Verifying Votes: How We Do It

Hey everyone, we thought you all might like to know a little bit about the process we take to verify votes. Managing and enforcing rules in a live contest can be hard, but in our experience, we've always been able to iron those things out in our review phase after voting is complete.


To verify votes, we use system reports that pull IP addresses, voting time/dates, and emails of voters.


Here is what we look for:

  • Large strings of clearly programmatically created addresses (123456@gmail.com, 1234567@gmail.com, etc)
  • Large strings of similar emails coming in at regular intervals (something like, every 3 seconds, 5 seconds, etc)
  • More complex patterns of first and last names mixed together in 'random' order
  • Emails that just didn't actually exist
  • Emails with nonsensical names
  • Emails with punctuation at the beginning
  • Emails daring the review process (noonereallyhere@fake.com, cantemailme@nothing.com)
  • Emails with two domains (someone@gmail.com@yahoo.com)
  • Large strings of votes by the same IP address in almost robotic timing (1 vote every minute), or
  • Large strings of votes by the same IP address that break the rule of 1 vote per 24 hours


The tools we use:

  • We verify emails as real using two separate tools, BriteVerify (an enterprise tool for email verification), and Bulk Email Checker, a tool similar to BriteVerify, but with a slightly different tool set and database.
  • Excel. Simply sorting by different columns made the fake votes really easy to spot in most cases (any of the various red flags from above were highlighted and logged)
  • Reports pulled from the Reviewr platform showcasing IP addresses and email address reports


During the process:

If we aren't sure, we run it again in a different tool. We assume everyone tries to compete fairly and that any fake votes were placed without the knowledge of the team.


The rule of Startup Weekend is to pitch and build new ideas, regulating this is up to the local Organizers. When voting is completed and teams move into final rounds of judging, we will look more closely to ensure all teams are on an even playing field. If you have any info about a specific team that you believe was built and selling before Startup Weekend, please let us know.


Changes based on GSB growth:

For 2015, we planned to no longer allow email voting as we had many issues in 2014 with fraudulent votes. However, GSB runs in many parts of the world that do not have access to social networks like Twitter and Facebook. To help allow us to keep GSB open to 60+ countries and 230+ communities, please ensure your team and your fans are playing fairly and voting the correct way.


Thanks again for being a part of GSB, please let us know if you have further questions, as always, we'll be at gsb@techstars.com to answer them.


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