Explanations and instructions of all things Writing.Com.
Writing.Com and its members host a variety of different community activities that are available for participation. Although by no means all-encompassing, the following is a brief outline of the most common types of hosted activities on the site. Included are some best practices that will help everyone avoid potential conflicts and enjoy their time and involvement here as much as possible.
Contests are competitive activities where members can submit entries and compete against one another, usually for prizes. There are dozens of different types of contests out there, including those for short stories, poetry, essays, novels, and even some for images and other creative creations. Contests typically have a deadline for entries, after which point a judge or judges will evaluate the entries and select one or more winners out of those submitted. In most cases, contests are Forum items, where members can post their entry in the forum, or Survey items, where members can submit their entry in a form to the judge(s).
Fundraisers are activities designed to raise Gift Points for a specific cause. Some members run fundraisers to support their own groups or membership costs, while others raise funding for other groups and/or individuals. Fundraisers primarily come in two general types:
Auctions. These fundraisers involve the organizer and/or other members putting up an item or items for which other members can bid, with the highest bidder taking home the prize. For example, a member might offer a prize package that includes a few reviews, a Merit Badge, and an AwardIcon for the donor's favorite item. Members participating in the auction then bid on that package of prizes with each new bidder offering a higher number of Gift Points than the last, until the auction time limit expires, at which point the bidder committing the highest number of Gift Points wins that package.
Raffles. These fundraisers involve purchasing tickets or countable items, and then having all of those purchased items entered into a random drawing for a winner. For example, tickets may be 1,000 Gift Points each, and members can purchase as many as they'd like while the raffle is open. Once the deadline for buying tickets has passed, the organizer will enter all those tickets into a drawing and select winners for the prizes based on random selection (such as via Virtual Dice, for example).
The two types of activities are certainly not mutually-exclusive. Fundraisers can also include a contest or competitive element, and contests can be used to raise funds for groups or individuals. However the activity is structured, though, please read through the following "best practices" suggestions for participating in (and running) an activity with as few issues as possible.
Best Practices for Activity Participants
Do Your Research. Prior to participating in an activity, research the activity and/or it's organizer and participants. Is this the first time this activity is being offered, or does it have a long history of running efficiently and fairly? If this is the first time, is the person organizing the activity an active and responsive member of the community? Is the person offering a particular prize package or service that you're competing for also active and responsive? Is the typical quality of the package or service that you're competing for acceptable to you? Does a Merit Badge or an AwardIcon prize include the extra effort to have it count toward your Community Recognition?
Consider Your Expectations about Results. Prior to participating in an activity, evaluate what you expect of the results. Do you enter expecting to win? Will it upset you if for some reason there is a delay in announcing or receiving the results? Do you have flexible and realistic expectations about the quality of individually created prizes? Will it bother you if the quality of what you receive in such cases is not as high as what you were expecting? Will you be offended if the Merit Badge or AwardIcon you may win isn't qualified and doesn't count toward your Community Recognition? If you expect quick or guaranteed results from such activities, you may be better off choosing not to participate.
Politely Follow-Up. If you were promised a prize package that hasn't been delivered, or the judging for a contest hasn't been completed well after the deadline, don't be shy about following up with the member who owes you a response and/or the activity organizer. The key is to be polite and respectful; things sometimes happen and it's always preferable to politely ask rather than angrily complain. But if a reasonable amount of time has gone by and you haven't received what you were promised, there's absolutely nothing wrong with following up.
Best Practices for Activity Organizers
Don't Start Something You Can't Finish. If there are any doubts at all about your availability to see your activity through to the end, consider waiting to run the activity until you're at a point where you can make the full commitment. There's nothing more frustrating for participants than to invest the time and/or finances in an activity whose organizer suddenly and inexplicably disappears. If you start an activity and an emergency does come up...
Be Honest and Communicate Openly. Don't just disappear without an explanation. Find a few minutes to at least notify the participants in your activity of what's happened, and when you can expect to be back. It's far better to tell participants that you had a family emergency or that work has been really hectic lately and give them a realistic timetable for your return than to just leave them wondering why the deadline has come and gone with no word from you. More importantly, if someone does contact you with concerns about your activity, be prompt and responsive so they at least know you haven't abandoned the activity.
Clearly Establish the Rules. Make sure your activity clearly explains how it will run and what's required and/or expected from the participants. Rules may include, but are not limited to deadlines, ratings, minimum/maximum word counts, genre limitations, minimum/maximum Gift Point amounts (for fundraisers), how to submit entries/participate, who is judging, etc. Try to remove as much guess work as possible so that members interested in participating in your activity have a clear understanding of how the activity works.
Enforce the Rules. If you assign a rule to your activity, enforce it. There are few things more frustrating for participants than to see the rules applied differently to another participant. If you set a deadline and someone submits an entry two minutes after the deadline, you should disqualify that entry. The same for ratings and word counts that exceed what you've established. Or bids and raffle ticket purchases that are incompatible with your rules. Even if you are considering something like extending a deadline to allow for more entries, you should consider contacting the participants who have already entered and at least explain your reasoning. Be even-handed in your application of the rules so that everyone feels as if they're being treated fairly.
Be Timely in Fulfilling Your Obligations. If your activity offers prizes, judging, or otherwise depends on a response to the participants, make sure you're prompt about fulfilling those obligations or at least keep an open dialogue with them about when they can expect to receive whatever they're waiting on. Don't let weeks or months go by while everyone waits to figure out who won the contest or who received which prize package.
For Fundraisers, Act Like a Bank. If you're running an activity that involves people paying Gift Points, there can be awkward situations where the donor doesn't want to distribute the promised donation until the funds have been paid... but recipients may be equally concerned about paying for something before it's delivered. As an activity organizer, consider acting as an intermediary (like a bank), and holding the funds until the transaction is complete. For example, the recipient pays you, and you hold onto the funds until their prize package has been received. This will allow you to verify that payment has been made before the recipient receives their prize, and will also allow you to refund the recipient in the event that the donor doesn't honor their commitment.
Exercising Common Sense with Donations
Some fundraisers are not activities of their own and are ongoing without a deadline. Contests, activities, and Group items often state that donations of a certain amount will be thanked with a Merit Badge, which is usually paid for by the item owner. However, sending a Merit Badge is not an automated process; the contest, activity, or Group may be closed or inactive; and the item owner may not be on site regularly to deal with such a donation, or may be busy with other things and schedule dealing with such tasks on a periodic basis. Before making a donation to a such an item expecting to receive a merit badge, you should do your due diligence (research) to make sure that the person who runs the contest, activity, or Group is around to deal with your transaction and that the offer is still valid.
Initiating a transaction with someone whose Last On status is set to Private, or that isn't dated within the past day or so, is not recommended. The Last On status of Private often means that the person does not plan to be on site for some time. The Last On/Online Now status is displayed on the member's Community tab under their Community Recognition totals, or by hovering your mouse over the portfolio icon in their userlink.
The member may have left an announcement about being away from the site or otherwise unavailable. Checking for such announcements in the member's handle, BioBlock, the latest Blog entries and NoteBook posts, contest/activity/Group item headers and latest forum posts by the owner, etc. is recommended.
Making a donation to a closed contest or activity, or to an inactive Group, is not recommended. A contest or activity should be considered closed if there isn't a current active round in progress. A Group should be considered inactive if that item or Group-related items haven't been modified recently. Even though the page still states the offer, common sense indicates that the owner no longer needs funds for the item, and the closed/inactive status of the item should be taken as withdrawal of the offer.
Not following specific directions given in the contest or activity header about how to contact the owner or a designated representative is not recommended.
If in doubt, emailing the item owner to verify the offer before making a donation, is recommended.
In the event that you have made such a donation and the Merit Badge has not been received after a reasonable period of time (a week to a month, perhaps, depending on the item), and you have verified in your Gift Points Log that your donation did go through, your best option is to re-check the item owner's port for information, and to use email and/or tagging in a Forum post to make a polite inquiry. Be patient; those who run such items do so in their spare time, and real life can interfere with their ability to be here. If the item owner's paid membership has expired, it's likely that their email is full and cannot accept incoming emails, and the items involved will be locked. Tagging them in a note in their NoteBook would then be your most effective contact option. If the member has not been on site, repeated attempts to contact them will be ineffective. Instead, check their Last On status occasionally to see if they have returned, and if so, then contact them again.
PLEASE NOTE: Writing.Com is not responsible for monitoring or enforcing the rules of member-run activities. Any disputes over judging, payments, distribution of prizes, application of the rules, etc. are the sole responsibility of the organizer(s). As such, it is strongly recommended that you use your best judgment when considering whether to dedicate your time and/or finances to any particular community activity.1
I want to promote a member-run event item. How do I decide whether to post it on the Contests or the Activities page?
The "Writing Contests @ Writing.Com" page is only for writing contests held on Writing.Com.
The "Activities @ Writing.Com" page is for raffles, auctions, discussions, gatherings, events, non-writing contests and other activities held on Writing.Com.
Certain types of events are classified as activities even when prizes and writing of some sort are involved. If an event has elements that meet all the criteria for both categories, as explained below, the side with the main focus determines which page the event belongs on. An item may not be posted on both pages. The item that is posted must be the item where the participants sign up or enter the event -- the event's front door. Make sure both your promotional text and the item's intro content rating are E-rated.
A writing contest that is eligible for posting on the Contests page involves three things:
The typical entrant creates a piece of writing in an item in their own port.
The entering process must happen here on the Writing.Com site.
There must be competitive judging of the writing based on the skill of the entrant.
Use the Activities page for events where any prizes are awarded by any means except competitive judging; for example: by Virtual Dice, by order of entering, by popular vote, for the host's favorite (ie., a popular vote of one), for participation, or for achievement.
The following examples are events that go on the Activities page:
Long-term writing events where prizes are awarded to all who complete the assignments.
Group-participation writing events where the typical entrants will be participating in items that are not in their own port, such as adding chapters to Interactive Stories, additions to Campfires, or additions to In&Outs; or completing Surveys; or posting in Forums for such things as celebration, sympathy, congratulations, or topic-centric information gathering or discussion.
Scavenger hunt events.
Game events where entrants are individuals or groups/teams.
Reviewing events of any kind.
Charitable fundraising events, such as auctions and raffles.