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What are judges looking for? Answered

I'm curious about the judging process for contests. Most contests seem to have pretty loose rules and are judged without clear criteria. I put a lot of time and effort into my entries, and many of my instructables get featured, but I've only been a finalist once. If I knew better what judges were looking for, I could target my efforts better. Any suggestions, or could judging criteria be posted somewhere? Like are they looking for the most off-the-wall ideas, best photos, clearest explanations, etc.?


I share similar sentiments; it would be nice to have more transparency into how the contests are judged and scored, but I understand it would be very challenging to implement, considering the number of contests and different entries... I was pretty disappointed to see my Laser Ball entry didn't make it into the finals of the Epilog contest despite making it to the front-page and being featured in the newsletter. It's tough to swallow, especially without any kind of feedback (maybe it was disqualified?), but it's one of those facts I think we need to accept as entrants; we may never be able to know what the judges thought of our projects, nor why they were rejected. It's best to try and stay breezy... as they say, "you can't win em all," and "there's always next time!"

Making it to the finals is not down to the judges, it's down to the votes of the general membership.

To get votes, you need views, to get views you need to have a project that sounds cool before you get to the end of the title, and looks cool in the thumbnail (I am pretty sure that a lot of people decide whether or not to vote before they finish reading the introduction).

The official rules make it sound like judges are involved...

"Judging Process. The winner(s) will be determined through two (2) rounds of judging, as described below:
  • Selection of Finalists: In the first round, after the Voting Period closes, members of Sponsor's editorial staff will rank each eligible entry on the basis of a composite score, 51% of which will be based on the Criteria and 49% of which will be based on the number of votes cast for each eligible entry by registered users of the Sponsor Site. The entries with the highest scores will qualify as finalists, and the number of finalists selected will be as identified in Section A above."

Which boils down to:

"There's a vote first, then ineligible* entries are weeded out before the top-voted entries are passed on to the actual judging panel."

*By "ineligible", we might mean entries from HQ staff, or entries that are found to be faked, or copied from other websites. HQ also have clever ways to uncover vote-rigging as well, which invalidates an entry.

Thanks for the clarification Kiteman. I appreciate it! Legalese is always a challenge to understand correctly.

Just to throw this out there... is there any way to know if an Instructable has become ineligible or invalidated?

Hey Leone (if that's your name?),

I noticed on your entry that the top banner was always for the Make it Glow contest, not the Epilog Challenge. This might have caused a problem, as people who look at it and not the contest page would only vote for you in the one contest.

Maybe you didn't get enough votes because of that, but you should get more for the Make It Glow contest.

Hope that helps. I'm not a judge or an employee or anything, so I can't guarantee my answer is valid. But it's another way to look at it.

Kiteman, I agree that the wording of the judging process sounds very different from how you boiled it down. The judging process verbiage makes it sound like the judges use the criteria slightly more than half (like, does it fit the contest? is it well written? good pictures? awesomeness? etc.) and number of votes slightly less than half. If it means what you say, perhaps it should be rewritten to reflect that.

The wording of things like this is forced on them by the lawyers - they have to get the wording precisely correct to satisfy the laws of the various countries the contest is valid in.

Anyway, the comment was also directed to the weekly contests. The winners selected have sometimes earned a big "huuuuhh?" from me. I just don't get it. Like this week's winner, for example. Stuffed Cthulu? Really? Compared to some of the other projects, that one takes almost no effort and time. Not to put down the project, but I just don't see it as a winner. It discourages me from wanting to put effort into more instructables for this site, especially without insight as to what the selection process is.

Those are judged by individual editors - you'd have to ask them directly.

Becoming a finalist is determined by member votes, not by judges.  To raise your chances of becoming a finalist, consider your audience - more views gives a greater chance of more votes.  If you get to the final, then you're in the hands of the judges.

As well as comparing to the feature checklist, they look for originality (both in the nature of the project and the style of presentation), creativity, and, most importantly, a hard-to-define "awesome" factor.

Obviously, different people have different definitions of "cool", which is why each contest is judged by a mixed bunch of independent judges (ie, they either didn't enter the contest themselves, or didn't get to the final), and their votes are combined.

Best to read the official contest rules because you can get a lot of clues there, even amongst the legalese. Finalists are sometimes determined solely by votes and sometimes it is a composite of votes and judges. So having a high view count can often help. I believe that the key is a well written instructable with good pictures and detail. The project itself may win over the common-folk. But the judges seem to like a well written and documented piece.

I know that as a judge, I look for something that is beautifully done, creative, and accessible. I don't mind if it's a completely original work so much as that the work the author has done is their own. I want it to be well written, well photographed, and, if applicable, easy to duplicate. There are often 6-10 judges per contest, and I'm not certain what appeals to others!

When I said original, I mainly meant "not copied", rather than "never done before".


I've seen several Winning Ible recipes that weren't even REMOTELY original... unless Martha Stewart is a ghost author.

Just sayin'.

Originality isn't the only criterion.

You've just asked the $64,000.00 question, Susan! ;-)

As a participating Maker, I ADORE originality and creative concepts along with the list you penned above.

Those attributes EARN my vote and my 5 Star ratings.

I can't speak for the Judges, though.

(btw... your little Felt Pumpkin was TOO DANG CUTE!!!)