Thursday, June 09, 2005

Browncoat Blues

Many Firefly fans were not able to purchase tickets for the June 23rd preview screening of Serenity, since they sold out so quickly this morning. A few people bought extra tickets, and a few of those still have unclaimed tickets which they want to share with fellow fans. The SF Browncoats mailing list has been buzzing with various ideas on how to do this fairly, or at least without malice aforethought.

And, of course, I gotta throw in my two cents. Here's my crazy idea, in the vein of letting the community decide, inspired by the TransAtlantic Fan Fund and the Google AdWords ranking system. Be warned, it's a little complicated. Picture this:

- Every person who wants a ticket registers himself or herself-- anonymously, and only once.

- As part of that registration, each entrant says "I am willing to pay X for a ticket" (where X is a dollar amount between, say, 10 and 100). This information is always secret.

- In addition, every entrant explains in 25 words or less why he or she wants to see SERENITY. This information is secret until later. Multiple entries per person are not allowed.

- A limit is set on how many people can enter; e.g., registration closes after 5 days or 50 entries, whichever comes first.

- Once that limit is reached, all the 25-word entries are listed (anonymously: no dollar amounts, no authors' names) on a yahoogroups poll, which is available for a certain amount of time.

- All SF Browncoats get to vote to pick the best entries. (There's an implementation problem here: ideally, you'd pick only your top three choices, but with yahoogroups there's no way to limit that.)

- After the polls close, the number of votes each entry received is multiplied by the entrant's bid price to produce a "score." (For example, an entry which received 5 votes and whose author bid $20 would have a final score of 5*20=100. An entry with 10 votes and a $10 bid would also score 10*10=100.)

- The authors of the highest scoring N entries each win one ticket (where N is the total number of available tickets), and their authors are revealed, to the delight of all. If a winner cannot actually pay the amount he or she bid, the ticket goes to the next highest scoring entrant. If there is a tie, winners are selected randomly.

- All proceeds, minus the actual cost of the tickets, go to charity.

Okay, now that I've written it out, it looks way too complicated. And it punishes those who might not be great writers but who have other qualities to recommend them. (Which is, I suppose, another implementation problem-- it would be better if yahoogroups allowed you to list non-text poll options, like images or audio files, so artistic types could express themselves with other media.)

But this system would, I hope, limit the influence of those with deep pockets, since even someone with only $10 to his name can write a fantastic entry which gets lots of votes and scores higher than a $100 bid with very few votes. It also allows for a more democratic decision, and diffuses any ill will-- if you lose, you can't single out one person to blame for it. Well, maybe yourself.

Gosh darn it, Supply, why can't you and Demand just get along?
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