Precision Hacking

Take a look at the final vote tally in Time magazine’s online poll of the most influential people.

It doesn’t take long to come to the conclusion that things didn’t turn out quite as one would expect; I’d never even heard of a handful of the folks who ended up near the top of the list, including the winner, Moot, who both has way more votes than anyone else and a much higher average rating.

It turns out, however, that the degree of hacking goes far, far deeper than even what is at first apparent. Look back at the first letters of the top 21 finishers. They spell out the anagram “MARBLECAKE ALSO THE GAME.” I don’t know what that means, exactly, but it definitely means something to someone.

You can read the whole story on Paul Lamere‘s blog.

(Hat tip: Christopher Wolley)


It's a bit of a stretch to call this hacking. I'm no computer science major at all, and the technologies described are quite simple. The real story is rote incompetency on the part of Time, as the methods used to stuff online polls are well known, and Time still failed to stop them.

The impressive thing about the "hackers" is their level of organization.


Well "Marblecake" apparently means something to alot of people on the net... and its not what you'd call "family friendly"

see: urbandictionary

Phil Scott

Ugh, sadly I know. "The game" has simple rules. 1) You are always playing it. 2) You lose when you think about the game. 3) You can't win the game.

The 4chan folk like to add "also, the game" to the end of comments or posts which is usually followed by people complaining about "losing the game".

Marblecakes also seems to mean "hiding text inside a picture or other text, but I have a feeling that it originally meant something far more rated NC-17 at one point.


explanation of 'The Game' in relation to 4chan:



Marblecake is an IRC channel which was responsible for the ‘message to scientology' video and general anti-scientology information.


Phil is right that 'marblecake' has an X-rated meaning, but in this case, it most likely is in reference to the 'Message to Scientology' video.

And as for 'ALSO THE GAME', Phil is right that it refers to 'the game' of not thinking about 'the game'.

travis ormsby

It's petty solopsism to make a conclusion about hacking in the Time poll based on whether you have heard of the person or not.

Moot's meme machine is pretty influential, and even if you have never heard of him or 4chan, chances are pretty good that the ideas generated/incubated there have touched your life somehow

None of this is proof that the time poll wasn't hacked, and I would disagree with the assertion that moot is the most influential person in the world, but Levitt should maybe use a different yardstick than who he happens to know of to measure influence.

Aurelia Masterson

Hacking is clearly part of the problem, but I think the problem is also the online delusion. It's similar to what happens within Social Media communities: Everybody gets so wrapped up in their own little universe that the top users on, say, Digg are treated as Gods, the most influential and respectable members of that little society. But in the "real world" does anybody seriously care that they sit there and submit webpages to some website? No. But how else would this happen?

-Lil Wayne is Number 12
-T-Pain is #34
-Jonas Brothers are #33

Meanwhile Barack Obama and Timothy Geithner don't show up in the top. It's ludicrous, really.



I AM a computer science major but I can tell you that the word 'hacking' doesn't necessarily or even originally refer to the use of programming skills.

I think of the word 'hack' as generally making something do something it either wasn't meant to do, or something very difficult to do. Hard to explain really, but as a fun example, have a look at this MIT hacks


No offense, but this has been covered already by everyone who "needed" to cover it. Anyone this information is relevant to, probably already knew about it long ago.


Actually, it appears that Manny Pacquaio received the most votes with over 20 million, but has a much lower rating than moot--he comes in 22nd place overall. When ranked by order of votes received, marblecake is not mentioned.


@Aurelia - I'm pretty sure you didn't read the link. The Time poll was clearly manipulated by 4chan visitors after a laugh, and if you hadn't looked at the details you might initially put it down to the Internet's myopia. Not in this case - while the Internet jumps on bandwagons a lot, and 4chan is a massive part of that, normally you do see "deserving" people turn up fairly high in the list.

Garvit Sah

We have seen a surge in online voting / surveys / contests etc. in the recent past. These remain, however, highly susceptible to manipulations by hackers and spammers. Many of these such as voting fr the new 7 wonders of the world seem no more than a marketing gimmik.

The advice to the audience / readers is to always take it with maybe a bucketful of salt. Reputed magazines like Time should probably start emphasizing less on such online opinion polls.


And sure -Kobe Bryant is in the top 10 (#9) of the world's most influential people in government, science, technology and the arts?

Great survey there Time...


What you're dealing with here is not unknown. Time was hacked by something everyone is already familiar with in some respects, an old fashioned mob known as 4chan with some 21stC add-ons.

Think of a mob. Any old fashioned 100,000 people in a big public place. They perform as a mob. The very source of the term "mob behaviour". Also, not coincidentally, the source of the phrase "the madness of crowds"

Now give them perfect communication accross the mob. Instant and available at all levels of granularity from "all" through "any sub group" down to "individual to individual".

Then give them infinite reach in communications media online, as we all have.

Then give them perfect anonymity and no indicated direction of leadership. So there can be no leaders, how would they identify themselves ?

Now give them an infantile sense of humor.

Thats 4Chan....... there is no leader, there is no organization, there is just the mob "in anonymity"........ and instant communication.

m00t was the creator of the site (and presumably the guy who still pays the server bills which are colossal) but, of course, with perfect anonymity any poster can claim to be m00t or any other name on the site. As far as the mob are concerned they are all m00t. And there are boobs, lots of boobs.


Princess Leia

So this was something you worked on last weekend? Hmmm.... we missed you!

achilles3 in it's a moot point.
Time's question is moot.


i really wish the media would stop calling this hacking. this is cheating/vandalism at best. these guys really, desperately want to think that what they are doing is hacking, because in many circles being called a hacker is high praise. so if they cheat at some stupid online poll, and the world calls them hackers, then they've won and they are way more motivated to continue this nonsense.

i wish that one day they'd do something like this, and everyone in the media who chose to report on it would say "a bunch of people managed to rig some insecure online poll, and no one really cares", as that's actually the truth of the matter. does anyone really care that the poll's numbers were manipulated? does anyone trust an online poll were you don't have to register to vote? why egg these people on?

it was way cooler when these guys just focused on bringing down Scientology and annotating pictures of cats.