CONCEPT: Community Contest

Community Contest
If you’re on the forums often, you might notice the “Talent or Curse” contest thread getting replies here and there requesting more info on when the next one will be announced. As far as I know, episode doesn’t seem to be super responsive on this. Because of this, I’ve noticed a few people float the idea of a community contest, which in concept, sounds really cool. After the initial excitement though, the question of “how would this even work?” comes to mind. So, how would this even work? Here is my idea of how we can jump start this idea to offer inspiration to authors to write based on a contest prompt, and somehow boost their story in the process (as much as a community driven contest can).

How will the winners be picked?
I think a good way to determine winners for a community run contest would be to appoint impartial judges who can work together to read each story and narrow down the best candidates for the winner. There should be a set criteria for judges in order to make the decision as solid as possible.

JUDGE CRITERIA (5-10 people, volunteers)

  • Judges cannot enter the contest.
  • Judges need to have at least one published story.
  • Judges need to be aware of contest rules, criteria, and deadlines.

I don’t think judges should be the only voters on who wins. I think the judges should make their selections in order to give an impartial choice, but we should also offer voting to anyone who wants to, with the caveat that they cannot vote for their own story.

Story criteria for contest entry:
I think the community should come together to determine what the requirements should be for a community story contest. Episode’s contests usually require gem choices, romance, heavy choices, etc, which is protested by some authors. Since we make the rules, the guidelines can be made a bit more flexible, but still offering enough structure at the same time.

Here are some proposed baseline guidelines:

  • You must fill out a google form created for the contest before the deadline to enter your story.
  • 3 episodes required (minimum).
  • Put shortened contest name in the title of your story while the contest is occurring.
  • Only the first place winner receives gem prize.
  • You cannot vote for your own story.
  • There will be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners, announced on forums and instagram.
  • Follow Episode’s content guidelines… sigh. Sorry.
  • Include gem choice at the end of the episode titled “contest prize” with 125 gem option so that if you win, you can recieve your prize. You can remove this choice when the contest is over if you want.

Needed Input:

  • Should limelight style be required?
  • Authors can only use Limelight style
  • Authors can use Ink or Limelight style
  • Authors can use Ink, Limelight, or Classic style
0 voters
  • Should you be allowed to enter an already existing story?
  • You should be allowed to enter a pre-existing story
  • You should be required to create an entirely new story for the contest
0 voters
  • How many months should you have to complete your entry?
  • 3 months
  • 4 months
  • 5 months
0 voters

Please drop your suggestions for contest guidelines below.

Prize:
I’m not super familiar with how many gems are impactful to contribute to a story, but I was thinking the winner could receive a large gem donation to their story as well as an official acknowledgment that they won the contest.

  • 125 gems donated to the story (I am willing to make this donation).
  • Official acknowledgement of the winning story on the contest’s instagram account + through an announcement on forums.
  • Perhaps we could send the 1st place winning story to episode directly to inform them that they won the community contest and may be a good story to put on a shelf. This is a stretch, but it’s possible they could see it and give the story a fighting chance.

Prompt:
Drop your suggestions for a contest story prompt below. We can do a poll to ultimately choose which one the community wants.

But…
This is still a concept/proposed idea, if the community isn’t into it and this post doesn’t garner much engagement, I think this concept will have to be scraped. I thought this would be a fun idea and also might show episode how powerful the community can really be. It all just depends on participation and follow through. PLEASE let me know what you think and if you would want to try this! (BTW: I will not be participating if this works. I am happy to be a judge and make the prize donation).

So… are you into it?

  • Yes, I’m into it!
  • No, I don’t think it’s a good idea.
0 voters
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I like this idea for sure! Here’s the link to my thread for contest ideas from the community - Contest Suggestions

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Bump! By the way, since when is it an option to make a 125 gem choice?? Or do you mean, spread over multiple choices?

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Depends on what you mean by “pre-existing” and how voting outside of judges would work. If pre-existing is just a story that hasn’t been published before then there’s no real issue. If pre-existing means a story that has been published for a while it gets a bit more complicated, those stories are more likely to have a larger reader base or more potential to receive community votes because more people have read it. As for voting I’m guessing it would be done through one post with multiple polls? Or through a Google form using forum usernames to identify voters? It just seems like it’d be easy for someone to vote for their own story. Would you have judge’s choice count for a higher percentage than community voters or are they worth the same?

I think the idea is really fun but I’m not sure about how you’d really net out judges or make “fair” enough regulations. Especially in a way that everyone is happy with because, as someone who’s participated in a lot of contest threads, I’ve seen a lot of people feel discouraged or hurt by results.

That said, I’m throwing a horror/thriller themed contest into the ring because Episode apparently doesn’t like Halloween lol.

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When I say pre-existing, I mean a story that has already been published. I completely agree with the points you brought up about this, it wouldn’t be fair to allow people to enter stories that may already have an audience. I put the option just to see what the community thought and if they agreed with that sentiment. These are not the final guidelines by any means, just a starting point.

These are good questions. I see your overall concern though, which is about fairness. I think it could be possible to create a fair system, while also keeping people from voting for themselves. I can look into options for community votes that can help shield from people voting for themselves. I don’t have a concrete plan for this yet, I’m just getting ideas out there to then create a possible system based on feedback and interest.

As for the weight of judge votes, yes, I think judge’s votes would be more of a determining factor than community votes. Maybe the community votes aren’t actually the final say, but rather, the judges use the community votes as data to come to their final decision?

I think there are ways to make it more fair than not, but yeah, not everyone will be happy, it’s kinda impossible to satisfy everyone. The results can be tough, but that is the nature of contests in general, there’s no way to really regulate people’s reactions to their story not winning even though I do have much sympathy for the feeling.

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Honestly, I have no idea if a 125 gem choice is possible LOL- I will need to look into it. If not though, the prize can be over multiple choices!

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Thank you for this! I’m glad you’re interested :revolving_hearts:

I don’t think judges should be the only voters on who wins. I think the judges should make their selections in order to give an impartial choice, but we should also offer voting to anyone who wants to, with the caveat that they cannot vote for their own story.

This may be problematic in terms of being “fair”. Contests like that created by groups on IG show biased part of it. People basically, 99% of time, vote for friends’ stories, not the one that actually deserve recognition. There is nothing wrong with the fact that they want to help their fav authors/friends, but it is also far from being fair because a. they don’t know other stories - they didn’t read them; b. even so, they’re very subjective, not objectively picking the real winner.

So here, I believe, if you do a poll for everyone to vote, authors will gather their support and votes mostly based on that aspect.

Honestly, it’ll be very hard to make every kind of public voting “fair.” Even judges may be accused of being biased or picking sides… it’s just how it is.

Maybe, requirement for the contest should be reading all the chapters [3 for example] for all authors that participate. In that case, they will have a good idea of their competitors and based on their preferences after reading, they can vote for one story that they think is the best one.

Then, taking percentage of judges’ votes: 50%; 30% of authors; 20% of public votes and you have the winner.

It’s ofc just a very raw idea, I’m throwing it as my try to give some solutions.

It’s not possible, that amount of gems has to be split in few GCs.

7 Likes

As for this, I picked a new story because it should work like this, similar to episode ones where we create completely new plots.
New story gives new opportunities, also they can easily match the theme of the contest (if you go for something that community craves in regular episode contest themes, like thriller/fantasy/horror genre) and explore it.

If they want to participate with an old one, they can go and join the ones on instagram held by many groups, like "pick the best… [genre/theme/love interest].

3 months is enough time to create 3 chapters. Sorry, not sorry, but 4+ will result in people just withdrawing from the contest, forgetting about it or just being annoyed by waiting. You have to remember it’s not Episode’s team contest, it’s just community doing a lite version of it. So prizes are less “valuable/alluring”, and the rules are not so “strict.”

5 Likes

Or maybe have 1st, 2nd, 3rd & community choice as winners? Having judges base their decision off of community votes kinda ruins the point of them being “impartial” judges. It would run into the same issue of has the most reads —> more likely to get the most new reads and then has a bigger reader base to vote for it.

Completely agree, I think “happy” was the wrong word to use. I meant moreso that no one would be able to reasonably say that the contest was “rigged” or overly favored a type of story.

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You bring up a very good point… I think it would be best to structure it so there isn’t room for that, agree 100%.

I was thinking this when I initially wrote the post, but I wasn’t sure if that would be asking too much of people. I think that’s a great idea, I hope people will be willing to do that.

This is really interesting! I will need to think about how that will work, but this should definitely be considered as an option.

I really appreciate you contributing thoughtful insight on this, it’s very helpful, especially since you’re offering alternative solutions as well.

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Couldn’t agree more, this is how I feel about it.

The consensus on the polls so far is 3 months, which I think is reasonable.

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I agree judges looking at community votes could sway them, and because of the bias that could come from the community, that might not be such a good system. I like the solution @Mi_writes proposed, I think that may be a step in the right direction, at least.

Ah okay, yes, definitely can agree with that!

1 Like

I have mixed feelings about this idea. One the one hand, contests are something the community seems to enjoy participating in (when not being required to force romance into the story or have a certain number of “real” gem choices). Since Episode hasn’t been really supportive of the idea lately, likely because of community backlash to some of their recent requirements, I can totally see why running a community based contest would be a good idea. Give the people what they want, or they’ll do it themselves.

But, on the other hand, it feels like having the community do a contest just encourages Episode’s bad behavior. They already have tons of community authors churning out free content for them as what amounts to unpaid interns. And they changed the requirements to get into the payment program to make it near impossible to get paid for that work. Then, they went and drastically cut those payments to the few that managed to get in. It feels like they’re perfectly happy to exploit community authors in any way we allow them to, and this could end up giving them a whole new way to do so by passing off the work of running contests to the community.

Because of these mixed feelings, I’m not really for or against the idea. But should the idea go ahead, I figure it can’t hurt to throw in my two cents about how it’s set up. I think structurally, it should be as similar to the Episode contests as possible. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This would mean it has to be a new story (so everyone has the same starting point and as even a playing field as possible), 3 chapters minimum, 12 weeks to code said 3 chapters, follow the content guidelines, have a posted rubric by which all stories will be judged (could even use the Episode one to make it easier), and not just one, but multiple winners (with how many based on the number of entries received).

As for how the winners are determined, I think it would be most fair to have a set number of judges who use a posted rubric by which to grade all the entries. This ensures individual biases can only come into play so much when it comes to judging, making it more fair. As for who those judges are, I would suggest trying to recruit previous contest winners. They’ve proven they know not only how to follow a rubric, but also have an understanding of good storytelling.

Personally, I hate the idea of allowing people to vote for the winners because as soon as you do that it becomes a popularity contest, nothing more. And what’s popular often isn’t necessarily what’s good. But, I also understand that having a voting component might help people participate. So I would suggest having one of the winners be the “People’s Choice” winner. That way readers get to have their say, and authors feel like they actually have chance of winning regardless of how big/small their following is or how good/bad they are at advertising their story to others.

The goal should be to make the contest as fair as possible to the participants. There will always be disputes about who the winners are because everyone has their own personal tastes and biases. That’s why you should structure the contest in such a way as to remove as much of that from the judging as possible.

On a side note, in the interest of fairness, I’d say that you may want to ban the use of AI for the contest as well. Though, I understand that enforcement of this could be quite tricky. Most AI images are pretty easy to spot, but it would be much harder to prove someone wrote something using ChatGPT or a similar engine. Still, something to consider.

3 Likes

At lot of this response seems to be your opinion on episode as a company, which is fine, but is the rational conclusion that people should stop making stories because it’s encouraging episode? Maybe that could be a way to stop providing content for a company that makes moves the community doesn’t agree with, as you said, but my post was made with the assumption that people are interested in writing stories on episode for the sake of creativity and desire to do it, providing a contest as motivation. People on forums generally are continuing to write stories, so I don’t feel like it’s realistic to ask people to stop making stories because we don’t like all the choices episode makes. I feel like a contest does ultimately encourage episode, sure, but above that, it encourages authors to create and have their work looked at by others. I’ve been frustrated with episode for a long time, when I came back to write my work in progress, I decided I am doing it because I love storytelling, and I like doing it through episode. Whether I meet any success is secondary- frustrating, but it’s where I’m at. Strangely, it’s made me more optimistic.

In terms of following episodes lead, I think that may be taken into consideration when creating the rules for the contest. I’m not sure I would jump to follow their rubric exactly, since the point of this community contest is to have more freedom, but it will certainly influence what will end up being the final rubric, if this contest is to be moved forward with.

Picking winners seems like it’s going to be tricky, but I am considering everyone’s input on it so we can come up with the best system. The goal is definitely fairness. I like the idea of contest winners as judges! I don’t know how easy it would be to get them involved, but it’s definitely worth a shot.

I’m not sure I’m going to ban the use of AI for this contest, since again, it’s meant to offer more freedom. I wouldn’t say AI art usage would be built into the rubric as a negative strike against a story that is otherwise stellar because I don’t think that’s really fair. I am of the belief that people should be able to make their own decisions on that issue since it’s very split. I know AI is a controversial, but I’m not comfortable policing what people should or should not decide on that.

TY for your input! I am taking in everything everyone has to say and doing my best to piece it together to create a good combination that can be fair to everyone.

3 Likes

I’m not suggesting we stop writing stories to try to effect change at Episode. I’m sorry if the initial part of my response came across that way, it was not my intention. It doesn’t help that I’m horribly pessimistic by nature. At this point, I believe every community author, myself included, understands they’re being exploited and accepts that because what we really care about is putting something creative out into the world, and there’s no better platform to do that on then Episode because of the retention of IP rights. I guess my frustration stems from the fact that running contests is hard work, and it’s work they should be doing, not the community.

Also, I think you’re right that using the exact Episode rubric would be a mistake. I tried looking at it, but when I clicked on the link it told me I needed to “request access”, which I find a bit worrying. As I recall, part of the rubric involved things like requiring choices and forcing diversity. Which doesn’t make a story better, it just makes it more appealing to a specific audience they were targeting. But I still think having a rubric as the basis for the judging is the way to go. It just needs to focus on fundamentals of storytelling such as clearness of plot, individuality of characters, good pacing, correct grammar, ect.

You have a monumental task ahead of you, and I wish you all the best and all the luck. :sparkling_heart:

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It’s sad that this is the state of Episode now, the forums are a ghost town, weekly releases are long gone, and now we have to create our own contests :sob: I like this idea and hope it works out!

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This sounds very cool, and I support it! I’m worried about how much cooperation and communication it takes, but eventually, I hope the Instagram account (that I assume will be the main platform for this? or will it be a thread or a single Episode forum poster?) will become very self-sufficient.

So this whole initiative would be made by and supported by the community, and not at all by the app/company, right?

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I’ll enter for sure if this ends up happening. Maybe the first step should be to start hiring the judges and create a group to narrow the opinions down a bit and just give us the final requirements to enter the contest? Cause like you said it’s hard to make everyone happy. So whoever’s happy with the requirements can enter or it looks like it would just keep getting clustered.

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I really like this idea, this way prompts can be more creative and there’s more freedom! I’m super up for it and if there’s anything I can do to help, let me know!

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