Roughly a month ago, I happened across a neat contest that could help ScrumbleShip's development. Bundle-in-a-box.com was sponsoring a small grant, given to the indie project with the highest number of votes, and with "no strings attached".
A few weeks after signing up, their Space bundle started. Not having received anything in the way of rules or instructions about the voting process, I headed on over to Bundle-in-a-box's main site to see how it worked. I didn't have an account for their site, but on their main page I found a link to their "Polldaddy" poll:
A little ugly, but it linked to the poll, so it was exactly the information I was looking for. I linked my facebook, twitter, and indiedb pages, letting ScrumbleShippers know about the poll, what it was for, and who was putting it on.
A week later I received a surprising email, demanding to know why I'd posted those links. Through a series of emails, I learned that this link is only visible in some browsers, and that the poll was intended to be limited to purchasers of the bundle. I took down the links within the hour.
Over the next few days, I considered the moral problem presented. ScrumbleShip may or may not have had an unfair advantage, depending on whether any of the other games had noticed the link. The only mention of limiting voters to purchasers comes in a blog post made after the bundle started accepting votes. (And thus after my links went up) The Bundle-in-a-box team stated that the majority of ScrumbleShip votes came from external sites, but did not provide numbers for ScrumbleShip or any other project, despite my inquiries.
The biggest hint I had to the nature of the vote was rather misleading. Bundle-in-a-box's last grant vote was an open vote, just as I had believed their current vote was. It was even posted on their blog:
On the other hand, perhaps no one else DID notice the link I noticed, and perhaps ScrumbleShip had an unfair advantage. Although no explicit rules were ever discussed, I suppose I didn't follow the spirit of the contest as the Bundle-in-a-box team intended it.
To try to reach a compromise, I emailed a suggestion to the team: Why not split the prize money between ScrumbleShip and the next highest competitor, Maia? I love the idea of Maia, and wouldn't mind sharing the prize right down the middle. I received no reply to this suggestion.
A few days later, I received news that ScrumbleShip will be receiving nothing, and Maia would be getting the entire $700 prize.
Bundle-in-a-box has hidden the final vote tally from the general public for technical reasons, so I'm unsure what the final score was. Emails from them suggest ScrumbleShip ended in the top spot. To Bundle-in-a-box's credit, they didn't throw any accusations around in public, and even linked to the ScrumbleShip kickstarter in their award post.
I certainly don't begrudge Maia their prize - I love their idea, and think they'll use the money wisely. The idea of the grant is also excellent and admirable. But I wonder if Bundle-in-a-box could have handled this situation better.
Here's where I'd like your input:
- Should I have guessed the contest rules from context?
- Was my compromise reasonable or unreasonable?
- Was Bundle-in-a-box right to award the prize money as they did?
- How should I feel about this situation?
I've done my best to present the problem in a neutral fashion to get input. Please leave a comment below with your thoughts, whatever your opinion!
Additionally, If you feel we were treated unfairly, you can support ScrumbleShip by pledging to our Kickstarter.
Or if you feel Bundle-in-a-box acted fairly, grab their next bundle on bundle-in-a-box.com, when it's available.
P.S. I forwarded this article to Bundle-in-a-box a full week before making it public, to get their input and allow them to correct any factual mistakes. They were nice enough to suggest a couple of improvements, if begrudgingly.