches in the press. I was very interested in the usability of the vote. When I was involved in building this kind of vote at the BBC we were always careful about how many options were available at once....
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December 6, 2005

Vote for your favourite John Lennon track using our new system

This week BBC Radio 2 have a whole host of programming dedicated to remembering John Lennon. I don't suppose the 'Motown Junk' era Manics would have approved. The nation's favourite Lennon track is being chosen via an online vote, and I'm pleased to say it is the first high-profile vote on the BBC site to be using the new Online Voting Application that my team have been developing. One of the joys of the system is that the majority of...
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November 24, 2005

The Evening Standard's Vanishing Booze Vote

For a long time one of the things that has really bugged me about living in London is England's archaic licensing laws, that mean that after watching a film on a Sunday night the missus and I can't retire to the pub next door to discuss the finer details of the plot over a pint, in case we are too hung-over to work in the munitions factory the next day. In fact I'd go as far as to say it...
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Five Live's Greatest Team of All Time vote

Like the Sporting Century and Eurostars votes before, my team are running a multi-rating vote for Five Live, the results of which will form a major piece of programming. This year it is Five Live's Greatest Team of All Time, which will be counted down on a special programme on Christmas Eve. The vote consists of three stages. First the users browse through a shortlist of 32 teams from various sports. The teams are listed alphabetically, and each team...
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November 23, 2005

Golden TV Moments vote - Carol Thatcher need not apply

So back to something I do know about, writing about voting on rather than being fooled into thinking fan-sites are some kind of semi-official offshoot. My team have been collating the results for the TV Moments vote. Over the weekend the nominations for the months of November and December became available, as did the chance to vote for the one overall Golden Moment. Sadly Carol Thatcher pissing was too late to feature in the nominations....
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November 8, 2005

Voting frenzy on

Well it must be coming up to Christmas, as we are beginning to see the end of year frenzy to rate events, give awards, and generally reflect on the previous 12 months. Currently on my team are managing the collating the results on three very different votes, all of which are what we call 'TX critical', meaning that the result will shape or impact upon broadcast programming. First up is the annual vote on the BBC Scotland Celtic Roots...
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September 18, 2005

Using WAP To Collect Phone Votes

Chris Evans, now the less famous one in his ex-marriage, has been back in the spotlight as he threatens to return to TV. He also has been working on a new show for BBC Radio Two. During the course of this weekend's show listeners were urged to vote on a question, and they could do so online, or via WAP. We are using our existing online voting application, but with some new WAP templates to allow us to integrate the...
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September 7, 2005

Government Drops E-Voting Plans: U-Turn or Sensible Policy Change?

So yesterday it was stealthily announced that the Government was not going to be looking for new e-voting initiatives for next year's council elections. In their news item/press release about the story the Conservatives cite some figures from a survey carried out earlier this year: A survey conducted by MORI in March, commissioned by IT consultancy Detica, found that 54 per cent of the public think postal voting has made it 'easier to commit election fraud'. An even higher proportion...
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Greatest Painting Result In Print

The broadsheets and ex-broadsheets were writing plenty of column inches yesterday about the outcome of The Greatest Painting In Britain Vote. Nigel Reynolds' article in The Telegraph was pleased at the Britishness of it all: The competition was not confined to British paintings. Any work of any nationality in a British gallery open to the public was eligible. But it was satisfying that at the final count it came down to a fight between the two giants of English painting...
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September 5, 2005

Turner Prize - The Greatest Painting In Britain Vote Result

Yesterday, after watching the finish of the Tour Of Britain, I popped into The National Gallery. It reminded me that you can end up taking it for granted that the majority of our galleries and museums in the UK are free, for if they had been charging admission there is no way I would have paid to just visit for half-an-hour or so. I was actually in search not of a painting, but of an interactive kiosk. Apparently they had...
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September 4, 2005

Last Chance To Vote For Britain's Greatest Painting

Today is your last chance to vote for the Today programme's Greatest Painting in Britain, the result of which is due to be announced on air around 8am tomorrow. The number of online votes we have received so far has been staggering - over twice as many as we've ever had for any vote for which my team are collating the results. In case you are still unsure who to vote for, the BBC homepage is today rotating through the...
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August 24, 2005

Greatest Painting Vote Update

The short-list component of the Today programme's Greatest Painting in Britain vote is just over a week old now. It has certainly been the most successful vote my team have been involved with - it has already attracted just about twice as many online votes as our previous record, with nearly two weeks left to run. It has also continued to generate lots of press and lots of blogosphere hot air. Last week The Guardian's G2 devoted the front page...
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August 16, 2005

The Today Programme's Greatest Painting In Britain Vote

Yesterday alongside the BBC's Radio 4 web team, my team launched the online component of the vote for The Greatest Painting in Britain, which is being held by the Today programme in conjunction with The National Gallery. The open nomination period has passed, and now it is a case of voting for one of the ten paintings on the shortlist, all of which are on public display in the UK, if not by British artists. The result will be announced...
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June 23, 2005

He Thinks Therefore Michael Gove Is Not Voting Marx

Yesterday there were yet more column inches about the In Our Time Greatest Philosopher vote. Michael Gove in The Times wrote an entertaining piece called "I think therefore I am not voting Marx No 1". There aren't many places where Marxism still wins you elections. North Korea and Zimbabwe keep the flame of revolution alive, but they are not particularly good at doing the same for their citizens. Kim Jong Il and Robert Mugabe certainly know how to target uncommitted...
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June 22, 2005

Now In Our Time shows the BBC is "ignorant as well as biased"

The In Our Time Greatest Philosopher vote gained more press coverage on Monday, with an article in Peter Oborne's column for the Evening Standard entitled "Marx is so overrated": Long-term students of the BBC will not have been surprised to learn that Karl Marx looks set to be voted the world's greatest philosopher by Radio Four listeners. The decision shows the BBC is ignorant as well as biased. Marx was not a philosopher, he was a journalist with a deep...
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June 17, 2005

Cardiff Singer of the World Audience Vote

BBC Wales have opened their tri-media vote to determine the audience favourite in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. The vote closes on Sunday, and the announcement of the winner forms part of the final of the competition, which takes place on Sunday evening. The audience prize isn't the main part of the contest, which is decided by jury, but the winner of the vote which is being conducted on SMS, phone and online, gets a £2,500...
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June 10, 2005

If You Want To Outvote Marx....

Now I'm always very careful, even when I have got access to the results, not to let on how one of the BBC's online polls is going. Melvyn Bragg, on the other hand, delights in pointing out in this weeks In Our Time newsletter: (If you want to outvote Marx click here - Best wishes Melvyn Bragg Well, he might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment......
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In Our Time Greatest Philosophers Vote in The Guardian

Earlier this week there was some press coverage for the In Our Time Greatest Philospher Vote in The Guardian, featuring an interview with Melvyn Bragg by Oliver Burkeman, containing this paragraph: There is an element of ridiculousness to this initiative, and Bragg knows it. "I'm not terribly interested in the beauty-contest notion, even as applied to philosophy," he says. "Philosophers leapt on it, but I was a bit stand-to-one-side on it. As long as it doesn't interfere with the programme."...
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June 1, 2005

In Our Time Greatest Philosopher Vote

Yesterday the Guardian published a scathing attack by John Harris on a project that some of my team are involved in - to produce a vote for the In Our Time programme to determine the 'Greatest Philosopher'. Harris starts his article with an attack on the perceived populism of Greg Dyke. Whilst it is generally held to be true that you don't see the television programmes a Director General has influenced until a couple of years into their term of...
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May 25, 2005

The White Horse Bridge at Wembley

Yesterday the London Development Agency announced that following Radio Five Live's online vote, a new footbridge at Wembley will be known as 'The White Horse Bridge'. Not everybody is happy: FOOTBALL fans last night slammed the decision to name the new Wembley stadium footbridge after a HORSE. Some suggested Scottish supporters backed the nag in a vote - to ensure the structure was not named after any England soccer heroes. It will be called 'The White Horse Bridge' after a...
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May 19, 2005

Vote to name the new Wembley footbridge on

Whilst I was away my team have helped BBC Radio Five Live put together the online vote to name the new footbridge at the re-built Wembley Stadium. The open suggestion submission process has ended, and Five Live are asking listeners to choose between a shortlist of five entries - Sir Alf Ramsey, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Geoff Hurst, Live Aid and The White Horse. The LDA reached the shortlist using a selection panel which included Jonathan Pearce, and of the...
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March 6, 2005

Baxter vs Moore - Costing you money in Parliament

The London Development Agency has been running a competition to name a new bridge at Wembley Stadium, and like all good online votes it has attracted people trying to hijack it. First up it was a campaign by Scottish fans to get it named after Jim Baxter, and then according to this Evening Standard article, the Irish and Welsh have joined in with campaigns backing Roy Keane and Scott Gibbs respectively. The Scottish campaign has allies in Parliament, with SNP...
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January 5, 2005

More music votes on

Most of the coverage on the BBC with the word "Asian" in it has been pretty bleak over the last week - but life goes on, and the BBC's Asian Network has this week launched a quest to find the most popular Asian film soundtracks of all time. If, like me, you are not actually au fait with many, or indeed, any, of the soundtracks listed, the voting page allows you to listen to clips from each nomination. It isn't...
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January 4, 2005

Bob Geldof is the Listener's Lord

So Bob Geldof was voted the Listener's Lord - and would even consider such a position. It was fun getting my hands dirty with data again to filter and produce the results - there was some quite hard "digital lobbeying" on behalf of a couple of the candidates ;-) In the end Geldof won by just over 1,000 - and I was pleased that this year around a third of the votes cast by the programme's listeners were done...
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December 29, 2004

Today's Listener's Lord

The Today programme's Listener's Lord vote is under way. The nomination list is slightly more eclectic than I was expecting - Camila Batmanghelidjh, James Dyson, Julia Higgins, Inderjit Singh and Bob Geldof are up for the honour. The vote closes on Friday - and I'm having fun this week as due to the number of people on holiday it is down to me to pick through and audit the voting data. It is nice to actually be getting my hands...
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December 23, 2004

Nominate your Listener's Lord

There is barely an hour and a half to go to get your nomination in for the Today programme's Listener's Lord vote - entries close at 9:30am this morning. After that the programme will be moving on to the second stage of the process, and you'll be able to vote online between Christmas and New year for who you think out of the shortlist most deserves to be enobled. The results are due to be announced on January 3rd....
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December 9, 2004

Voting prejudice

This week Woman's Hour announced that Pride and Prejudice was the winner in their Women's Watershed Fiction vote, which was run for Radio 4 by members of my team. The vote attracted over 14,000 users, which we were very pleased with. Still, there was an article in The Guardian's G2 section today about the result, which of course used images from the stunningly successful recent adaptation of the book for television - and of course, Colin Firth was featured...
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December 5, 2004

Top 100 of 2004 Vote on the BBC Asian Network

Today the BBC Asian Network have been promoting their Top 100 of 2004 Vote on their homepage. This is another in a series of end of year votes set up and produced by my team. The vote closes on December 24th, and the results will form a countdown chart programme for broadcast on New Years Eve....
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December 2, 2004

Last chance to vote in Radio Five Live's Sporting Year

Radio Five Live's Sporting Year got today's Christmas Present promotional treatment on the homepage - you'll have to hurry though, voting closes on December 3rd. You get to pick what you think are the five most significant sporting moments of last year from a nomination list, and then rate them in order. The results will form part of Five Live's review of the year, broadcast over the holiday season....
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November 22, 2004

BBC Radio Five Live's Sporting Year Vote

In the lead-up to Christmas the BBC is running several online votes that my team have produced. The latest one to launch is Radio Five Live's Sporting Year - essentially a poll of the listener's favourite events which will feed into the station's review of the year, broadcast over the Christmas period. It is a little less grandiose than 2003's Sporting Century vote in both scope and execution. This time we are asking users to pick and rate five...
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September 17, 2004

EastEnders vote in The Sun

The last time something I worked on was in the papers it was the Evening Standard, which managed to print the alphabetical press release teaser of the top twenty in the Five Live Sporting Century vote as the definitive countdown of the final results. Today it was the turn of our EastEnders vote - which made it into The Sun's TV section under the banner headline "Polls Apart". According to the paper: "EASTENDERS stars are furious over a new TV...
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September 15, 2004

Not The Big Read, but two smaller reads

I don't know, you wait years for a national interactive literary vote like The Big Read, and then two come along at once - both of which my team have worked on. Nominations are currently open for the Women's Watershed Fiction vote: Woman's Hour invites you to nominate the novel which has spoken to you on a personal level. It may have changed the way you look at yourself or simply made you happy to be a woman. As a...
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August 26, 2004

Vote for your favourite EastEnders characters

Last week may have seen the demise of the BBC's Pure Soap site, but we are still trying to attract that elusive young, female, soap-watching internet demographic. This week we launched a vote to find the nation's favourite ever EastEnders character We want your help to select the best characters in EastEnders history. Here's what you need to do: Look through the list of 100 characters below and select your top ten by clicking in the box alongside your favourite...
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June 10, 2004

The reporting of Internet polls during elections

Well, the voting is over - so I can come out of hiding. There is something as yet unresolved about identifiable BBC staff writing about an election camapign. Within the BBC, for the duration of an election campaign we go into "special conditions of operation" mode. This is less exciting than it sounds - but it means that we are extra careful about the user generated content we publish and the opinions expressed on pages. At no time...
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June 2, 2004

Zidane is the Radio Five Live Eurostar

On Monday Radio Five Live unveiled Zinedine Zidane as the winner of the Eurostars vote that I worked on. You can listen again to the programme via the Radio Player....
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May 17, 2004

Radio Five Live Veteran's Vote

"Over the weekend it became clear that the vote on the website was being attacked, and the sheer volume of fictitious votes meant it had to be taken down to protect the rest of the BBC website." And with those words this morning, Radio Five Live Breakfast presenter Shelagh Fogarty explained how my weekend had turned from a planned quiet one taking in the Eurovision Song Contest, a film and a relaxed braai, to one where I was on...
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May 11, 2004

London Elects - thumbs up

Wow! e-government is usually pretty damn shonky - but London Elects is impressive. It actually does a good job of explaining how to cope with the fact that as a Londoner I have five different things to vote for on June 10th, and what the different electoral systems are. Plus it gives information in 20 languages - 19 in PDF format, 14 in HTML. Just a shame I expect we'll still see the lowest turnout in history - and...
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April 25, 2004


The latest voting output I've had a hand in on went live yesterday. Eurostars is a chance to vote for the best European footballer of all time, as part of the build up to Euro2004. Radio Five Live will be counting down the outcome of the vote in a special programme before the final of the tournament itself. In truth, I didn't have a huge amount of input - except to complain about the failure to include Antonín...
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April 4, 2004

Jonny Live? Jonny Die? You Decide!

As soon as one vote I've worked on finishes, the next begins. Tonight on BBC3 was the last episode in the current (and fourth) series of sitcom Two Pints Of Lagar And A Packet Of Crisps. The series finished on a cliff-hanger, and you the viewer get to decide whether the character of Jonny should live or die. I should think Ralf Little who plays the character may have more than a passing interest in the outcome. You can...
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March 31, 2004

Soap vote

It's nearly your last chance to vote in The British Soap Awards 2004 at the Pure Soap site. The vote closes at midnight on April 1st, and the award ceremony is on May 8th. I point it out firstly as I hardly get to write about my work at the moment for several hideously complicated reasons, and secondly because being a cultural snob I suspect it may well be one I leave off my CV in the future....
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December 2, 2003

Five Live Sporting Century vote in the Evening Standard

You may have guessed from my paucity of comment about it recently that I am no longer working on the search project within the BBC. I am currently producing / project managing a disparate group of products that I haven't felt comfortable writing about. Until now. One of the projects I have been working on - the Radio Five Live Sporting Century - made a full-page splash in the Evening Standard today as they managed to blow the embargo...
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