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EXCLUSIVE: Have two Brisbane techs already revealed the triple j Hottest 100?

UPDATE: The inside story of how four techs broke open the Triple J Hottest 100

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triple j goes into lockdown this week, as voting for the 2012 edition of the station’s enormously popular music poll closes and listeners begin the long wait to find out which song takes out top spot on the now traditional Australia Day countdown. But the station’s engagement with social media during this year’s voting process may have inadvertently torpedoed the anticipation.

The brainchild of Brisbane resident and online marketer Nick Drewe, The Warmest 100 has used statistics gleaned from votes posted to Facebook, Twitter and other social media hubs to build what Drewe thinks is an accurate prediction of the final countdown.

“I was on Facebook on Sunday night two weeks ago,” Drewe explained to TheVine on Friday. “A few of my friends had posted their votes on the Hottest 100. I was just browsing through, having a look at them, and I noticed the URL structure of each of those pages had the same pattern.”

Drewe established that each vote carried with it a unique identifier, and began peppering Twitter with a clutch of different search queries. Within an hour of logging onto Facebook he had accumulated 6,000 votes and applied them to a spreadsheet. “From there, it’s a pretty simple process to calculate a prediction or estimate of what the Hottest 100 is going to be,” he said.

By the end of last week, and two days before voting closed, Drewe had collected 20,000 more submissions, which when compared to the 1.3 million votes tallied in last year’s poll gave the Warmest 100 an impressive sample size of 2%. Joining forces with ex-We Are Hunted staffer Tom Knox, together the two called in a bunch of favours to create Warmest100.com.au.

“I spoke to Tom, and he suggested I put up a microsite where we could make all the songs playable,” Drewe told TheVine. “Just something that people could come to and see a prediction of the Hottest 100 and learn a bit about how we pulled it together. Make it a fun project.”

Drewe was careful to describe The Warmest 100 as a prediction, rather than a leak -- he says it’s not his intention to ruin triple j listeners’ Australia Day Celebrations. The site is carefully laid out with a number of safeguards protecting those who might be curious about the team’s methods, but want to remain in the dark about the final countdown.

“If they choose to they can scroll down and start seeing the list from 100. They can listen to a few songs if they want and keep scrolling down towards number one. And as they keep getting to the top of the list we’ll continue with the warnings that they might ruin their Australia Day,” Drewe said. “We think it’ll be quite indicative of the final list.”

To investigate Drewe’s methods, TheVine contacted University of Queensland Chair of Applied Statistics, Professor You-Gan Wang. “Assuming everything’s independent of each other,” Professor Wang said, “and if the 26,000 is a random sample among the total potential of 1.3 million … I think with the top 100, you might get 90 right. You might get 92 or you might get 95. It’s unlikely you’ll get all 100 correct.”

But Professor Wang also explained that the closer the sample list gets to number one, where a greater percentage of overall votes resides, the more accurate it becomes. It’s an opinion that matches Drewe’s own observations: as the sample size has grown, the top songs tend to lock into place or move just one position up or down the list.

“Towards the bottom of the list, there might be only a few votes difference between each song, so they’re a little more likely to change positions,” he told TheVine. “Whereas the difference between numbers two and three on the list is 52 votes. If we’ve got 2% of the vote, translating that into the overall number of votes that will be submitted would equate to 2,600 votes between numbers two and three. The difference between the number of votes in the top ten is a lot more significant than the difference between positions 80 and 90, for example.”

Even if the predictions are off the mark—something neither Drewe nor Professor Wang anticipate—The Warmest 100 exposes the pitfalls of using social networking to virally market the poll, particularly when, at the time of writing, betting sites such as sportsbet.com.au, Luxbet and sportingbet are still offering odds on the countdown.

But gleaning votes from Facebook, Twitter and the like casts a final query over Drewe’s sample. “Are these people, who are posting their votes to Twitter and Facebook, representative of the average triple j listener?” he wonders. “I think the demographics line up pretty well – it is a youth radio station and they would be attracting a fairly tech savvy and socially engaged audience.”

Professor Wang agrees: “Maybe certain types of people use Facebook, and what is the nature of that relationship to music? I don’t know – unless you have historic data on whether Facebook’s accurate and test if it’s actually a good source of data. But common sense tells me that it’s probably valid. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be valid. I think it’s a good way of collecting samples … It’s a good way to forecast or predict the top 100, especially. I think they’ll probably get most of them right.”

Late on Sunday night, just two hours before the close of voting, Drewe conducted his last collection of data, pushing his sample up to a massive 35,081 votes – or roughly 2.7% of the anticipated final vote – further refining his countdown’s final tally.

“It’s going to be an exciting thing for us, sitting there with our own list, ticking it off as each song comes on. We’ll only have one shot at this – triple j won’t do the same thing twice, letting people freely publish their votes online in such a public manner.”

Voting for the triple J Hottest 100 is now closed. Visit warmest100.com.au

Matt Shea (@mrmatches)

UPDATE: In the interest of readers who don't wish to know the ALLEGED results, please refrain from discussing supposed winners in the comments section.

9 comments so far..

  • the_mo's avatar
    Commenter
    the_mo
    Date and time
    Monday 21 Jan 2013 - 1:22 AM
    hipster-hop wins the day... i am sad :(
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  • lukeryan's avatar
    Commenter
    lukeryan
    Date and time
    Monday 21 Jan 2013 - 9:36 AM
    Well, at the very least Sportsbet already appears to have pulled their Hottest 100 betting...
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  • MattShea's avatar
    Commenter
    MattShea
    Date and time
    Monday 21 Jan 2013 - 11:00 AM
    Luxbet also. Looks like Sportingbet closed their betting with the close of the poll.
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  • Woofer's avatar
    Commenter
    Woofer
    Date and time
    Monday 21 Jan 2013 - 1:08 PM
    Missing two songs completely plus there are more accurate lists with a larger sample size out there. Was hardly difficult to do, all you needed to do was do a Twitter search on the URL common to everyone who shared and you got access to around 50,000 votes.

    Top songs are in about the right order though.
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  • NiteShok's avatar
    Commenter
    NiteShok
    Date and time
    Monday 21 Jan 2013 - 1:13 PM
    If it was hardly difficult to do, Woofer, why didn't you do it?
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  • Woofer's avatar
    Commenter
    Woofer
    Date and time
    Monday 21 Jan 2013 - 1:29 PM
    I did. Counted approx 30,000 votes in fact. But I stopped with a few days to go given someone else was using the same source and was almost at 40,000 votes.

    My top 10 was:

    Thrift Shop
    Little Talks
    Breezeblocks
    Elephant
    Lost
    I Will Wait
    Get Free
    Holdin' On
    FLWOGB
    Sweet Nothing
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  • MattShea's avatar
    Commenter
    MattShea
    Date and time
    Monday 21 Jan 2013 - 1:39 PM
    Missing songs were typos. They were present on the raw lists. Warmest have fixed the error.
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  • crystaltowers's avatar
    Commenter
    crystaltowers
    Date and time
    Wednesday 23 Jan 2013 - 11:09 AM
    It's funny how the Hipster 100 is now so hyped beyond all logic.
    Triple J - who arrogantly playlist only what they deem "credible" music, intended to last the ages. Yet, look at the history of the list.
    In 2000, "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus was #4.
    In 1995, "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio was #3.
    In 1998, "Nookie" by Limp Biskit was #8.

    I'm not even bashing these songs. Issue is: they draw a hypocritical line in the sand between "credible" and "fickle pop" music, every single day. Yet in reality, they wouldn't even air a significant portion of the popular songs in their *own* history. Music snobbery is a tough gig.


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  • Marcus's avatar
    Commenter
    Marcus
    Date and time
    Wednesday 23 Jan 2013 - 11:48 AM
    I don't know if it's intended to last the ages crystaltowers - even great pop music has a pretty short shelf life. And they never say it's credible as such. It's a popularity contest picked by listeners, so it's a given that there'll always be a few songs that were more of that particular year than others.

    Overall I'd say it's a pretty accurate snapshot, and sometimes that snapshot is confronting to people that probably never listen to the station. Plus 'Gangsta's Paradise' is still pretty great.
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