Sunday, June 22, 2008

Selection of Competition Winners - Demystifying the Black Box

Because we are in the midst of a voting period after the submission deadline has passed on a Competition at Local Motors, we have received a greater than average number of queries about our method for selecting a winner.

From the Competition Guidelines everyone can read that Local Motors in its sole discretion chooses the winner but that we take into consideration votes, comments, etc. in doing so. In all correspondence on this subject, we have made it clear that we let the opinion of the community lead our decision more than any other factor. That is a core belief of ours.

I was rereading the PSA (Peugeot) design competition rules this weekend and realized how very opaque and centralized its decision process was. This opacity is central to most design competitions, who rely upon the safety of a "black box" process. In such processes, there is no mechanism for feedback, and the community is only asked for its input at one stage of the competition, if at all. This is no way to treat a community of valuable participants and enthusiasts, and it got me to thinking about our own disclosure and the impact of the community in our selection of a winner.

Of course, the limiting factor of any "anatomical" disclosure is that it permits "gamers" to set the odds unfairly in their favor. To protect legitimacy, therefore, we always maintain discretion of enough of the details of our analysis engine so as not to allow hijacking of a competition's results.

Nonetheless, I felt that we could and we ought to provide more detail on how our team goes about making a decision on a competition winner. In summary, we subject the voting of the community to a methodical analysis to help us determine a winner and to remain consistent from one competition to the next.

Looking inside the Black Box, (

In more detail, we subject every participant to an analytical engine so that we can analyze the effect of his/her vote on the community, process, creation, and sale of our vehicles. Said another way, we carefully analyze and account for each person who makes a vote based on a range of factors critical to our business. We never attempt to adjust, edit, alter, or change the actual vote that someone casts for a design.

Each of these following "user" factors cause us to react to the way we think about a user's preference and therefore influence our choice of competition winners: Whether or not one is -

a winner of an LM competition
a buyer of an LM vehicle or product
a user who is "local" to the competition region
a dedicated commenter/critiquer
willing to vote someone's work up to the Design Wall or is someone on the Design Wall oneself
a visitor to a physical LM location
offering unique submissions to the site (Information about oneself, profile pics, checkups, build pics, entries, avatars, etc)

Though this list is not exhaustive, it gives a good sense of the type of factors we watch carefully.

Remember that these factors have NO BEARING on the designer submitting the work nor the design itself, they merely refer to the site user who is voting and commenting on those designs. We make no determination of the value or rank of any design on the site until the community has had the full opportunity to state their preferences.

This allows designers of all backgrounds, skills, and approaches to be judged equally and without bias by the community, and it allows all types of users to cast their vote and feel appreciated whether or not they are designers, builders, buyers, enthusiasts, or simply fleeting users of the community. More than anything we care that you engage.

Come one, come all and participate. We care that you are here, and we care what you think. Now it is your turn to effect directly the future of automotive offerings in your Local area. Local Motors - Drive the Design.


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