2,528 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
Editor's Note: The following guest post comes to Crowdsourcing.org from Brian Koles of ChallengePost, a platform for contests and competitions in software development and open government. He offers us half a dozen tips for conducting a public competition that will get results.
“Practice Perfect practice makes perfect.”
Competition Perfect competition brings out the best in us…provided the skills and awareness to participate. Combine this sentiment with a healthy dose of “ecosystem,” and you’ve summarized the majority of my conversations at ChallengePost. We’re in the business of running meaningful and exciting open government and software development competitions, and a great deal of our work revolves around advising organizations on crowdsourcing-as-competition best practices, whether we work together or not.
As a team who has been around the block more than a few times in the steadily emergent crowdsourcing and prizes sector of the interwebs, we know a good contest when we see one. Admittedly, we think our competitions deliver the best total value of buzz-worthy innovation, but occasionally somebody else gets it right too.
In no particular order, here are the top six ways to ensure a successful public competition:
Passion easily trumps money as a motivational force. If the objectives of your competition don’t make somebody’s life better, then you will only attract mercenaries drawn to a payday or moment in the spotlight, not enthusiasts aching to champion your cause. Whether attacking a global health issue or building an ecosystem of software tools that play together nicely, viral sharing of your challenge will only be achieved through inherent social rewards. People need to WANT the change you are seeking. After all, it’s not in the interest of somebody strictly vying for a prize to spread the word about an open competition. Focus on making people’s lives better, and they will build awareness for you by shouting from their (virtual) rooftops.
Hosting the main competition web presence on a blog or obscure sub-domain makes it hard to find and easy to forget. Scattering the rules, resources, submissions and communication forums on separate pages – or worse, not providing access to them at all – will frustrate would-be participants into dismissal. The entire competition should be held on a unified platform that engages your audience from initial discovery through to awards and beyond for lasting recognition.
Let’s look at software competitions. Engineers and designers tend to be well-paid, highly sought-after and somewhat quirky people who prefer working on projects that speak equally to their intellect, wallet and passions. The going rate for their time - when they choose to take on a client - is around $150 per hour. And a market-ready software application can easily take 100+ hours (i.e. $15,000) to build. Given that this is a contest amongst skilled peers and not a guaranteed contract, prizes for places 1-5 (perhaps, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Best Green or Student App, and a Popular Choice Award) can, and often should, exceed $50,000. For many organizations, this is simply more cash than they have on hand. In that case, they would be wise to see how else they can reward participants. Perhaps by offering ego-stroking public recognition (i.e. stage time at a conference or a featured profile on your blog), acceptance to a prestigious incubator or desirable in-kind services donated by your company or a partner. Even charity has its limits.
Whether it’s a matter of clearly articulating the rules for submission eligibility, or delivering a well-edited, logically structured and reasonably accessible API for developers to work their magic, it should be easy to participate in your competition. Remove as many obstacles as possible by having an outside party do a trial run, pointing out any confusion or roadblocks. If you don’t make participation a breeze, don’t expect a high level of participation.
In case you somehow missed the whole social media revolution, people like sharing online, and they’re starved for engaging content. If somebody is interested in your competition, then there is a good chance their friends and business contacts will be too. Sure, they can always paste a link into their social network, IM client or email service of choice, but they are far more liekly to pass along the good word if tools for doing so are staring them in the face. Just about every aspect of your competition’s web presence should be unobtrusively simple to pass along, especially when the time comes for seeking votes to win ‘Popular Choice’ type prizes.
While the goals for your competition may be serious, the process for accomplishing them need not be a burden. Provide as much public recognition as possible. Discuss progress and setbacks alike in an open and relatable tone. Encourage collaboration, and allow yourself to bask in the glow of collective action towards a common objective. Throw an awards party, and invite everyone involved to bring guests in celebration of their accomplishments. Your excitement will be infectious. Let it spread.
Hopefully these tips are helpful as you look to the public for solutions to the problems and ambitions within your organization. If you would like to talk more specifically about executing on your perfect competition, we’re all ears.