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TRAVEL: National Geographic Photo Results: “Un Rey sin Corona “ (A King without a crown)

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Originally, I was not going to write about it and let everything go but out of respect to the many people who supported me by voting and sharing the information of my photo entry (above) chosen by National Geographic editors as a weekly finalist to the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest I feel that it is my responsibility to all of you to explain what happened.

Let me put it in simple terms, thanks to all your efforts I should have won the “People’s Choice Award” as I had the highest vote average of all the photographs submitted in the category until someone hacked into the voting the night before the deadline and dropped my score down to second place. I swear that I am not a sore loser nor a paranoid freak, but I am a 100% sure that the entry who won is responsible for the hacking and I believe that I have the proof. I did write the Photo Contest organizers, as well as different Departments in the National Geographic organization with what I am about to tell you but no one ever answered me back.

Originally I thought there was something suspicious when I voted for each of the finalists, which immediately would show each entry’s current total score. There was an entry from Toronto, Canada from week 6 which not only had close to 3,000 votes, almost 3 times as many votes as the average entry, but it also had the highest  average vote from everyone else.

For the next couple of days I was extremely active promoting my photograph in social media, which thanks to your help it went viral. I shared it on both of my Facebook pages which reached over 2,500 people, plus in turn the post got “shared” by 32 other people. I also twitted repeatedly about it on my Twitter account, wrote about it on my blog and shared the information on mass emails with my fellow Professors, school staff, and told my classes by giving them the link to it. Over all I am estimating that I reached at least 3,500 people in those few days, not including the “shared” posts.

A couple of days later I went to bed with my entry having an average of 6.60 (out of possible 10) per vote and about 485 votes. I was not far behind in second place from the entry from Toronto. When I woke up the next morning I had 545 votes (about 60 new votes) and my total went down to 6.22 per vote which meant that everyone who voted overnight gave me a score of 1 (out of 10). Not only my entry got pushed down in a pretty short amount of time, but the leading entry also moved up as much as I went down. I thought this was a very strange event and started to have suspicions over the whole thing.

I (and all of you) kept pushing for votes and by the afternoon before the last day I was well ahead from everyone including the entry from Canada, my entry having an average score of over 7.00 per vote and about 735 total votes. While checking my entry I noticed that new votes were coming in at a fast pace but my total was not going up, instead it was going down which meant that I was getting scores of 1’s. I remember what happened the night before with my votes so I took a photo with my cell phone:
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At the time of the photo my scores were already going down but I still had 6.99 with 745 votes.
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Minutes later I went down to 6.90 average per vote with 798 votes (53 new votes with very low scores). The low votes were coming in so fast that I started taking screen shots of my computer as proof of the time. Keep in mind that until that moment, with all our hard work to get votes, we were only averaging about 250 votes a day as you can only vote once from a computer.
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at 4:58pm – 876 votes with a 6.71 avg per vote (78 new votes with scores of 1’s)
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at 5:09pm – 888 votes with a 6.64 avg per vote (12 new votes with scores of 1’s in 11 minutes)
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at 5:20pm – 903 votes with 6.55 avg per vote (15 new votes with scores of 1’s in 11 minutes)
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at 5:23 pm – 907 votes with 6.52 avg per vote (4 new votes with scores of 1’s in 3 minutes)
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at 5:28 pm – 913 votes with 6.49 avg per vote (6 new votes with scores of 1’s in 5 minutes)
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at 5:34pm – 923 votes with 6.43 avg per vote (10 new votes with scores of 1’s in 6 minutes)
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at 5:38pm – 929 votes with 6.39 avg per vote (6 new votes with scores of 1’s in 4 minutes)
In about an hour and a half my totals went from leading all entries with the highest average per vote of 7.00 and 735 votes, to 929 votes with a 6.39 avg per vote.  194 new votes in that short time (which is more than two votes per minute) when I could barely get 250 votes in a 24 hour period.
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My total kept going down and by 8:32pm my totals were 1,041 votes with 5.91 per vote
In less than 3 hours, 300 votes were added to my photograph totals dropping my average score per vote from 7.00 to 5.91 per vote. It is something impossible to have 300 different people vote in that short amount of time, especially after I had exhausted all the possible votes that I could get, plus the new voters were giving me scores of 1’s. As my votes were going down I checked the entry from Toronto and his votes were adding up as fast as mine, but instead of his average vote score going down they were moving up quite rapidly. With less than a day left in the competition I sat in second place knowing that whatever I would do it would get sabotage and my entry had no chance to win.
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Okay, so I sound like Pee Wee Herman in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure showing all the evidence after his bike was stolen. At the time I was pretty upset so on the night of Dec 13, I wrote National Geographic at no avail. Then the next day the Sandy Hook massacre happened and that event changed my whole perspective in so many things including this contest.

So what if I did not get the title “Viewer’s Choice”. I did play by the rules and believe that there is a purpose for everything. The only thing that I feel bad for is for disappointing all the people who supported me and took time to help me.

The entry that was awarded the Viewer’s Choice Award is by a talented young photographer and even though it is sad that he won it in such a suspicious way, it is still a pretty strong photograph.

Finally, I cannot let this bad experience get the best out of me because I have two very positive things happened to me that outweigh any negative:
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1.    The editors of National Geographic chose one of my photographs as a finalist among the 22,000 entries submitted from over 150 countries.
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2.    About 800 friends had my back and not only voted for my entry but shared it on social media.

For these two things I refuse to be bitter.

So like they say in Spanish “Soy un Rey sin corona”: I am a king without a crown, but thanks to all of you I do truly feel like a King … Thanks to everyone who voted, shared and gave me words of encouragement.

PS - Here is a very interesting thing: The winning photograph in the nature category, and eventual Grand Prize winner for the 2012 Nat Geo Photo Contest, was taken at a zoo. It is an amzing photograph but it leads to the philosophical question and discussion: should a photograph taken at a zoo be a legitimate entry for a nature category?

 http://backofthehouse.tumblr.com/post/40114043372

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