Riker's Mailbox

Monday, August 02, 2010

Thoughts Upon Reflections Reflecting Upon SpinTunes #1 and SpinTunes #2

Alright, here's my take on the topics at hand:

Possible Major Changes:

- Popular Vote:
I agree with Travis that popular vote is a tricky thing, and needs to be weighed as a minority judge at best (note: each judge in SpinTunes #1 was a minority judge, as no individual had enough sway to affect an outcome against the collective will of the other judges). Something that just occurred to me, though, is that the vote activity in SpinTunes is about an order of magnitude smaller than that of Song Fu; basically, everyone in the contest voted, and maybe a couple friends of people in the contest... but all in all there was a negligible amount of outside voting. What if the 7th judge were a "competitors' vote"? Each competitor gets their same three votes, and let's assume everyone votes for themselves... leaving two additional votes from which a crowd favorite can emerge. Then again, I think it's a special thing to have the competitors' vote come in for the final round. I don't have strong feelings one way or another here...

- Scoring: I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of resetting scoring, as it can lead to outcomes that some could argue are unfair. For example, I think everyone here would agree that Edric performed consistently better than I did across the span of the contest. He came in 1st place twice; I came in 1st place once... but by a stroke of luck, the challenge I won was the round that led to the finals. If the contest and submissions remained identical, except that the round #3 challenge happened first, and the 1st round challenge happened in round #3, then Edric would be in the finals, not me.

On the other hand, Edric made a compelling argument for resetting the scoring; it's the better option just for the fact that nobody is discouraged from continuing as soon as it's mathematically impossible for them to win (this wasn't a problem in Song Fu when there was not a fixed "point pool"; someone could always scare up 400 popular votes and make up a big deficit).

So then, in my mind the way to reconcile my doubts about the fairness of resetting scoring is this: the challenges themselves have to occur in order of increasing difficulty. I don't think it was ever stated explicitly, but I believe that each challenge thus far has been more difficult than the previous one. Since this is the case, I can begrudgingly accept the idea that my winning in round #3 carries more weight than the scores of people who placed higher than me in both previous rounds.

- TRAVIS HAS THE POWER: Challenges are one of the few things that *are* better when designed by committee. I like it the way it is.

Possible Minor Changes:

- Molly Lewis Rule: I feel like a little bit of a moron, but I don't know what this is. Did Molly win uncontested? I thought she beat Paul & Storm? Whatever the Molly Lewis Rule is, I can't comment on it until I have enough info to form an opinion.

- Judges Term Length: I have no preference one way or another. If a judge likes being a judge, I don't see the value of ousting them, other than to keep the competitors on their toes. None of us knew what the respective judges' biases and preferences would be until after the first challenge was done. That one little bit of uncertainty for the next round of competitors seems to be the only reason to swap judges out every time. Is that little difference worth the trouble? I can't say it is...

- Schedule: A lot of you out there couldn't believe that people were still having trouble getting their entries in on time despite having upwards of two weeks to complete a task. I suspect that those of you who said so are retired, are students, are homemakers, or are otherwise not busy during the week. I work full time Monday to Friday; I have a second part time job, and a weekly gig and band practices that fill my weeknights. Whether I had 9 days or twelve days to think about these challenges, in actuality I've had two days to complete them: Saturday and Sunday. I think on the round 2 challenge I had a leading weekend... so you could argue that one time I had four days at a maximum to work on a song. My point is, for me to be able to do these in the future, the 'working period' HAS to be over a weekend, preferably in the latter half of said period. In fact, you could shorten the allotted time to three days, as long as the last two days were on a weekend, but to be fair to everyone who may not have the same kind of regular schedule that I have, the only fair option is for the working window to be at least 8 days, thereby guaranteeing at least two 'weekend' days (whatever days upon which they happen to fall) for those of us who work full time.

- E-Mail Reminders: No need for this, really. It would be cool to have received an email from you that we could just reply to with our submissions (since your email address was a pain in the butt typing it in the first time), but once we've added you to our contact lists, that point becomes... pointless.

- Widget: Lose it. Maybe replace it with a more prominent link to the bandcamp page.

- Shadow CD: Just call shadows shadows. Since you're not guaranteed to receive an album's worth of them, keeping them with the regular submissions makes more sense.

- Judging Guidelines: Maybe. Or maybe a statement just needs to be published for the competitors' benefit. Mark from Offhand Band made a high priority of stating that he wanted his songs to be judged on his writing only; Joe Covenant made a high priority of judging entries based upon how they sounded to him. Clearly there was a disconnect between what each of them thought a "Songwriter's Competition" was. In my mind, one of them viewed this as a Composition contest, and the other viewed it like a Battle of the Bands. In my mind, a Songwriter's Competition requires both of these to be complementary sides of the same coin. It's not just poetry. It's not just music. Both need to add measurable value to the submission, and therefore both need to be judgable criteria.

The only restriction to this is the one that was already in place; production value shouldn't work against a competitor in any but the most extreme scenarios. I'd like to think that if my songs were delivered lo-fi, I'd still have scored similarly. Thing is, if I recorded lo-fi, the judges might likely have missed some of what I put into the song.

Call this unfair if you want, but I have to add this little bit of food for thought: I have no problem with good production helping a competitor. I spend as much time, if not more time, working on mixing and EQ and other postproduction than I do on recording the tracks themselves. I'm still learning how to do it well, but the point is, the sounds that go into my computer are not the same as the sounds that come out. To that end, I consider my mixing and mastering to be just one more instrument I play... one more layer to the work I'm putting into a song. If I can extract value out of it, I believe it's earned value. Keep in mind also, the production quality exemption is there to keep people from playing on an uneven financial field. If I always sound better than someone else because I have a $5,000 recording setup (not actually the case, by the way) that no one else can afford, I shouldn't get more points. But if I spend ten more hours tweaking a song to get it to sound better... ten hours another competitor could've spent, but didn't, then I have no problem earning a few more points for that.

- SUGGESTIONS: Maybe change the way peoples' entries are displayed on their profile pages... it's just a formatting suggestion. People are listed as voted out, but their subsequent entries are not consistently listed as shadows. There's a way to make it more clear how far people made it into the competition, and how much they continued to do after being eliminated. Other than that, I can't think of anything better than all the topics presented above. Cheers!

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