Winners First. Contest Later.

You may already be a winner!

Verdict first. Trial later.

I showed in my last post what OT found: a winners page for the 2009 Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest that displayed current contest entrants placed into three categories: exhibition winner, alternate, and honorable mention. How could some entrants already have won when the contest does not close until October 10th? I asked a few more questions but mostly left you to draw your own conclusions.

Now I want to draw some conclusions of my own. Something is definitely wrong here. Contest defenders seem to be taking one of two tracks. It’s either (a) a test page or (b) a glitch. And they’re trying to blame this whole business on us here at OT. We were skulking about. We hacked into the site. We were being devious.

Two BMFAC judges have responded so far. Here’s what judge Mark Townsend said on the Ultra Fractal Mailing List earlier today:

You could hardly come across a winners page by accident when it’s not linked to from the main page, so Terry was obviously looking around backstage on purpose and came across some pages put up for testing. Unless he’s a complete moron, he knows this — so either he has a borderline IQ or he’s being intentionally devious. Take your pick.

The winners haven’t been selected yet.

See? It’s our fault. We were snooping around where we had no business being. Either that, or I’m an imbecile. Neither slur addresses what this web site is and what it suggests. The truth is, of course, we did find it by accident. One of us was writing a post that made a point by linking to the (we assumed nonexistent) winners site for the 2009 competition. To our surprise, the page opened, and you can see what we saw screen capped in my previous post. We put up a link to the site which was still working as recently as late Thursday afternoon. If you checked it, you could see what we saw. Did you have to hack in to see it? Neither did we.

The link is now down, just as I predicted it would be. But it was up long enough for Google to index it. See for yourself. Google winners benoit mandelbrot fractal art contest 2009. In the first one to three hits, you’ll see this:

Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2009 ~~ Entries

The Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2009 is being held to select artwork for an exhibition late in 2009 and in 2010. – 20 hours ago – Similar

I suppose devious Google hacked the page, too — poking around backstage with its ice-breaking bot.

Townsend says the winners haven’t been selected yet. But it sure looks like someone has been doing plenty of personal selecting.

A second judge, Kerry Mitchell, followed on the UF List with this statement:

I suspect that Damien is using these pages in his process of creating the actual 2009 pages, and using images from 2007 as placeholders. I know that the images listed under “Panel Member Images” are from the 2007 contest.This year’s panel has not convened, as the entry phase is still open, so the winners certainly have not been chosen.

See? The page was under construction. The images are innocent “placeholders” — mere carry-overs from the last competition. Except they aren’t. Either Mitchell is misinformed or trying to mislead you. The thumbnail images are not among the entries from either the 2007 competition or the 2006 competition. Check the links. You won’t find any of the most recent pics among past contest submissions. No, it’s more reasonable and likely that these are current entries in the 2009 competition. I suspect any one of the artists who appear on the “winners page” could verify my conjecture.

Mitchell’s observation that “this year’s panel has not convened” means that the judges have not yet reviewed the entries. That’s stupifying. Someone certainly has. Someone gave them a good looking over. Someone built the page — made thumbnails, imported them, typed in titles and artist’s names. And, most important, someone judged them by placing each entry into one of three evaluative categories. This is not an error or a sequence of accidental happenings. It is the result of conscious decisions and deliberate actions.

Are you buying the “test page” gambit? What, exactly, was there to test? The template had already been built and apparently worked fine in previous competitions. And why would the director add so many images, specifically categorized, even going so far as to include thumbs, names, titles, and rankings? Importing one sample thumb would have been enough to test the page.

The glitch angle won’t fly either. The site was acting up, was it? Sort of like when the director added a generator to Fractalus that somehow corrupted his hard drive? Next, he’ll be telling us this is all the work of a bug. The page somehow forgot to check something — or it accidentally let submissions through — or it’s gone rogue after becoming self-aware like SkyNet — or other such hokum. Last time I checked, Fractalus was just a server. It had not yet evolved into an AI. No, a human being built that page. Why? And what does its existence suggest?

It does not suggest a test or a glitch. It suggests that you are seeing early results.

It suggests the director has been making contest selections before the contest has closed and before the judging panel has convened. It suggests the judging panel is a cover put in place to legitimize the director’s choices. You think such a claim is exorbitant? Jump back to the screen caps in my last post and look again. The director, Damien M. Jones, who Mitchell notes is BMFAC’s webmaster (the “winners page” is on Jones’ server with his name stamped in the border) is making selections and none of the judges have had any involvement. In fact, neither of the judges who spoke in public can clearly explain what the page is about or why the director is “sorting” entries weeks before the contest has even closed.

But shouldn’t the last entry in an art competition have as much chance as the first? In a fair contest, one that uses artistic excellence as a criteria, that would be true. So, what seems to count in BMFAC? Punctuality? Who you know? What you did? It looks like some people can be be winners before others even have an opportunity to submit.

It’s like Alice in Wonderland. You know. Winners first. Contest later.


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