Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#293 In which our hero helps his wife enter a contest thereby exposing some of his lesser qualities. Pt. 3

When we last left our hero, his wife had just lost the contest.

My wife was devastated. She had worked so damn hard on this contest. She cried and cried.

I was furious. Furious that cheating had won the day, not effort. Furious that the people running the contest over at major horse feed manufacturer HAD to see what was going on, but did nothing to fix it.

During that last, horrible week I vented a good deal of my anger and frustration on EXTREME SICK. I wrote pretty nasty things on her posts, still anonymously. I called her a cheater. I said she didn’t deserve to win. I called her a coward when she refused to publish my comments.

It was not my finest moment.

But, I walked away from all the bullshit once the contest was over. There was no appeal, nothing to do about it except try to comfort my wife.

But then. Oh, but then.

EXTREME SICK wrote a snotty post on her personal blog about how she wished horse people could just be nicer to each other, and how she tracked the IP address of posts to learn that one of her competitors was posting nasty things to her blog (EXTREME SICK thought it was The Scientist posting, not me) and oh, woe-is-me why can’t we all just get along?

This completely flew in the face of the confrontational posts she had made during the contest and was clearly nothing more than her rubbing my wife’s face in her victory.

So I commented on EXTREME SICK’s shitty post, using my real name this time. I told her that I knew she had cheated her way into first place, and hoped she was proud of how smart she was to suss out my real identity from my IP address. I also told her that I had an intense dislike of her; a visceral reaction that struck me when I saw her very first video.

I also told her that I was walking away. There was nothing I could do to sabotage her victory, and I wasn’t going to try. I was done.

That is, I was done until her husband emailed me the following day.

He used my work email, which I suppose he though was threatening in some fashion. I wasn’t impressed. I mean, I can use Google, too.

He called me names and was basically an arrogant prick. He said that I could “make this all go away” by apologizing. There were some veiled threats, even though I’m not sure what he had planned. Tell my boss that I bad-mouthed a woman online? Try to hack my credit report?

The ironic thing is that I was sincere about walking away from the whole thing. Until I got this email. I responded in kind, reiterating that I knew he cheated for his wife (funny, but neither of them ever denied this) and that he needed to drop the bullshit posturing because he didn’t intimidate me and wasn’t likely to any time soon.

Basically, I prepared to go to war.

Now, I have to say I can’t really blame the guy. He was defending his wife. I get that. I would have done the same thing. But threatening me, even is a round-about way, was more than I could bear.

Then I told my wife about the exchange, and things got REALLY ugly.

She was angry at me. Not, not angry, enraged. She told me she wanted to be done with this bullshit, that she had cried enough, and that I was just fanning the flames.

Fuck that guy, was my response.

She wasn’t happy with this. She demanded that I apologize immediately. She frankly pushed some buttons that she should not have. But she made her point.

I apologized to EXTREME SICK and her arrogant prick of a husband.

I emailed them both to express that these past few weeks weren’t me at my best, and it certainly wasn’t an accurate representations of who I really am. Worst of all, my actions cast my wife in a negative light, and perhaps made her seem like a bad person. That, I wrote to them, was unforgiveable.

My apology was heartfelt, even though I doubt they believed a word of it.

That done, I did walk away. I haven't read a word about the contest, EXTREME SICK's personal blog or anything that might get me fired up again.

Looking back now, I’m rather amazed at my behavior. I mean, I turned into the worse of Internet trolls, not something I would have expected from myself. It was driven by anger and frustration, but that didn’t make it any more excusable.

In a way, I’m glad it happened. I learned something valuable--it would have been great if I could have learned this lesson without having my wife’s hopes and dreams violently dashed like they were, but I had no control over that.

I learned that it’s waaay easier to turn into an abusive dick when cloaked in the anonymity of the Internet. This is no surprise to anyone who’s ever read a thread on just about any message board ever, but it had never happened to me. It was alarmingly easy for me to take on the role of troll. And when it was happening, I felt… not good, but empowered. Like lashing out could actually make a difference.

It didn’t of course. Not in any positive way.

But, I’m hopeful that next time the roles are reversed, as they surely will be some day, that I can step back and remember that the asshole at the keyboard on the other end of the Internet maybe isn’t a dick by nature, maybe he’s just so enflamed by something that he’s lost his mind for a minute.

Like I did.


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#292 In which our hero helps his wife enter a contest thereby exposing some of his lesser qualities. Pt. 2

When we last left our hero, his wife was suddenly down by more than 1000 votes in an Internet contest.

This miraculous accumulation of votes seems more than a little fishy to me. The Scientist did a little Internet sleuthing and discovered that EXTREME SICK’s husband was a web administrator.

As it turns out, The Scientist’s brother is bit of a computer deity, so she asked him if he thought there could be cheating going on. He looked at how the website was set up, and reported that anyone with even a little background in web administration would be able to exploit the system to rack up a boat-load of votes without much effort. More to the point, it could be set up to be virtually undetectable for the people overseeing the contest.

There were a couple back and forth messages from The Scientist to the contest reps questioning just how things were supposed to be working. It was during this period that we were told that you could actually vote FIVE times a day (not just once, as we were told from the beginning), if you cleared your cache after every vote. This pissed me off royally. I suspected that EXTREME SICK figured this out early and that this was the source of many of these mysterious votes.

In short order EXTREME SICK was in the lead by thousands of votes. It was clear that there was no catching here. I don’t doubt for an instant that the majority of these votes were fraudulent. And I was pretty angry about. You’re taught that “cheaters never prosper” when you’re a kid, but it was clear that this cheater was going to prosper the whole way to a free trip to Kentucky.

And then something ugly happened. I started to comment on her posts. Anonymously.

I like to believe that it was the tenor of her writing that put me over the edge. Because every post was written like a 14-year-old’s diary entry, full of over-the-top expressions and snarky comments. For example, she wrote that most Dressage riders (my wife rides Dressage, remember) wore “clown make-up” during their rides. In my anger and frustration, I took a few pot-shots at her via comments. Nothing too terrible, but certainly nothing kind.

And even worse than her writing was when she wasn’t writing. The idea of the contest was to post every day for a month. She wouldn’t post for days at a time. And, amazingly, even when she hadn’t posted in days, her vote tally continued to rise.

So my anonymous comments on her posts started to become much meaner. I expressed how she was obviously cheating, and she didn’t deserve to win.

But even as EXTREME SICK’S votes reached untouchable (and unbelievable) levels, I still thought The Scientist would win the contest. Remember that it was the top TWO vote-getters that would receive the prize. The Scientist and the #3 woman were pretty close in votes, but my wife seemed to keep just ahead of her.

I should mention that this #2 placement was due to the incredible outpouring of support from our friends and family. And not just close friends… there were a lot of friends of friends who voted their asses off. I heard stories about people going to their university’s computer lab and going down the row, voting five times from each machine. It was really touching how hard people worked to prop up my wife’s vote count.

But no-one worked as hard as The Scientist. She made calls, drove out to barns, interviewed people, took lessons on horses, tried new and sometimes dangerous things and recorded everything on video so she could share her experiences. Incredibly, she managed to get first-hand experience with all eight disciplines over the course of a month. She even threw in an extra discipline when she went to train with a mounted horse “posse” so she could know what that was like.

I’ve rarely been more proud of my wife. She kicked ass top to bottom.

On the strength of her video serious, I still expected her to come in second. This would cause some awkward moments if she had to share a booth or whatever with EXTREME SICK, but that’s a small price to pay.

Then something happened in the last week of the contest. The Scientist dropped to third.

She was still regularly posting her Great 8 series, our friends were still out beating the bushes for votes… but she started to slip. Then she started to fall. It was gut-wrenching.

EXTREME SICK was about TEN THOUSAND votes ahead of #2 at this point, so no-one was ever going to catch up to that. But The Scientist was still neck-in-neck for a long time. Then about Tuesday, she was behind by 200 or so votes. Then Wednesday it was 500. Soon it was more than 1,000.

I kept a brave face for her, but by Thursday I was pretty sure she was going to lose. Did I think the second place girl was cheating, too? Yep. But there was nothing I could do about it. And at least she had the sense to keep the lead to hundreds of votes, not thousands.

The last day of the contest came and that was it. The Scientist was in third place, by about 1,200 votes.

To be concluded.


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#291 In which our hero helps his wife enter a contest thereby exposing some of his lesser qualities. Pt. I

Couple of months ago, my wife entered a contest. It was fun at first. But it didn’t end that way. Here’s what happened:

A major horse feed manufacturer who will remain un-named in this post was sponsoring a contest in which the grand prize was a trip to the World Equestrian Games. Now if you, like me, had never heard of the World Equestrian Games (or “WEG,” as all the cool kids like to call it) all you need to know is that it’s a big F-ing deal in the horse riding community.

If you follow that link above you’ll see that it is “considered by many horsemen to be more important than the Olympics.” Some of the best riders and horses in the world would be at this thing. It was also a big deal that it was being held in the United States for the first time ever.

The Scientist got wind of this contest and emailed me, writing, “I’d love to win this thing!”

The deal was that this major horse feed manufacturer wanted to send two people to act as bloggers/correspondents (or “blogospondents” as they put it) who would report from the show daily with blog posts. WEG is a two-week event, so one winner would go the first week, the other the second week.

The deal was that you had to put together a video that introduced yourself, and quickly outlined why you’d be a good choice to go to the show. Major horse feed manufacturer would select four finalists from the entries, then they’d be posted to a website where people could vote on their favorite finalist. The top two vote-getters would go to the show.

So we shot a 60-second entry video. You can see it here.

The deadline for entries came and went and we waited with bated breath to see if she was going to make it to the finals. And, despite quite a bit of “oh, I’ll probably not make it” my wife did indeed get the call telling her that she was one of four finalists. Yah!

It took a week or so to get everything set up (on major horse feed manufacturer's side) but eventually The Scientist and three other women were put up on a voting site.

Now, the idea was that each contestant would post a blog entry daily for a month running and people would vote—daily—on who they liked the best. Or which blog entry was the most interesting that day. Or whatever.

This element of the contest is what would make the contest experience so fucking terrible in the end. But more about that later.

A month worth of daily blog posts is, in the best of cases, a little daunting. When you’re trying to make them super awesome posts so people will vote for you, it’s even more intimidating.

So, to help fill up the time, The Scientist had an idea. There are eight disciplines featured at WEG (dressage, jumping, endurance, vaulting, driving, eventing, reining and para-dressage), so she would write a post about each discipline. Better yet—she would find a trainer in each discipline and actually give it a go!

So, to keep this in perceptive, remember that my wife rides dressage and, other than the occasional train ride, she hasn’t trained anything else in the last 15 years or so. So she was planning on tackling skills that were alien to what she knew. And she was going to do all of this in 30 days or less.

Now, my wife is an over-achiever, and when she sets her mind to do something, that shit generally gets done. And she certainly wanted to win this contest. But this seemed like a pretty huge challenge, even for her. I mean, she didn’t even know if she could find a trainer for each of these disciplines in the area!

So she started making phone calls.

She talked to people who pointed her to other people and she started to line things up. Some of the disciplines were easy… her trainer is good friends with a jumping trainer, and The Scientist would be welcomed to come over for a crash course in jumping. Hmm, maybe not the best choice of terms.

Some were a lot more challenging to find, like para-dressage.

Now, the idea was that she would take a lesson in each discipline, and video the entire thing. I, in turn, would edit it together and post it to YouTube for the world to see. She called the video series “Sheri’s Great 8.”

The first discipline she did was reining. You can see the video here.

About this time, the voting opened.

For the entire first week, The Scientist was in the lead. By hundreds of votes. Two other contestants were in second with a nearly matching number of votes, and the last place contestant was waaay last, by hundreds of votes.

The way the voting shook out the first week seemed right to me. I mean, yeah, I wanted my wife to win, and her being in first place was great. But more to the point, I thought her posts were the most interesting. This insane quest to find eight trainers and try eight new things in a month aside, I found her writing the most genuine and engaging. The middle two women were fine… readable, mostly enjoyable, but they weren’t writing about anything that I found engaging. And they certainly weren’t going out and trying new things like my wife was. The last place woman wrote in a style that I found annoying and grating. She wrote things like: “The equestrian world is going EXTREME with SICK new gear and events!!!” This style of writing didn’t appeal to me and, judging by the dead last placement, it didn’t appeal to a lot of other people, either.

Now, a word about the voting. Major horse feed manufacturer set it up so that anyone on the Internet could vote. You didn’t have to register, provide any personal information or do anything other than press the VOTE button beneath the photo of the contestant you liked. We didn’t realize how big a problem this was until a couple days into the contest.

I was, naturally, following the voting like a hawk. And one day my wife’s vote count suddenly dropped by 60 votes. She emailed the technical representative for the contest about this, her fear being that somehow a wire got crossed somewhere and some of her votes were being shunted to another contestant’s tally.

She was told that her total was reduced because several of her votes registered as coming from the same IP address in a short amount of time, indicating that some sort of trickery was involved. As it turned out, what happened was that I sent out a mass email to my company and said, “Hey! Vote for my wife!” And out of an employee roster of 200 people, sixty of them said, “why not?” and voted.

For what it’s worth, this wasn’t just conjecture on my part. The technical rep confirmed that the IP address in question was from my company, and my IT guys confirmed that, due to the company firewall, it would look, from the outside, as if all of those votes had come from a single IP address. I even had the director of IT shoot an email to the rep confirming that those votes were on the up-and-up.

And this is where things started to get a little shitty.

We were basically told, “too bad.” The contest rules stated one vote/one IP address per day, and that was that. Out of the hundreds of potential votes that could come from my co-workers, only ONE would be counted per day. This seemed grossly unfair, but there wasn’t any appealing it.

But, the blogging continued, and by Thursday evening, The Scientist was still well in the lead, and the EXTREME SICK contestant was well in last place.

Then Friday morning came. EXTREME SICK started to get votes. A LOT of votes. In fact, by late afternoon she was neck-and-neck with the middle of the pack. As evening pressed on she started to threaten The Scientist’s lead. By Saturday morning, she was in first place, by a couple hundred votes.

All in all, she gained more than ONE THOUSAND votes in the span of 24 hours.

And things were just starting to get bad.

To be continued.