Six degrees of conversation ethics

As you’ve seen me post about, I’ve been vying for a speaking slot at the very cool Community Next event. I was notified by the event organizer this morning that after the voting had ended, I had won. I was excited because it was a tight race between myself and one other volunteer, Jeremy Goodrich. (As a side note, his session looked quite interesting, so even if I lost I would still see an session I wanted to see)

During the voting, I had noted some weirdness with the poll itself and had emailed the organizer. I was assured everything was fine. But right at the end, the total vote count actually went down two different times. When the organizer emailed me this morning to let me know the vote had yielded me a victory, I was excited. I assumed the drop in vote count was something they were aware of, or perhaps part of a duplicate vote cleanup.

My excitement to be speaking about a topic I’ve been chewing on for a year came to an end when I read Jeremy’s blog post about the voting issues. Let’s just say that he’s not pleased that he lost.

The poll was rigged. I’ve emailed two of the conference organizers (my vote count dropped dramatically, about 90 votes, putting me in second place, and then they closed the poll right after).

Also, I’ll be following up with their sponsors (including my former employer, Yahoo) to inform them that the conference organizers are highly unethical.

Oh, and this guy: is the one who "won" by cheating. Either he is in on it withe conference organizers, or not, but if he has any brains & ethics, he’ll do the right thing & forfeit his speaking spot. The vote count went from 668 on Jan 23rd to 590 the next day…that’s a big drop.

I responded in the thread basically saying that I too had noted the voting weirdness and had emailed the conference organizers, trying to include him but couldn’t find an email address for him. (I instead sent him a private message through his site with the copy of the email) Read the full thread of discussion.

To be completely clear:

  • In no way did I cheat
  • In no way did I game this vote
  • Beyond a brief email exchange, I don’t have any relationship at all with the event organizers.
  • The only way I drove up my vote count was to reach out to my network of friends, family, and contacts, as well as blog posting.

I don’t (yet) agree with Jeremy that giving up the speaking slot is an issue of "brains & ethics". If there was a rigged poll, no question, done. But I’d at least like to wait to hear from the event organizer first before jumping ugly. Then we’ll see where we go.

But despite my interest in working through this clear problem in partnership with Jeremy, he made some bold claims about my ethics and relationship with the event, challenged me to prove publicly that it’s not true, then asked me to "kindly refrain from further posting."

There’s not really much to say about this issue, at least until I’ve heard from the event folks. I’ll make a decision about the acceptance of the speaking slot based on facts, not knee-jerk reaction. But there is one issue in particular that I wanted to refute.

Jeremy makes an odd (yet interesting) claim:

As you say, you don’t know these guys that are running the community next event – however, take a look @ this page:

You & Noah are both listed there. If I can connect the dots that easily between the two of you, I’ll eat my shoes if you’re not affiliated.

Prove otherwise – publically. I’ve proven, via that link, that’s it’s entirely possible you ARE affiliated. So, by posting here that "you don’t know those guys" is either yet another lie, or this is a heck of a coincidence.

The upcoming page is a personal page for an Brian’s contact network within Upcoming. This is such a laughable argument considering that Brian has a fantastic network that includes people like Caterina Fake (co-founder of Flickr). By Jeremy’s logic, any time that anything comes up with Flickr, I’m now associated with them. Great news for me!

Look, there’s no way for me to "prove" that I don’t know Noah. I’m happy to submit to a lie detector or a police line-up. I guess that might work?

The interesting part of this discussion is the larger concept of the re-definition of a "relationship".  I have 165 connections on LinkedIn alone. Nearly the same on MySpace. Nearly 300 people on various IM systems. Nearly 400 blogs in my RSS reader. I connect to a lot of people. But how many of these people are considered "friends"? Well, that’s the real question, right? A friend like Joey my college buddy? Or friend like Jeremy because I’ve commented on his blog.

These days, finding a connect between two individuals means nearly nothing about their larger relationship. Proximity doesn’t equate to depth. I can connect to Kevin Bacon through six degrees, but I couldn’t get begin to know how to even send him a letter.

Watch this post for updates as this unfolds further.


For information about my Community Consulting, Training and Speaker services, or to find out more about Dinner5, my unique community for community builders, contact me today.

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