As many of you are aware, b/r has a college football contest running until early December. The grand prize is a trip to the BCS title game, including airfare, lodging and press credentials for the game. Start your engines, writers—everybody wanted "in" in this contest.
The winner of this contest would be picked by how many pick of the day votes he/she received. Whomever had the most picks would get the chance of his lifetime to cover a BCS game from a reporter's point of view.
Naturally, there were some questions about how this contest would be monitored.
In the b/r blog's announcement of the contest, there was a comment/question format, and a writer named Angel asked the following question:
1. Angel Navedo said on August 27, 2008 1:19 pm
Sounds like a wonderful idea that'll definitely boost traffic. However, I fear that it's going to cause some unfair voting. The writers here are talented, but I'm afraid it may result in whoever has the most friends being declared the winner. What happens when a friend logs in only to vote without fairly reviewing other articles?
Community leader Trey answered the question first with this response:
2. Trey said on August 27, 2008 3:43 pm
An important point, thanks for bringing it up Angel. Several others have emailed me with the same concern.
Rest assured, we have safeguards in place with respect to the MyPicks feature. We'll also be vigilant about policing abuse throughout the course of the competition.
We're very confident that those efforts will reward the most deserving writers over the course of a long, but exciting college football season.
B/R co-founder Alexander Freund then followed up Trey's response with this comment:
3. Zander Freund said on August 27, 2008 5:59 pm
Thanks for the comments guys.
Angel—trust me, nobody is going to be able to cheat their way to victory/game the system. I can't reveal the specifics (for obvious reasons) but my strong advice to everyone is to play it clean, because WE ARE GOING TO CATCH ANY CHEATERS AND BRING THEM TO JUSTICE.
For most of the writers who were in this contest, it was very clear that recruiting other readers for the sole purpose to have them vote for their articles was verboten. Bleacher creatures who entered in this contest trusted b/r to monitor as they had promised.
Unfortunately, not everyone knew about this, and one writer did in fact recruit some votes through emails, which has helped him remain a serious contender.
Is he a bad guy? No. Let me be clear, he is a well-respected writer here and a friend of mine as well. I feel confident he would never try to get an advantage over someone else in this contest. In fact, he even offered to take himself out of the contest. That speaks of integrity to me. He did not do anything wrong.
My frustration is with b/r. Their response to the situation has been somewhat puzzling. B/R inferred, via email, that it was indeed OK to send emails to friends, colleagues etc. to get people to vote for your own articles.
It is that stance that I find disheartening for the following reasons:
1. Community leader Trey and co-founder Zander, both very respected by all of us, made it clear on b/r that this was not allowed. To then change the rules or not adhere to a guideline posted could taint the entire contest. You simply can't have one set of contestants following one set of guidlines, and others not.
2. The purpose of the contest is to reward the "most deserving writer." Please define deserving, b/r. Is it the one who works for a large company such as myself, who could easily rack up 2,000 votes per day with one mass email sent out to my colleagues?
Or is it the one who works to perfect his craft, such as Brian Scott, Gray Ghost, Kevin Paul, or Michael Cline, and others who strive to write solid, well-articulated articles that give b/r a solid reputation.
3. There are many miffed writers who feel the contest's rules were clear or concise and have now been changed.
Some writers are mad, some are being portrayed as cheaters, and some are just frustrated because their articles have no chance to be featured when others have a steady line of voters who every day stop by and pick one writer's article without commenting, reading others, or bothering to read anyone else's articles, sending that article on to the feature page.
The integrity of this contest is now being questioned, which falls on the shoulders of those who set up this contest. Anytime a contest is run, there has to be rules. When one contestant asks a question about what is tolerated and what is not, and the answer is posted, the rules need to back up that statement. It cannot be changed, nor can it be ignored.
Luckily, we have outstanding b/r founders who are fair and just in their assessments, and I have no doubt this current situation will be handled with diligence and open-mindness.
How can we solve the problem?
While the writer who unknowingly bent the rules should not be punished, other writers have been punished by following the advice set forth in the Q&A segment. They didn't recruit extra votes.
The best solution I can come up with is have the top 10 writers be in the semi-final and have the founders come up with a topic under 750 words that each writer must submit as an article. The founders must then judge which article is the best and crown him King of b/r.
Why is that the best way? Because this is a writing contest, not a popularity contest. What if a writer who has absolutely no talent decided to recruit votes and end up winning with the most picks? Is this a person b/r wants to represent them? (And please don't think I am inferring there is such a person with those qualities in the contest.)
If this is a writing contest, then b/r should evaluate this on writing ability. Clearly, that was their original intent, and I would hope that having the best writer represent them is in their best interests—especially at such a high profile event.
There is another reason why this added challenge should be implemented. There are some outstanding writers here on b/r that have not gotten the recognition as others. This is their chance to shine and prove that while they may not have as many votes as say, myself, they are clearly worthy of consideration.
What say the bleacher creatures?