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Hacking American Idol

First, I have a confession to make... I'm a hacker.

But not by the Hollywood definition of someone who spends their time doing malicious things (ie cracking) on other people's computers. No, a true hacker is someone who marvels at the engineering world around them and seeks to understand it and ultimately... to make it better. A real hacker hacks everything they see, it is by no means limited to computers. (A true hacker will hack a shopping cart... and if you don't get that, you ain't a hacker.)

Now, that is not to say hackers don't use their knowledge or ability to skew things in their favor... but I'm not here to talk to you about hackers. I simply give you the above explanation so you don't think I'm some sort of criminal mastermind when you read the rest of this post. ;-)

As we all learned after the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, the TiVo folks know what sections of a show get replayed most often. -- Which brings me to American Idol.

Big, big money is wagered, both here and abroad, on who will become the next American Idol. Gamblers all over the globe bet millions last season. (get it yet?)

The select few people who have access to the TiVo logs could, potentially, make a small fortune betting on the outcome of American Idol. Since the outcome is selected by the viewers and it seems an obvious logical leap that viewers will replay the people they enjoy more often, then a fair approximation of the outcome could be gleaned by checking to see which parts of the show get replayed the most, then correlating that time sequence to the contestant. Do it over the whole season and I bet the data correlates incredibly well.

It is not a perfect methodology but I'd be willing to put a lot on money on it -- if I had the data. I just hope those TiVo folks limit who gets that data, it is clearly quite valuable.

Anyone wanting to try this at home could also use the bit torrent and assorted P2P networks to gather similar data. The more files shared the more people like that contestant.

And yes I know, only an odd duck would think about things like this... so sue me.

Comments (7)

I've had thoughts along sim... (Below threshold)

I've had thoughts along similar lines, though not exactly with TiVo. Let me first preface that this is strictly a thought experiment and I'm not condoning bootleg sales.

Record audio of each of the finalists over the weeding weeks. When it comes down to two weeks to go, make CD's of the remaining contestants and package them with the singer's picture on the front. Sell/distribute these in major market areas and track the most popular, lay down a bet on this singer. Sure it might take a modest capital investment, but you'd probably make this back in sales regardless of whether you won or lost the bet.

Sales of Reuben and Clay's ... (Below threshold)

Sales of Reuben and Clay's CDs before the finale indicated that Clay was going to clean house. But he didn't.

I'm not sure if that shows that the votes were rigged, or that there is just a great deal of variability.

While my first thought was ... (Below threshold)

While my first thought was that this topic was not worthy of Wizbang, who am I to say? This is just the old Madison Avenue's wet dream. A Neilson box in everyone's house. But, so what?

Then I get the rest of the story.

Truly scary, but slightly innocent for the first few years of the technology.

But, beyond that, there will be something new and scary (or wonderful) in the technical world every year. To be used for good or for whatever.

I like to think that what differentiates us from the moonbats is that we can see past the easy ways into paranoia and use the one fundamental gift that we all have.


I'd sue you, but, I don't have your address.

I'll be supporting New Orle... (Below threshold)

I'll be supporting New Orleans' own Michael Liuzza as he competes in Hollywood with the other aspiring idols.

The "logical leap" you make is the biggest problem here, from what I see. You'd have to make sure the data from the logs distinguishes between people reviewing a performance and people just replaying a mistake, or a cutting remark by Simon, or some Seacrest inanity (but I repeat myself)... Perhaps it's just me, but I would probably replay an embarrassing moment several times, and review a good performance maybe once more.

Your conclusion assumes the... (Below threshold)
Just Don:

Your conclusion assumes the telephone voting system in use is accurate. I believe that is a false assumption.

Clearly, from the voting results, the best talent is not always winning. Many, many complaints have been made that people simply cannot get through the busy signals to cast their vote.

The voting box is almost certainly being stuffed, probably with automatic dialers. The producers recently announced they will not change the voting system this year saying, basically, that it isn't perfect but it's the best they have.

So, unless the TiVo set are the ones with the automatic dialers, you may want to rethink the amount of your bet.

As for Clay vs. Rueben, there is a slight difference. One can sing, one cannot.

Actually, I'm not so sure t... (Below threshold)

Actually, I'm not so sure that the methodology that is useful for people looking at Janet Jackson's breast flopping out on national TV would work with AI. The titillation factor (pun only partially intended ex post facto) is not the same.

Hey, thanks for supporting ... (Below threshold)

Hey, thanks for supporting Michael Liuzza.
Even though he's gone from the show, thought you might want to hear some of his original music.
Short samples of it at his new website

Thanks again...






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