Why Can’t I Come Up with Any Cool Contests Like That?

All my life I’ve tried to create revelry and camaraderie by putting together contests where people could participate and compete in. I’ve seen others do this and have amazing success at it. But I… well… queue the violin:

As a child…
It was night. My best friend, Fabitin, and my cousin, Jesus, were engaged in a basketball that I found absolutely no interest in. While I wanted to play with them, I didn’t particularly care to take part in the game. As a 6 year old I was short, fat, and frankly much more interested in my little red T-Bird convertible than losing again to either — or worse, both! — of them. Of course, this time the court was my front driveway, which didn’t matter at all except for the slight, 5-degree incline between where I sat and the road.

The game had no timer, not set score at which victory would be declared, and no real rules other than the usual “no hitting, biting, or using weaponry”. Heck, there really wasn’t even a boundary, other than maybe the grass and the road. Realizing this, I decided to give the game an end point (after which I would most certainly gain two new playmates) and announced “OK, when the car rolls on to the basketball court the game ends. OK?” I presumed their lack of acknowledgment meant that they understood, and felt no need to waste time responding.

A few minutes later, having grown weary of watching them play (and of being alone), I triumphantly rolled the little red car down the driveway, did my imitation of that obnoxious buzzer at the end of basketball games, and watched as they both paid just enough attention to the car so as to not step on it. They just kept playing.

This was about the time when I decided that maybe they didn’t want to play with me, so I took my little red car, now parked safely on that little dip between the driveway and the road, and went inside to… well, I don’t remember what, I just remember going inside. (I was 6, remember? I wasn’t exactly remembering much those days.)

As an adult…
A few years ago, I was responsible for creating contests in order to increase readership at a few websites and a magazine. Unlike in the basketball court, the response was surprisingly… meager. Not only was the announcement not acknowledged, the contests were pretty much ignored. In fact, winners were usually that by default.

When I was given the position of Community Leader for the Commentary community over at 9Rules I decided to come up with a way to stimulate readership (and commentary) throughout the community by introducing a contest (The CCCC) where I could grant the best note over the course of a week in the commentary community three, then six points. (At that time six points could be considered a bonanza.) Having failed miserably so many times before, I was confident that I could come up with something now. I mean, you can only fail so many times before you succeed, right?

I spent a week studying similar contests with similar communities and eventually came up with a set of rules and regulations, none of which involved a plastic T-Bird rolling down my driveway. This one not only failed, it failed spectacularly: not one person entered.

You know, after writing this I sort of feel like the King of the Swamp in Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail, who related his history so: “When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.” Of course, none of my contests have yet stayed up, but I’m sure that’ll change. Eventually. If I just keep at it. Right?

If I can’t run one…
Anyway, so what’s the point in all this? Well, about a week ago, fellow 9Ruler Ben Gillbanks put up a contest on one of his blogs, Binary Moon, the Binary Moon Links Competition. The contest is simple: write a post about a Binary Moon post, then link it there. — which is exactly what you’re reading right now.

Now, Ben also runs a number of other sites, the most interesting of which for the sake of this post is Binary Joy. While the Ben’s contest has nothing directly to do with that site, indirectly it does.

Think about it: the guy runs a site where he writes news and reviews about games. He comes up with the contest which is not only incredibly simple, it’s also chock-full of rewards, for both him and the winners. (And if you don’t understand the reasoning behind that last statement, don’t worry about it.) What’s more, the contest is VERY well responded to. Why? Is it because he’s offering great prizes? Well, yeah, actually. But also because it’s incredibly, sickeningly simple: Write a post. Link it here. Tell me about it. You’re entered. Not many rules and regulations to follow, clauses and stipulations, legal mumbo-jumbo — nada. Just a contest. That’s it.

Why can’t I come up with any cool contests like that? Who knows, maybe next time I will. (And if you read my last post, I hope you saw what I did there.) For now, if I can’t run one, I might as well enter one.

[Edit: Didn't win, but was as a finalist! Thank you, Ben!]