Hitch in Sasquan Nominating Data Turnover

Plans to make transcribed data from the 2015 Hugo nominating ballots available upon request have been put on hold.

E Pluribus Hugo advocates, who want to use the data to demonstrate the EPH vote tallying method is effective at coping with slates, got the Sasquan business meeting to pass a non-binding resolution (item B.2.3) asking for the release of anonymized raw nominating data from the 2015 Hugo Awards.

When the resolution passed, Sasquan Vice-Chair Glenn Glazer announced Sasquan would comply with the request. The intent was to provide equal access to the data, and those interested in receiving a copy were invited to e-mail the committee.

However, Glazer confirms he recently e-mailed the following update to a person who requested the data, as reported by Vox Day:

Back at Sasquan, the BM passed a non-binding resolution to request that Sasquan provide anonymized nomination data from the 2015 Hugo Awards.  I stood before the BM and said, as its official representative, that we would comply with such requests.  However, new information has come in which has caused us to reverse that decision.  Specifically, upon review, the administration team believes it may not be possible to anonymize the nominating data sufficiently to allow for a public release.  We are investigating alternatives.

Thank you for your patience in this matter.  While we truly wish to comply with the resolution and fundamentally believe in transparent processes, we must hold the privacy of our members paramount and I hope that you understand this set of priorities.

Best, Glenn Glazer

Vice-Chair, Business and Finance

Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention

And Hugo Administrator John Lorentz added information in this follow-up e-mail:

What wasn’t included in Glenn’s statement is that this year’s Hugo system administrators are working with a committee composed of proponents of EPH, so that proposal can be tested without any privacy violations that might occur by releasing the data with no controls.

As Hugo administrators, we have always assure members that their votes are private and secret, and we don’t want to do something that might change that. That is our primary responsibility.

John Lorentz

Sasquan Hugo Administrator

On September 1, in an exchange between several commenters, Lorentz remarked the difficulties of anonymizing voter data, here at File 770:

[Commenter] “With the Hugo data, the only identifying info is the membership number. Remove that, and the ballot has been anonymized.”

[Brian C] No, it’s not nearly that simple.

You also need to eliminate any nominations that are unique to one or a handful of people, as otherwise those nominations could be used to identify people. But then those ballots aren’t actually representative for the purpose of testing the algorithm. So you need to actually replace those with other nominations, that happen not to perturb the algorithm in any way.

[John Lorentz]And that is the problem that our Hugo system admin folks have been running into. When one of them generated a draft of anonymized nominating data, it didn’t take the other very long to determine who some of the voters were, simply from the voting patterns.

Vox Day terms the latest development a “scandal.” Peter Grant was equally prompt to accuse Sasquan of having something to hide in “What, precisely, is going on with the Hugo Awards data?”

Folks, back in the 1980’s I was a Systems Engineer at IBM.  I’ve had well over a decade in the commercial information technology and computer systems business, in positions ranging from Operator to Project Manager, from Programmer to End-User Computing Analyst to a directorship in a small IT company.  Speaking from that background, let me assure you:  I can ‘anonymize’ almost any data set in a couple of hours, no matter how complicated it may be.  To allege that ‘it may not be possible to anonymize the nominating data sufficiently to allow for a public release’ is complete and utter BULL.  Period.  End of story.

However, one of Grant’s commenters pointed out: “Anonymizing data is harder than you think, if your goal is to actually make it truly anonymous. See what happened when AOL tried to anonymize search results, or when Netflix tried to anonymize movie recommendations.” And he cited a 2009 ArsTechnica article, adding “and metadata analysis hasn’t exactly gotten worse since then.”

The article says —

Examples of the anonymization failures aren’t hard to find.

When AOL researchers released a massive dataset of search queries, they first “anonymized” the data by scrubbing user IDs and IP addresses. When Netflix made a huge database of movie recommendations available for study, it spent time doing the same thing. Despite scrubbing the obviously identifiable information from the data, computer scientists were able to identify individual users in both datasets. (The Netflix team then moved on to Twitter users.)…

The Netflix case illustrates another principle, which is that the data itself might seem anonymous, but when paired with other existing data, reidentification becomes possible. A pair of computer scientists famously proved this point by combing movie recommendations found on the Internet Movie Database with the Netflix data, and they learned that people could quite easily be picked from the Netflix data.

EPH backers want to use the data to demonstrate their voting system. In comparison, a commenter at Vox Popoli said he wants to analyze the data to learn —

  1. How many slates there were in competition
  2. How good party discipline was for the various slates
  3. How many voted mixed slates of sad/rabid, TOR/SJW, etc.
  4. How the 4/6 and EPH proposals would have affected the outcome of the competing slates

Update 09/08/2015: Corrected the attribution of Brian C’s comment.

770 thoughts on “Hitch in Sasquan Nominating Data Turnover

  1. Vivienne Raper on September 11, 2015 at 12:11 am said:

    As an aside, @camestros, the organisation that is run by some former RCP members now organises an annual two-day debating event in London. And, this year, they have a whole session on #gamergate and the Hugos.

    Interesting choice of speakers 🙂
    Thanks for the link. I’d sort of lost touch with that whole story. It was interesting to me because it reflected a lot about how I think ideologies work and how groups of people can shift ideas over time.

    I guess I look RCP because I’ve been arguing primarily to do some personal cultural research – I sincerely wanted to understand what was wrong with the Hugos, why the mainstream media had been so willing to accept lies (e.g. the infamous Entertainment Weekly article), whether there was a shadowy cabal of ‘SJWs’, and why this was associated with #gamergate

    The EW article was just one amateurish outlier. SJWs had little real impact. I’m an overt left winger but as you can see here a lot of people who have objected to the Puppies are a broad spectrum of politics. If you click my name it will take you to my blog where I’ve talked about the kerfuffle in more political terms. From a more overtly left wing stance you’d be best looking at Philip Sandifer – and it is worth noting that his position regarding the Hugos was to No Award *all* categories and there is little indication of many people doing that.

    The Hugo voters are probably a bit to the left of US politics but no more so than you’d expect from them being bookish and somewhat international. No shadowy SJW cabal. No grand conspiracy. The Puppy version of events is premised on major multinational corporations actively losing money for the pursuit of a far left agenda. It is nonesense from start to finish.

  2. @Vivienne

    The problem is that, if I criticise a Third-Wave feminist position, and don’t make the ‘Second Wave’ rider… Someone jumps in with some bizarre strawman position like ‘Ah, you want to chain women to sinks. YOU HATE WOMEN VOTING’. And I don’t. Obviously.

    I suspect being awfully nice about VD might get you the fast-track to that one, since he really does hate women voting. 🙂

    Occasionally I try and pull the strands of second-wave and third-wave apart, but the general opinions seem to be largely on a continuum (the basics are there throughout, only the emphasis shifts, and not even consistently) rather than a strong divide.

    I do like the third wave’s emphasis on intersectionality because aside from being paper white and with a female gender to match a female body I have other vectors that impact things, in varying degrees and in varying ways. Having a disability impacts my life more deeply than being a woman does but being a woman has impacted how easy its been to cope with my disability (being told to get my uterus checked for a not-uterus-related-whatsoever pain problem by a pain management specialist wasn’t fun), so intersectionality suits that very well. Second wave feminism doesn’t seem to acknowledge those things so it has less relevance to me.

  3. @Vivienne

    FYI ,I think you got stuck in moderation for having more than two links. Either that or the email notifications are acting funny.

    Anyway, some points I thought were interesting

    why the mainstream media had been so willing to accept lies (e.g. the infamous Entertainment Weekly article)

    It’s been a pretty common claim that the puppy-negative media coverage was in some way caused by PNH and others pulling out their rolodex and calling in favours, with the EW article as Exhibit A. The counter has unusually been that the EW article was thrown together by an intern in the normal way that clickbait sites operate, that EW are hardly a representative of the media as a whole, and that media outlets feeding off each other’s stories is sufficiently common that it doesn’t require further explanation.

    How do you actually see it?

    and have read the rest of Riding the Red Horse. It’s not a rabid frothing compilation of racial hate and misogyny – Brad Torgerson even has a story arguing in favour of women in frontline combat (huge diversity issue in the US military). Now, I don’t think Vox Day has much say in the content of that anthology, but he’s publishing it.

    As VD is named as co-editor and took a Hugo nom in the back of it, I think it’s fair to say he had some input. To be honest, if he’s not having a say on content then what is he doing at Castalia.
    I agree that there’s some okay stuff in RTRH, but what was your opinion of the title essay? I was particularly struck by the unneeded tangent into defending Hitler’s military record, and rather thought it was in there for standard-issue “making heads explode” purposes. I considered it a strong argument for VD deserving to come in a distant last in Editor.

    Your point about the story quality is well taken though. The recent Baen MilSF award and anthology highlighted (for me) that there were plenty of better stories out there in 2015 that should have appealed to their stated tastes.

  4. @JJ

    I reserve the right to say that you have self-identifed with your non-left-leaning, non-feminist verbiage.

    I promise. If you put me in a room with some right-wingers, I look as left-wing as heck…

  5. @Vivienne

    Prior to commenting here, did you primarily find out about all this from Puppy sites?

    Also, damn! I just checked and the Baen anthology wasn’t published until well after the Hugo nomination deadline. I was hoping I’d be able to use next year’s as a possible source for any military sf of quality I might have missed.

  6. @Camestros

    I’m not convinced that said organization was either revolutionary or Communist

    How about party? Or do they get the Holy Roman Empire trifecta?

    @all/ Vivienne Raper

    I’m quite enjoying the acculturation of Vivienne. Pray continue. It is enlightening.

    @Vivienne Raper:

    Do you have a preferred honorific and/or casual form of your name? Maybe it’s too much living in japan, but using an obviously surname-inclusive name without an honorific on it is bothering me than I’d’ve thought. (It’s also long, and I’m lazy..)

  7. Camestros,

    My point was not to demonize Vivienne’s views or marginalize or to create a rhetorical stick with which to bash her comments but simply to point out that in the great sea of ideology there is a spot that includes a sort of mix of lefty wingness and hardline-libertarianism that is critical of modern feminism.

    Speaking as someone with a sort of mix of lefty wingness and libertarian, I know that. I didn’t say you were using it as a rhetorical stick. Just that I think that island in the sea of ideology is populated by more tribes than just the ex-RCP. 🙂

  8. I admit I’ve been dropping Vivienne’s surname (which I wouldn’t normally do) because Cubist’s repetition made me really uncomfortable and now I don’t like to type it. I might get over it eventually…

  9. Vivienne Raper: I promise. If you put me in a room with some right-wingers, I look as left-wing as heck…

    That’s the really funny thing about me. I base my assessments of people on what I hear or read them say and what I see them do — not on what they tell me my assessment of them should be.

  10. Devin on September 11, 2015 at 1:27 am said:

    @Camestros

    I’m not convinced that said organization was either revolutionary or Communist

    How about party? Or do they get the Holy Roman Empire trifecta?

    I think they probably liked to party more than your average Trotskyist

  11. Brian Z on September 11, 2015 at 1:29 am said:

    Speaking as someone with a sort of mix of lefty wingness and libertarian, I know that. I didn’t say you were using it as a rhetorical stick. Just that I think that island in the sea of ideology is populated by more tribes than just the ex-RCP. 🙂

    Sure but as it happens Vivienne wasn’t so very far from what I was discussing. I don’t think she found it objectionable.

  12. @Camestros

    Well that’s something I have in common with them; I love to party! I just have to plan ahead to make sure I’m in bed before the buzz wears off and have the week after in which to stay in it and not move much. 🙂

    (This is one of my obstacles to my plan to get to Worldcon; the travelling home before the week-in-bed bit is likely to prove very challenging.)

  13. @Mark/Camestros I’ll be back at some point – I’ve had a couple of days idle, which is why I’ve been on File770 so much. This is now over. I’ll reply when I have a few moments free again.

    @Camestros – I will add your blog to my RSS feed so I can easily read through your Puppygate posts when I get the chance. From a brief glance through, they look really interesting.

  14. As a digression on names: I tend to @ a full user name as a starting point to avoid any confusion, and then use any obvious first name thereafter. Camestros is obviously a conspiracy to confuse this plan, and my use of first name only is a conspiracy to make everyone conform to it. Although. JJ has dubbed me “Mark with the xkcd gravatar” so I might have to switch to that.

  15. @Mark

    JJ has dubbed me “Mark with the xkcd gravatar” so I might have to switch to that.

    Wasn’t that me? Or did we both do it?

    I try to use full names or ‘nyms, except for the exceptions. 😉 I usually just use Camestros instead of Camestros Felapton and Hampus instead of Hampus Eckerman. I’m VERY careful to use Brian [Letter] for all the Brian [Letter’s] unless its very very obvious which one I’m referring to since I think we now have three. Other than that: Mostly full ‘nyms or names.

    ETA: I’m not deluded. \o/

  16. Vivienne Raper:

    “I sincerely wanted to understand what was wrong with the Hugos, why the mainstream media had been so willing to accept lies (e.g. the infamous Entertainment Weekly article), whether there was a shadowy cabal of ‘SJWs’, and why this was associated with #gamergate.”

    I don’t understand. Your example points at the exact opposite of what you are saying. EW wrote a quick article that contained many errors. Then they corrected them. A media that actually correct themselves when they are wrong, thats not common. So were there really lies from the beginning or just a sloppy journalist who draw hasty conclusions? And if they were so willing to accept “lies” as you say, why the correction?

  17. @Meredith

    You’re right, of course. JJ was in the conversation about the excessive number of Marks and I conflated you both. Ooops.

    I’d throw an initial on the end, but it would still conflict with one of the other Marks. Maybe I’ll run a bracket to decide an entirely new name.

  18. Vivienne Raper on September 11, 2015 at 1:50 am said:

    @Mark/Camestros I’ll be back at some point – I’ve had a couple of days idle, which is why I’ve been on File770 so much. This is now over. I’ll reply when I have a few moments free again.

    Be careful – this place is addictive. I’m wandering the Earth for a few days but I’ll be back here in a week or so.

  19. @Mark

    I think the distinctive gravatar is enough, personally, but maybe there are people who can’t see it? If you have a middle name you could be Mark AB, maybe. I considered using a surname initial when I started commenting but I figured the odds of another Meredith turning up were fairly slim. (Compare searching for “Mark” to searching for “Meredith” on the Sasquan member list and you’ll see why I was complacent. It’s also why I didn’t use my middle name, which I occasionally do in online contexts to avoid the ‘actually my name has two e’s’ problem. My middle name was already taken!)

  20. The Living Marxism/RCP people went onto do other things. I don’t know to what extent they still exist as a movement or a party.

    The RCP! They accused ITN of faking footage of a detention camp in the Balkans, and wound themselves up before getting sued into oblivion. They reappeared as the magazine Spiked!, and continued the path of reflexive contrarianism, with less talk about Marxism. You know #SlatePitch? That was them, avant la lettre.
    I knew a couple of ex-RCP people, back when there was an RCP to be ex of. Crazy organisation, even by the standards of fringe left groups.

  21. Mark: JJ has dubbed me “Mark with the xkcd gravatar” so I might have to switch to that.

    Meredith: Wasn’t that me? Or did we both do it?

    That was you. I dubbed him “Markandthentypinguntilunique”, because when he first got his Gravatar, that’s what he put in the name field (before, obviously, figuring out that he could shorten that to “Mark” when he posts).

    I vote that he should go by xkcdMark. Then I won’t confuse him with the other Marks, you get credit, and we all win!

    If you were an xkcd gravatar, my Mark…

  22. JJ has dubbed me “Mark with the xkcd gravatar” so I might have to switch to that.

    Well, Mike is mixing us up occasionally, so if you want to be XKCD Mark and I’ll be Guns Mark… er… actually given that this is a US site that might get read all wrong…

  23. mix of lefty wingness and libertarian

    Wow. That’s a bit of a mix. Kindof up there with blitzing chicken breasts to a paste with some meat glue, mixing in a handfull of jelly beans, rolling to a log, cooking it sous vide and then slicing it to make a toddler’s favorite dinner meal…

  24. I’m going to be so bloody annoyed if we get another Meredith! It isn’t like I could use Books Meredith and have it mean anything around here.

  25. Mark Dennehy on September 11, 2015 at 3:28 am said:

    mix of lefty wingness and libertarian

    Wow. That’s a bit of a mix. Kindof up there with blitzing chicken breasts to a paste with some meat glue, mixing in a handfull of jelly beans, rolling to a log, cooking it sous vide and then slicing it to make a toddler’s favorite dinner meal…

    Like I said. Pokemon.

  26. @Mark Dennehy

    Wow. That’s a bit of a mix. Kindof up there with blitzing chicken breasts to a paste with some meat glue, mixing in a handfull of jelly beans, rolling to a log, cooking it sous vide and then slicing it to make a toddler’s favorite dinner meal…

    Um. Does that work? It sounds revolting, but kidlet tastebuds can be a bit weird.

    @Camestros

    Work 🙁
    but an adventure is an adventure. 🙂

    Have fun work-travelling then. 🙂 I hope you get enough free time to have some new experiences!

    @Rev. Bob

    I move that we henceforth refer to the Mark with the xkcd avatar as “Marxkcd”. 🙂

    That should add whole new thrills for Paulk and Hoyt.

  27. @Rev Bob

    Should I take that name over to MGC? It’d be the equivalent of dousing myself in bbq sauce and jumping into the enclosure…

    @JJ

    Well, you see, those fields that tell you your chosen name isn’t unique fill me with rage….

    (For maximum confusion I could change my gravatar…)

  28. Rev. Bob: I move that we henceforth refer to the Mark with the xkcd avatar as “Marxkcd”.

    Paulk and Hoyt (in unison): SEE??? We TOLD you they were all Marxists!!!”

  29. Oh, I can totally see where this is going…

    Marxkcd
    Marx Dennehy
    Marxedith
    Camarxtros Felapton
    Rev. Marx
    snowmarx
    MarxistInjusticeWorrier
    Paul Weimarx
    MarxL
    Omarxos
    Marximilian
    Marx Glyer

  30. @Meredith

    Um. Does that work?

    Not wanting to have a long detailed logged conversation with Child Services, I’ve not tried…

    …but I really, really want to 😀

    @Bob:

    I move that we henceforth refer to the Mark with the xkcd avatar as “Marxkcd”.

    Second!

  31. @Mark

    (For maximum confusion I could change my gravatar…)

    Have mercy on the gravatar-oriented. 🙁 I’d think you were someone else for weeks.

  32. Oh, I can totally see where this is going…

    TOVARICH! LET PARTY GUIDE YOU TO NEW REVOLUTIONARY WAY OF THINKING! GLORIOUS PARTY LEAD TO NEW FIVE YEAR PLAN FOR DEVELOPMENT OF NEW WORLD ORDER AND DOMINATION OF WORLD!

  33. @JJ

    Okay, that would be really funny if we all co-ordinated for a day (is there a Day of Communism?), but I don’t know whether our host would appreciate digging us all out of moderation because of new names. 🙂

    Still… I’d totally join in if someone wanted to organise that and Mike didn’t hate the idea.

    ETA
    @ Mark Dennehy

    Nonono, it would be the FIFTH YEAR PLAN, obviously.

  34. @Mark

    As VD is named as co-editor and took a Hugo nom in the back of it, I think it’s fair to say he had some input. To be honest, if he’s not having a say on content then what is he doing at Castalia.

    One last pop-in to correct this. I retracted it as soon as I wrote it. I have no idea how much he edits RtRH. He obviously does a lot of editing to other publications – see the Sandifer interview, re: John C. Wright:

    It’s actually somewhat depressing to edit the man, because the stuff that he turns in just having dashed it off is much better than most of the stuff you see from other people.

    I also thought Ken Burnside mentioned that he’d been commissioned to write Hot Equations by Vox Day, but I can’t find it now.

    It’s also downright rude to tell an editor he isn’t editing 🙁 In the interests of full disclosure, I did email Vox Day when I wrote the review Mike Glyer linked to earlier… The email effectively said, “Hey, you’re the editor, why didn’t you change all this stuff?” I didn’t get a reply, but I didn’t expect to because the Hugo controversy was in full flow and I was being an a**e and he doubtless had better things to do.

  35. Meredith: I don’t know whether our host would appreciate digging us all out of moderation because of new names.

    Will WordPress allow him to set a filter to automatically approve any post by someone with the string %marx% in their username?

  36. TOVARICH, HAVE MADE GREVIOUS ERROR, HAVE BEGUN GREAT MARXIST PLAN BEFORE POLITBURO GAVE OFFICIAL ORDER, NOW POSTS AWAIT GRAND MARSHALL EDITOR FOR LIFE MARX GLYER. QUEUES NOT LONG FOR SEPTEMBER, MAY ONLY NEED THREE, PERHAPS FOUR DAYS.

  37. Will WordPress allow him to set a filter to automatically approve any post by someone with the string %marx% in their username?

    But what about the Leninists, asks the potential future Lenin C?

  38. Re: Marxkcd and the FIFTH! Year Plan –

    I’ll admit it: I’m a complete Marxist. Groucho was my favorite, but Chico got some good lines, too. Harpo, not so many. I’m also a bit of a Lennonist.

    Another true computing story – when I originally set up my home network, I only went with a Three Stooges motif over a Marx Brothers theme because there were six Three Stooges and only five Marx Brothers. I figured I’d need the extra slot someday.

    Now the network’s got three desktop machines (two functional but not presently in use), three proper laptops (same), two netbooks, three decent e-readers and a Kindle, two iPads, three iPod touches (or is that “three iPods touch”?), and an Android tablet with a good keyboard dock. Oh, and two USB sticks that double as wifi routers, if you want to count those.

    I left coherent naming schemes behind a few years ago… 😉

  39. Well, that escalated quickly.

    Pro tip: don’t change your name until Mike wakes up, it chucks you into moderation!

  40. Well, that escalated quickly.

    Filers have never met a joke they couldn’t run, nay, sprint with.

  41. @Vivienne

    One of your comments got a comment email but got stuck in moderation for links – unusual to get the comment email before Mike’s dug something out, but I just wanted to quickly say something in case you come back and see it:

    Sometimes commenters, with all the best intentions of the world, and especially when writing long replies, will post a correction to something that has already been corrected and acknowledged. Its best to assume it was meant with good intentions and not to get annoyed at the second/third/fifthed person to do it.

    As far as editing goes, it turns out that editors don’t do much line editing (which surprised me); the skill is largely in the acqusition (choosing good works) and partly in the advice for guiding the story, it isn’t poking at the details of the text. I learned that during the discussions here about the Best Editor Hugo after the ceremony. 🙂

  42. Filers have never met a joke they couldn’t run, nay, sprint with.

    Or game with. The only computer game I get to play much of anymore is Arma (because I like flying helicopters and that’s a wee bit outside what anyone who’s not a millionaire can afford to do for fun over here) and it’s only fun to fly helos if someone else is riding along, so who do I play with?

    Folk ARPS, whose entire schtick is THE GLORIOUS PARTY and russian reversal jokes and soviet text filters and it’s just glorious 😀

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yHo-2CNsUw

    And ARMA III is set in 2035 so it’s even (kinda) science fiction-y 😀

  43. Vivienne: At the risk of seeming tendentious: a) I’ve only been following this since April 2015, so I know less about the back history;

    This, right here, is a large part of why you get the reactions you get. Some of us have been either following, or involved, with this; going back to about 2006. So when you said there was a lot of backstory you were glossing… we knew what it was, and that your gloss left a lot of things out. Things you now say you didn’t know. Despite that lack of knowledge you were willing to be sententious to us about our lived history.

    Ignorance of that lived history isn’t really a defense. Context implied that at least a few people would be aware of it (hell, I’ll even say that the nature of the conversation, and the community; e.g. shared details of events more than 20 years in the past) even guaranteed it.

    Moving on.

    he can’t say that, he might incite someone‘ doesn’t fly with me

    Oh good, something else no one actually said which you disagree with.

    What was said is, “. He spreads poison, and he’s an inciter of bad actions in his followers. That you dismiss this all as mere “entertainment” is disturbing. It indicates to me that your worldview and mine are so far apart as to make useful discourse impossible.

    It doesn’t take a close reading to see that none of that says Beale needs to be shut down. It says that dismissing him as, “merely in it for the lulz” ignores that even if he’s completely insincere his words have effect. What you walk past is what you accept.

    You seem to be walking past his, steady, incitements to violence, because it amuses you.

  44. Meredith: I’m going to be so bloody annoyed if we get another Meredith! It isn’t like I could use Books Meredith and have it mean anything around here.

    Luckily for you my friends Meridith are either too busy to 770, or not really interested.

Comments are closed.