Rallying the troops
Over the last several days, I've had a couple of friends ask me to vote for them in online contests. One of them lets you cast a vote once a day, and as I've seen my friend's entry rise in the stats, I've realized that success in these types of contests is due more to an ability to mobilize masses of friends than it is to innate talent. Don't get me wrong — I wouldn't support either of these people if I didn't think they had talent and deserved to succeed — but I'm not actually invested in either competition and I suspect that most of the people who are voting are in a similar position.
I got to thinking about how I might try and fix such a system so that more people were voting for people besides their friends. I think I would set up the voting system so that everyone who wanted to vote for someone would also be presented with four other randomly selected entries and required to cast a "second place vote" for one of them. For the sake of honesty, the second place vote would probably need to count less than a "first place" vote, but since the second place votes would presumably be made without personal bias, they could end up determining the winner.