I was overjoyed when I found out that cockeyed.com was a finalist in the 2003 Webby Awards.

The Webby awards are a very well known, albeit young institution on the web. These awards are given out every year in a celebration in San Francisco.
Cockeyed.com is my personal project, and while it has never won an award for design or user-friendliness, it has become a vast depository of quality, original content. ...Funny stories and pictures, more than 500 megabytes worth.

As soon as I found out about the "people's voice" awards at the Webbys, I created a humorous "how-to-vote" guide and placed it prominently on the front page of the site. Votes accumulated quickly, and within a few days cockeyed.com was winning the people's voice voting in the "Personal Web Page" category.

Towards the end of April, I noticed that a conspicuous write-in candidate was accumulating a large number of votes, and using a familiar "how to vote" guide to elicit more. It was the webpage for jackjohnson2002, a politician who ran for office in Prince George's County, Maryland in 2002. 

If you are interested, you can view the similarities between jackjohnson's voting guide and my own here.

Five other write-in candidates had also borrowed my voting guide, namely wethepeoplemd.com, statedemocracy.com, indiademocracy.com, ezquestionaire.com and weblobbying.com.

It was obvious to me that some person or organization was behind all six of these websites. Not only had they each stolen elements of my "how-to" guide, they were each using the same format, images and mostly the same text.

The answer was easy to find. Each site was designed and developed by V-Empower Inc.



V-Empower doesn't have precise information regarding who is in charge, but Statedemocracy.com does.
It states:

"The brain behind the creation of the foundation is Mr. Shukoor Ahmed. He has vast experience in serving the citizens of the country in various capacities. 
Mr. Ahmed received his Bachelors in Sciences with Computer Information Systems as elective subject from Strayer University and his Master of Arts in Public Policy from American University with a major in Lobbying and minor in Campaign Management.

Mr. Ahmed founded V-Empower Inc., an organization committed to contributing its
mite to strengthening democracy and empowering people. The company has created a number of political websites such as www.statedemocracy.com; www.weblobbying.com; www. ezcampaigns.com; www.estrawpoll.com; www.ezquestionnaire.com, just to name a few.

Shukoor Ahmed loves politics, and has run for political office. He was a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in 1998, and House of Delegates for District 23A in 2002.

The Vote Turns

On about May 10th, Jackjohnson2002.com surpassed cockeyed.com in the Webby people's voice awards.

This was a somewhat surprising event, given that jackjohnson2002.com no longer serves any function, contains only 9 pages of information, has no sites linking to it and generates practically no traffic. 

Cockeyed.com on the other hand, generates an average of 12,000 page views per day.

How can I tell how much traffic jackjohnson2002 gets? Well, it isn't a precise study, but a web service called alexa.com provides public profiles on most websites, ranking sites from 1 (yahoo.com) all the way down to 2,915,843 (2012delma.com). 

If you believe in the accuracy of alexa.com, you can see that jackjohnson2002 does not have very much traffic.


Site address Alexa rating (May '03) Online since Sites that link
theonion.com 1,186 March '95 12,973
fark.com 1,268 Sept.'97 2,734
thespark.com 7,378 Jan '97 3,697
retrocrush.com 15,387 n/a 567
cockeyed.com 36,874 Sept. '98 641
alltooflat.com 66,625 Oct.'01 1,035
Anil Dash 102,460 Aug '98 832
firestone.com 150,154 Jan '96 509
lightningfield.com 255,894 Jul '99 409
bressler.org 589,035 Jul '98 60
v-empower.com 2,103,862 n/a 5
2012delma.com 2,915,843 n/a 1
jackjohnson2002.com no data n/a 1

Check the Alexa rank of any site you wish:

The only reason it wasn't surprising is because and the ease with which online voting can be faked.

There are nine write-in candidates that are challenging the category nominees in the Webby awards: They are:

Webby Category Site  Connection to Shukoor Ahmed
personal jackjohnson2002.com powered by v-empower.com
education indiademocracy.com designed and developed by v-empower.com
community wethepeoplemd.com powered by v-empower.com
services ezquestionaire.com powered by v-empower.com
tech achievement statedemocracy.com powered by v-empower.com
spirituality alislam.org Nat'l Pres. Ahmadiyya Youth Assn. '99-'02
gov't & law statedemocracy.com powered by v-empower.com
activism weblobbying.com powered by v-empower.com
best practices statedemocracy.com powered by v-empower.com

view voting results for these categories as of May 18, 2003


I believe that someone generated a vast number of email addresses and voted for these sites many hundreds of times. Each email address can register one time and vote in each of the 30 webby award categories. If V-Empower had designed a fashion website, I'm certain they would have written it in, too.

Write-in candidates are at a disadvantage because casual voters will tend to simply select from one of the 5 nominees. 

I believe that someone did this to benefit him or herself and the status of the tech company V-empower.com, without regard to the rules of the webby awards, and without regard to the fate of the rightful winners.

Whoever is responsible for 1) the duplication of my voting guide and 2) web-award vote-tampering does not possesses either the honesty nor the integrity to serve in public office.

Thank you.
Rob Cockerham

If anyone at v-empower wishes to respond, I'm linked here: www.v-empower.com/webby_response.html.

People's Voice Awards at the Webbys | Write-in voting results screenshots | Comparing the voting guides

Last updated May 22rd, 2003.

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