Sweet screaming monkeys - what's going on with Chorus' Gigatown competition?
"Sign up for the digital 'Hunger Games!"Featured comment
Chorus' Gigatown competition began with a noble aim: to showcase the benefits of Ultrafast Broadband fibre.
It's corporate PR, of course, but the prize is pretty cool. Residents of the winning town (or city suburb) will get 1Gbit/s (1000Mbit/s) fibre for the price of today's 100Mbit/s plans. Businesses aren't covered (pity) but Chorus and Alcatel Lucent have thrown $200,000 into the pot to fund entrepreneurial ideas for services over UFB.
When Chorus CEO Mark Ratcliffe initially outlined the competition to me, he said there would be a social media element, but also emphasised that competitors would be asked to put forward innovative ideas for how their town, or suburb could use fibre.
The competition of ideas seemed a good concept. UFB uptake has picked up, a little, but it's still a miserable 4% of homes and businesses now within reach of fibre (according to new figures released yesterday). People need inspiration (as well as basic meat-and-potatoes stories about how you can use fibre for anything from keeping a virtual private network open between home office and work to fast and usable personal and professional cloud apps, suffering none of copper's peak-time traffic jams or loss of bandwidth with distance).
But now the Gigatown competition has opened it's home page is ... a riot. At first glance, it's hard to work out what the hell's going on.
How do we decide who gets to be Gigatown? Actually, we don't decide - you do.
We're looking for the town that wants it the most. There’s two ways we’ll be measuring that drive, enthusiasm and determination to be Gigatown:
1. by listening out for the town with the loudest voice on social media; and
2. by tallying up the supporters for each town signing up on this website [Gigatown.co.nz]
Each town is given a hashtag, and the more times that hashtag appears on social media the merrier (there is a side competition on work from home ideas, with people invited to upload photos of their home office, with three lots of bonus points on offer).
Prectably, this "who can shout the loudest" criteria has led to mindless tweets that have nothing to do with the UFB. Some are piggy-backing on it for publicity for other events; some tweets are simply mindless. Who would want the leading towns' repetitive posts clogging their Twitter or Facebook feed.
Adding to the fun, the Gigatown fine print includes the line, "We may amend the way the competition is conducted and the way points are awarded without giving advance notice."
A communications professional involved in one town's bid tells NBR ONLINE, "I know there has been cheating. $200,000 is at stake and councils are paying people to coordinate the camapigns."
She accuses two councils of setting up tweetbot accounts two articicially boost their numbers.
Chorus did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it seems from social media chatter that both Oamaru and Porirua have had had their totals trimmed [UPDATE: "We regularly sweep for spam. If towns experience a points deduction, it will be because there has been some spam related activity."]
November spawned a monster
Some are wondering if too many points were docked. That discussion will go around and around the mulberry bush. Any counting competition that involves counting social media mentions - let alone hundreds of thousands of them - is going to devolve into a series of tedious spats over which posts should quality, or not.
"Chorus have created a monster and they are struggling to deal with it. At the core its a cool idea. Just seriously badly executed," the comms professional says.
Wait for it, wait for it ...
Chorus will name the five finalist towns in .. wait for it, wait for it, and wait for it a little more ... September 2014 (by which time Chorus will be offering cheaper, faster UFB plans, diluting the prize a little).
At that point the company says it will reset scores. It doesn't detail how the competition will run from that point, but hopefully it will be closer to the original battle of innovative ideas.
Meantime, what a mess.
A competition that requires regular spam sweeps, and drives humans to tweet like bots, does nothing for Chorus branding or the UFB.