Sunday, 10 November 2013

How not to run a Facebook contest?

On 26th October an online regional website http://www.konkanimilan.com/ started a contest due to the upcoming Children's day (14 November) in India on their Facebook page. Our Godchild's photo was submitted by his aunt. We weren't aware of this until a week later.

Maria became excited and wanted to help increase the votes. So she started asking all her friends who are on Facebook to like the photo. She even coaxed me to post the links in my Ingress Hangouts and make a post on my G+ stream about it. Her brothers started posting the link to the photo on every contestant's comment stream and on other similar contests from other Facebook pages. Most parents of contestants were doing something similar including asking the other contestant's parents to "Vote for us, we have voted your child."

We saw a sudden increase in the likes after this. We were happy because we thought that our shares and prompting people was working. It was also clear that there were votes from rest of the world and we zeroed this down to be probably from my G+ profile which has followers from around the world.

Then came the first bomb. We received a mail from Konkanimilan saying that people are posting the kid's photo on "Porn Sites" for increasing the vote count. Obviously people were shocked and angry at this. Then they started emailing people with the links of some profiles which they think are porn. 4 such were sent to us. Having a look at them, it looked like there were profiles of 4 females with nothing in them that can be associated with Porn. There was a women fully covered but in a night dress, another was of a woman in a deep neck t-shirt which showed some cleavage and the third was of a lady dressed in what can be described as a party dress. So apparently, these were porn profiles because Konkani Milan organisers were culturally blind about the rest of the world. Seriously, the Indian Saree exposes more than what these three girls did. A second mail did include 2 profiles out of which one we agree was supposedly fake and the other was of a Brazilian kid interested in Acoustics who for some reason had a girl in bikini as his profile pic. However, his posts did show his interests in music as it had his photo with guitar, etc.

My Brother in Law was in contact with the parents of other contestants. One of them got a similar such mail and he spoke to him about it saying, "They have asked us to remove some of the likes of Brazilian girls from our child's photo; otherwise they will disqualify us. How do we remove the likes?"

It was clear that the organisers have little knowledge of how Facebook and in general the Internet works. You can neither control the likes on a public page nor can you remove them.

After some International phone calls, the organisers said that they are sorry for the mail and it wasn't their intention to hurt people's feelings and asked us to continue.

Since we agreed to continue, my Brother in Law's wife who is Head Nurse of a famous Hospital decided to ask people in her hospital to like the kid's photo. Maria made a list of the Facebook friends of everyone in her family and started checking if they had voted or not and would ask them to vote or tag them so they get notified.

Then came the second bomb. KonkaniMilan kept up with their accusations and said that we have 2000 fake likes, but are unwilling to share the list with us. What they think are fake based on their previous conversation was clear enough for us to understand that they could wrongly mark genuine people as fake just because they are dressed in an attire that clash with their cultural understanding. When we questioned them, they said that the rules mention that readers of Konkani Milan are only valid to vote. They had clearly changed the rules. Anyway, how do you know who is the reader and who is not on a public page? People can read the page without liking it and those who liked it may not necessarily read it.

Other accusations made were using some sites that increase likes. I have heard of media personalities buying fans and likes and spending money on such sites for a contest that gives equivalent to £150 in first price is definitely not worth it.

Here is what I think the contest organisers should have done.
1. The duration of the contest was too long for trolls to take over. 1 Week should have been the limit.
2. They should understand that Konkani Catholic community is spread globally. It consists of several NRIs who now live in almost every part of the world. When you ask people to share and like, they will share with people they know in places they live. So being culturally blind is not an option. The fix to this would have been to ask only people who have joined the page to vote. Obviously this means lock down the page to members only.
3. Trolls do not care who wins or looses. They exist to spoil the fun for everyone. Throwing random accusations at members because a troll has been playing with the contest should not be done by the organisers. It will only alienate people and will make them loose members.
4. Likes should not be considered as the ultimate deciding factor. Since it was a vote for the best child, a neutral photographer or personality should be involved to decide the best from the top 10 voted contestants.
5. A method of verification should be involved to identify the person who voted was genuine enough and not a random troll.
6. Rules should have been clearly defined at the beginning of the contest.

Since the results are now just half a week away, my family is going to continue asking everyone to like and if you are reading this, feel free to submit your likes as well.

This is the link to Luke's Page:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=680264791985158

Update: Konkani Milan have now deleted Luke's photo from the contest after I made this blog post indicating their faults and ways to improve them, but photos of other contestants who had fake likes and likes from people with objectionable photos are still there. This now looks like pure politics and they are bitter that I posted truth about them.