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.

Sasquan Official Attendance and Membership

Sasquan’s Glenn Glazer has announced the final attendance and membership figures.

Attendance: 5,171

Includes all paid admissions including one-days. (One-day admissions are usually not technically members of WSFS, but we do count them for the purpose of computing total attendance. A one-day admission counts as one attendee.) It excludes freebies who did not participate in the convention (e.g., contractors), unpaid children, paid attending members who did not attend, and all supporting members, but it does include free memberships given to people who did participate in the convention (e.g. guests of honor).

The con counted 5,230 warm bodies, then subtracted 49 kids-in-tow and 10 contractors in order to arrive at 5,171 reportable attendance.

Total members: 11,648

Total members includes everyone who paid for a membership or admission whether full attending, one-day, child, or supporting, plus the Guests of Honor and other free memberships given to people participating in the convention. It does not include freebies who did not participate in the convention.

Pixel Scroll 7/20

Eight stories, two videos, some smack and a snack in today’s Scroll.

(1) What does John King Tarpinian eat each year to commemorate the July 20th anniversary of the first Moon landing?


And if anybody asks John “Where were you that day?” he has a good story to tell them.

I was just 15 and my father took a buddy, Mike, and me to Zuma Beach and he returned home.  My parents and Mike’s parents were so engrossed in the landing they forgot about us.  This was in the olden days with no cell phone and the pay phone was broken so we could not call them to remind them about us kids.

There was a group of people with a 9” B&W TV watching the landing on the beach so we joined them.  The battery eventually drained so I took it upon myself to lift up the locked hinged viewing door of a lifeguard station to get at the electrical outlet so we could plug-in the TV and watch Neil and Buzz.

In John’s honor, here’s a Bradbury bonus:

(2) Vox Day did a little housekeeping on his blog to address a chronic problem in a clear, direct and motivating way:

For the love of all that bleeps and bloops, stop whining about spell-checker mistakes and autocorrect errors in your comments already! It’s considerably more annoying for the rest of us to read the inevitable follow-up post explaining that of course you know how to spell whatever word you just misspelled, it’s just that whatever device or software you are using introduced the error without you noticing it before hitting the blue button, than it is to simply skim past the misspelled word itself.

Drawing everyone’s attention to your claim that you really know how to spell a word that you observably didn’t know how to spell correctly is simple pride and vanity, and worse, it’s completely misplaced vanity.

Here’s why. It doesn’t make you look any less stupid to be knowingly using a device that regularly introduces errors than it does to make the occasional spelling error or typo in the first place. In fact, it makes you look at least twice as stupid, because first, either you don’t know how to turn autocorrect off or you actually rely on it. And second, given how often these errors are introduced, you are probably making more spelling mistakes due to using it than you would if you simply relied on your own spelling capabilities.

If you use a spellchecker, that’s fine, but then own it. If it screws up, it’s on you. Deal with it already and stop talking about the stupid things. To quote the VFM, WE DON’T CARE.

I see little of this at File 770 since I installed the editing option, so don’t take it as an oblique message. I just enjoyed the rant.

(3) Check out Joe Phillips’ posters recasting Old Hollywood stars in modern superhero movies.


If you’re curious to see what Marilyn Monroe would look like as Power Girl, or Humphrey Bogart as Hellboy, wonder no more! Joe Phillips’ Silver Screen Heroes series has brought this vision of a better world to life. Phillips not only has a good eye for likenesses, but also a good eye for casting. Clark Gable as Tony Stark is an especially inspired choice!

(4) George R.R. Martin’s plea on Not A Blog for fans to vote in the Hugos was picked up as a news item in the Guardian.

George RR Martin is urging “every true fan” of science fiction to vote in the Hugo awards before the ballot closes at the end of July, for what the Game of Thrones author said was “proving to be the most controversial and hotly contested Hugo race in the award’s long history”.

Larry Correia endorsed the voter participation message and gave it a signal boost:

For once I agree with GRRM. Everybody should vote. The deadline is coming up fast.


Since we wrote a novella worth of giant blog posts back and forth, GRRM knows damned good and well the Sad Puppies campaign wasn’t motivated by racism or sexism, but that doesn’t stop him from casually tossing the “neo-nazi” accusation out there… but you should believe him when he says there was like totally never any political bias in the system.

(5) Dr. Kjell Lindgren, Sasquan’s Special Guest, is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station this Wednesday, July 22. Glenn Glazer reports NASA will be covering the launch on television. It will be at 5:02 EST.

Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:02 p.m. EDT (3:02 a.m. Thursday, July 23 in Baikonur). NASA TV coverage will begin at 4 p.m.

The trio will ride to space in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which will rendezvous with the space station and dock after four orbits of Earth. Docking to the space station’s Rassvet module will take place at 10:46 p.m. NASA TV coverage of docking will begin at 10 p.m.

The crew will open the hatches between the Soyuz and the station around 12:25 a.m. Thursday, July 23. Expedition 44 Commander Gennady Padalka of Roscosmos, as well as Flight Engineers Scott Kelly of NASA and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos, will greet Lindgren, Kononenko and Yui. NASA TV hatch opening coverage begins at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Lindgren, Kononenko and Yui will remain aboard the station until late December. Kelly and Kornienko, who have been aboard since March 27, will return to Earth in March 2016 at the end of their one-year mission. Padalka, who also has been aboard since March 27, will return to Earth in September, leaving Kelly in command of Expedition 45.

(6) On the SFWA Blog, Lynne M. Thomas, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University, discusses the importance of archiving. She is responsible for collections that include the literary papers of over 70 sf and fantasy authors as well as SFWA’s official archives.

(7) Adam-Troy Castro’s “That Sledge-Hammer was Always Meant To Hit There: A Hugo Theory” reacts to Michael Z. Williamson’s announcement that he is voting No Award in all the Hugo categories.

So far I’ve only seen the rant from {Moronic Massacre-Mocker}, who is being given a time-out from Facebook for hate speech.

But if we permit consideration of the possibility that it has become a meme, it represents a serious shift in strategy and a complete rebranding of the desired goal.

We wanted the ship to sink. We always wanted to make a point about icebergs.

We wanted our village to be sacked. It proves our moral superiority to the huns.

Yes, I just slammed myself in the balls with a sledgehammer. I meant to do that.

Maybe they know how many supporting memberships they paid for and how many they did not. Maybe they’ve convened in panic and discussed how to still pull a nominal victory out of all this. Maybe they’ve said, “We have to sell the premise that if we go down in flames, it’s what we always intended.”

Maybe they’re terrified.

This is just a conspiracy theory, mind you. It might or might not have any validity. But the shift from, “VOTING NO AWARD IS A TERRIBLE THING TO DO!” to “WE ARE NOW VOTING NO AWARD EVEN IN OUR OWN CATEGORIES!” does give me pause….

(8) Michael Z. Williamson’s FB timeout, referenced by Castro, presumably was triggered by the grotesque “joke” MZW posted after the Charleston church shootings.

Although MZW is temporarily banned from posting to one account he is rolling along posting his usual fare as “EH Michael Williamson”.


[Thanks to Craig Miller, Glenn Glazer, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories.]

Sasquan Says Opt-In Digital Pubs A Success

Sasquan logoThe 2015 Worldcon’s e-mail asking members if they’d prefer to receive publications digitally got a very positive response reports Glenn Glazer, Sasquan’s Vice-Chair (Business).

Bruce Farr (Sasquan Finance and Pre-Reg) suggested e-mailing everyone currently tabbed to receive paper publications to ask if they wanted to opt-in to digital delivery. Farr provided members’ e-mail addresses to Alex von Thorn (Sasquan Webmaster) who sent the messages and collected the data.

Glazer said the results were spectacular:

1,190 total emails sent
380 conversions
31.93% rate of conversion

He notes, “For a mass mailing campaign, 30% is an incredibly high rate of return.”

The conversions will save the con almost a thousand dollars in production costs on each progress report, close to $3,000 overall.

They also got 33 address updates, which might otherwise have been discovered only after having PR’s returned from the wrong address, sparing more Sasquan expense and effort down the line.

[Thanks to Glenn Glazer for permission to quote.]

Sasquan Leadership Announcement

Sally Woehrle, Sasquan Chair, wrote online, “Bobbie [DuFault] was not only my co-chair but was my good friend. She was the person with the vision, the spirit and the persistence to win the Worldcon bid. It is ironic that after spending so many years trying to make this dream come true, it only lasted two weeks.”

Woehrle said she would continue to lead Sasquan as chair, along with her three vice-chairs, Glenn Glazer, Pierre Pettinger and Mike Willmoth.

2010 Smofcon Will Be in San Jose

San Jose has been officially confirmed as the site of Smofcon 28. The event will be held December 3-5, 2010 at the Sainte Claire hotel. The theme of next year’s Smofcon is “Building Bridges.”

Glenn Glazer and Craige Howlett will chair, and Tom Whitmore will coordinate the program. San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (SFSFC) is the host organization.

SMOFcon is an annual conference for conrunners, especially those who work on  events such as the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). Black bow tie required.

San Jose Bidding for 2011 Westercon

Glenn Glazer will lead the San Jose bid for the 2011 Westercon newly announced by San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. SFSFC has run many conventions over the years, including the 2002 Worldcon.

The full press release appears after the jump.

Update 6/30/2008: Made the correction noted in Kevin’s comment. Sorry about that!

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