I’d imagine that many people were dismayed to see the accusations against global investment banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs, namely that they had been effectively rigging the on line ballot on the Robin Hood Tax website which is campaigning for the introduction of a very small tax on banking transactions, which because of the vast number of transactions would be negligible to the man in the street, but net many millions in revenue from the banks such as Goldman Sachs. Hence “Robin Hood”- taking from the rich to give to the poor.
Goldman Sachs stand accused of flooding the website’s on-line opinion poll with many thousands of “No” votes within the space of around 20 minutes.
Or is it ?
In trying to get a picture of who did this, why, and how I have to confess it conjures up for me images of workers for Goldman Sachs trying to while away an hour or so without doing any work. It has the hallmarks of the Springfield Nuclear Plant’s office chair hockey tournament (played of course to FTT rules – Friday Time Waste) (and yes I know it was a Thursday) – namely that they were engaging in a slightly naughty activity for not particular reason other than it was a bit of fun.
I have fond memories of a particular WSS activity on a football email list I belong to (WSS – that’s Work Shy Slacker to the rest of you) which aimed to find the 50 most ridiculous names in football by lunchtime – the search was over by around 9.40 AM with well over a hundred footballers suffering from challenging nomenclature being held up to ridicule.
Let’s not forget either the antics of many of us (me too) who regularly vote in Daily Mail on-line polls with whatever we feel is the answer that they least want us to put.
In true Daily Mail style it gives only one practically sensible answer – It is certainly not socially acceptable to go to Tesco’s in your Jim-Jams. On a more philosophical level though we could open up a whole debate about the nature of freedom – are we free to make decision which place us outside the expected range of societal tolerance.
In Daily Mail eyes of course that makes us part of the Loony Left and Broken Britain. So what do we all do (in fairly large numbers I’d guess) ? Well we vote “yes” – it is OK to walk down to Tesco’s in Pyjamas.
Just a bit of fun. Or you could call it a barefaced lie.
If any of this has any importance, I’d say it is this : In the age of internet communications it is very easy to knock up websites & blogs, which look at peoples opinions & measure them. We can all do this – big newspapers like the mail, international financiers, football fan groups, or individual bloggers like myself.
Maybe it’s incumbent on all of us to take the responsibility not to use this power flippantly – if an online vote is a bit of fun then we should say so – and not complain if pranksters hijack it for their own ends.
If on the other hand we’re intending to use for a serious scientific or political purpose, then we should say so too – and take steps to ensure the robustness of the voting mechanism – and that it’s not likely to be falsified.
Otherwise let’s not waste time with on-line polls.
In the meantime here’s one for you to try. See if you can decide which type of poll it is – “Just for fun” – or “Serious statistical survey” (Clue: I wouldn’t advise Ladbrokes to take any bets on the outcome)