Simon & Schuster Challenge Epilogue
The Simon & Schuster challenge was one of our greatest accomplishments, and one of our most difficult undertakings to date. It was our first time working with a big publisher and taking challenges to a larger scale. Given the number and quality of entries, determining the top 50 was extraordinarily difficult. Having never done something like this before, we had to really bootstrap our selection criteria.
We spent weeks reading through every single one of the entries as a team. The first criterion we used was grammar. Repetitive grammatical mistakes, and a lack of respect for English syntax in general, were grounds for disqualification. The second criterion was creativity. We looked for storytelling excellence, moving characters, inventive plots. We looked for content that captivated us, that we thought would enthrall others as well. After narrowing the list of entries by these two criteria, 166 remained.
For each of these 166 entries, each team member assigned a subjective "quality rating" from one to five. We considered likes to break ties when the average quality score was too close to call. We wanted to include some democratic element in determining the winners, rather than solely rely upon our own subjective judgment. When all was said and done, we had found our 50 entries.
In reflection, our process was imperfect and we intend to do a better job in the near future. Here are some of the ideas we are considering:
1) Limited Voting. When the challenge ends, everyone gets a limited number of votes, and cannot use these votes on their own entry. We would use these votes to distill the pool of potential winners more democratically.
2) Electoral College. A panel of judges is either elected deliberately or selected randomly to read through the entries and determine the winners.
3) Gauntlet Tournaments. We select a few factors, a combination of judging panel, spell check, democratic votes, and other creative criteria, to advance the best content round-by-round, tournament-style.
We would love to hear your suggestions and ideas for improving our challenges.
Once again, congratulations to the winners and entrants alike.
We are working hard to bring you more publishing opportunities.