News

Two HackMIT teams disqualified for misrepresenting their hacks

Prizes for second-place MIT sophomore team ‘Seamless’ revoked after an investigation into plagiarism accusations

7111 hackmit
HackMIT, one of the largest college hackathons, draws undergraduate students from all over the country. This year, two of the top eight teams were disqualified after an investigation by HackMIT organizers.
Chaarushena Deb—The Tech

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: A previous version of this article misstated the class year of Richard Z. Ni '15 (not '16).

Two of HackMIT’s top eight finalists were disqualified last month after it was discovered that they had “misrepresented” what they accomplished, according to a HackMIT blog post. One of the teams, a group of three MIT sophomores calling themselves Seamless, originally came in second and were awarded $3,000. The other team, AgileAssault, did not make the top three, but received a $1,000 prize for placing in the top eight.

Seamless presented code that could allegedly animate still images and smooth the transition between looping videos, basing their work on a Microsoft paper published last year. The team consisted of Kevin Kwok ’17, Nikhil Buduma ’17, and Guillermo Webster ’17. The contestants claimed to have implemented an algorithm that was originally the result of the collaboration of multiple people at Microsoft Research and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

HackMIT, which with 900 participants was among the largest hackathons in the country this year, was prompted to investigate the possibility that Seamless had cheated when other participants pointed out that the demo videos they presented as their results were identical to those published by Microsoft Research.

The competition operates under an “honor code” according to its organizers — participants are not allowed to work on projects before the hackathon starts and must state any borrowed code. “When an issue comes up like this, HackMIT’s policy is to give the team the benefit of the doubt,” HackMIT Director Katie Siegel ’16 said in an interview with The Tech. “We sit down and talk it over with them, and try to get a better sense of what is going on. That being said, we also don’t want to reward people who misrepresent their accomplishments.”

“They did implement everything they said, but going over it there was some confusion as to what kind of results they actually got,” said Siegel. “It was difficult to see if their implementation was correct, so they agreed to voluntarily step down.” Her statement seemed at odds with a HackMIT blog post that said the organization “disqualified” two projects.

The videos presented onstage were taken from the Microsoft researchers’ webpage, Siegel said, though she added that the Seamless team only “used them in the context of showing the power of the algorithm.”

However, in a recording of their final HackMIT presentation, which is available online, the Seamless team members are seen indicating multiple times that the looping videos were generated by their own implementation of Microsoft’s algorithm.

During their presentation, Buduma stated, “Now our algorithm then operates… to remove that cut to make that, again, a seamless loop. The way this works is we identify regions of various periodicities, based on the methods that were described in that Microsoft paper. We are able to reconstruct that using the graph-cutting algorithm to make this seamless product.” The seamless product that he refers to is Microsoft’s looping video of drummers.

At another point in their presentation, Buduma again refers to “our algorithm,” while displaying Microsoft’s looping video of a dancer.

In addition to winning second place, Seamless was also awarded a sponsor prize from Rough Draft Ventures for “creating ‘ooh’ inspiring moving images,” according to the firm’s Twitter account. They were invited to pitch at Rough Draft Ventures for the opportunity of up to $25,000 in funding, but this prize was revoked in light of their disqualification.

However, Siegel still maintains that Seamless wasn’t explicitly found guilty of any cheating. “Basically, Seamless chose to step down rather than going through the process of proving their code worked,” Siegel said. “I want to make it very clear that they weren’t incriminated or found guilty of anything.”

According to the copyright notice on Microsoft’s online publication of their “Automated video looping” research paper, “Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or all of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page.” However, Seamless seemed to present Microsoft’s videos as their own, without explicitly citing the Microsoft paper as their source.

The Seamless team members did not respond to requests for comment.

According to Siegel, the second disqualified team, AgileAssault, “used a project that was presented at another hackathon a week before. They wrote different code but the idea behind it was the same. In a discussion about their results afterwards it was decided that the two projects were too similar, and they agreed to step down.”

AgileAssault was created by Matthew Duran, a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. During his final presentation, he described his project as an application that provided a “gamified approach to learning how to program and practicing programming through real-time competition with your peers.” AgileAssault had been submitted to HackUMBC the week before, where, according to Duran’s LinkedIn page, it had placed in the top 10.

HackMIT was notified that Duran’s project had previously been presented when they were contacted by HackUMBC organizers.

After watching the presentations of the top eight teams, judges and audience members determined the top three finalists by vote. To help prevent future misrepresentations, HackMIT plans to focus on improving their judging model.

In the same blog post that announced the disqualifications, Aneesh Agrawal ’17 wrote, “We’ll be revamping our judging model for next year and keeping special note of potential code of conduct violations.”

“This year, we realized that ‘the rules’ aren’t entirely clear to everyone, which leads to subjective interpretation and honest mistakes,” said Richard Z. Ni ’15, an organizer for HackMIT. “Next year, we plan to clearly communicate what’s expected of participants and exactly what constitutes a valid entry.”

91 Comments
1
Anonymous over 4 years ago

As a participant in HackMIT, I wonder why The Tech chooses to prominently publish such a negative and inappropriately accusatory piece while not publishing any article about the aspects of HackMIT that created an exceptional experience for nearly 1,000 hackers from around the world. HackMIT co-directors Jennifer Zhang '17 and Katie Siegel '16, along with the entire TechX team, overcame herculean organizational challenges to put on a smoothly-run, all-around world-class hackathon.

If the director of HackMIT says that Seamless has not been found guilty of anything, it is reckless and insulting of The Tech to suggest that she's lying. To publish a headline news article openly skeptical of the directors' own statements, while making thinly-veiled accusations and implications about students who have not been found guilty of anything, is not appropriate.

2
Anonymous over 4 years ago

This is disgusting. Jennifer F. Switzer and Kath Xu, have you looked at all on what the publication of this article means for the students involved? I completely agree with post #1 anon. The Tech has been degraded to writing unfounded pieces such as this that, instead of highlighting positive aspects of campus culture that many students work hard to bring to MIT, they choose to capitalize on poor journalism that not only is a personal affront to the members involved in Seamless, but also misrepresents the entire situation. You even published the full names of those involved. Have the authors who wrote this piece, or any of the Tech staff, considered the implications this article brings to not only the public reputations of these MIT students, but also their individual mental health?

Imagine attending an event such as HackMIT and working hard to produce a hack, as these students did, and possibly making an innocent mistake, then now having to deal with having your entire story exploited by The Tech to the entire campus, damaging your personal image to everyone around you. I can't believe that this article exists. I'd recommend you look in a mirror and see if you're satisfied with what you've done.

3
Anonymous over 4 years ago

This article is a disgrace to The Tech as an organization, especially one that is supposed to deliver news and keep the MIT community well-informed. You disgrace the organization and its history by writing what is basically a TMZ scandal article and calling it news. You didn't think that HackMIT, one of the largest hackathons in the country, was worth writing about when it happened. Instead you decided to single out people and teams and write an article that trashes individual students and the organizers by over-sensationalizing what was a handled misunderstanding.

Are you that desperate for an article?

4
Anonymous over 4 years ago

While posts #1 and #2 bring up fair criticism, there is no ignoring the fact that at the end of the day, the Seamless team publicly participated in the hackathon and was subsequently "disqualified", according to the official HackMIT blog. Not only is it fair for The Tech to report on this, one could argue that it may even be their responsibility to report on it. (It's a simple check-and-balance system. Without proper reporting, there would be less incentive for TechX and others to improve the system going forward.)

As for not highlighting the positive aspects of the hackathon, I agree to an extent. The Tech has reported on HackMIT in the past, but definitely could do more of it now that it has become quite a big thing on campus. It also has to walk a fine line between reporting and promoting, so I understand where they're coming form.

5
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I agree with the previous comment. It is unacceptable to write an article that is focused on the harm done to these two teams when there is no evidence to back anything. All HackMIT directors (including those quoted in the article) feel the same way. This article is rude and unfair and only does harm.

6
Anonymous over 4 years ago

The HackMIT team themselves released a statement in which they said: "Unfortunately, two of the teams in our announced top 8 misrepresented what they accomplished this weekend, and weve disqualified their hacks."

All the comments above have fine reasons for complaint, but bear this in mind.

7
Anonymous over 4 years ago

As a close friend of one of the members of Seamless, this article is disgusting. First of all, it is absolutely not the Tech's place to play judge, jury, and executioner for fellow MIT students. To make completely unfounded accusations after the body who should be investigating the situation, TechX, has said that none of the parties have been found guilty, is a shameful act, and it's sad the Tech has stooped this low. This article portrays it as a concerted effort to plagiarize, but I can say with 100 certainty that it was simply a long, unfortunate chain of misunderstandings, between TechX, the judges, and the members of Seamless. To then assert that you know better than the people who were there and witnessed the situation first hand by blatantly accusing people of intentional plagiarism and portraying TechX as a lying, dishonest organization is far worse than anything described in this article.

This is the kind of crap one would expect from a tabloid, not a legitimate publication.

8
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Wow. Just wow. This is so disappointing. Pretty disgusting. Having spoken to participants, including a few of the accused that you discussed, have very different perspectives, and this article's complete lack of perspective makes me want to use paper copies of this to line my friend's hamster's cage. Where are the accused points of view? Any substantial evidence? The title is very misleading. Pull yourselves together, Tech, poor excuses for journalism like this is detrimental to everyone.

9
Anonymous over 4 years ago

It is really sad to see this article pointing out teams and singling out names when theres hardly any real evidence for some wrongdoing. The director Katie Seigel herself suggests that it might just be a misunderstanding during the presentations, which surely can happen in the heat of the moment. She categorically states they weren't found guilty. I really feel that such an article shouldn't appear in the Tech, it could cause considerable stress for the students mentioned. I hope the Tech publishes an apology soon, because I think this article is really unfair on the students mentioned.

10
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I think post #5 summarizes the effect of this article best: "rude and unfair and only does harm."

Why was there not even an article about HackMIT when it happened? It's among the biggest and most prominent student-run events that happens on campus all year.

11
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I agree with previous comments that this article may have some serious implications for some students mentioned in this article and that the facts could have been stated in a more neutral, identity-preserving manner, especially given that the teams did not cheat and did implement everything they said.

Depicting students in such a way can add more stress and concerns to these students as opposed to protect them in such confusion.

In addition, the Tech's description of HackMIT has not necessarily highlighted all the positive aspects of this event and mainly focused on the issues related to HackMIT.

12
Richard Ni over 4 years ago

(full disclosure - hackmit organizer, quoted in the article. btw I'm a '15.)

I'm really disappointed by this... seriously, I have two papers due tomorrow and seeing this is just absolutely deflating. I feel so bad for the students named in this, because I really think it was an honest mistake that shouldn't follow them on the internet forever and potentially ruin their lives. These are your fellow students that you're writing about - we (HackMIT organizers) wouldn't have even considered naming them unless we had 100 proof of malintent.

Students do so many awesome things here and it's just so sad that you choose to go out of your way to find something negative on shoddy evidence. It's sad to see you manufacture a story once you should've realized that a story wasn't there.

I was disappointed to not see an article about HackMIT in the Tech at all after the event happened, but I understood - again, a lot of people do awesome things here and the Tech can't write about all of them.

But seeing you guys go out of your way to write a negative story, and imply that we (the HackMIT organizers) were being dishonest as well... man, that really hurts. So many of us put so much work to get HackMIT organized. And so many people had so many positive things to say to us - several MIT administrators emailed us in congratulations for hitting a "grand slam," and publicly tweeted about a "great success!" Our exit surveys were overwhelmingly positive from both participants and sponsors. Several students and sponsors went out of their way to personally thank us. One of them wrote a blog post about us on his company's website. That made all the all nighters working on organizing HackMIT worth it.

It's understandable that you wouldn't write something positive about us, but it's so deflating to see something so unabashedly negative.

You also could've written a story about Beaverdash, the winning team of MIT students who made an app for MIT students to use. That would've been a fun story. Instead you chose this?

You're not writing about some nameless, faceless corporation... you're writing about your classmates. That doesn't mean you should throw away objectivity, but it's clear to me that you've gone out of your way to be negative for page clicks. Let's be real, it's not like you wrote this out of objective newsworthiness - if HackMIT winners were such a big deal to you, then you would've written about them to begin with.

13
Anonymous over 4 years ago

You might consider writing a story about the principles of libel...

Well, I'm sure their lawyers would be happy to bring you up to speed. You've definitely done harm to their reputations and should make amends. Start by immediately retracting this online and then write a more balanced article, without names.

14
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Most of the above comments complain about the Tech's reporting, but my reaction was that the behavior of the participants was disgusting. It is disgraceful that they could misrepresent their work in that way, and allow themselves to accept the prize. HackMIT clearly needs to have a large cultural change. I hope it is just something about the competition that brings out this sort of behavior in participants, rather than a failing of morals at MIT in general.

8: "Where are the accused points of view?" The article states "The Seamless team members did not respond to requests for comment".

15
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I think Richard Ni hit the nail on the head with his comment. Instead of writing about HackMIT objectively, you've went out of your way to focus on the negative and to make unfounded accusations against both the students involved and the organizers of HackMIT.

Although I am all for the freedom of speech, I think it's important to be aware of the impact your words have on the reputation and health (mental and physical) of the students involved. Calling out the members of Seamless and AgileAssault by name really serves no greater purpose.

16
Anonymous over 4 years ago

To address #14, sure, as the hackathon movement expands, there will invariably be more incidents of dishonesty and there needs to be some stronger check against that than simply the honor code.

However, this article represents an absolute failure by the Tech to report the story in an objective manner with regard to the students mentioned in this article. It is a failure by not only the authors of this article, but also those at the Tech who approved and propagated this article up the chain to be published.

I think it is generally agreed upon that Seamless was not being completely honest, but this article, like Richard Ni mentioned above, seems more focused on sensationalizing the incident for the sake of page views. HackMIT happened over a month ago, and yet they thought it was relevant to now post an article mentioning each of the accused by name with blatant disregard for the implications that publishing such an article has on their futures, and seems like an overwhelmingly disproportional response for what amounts to a lapse in judgment.

With regards to the fact that Seamless declined to comment, it's probably because they didn't want their words twisted against them, which let's face it, the Tech would invariably have ended up doing.

With mental health being at the forefront of the Institute's collective thought process, it seems downright inappropriate for the Tech to publish such a defamatory article with no consideration for the subjects' mental well being and reputations. I cannot begin to express my complete and utter disappointment with what the Tech has done by publishing this story.

17
Anonymous over 4 years ago

16: "probably because they didn't want their words twisted against them, which let's face it, the Tech would invariably have ended up doing" I think you are falling into the trap yourself of going out of your way to be negative. I thought it was a well researched piece. Naming the students will undoubtedly make them pay dearly for their misconduct, and I am sure they now wish they had not risked their reputation for the sake of a trifling competition, but I do not detect the wilful malevolence that you seem to read in the article.

With regard to the comments about the Tech only being interested in HackMIT now, rather than reporting in depth on the winners when it happened, I do not find this unusual. HackMIT has been going on for several years and people win it every year. Winners do not get disqualified very often, making this a more newsworthy event.

18
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I agree with 17. About the newsworthiness, consider doping scandals in baseball. It's no big deal when the Yankees win a game (which they do very often), but it IS a big deal when A-Rod got a giant suspension for using steroids. As I recall, the Tech did publish a photo of HackMIT, and anyway the event is so large that everyone on campus knows its going on. The alleged cheating is something on campus that people would not necessarily know about, and therefore the Tech is correct to publish it.

I also think that the Tech is being reasonably fair to Seamless. If HackMIT thought it necessary to revoke their prizes, then presumably they did something wrong: given the amount of controversy this decision entails, I'm sure HackMIT would only have made this decision if it was absolutely clear that there was misconduct. Hence it is completely reasonable for the Tech to quote HackMIT, and then provide evidence to further explain what happened. Unless the Tech is lying about the contents of the Microsoft paper and the Seamless YouTube video (which seems unlikely), I don't particularly see how this is unfair: they're just reporting the facts.

19
Anonymous over 4 years ago

After reading this article, watching Seamless's presentation[1], and looking at the work done at Microsoft[2], I don't know how this behavior can be seen as anything other than egregious misrepresentation of the work actually done. Every example of "their algorithm" in the presentation was actually fabricated at Microsoft, but it was presented as their own, which in addition to being misleading, also violates Microsoft's copyright policy (as the article said).

If there is another side to the story, I would be interested in hearing it, and if they had some explanation for their behavior, they could publish a blog post or respond in any number of ways, which may still happen.

Regardless, I'm glad that the Tech made this information widely available. Before the disqualification, they were very publicly (ie: on the internet) letting people think that their work constructed those videos in their presentation. So, once discovered, it is not disproportionate to broadcast their misrepresentation on the same scale.

[1] starting at 48:30 https://www.youtube.com/watch?veX7Rrhe2vJk

[2] http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/hoppe/proj/videoloops/

20
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I'm really disappointed at the amount of hate displayed in this comment section. It's extremely clear that Seamless flat-out cheated (not some gray area "misrepresentation" or an honest mistake), and the article is very fact-based. There's simply no reason to get mad at The Tech.

If this news upsets you, I encourage you to take a hard look at what HackMIT has become. It's not a friendly gathering of engineers seeing what cool stuff they can make. It's a brutal competition to see who can impress the sponsors the most. It's wholly un-MIT, and it's really no surprise that it's come to this.

21
Jennifer Zhang over 4 years ago

In response to #20:

I would like to stray away from the topic of Seamless and address your second paragraph.

"I encourage you to take a hard look at what HackMIT has become." I have been on the HackMIT organizing team for the whole 2 years I have been year at MIT so far. Last year was my first year being involved, and let me tell you, we have gone miles beyond where we started. For the 2nd ever 1000-person HackMIT, this year, we were able to pull off a series of novice workshops, including beginner workshops with MakeGamesWithUs for iOS dev and a fellow 6.170 TA who taught beginner web dev. We made sure that people who had never gone to a hackathon before had chances to learn something new.

To your point that HackMIT has now become "a brutal competition to see who can impress the sponsors the most": Our sponsorship policies have become even stricter this year in comparison to last year. 1) We did not allow any recruiters to come on site; only technical engineers were allowed at HackMIT, and this actually created a great ecosystem between hackers and technical mentors. 2) We limited talks in our opening ceremony to 30 second API/technical pitches. We made sure people stayed under 30, and that none of the material presented was about recruiting. 3) HackMIT is about collaboration and learning. It's not about impressing anyone. I want to note that some companies' APIs were not used at all. If people wanted to impress so much, why not just build for that specific API and win the prize? We have made many efforts to make HackMIT a learning environment more than anything else.

And to your final point that HackMIT is "un-MIT":

If we were so un-MIT, we wouldn't go out of our way to accommodate so much for MIT students. Firstly, we let each and every MIT student come to HackMIT if they so choose to, letting them by-pass the lottery system that over 5000 hackers entered to have their chance into HackMIT. We have gone out of our way to provide comfort that most hackathons don't provide, and therefore spent thousands of dollars on massages and air mattresses. We, as an organizing team, dedicate thousands of hours of our free time to make this a worthwhile experience for everyone.

Of course, I am not saying that we did not miss a single thing while organizing HackMIT to be the best experience possible. However, the way you frame HackMIT in this light is unjustifiable and wrong. I'd love to chat in person with you if you'd like.

22
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Follow-up to comment 19:

The link to the youtube video got munged in the comments system, posting it again:

Rather than criticizing either the Tech or HackMIT's commentary about the situation, feel free to judge the situation for yourselves and determine whether the article is justified:

Seamless's presentation starting at 48:30

[1] http://bit.ly/10yDCle (starts at 48:30) or http://youtu.be/eX7Rrhe2vJk (whole video)

The exact videos shown in Seamless's presentation:

[2] http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/hoppe/proj/videoloops/results/

23
Anonymous over 4 years ago

"With mental health being at the forefront of the Institute's collective thought process, it seems downright inappropriate for the Tech to publish such a defamatory article with no consideration for the subjects' mental well being and reputations."

The authors (and the Tech) are not responsible for anything at all except ensuring that the facts are correct and fairly contextualized.

If you have evidence of incorrect facts or misleading context then bring it forward.

Otherwise, your implication that the authors should hold themselves responsible for the future mental health outcomes of those in question is cheap and manipulative.

24
Anonymous over 4 years ago

This reminds me of the CoolChip incident that happened in 2011, where they won the Clean Energy Prize under questioned circumstances (http://tech.mit.edu/V131/N37/coolchip.html). The team didn't have their prize revoked, but even then everything was covered in The Tech and the Chronicles of High Education -- names, things said on official record, etc.

I don't see how this HackMIT news should be treated any differently. In fact, HackMIT involves a lot more participants, visibility and overall campus engagement, so if anything, we should expect a lot more transparency into this incident. Just because the team is now composed of undergraduate students (Seamless) as opposed to graduate students (CoolChip) doesn't mean that The Tech should avoid publishing facts and inconsistencies with what's been said/shown on record.

25
Anonymous over 4 years ago

http://bit.ly/10yDCle

49:59

"and it's a very difficult algorithm, and it was a big pain to implement, but so here is some product of that" (Microsoft video follows) [best effort transcript -- corrections encouraged]

After having viewed the video several times, and after trying to find a way to be charitable, I don't see any other reasonable explanation than deliberate deception.

26
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I believe I'm in the somewhat unique position (at least within this comment thread) of being friends with one of the authors of this paper, one of the members of Seamless, and some of TechX's staff. With that in mind, I'm appalled by the negative response in the comment and disappointed with the article.

First, as 18 stated, deviations from the norm are much more newsworthy than reporting of results. Excessive publication regarding one event can easily slip down the slope to advertisement. I personally think it's unfortunate that no article was published summarizing the results of HackMIT, but lack of a summary article has no bearing whatsoever of the publication of this article.

Second, I think this article was very balanced overall. In particular, I would like to call attention to this paragraph where Siegel discusses their implementation. From this paragraph, it is clear that TechX is not making an attack on the team and the article is also not making an attack on the team. The disparity is between Siegel's statement and the HackMIT blog post, which seems attributable to a very simple misunderstanding within TechX. However, I find fault in the article that many of the statements within seem to be attacks from the authors rather than a clarification of the issue (the quotes from the presentation are in fact highlighting the issue, not selectively included to cast judgement on the team). This probably could have been made more clear.

What the issue really hinges on is that Seamless might have taken its videos from Microsoft and represented them as their own. However, it seems that they implemented the algorithm themselves (as Siegel indicates), and so could have produced the videos on their own, using the same input as Microsoft (which seems an entirely reasonable thing to do - to find their own input would likely involve less professional videos, lessening the impact). Thus, there was confusion about if they created the videos and they decided to step down rather than prolong the controversy and leave doubts whether they deserve the award - an honorable course of action which this article dutifully reports.

Seamless deserves applause for their product as well as their honorable conduct in stepping down rather than leave lasting doubts of the validity of their award, and The Tech deserves applause for reporting this fairly. The comments claiming otherwise, in either case, I view as likely resulting from only a casual reading of the article.

27
Anonymous over 4 years ago

"We let each and every MIT student come to HackMIT if they so choose to, letting them by-pass the lottery system that over 5000 hackers entered to have their chance into HackMIT."

Only MIT undergraduates and M.Eng students (joint MIT SB/M.Eng programs) were shown a preference in participating in HackMIT. This courtesy was _not_ extended to the rest of the graduate student population.

28
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I'm not sure why there was so much negativity in the early comments as well.

12 Richard, you claim that you want the Tech to be objective in their pieces. You state that this article was harshly negative, yet you attack them for not writing solely positive pieces extolling the success of HackMIT. Do you see the double-standard here?

29
Landon Carter over 4 years ago

I believe I'm in the somewhat unique position (at least within this comment thread) of being friends with one of the authors of this paper, one of the members of Seamless, and some of TechX's staff. With that in mind, I'm appalled by the negative response in the comment and disappointed with the article.

First, as 18 stated, deviations from the norm are much more newsworthy than reporting of results. Excessive publication regarding one event can easily slip down the slope to advertisement. I personally think it's unfortunate that no article was published summarizing the results of HackMIT, but lack of a summary article has no bearing whatsoever of the publication of this article.

Second, I think this article was very balanced overall. In particular, I would like to call attention to this paragraph where Siegel discusses their implementation. From this paragraph, it is clear that TechX is not making an attack on the team and the article is also not making an attack on the team. The disparity is between Siegel's statement and the HackMIT blog post, which seems attributable to a very simple misunderstanding within TechX. However, I find fault in the article that many of the statements within seem to be attacks from the authors rather than a clarification of the issue (the quotes from the presentation are in fact highlighting the issue, not selectively included to cast judgement on the team). This probably could have been made more clear.

What the issue really hinges on is that Seamless might have taken its videos from Microsoft and represented them as their own. However, it seems that they implemented the algorithm themselves (as Siegel indicates), and so could have produced the videos on their own, using the same input as Microsoft (which seems an entirely reasonable thing to do - to find their own input would likely involve less professional videos, lessening the impact). Thus, there was confusion about if they created the videos and they decided to step down rather than prolong the controversy and leave doubts whether they deserve the award - an honorable course of action which this article dutifully reports.

Seamless deserves applause for their product as well as their honorable conduct in stepping down rather than leave lasting doubts of the validity of their award, and The Tech deserves applause for reporting this fairly. The comments claiming otherwise, in either case, I view as likely resulting from only a casual reading of the article.

30
Richard Ni over 4 years ago

28 you should reread my comment

"I was disappointed to not see an article about HackMIT in the Tech at all after the event happened, but I understood - again, a lot of people do awesome things here and the Tech can't write about all of them."

"It's understandable that you wouldn't write something positive about us..."

I think there were opportunities for them to write positive yet still objective articles that they did not take, and even then I expressed that I understand why. I did not "attack them for not writing solely positive pieces extolling the success of HackMIT." Please do not mischaracterize my point like that.

31
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Landon Carter, while I appreciate your analysis of the article, I believe that the problem lies in that what you pointed out in your fourth paragraph. This may very well be the situation, but the article chose not to highlight this, but instead to play up the alleged dishonesty and disqualification with a clickbait title and the presentation of evidence that only implicates Seamless. It seems to me as the imbalance of facts presented in the article paints a different light to a casual reader (as most people will be) than the one you described.

32
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I agree with the viewpoint of Landon Carter in that Seamless probably just used Microsoft Research's videos as the input content. I had the chance to talk to them during the initial judging round and they were very transparent about the challenges with needing to aggressively stabilize the videos. Moreover, their final demo (with the the changing dynamicness) as far as I can tell is also not something that could be downloaded from Microsoft research. It's an interactive demo that just doesnt seem like it can be put together without the physical output of the algorithm.

I feel very disappointed in the slanted nature of the article. It hinges on a lot of opinions with no evidence, and essentially tries to call Katie, the co director of hackmit, a liar and it completely ignores the results of the investigation of the project. I think at the very least the names of students shouldn't be revealed, especially when potential alternatives have very high probability. I admire Seamless for their honorable actions.

As for why they didn't comment, I'm sure they knew their words would be twisted against them. The Tech's slanted incorporation of Katie's comments is a clear example of this.

Disappointing. I'd expect more from the Tech.

33
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Re #29:

The quote from Katie Siegel makes it clear that they did not create the videos they showed.

They did implement everything they said, but going over it there was some confusion as to what kind of results they actually got, said Siegel. It was difficult to see if their implementation was correct, so they agreed to voluntarily step down.

If they had actually implemented the algorithm correctly and then just ran the same videos that Microsoft used through it, that should have been easily demonstrable when they sat down to discuss this issue with HackMIT.

34
Anonymous over 4 years ago

32: The article correctly points out that there is an undeniable difference between what Katie said and what HackMIT's own blog post said. Why do you think this makes the article "slanted" and "disappointing"? I additionally think describing Seamless as "honorable" is questionable in the circumstances.

35
Anonymous over 4 years ago

31: I don't understand why you think the article has a "clickbait" title. It seems to me like a natural and accurate way to describe the contents of the article, and even uses the same words as the statement issued by HackMIT.

36
Anonymous over 4 years ago

How is this article insulting the organizers or "misrepresenting the situation"? They've provided evidence, including the HackMIT presentation, Microsoft's research paper, and plenty of quotes from the organizers themselves. Clearly the team misrepresented their work - both HackMIT and the Tech have concluded that at the very least.

Based on the video and research paper, the team clearly cheated. It's never okay to claim someone else's work as your own. It doesn't matter if they're nervous, or "in the moment", or stressed with work, or only have 2 minutes to present. The real world doesn't forgive mistakes like this, even if it's a team of MIT students with a reputation to uphold.

If this was a real startup, the consequences would've been 100x worse. Thankfully, the HackMIT team gave them the benefit of the doubt, and disqualified them without investigating further. This could've led to a serious lawsuit, especially since it involves money and potentially more funding down the road.

Yes, I wish that the Tech had reported about HackMIT itself. But that is besides the point.

37
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Relating to 32/33 about their video sources:

I agree Katie's quote implies the videos were "taken from" the web page.

It seems like an important question is whether, when asked after the presentation,

(1) the contestants claimed to have produced the result videos shown in their demonstration from Microsoft's sources using their implementation and somehow couldn't replicate it a few hours later

or (2) whether this comment means they thought that their presentation was not claiming to have made the videos with their implementation, and that they had taken both the source and result videos from Microsoft. The article quote doesn't imply they necessarily made the videos but claims they were just using such videos to "showing the power of the algorithm"

The first case, which Landon Carter/29 appears to be suggesting, is confusing since it seems like it would be very easy to re-run the team's code on the inputs to show whether their code actually made the outputs shown in the presentation. The investigation should have concluded quickly with fairly little effect, but they said "It was difficult to see if their implementation was correct"

The second case may have been their intent. They may have indeed played with algorithm and done some re-implementation during the weekend that wasn't quite working, but then to go ahead and just show the professional videos without acknowledging the source, particularly in a final presentation designed to showcase what one accomplished that weekend, is a sufficient misrepresentation of their work to the judges, other HackMIT participants, and community to yield this outcry.

38
Anonymous over 4 years ago

"Regardless of the situation, It's never okay to claim someone else's work as your own."

Comment 36. I believe this should be the core take-away from all this

It sickens me to believe that MIT students would intentionally misrepresent their work to judges and audience members for perceived personal gain, and maybe the Seamless team got carried away, realized this soon after, and wish they could apologize and undo their actions and statements.

However, It is part of our responsibility as a community of students, academics, and researchers to remind one another of the importance of integrity, hold one another accountable to these standards, and to call out instances when it isn't the case.

39
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Seamless cheated. Undoubtedly. There is no evidence indicating (even in the slightest) that they did not cheat. It would be very easy for them to release their code (git repository and revision history) proving that they did complete the work they claimed to do.

The HackMIT blog also indicates that the Seamless team cheated (but it does not mention team members names, which seems like the honorable thing to do).

Siegel seems to be protecting the three team members of Seamless, who seem to be the friends of many people on the HackMIT team. Her statements are inconsistent with the HackMIT blog (and the presentation), but Siegel's actions are honorable -- she only intended to prevent the Tech from calling out individuals and harming their reputations.

That being said, the Seamless team cheated. This is no misunderstanding, there is no accident! They fully and knowingly intended to deceive the judges and HackMIT team, not having implemented anything that actually works. The video that they display (both input and output video) is stolen from Microsoft Research.

Otherwise, if their algorithm worked, it would have been fine to use MSRs input videos to demonstrate that. If they did not cheat, it would be very easy for them to prove that.

Landon Carter's analysis [comment 29] is incorrect. Had the team managed the (impressive!) feat of implementing MSRs algorithm, it would have been incredibly simple to prove that to the world. Siegel said "Basically, Seamless chose to step down rather than going through the process of proving their code worked." This isn't because it's hard to demonstrate that something works. It's incredibly easy!! You just run the program on MSRs input video, and show that the output video is correct. Any technical person (with the skill of any of the members on HackMIT) knows that, and they must have asked the Seamless team to prove that their code works.

The reason the Seamless team "stepped down" is because they got caught! Who would give up a $3000 prize and the prestige of winning HackMIT because they were too lazy to spend two minutes running a file through a computer program?

The HackMIT team, honorably tried to protect the individuals on the team instead of making their names public. However, they are guilty. There is no doubt about that.

40
Anonymous over 4 years ago

To me the article seems to be based on facts and reporting those facts objectively. Jennifer and Kath accurately described the incident, noting that the Seamless team did seem to implement the algorithm although there may have been a degree of misrepresentation in their presentation, and also contacted the various groups (including Seamless team members) for comment. The final three paragraphs focus on actions going forward that HackMIT is taking to curb issues with code of conduct in the future, by ensuring everyone is fully aware of the competition rules.

It is disappointing to see some of the HackMIT organizers so negatively and personally attack the authors of the article simply for conducting journalism. Richard's unfounded accusations that the Tech published the article simply to attract more visitors is particularly striking. While articles sometimes can anger, this article doesn't take either side in the issue, simply stating the facts; I'd have hoped that MIT as a community can digest its problems more rationally than the general public.

41
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I believe college is a place for learning, and such an event shouldn't follow the students around for the rest of their life. Especially when the people most directly involved also feel the same way.

We're entering an age where it's so easy to make copies of everything and it's hard to make things go away. This should be factored in when writing potentially harmful pieces.

42
Anonymous over 4 years ago

The reported harassed, threatened, and blackmailed some of the students mentioned in this article in order to try and force them to comment. Even one of the people who was only barely involved, and just helped with the presentation (and did none of the coding!). How come that wasn't mentioned in this "article".

43
Anonymous over 4 years ago

This is a quote from one of the people accused. The reporter tried to blackmail him into making a comment about the situation even though she even admitted they she knew that he wasn't involved in the situation.

"Its at this point when the phone call went sour. My interviewer was aware that I was not involved in the misconduct, but wanted me to make comments about the misconduct by the team. The reporter also explained she believed that cheaters needed to be punished and that if I didnt make these comments that she was looking for, it would be stated that I did not respond to requests for comment (FALSE!) and Id essentially be framed as being involved in the misrepresentation. I told her that her threats were disgustingly insulting and hung up the phone."

The reporters are lieing in order to get a good story. Fortunately, this person recorded the conversation, and I hear that he is going to be posting the evidence of her harassment soon.

44
Jennifer Zhang over 4 years ago

In response to #27:

Yes, my mistake. Because we are an undergraduate collegiate hackathon, we were only able to grant this opportunity to undergraduate MIT students plus M Eng's.

45
Anonymous over 4 years ago

In response to #41 saying "such an event shouldn't follow the students around for the rest of their life":

No. College is NOT a place where students can freely break the law and plagiarize without any consequences following them. Going to MIT, we are held to standards that are no less than the standards of the real world, if not greater. Just because school is for learning doesn't mean that students can be free from real-world consequences. Heck, by now we've all been in-school for almost a third of our lives. By college, many of us have learned about the negative consequences of cheating, sometimes through personal experiences.

But the cheating that took place at HackMIT was of another level. There's money and potential jobs involved (winning the competition is worth a line on one's resume imo), and there's significant funding down the road from sponsoring firms and VCs.

"We're entering an age where it's so easy to make copies of everything and it's hard to make things go away."

Just because it's easy to plagiarize, doesn't mean it's right. The fact that it's hard to make things go away should discourage plagiarism even more.

Is this really coming from one of my classmates? It sounds like you're one of the plagiarizers, and that you're trying to defend yourself and invoke pity. I'm sorry if you (or one of your friends) were one of the cheaters, and that this will follow you/them for quite a while. But I'm glad Seamless was caught, and that the startup didn't get funded (that would've been terrible)!

46
Anonymous over 4 years ago

#45

None of what happened was plagiarism. The organizers, who actually know whats going on, disagree. They think that this entire article almost entirely made up in an attempt to get a good story.

It is harassment plain and simple. One of the reporters even blackmailed one of the people who wasn't even involved, to try and get him to give them a good quote. And then maliciously lied about his involvement in this article.

47
Anonymous over 4 years ago

#43 What source are you quoting? Have a link?

48
Anonymous over 4 years ago

From their childish attacks on this article, my opinion of the HackMIT organizers has sunk almost as low as that of Seamless and AgileAssault.

49
Anonymous over 4 years ago

#42, #43, #46:

If there is any credible evidence that this wasn't blatant cheating, post it. And no, anonymously posting unverifiable quotes and anecdotes don't count. Obviously. Anyone can watch the videos and judge for themselves, and after doing that, it is very clear to most people that Seamless was way out of line.

#45:

Wholeheartedly agree. College is not a place where consequences get suspended so that everyone can hone their cheating strategies for 4 years, so that they're polished and undetectable when we get to the "real world". These guys were accepting thousands of dollars on false premises. These are real world stakes with real world consequences, and if I was in the situation of one of the plagiarizing teams, I'd be thanking my lucky stars not to be facing legal ramifications for some combination of fraud/misrepresentation/violating Microsoft's copyright for personal gain. Yeah, it's going to follow them around on the Internet indefinitely, but it could have been much worse.

50
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Does anyone else think that the back-to-back commenting in the beginning was just the same person posting over and over again? Sure seems like it to me.

And why is Seamless a "she" when the team is composed of a team of males? It's a it. It.

51
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Also, I'd love to see any proof of blackmail. I find that claim far more inflammatory towards the two writers of this column than the article itself.

The Tech is a trashy publication, but I don't think they did anything wrong here, nor do I think they're likely to stoop to blackmail for their articles.

- 50

52
Anonymous over 4 years ago

"If there is any credible evidence that this wasn't blatant cheating, post it. And no, anonymously posting unverifiable quotes and anecdotes don't count. "

Talk to the goddamn organizers, bro.

Also that was a quote from one of the people mentioned in the article. He was barely involved in seamless, spent most of his time doing homework during the hackathon, joined the team halfway through the hackathon, and just built some mobile video gallery.

He wasn't involved in any of backend stuff that is in question here, the reporter knew this, and tried to threaten him into giving them a good quote for the story. And then lied and said he gave them no comment, even though he explained his whole non-involvement.

53
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Whether or not you think cheating happened here, you have to admit that trying to frame someone who wasn't involved in the suspected cheating, and lieing about what they said to them, is the way way worse thing that happened here.

You can't just lie about what they said to you and make it seem like someone was involved when they weren't involved.

This is the real story here.

54
Anonymous over 4 years ago

"Talk to the goddamn organizers, bro. " -- the HackMIT blog clearly states that "two of the teams in our announced top 8 misrepresented what they accomplished this weekend, and weve disqualified their hacks"; the article does not say that the team cheated, only quoting investigation by organizers into possibility by cheating, but the misrepresentation is undeniable and something that everyone agrees on.

"Also that was a quote from one of the people mentioned in the article. He was barely involved in seamless, spent most of his time doing homework during the hackathon, joined the team halfway through the hackathon, and just built some mobile video gallery." -- what is the relevance of this? The quotes from Buduma in the article are from the Seamless presentation and are included to fully detail the situation, here they refer to the content in video as their algorithm.

"He wasn't involved in any of backend stuff that is in question here, the reporter knew this, and tried to threaten him into giving them a good quote for the story. And then lied and said he gave them no comment, even though he explained his whole non-involvement." -- um, yeah that's doubtful.

"Whether or not you think cheating happened here, you have to admit that trying to frame someone who wasn't involved in the suspected cheating, and lieing about what they said to them, is the way way worse thing that happened here." -- the article doesn't claim the person who was quoted was fully involved in the cheating. However it is a fact that he was in the presentation, which is the most that the article is claiming.

The "way way worse thing" that is happening here is that some sick individuals, possibly affiliated with HackMIT, are disgustingly insulting the authors of this article over a perceived attack on the TechX organization, which simply is not suggested by the article.

55
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Wow. Just wow. I really hope that Richard Ni and others who posted blatantly harassing and accusatory comments regarding the news article authors will apologize for their insulting words. This kind of bashing is unacceptable in our community and hurts everyone.

56
Anonymous over 4 years ago

"The Seamless team members did not respond to requests for comment."

Right here. This is a lie. They reached him. He didn't say what they wanted to here to get a good story. And lied and didn't publish any of his explanation.

You can't just make an article and not allow the people accused to respond to it.

57
Anonymous over 4 years ago

52 53 are you suggesting that his team members deliberately misled him into saying those things during the presentation? If so, that is really even more terrible behavior than the general misrepresentation on the part of his teammates. It is one thing to accidentally misrepresent your work during a presentation, but quite another to intentionally misrepresent it to your own teammate and involve him in the whole affair. I hope he comes forward with his evidence so that MIT can investigate his teammates and take action.

58
Anonymous over 4 years ago

56: do you have evidence of that? That is a very severe accusation against the Tech. If they intentionally left out the team members' statements, then that really hurts their credibility.

That said, I don't really believe it now since it sounds absurd and you haven't supported anything with hard evidence, both Kath and Jennifer have written many great articles on a variety of topics in the past.

59
Anonymous over 4 years ago

How do the authors explain away that they had a conversation with him, and that they did reach him?

"The Seamless team members did not respond to requests for comment."

Can they explain this falsehood? They can't. Because it is not true.

This is a big problem. The whole thing is suspect if you are going to pretend like you tried to get the opposing side, when you actually did not.

You HAVE to give people a chance to explain the situation, and defend themselves when you make accusations like this. They didn't.

60
Anonymous over 4 years ago

One of the people accused responded to this article on the below facebook comments section. He says that someone contacted him and that the reporter wouldn't publish his statements when the conversation didn't go her way. He is working with the administration to get a response out soon.

Whether or not you think cheating happened here, it is not ok for The Tech to association someone with these accusations who really wasn't involved in the controversial parts of this. Especially when they give you the whole explanation, and you refuse to publish it.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/hackathonhackers/903289549726531/

61
Anonymous over 4 years ago

56/59/blackmail accusations:

"You can't just make an article and not allow the people accused to respond to it."

The Tech is not the only website on the internet. If any of the team members feel wronged, or actually want to bring up these issues that you keep claiming they do, they can. They can post a blog, or a comment here, or a video, or any number of things on any number of other site...... Again, we are on the internet!

If what you claim is true, it is a serious issue. But until someone steps up and puts their name and reputation behind that accusation, you aren't going to find any sympathy. If Kwok or Buduma or Webster were blackmailed and taken advantage of by the other two, as you claim, they are absolutely able to speak up.

Earlier someone said that there was a recording of this alleged blackmail. Feel free to produce substantive evidence like that at any time.

62
Austin Hess, Editor in Chief over 4 years ago

Hello. I would first like to clarify that The Tech is continuing to investigate this issue. We have requested statements once again from the team members, and at least one of them has responded on the record this time, which was not the case before. We have requested access to Seamless' git repository from the competition, as people have asserted that simply examining it provides evidence to support certain claims made by the HackMIT organizers.

Our reporters were indeed on the phone with at least one member of the team. This person declined to comment on the record, i.e. did not agree to provide a statement that we can quote. It is standard journalistic practice to allow sources the opportunity to discuss the issue with reporter while the reporter promises not to quote what the source says during the conversation. It was the source's decision to not comment on this article.

We also will try to be as open and honest about our reporting practices in whatever update comes out. I think most of the confusion here is related to simple misunderstanding of standard journalism operations. But I invite anyone who thinks The Tech is taking a side/position on this one way or the other to re-read the article. We are compiling sourced pieces of evidence, not making assertions on our own. We plan to continue to do so to further clarify this issue for the MIT community.

63
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Oh really? The person you talked to seems to disagree.

"The reporter also explained she believed that cheaters needed to be punished and that if I didnt make these comments that she was looking for, it would be stated that I did not respond to requests for comment (FALSE!) "

64
Anonymous over 4 years ago

60:

I just read the facebook discussion, thank you for linking that. This sounds like a terrible situation for Buduma, and I guess we'll have to see what happens over the next few days.

-61

65
Richard Ni over 4 years ago

Well now this entire thing has spiraled into a huge mess where everybody has their pitchforks and torches out ready to burn somebody else based on very limited information. I'm sure people on both sides are smh'ing over some of the ridiculous comments that we've read in this comments section.

The only comment that I will make further on this issue is that some anonymous comments have attempted to characterize negative comments towards the Tech's handling of this situation as having come from HackMIT members. That accusation is unfounded; Jennifer and I both attached our names to our comments and we do not believe any other HackMIT members have commented.

66
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Regarding "The reporter also explained she believed that cheaters needed to be punished and that if I didnt make these comments that she was looking for, it would be stated that I did not respond to requests for comment (FALSE!) "

[Not affiliated with the tech, just an outsider with some understanding of how journalism operates:]

A possible interpretation of this exchange is that the author asked the participant to go on record with respect to some of the comments he made during their conversation and that "these comments that she was looking for" was referring to "some kind of on record statement about his viewpoint that could be included as fact into the article."

As stated multiple times in this comment thread it is not the job of the tech newspaper to judge or evaluate any guilt of the participants, but rather to be gather and present the facts and viewpoints available. Without the participant going on record with his comments, they tech couldn't sah "based on off the record discussions about the situation, it appears that participant xyz is innocent." Such statements would definitely warrant complaints about shoddy journalism.

Rather, in order to include this participant's viewpoint, a newspaper would need to be able to say "participant xyz believes he is innocent because of reasons A, B, and C", involving the participant going on record.

Without this, they were justified to include the "did not respond to requests to comment" which does not necessarily mean that they all ignored the newspaper but that they declined to go on record with any comments.

Lastly, the participant claims that the tech "knew" he was innocent before the story was published. He may have told the reporters his opinions and reasons why he believes he is innocent off-record but, as above it is not the paper's job to decide on the merits of such opinions, but rather to publish facts and viewpoints available.

Tl;dr I believe the tech's actions were entirely justified.

67
Anonymous over 4 years ago

In response to #53:

"Whether or not you think cheating happened here, you have to admit that trying to frame someone who wasn't involved in the suspected cheating, and lieing about what they said to them, is the way way worse thing that happened here."

No. It doesn't matter how little involvement Buduma had - he stood up on that stage just the same, didn't he? (In the video, there are 3 guys on stage.) If there is ANY amount of fraud or cheating involved, you stay the fuck away. This is common sense. Unfortunately, being involved on the sidelines is still being involved.

The only way his involvement could be pardoned is if he honestly didn't have ANY clue about the misrepresentation/cheating that was taking place. But this is incredibly hard to prove (the video evidence goes against him), and will come down to a case of "he said, she said".

"You can't just lie about what they said to you and make it seem like someone was involved when they weren't involved. This is the real story here."

No it's NOT the real story. You sound like one of the cheaters/one of their close friends. The real story is that cheating/misrepresentation took place based on clear video evidence. Like many commenters have mentioned, there is money, more money, and the potential to become a real company down the road for HackMIT winners. There is sponsor recognition, the opportunity for VC funding, publicity, and a great resume boost for the winners as well.

As a HackMIT participant, this infuriates me. If those two startups were caught during the competition, then two other honest startups would've been given the opportunity to present/pitch instead.

If Seamless was caught later on, after receiving funding, the consequences of a multi-million-dollar lawsuit would've been much worse than a Tech article ousting the team for misrepresenting their work.

68
Anonymous over 4 years ago

"As stated multiple times in this comment thread it is not the job of the tech newspaper to judge or evaluate any guilt of the participants"

EXACTLY, which is why this comment is particularly bad.

"The reporter also explained she believed that cheaters needed to be punished "

Yep, no agenda here. The reporter certainly isn't using The Tech as a platform to take revenge on people she thinks deserve it.

They created this article because they want people to be punished. That is the agenda of this article. They admitted that it was an attempt to attack the participants.

69
Anonymous over 4 years ago

The team and HackMIT's failure to coordinate a response is the big mistake here.

- HackMIT is saying nobody is at fault, and trying to redirect anger at The Tech.

- Buduma is saying the fault lies on other team members

- The other team members are nowhere to be found

- Buduma's apparent off-the-record comments contradict his own presentation, so it's hard to give them any merit without additional information.

The Tech did the best they could with the data they were offered.

All we really need for this to be cleared up is a statement from HackMIT with a more conclusive statement that Kwok and Webster cheated, while Buduma was not at fault. You'd like to see an apology from Kwok and Webster too, but that's less necessary.

Seems to me that Kwok and Webster are being stubborn about admitting fault, HackMIT was being too nice about it and tried not to say anything bad, but this article has left HackMIT and Buduma in the unfortunate position of defending their honor in a kanagaroo court.

Either that or Buduma was fully aware of the cheating, and Kwok and Webster don't want to accept the fault independently while Buduma was at fault too. A lack of Git commits won't clear this up - if he knowingly presented a misrepresentation, he was directly involved.

70
Anonymous over 4 years ago

#69, I would caution against jumping to conclusions about Kwok and Webster's silence so far; by nature they are quieter people than Buduma, which is probably why they asked Buduma to present for them in the first place.

71
Kath Xu, News Editor over 4 years ago

I am one of the co-authors of the article, and the reporter who was on the phone with Nikhil. Prior to the phone call, we had reached out to all of the Seamless team members by email but received dead silence. Two days before the article was published in print, a mutual friend came to me and asked me not to publish the article because she believed Nikhil to be innocent.

Giving Nikhil the benefit of the doubt, and wanting to give him the opportunity to state his side, I then offered my phone number and dorm address to her to give to him if he so chose.

I did this as a favor, not out of malicious intent... the fact that I am now being accused of blackmail is incredible.

The phone call was off-the-record, but I was hoping to give him the chance to make an on-the-record comment about his proclaimed innocence, because that would have been the only way we would be able to include that in the article. On-the-record means that the interviewee gives us permission to include the quote in the article. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to just materialize something out of thin air, as Commenter 66 correctly noted.

However, Nikhil did not make any on-the-record comments. When we say "The Seamless team members did not respond to requests for comment," we mean that they did not offer any comments that we could publish. This is standard journalistic practice.

Especially in cases when one of the accused team members is claiming innocence and shifting the attention to the other two members, it would have been irresponsible of us to take anything at face value without at least a quote or further evidence.

Since people have made untrue claims about our off-the-record conversations for this article and we are not legally allowed to release counterevidence to such claims, we will not be extending that courtesy in future interviews for this story, and all of the exchanges will be on-the-record.

I hope this will clear up any misunderstandings about the situation.

72
James over 4 years ago

For anyone who was upsetted by this story, this is what you should do in the future.

In the future, if The Tech comes to you to get a quote or ask your opinion about anything, simple do not respond. Give them nothing. They need quotes to have a story. If no one talks to them, then no story.

This goes the same for if you are hosting an event. Do not give them a front row press pass. Do not allow their photographers to take pictures. And do not give them interviews, unless you want to be misquoted or have things taken out of context.

I was at HackMIT, I have talked to a lot of others about this situation, and they tell me that they no longer feel safe going to the event. They no longer feel safe at the event because they know that if they mispeak, are unclear in their presentation, or make any tiny mistake then they are going to have some reporter taking their words out of context and accusing them of cheating.

This feeling has been especially strong amongst the women and hackathon newcomers that i've talked to. They no longer feel safe because of this article.

Hackathons should be a place to learn and make mistakes, which is why situations like this shouldn't have front page articles published on them. If people accidentally break the rules, or mispeak, then the organizers can deal with it.

I know that this isn't HackMIT's fault in the slightest, but I would really recommend banning The Tech from all future events. It is extremely important that participants feel safe and are free from harassment. And letting these people attend the event is just going to drive women and newcomers away from your event.

Accidentally "cheating" can be easily dealt with. But we as a community need to have a zero tolerance policy on harassment.

73
Nikhil over 4 years ago

My name is Nikhil and I am commenting here because this situation needs be resolved fairly, as is believed by many of the people who read this article. This comment is in response to many of the above comments as well as comment #71:

First of all, when I am speaking to a member of the Tech, I presume that my comments are being made on the record. If this is not the case, it is the reporter's responsibility to ALWAYS make that known. The only reason I agreed to speak to the Tech during this phone call was because I presumed that they wanted to accurately depict the situation. As a result, I made it very clear that I was not involved in the misconduct and was not aware of any misconduct during the hackathon. Moreover, I explicitly said that if I had known that there was anything fishy about the project, I would not have participated in the first place. During that phone call, I did not want to make any indictments about the other members of seamless. Yet, I was continuously pressed over and over again to make these comments, at which point I hung up the phone, disgusted.

I want to repeat: it is the reporter's responsibility to ALWAYS make clear whether comments are being made on or off the record. Otherwise, it's just an easy way to avoid including statements under the excuse that "Hey, it was never said on the record." What the Tech is trying to pull here is the ultimate Catch 22.

I have been trying to resolve this with the Tech over the past few days to make sure that the truth is published. Their unwillingness to do so is unbelievably frustrating. They keep telling me that they will edit the article, but I have yet to see any changes to the article. It is irresponsible to accuse me of plagiarism or enabling other people to plagiarise without first discovering the facts. And, also the Tech MUST acknowledge statements when they are received. Their unwillingness to do so is inherently a misrepresentation.

74
Anonymous over 4 years ago

As a complete outsider to this situation, it is my opinion that lots of people are making themselves look silly and childish with their comments on here. I suggest that adding more comments is just making things worse. All of those involved need to sit down in person at a meeting with a Dean to get this thing cleared up.

75
Anonymous over 4 years ago

#74 -- the situation only looks unclear because of the damage control debate tactics being used.

A bunch of commenters have managed to shift the focus of the discussion to a single sentence in the article: "The Seamless team members did not respond to requests for comment." By running down the clock arguing over this one point, they deflect attention away from the actual issue.

There are also other tactics being used, like #72's attempt to somehow turn this into a women's issue. It's a total non sequitur.

Similarly there's been a lot of talk about harassment, though the article above just dispassionately lists a bunch of quotes. That's another red herring. People are painting the article as damning because, well, it does sound pretty damning. But that's because the facts themselves are, not because of any bias in the article.

In the end, not only is the situation pretty clear cut, but it's already been resolved. Half of these comments are only here to muddy the waters.

76
Anonymous over 4 years ago

" By running down the clock arguing over this one point, they deflect attention away from the actual issue"

Well yeah, that is because making sure people feel safe at an event, and free from harassment is more important than the issues the article brought up.

As you said, the issue has already been resolved. There was no need for the article.

The outcome of the resolution was that no one cheated, it there was just some miscommunications. If you read any of the responses that the organizers have said in the thread, you will see that this is the case. The official people who investigated the situation determined that there wasn't any cheating, just some accidental miscommunications (thus the disqualification). Thats the facts. End of story.

The whole article is just a manufactured controversy, and harassment, to get some clicks, when there was no controversy before. The whole thing was already resolved.

77
Anonymous over 4 years ago

76: The issue had not already been resolved. Asserting that is equivalent to saying that people should be able to get away with cheating under these conditions. I disagree. These people--but probably not Nikhil--deserve real consequences. Haven't a prize you cheated to get taken away is not a net negative consequence, it's merely returning to the status quo. If you cheat on a test and your professor finds out, you don't get a 0 on the test; you get THROWN OUT OF THE CLASS and REPORTED TO COD. As well you should.

I feel bad for Nikhil for so poorly understanding how journalism works--Nikhil, you're a sophomore, I get it, you're an idiot, but it is incredibly generous of a journalist to not default to putting an interviewee's comments on the record. They have a responsibility for making sure that you know that you have the option for putting specific comments off the record, but since everything was off the record by default in your interview, they had no related responsibilities to you.

But besides him, the others definitely deserve more punishment than even this article in The Tech. Cheating is a big fucking deal, they obviously cheated, and I hope the ones responsible get thrown of out school for getting caught cheating on a test at some point. Because I bet they've already cheated on multiple, because that's what entitled shits like these do. Being a TA for a year has jaded me way too far to believe otherwise.

78
Anonymous over 4 years ago

"The whole article is just a manufactured controversy, and harassment, to get some clicks, when there was no controversy before. The whole thing was already resolved."

The article did not start any controversy. It restated facts published on the HackMIT blog and stated by the organizers. That Seamless misrepresented their project is not a controversy, it is well supported conclusion. The only "manufactured controversy" that still remains is that from some individuals (apparently including Richard Ni, who you'd expect to be above posting these childish comments) irrationally taking offense from an objective news article. If you don't agree with what's happened then you should blame HackMIT for disqualifying the teams, not the Tech for reporting on the incident.

As for harassment, honestly the only harassment I see is people yelling at the article authors and telling them what a terrible thing they have done against the community, for merely reorganizing HackMIT's own statements into a news article. Just look at comment #12.

79
Anonymous over 4 years ago

Everyone here seems to be assuming that Nikhil is innocent. If this is truly the case, can we have the HackMIT team confirm? Otherwise, it could be a sob story constructed to influence everyone into blaming the other two team members. I was surprised how quickly and easily believed that everything he said was truth, without even questioning it.

It seems incredibly unlikely for someone to be working on a team for long enough to be able to present and somehow have no idea that any cheating or fishy stuff is going on.

In the presentation, they talked about Microsoft Research and graph cuts and everything, including things that sounded like specific details of the research. How did he, during the entire time of working with the team and putting together the iOS gallery app and all that, never even think to Google "microsoft progressive dynamism" ? It seems unlikely that he was oblivious to what was happening. Also, how did he manage to put together the iOS video app without knowing that the videos (original and looped) were ripped straight from the MSR website? It seems that, according to his statement on Facebook, he was the one who put them in the iOS app. How would it be possible to do this without downloading the videos first from the MSR website? (they can't magically appear out of nowhere, with him believing that they are legitimately created by his team)

80
Anonymous over 4 years ago

77: It seems like you're misunderstanding Nikhil's comment. He's saying that The Tech never informed him that he was off the record during his interview in the first place. As a result, he assumed he was on the record, as is expected when speaking to a journalist.

The facts are that The Tech is claiming that he was off the record during his interview, and Nikhil is claiming that he was never told that he was off the record and that a reasonable person would assume that they were on the record. Nikhil also seems to be implying that The Tech intentionally never said he was off the record, and that since he said nothing that would fuel any flames, they claimed he made no comment, but had Nikhil said anything incriminating, The Tech would have publicly hung him out to dry.

If it's true that Nikhil was never informed that he was off the record during his interview -- especially since as you say, it is customary to default to putting an interviewee's comments on the record -- any rational person would agree that it was irresponsible (if not deceiving) for The Tech to claim that none of the team members replied to requests to comment.

81
Anonymous over 4 years ago

45: A bit late, but I thought I should clarify anyways.

By "it's so easy to make copies", I mean an article like this can never be retracted (despite EU's silly "right to be forgotten" law,) not that cheating is easy. As such, I worry that we fall into a witch hunt mentality because the media has swayed opinion despite the decision of the organizers or judges. Cheating is bad, but accidentally ruining the life of an innocent is even worse.

I think you're correct that by college, misrepresenting one's work in this way should be clear already. At the same time though, I think we should trust the organizers and judges, unless it's clear they're biased. They have more information than any of us.

82
Anonymous over 4 years ago

It's irresponsible to present work as your own (e.g. in the video Nikhil uses the word "we" multiple times) that you didn't actually work on.

83
Anonymous over 4 years ago

80: Are you an idiot too? It is _more responsible_ of a journalist to default to off-the-record. They should tell you _when you are on the record_, not when you are off. Based on everything I've seen both here and on facebook, including from Nikhil, it sounds like the author basically asked "Do you want to publicly accuse your other teammates of being the only cheaters" as a stand-in for "do you want these comments to be on the record?", and Nikhil said no, because he had no idea what was going on. He later interpreted this as "the journalist didn't like the way the conversation was going", rather than "the journalist was generous enough to let him vent but respected what were apparently his wishes to not make a public statement". No one in this entire fucking country wants to assume they are on the record when they are talking to a journalist. That is a psychotic assumption.

81: We have the video. The video is proof enough.

84
Anonymous over 4 years ago

83: The reporters are the one publicly accusing people of cheating. The reporters are the ones bringing a situation that should be handled by the judicial committee, not on the front page of a freaking newspaper.

The reporters are the ones who are 100 responsible for any error in their reporting because a tiny mistep could permanently ruin someone's reputation.

This is what happened here. They knew that Nikhil was not involved, because they talked with him, but they implicated him in this situation anyway. Hurting an innocent person's reputation, like The Tech did in this situation, is 100 times worse than any accidental rules breaking that might have gone on. This is the real story.

It is the reporter's responsibility to be 100 clear and honest with the people that they are interviewing. They were not 100 honest here, obviously, and now they have hurt someone's reputation. Why? Because THEY are the ones publicly accusing people, and promoting their agenda, through the use of this platform and the student funds that pay for it.

None of this should have been dealt with through a front page news article. THAT is why this is clear cut, plain and simple, harassment.

85
Jessica Pourian over 4 years ago

Hi all,

I'm a member of the Tech's advisory board and was on the paper when I was an undergrad at MIT. I wanted to make something very clear that many commenters seem to be confused about. The Tech is a completely financially independent, non-profit organization. It does not receive funding from MIT or any sort of "student funds." All operational costs are paid for via the advertisements in the print edition of the paper. The Tech receives NO REVENUE from online content. Whether an article receives one click or one million, the revenue to the Tech is the same--zero. Look at the site, there are no ads. The Tech is not motivated by "clicks" or anything of the sort--it makes no difference to the livelihood of the paper.

Just wanted to make that clear. Thanks, Jessica

86
Anonymous over 4 years ago

To the authors of the article: while this is "standard journalistic practice," you do have to remember that you are writing about your peers and potentially writing something that will stick with them for the rest of their life thanks to the internet nowadays. While yes, there may be some questionable actions taken by the team, the organizers of HackMIT did not find them guilty, yet you two went into deep extent to show how they might as well be guilty. This article basically reads as Nancy Grace commenting on a Hackathon trial. You may not know the team members, but what if the team members were your friends? Would you have written in the same tone? I understand that journalism is important, but the Tech should also think about the fact that this is a student-run organization, not a corporation. To change this into a corporate newspaper and still try to use MIT's name on it is inappropriate and should therefore, not receive monetary support from the MIT community. If this is to be a school student-run newspaper, it important to also support the MIT community as a whole, not fragment it.

87
Anonymous over 4 years ago

This article makes the position of HackMIT organizers clear. This story is of interest to the MIT community and the broader hackathon community.

There was a misrepresentation of facts to the judges and audience which resulted in a disqualification. This is fair and seemingly accurate reporting. I've seen little or nothing in the comments that disagrees with the actions of HackMIT organizers in issuing the disqualification. Any bone to pick with the facts of the matter has to start there in my opinion.

Overall, this looks like responsible and valuable journalism to me. It is absolutely an interesting story. Most of the attempts in these comments to discredit the Tech or the authors of this piece are wrongheaded.

88
Anonymous over 4 years ago

I am tired of the comparisons of this article to Nancy Grace or a tabloid magazine. The article makes no judgements at all, sticking to well-sourced facts drawn from a variety of places. The piece is clearly well-researched, and the authors strike a neutral, balanced tone throughout. It does not appear to me that the article is intentionally trying to portray either HackMIT or the two teams mentioned in this article in a negative light.

The title is the exact opposite of clickbait: it simply repeats the gist of HackMIT's blog post, and does not even accuse either team of outright cheating even though the evidence presented in the article suggests that there was more than just "misrepresentation" going on.

In my opinion the only questionable decision on the part of the writers was the choice to include the names of all the team members. Although, as many users have already pointed out, all the names can be found in the video of the awards ceremony, so it would have been difficult to protect their identities in the first place.

89
Anonymous over 4 years ago

It seems very obvious to me that the vast majority, if not all, of the comments attacking this article are written by those who have committed the wrongdoing, or people very closely associated with them. These overly hysterical rants are not the protests of disinterested observers, but are rather the violent and arbitrary lashing out of one who has been caught and cornered, the defensiveness of one who is provoked by his/her own feelings of guilt and knowledge that there is no hope of redemption. I believe we therefore have no need to defend the article, as there is no risk that anyone will be misled by the comments into thinking that any of the accusations about the article are valid.

90
Anonymous over 4 years ago

The negative, personal comments and attacks on the article are a huge discredit to the entire MIT community - it is bullying, intimidating behaviour and the HackMIT organizers and community needs to stand up and state categorically that they do not condone the unacceptable attitudes expressed in some of the commentary.

91
Anonymous over 4 years ago

It's interesting to compare this to the follow-up article (and the comments!): http://tech.mit.edu/V134/N54/hackmit.html