Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Smarch Madness!

     In my last post, I mentioned that my roller derby league was undertaking an extensive voting process to decide on a team name, so I thought I would write a follow-up post describing our process and the results. Before I get into the details more, I would like to preface this post by saying that I am no good at math, or statistics and we did this voting in a way that seemed fair to us. We wanted everyone to have fun and get participation from as many people as possible. We decided on bracket-based voting because we knew that we would have a lot of suggestions and that a single elimination vote would not result in a name choice that the majority of our members favoured.
     We - or rather I - decided to call the voting Smarch Madness because March Madness (the big college basketball tournament in the States) is all about the brackets. But since it wasn't March yet, we had to call it something else. I decided to take my inspiration from Homer Simpson:

     Before we started the voting, we allowed people to submit their submissions for names. We were willing to take as many suggestions as people threw at us, since we already had several and knew that there would be many more once people started brainstorming. The only ones were threw out were name suggestions that were too similar to either team names in our geographical area or the names of teams we have a close relationship with. There was one suggestion that was close to the name of a team on the other side of the continent, but we left the decision on that name up to the voters. When the submission time was cut off, we were up to 32 name submissions.
     I created a set of brackets using the drawing feature in Google Drive. It probably wasn't necessary to draw the brackets from scratch, but none of the bracket creators I found online seemed to be useful and drawing it out was the only way I could get my head around it.
Our Smarch Madness brackets: in beautiful Technicolor
     Once I had the brackets drawn, I populated the blue positions with the name choices. I inserted the name suggestions largely in alphabetical order so that voters would be forced to choose between similar names, which would help to weed out the stronger of two similar names.
We ran the voting through Google Drive Forms, which allowed us to make a survey very quickly. Each question in the survey represented a pair of choices from the blue positions. All questions in the survey were required, and there was no opportunity to vote for neither choice or both. This turned out to be an excellent choice, as Google Drive provides many tools for survey result analysis. Google Drive  gives you the option of saving survey results in a spreadsheet or keeping them within the form. Intitally, I was making things really difficult for myself by manually counting up the results manually in the spreadsheet. That was just me not being very smart, and seriously underestimating Google. Somewhere near the third round, I figured out that there's a handy option that instantly creates pie charts of all the results. I was happy to find this, but I also felt really dumb for not noticing it sooner.
     As I mentioned earlier, we did veto name choices that were too similar to teams in nearby cities, but we let one slide, so I felt it was important to give our members a list of criteria to consider when choosing name options. The considerations were based on issues that came up in our discussion during the time when people could send in their suggestions. Many of our league members have prior experience with other teams, so I drew on that experience to steer people in the right direction, as well as give some of our veteran skaters a reminder of the things they may have faced in the past. Here is the list of considerations:

  • other roller derby teams with similar/same names
  • potential for marketing and fun promotional items
  • easy to pronounce and spell?
  • family-friendly and inoffensive
  • conveys the right message about our team
  • potential logo options
  • what the name could be shortened to
  • ways the name could be shortened/altered to be derogatory

     As soon as the first survey was developed, we released it to our member by posting the link to the survey in our private Facebook group. We set a deadline of approximately 48 hours after the survey was released before we closed the survey to move on to the next round. We switched to an approximate 24 hour deadline after after the first round because we noticed that we received all submissions within the first 24 hours. When we noticed this, we decided that subsequent rounds would be limited to 24 hours instead of 48. The shorter timeframe worked out a lot better, and cut down on the total time of Smarch Madness.
     Once the deadline had passed, we closed the survey and recorded the results in the bracket diagram. The winners of each bracket question were inputted to the next coloured bracket. The winners of the first round went into the red positions, and they became the bracket options for the second round. The winners of the second round went into the yellow positions, which became the options for the semi-final round. The winning choices from the semi-final round went into the green final choice boxes which would eventually lead to the winning name for the purple box. Having the diagram really helped me, as a visual learner, keep track of the brackets and it made it really easy to develop each subsequent survey because I simply had to look at the diagram and I could form the questions based on the bracket match-ups.
      One thing we ran into was the issue of a tie. My roller derby league is very small, and we restricted voting to members of our private Facebook group, which gave us a pool of 16 people. There was one bracket in the second round of voting that resulted in a tie. Our initial idea was to flip a coin to determine the outcome of a bracket, since it didn't seem very fair if that administrators got a swing vote. Then, we decided we would base it on which name choice received more votes in the previous round (the first round), which seemed fairer. Interestingly enough, it turned out to be the same as the coin flip so either way the universe seemed to want that name choice to make it to the next round.
     In total, there were four rounds of voting. We could have done a fifth, but we really wanted Smarch Madness to be short and sweet without draggin on forever. You can see from the diagram that there are four green boxes in the diagram, which meant that there would be four final choices. We thought that we could just ask people to choose their favourite out of the final four, but then when even we three on the Administration Team couldn't pick one and let the other ones simply drop, we went with ranking instead. 
     We set up the survey so that our members could rank each name from 1-4, with 1 being their most favourite and 4 being their least. That way, our members would have a better chance of having either their first or second choice picked as the winner. We were very specific in terms of our instructions to the league because we had to have accurate results for the final round. We were clear about the fact that if the survey instructions were not followed, we would have to discard that response. Since it was anonymous, there was no way we could get back to the person who submitted the survey and ask for clarification. I'm proud to say everyone voted in the final round, and that all instructions were followed correctly.
Example of results for one name choice in final round of voting
     To calculate the results, we multiplied the each rank (i.e. 1-4) by the number of times the name choice received that rank and then added those for numbers. So, for the example above, we calculated (1x2)+(2x3)+(3x5)+(4x6) which gives us a value of 48. We performed this calculation for each name choice. The choice with the LOWEST number (since the top choice received a value of 1) at the end of voting was the winner. Then the fun part: announcing the winner! It was especially fun for me to post the winning name because I was stuck in a place on the tarmac waiting to be de-iced so I needed a bit of a thrill. 
     Overall, I think Smarch Madness was a huge success. Often in roller derby there is a lot of difficulty around coming to decisions. In my experience, open discussion does not usually have a good outcome. Or, any outcome. Usually when discussions (especially online) are allowed to just go on and on without direction, nothing gets decided and people's feelings get hurt. Some people seemed to take things too personally in the initial stages and during voting, but when the final name was revealed, everyone was excited and happy so I think any grumpiness just came out in the wash. 
     If you have any questions about Smarch Madness, or want a copy of my AWESOME brackets for yourself, send me an email at

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