Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#291 In which our hero helps his wife enter a contest thereby exposing some of his lesser qualities. Pt. I

Couple of months ago, my wife entered a contest. It was fun at first. But it didn’t end that way. Here’s what happened:

A major horse feed manufacturer who will remain un-named in this post was sponsoring a contest in which the grand prize was a trip to the World Equestrian Games. Now if you, like me, had never heard of the World Equestrian Games (or “WEG,” as all the cool kids like to call it) all you need to know is that it’s a big F-ing deal in the horse riding community.

If you follow that link above you’ll see that it is “considered by many horsemen to be more important than the Olympics.” Some of the best riders and horses in the world would be at this thing. It was also a big deal that it was being held in the United States for the first time ever.

The Scientist got wind of this contest and emailed me, writing, “I’d love to win this thing!”

The deal was that this major horse feed manufacturer wanted to send two people to act as bloggers/correspondents (or “blogospondents” as they put it) who would report from the show daily with blog posts. WEG is a two-week event, so one winner would go the first week, the other the second week.

The deal was that you had to put together a video that introduced yourself, and quickly outlined why you’d be a good choice to go to the show. Major horse feed manufacturer would select four finalists from the entries, then they’d be posted to a website where people could vote on their favorite finalist. The top two vote-getters would go to the show.

So we shot a 60-second entry video. You can see it here.

The deadline for entries came and went and we waited with bated breath to see if she was going to make it to the finals. And, despite quite a bit of “oh, I’ll probably not make it” my wife did indeed get the call telling her that she was one of four finalists. Yah!

It took a week or so to get everything set up (on major horse feed manufacturer's side) but eventually The Scientist and three other women were put up on a voting site.

Now, the idea was that each contestant would post a blog entry daily for a month running and people would vote—daily—on who they liked the best. Or which blog entry was the most interesting that day. Or whatever.

This element of the contest is what would make the contest experience so fucking terrible in the end. But more about that later.

A month worth of daily blog posts is, in the best of cases, a little daunting. When you’re trying to make them super awesome posts so people will vote for you, it’s even more intimidating.

So, to help fill up the time, The Scientist had an idea. There are eight disciplines featured at WEG (dressage, jumping, endurance, vaulting, driving, eventing, reining and para-dressage), so she would write a post about each discipline. Better yet—she would find a trainer in each discipline and actually give it a go!

So, to keep this in perceptive, remember that my wife rides dressage and, other than the occasional train ride, she hasn’t trained anything else in the last 15 years or so. So she was planning on tackling skills that were alien to what she knew. And she was going to do all of this in 30 days or less.

Now, my wife is an over-achiever, and when she sets her mind to do something, that shit generally gets done. And she certainly wanted to win this contest. But this seemed like a pretty huge challenge, even for her. I mean, she didn’t even know if she could find a trainer for each of these disciplines in the area!

So she started making phone calls.

She talked to people who pointed her to other people and she started to line things up. Some of the disciplines were easy… her trainer is good friends with a jumping trainer, and The Scientist would be welcomed to come over for a crash course in jumping. Hmm, maybe not the best choice of terms.

Some were a lot more challenging to find, like para-dressage.

Now, the idea was that she would take a lesson in each discipline, and video the entire thing. I, in turn, would edit it together and post it to YouTube for the world to see. She called the video series “Sheri’s Great 8.”

The first discipline she did was reining. You can see the video here.

About this time, the voting opened.

For the entire first week, The Scientist was in the lead. By hundreds of votes. Two other contestants were in second with a nearly matching number of votes, and the last place contestant was waaay last, by hundreds of votes.

The way the voting shook out the first week seemed right to me. I mean, yeah, I wanted my wife to win, and her being in first place was great. But more to the point, I thought her posts were the most interesting. This insane quest to find eight trainers and try eight new things in a month aside, I found her writing the most genuine and engaging. The middle two women were fine… readable, mostly enjoyable, but they weren’t writing about anything that I found engaging. And they certainly weren’t going out and trying new things like my wife was. The last place woman wrote in a style that I found annoying and grating. She wrote things like: “The equestrian world is going EXTREME with SICK new gear and events!!!” This style of writing didn’t appeal to me and, judging by the dead last placement, it didn’t appeal to a lot of other people, either.

Now, a word about the voting. Major horse feed manufacturer set it up so that anyone on the Internet could vote. You didn’t have to register, provide any personal information or do anything other than press the VOTE button beneath the photo of the contestant you liked. We didn’t realize how big a problem this was until a couple days into the contest.

I was, naturally, following the voting like a hawk. And one day my wife’s vote count suddenly dropped by 60 votes. She emailed the technical representative for the contest about this, her fear being that somehow a wire got crossed somewhere and some of her votes were being shunted to another contestant’s tally.

She was told that her total was reduced because several of her votes registered as coming from the same IP address in a short amount of time, indicating that some sort of trickery was involved. As it turned out, what happened was that I sent out a mass email to my company and said, “Hey! Vote for my wife!” And out of an employee roster of 200 people, sixty of them said, “why not?” and voted.

For what it’s worth, this wasn’t just conjecture on my part. The technical rep confirmed that the IP address in question was from my company, and my IT guys confirmed that, due to the company firewall, it would look, from the outside, as if all of those votes had come from a single IP address. I even had the director of IT shoot an email to the rep confirming that those votes were on the up-and-up.

And this is where things started to get a little shitty.

We were basically told, “too bad.” The contest rules stated one vote/one IP address per day, and that was that. Out of the hundreds of potential votes that could come from my co-workers, only ONE would be counted per day. This seemed grossly unfair, but there wasn’t any appealing it.

But, the blogging continued, and by Thursday evening, The Scientist was still well in the lead, and the EXTREME SICK contestant was well in last place.

Then Friday morning came. EXTREME SICK started to get votes. A LOT of votes. In fact, by late afternoon she was neck-and-neck with the middle of the pack. As evening pressed on she started to threaten The Scientist’s lead. By Saturday morning, she was in first place, by a couple hundred votes.

All in all, she gained more than ONE THOUSAND votes in the span of 24 hours.

And things were just starting to get bad.

To be continued.




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