How we make sure contests are awesome

I'd like to take a minute to talk about our thoughts on contests, fun, and fairness.

First I'd like to say that we strive to make contests both as much fun and as fair as we can for everyone who enters. Entering a contest can be a major investment of your time and energy, and we respect that. If you worked hard to make an Instructable for a contest, we want you to know that everything was fair, and make the contest as much fun for you as possible.

One of the key parts of this is in how we choose finalists and winners. What is best is always subjective to some degree, so we spread that decision across as many people as we can.  First, finalists are chosen by a combination of user votes and staff/judges' picks. Then the winners are chosen by a knowledgeable panel of judges we've assembled specially for each contest.

On occasion, we need to change the contest a bit to make it more fun and/or fair. Sometimes the contest requirements are a little more restrictive than we thought, so we need to push to broaden the theme or push the deadline back, or both.  Sometimes the rules aren't clear, so we clarify them. Sometimes we find people trying to unfairly game the system in a way that makes the contest less fun and/or fair for the other entrants, so we tweak the rules to close the loophole.  Sometimes we decide to award extra prizes, or add to the prize packs at the last minute if more prizes become available. 

That's why we include this point in the standard rules for contests:

6. Instructables reserves the right to modify, cancel, postpone or end the contest at any time as necessary, at its sole discretion, or to disqualify any participant or winner, at its sole discretion, deemed to have cheated, destroyed, obstructed, or otherwise acted illegally or in bad faith in relation to this contest.

In short, we want to keep things flexible so we can run the best contests possible.  It's hard to predict 100% what will happen in a contest, so even our best efforts will need continual tweaking.  We do our best with each contest, and incorporate all the feedback you give us.

 



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Since some of the finalists are based on community votes, it seems a little unfair that Instructables are entered into contests at very different times. I entered one in the cookie contest that was featured and on the front page and all that, but is still not in the contest (it has been four days). However, there are currently at least three Instructables that were published yesterday and are on the front page.

Since a majority of views (and potentially votes) occur during a 'featured' time of a project, why do some get into the contest at this time, while others don't?

I know the contest review is a manual process, but so is choosing what to feature. Couldn't the person who decides to feature projects also enter them in the appropriate contests?
fungus amungus (author)  annahowardshaw5 years ago
Featuring and the contest approval process are independent. There are more people featuring than approving entries. Many more, in fact. So that can lead to a feature before acceptance. It's a problem and I'll see what we can do to improve that.
Thanks for explaining...I didn't know how many people were involved! It's never going to be completely objective, and a change like that wouldn't drastically change any results, but it is cool to know the factors/limitations going on in the background.
Hi Anna,
It has been my observation that when you enter your instructable during a contest, it takes longer to get featured on the home page b/c there are so many other featured ibles...e.g. when I just made one randomly and there was no contest going on, it made it to the homepage almost immediately (at least within hours of publishing) but during a contest, it seems that you get queued up, so for example if there are 8 people featured before you, you are essentially waiting for all of those ibles to be featured before you. This means someone will be featured during the contest, but I think that's automated, not that someone's being picked...but I don't work there that's just my observation...that the ones featured before and after me were also on the homepage before and after me.

I'm also wondering how much voting really has to do with the final outcome. From reading the official contest rules (here copied from Sew Warm Contest)
It appears that voting has no bearing on judging, but I don't know what bearing it has on the finalists. I'm also not a lawyer (I was only perusing this to see if there was a specific sponsor of the Sew Warm contest) so I might be misunderstanding this technical speak. Sorry to answer your question with another question but I was curious if voting even really "counts" or if it's just part of the fun :)

8.Judging. 1.Entries will be judged on the basis of the following criteria (the "Criteria"): originality, usefulness, simplicity, and clarity of instructions, each of which will be given equal weight. While registered voters of the Site may vote for their favorite eligible entry, such voting will not be factored in as part of the Criteria for judging the Contest. Sponsor will establish a panel of at least 5 individuals (each, a "Judge"), including at least the following: Editor of Pertinent Category, and associate editors. One or more Judges will choose 18 finalists from the pool of all eligible entries. In choosing the finalists, Judges will base their decision on the Criteria. Finalists will be judged by the panel of Judges. In choosing the winner(s), the Judges will judge each finalist on the Criteria and the Judging Process as described in Section B below. THE NUMBER OF VOTES EACH ENTRY RECEIVES FROM REGISTERED USERS OF THE SPONSOR SITE IS NOT ONE OF THE CRITERIA USED TO EVALUATE ENTRIES OR FINALISTS AND WILL NOT DETERMINE THE WINNERS. THE DECISIONS OF SPONSOR AND THE JUDGES WIL BE FINAL. Further information on the steps and process of voting and judging can be found in Section B below.
fungus amungus (author)  RollerScrapper5 years ago
The legalese that you're quoting there came about when Autodesk's lawyers looked at the rules and gave it a good thorough cleaning.

As such, we cannot officially use the votes to choose the finalists. In practice, the # of votes an entry receives is a very valuable indicator of the quality of it and whether it deserves to be a finalist. In the end, it is up to the staff working on the contest to make the choices.
Thanks this sounds like a good thing, e.g. someone with 1000 friends voting for them will still be evaluated like everyone else, i.e. not a popularity contest, but really what people are truly interested in.
Votes don't count for judging, but play some role in choosing finalists (or they did) which ultimately can impact judging as it determines the pool of potential winners. 

One example is that right now there is a Baily's Marshmallow Pie Cookie Instructable on the front page.  I would like to vote for it if it is in the Cookie Contest, but it does not say that it is in there yet. (Often it takes up to a day for all entries to make it into the contest, even though the deadline was yesterday.)

So if I log out and don't check the site for a couple days, I would end up not voting for something that I would have otherwise.  It will also require remembering to go check the contest entries specifically since it will be off the homepage by then.
Votes are *the* deciding factor in finalists for contests, unless a sponsor says otherwise (which is very rare).

Regarding the Marshmallow Pie, you're forgetting time zones - the project was only published yesterday, probably in the evening, and (as I type), it is only just coming up to 9.00am in California - nobody at HQ will have even seen the project or the entry log yet.

@RollerScrapper;

What that bold text means that votes are not a measure of quality or appropriateness (an invalid entry might receive lots of votes, but would still be ineligible to win), and votes do not select the winners - votes select the finalists, and a judging panel chooses winners from the finalists.
Thanks kiteman, I guess I was confused by the one or more judges picking 18 finalists, I was thinking that they were picking them, as in choosing them, but it sounds more like they pick the top vote getters, barring some sort of issue like, they are an employee, or someone was somehow otherwise unable to qualify for the finals.
Also since it seems you can vote for an entry at any time, people don't have this issue unless their entry was near a deadline and there is a weekend where there is a lag in getting into the contest. I know personally I like to wait until a contest is open for votes, then I go through and vote for all my favorites, I rarely vote on the page of the project itself, especially because if a project is in multiple contests, you might not be seeing all of the contests it has been entered in anyway. The only people who suffer from my voting method are those who submitted in the last day of the contest, generally I start voting once the contest closes, but I guess some people don't make it to the contest for a day or two later.
Interesting to think about!
Yes, becoming a finalist is frequently down to getting enough views from people who think it's cool enough to pass on.
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