MAC II Statement on Data Release for EPH Testing

The Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II committees responded to File 770’s query about the transfer of anonymized raw 2015 Hugo nominating ballot data for use in testing the proposed E Pluribus Hugo vote tallying method.

Linda Deneroff, Sasquan’s WSFS (World Science Fiction Society) Division Head, wrote:

Sasquan passed its nominating data to MidAmeriCon II for analysis in the EPH process. Neither Glenn [Glazer], John [Lorentz], Ruth [Lorentz] nor I were involved in the analysis.

Tammy Coxen. MidAmeriCon II WSFS Division Head, explained what was done with the data:

After EPH passed at Sasquan, the MidAmeriCon II Hugo Administration team publicly committed to testing the system so that real data about its efficacy could be made available to WSFS members before the business meeting where ratification would take place. As part of that testing, MidAmeriCon II was collaborating with two researchers (Bruce Schneier and Jameson Quinn) in evaluating the system. As previously announced, it was determined that the data was unable to be sufficiently anonymized for a general release, so the researchers were provided data under a non-disclosure agreement.

There was to have been a coordinated release of the research findings between MidAmeriCon II and the researchers, which would have made clear the circumstances under which the data had been shared. Planning was already underway regarding that release, but as noted, analysis is still occurring. Our intention is to jointly share the research findings when they are complete, which will be well in advance of the business meeting at MidAmeriCon II.

The previously announced concerns that Coxen refers to were discussed here in a September 2015 post, “Hitch in Sasquan Nominating Data Turnover”.

123 thoughts on “MAC II Statement on Data Release for EPH Testing

  1. Sasquan had the authority to give the data to MAC II. Period.

    Of course.

    They also had the authority to share the Sasquan ballots with their friends and relatives, publish them on the internet, drop them into the Marianas Trench, or bury them beneath the surface of Tycho Crater. The Sasquan Hugo administrators could have raffled off the Sasquan ballots in support of their favorite charity.

    The MAC II Worldcon Committee is empowered to delegate authority in matters concerning the Worldcon MAC II.

  2. Meredith: A lie requires deliberate dishonesty; it isn’t just providing information that turns out to be in error – and besides that, Bruce Schneier, at least, is not on the list of people who proposed EPH. Jameson Quinn is, and I’m sure JJ will acknowledge that.

    It’s neither a lie, nor untrue.

    Quinn and Schneier are being portrayed by some here as the driving force behind an attempt to change the Hugo nominating process. They’re not. They got involved after a bunch of WSFS members who felt a change was necessary invited them to participate. While Quinn’s name is listed as one of the numerous sponsors of the EPH amendment, he is not the instigator.

    I stand by my comment; neither Schneier proposed changing the WSFS constitution. Other people did that, and what they’re proposing is a solution into which both Schneier and Quinn had input.

  3. @Mike Glyer

    The one thing that bothers me is that after the public debate at the 2015 business meeting, and with all the interest expressed by people who wanted the anonymized data (which Sasquan initially was going to offer on an equal basis to any interested party), MAC II didn’t make a public statement about what they were doing until they were asked for one. It’s not as if they had any intent to keep this secret — the results were going to be publicized at some point. And they could have avoided looking as if they were found out.

    While I fully understand how painful it can be to go through business meeting notes and video, it is part of the record of the Sasquan business meeting that MAC II was going to work with the EPH proposers to test their process and report to the KC business meeting so that voters there would be able to make informed votes.

    I will admit it didn’t strike us to make any other announcements about it or work to draw attention to it, but none of this effort was secret.

    Dave McCarty – Hugo Administrator
    MidAmeriCon II

  4. Dave McCarty: No, it’s not difficult at all to read through the minutes, and in fact I did so while drafting my comment. It’s even easier to read my own blog post from September — Hitch in Sasquan Nominating Data Turnover — where John Lorentz said, “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.”

    And is it correct that “none of this effort was secret”? Then who told Quinn he committed a faux pas by making preliminary comments about it?

    We’re all interested in preserving the integrity and prestige of the awards — I’ve been pursuing the story about these slates for a couple of years now. Worldcon committees are going to have the most effect if they show leadership, and operate in a transparent and accountable way. I think MAC II will receive a lot more grace by keeping people informed of major milestones, like this NDA was, because the committee is doing something with Hugo data that has never been done on an official basis before (in contrast to what everone with a copy of the 1984 file has been doing), and doing it in support of a contested rules change.

    There is a popular view that people are going to complain anyway, but what gets overlooked is that the support of the people who are not predisposed to complain is encouraged by communication.

  5. BTW, Mike, I respect your opinion that the “five votes” rule at 3.11.4 is intended to mean “and no nominee with fewer than five votes,” even though I ruled the other way and the Business Meeting sustained the ruling. If you want to propose a change to make your interpretation the official one and to prohibit the release of any nominee with fewer than five votes,” I’ll help you draft it if you want, and I’ll second it if you think it worthwhile. I think the matter deserves discussion, and more than what we had on the relatively narrow technical matter last year of the meeting determining what the existing wording means.

  6. Kevin Standlee: Thanks for the comment and offer, but I don’t think a replay is necessary. First, Ben Yalow provided the historical information I would have had I been called on. People at the Business Meeting had all the data needed to consider the issue. It was a fair vote, I just didn’t think it was the right decision. Second, I expect that if I pursued the question someone would “helpfully” propose an amendment to get rid of the fewer-than-five limit from the consitutional rule, so it wouldn’t make an difference if I won the rematch. 🙂

  7. Mike: Fair enough. But I still think there is a difference between the technical issue of what the words in the current constitution mean and what you (and Ben) think that they should mean. The first is technical; the second is substantive, and what we had in Spokane was a technical debate.

    OTOH, you’re right that there’s a fairly good chance that someone could “hijack” such a proposal to drive it away in a completely unintended direction. This is why I say, often, “There’s no such thing as a ‘friendly’ amendment.”

  8. Kevin Standlee: A great many WSFS rules are written to deal with an issue which is not already implicit in the Worldcon culture. This one was written in an environment where the voting stats were never published, and part of the reason was that some fans believed we’d be embarrassing writers who received trivial numbers of nominating votes. Putting a floor number in the disclosure requirement helped get the rule passed — it was obvious at the time what those words meant, and what work they were doing, and for over three decades that’s how Worldcons administered the voting report.

    One of the ways the Worldcon culture has changed since the rule was added in 1978 is that today fans see hundreds of stories getting nominated, often because the writers put up these eligibility lists and end up only getting their own vote and maybe some family and friends. They do it as part of their marketing, there’s no shame in the outcome (and as far as I’m concerned there never was), and in fact it’s a plus if their work gets as many as the tiny number of votes needed to appear in the Hugo voting stats report — now in the process of becoming seen as the Hugo “longlist” — because that’s one more scrap of publicity.

    So the change in perception is what convinces me a Business Meeting would happily excise the wording.

    And seeing nobody whose feelings needed to be protected from small voting numbers, the Sasquan Business Meeting (in my opinion) felt free to take the opportunity to nullify a rule that might have been used successfully to frustrate the release of raw voting data for EPH testing by making it too complicated to administer.

  9. The minutes are not archived, but surely in 1978 the only question was whether to release the vote totals. Surely it never occurred to anyone, in the seventies, to release the ballots themselves, since it would have been blindingly obvious – back then – that this could be exploited to uncover patterns leading to guilt by association. Why none of you appear to be concerned with that today is perplexing.

    I don’t care if Sasquan is within its rights to give my data to Kermit the Frog. Kermit shouldn’t give it to Jameson Quinn to exploit in his political campaign. Kermit shouldn’t give it to Patrick May to post on github (which is where the 1984 nomination data ended up). And even if Kermit successfully ran a bid to bring the Worldcon to Kansas City in 2016, he would still have no business signing legal agreements dictating how to hand out my Sasquan data to his select Worldcon insider friends, since MAC II handles only matters concerning MAC II.

    Dave McCarty seems like a very intelligent and thoughtful fellow, and I appreciate his hard work in what may be shaping up to be a difficult year. Having said that, if his comment above was MAC II’s final statement on the matter, I won’t be sharing my voting preferences with MAC II.

  10. Brian Z you really are quite remarkably dense. I’m astounded that even after the facts are explained in very clear English to you you still don’t seem to be able to grasp that you’re wrong. Astounding. Your sealioning hasn’t changed in the last 12 months….

    But anyhoo. Do I read your last statement correctly and that you will not, in fact, therefore, be nominating anything?

    I trust that will save us from further bollocks about the Hugo awards?

  11. I trust that will save us from further bollocks about the Hugo awards?

    Ha ha, he laughed hollowly.

  12. @JJ

    Oh, I think I get it now. I don’t think its unreasonable to consider Jameson as one of the proposers, but it seems just as reasonable to draw a distinction between those who lead the proposal and those who just helped sponsor it. Fair enough, then. 🙂

  13. Might be worth remembering the white-out script at this point, folks.

    On an unrelated note, The Nightmare is the first documentary I’ve seen–about nightmares from sleep paralysis–that is legitimately also frightening. Streaming on Netflix now!

  14. @Mike Glyer

    And is it correct that “none of this effort was secret”? Then who told Quinn he committed a faux pas by making preliminary comments about it?

    The fact that we were doing it was not secret, there was no plan that the results of the analysis would be secret. The only faux pas was that it was agreed that results wouldn’t be made public until all analysis was complete and substantially agreed to by both parties, along with preparing a submission to the business meeting.

    Mr. Quinn’s report was early and incomplete from what had been agreed to. There remains joint analysis to do and information to prepare for the business meeting. That will still take a fair amount of time.

    Dave McCarty – Hugo Administrator
    MidAmeriCon II

  15. it was agreed that results wouldn’t be made public until all analysis was complete and substantially agreed to by both parties, along with preparing a submission to the business meeting.

    Thank you for the clarification.

  16. You know, if you really do think someone is dense, then at the very least there’s not much point in hurling it as an insult, and at worst, it’s cruel. And if you don’t think someone is dense, it’s pretty poor argumentation to call them such.

    White him out if you like (or check out this new browser extension for filtering web pages on the fly —, but seriously, can we skip the personal insults?

  17. ….that was a godstalk (and one that worked!), but seems to have been turned invisible somehow….

  18. snowcrash on February 13, 2016 at 1:44 pm said:
    ….that was a godstalk (and one that worked!), but seems to have been turned invisible somehow….

    The better to stalk a god, perhaps?

  19. I’m seriously side-eyeing claims that rules (parliamentary or otherwise) were broken in the process of arriving at the current state of things (especially given Kevin Standlee’s ongoing participation in the discussion). Even those of us who might be philosophically inclined to argue for a non-Robert’s Rules way of dealing with things seem to acknowledge that by the currently-agreed-upon rules, everything has been by-the-rules and above-the-board.

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