Digital Cameras in Motorcycle Rallies
Every once in a while, there's a thread on the LDRider mailing list about
the fact that endurance motorcycle rallies still require Polaroid cameras
for photo bonuses. In the 21st century, when you can get 5 megapixels for
under $100, why not allow digital cameras?
I wrote up this scenario for how to cheat - not to tell others how, but to
tell potential rallymasters what they're up against. Since I'm not all that
smart when it comes to cheating, I don't think I'm giving away very much by
posting the fruits of a few minutes' thought, and I want people to think about
the real issues.
First I'll cover the technological and sociological problems of digital
cameras at rallies, then the cheating factor.
Logistical problems with digital cameras
The other problem with digital cameras is how to view and save the images
back at Rally HQ. If the rallymaster can't see an image, there's nothing to
score. If they can't save a copy of the image, there's nothing to audit
later. And I think rallymasters do want to be able to audit results, at
least in theory.
It may seem like printing photos isn't all that slow, but remember that Rally
HQ can be pandemonium when the deadline draws near - and moreso when it's
past, and you're incurring a hundred-points-a-minute penalty! The line at the
printer will get pretty tense as the minutes tick by. Also, the finish line is
not the place to discover that the printers available can't read the memory card
or data format your camera uses.
Bottom line: the rallymaster does not want to be responsible for your
pictures. If the printer or viewing computer is provided by the rally, there
will always be disputes and fingers to point when it comes to technological or
human errors. The RM has enough going on trying to score 50 packets in the time
between the finish and the banquet without that.
How to Cheat With Photoshop
A trusting soul on the LDRider list wrote:
> The ability to manipulate digital format pictures may or may
> not ever really become an issue for a rally.
I think it will. The people talking about cheaters with Photoshop have said,
"Heck, you have to ride to the locations anyway, right?" I think they aren't
being creative enough.
Picture this: Cheety McCheat enters a 24-hour rally, but has planned in
advance with four or five friends to cheat the system. The friends are already
in place along the likely route, or scattered around the state, or whatever. The
bonus sheets are handed out, and Cheety calls his friends and tells them where
to go to get the bonus photos. They go fanning out and get the pictures, while
Cheety does a leisurely ride to the first checkpoint. Next leg bonus sheet is
handed out. Repeat.
Near the start, Cheety took some pictures of his rally towel or other object
and transmitted it to Cheating HQ. As the photos come in from bonus locations,
somebody at HQ uses Photoshop to put the towel into the pictures. It's even
easier in multi-day rallies.
By the time Cheety gets near the finish, the photos are ready back at HQ.
They are electronically transmitted to Cheety's laptop, and he runs them off
using a portable printer. At the finish line he proudly hands over the pictures,
takes first place, and goes home in triumph.
Is there more to it? Yes. You have to figure out the route you supposedly
rode, run up the miles on your odometer somehow, and fake the fuel log, and
Regardless of the details of how to cheat, the question is whether
anybody would cheat. I think the answer is yes. Pulling this off is a game
in itself - a game that some people might like to play. It's not the same game
that the other riders are playing. It's a different game, with its own rules and
skills required to win, something you can win or lose at, with fairly high
stakes. (Get caught and you can never play again.)
Some people are like that: they'll go into an online game and have fun
messing up the experience of other players, rather than slaying the dragon or
whatever you're supposed to be doing. This is that game taken out into the real
Countermeasures include placing volunteers at random bonus locations
(especially high-value bonii) to observe the riders from hiding. The IBR does
Can you cheat this way with Polaroids? Sure. After the last step (printing
out the digital pictures), take a Polaroid picture of each one. It'll look a lot
like a Polaroid of the original scene, and it'll even help hide the flaws in
your Photoshop technique. But I think RM's feel like they're just asking
for this kind of shenanigans if they accept digital images.
This page was last edited
April 26, 2008.