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Why Dial Idol Doesn’t Work For DWTS

It seems as though every season, some people either freak out or get excited over what they see on Dial Idol for DWTS - maybe their favorite is in the lead, maybe the couple they hate is in the bottom, maybe a high-scoring couple looks like they aren’t getting votes.  While I agree that it would be great to “pull back the curtain” and get a peek at what the volume of votes for each couple might actually be, I can tell you this right now: it’s a carefully-guarded secret, and TPTB have ways to keep it that way – despite the efforts of supposedly “genius” software like Dial Idol.  So let’s debunk this one, shall we?

First of all, a bit of background on Dial Idol. It’s a software program created in 2005 by Jim Hellriegel, a fan of American Idol, that uses your computer modem to automatically “speed-dial” in votes for your favorite contestant.  It then measures how often a busy signal bounces back on a particular contestant’s phone number, and, assuming that a greater number of busy signals bouncing back means that more people are trying to vote for a particular contestant, then the more votes a certain contestant must be getting. The idea was pretty clever (at the time), and despite efforts by the FOX legal team to get it shut down due to copyright infringement, it’s perfectly legal, and has correctly predicted the winners of 5 seasons of Idol.

So, you ask, why can’t the same program work for DWTS?

REASON #1: We have a limited number of votes.

Keep in mind, this software program was created for Idol, and on that show, there is no limit on the number of times you can vote; so, in theory, you could get hundreds of votes in for your favorite contestant before the phone lines closed.  Hence, the more votes you can dial in, the more often you either do or don’t get a busy signal, and the more accurate the Dial Idol results are going to be. We don’t have that luxury on DWTS – we get a small, limited amount of votes each week, meaning we have fewer opportunities to measure a potential busy signal.  For those with a bit of knowledge in statistics, the smaller your sample size is = the less accurate your results are going to be. And the sample size for DWTS is going to be much, much smaller than it is for Idol, due to the voting limit.  Really and truly, it almost seems like a waste of time to even use Dial Idol to get your phone votes in to begin with – you’d reach your limit pretty quickly, unless the phone lines are particularly busy (such as in the finale). 

REASON #2: We have a larger “window of opportunity” to vote.

The voting lines on Idol don’t open until the end of the show and are open for 2 hours after that; the voting lines on DWTS are open from the beginning of the show until 30 minutes after the show is over.  Not only do DWTS voters get an extra half-hour to vote by phone, but we’re not limited to waiting until we’ve seen all the performances before we cast our votes.  So what does that mean? Some smart “power voters” (like Heidi) will start voting for their favorites as soon as the show starts, when the phone lines aren’t so busy. Some viewers (like my mom) will wait until one performance catches her eye midway through the show and will give all her votes to them. And some voters will wait until the end of the show to cast their votes.  What does this mean? With a larger time window to vote, there’s also the potential for the voting to get “spread out” a bit more – meaning there’s less liklihood of getting a busy signal, even though there may be just as many votes being cast for a particular contestant. With Idol, everyone is scrambling to get their votes in at the same time – meaning busy signals galore, and a more accurate estimate of just how many people are voting for a particular contestant. With DWTS, there may be a bit of a scramble to get votes in after the show is over, but Dial Idol likely won’t pick up on votes that were made earlier in the show, when there wasn’t the same urgency to hurry up and get your votes in…and hence, fewer busy signals to measure. 

REASON #3: Dial Idol doesn’t take text message or online votes into account.

 Perhaps the biggest caveat of Dial Idol is that it only measures phone votes – and with more and more shows also opening up voting via text message and Internet (Idol included, as of this season), it’s going to become progressively less accurate.  There is absolutely no easy way to quantitatively measure text message or online votes – no busy signal to bounce back, no publicly-available statistics, etc. If you think about it, phone voting is possibly the LEAST convenient method of voting for a reality show anymore – if there’s a busy signal, you just have to wait and keep hitting redial; even though the call is toll-free, you still use up minutes if you call from a cell phone; and fewer and fewer homes have landlines anymore – leaving fewer avenues to dial in your votes.  I get the feeling that more and more viewers are resorting to voting online or via text – there’s no waiting, there’s a longer window of opportunity to vote (at least online), and you’re able “cheat” the system a bit by creating multiple accounts to vote online (I can’t vouch for Idol, but I think we’ve all seen what a boon online voting can be for some DWTS viewers!).  Why even waste time and money on slow phone voting when you can get the instant gratification of voting via text or Internet? And thus our Dial Idol “sample size” gets even smaller.

 REASON #4: Dial Idol gives itself a “safety net” of accuracy.

 Ever notice how sometimes the results at Dial Idol are different colors? You may have written it off as the web designer just trying to make the site more “visually pleasing”, but the colors do have some significance – it’s basically a way to show how confident they are in the results for each contestant.  And that’s where the sneaky yellow-colored results come in – officially, it’s a way to say that the results are “too close to call” between all of the contestants who’s results are yellow; unofficially, I think it’s a way for Dial Idol to save face in the event that they’re completely off-the-mark, and pad their accuracy percentage. :-) See the column that says “Dial Idol Range”? Those numbers from 1-whatever for each couple are where they’re predicted to be ranked in terms of votes.  And when those numbers are yellow, it means it’s too close to call, and the contestant could fall anywhere between those 2 numbers.  Let’s use this week’s DWTS results on Dial Idol as an example. Chelsea & Mark are in the lead with a Dial Idol score of 31.92.  But all of the couples’ scores are yellow, meaning it’s too close to call, and all of the couples could potentially be as low as 11th place.  What does that mean? That if there was an elimination this week, and Chelsea & Mark get sent home, it would still count as a “correct” prediction for Dial Idol, since they said it was too close to call and that Chelsea & Mark could be anywhere between 1-11th place. Inflated accuracy percentage much? Is your faith in Dial Idol wavering yet? :-) That sneaky yellow “too close to call” is what lulls a lot of people into a false sense of security – their favorite couple may be in the lead with their Dial Idol score, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe from elimination.  And even the green & red colors, which signify “likely safe” and “likely in danger”, respectively, are no guarantee – Dial Idol has been wrong about those before, too.  Why, you ask? Which brings me to my final point…

REASON #5: NOT EVERYONE USES DIAL IDOL TO GET THEIR VOTES IN!!!!

Remember what I said about sample size? The more people that use Dial Idol, the more accurate it becomes (in theory).  The problem is – we don’t know how many people are actually using Dial Idol to vote, and in order to get a decent representation of what kind of votes each of the contestants is getting, there has to be people using Dial Idol to vote for each of the contestants.  The same applies to any show that Dial Idol supports – how can it measure the busy signal for each contestant if there isn’t at least one person using it to vote for each contestant? Let’s say no one uses Dial Idol to vote for Chris & Cheryl.  Then there’s going to be no busy signals bouncing back, and to those who don’t know the particulars about how Dial Idol works, it’s going to appear as though they got the low score and are predicted to head home.  In reality, there simply isn’t any data to determine whether they’re going to stay, go, or how they stack up against other contestants.  Or, on the other hand, let’s say most of the people using Dial Idol are voting for Hines & Kym.  It’s going to result in an inflated score for them that may make it look like they’re safe, but without equally as diverse data for each of the other contestants, there’s no way to know for sure. 

The bottom line? Short of forcing everyone voting on the show to use Dial Idol to phone in their votes, giving us limitless votes, and making us wait until AFTER the show is over to vote, and finding a way to measure the impact of online voting & text message voting, Dial Idol is NEVER going to have the same success on DWTS that it has had on Idol up to this point.  I say “up to this point” because now Idol also has online voting, and I think that will impact the results even more.  So who knows, Dial Idol may become obsolete soon…yet another reason not to put too much stock in it ;-)

March 23, 2011 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Check out some of my other work at pureamericasgottalent.com!

DWTS Season 10, Week 7 – The Cheesecake Awards!

I’m feeling quite snarky this week. Courtney’s in a bad mood – you’ve been warned. :-)

Most Bizarre Costuming – Cheryl & Chad’s see-through ensemble
Heidi: So, this was like 1820’s porn or something? She’s wearing the hoop but not the actual dress over the top?
Courtney: I think I was more perturbed by Chad’s matching see-through sport jacket with no shirt underneath. I think there was a method to their madness – Chad is admittedly better at the Latin dances, so they figured if they made their costumes feel more like Latin costumes than ballroom ones, they might fare better…hehe. Well, something must’ve worked, because they got undeservedly high scores…AGAIN.
Heidi: Don’t worry, the judges will make up for it next week when they have their “off the meds” week.

Most Improved Tweeter – Evan Lysacek
Heidi: Hey!!! Evan stopped spamming me about voting for him. He’s like down to two tweets on show day!! Now, if he would stop talking about his freakin’ private jets…it just occurred to me that he probably gets paid for those tweet.
Courtney: I’ll have to take your word for it – I stopped following Evan after tweet number 1,475,236 asking me to vote for him. Thankfully, Anna has left the begging to Evan, and has only tweeted a few times asking for votes. Good girl :-)

Biggest “Get Out of Jail Free” Card – Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Heidi: So, he removes clothing (gimmick) and breaks hold in a quickstep, his partner is off time (and correct in calling him a five year old) and he still gets a 9 from Len?? Gee, Derek and Nicole broke hold, had gimmicks did a BETTER DANCE and got a 7 from Len. And people wonder why I throw my Blackberry at the TV. Edited: Okay, so maybe “free pass” was a poor choice of words…perhaps the bottom two was payback? :-)
Courtney: Week 2 of Maks the Petulant Asshole. Last week he threw a tantrum while getting his scores – then proceeded to bitch and moan about it all week in the media. Erin practically BEGS him to not take his clothes off this week, he drops 4+ F-bombs in a matter of seconds, and storms out – and STILL insists on removing his clothing during their quickstep, which I still think is what threw Erin off at the beginning. And then, karma strikes – they end up in the bottom 2. But of course, they get a stay of execution and we lose Pam instead. All I have to say is that Maks had better be really, really, REALLY thankful that he’s around next week, after the crap he’s been pulling. NOT COOL.

The Cheesiest “I told you so” Moment: Tom B calls Evan the “comeback kid”.
Heidi: Not Tom’s fault – producers/script writers, you are SO fucking predictable!!!
Courtney: Oh, but it has such a nice ring to it ;-) Kidding! Just another glaring example of storyboarding – right down to what the hosts are saying…which is why Brooke still sounds stilted and awkward. She’s trying to rememember the wording they told her to use to explain Evan’s rise back to the top! Thankfully, we have Tom to also throw in perfect little gems off the top of his head…

Funniest Side Note: Tom B – “Cause that’s how we roll” in reaction to audience boos.
Heidi: LOL – I love the man’s ad libs – I can’t help it!!
Courtney: In that moment, I think Tom & Chad became homeboys.

Best Celeb “Shell Removal” – Evan Lysacek
Heidi: dude is coming out of his shell in a big way. Omega Sheep?? Dude, she’s RUSSIAN!! Don’t be talking like that to her, she could remove your balls with a fingernail. Hilarious.
Courtney: Tread carefully, my friend – not only is she Russian, she’s a redhead. A REDHEAD. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Pro Least Ready to be Back on the Dance Floor – Mark Ballas
Heidi: Dude, big slip like you had in that pro dance after a knee injury – not good. Surely you could have sat out another week or two for your own good? And so Derek could take your place in the dance? :-) Just a little selfish, I’m being.
Courtney: Ugh. The spaz came back. And the fact that they had him paired with Chelsie? Oy. But that’s not the only thing wrong with that dance…

Song that Should NEVER Be Heard on DWTS Again: “Hey Soul Sister” by Train
Courtney: First, they laid ruin to it vocally when they had Peter Brady sing it (rather, warble it) for Aiden & Edyta’s quickstep. Then, they had a random assortment of pros dancing a positively bizarre mashup to it – did they let Mark choreograph that monstrosity while he was still coming off the anesthesia? It started off with Mark & Chelsie doing something kinda slow & lyrical, then all of a sudden, Dmitry & Lacey are doing a frantic jive. Tony & Cheryl show up at some point and do something sort of samba-y, and then they’re all doing this cheesy, weird, jazzy/show choir/seizure choreography. I literally said “WTF is this crap?!” out loud.
Heidi: It was just very, very strange. I don’t know what to say, really. And I like Train, usually. I will say, in all seriousness, if Mark is trying to get out of DWTS, there are less painful ways than dancing way too soon on a knee injury that was described so seriously a few weeks ago. Of course, this show isn’t prone to DRAMA or anything…

The “So Perky, it’s a Whole New Level of Cheese” Award: Melissa Rycroft
Heidi: Help me, sugar shock, throat is closing up…I’d tell her “don’t quit your day job” if I thought she had a day job. :-) Seriously, Melissa is okay, she’s just too cheerleader for me sometimes. Like today.
Courtney: Hang in there, Heidi – I know it’s hard to be cheerful right now! She may be irritatingly peppy, but at least she can form insightful thoughts on the fly – unlike some hosts I know.

Most Impressive Demonstration of Flexibility – Louis’ full split, honorable mention for Anna’s split lift with Evan
Heidi: Dear lord, Louis, I don’t have “family jewels” but I twinged in sympathy anyway.
Courtney: Back in the day, when Louis was still competing as a pro, he was known for his flexibilty – no other male pro out there could stretch as far as that little Dutch rubber band. I got a little nostalgic last night when I could see him going for it :-) And while women are built to be more flexible, I have to give Anna props for the split lift she did with Evan – she kept those legs straight & spread and didn’t falter for a second.

Most Welcome Return to the Ballroom: Karina Smirnoff
Heidi: That was an excellent pro dance. Oh Karina, how I’ve missed thee.
Courtney: I feel like we don’t have enough female pros on the show anymore that are true TECHNICIANS – Karina’s feet, legs, torso, arms, and head are always in perfect position for every dance she’s doing. She’s so damn precise, and she wrings every last bit of energy out of every move she makes. Electrifying. They’d be foolish not to bring her back next season!

Most Shudder Inducing Commercial: The Bachelorette
Heidi: Oh ick. Court, yell at me when you realize I’m watching that trash.
Courtney: Not a problem, dearie – if I recall, I think I scolded you for watching Jake when he was still on The Bachelor, hehe. Is it just me, or does Allie look like she’s 12 years old? I won’t go any further…I know John has a thing for blondes, so he prolly thinks she’s cute as a button ;-)
Heidi: sigh…yes, you yelled at me. But I have this thing for trainwrecks and lack of fun shit to do on Monday nights.

The Ryan Seacrest Cheeseball Award: The DWTS script writers for the blatant rip off of Ryan’s pre-commercial tease “…when we come back.”
Heidi: Geez, people, don’t imitate the crap show with the falling ratings, ‘k??
Courtney: And actually, Seacrest has been catching some flack this season too – his standoffs with Simon, off-color comments, and generally drunk behavior has been raising eyebrows for weeks now. Guess he picked up the cray-cray right where Paula left off, eh?
Heidi: Did you see the results show tonight (yes, I had to see Gaga and Harry)?? Did you HEAR what Ryan said to Harry? I don’t think I can actually repeat it in polite company. Well, yeah, okay, I can. Harry is joking with Ellen about a play rivaly and Harry says, to Ellen: “Eyes away from me” and Ryan pops in with “Eyes away from his organ” – Yo, Harry wasn’t playing an organ, and there was no other way to take that comment in that context. Dude is on some crack or he’s got one job too many. Or he has a huge crush on Harry and that was what ya call a Freudian Slip. Take your pick. :-)

Well, that’s all for this week folks. Tune in next week for more snark, the occassional swoon, and just plain bitching. It’s what we do. :-)

May 5, 2010 I Written By

I'm a nerd and proud of it. Two degrees in geology also means I love BEER. :-) I'm also a Derek lover - proud of that too. So don't scream at those of us on this site and call us a bunch of "biased Derek-lovers" - it's just ME. :-) It may sound like I hate DWTS at times, but really, I'm just a snarky nitpicker from way back. And I'm cynical and jaded too. But I do love DWTS. :-)

American Idol’s Danny Gokey on DWTS Season 9

According to the National Enquirer – and how reliable are they really?  Here what the Enquirer has to say:

“…He’s convinced he can win it!” says an insider. “Danny may even have to rehearse his dance routines on the road this summer, but the Dancing producers have said they’d work around his schedule.”

Danny will reportedly join DWTS as soon as the Idols Live Summer Tour wraps up in September. According to The Enquirer spy, the 29-year-old Milwaukee native will dedicate his run on Dancing to the memory of his late wife, Sophia, who passed away of congenital heart failure just four weeks before Danny auditioned for Idol.

I know I don’t really get a vote in this instance, but I vote no. :-)  Between him and the oft rumored Donny Osmond…well, there go all the votes.

There is one huge problem with this idea – will a contract with 19E (the company that produces Idol and also manages a lot of the contestants) and a contract that is also now tied to RCA, if I read correctly that he got signed, allow him to compete on a reality show on a different network? Especially one that competes part of the year with the show he recently got booted off?  Having previously been a fan of idol and one who follows some of their “practices”, my guess would be not a chance.  But it’s been while since I followed the Idol management and recording contracts – maybe once the tour is over he’s free. I have no idea.

In any case, the way this is written, they’ve tied it all together very neatly. They recognize that September it too late to get started with DWTS rehearsal so they throw in the comment about practicing on the road. Totally not a fan of this idea. Are you? Speak up.

Danny Gokey
BritWeek 2009 Champagne VIP Reception

June 15, 2009 I Written By

I'm a nerd and proud of it. Two degrees in geology also means I love BEER. :-) I'm also a Derek lover - proud of that too. So don't scream at those of us on this site and call us a bunch of "biased Derek-lovers" - it's just ME. :-) It may sound like I hate DWTS at times, but really, I'm just a snarky nitpicker from way back. And I'm cynical and jaded too. But I do love DWTS. :-)