X Factor: An interview with the “Twitter vote leak” source

When any punter hears that inside information might be leaking out, two questions naturally spring to mind. Can I get hold of it? And if I can’t, how confident can I be that other punters haven’t got hold of it either?

So when, after his shock eviction in the week 6 results show, Aiden dramatically announced on ITV1 that he’d heard he was in trouble from a voting leak on Twitter (“obviously that’s uncorroborated”, as Dermot quickly stepped in to point out), we knew we had to investigate on behalf of our readers.

Today we’re delighted to be able to share an interview with the person who was the source of that alleged leak – along with the Twitter account on which that person says she will reveal the state of the voting this coming weekend.

First, some background. The person in question posts on the Digital Spy X Factor forum under the name Abigail88 (not, she says, her real name), and it’s through this forum’s private messaging service that we contacted her. We had been aware, from monitoring the forums over the weeks, that Abigail88 had been posting similar information ever since week one.

But we also knew that caution was in order. This forum is completely anonymous – anyone can claim to have inside information, and many do. The only way to build up credibility is repeatedly to get it right, or close enough. Judge for yourselves – here are Abigail88’s threads from weeks one, two, three, four, five and six (Aiden week). They’re far from perfect, but from our default position of scepticism we gradually became convinced that she’s been close enough often enough to make her very interesting indeed.

Other users of the Digital Spy forum agreed: last Sunday, week seven, the forum was full of beseeching users posting “where is Abigail88?”, like disappointed supplicants awaiting the Delphic Oracle. Abigail88 didn’t show. Why? She says: “I had a deal with a newspaper about the figures for this week so couldn’t mention them anywhere… But I will be posting this week, don’t worry!”

(We should, of course, make it clear that we can’t ourselves guarantee the accuracy of the information, that we don’t know Abigail88’s real identity, and that spokespeople for the show have vigorously denied the existence of a leak. That said, we were absolutely fascinated by what Abigail88 had to say, so on with the interview!)

So why share the information?

“I do it for a number of reasons. To stir it up; to please the people who are making genuine requests to me to put up the results; and to prove people wrong – it is possible for the results to be leaked.

“My source was the one last year who revealed to the papers that Rachel Adedeji had finished top of the voting on week 3. Everyone thought that was absurd as she was in the bottom two both weeks before that, but it turned out to be true!”

(The show keeps the voting %s a closely-guarded secret during the series, but shares them after the final. Here are last year’s.)

The week 6 Digital Spy thread had Paije coming bottom and Aiden third from bottom, and it sparked a flurry of “save Paije” posts. Could that have affected the result?

“The votes can be very tight. So any little boost can help, like a leak, as people panic and vote twice instead of once, maybe.”

Were you alarmed when Aiden blurted out the Twitter line on ITV1?

“It did alarm me when it happened. I think he was being a bit sulky and wanted to get back at the producers. His friend actually contacted me (the one who texted Aiden about the results) and thanked me as Aiden wasn’t mentally prepared to leave before his friend told him it might happen.”

What do you think the producers will have thought of it?

“I genuinely think the producers panicked when Aiden mentioned it. Mentioning it to 16 million people undermines the credibility of the show… Producers are 100%, categorically, against voting leaks.”

So how many people working for the show will know how the votes are going?

“It’s kept basically top secret. Only about 20 or so people know and they sign a contract to secrecy – my source won’t be found.”

Do you have any way of guessing how many others might be in your position?

“Very very few people are in my position. I am told the leaks by a source and she is one of the very few people in the know. She doesn’t always get the exact finalised percentages but she has a pretty clear idea how the order is looking before the voting lines close.”

How easy would it be to profit from that knowledge?

“For someone in the know, it would be quite hard to place a bet… This is because most of the votes are actually cast in the live results show on a Sunday so you would expect big shifts in the voting to occur… So it is hard to place a bet (if you did, it would be a realtively small one) because this year, the % have been as close as ever, which can be probably justified by the pretty random bottom 2s we have been getting recently”.

What information could be shared about voting percentages this year?

“There tends to be a big four who usually become the finalists… The big four this year, despite Mary coming top in one of the early weeks, has been Cher, Rebecca, Matt, One Direction – well above the rest… There is a huge gap in the percentages between the big 4 and the bottom. And the contestants in these two groups are close together in terms of %.”

So what happened with Cher last week?

“She dropped massively in her percentage from Saturday to Sunday’s results. She was not even in the bottom four on Saturday night. Paije, though was always in the bottom three.”

So there we have it. Make of this what you will – for what it’s worth, our view is that Abigail88’s public track record on the Digital Spy forums speaks for itself, that extreme caution is called for from a betting perspective given the potential for votes to change, and that her views on how few people have inside information should be reassuring for punters in terms of the integrity of the betting markets.

We will certainly be eagerly watching out this weekend on Abigail88’s Twitter account – it is www.twitter.com/inside__man (and while you’re at it, why not get alerted to new Sofabet posts through Twitter, too? We’re at www.twitter.com/sofabet. As always, we’ll be posting on Saturday and Sunday with our thoughts on this week’s elimination betting).

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4 comments to X Factor: An interview with the “Twitter vote leak” source

  • Iain

    As I said on Digital Spy : Sofabet, do you actually believe there is something in this bit of your blog article ? :

    ” The week 6 Digital Spy thread had Paije coming bottom and Aiden third from bottom, and it sparked a flurry of “save Paije” posts. Could that have affected the result?

    “The votes can be very tight. So any little boost can help, like a leak, as people panic and vote twice instead of once, maybe.” ”

    i.e. that Paige jumped from bottom to out of the bottom 2 as a result of Abigail88’s “leak” and in week 3 did TreyC’s supporters generally just stop voting once she had been declared “safe” ?

    Does word spread like wildfire to the millions that know nothing about the digi dicussions ?

    Aiden declaring about a voting leak doesn’t mean there was one, possibly not more that he just read about some claim of a leak ?

    I’d have expected more of a healthy air of scepticism.

    You say “our view is that Abigail88’s public track record speaks for itself” Who is “our” ? The views on Digital Spy about Abigail88 are very mixed.

  • Daniel

    Hi Iain,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree with you that a healthy air of scepticism is always recommended. The words you quote are Abigail’s. I will reiterate that the original Aiden leak went well beyond the forums, to Facebook and Twitter campaigns, as stated in our article last week on ‘That Twitter Vote Leak’.

    Do I think the leak changed the result? My honest answer to your question is: I’m not sure, but I do think it’s possible.
    What evidence would I use to justify that answer? The well-known ‘sympathy bounce’ phenomenon suggests that when an act’s supporters are motivated to vote, it can make a huge difference to their finishing position, especially when there are plenty of performers left and not so many votes between those at the bottom.

    We can only speculate, of course, and you are right to question Abigail’s words, but I do believe there are two valid sides to this argument: yours and Abigail’s.

  • Andrew

    Hi Iain,

    Here’s my take on your question (I’m Daniel’s colleague on Sofabet and that’s what Daniel meant by “our” – indeed, as you say, the view on Digital Spy is mixed to say the least). Abigail88’s week 1 and 3 threads were inaccurate, but weeks 2, 4 and 5 were accurate, and not all of those calls were obvious. Could it have been just luck? Yes, of course it could, absolutely.

    In week 6, I do think that Paije will have got more votes as a result of Abigail88’s thread, because by then I think those threads had got quite a following on Digital Spy, much more so than they had in week 3. As for spreading to millions – well, all we can say is that it apparently reached Aiden. What we don’t know is how many votes it might have taken to affect the outcome.

    So, there are two possible ways you could read all this: (a) Abigail88’s order was accurate, and the thread inspired votes for Paije which lifted him above Katie and Aiden; or (b) Abigail88’s order was guesswork, and the bottom two happened to be Aiden and Katie.

    Am I completely convinced that (a) is the right interpretation? No, certainly not. Do I find it plausible enough to consider, at least? I do. It seems to me that healthy scepticism goes both ways – I have an open mind here.

    Finally, while you are absolutely right that just because Aiden mentioned it doesn’t make it true, I do think it made it worth looking into! 🙂

  • […] how the public have voted before the show’s host Dermot O’Leary reveals all. A user known as abigail88 is the source of the X Factor leaks, which she broadcast on Digital Spy’s forums. He/She has since set up the inside_man Twitter […]

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