Which judging system should we use? Let us know.

This is the seventh part of a multi-part series devoted to our plans for a writing contest. To read this from the beginning or to see a full list of posts as they are posted, please refer to this page.

Since we are still in the planning stages, be aware that any of the following is subject to change at any moment (though I doubt it).

This is mostly in response to a comment from the previous entry on judging, which can be read here. The commenter thought our plan for judging the contest submissions was a bit flawed, and he suggested a system closer to what is used in a lot of other writing contests. As I indicated in my reply to the comment, our main goal is to keep this as simple as possible so that more are encouraged to judge, which would allow for more submissions. After getting Bec's thoughts on the matter and mulling over it a little myself, I've concluded that a simple rating system won't necessarily complicate things too much, and there are some positives over my initial idea.

So here's my new suggestion: we use a scale of 1 to 5 based upon just a few criteria. If there are too many things to rate, it will needlessly compicate things. The most complicated I would be willing to go would be the following list:
  1. Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar (SPG)
  2. Plot
  3. Characterization
  4. Dialogue
  5. Entertainability (How much you like it)

Another version of this but a little simpler while still caturing the overall essence would be to combine plot, characterization and dialogue into one rating (PCD), as in the following:
  1. SPG
  2. PCD
  3. Entertainability

There are some advantages to a system like this as compared to a Facebook-like popularity vote. For starters (and the thing which really promoted me to consider it), Bec and I won't have to prescreen as diligently, some of the things we would have been looking for being captured among the ratings.

Second advantage: although I initially thought a rating system would need to be used in a one round competition, it occured to me that my original idea of a multi-round competition with teams of judges reading two stories each would still work. (Not sure what I was thinking in my comment.)

Third advantage: it will be less likely that Bec and I will have to step in to break a tie. A three-judge panel using the 5-point system will be able to assign up to 75 points to each story (25 per judge), and under the 3-point system they would have 45 points at their disposal. Two stories with the exact same number of points will be less likely.

Fourth advantage: in the event of less judges, two judge teams will still be able to operate without forcing Bec or I to step in most of the time.

Fifth advantage: although each team of judges will vote for one story to move on, there will be a rating, a number, to compare among the losing stories, giving us the ability to have an automatic wild card feature. What this means is that just because a story gets voted out by a team of judges does not mean it's completely out of the competition. It could come back and win. How? In the following round, the two highest rated losing stories will be rejudged against each other by a different set of judges, allowing one of them to be put back into the competition, which will give everyone involved in the project reason to hype it up, allowing the suspence to create interest (which I plan to discuss in a later entry).

There is one other option that has most of these advantages while still retaining most of the simplicity of the popularity vote. Judges would not consider SPG or PCD as separate ratings. Instead there would be one rating on a scale of 1 to 5 which would cover everything. Although Bec and I would have to prescreen pretty diligently, tie breakers would still be less likely, two judge panels could be used if need be, and the wild card feature would still work.

Since there are several options and most of the judging work will not be done by either Bec or myself, I want to open this up to a community vote. If as a group we want to overwhelmingly use a particular system, we'll go with the majority. If two systems or all three get a similar number of votes, Bec and I may step in and choose one.

I've prepared an email to send out to all who have expressed interest, which I'll send after publishing this post. It doesn't matter if you have expressed interest in judging or not. Your vote will count. I also encourage all others to officially express interest by filling out the form on this page and to vote on the judging system below. The form below does not include a place to leave a comment, so if you would like to qualify your answer or have another suggestion or comment, please leave a comment on this page (below the form).