Well, I wanted to make this comment last week, but didn't want it to seem insulting to the artists who printed, but since my shirt came pretty damn close to underselling its vote total this week, I think it's warranted and hopefully people will see that I really mean it, since it applies to my designs as well.
Woot had 6 weeks straight of sellouts, including two weeks of triple sellouts, as well as some daily sellouts, and so obviously there were a LOT of people actively purchasing shirts at a very high rate for a while, and so I think it's definitely the case that there are a decent number of people who are "purchased out," meaning that they are going to stop themselves from buying for a while. That, combined with derby themes that people didn't find particularly interesting, has led to two weeks in a row of lower sales on derby shirts, but without as strong of an impact on voting in the derby. There obviously have been several shirts that sold well recently, but not in the same way that there were just intensely high sales for a very long period of time, so clearly people have become more discriminating in the past couple of weeks.
I understand that people vote for a variety of reasons. The most obvious one is that they intend to purchase the shirt, but it's definitely true that people will also vote for a variety of other reasons (want to support a piece of quality artwork that they wouldn't wear, want to support an artist who has been screwed over in the past, want to support a new member, or just want to support a familiar name for whom they have gotten used to voting).
In addition (as Adder has been preaching for a long time now) there are definitely users who have multiple accounts that they use to sway voting, even if it's ever so slight. I didn't believe it at first, but I've been watching more and more closely and it's extremely easy to see sketchy things at times. I don't mean new pictures getting lots of votes in their first three hours, or pictures moving into our out of new hotness over time. I'm talking about multiple pictures getting 15 votes within a minute or two in the middle of the contest. A lot of people have noticed this happening in the mornings, but it's not just then because it happens at other times too, and quite often has an impact on the standing of the contest. And while some of these occurrences may be just coincidence, I feel that they can't all be dismissed. I have gotten a lot of comments on my entries about how sketchy it is that they made it into new hotness after 2 hours, but I've never seen such a comment anywhere else. This happens most often on the last day of the contest (here's one example that I observed recently- notice the time in the bottom right corner in each of the three screenshots- 123)- It also happens any time a picture falls out of the fog (has nobody else noticed pictures "fog battle," where two pictures suddenly get very high numbers of votes in a short period of time because they are in 4th and 5th and trading spots? I really just can't believe that twenty people would suddenly decide that they really want to purchase a shirt because it fell out of the fog when they didn't want to do so before).
And it's so easy to justify. If it's just one extra account, then maybe they are just replacing someone else that would have voted but didn't get around to it. Or maybe you just assume that, because other people have them, then it's unfair if their votes are less represented. Or maybe it's their way of trying to "fix" the derby, because they feel that shirts they don't like are winning. Whatever the reason may be, I believe that Adder is right in thinking that most users have more than one account, which they acquired at some point over their woot-purchasing lifetime. And those one or two extra votes per person add up, and even if they are distributed in a way that doesn't end up affecting the rankings in the contest ultimately, it falsely inflates vote totals, which leads to frustration when shirts don't sell well. Looking back at the sea derby, for example, there are plenty of shirts that got higher vote totals than the number that boots's shirt sold, but I doubt that many, if any, of them would have actually sold more, because it just wasn't a derby that was interesting to people. And in the case of this shirt, although it did end up outselling it's vote total (barely), I highly doubt that every person (or rather, every account), that voted actually purchased it. In fact, I'm sure that's the case for even the best of sellouts, because people take it upon themselves to try to fix woot, but because every person's definition of fixing is different, it just leads to frustration for all involved. Voting shouldn't be about choosing the lesser of two evils, it should be about choosing shirts that you want to buy. If you don't like a single shirt in the derby, there's nothing that can be done about it at that point.
Ultimately, any given person may or may not have multiple accounts, but a vote without the intention of purchasing might as well be a vote from a multiple account anyway. I just really wish that there were a way to hold people more accountable for their votes, because I think it would make the derby more fair and more fun for everyone.
And on an unrelated note, I know I've said several times that I'd try new things, I want to state this as more of a long-term commitment instead of a one-week promise. I won't say that I'm going to abandon this style, because it's one that I like and one that I enjoy doing, but there's a time and a place for it and I'm starting to realize that (a bit late, I know, but at least the revelation has come). Up to this point, I just assumed that there was a vocal group who disliked the style and I was able to just ignore their concerns because they were generally voiced in extremely nasty and vicious posts, but it's becoming clear that it's overdone to the point that people who previously enjoyed the style are growing to despise it. I'm going to (at least try) to start doing my part to increasing the variety on woot in the derby. Hopefully. Just get on my case if I don't follow through (although I'm sure that won't be a problem)