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How we make sure contests are awesome Answered

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.



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?

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.

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.


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.

Isn't the person who decides which projects to feature a staff member? If someone is reviewing and making those decisions manually (seemingly around the clock), couldn't they enter things into a contest as part of the process?

Maybe it is one poor person who only has time to pull out something to feature every once in awhile on top of other duties. And/or perhaps they do not have access to post to contests.

It just seems weird to me that there seems to be two reviews going on, someone first decides to feature it or not (and perhaps has to stop crazy things from being posted), and someone else reviews for contest eligibility at a different time.

Featuring is done a by a whole bunch of people, not just HQ staff, but the Community Team as well.

Featuring is totally independent of the contest process.

My personal opinion, unsupported by data;

Although having a feature can increase the number of votes, it does not have a significant effect on the final number of votes a project receives, because a project worth a lot of votes is (almost by definition) worth being featured as well.

But "worth" doesn't mean the same thing as "will get..."

True, as I know from recent personal experience. I had a project which I considered worthy of at least being a finalist, a member of staff featured it, but it simply didn't catch the members' imagination enough to get a decent number of votes.

Sorry, I didn't actually specify that the ones on the front page that were published yesterday are already in the contest, hence the imbalance.

Is there a way to see how many people 'voted' for my contest entry?

No, we don't show that. We found that that made the contests more divisive with entrants being more negative to each other. Entrants with low votes being nasty in comments on Instructables with high votes, for example.

Speaking of contests...is there anyone around that can address the hullabaloo going on the the Comics contest and/or the silence in the Duct Tape one?

I think just having a sign that someone is checking in would go a long way...even if it isn't an answer everyone wants or to say that winners won't be announced for a few more days.


You mentioned the comics contest....
That was my first foray into an instructables contest and for the most part it was fun. But I was really bummed out by many of the comments posted on the contest page. People were really coming down on the entrants and judges. I thought the entries were great and the finalists were fantastic. I'm hoping that's not the standard mood around contests.

I'm going to be a bit of a drag and say that technically, my posts on that contest were not directed at the entrants at all (and others made sure to point that out in their comments), but more the moderation of it. For example, I love The Muppets and I thought that Instructable was great, but they are not comics. Besides, I have definitely heard much weirder and meaner arguments between comic book types : )

But, I am sorry you were upset by the comments. I encourage you to check out some other contests. The vast majority of have no controversy whatsoever (if you skip the cupcake one) and nearly everyone is super-nice, even when we disagree!

And congrats on your win!

It's not usually, people were just being poor sports.


7 years ago

I'm a relative newbie here. What if no one views your entry -- is it still possible to be in the running or not? Pretty much still figuring out how everything works here, but it was fun to submit something, regardless.

Views only matter in terms of voting...and voting only accounts for half the finalists.

Plus, the staff review entries seemingly non-stop for features. Views have nothing at all to do with being featured, however, being featured leads to lots more views : )

There are some amazing creators out there who get a gazillion views for only a handful of Instructables, but it took me a lot of projects to get the hang of it!

It is harder when you start out, because those that "may" view an entry will do so from the contest list of entrants only. Once you get a number of "followers" you will have them as viewers as they will get notification of your entry (followers come as you make more things and more people become interested in what you may make next).
Personally, I like to encourage those that I see potential in :-)  
Above ALL else, have fun with things.  DON'T make it like a job....(like I ought to talk LOL). 

Very funny! I know what you mean. Yeah that's what brought me here in the first place -- to learn something new and put some things up that I've learned too. It looks like folks are having fun creating stuff, and so I'm working on bringing out my creativity too. The prizes look really nice, but I'm just tossing my cares to the wind as far as they're concerned. Thanks.

Good, I have in the recent past, put too much emphasis on "making SOMETHING, that I stressed out about it......now, I am still making something, but at my pace....the contest it was GOING to be for is over, but I don't care anymore, I want this to work, and if it does, I want others to see it too - maybe even IMPROVE it for me. BTW, in my avatar, I am the one on the far left, the bald one....next to me is ERIC and then his wife Canida. We all met at the last Maker Faire in Queens, NYC.

You have a good attitude. I like where you're coming from. It's all about doing something because... AhhHa! I get it. I just couldn't resist adding that. :)

Just out of curiosity, was wondering what people think about multiple contest entries using one instructable. My example my latest instructable, "Apron Of Holding" was entered the same day in the Kitchen contest and the spring cleaning contest. When you click on the apron of holding the only vote option is for the kitchen contest as opposed to the spring cleaning contest in which was the primary contest I wanted to be entered in. Now, i know people can vote for it in the spring cleaning contest but only through "entries" page. Wonder if this bug can be worked out, or is it a pure programming nightmare to have 2 vote buttons on the same instructable for different contests. Perhaps this should be a new forum topic, dunno...

Yep, I think there should be a button for each contest. Or, it should be made clear that clicking the "vote" button on the page places an entry in both contests (I have no idea if it does or not)

I'd assume it votes for the on with the ad banner going across the top of the page, but you know what they say about assuming

You're probably right. Hopefully your fans will go to the trouble of voting twice!

I have to ask how a contest can be considered fair when the voting phase begins before all the entries have been moderated into the contest? I have noticed this several times, especially when I have finished and entered my instructable on the closing weekend. IIRC in the yarn contest it took until the second day of voting before my entry showed in the list of entries. I think there should be a 24 hour gap between the closing time and the commencement of voting to allow all eligible entries to be moderated on to the entries page.


I agree. This must be fixed. Voting should only start once all of the eligible entries are confirmed to be visible on the contest page.

Seconded, it's not fair that people can be voting before all the entries are there.

And here we go again, voting has started on the spring cleaning contest and my entry isn't accepted yet. *sadface*

Fixed thanks to randofo, I just hope that others in the same situation also emailed about it.

Excellent point!
I've added this to the to-do list.

We do our best with each contest,

And WE appreciate it to no end :-)

Goodhard is right, I love my new kitchenaid! Thank you so much for ordering it in Europe ( I didn't have to pay any customs charges)!

Do I smell traces of disgruntled emails, written in fonts of yarn?

Serious suggestions:
  • Give a lot more notice for major contests
  • Don't over-lap major contests.
  • Allow back-dated projects to be entered in a contest.
Many amateur Makers do not have a lot of time for major projects, what with family, jobs, lack of funds etc.  Giving months of advance notice would make a huge difference to contest entries.

How many entries that *could* win the MakerBot, Game or Wicked contests are no eligible because they were entered for the Epilog or National Robotics contest just a few days, or even hours too early?

While I think that a little warning's in order, too much planning time would end up with high quality entries but a much greater level of disappointment for the many high quality entrants that really invested time in a big project to not win - Just think about the complaining about not winning that's out there, but louder and MOAR...

I like the overlapping contests, it's also probably good business - the laser cutter one is wide open but the game, robot and lasers contests have a more specific draw, so overlapping a bit seems logical - in terms of creating and maintaining interest from all users, it would be like if the site slowly got took over by a single category for really big contests - which might put a lot of people off.

Yes, but entering competitions shouldn't be the only reason to submit a nice high quality Instructable.


Indeed - that warning period would mean more people making things just for the contest...

My best instructables are mostly non contest ones, well my personal favourites...

I've only bothered with contests very occasionally - I write an 'ible only very rarely, usually to support someone else !

some of us use contests as idea jumping grounds and challenges, not to actually win. :) others of us sometimes like to see how far away from the original contest theme we can get, while still having our instructable accepted into the contest.

I have fun writing them, sometimes the contests give me inspiration - like the button I made, I was trying to work out what to do with the keyboard circuit and that was a nice starter project for it...

I am entering the laser contest but I love lasers anyway, plus there's a project I've always wanted to do that the Artic S1 would be perfect for...

I agree with your statement. Pre-noticed contests should be noted better and advertised better in e-mail and the front page rather than the forums and showing the contest out of the blue. The time factor on entries are an issue too.