Hugo Committee, release the data

After agreeing to release the nomination and voting data for the Hugos this year, at the request of the EPH crowd, it seems the Hugo committee has changed its mind and is claiming it cant release the data without risking the privacy of Hugo voters. This change of heart causes me some concern because the Hugo committee has in its power the ability to settle a large number of arguments about the voting this year and also the ability to completely destroy any credibility that the voting committee has.

Before I explain why, lets get something out of the way. My day job consists of working in the medical research field and if there are concerns about peoples confidentiality and privacy with regard to the voting data, I am happy to offer advice, after talking to my number crunching colleagues, on how to remove necessary identifying information from the data to address this concern. In the medical research field patient privacy is everything so there is likely to be a way to redact the data so that it will still be useful for analysis while insuring that nobodies privacy is breached.

Onto the problem. It would seem that there are 4 possible outcomes from an analysis of the data. They are:

  1. Everybody voted honestly, there was no bloc voting, log rolling during the nominations or anything untoward by either side and the whole thing is a giant misunderstanding.
  2. The Puppies have been involved in bloc voting and seeking to rig the awards while the Anti-Puppies are entirely innocent of all charges.
  3. The Anti-Puppies have been involved in rigging the selection process and have been guilty of massive bloc voting while the Puppies are entirely innocent of all charges.
  4. Both sides are guilty of bloc voting and seeking to rig the selection and award process.

I think we can probably rule #1 out. Of the remaining options, a release of the data will settle the argument, one or both sides will be publicly embarrassed and can apologize for their behavior and there can be a movement towards reconciliation. I am open to suggestions for other possibilities but I believe my list properly enumerates all of the possible broad outcomes.

I suspect all this talk of “concern for privacy” is probably another way of saying, “People with something to hide are threatening us and don’t want their perfidy revealed”. I don’t think this should stop the committee from releasing the data These people have already acted badly and covering up for them wont do anything other than destroy the credibility of the Hugo voting process.

Through all of this debacle both sides have always maintained that the Hugo committee acted honestly and openly. Abiding by the voting rules and seeking to be impartial. If the Hugo committee decide not to release the data, after saying they would, it forces people to ask questions about the truth of this original belief.

If the data is released will it suddenly be demonstrated that the Hugo committee actually lied about the results and that they didn’t operate honestly after all? This will always be the suspicion regardless of the truth. Only by releasing the data, and doing so in a timely fashion, will they clear themselves of this suspicion.

Sorry Hugo committee you’ve backed yourself into a corner here. The data can be properly sanitized to maintain every bodies privacy and reneging on the release will not only make sure that arguments can’t be settled with data and foster the suspicion you are not nearly as honest and beyond reproach as everybody thought.

For the sake of the future of the awards, release the data. Nothing in there could be worse than what people will imagine you are trying to hide.