Introduction: How to Judge a Contest

Picture of How to Judge a Contest

At this point you have been asked by the Instructables staff to help judge a contest.  You may be a professional outside of the Instructables community, prolific author, or a past contest winner.

Your input as a judge is invaluable to the Instructable community and helps us to run the best contests on the internet.

This Instructable focuses of two parts of the judging process:
1. How to create and submit your judging ballot.
2. Understanding the judging criteria to make an informed decision on how to rate a project.

***NOTE: the images in this Instructable are not from a real contest.  They are all Instructables I (carleyy) made.  I will use them as examples in STEP 6 as a mock judging experience.

Step 1: Look for PM

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Now that you have been asked by our staff to help judge keep an eye out for a message in your inbox with further judging instructions.

Once you've received a PM letting you know judging has started, you can head to the contest page to see the ballot!

Step 2: Add Projects to Ballot

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Add all of the finalists you would like to judge onto the "Ballot" by clicking the "Add to Ballot" button below the photo of the project.  You know the project will be added to the ballot because it will appear on the right side of the screen.

Please note that some contests will include enough finalists to result in a second page of projects, so make sure to scroll down to the bottom and check that you've added everything!

See STEP 5 "Common Judging Questions" for information about how many entries you should judge.

Step 3: Score Project and Save

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Follow these instructions for rating the finalists and saving your scores.

1. Check Out Entries: Click on the entry titles to open them and read through. Pro tip: it's best to right click and open them in a new tab!

2. Rate Finalists 1-9: We use Range Voting. To rate each project drag the cursor below the project on the ballot to rate the project 1-9. You must move cursor - until you move it you will be giving the project a score of 0. If you would like to rate the project a 5, drag the cursor away and back to 5 so the vote counts. You can find the judging requirements in STEP 4.
9 = amazing mind blowing project that best satisfies the judging requirements.  You may decide the project excels in one of the judging requirements more than another.
5 = the project may vaguely satisfy the judging requirements, or it may only satisfy 1-2 of the judging requirements.
1 = yuck! Doesn't satisfy any of the judging requirements.

3. Scores are automatically saved: Once you've added an instructable to the ballot and scored it, it's safe!

What matters for the judging is the status of your ballot when judging closes. You can come back later to do more or change your scores. Just make sure to save your ballot so it gets counted.

Step 4: Judging Requirements

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Judges should use the following criteria when judging each finalist.  It is not meant to be used as a rubric, but more of a guideline to critically evaluate and compare contest finalists. As the judge you decide if an Instructable adheres to the judging criteria and how to apply the criteria to the specific contest you are judging.

Project best represents the theme of the contest. This is very important, because a project may be extremely creative and well documented (and the most ingenious project of the finalists), but if it doesn't best fit in line with the theme it should be strictly penalized.

Explanations and directions are coherent and intelligible.  The order of instructions should make sense so someone could follow along and duplicate the project. It doesn't need to be written for every skill level, but should be accessible by the audience that uses the technology or skill implemented in the project.

Ingenuity and Creativity:
The project implements a clever or unique design. Project explores an area of study that is not well documented or presents a solution to a problem that is not well defined. A stand out project doesn't have to re-invent the wheel, but need to have an element of uniqueness that sets it apart from similar types of projects. The project presents a practical solution that may not otherwise be apparent.

Quality of Presentation:
Projects should be broken into easily understod steps (or stages/processes for Photo and Video).  There should be an appropriate amount of text describing each step completely (the feature checklist hits this very well.) All pictures, diagrams, and sketches to be the author's own, original work. Where this is not possible, steps should be taken to minimize amount of other people's documentation - and always with their permission.  Visually the project pictures should accurately represent the project and be easily understood by readers who may not be familiar with the concept.

Execution of the Instructable
Intro image fits and explains the project. The narrative should engage and educate the reader, and complex areas of discussion should have enough detail and external links to guide the reader through your project and onto further reading if required. The entire project should be understood by someone not intamately familiar with the material. The tone should aim to educate and entertain.

Step 5: Common Judging Questions

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How many projects should I judge?
You do not have to judge all the finalists, but it is good practice to do so.  If you only judge your favorite entries with high scores and leave the rest off the ballot it doesn't recognize entries in the middle of the pack.  Those entries may be deserving of second place or runner up prizes, but may get pushed to the bottom of the list.

For best results, judge all the projects against the judging requirements and against each other for the optimal winner outcome.

What happens if I don't give a project a score?
By leaving a project off the ballot you are NOT giving it a 0. When you don't vote for a project it doesn't register any score in the database. Only giving a project a value of 1-9 will affect a change.

Step-by-Step Instructables vs. Photo Instructables vs. Video Instructables
If the contest allows all types of Instructables to enter how do you judge one type against another? As long as you are judging entries against the judging requirements this shouldn't be too hard.

Projects like recipes sometimes don't make sense in the step-by-step layout and it may be perfectly acceptable as a photo Instructable.

Step 6: Example Judging Process

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Here is a mock judging process for a Holiday Gifts Contest.

Keep in mind, this is MY PERSPECTIVE as a judge and how I judge entries against the judging requirements.  Every judge is different and interprets the judging requirements differently.  This is why we have at least 10 judges in every contest.

There is an element of "wow, awesome" that is nearly impossible to define, but is clearly visible when you see it.  Such ingenuity may compensate for slight weaknesses in presentation

San Francisco Neighborhood Wood Wall Map - 5
This project gets its points for subject and ingenuity/creativity.  It is great that the project includes a file which is really the bulk of the project. However, it really needs more instruction for the build of the project. It looks more complicated than just printing the file 

Woodcut Silhouette Portrait - 8
This project works perfectly as a gift.  It has a great story behind it and is a unique idea.  Although the project doesn't give instructions for manipulating the photo, it links to a tutorial - no need to re-explain these steps if there is a great tutorial that exists elsewhere. I knocked it down a point because the last step doesn't throughly explain the gluing process.

Suitcase Picnic Table - 9
This project hits all the criteria spot on. It would make a fantastic gift for any family member or friend. It is a new spin on suitcase repurposing - I haven't seen anything like it.  It is broken down into appropriate steps and every step is explained in great detail.  It is obvious that the project actually works and has been used. 

Fish Skeleton Earrings - 3
These earrings would make a great gift for almost any lady, and it's wonderful that the files for lasercutting them are included. Because they're lasercut, though, there's not too much in the way of documentation. While the presentation is good and the pictures are clear, it's not as comprehensive as most. The project is also not the most original - fish bone earrings have been around for quite a while now!

Custom Wood Clothing Hanger - 6
This is a clever and original idea that would make a great gift for expecting parents or for people you know that just love clothes. The files for lasercutting have been included (three different ones!) and the photos are great. While this project suffers from the same lack of documentation like the fish skeleton earrings, it gets higher marks thanks to it's originality and the fact that it can be easily customized.

Fringe Necktie - 4
This project gets points for documentation. However, in the first step it says it is based on an item that already exists - thus not very creative.  Its also a very generic gift (especially compared to the other gifts on this list).  Some of the pictures are blurry.

Step 7: Guides for Writing a Great Instructable

Here are some helpful resources for writing a great instructable and evaluating projects.

If you are interested in judging a contest go here.


WarenGonzaga (author)2017-10-05

I want to judge on the tech category!

awesomered (author)2017-01-30

I want to judge tech.

awesomered (author)2016-12-04

I want to judge tech.

Adil95 (author)2016-11-06


ShadowRoch (author)2016-10-15

Really Helpful. Thank you!

I have a question.IF theres a really really good project,example:the pi laptop(thats entered in the contest).But i also do know it is not a new project.What score should i give him/her then?

Kirand1 (author)2015-10-02

Is it fair and/or allowed to judge your own Instructable in a competition. Just wondering.

offseidjr (author)Kirand12016-09-28

You are only asked to judge contests you are not entered in. So, unless you have two accounts, you would not judge your own.

Kirand1 (author)offseidjr2016-09-28

Well for me at least, I was chosen to judge a competition that I had entered. I did receive a runner up prize but I did not include myself in my ballot. If the rules have changed now then thats good but it was something that happened to me.

Phil B (author)Kirand12016-09-07

I was asked to serve as a judge a couple of times, but never for contests in which I had entries. I would think entrants would not be asked to serve as judges.

Mark 52 (author)Kirand12016-07-03

yes but be honest with yourself.

Mineteep (author)Kirand12015-10-13

I don't know, however I do not think that it fair to vote for yourself. Hope this helps :)

Kirand1 (author)Mineteep2015-10-30

Thanks m8. I guess it is just an unwritten rule.

SouthPaw Sculptures (author)2016-09-03

how do I make sure my ballot is saved so it gets counted when the judging closes?

SalikW (author)2016-05-20

thanks guys :)

muthucool (author)2016-05-14

This is a great guide for beginners, helped me out a lot. Thanks!!

DoggyMANIA6105 (author)2016-04-26

can you judge more than one contests at a time if your asked to?

howsimplyisitdone (author)2016-04-05

wow. exciting!

C-modifié (author)2016-04-05

..Then I clicked on the link "go here", it openned another instructables with another link "You can find out more about judging a contest here." and 'round we go...
What am I missing here?

psychomiriam (author)2016-03-18

First time judge contest ...this well be fun..just send a email when,were,time and ill be there lol.

thank you

warriorethos2 (author)2016-01-30

If I have an Instructable in the 2x4 contest can I still judge the contest?

KelvinA7 (author)2016-01-30

This would be my first timer to judge the contest :)

KristinM5 (author)2016-01-08

Thanks. I'm judging my first contest now. And now I know how!

ohoilett (author)2015-12-21

Nice guide. Thanks.

violingirl (author)2015-01-26

When I judge a contest I either judge all or none.

I will also take away a point if someone says, "Vote for me."

"Vote for me!"

nancyjohns (author)violingirl2015-04-17

lol, yeah. It's sort of annoying when someone says that.

set2Xplode (author)nancyjohns2015-11-07

lucky I didn't do it... Phew.

Ah, so I'm not the only one who finds that a little irritating. I wondered, because so many people say it. I even put it in the text of one of my entries once, at the very end, because it seemed like everyone was doing it. But then I just didn't feel right about it and I took it out.

Mineteep (author)2015-10-30

No, juges are not always staff. Im a juge and not a staff you will get a email saying that the instructables staff saying thay want you to juge a contest :).

Kirand1 (author)2015-10-30

Not true although many r staff quite a few of the community (me) do judge these competitions ??

Hyperlinks1 (author)2015-09-27

How do you save your ballot?

jose m (author)2014-10-22

is someone not allowed to vote for an instructable in a contest until they've published atleast one instructable?

Brooklyntonia (author)jose m2014-10-28

You do have to have an account. However, as I recall when asking my friends to vote for my entries way back when, they were able to log in with Facebook.

Carleyy (author)jose m2014-10-27

Anyone can vote in a contest

amandabestor (author)2014-09-29

Are there any requirements for being a judge? (Like how you can qualify)

shazni (author)2014-09-26

Wow, pretty impressive. Hope everyone judges accourdingly

heathbar64 (author)2014-02-07

Please elucidate. you say the scores are saved automatically, but next paragraph says to be sure to save your ballot so it will be counted.

unlearny (author)2014-02-04

I would love to judge a contest. I have plenty of experience following instructables, but have only uploaded one, which was not great, but /i knew it was not great!

darman12 (author)2013-08-28

This is very helpful. It will help while making future 'ibles because it shows exactly how they are judged. Thanks for illuminating :)

How long does it usually take to announce the winners after the entry window has closed?

jessyratfink (author)darman122014-01-25

It normally takes 1-2 weeks, depending on the contest. I try really hard to always announce them about a week after, but sometimes things can get slowed down if we're working with a big sponsor or the contest gets tons of entries and needs a longer judging period. :)

darman12 (author)2013-08-28

This is very helpful. It will help while making future 'ibles because it shows exactly how they are judged. Thanks for illuminating :)

How long does it usually take to announce the winners after the entry window has closed?

veryrealperson (author)2013-07-29

Yeah this guide underscores the deep problems with the judging system. Range voting is weak and arguably a lazy man's version of something like scorecard voting. So much to add to my instructable about instructables after having just judged a contest using this... Was illuminating.

falk (author)2013-03-09

So what makes the finals is determined solely by popular vote?

jessyratfink (author)falk2013-05-28

Nope! Normally that will only account for half at most. We try our best to scour all the entries for finalists, not just those who end up at the top because of votes. :D

vanweb (author)2013-01-11

This is great for us wondering how the judging process works once the finalists are picked. But what I (and others I am sure) are very curious about is the process of getting from all entrants down to those finalists...

I know votes count for part of it but I have seen finalists with very low page views (and by extrapolation probably lower votes) than projects with 10's of thousands of hits that do not make the finals. The "legal-ese" usually states that 49% are chosen by votes and the rest by the judges. But on large contests with ~500 entries how is that 51% chosen and how many judges does it take for this daunting task?

Just curious :-)

jessyratfink (author)vanweb2013-05-28

This varies a lot! Sometimes it's just a couple of folks picking the winners, sometimes it's the whole editorial team fighting over it. Sometimes employees of the company sponsoring the contest get involved too.

Everyone on staff has a different thing they look for when it comes to finalists, so we've always got something to talk about. ;)

On average, it normally takes 2-3 days to pick finalists.

Junophor (author)2013-02-09

A short "Hello" to the instructables team
Thank for this help. It is an honour to me for beeing asked to judge. And so I read this instructable very carefully and it helped me very much to understand quite a bit more about the contest and its rules.
Yours Aeon Junophor........ now judging:-)))

Ninzerbean (author)2013-01-10

Thank you for this. I would like to add that it would be most helpful if the theme and rules of the contest were posted at the top of each page of ballots to be able to refer to. That way something that does not meet the rules can be quickly 'ruled out' instead of spending time reading the whole 'ible in depth.

bajablue (author)Ninzerbean2013-01-11

It's my opinion that "...something that does not meet the rules ..." should never get past the contest moderator in the first place.

Maybe it's just me (and my pet peeve) but too many entries are notIbles, in any true sense.  Often,  the author basicly says "I made this!" and provides a few pics, but no succinct DIY information.

We're all here to learn... not just fawn over finished projects (as spectacular as they may be) with no "how-to" information.

About This Instructable




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