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Contests and user voting

As someone who focuses on contests here on Instructables I find that it helps to try and enter other contests on other sites as well to get a feel for how it is to be on the other side. It's fun to have a new challenge and it's even paid off in unexpected ways. So far I've won a gift certificate to Home Depot, a laptop, and a Kodak video camera.

Well, I entered another contest on YouTube recently that Olympus was sponsoring. I didn't think I'd win this one, but I hadn't entered a contest in a while so I made a video. I had more fun playing with some motion graphics than coming up with some compelling story to win it and the results showed it. But, it's always worth trying, right?

So then I submitted my video into the site only to find out that the only way that I could become a semi-finalist was to be in the top 20 in terms of "likes" my video received. I was urged to promote via twitter and facebook and any other method possible. I thought about the merits of spamming everyone I know and promptly forgot about the contest. Screw it, it wasn't worth it.

Now, I understand why this would be a filter for semi-finalists. YouTube contests can get a ton of entries and this helps narrow the field without judges doing any work. It's also a way to promote the contest, and therefore Olympus, to all of the entrant's friends. As an entrant, though, it just stinks. It's a popularity contest only.

So that's why our process for choosing finalists combines user votes and staff selections. Half of the finalists are the top user votes and the other half we pick out. Many cool Instructables are submitted that are looked over. We really appreciate the time and effort it takes to make an entry and make every step we can for the contests to be fair for people who enter.

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Marsh7 years ago
What you experienced sounds exactly like what (I've always felt) happens here. When in the user voting phase, we are encouraged to promote via twitter, facebook and any other venue we can think of...just as you describe above, only it seems even more spammy here because EVERYONE has a Youtube account and far fewer have Instructables accounts. Still, many of us have roped our friends into joining Instructables just so we can get their vote. It's not such a bad thing. Half the member sites I'm on are because my friends asked me to be.
It seems the finalists always contain a high percentage of the more notably active members of the Instructables community. I always see lots of familiar names. I've seen many very high quality Instructables passed over in contests in ways that left me dumbfounded by their absence from the finals while others of seemingly lesser quality (in my mind) won. This may be a statistical fallacy, but it appears that there is a greater incidence of becoming a finalist due to personal popularity. If you have lots of friends on the boards here, it's easier to rally support and votes.
For that reason, I'd like to see you remove the user voting phase altogether and have an impartial judging panel who will not even know whose Instructable they were judging. This panel should contain at least 1 member from the sponsoring company and they should get 2 votes. It's an imperfect world and you can never keep everyone happy.
As long as nobody feels like they were cheated by an unfair rule or circumstance that's probably the best you can do.
Is that other contest still going? Use your popularity here to win it if you're able.
Kiteman Marsh7 years ago
You're right about the familiar names cropping up often, but the familiar names *are* familiar (at least in part) because they produce projects that are well-liked.

I am probably one of those people you would class as "popular", but I have lost far more contests than I have won.

mistic Kiteman7 years ago
Some of my published projects are well liked based on the number of views itemized for that project. Some views are in the 10,000 range but the voters never felt they were winners. Oh well, the projects belong to the world now. I feel I have accomplished something in my life.
fungus amungus (author)  Marsh7 years ago
Odd that you should say that it should feel spammy. We do encourage people to tell others to get out the vote, but also ask that they be nice about it if they do so. When people spam their friends about a contest entry it can be a negative first impression on others for the site as a whole. We also don't specifically tell people to facebook or twitter about it.

As a matter of fact, we originally didn't tell people to tell others about their entry. It was after several messages from people asking if it was OK to do so that we started to include that in the messaging.

It's also not surprising that active members should pop up in the finalists list. Putting together a good Instructable isn't the easiest thing to do the first time. To be honest, we love it when someone new shows up with a great project. We always welcome new voices.

Looking at the winners in the Health by Design Contest it's almost an even split of people who are pretty new (zero or one previously published Instructable) and veterans of the site. In the Coffee Cup Challenge the majority are new authors.

Like you said, it's an imperfect world. Some entries will become finalists that you might not feel deserve it because they received a lot of votes. Others will be left out because we didn't have enough spots.

As for the judging, we try to make the contest more fair by having as many judges as we can to have more scores to average out. It's unusual for a sponsoring company to want to take an active role in judging. There is also the problem of people judging contests that aren't in their area of expertise and personal preference for some type of project. Again, our solution is to have as many judges as possible.

The other contest has already determined the semi-finalists. I didn't feel like this was an appropriate space for that.
It is only more "spammy" in that this is a brand new venue that most of my friends are not a member of, whereas I can't think of anyone who doesn't already have a youtube account. I won't even enter a contest any more unless I have an exceptional Instructable to offer. Even then, I think the popularity of the individual plays a larger role than it should. That said, I still love it here. I would still like to see the voting be as anonymous as possible to eliminate any partiality. Probably not a realistic expectation. Oh well.