Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Technical Disenfranchisement of VU Voters?


WARNING: Deer In Headlights Syndrome may occur. If you notice symptoms of DIHS, do not panic. Read slowly, and keep your breathing steady.

Several people have told me that they're still unable to vote on the BlogLuxe Award Site because of technical issues. The usual description is that the voting button just isn't there at all. And I've done my due diligence to make sure that everybody's looking in the right place, so I'm convinced that there's a browser-specific issue or possibly a setting within the browser that's causing the problem. Unfortunately, SocialLuxeLounge isn't my blog, nor do I have admin rights to it so regardless of what the problem is I can't fix it myself. There is another alternative, and I'll get to that in a minute. First let's examine the actual problem and see if there's a solution that will allow you to rock your vote.

First thing, check the steps in the Handy Illustrated Guide To Voting For The BlogLuxe Awards and make sure you're looking in the right place. The BlogLuxe page isn't the friendliest interface I've ever seen, so it might be that you're just expecting it to be somewhere and it's actually somewhere else.

Second, if you've got a horizontal scroll bar across the bottom of the window, the HTML may not be rendering the way it should and the voting button may actually be way off to the east of where you are. Scroll on over there and see if it's just out back grazing or really AWOL.

If none of that solves the problem, and you have the option available, try a different browser. Despite all the industry standardization, not all browsers render things in the same way. I use Mozilla Firefox (3.07), and have had no problems with the technical functioning of the page. Usually Firefox, IE, Safari and Opera all behave pretty much the same way, but this is not guaranteed. If that's not an option for you (or didn't solve the problem), then read on.

Your browser may also be set up to block "active content", though the voting form is pretty standard HTML so I doubt that's the problem unless you have security set very, very tight on your browser and/or network. If this is the problem, Internet Explorer and Firefox will both display a bar across the top of the browser window telling you they've blocked some of the content on the page. This bar will usually offer a way to allow the blocked content too. So if you see the obnoxious bar at the top, find the button/link/widget that says "Options" or something similar and see what it can do for ya. You might also check your security settings (where those are depends on the browser you're using but you'll usually find them under "Tools" or "Options" or something similar). If you're on a network and the firewall is blocking this content, you're pretty well schtupped unless you're the network admin. And if you are the network admin, then you probably know more about this than me and you should be answering these questions.

Finally, if you're still stuck in disenfranchised voterland, my suggestion would be to email SocialLuxLounge at buzz@socialluxelounge.com and tell them you're having a problem. The more people they hear from (a) the more likely they are to pay attention and (b) the easier it will be to troubleshoot.
If you decide to do this be sure you include the following information:

1. The browser you're using and the version (you can find this information under "Help -> About..."
2. The operating system you're on (Windows XP, Vista, MacOS, Linux etc.)
3. How you're connecting i.e.: through a local area network, via cable modem, DSL, dialup (seriously??)
4. The symptoms you're seeing, as precisely as you can describe them. For example, I expected to see the rectangular "Vote" button underneath the blue box with the name in it and it simply wasn't there.
5. Any error message that might have appeared as the page was loading. these aren't always obvious. IE, for example, is famous for very quietly telling you at the bottom of the window that the page is "Done, but with errors on page" or it may tell you even worse than that. The absence of an error message doesn't mean that there wasn't an error, just that the browser didn't tell you about it if there was one. But if it does tell you something like this, that's important information for somebody trying to troubleshoot the problem. Also, watch the status bar at the bottom of the window as the page is loading. It will normally only tell you a bunch of useless stuff like "Transferring from yada-yada.com, but occasionally it'll slip in something useful that you might need to know.

And now for the part I said I'd get to later. While you're waiting patiently for SocialLuxeLounge to answer your cry for help, here's my offer to you ('cause I'm just a rock star that way and besides that I have no life). I'll cast your vote by proxy. All I need is a name (your real name, your first name, your Blogger ID, your initials, whatever... they don't really care, they just want something) and an email address (which probably should be yours okay?) to plug into the fields in the voting form. I can't tell you what -- if anything -- SocialLuxeLounge does with this information other than use it to keep track of who's voted in a given day. But I will only use this information to fill out a voting form. In other words, I'm not mining email addresses to sell to spammers. And believe me, I'd much rather have you voting for you than me voting for you, but if that's what it takes, that's what it takes. What's a few seconds and a couple of clicks in the grand scheme of my life, right? So if it comes to that, you can send your proxy information to me at jbengel [at] brandenburg3 [dot] com and I'll take care of ya.

Peace, yo.
Violence UnSilenced
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