As most community members seem to have noticed, the vote totals of late have been very anemic, sales have flagged, and a number of popular/quality artist submissions have decreased. I'd say this can be contributed to one shirt.woot process change and a (possibly) correlated shift in the increased insularity of the community.
1) We've been trying out the new Derby rules (#1 vote getter prints Friday, EC on Saturday, Guest Artist Pick on Sunday) for several months now. If you look at the change in the rules and correlate it to declining vote totals, you've got a fairly strong negative statistical correlation between the two (and yes, correlation does not equal causation, but it's always a good place to start).
Socially, this makes sense, as well. The Derby went from being "the voice of the people" to a crap shoot. Sure, #1 gets printed, but often #2 and #3 don't even get an Honorable Mention, so that they can at least show up in the Double-Take derby. The EC, most often, completely ignores the will of the people and chooses a design lower in the fog - usually a design that was submitted on day one, and often by an artist that is in their Daily rotation. The GAC pick has been a complete crapshoot, often picking a non-fogged design that had also been around most of the derby, but not supported by the will of the people.
One of the stated reasons for the rule changes was that it was supposed to help those designs submitted late in the derby receive a chance at printing. Honestly, isn't that what the Honorable Mention was originally for? As it has worked out, though, the EC and GAC haven't functioned this way. Instead, what we've gotten is this:
- The top voted shirt (usually from a very short list of designers) is printed Friday
- The EC is rarely the #2 vote getter, but rather a seemling arbitrary pick that has the perception (real or not) of personal favoritism between Woot staff and the selected artist
- The GAC is almost never the #2 or #3 design, but a rather seemingly arbitrary pick that has the perception (real or not) of personal favoritism between the Guest Artist and the artist he/she selects.
It should really be no wonder that the vote totals have decreased. What's the point in voting if your vote is only good for the first place design, and the other two winning designs have pretty much nothing to do with how a design placed in the derby? And oh, by the way, the designs that would have printed in the past (#2 and #3) don't even get an HM so that they can be voted on in a Double-Take derby. It should be no surprise that the average number of votes each week has dropped off a cliff.
2) Rightly or wrongly, the new system has also created a further perception that if you're a new artist in the derby (or an infrequent designer, or a designer that doesn't have time for making lots of comments in the design threads) you have absolutely no chance of printing, because you aren't friends with the Woot staff or the Guest Artist.
I know several artists that have stopped designing things specifically for the derbies. They still submit dailies, and then if the derby theme matches a rejected daily design, they'll submit it. Otherwise, they've decided there's no point wasting their time on a Thursday night busting their butt to come in #2 or #3 in the Derby and have zilch to show for it.
3) Adding to the perception of cliquishness between some artists and the Woot staff has been the recent practice of the rejectionator ignoring the posted rules of the derby to allow their personal friends/popular artists to post designs that should be rejected. Certainly, the rejectionator has been hitting designs submitted on the wrong template, wrong colors, use of photos and other technical issues, but when it comes to judging the actual rules of the derby, the rejectionator turns a blind eye to violations by popular/inside artists.
If you look at the current derby (Fictional Band Tour Shirts), one of the rules states: "No real bands". At this point in time, a third of the designs in the fog (from frequently-printed artists) violate this rule, with two of them creating a design for the same real band
And if you go further down, there are quite a few more that are for real bands, or are not tour shirts, but just a fake band w/ no tour correlation.
By not following the posted rules (and/or bending them only for designs already in the fog), the perception of favoritism only increases.
In summary: When you combine the perception of favoritism and the lack of "fairness" in the derby, both in the new rules and in the adherence to the weekly derby rules, it is no wonder the vote totals have cratered, artists have given up, and the overall quality of designs has suffered.
SO WHAT TO DO?
1) Most obviously, go back to the old system of voting.
2) What about late-submitted designs? If a worthy design is submitted late and doesn't get enough votes, that's what the Honorable Mention is for. OR, better yet, save the "Monday Shirt" slot for an EC from the Derby.
3) At the very least, if shirt.woot isn't willing to go back to the old system, guarantee an HM to the #2 and #3 shirts (or even #'s 2, 3 and 4), so that the artists at least know they're not wasting their time in a crap-shoot if they don't get first place in the derby.
4) If you're going to post special rules for the derby (like "No real bands"), follow them - especially
for designs higher up in the voting.
My family has dozens of woot shirts (with my wife as the primary buyer), but when I do a quick look through them, I see only one that was designed since the rule changes took effect. She doesn't pay attention to any of the politics here, other than listening to me talk about it, but even she's noticed the slide since the rule changes took effect.
So, shirt.woot gods, perhaps it's time to make some changes (or undo some changes) for the good of the community.