February 2013 Writing Contest Winner Decision Delayed…

I want to thank everyone who has taken part in this month’s contest to either enter a story or vote for their favorite.  There has been an amazing turn out that exceeded my expectations.  Unfortunately, I am concerned over voting patterns in the past two days.  They have been highly irregular compared to past competitions and have me worried this turned into a popularity contest as opposed to one based on merit.  It has always been my goal to provide a place where people could enter their stories without fear of losing due to a lack of friends to vote for them.  I admit it is impossible to fully prevent votes from coming in this way, but I usually have enough outside voters (who don’t know any of the finalists) to counteract such issues.

This time the voting reached almost 120 votes, which made it impossible for me to ensure fairness.  I have monitored all public posts/messages/tweets put out by finalists and found them all to be within my guidelines.  It could be that everyone played fair, but I feel it is only best to be sure.

ETA- I should emphasize here that I found no wrongdoing on the part of any of the finalists.  None of them acted in any way that I could see as being unfair or dishonest.  They all provided excellent stories that deserve recognition.  No one should think otherwise.  My decision to change the method of the final judging is one I made alone to ensure fairness for all parties involved.

For the first time in the history of the contest (it will be two years this June), I’m canceling the poll results in favor of using unbiased judges.  At this time, I am in the process of contacting them and hope to have their votes in the next 24 hours or so.  Some of these will be past winners and others will be people who have never participated in the contest.  My hope is to get an honest sampling so as to declare a winner and runner-up without any doubts.  These judges will cast their votes to me privately, but I will post the vote totals after I’ve received them all.

My apologies to everyone for the delay.  This is not how the contest is usually ran, as anyone who has followed this blog for long can testify.  It is certainly an exception to the rule and a decision I hated to make.  I hope the finalists will understand and find this to be a suitable alternate method to decide the winner in a fair manner.  Thank you for your patience.

~ by Suzie on February 14, 2013.

16 Responses to “February 2013 Writing Contest Winner Decision Delayed…”

  1. Hi Musings of Mistress,

    I saw your post about this contest just yesterday on linkedin, or perhaps the day before.

    I visited the site and wanted to leave a comment praising your fairness. Anyhow I came back to read, loved all the stories; didn’t know any of the contestants, (your post was the the first and only I’d heard of the contest).

    I thought two stories were standouts, but was really surprised after casting my vote to see where my second choice was placed in the voting. In fact, it actually made me wonder just how out of the box my own tastes were!

    I can’t say I’m surprised at your decision. It must be a real shame to the entrants, but it’s probably for the best.

    Good luck with choosing the judges.

  2. JJ, I have contacted twelve judges to vote. One poor judge is being forced (by my threats) to give me her vote after she lands on her international flight. Most of the people contacted did not participate in the initial poll. All of them are from different backgrounds, ages, and are a mix of both genders. So far I’ve gotten five votes back and they don’t quite reflect poll results. Of course, we’ll have to see how the rest come in, but I do feel this is a more fair way to go (as you said).

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope I haven’t upset anyone, but I do want this to be a contest where people feel confident in the outcome should they take the time to write and enter a story.

  3. Suzie,

    You know the trend; and you know where the pattern has spiked inexplicably. Go with your gut.

  4. Just popped back to see what the results were – what a shame the contest has taken this turn. However, I have many years of experience with these things and I’ve found that the best way to judge such a contest is to have an impartial panel of judges from the start, and those judges should not be given the names of the entrants. They should judge solely on the work, even though it’s subjective as all art is. Just as people may vote for their friends or family members, people who don’t like the author could deliberately vote against him/her to skew the odds against them. So there are two sides to open voting. But what concerns me is that the comments I see here cast a shadow on the entrants that may be unjustified, and that’s not fair to these writers. In fact, If I may make a suggestion – I think the best thing to do is delete the poll and just post the judges’ final decision. Or you could cancel this contest and just move on with a new voting system. Either way, the reputations of these writers should not be negatively impacted since you said you found you no proof that any of them broke your rules.

    • I don’t think any of the contestants purposely tried to sway voting in their favor. It’s mostly a bi-product of announcing the vote to friends/family who will obviously lean toward the person’s story they know. From all communications I saw, every finalist followed my instructions exactly. I cannot fault them for that and have no desire to make it appear as if they did (I will be sure to clarify this in the winner announcement). The contest has been ran the same way for a year and a half with few issues, but this month it grew larger than normal which caused results to be murky.

      I am seriously considering picking out unbiased judges for future contests to handle the finalist round. The trouble is finding the right volunteers who can be relied upon each month to look at the entries. This is part of the reason why even much larger sites than my own have to resort to open voting. Fantasy Faction would be one example with their monthly contests. It helps promote the site and gives the writers more recognition if there is a poll. It’s tough to know which method is best on these things, but this is paid for out of my pocket alone so I don’t get the option to be too fancy. I do this to support and encourage writers in what is usually a fun way. I want them to feel this is as fair a contest as possible and have never had complaints before.

      • I don’t think anyone who entered this contest did anything to deliberately sway the voting either. After all, winning a writing contest (or any contest in the arts) would be a pretty hollow victory if you’ve just racked up numbers to win rather than winning through a true appreciation of your writing, and no one really wants that. I can understand how difficult it is to get volunteers to donate their time as judges every month – is it possible to have a rotating panel of judges so no one feels overwhelmed? Just a thought. I think it’s really nice that you’re giving writers an opportunity for exposure like this, and I hope this little glitch won’t discourage you from continuing these opportunities in the future, in whatever form you choose.

  5. It may well be that certain voters left their voting until the last minute. But it does make it difficult for the entrants – whose stories were all excellent – to know if there was some strategic voting going on.

    Even the winner may wonder if they won fairly, which can’t be good for a writer’s integrity.

  6. I should amend that to ‘sense of integrity’. Im not casting aspersions in any way on the entrants.

  7. A comment like “I’ve only just had a look at the final closing votes! WTF??!! Get those new judges in asap!” can certainly be interpreted as casting aspersion on the writer(s) at the top of the poll – as if you looked at the poll results and determined that there was no way it could be possible without some kind of voting shenanigans. As if the story or stories at the top of the poll didn’t deserve to be there.

    • Stacey, you have a point in the way that comment was worded. I can’t say that the person who wrote it meant to offend, but can see how it could be taken that way. As of right now, I have eight of the judges votes back and one of the two top stories in the poll is ahead of the others. Obviously tastes vary and votes will reflect that, but I do feel using unbiased sources this time around was the way to go. If I’d known the turn-out would be this heavy, I might have done this from the start. My apologies for this delay. It was not my intent to make any writer look dishonest. As soon as I have the other judges responses back, I will post them.

      • I agree with both of you Stacey (well stated – you’re absolutely right) and Suzie. In the end, I’m sure all of the finalists will be satisfied with your resolution Suzie. It’s clear that you just want everything to be fair and above-board. You’re doing a great job. 🙂

  8. I would prefer judges over a vote/pole! I Hope it stays this way in the future

  9. It’s so difficult to have an open poll without results being skewed. Some folks just have a larger social reach than others, and even with urging to “pick your favorite”, people will often vote for their friends to try and help them “win”. Hopefully this was a fluke and you can go back to open poll for the next one.

    Take your time! I’m just thrilled to be a finalist. (And I have no idea how the poll turned out. I didn’t vote or check)

  10. I’m waiting on one judge to give me his choices for first and second pick. Hopefully he’ll get them to me in the next few hours. I’m also waiting for another judge to get me her second pick (I only received her top one so far). A full point will be awarded for each time a story is a top choice by a judge and half a point awarded for each time a story is a second pick. When all votes are in, I’ll add up the totals and post them in the winner announcement. Hopefully that will be this afternoon if all goes well. Once again, I apologize for the delay.

    I have also been brainstorming a new method for judging finalists in the future which I’ll explain in a separate blog post within the next week after I’ve worked out the finer details. Basically it is a compromise of sorts. It is my hope everyone will find it satisfactory and more fair than the previous way.

  11. Well, Stacey, I credit you for actually referring to my comment (WTF…?) I wouldn’t have known otherwise whether previously vague comments referred to me, or to Suzie. Since we were discussing the same issue and all…

    Thank you Suzie. No offence was meant to the entrants and I certainly hope none took it that way.

    However, I think my first and second post made it clear that I was referring to judging and voting tastes, rather than to any manipulation by entrants. I also stated that I thought all the stories were excellent and that I’d seen nothing from any of the shortlisted asking for votes. I stressed that I was in no way casting aspersions on the entrants.

    Now, with all the above phrases/praises; even with my following comments and observations – very well encapsulated by travelgipsy – the only thing worth picking up on was WTF…? Seriously now.

    I think you’ve made the right call, Suzie, and I hope the entrants themselves would understand the rationale.

    I wish them all equality and good luck the second time around.

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