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We just finished judging essays for the (Mensa Education and Research Foundation MERF) scholarship essay contest. We accept essays from college-bound high school seniors and adults, and evaluate them to advance them in the competition. We have a few local winners every year, and there are some national winners as well. It was a fun time of cameraderie as well as a chance to see what people are thinking and writing.

The guidelines for the essays were fairly flexible. The essay had to be less than 550 words, be postmarked by Jan. 17, typed, double-spaced, and had two content requirements: a clear statement of purpose (meaning their educational or career goals) and supporting evidence that they were preparing well and/or had a high likelihood of achieving that goal.

We had a prejudging in which we immediately dropped essays with major problems including atrocious mistakes, etc. Our outline for judging the essays was very informative.


Up to 30 points were awarded for grammar, word usage and creativity. (10 each)
Up to 40 points were awarded for content, 20 points for goals statement and 20 for supporting evidence.
Up to 30 points were awarded for the judge's subjective opinion, meaning a) do they have a chance to actually succeed (20 points for an almost sure thing), and b) what was your opinion of their personal goal (10 points).

I would like to see something like this if we do an article contest in the future, or even have a judging poll attached to every article, to make us all think about how we communicate and help improve our skills. Perhaps the poll could be anonymous to avoid recriminations....

I'd like to hear some feedback on the idea!
 
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rlist

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While in some business and all educational systems this makes sense, for an informal forum that is supposed to be helpful, informative and supportive, I feel this is just a quantitative means of bashing one's articles. Maybe at some point in the future a more formal means of critique can be implemented with an article contest, but with recent postings and the threat of time-outs over our heads, I would prefer to keep the articles and the replies informal. But that is just my two cents...
 
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You are probably right. Our bias was that we were hoping each essay would be the best we had read. That makes a difference.
 

irene_b

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I like this idea!
Bumps up quality and quantity of content.
Kudos Mr. Chris .......Good Idea....
Irene
 
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I'm afraid I'll have to disagree, I think this will do nothing to bump up the quality of content and certainly not the quantity of submissions. rlist made a lot of sense in his post above, it is worth re-reading.

This is the bonsai community and the sad fact is that every major bonsai publication, especially those published in America scrape by for content for every issue and in many cases must recycle older content in order to fill the pages. I speak from personal experience and knowledge that this is not only true for print publications but also for forums and even club newsletters.

Now couple that with the "crab in a bucket" mentality that is all too common in the forum community and you really have a problem with creating and maintaining a good and steady source of articles of any quality. For those unfamiliar with the "crab in a bucket" mentality, those who have gathered crabs can tell you that if you put a single crab in a bucket it will just climb right out, but if there are other crabs in the bucket they will pull the crab who is trying to climb out back in every time. In other words, it is difficult for anyone to attempt to write articles or contribute to the bonsai community in anyway because the other crabs are quick to pull them back down. I could point to the harsh words exchanged right on this forum in the "what have you done for the bonsai community" thread where people instantly called those who posted braggarts and such. I could also point to the discussion in which I was told that since my bonsai do not measure up to some peoples standards that I am not qualified to write articles. Fortunately world class artists like Walter Pall and the publishers of bonsai Magazines do not feel the same way.

Who in their right mind would want to take the time to write an article with receptions like that? It's difficult enough to write one and get it published without certain crabs in the community dragging you though broken glass for no other reason than that you made the effort.

All that aside, the key to a good article is not "grammar, word usage and creativity" or goals, etc. The key to a good bonsai article can be summed up in three areas.

Good photos, Bonsai Today magazine demands such as does AoB, nothing else will be considered, no matter how great the article content is. Fair? Right? It doesn't matter, pictures do wonders for a bonsai article, it is, after all, a visual art form. There are magazines and forums that do not have such high standards for pictures but you can never go wrong by using the best.

Good content. The article must describe the technique or technique well and in such a manner that the reader can understand the points being made and absorb the information given easily. The content must also be solidly based on sound principles and examples, sources, or references greatly add to the weight of what is being said. If you talk over your readers head, you're all done.

Innovative. An article about how to wire a tree properly may be well wrote and well executed but it's been done so may times that unless it shows something new, it is just another article on wiring a tree. This is hard and often causes much debate. For example, I have articles like, Three dimensional bonsai, mushrooms as accents, and the myth of the single front that were not received well at first but earned respect as time went on. They were new and spoke against common thought. But because of the huge discussions that they created, they were highly successful.

And lastly, article contests generally mean very little unless you have a qualified judge. Popular voting never works, after all the members here are not publishers and we all tend to favor those we know. An interesting example of article contests is when I wrote, "The Future of Bonsai - The Third Dimension" originally for an article contest in which it took 11th place. Believing in the article, I submitted it to Bonsai Today who immediately picked it up for publication and published it in issue #101. I also posted it at AoB where it received quite a few comments from many talented artists from around the world.

The funny thing is that the concept was not new, Colin Lewis wrote about doing such styling in his "The Art of Bonsai Design" book and Walter Pall has a history of designing trees with many viewable fronts, in fact he allowed me to use pictures of one such tree of his in my article. Walter later went on to show his bonsai in a World renowned art gallery where anything but bonsai with multiple fronts would have failed miserably. I was only the first to put it all together and tie it into a article.

That is what it takes, belief in what you are writing, plenty of research, and the stubbornness to ignore the critics (who seldom write anyways) and follow your own path.

Worry about the grammar and spelling, and word count after you have the idea and the words down. After all, isn't that what editors get paid for? ;) Always be sure however to cite your sources, I forgot once in a introduction to an article and it brought down flaming hail from my usual critics crying foul and plagiarism, fortunately my publishers seen it for the minor infraction it was and still continue to publish my articles. A lesson well learned.



Will
 
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nsmar4211

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I like the idea of an article critique. However, to avoid back and forth ego bashing/kissing up to, it'd have to be done solely on a point basis with no discussion. And yes it would all be opinion, but hopefully enough people would vote that it would show the strength/weakness of the article. Then you could have a seperate discussion of the IDEAS in the article, and not a bashing of the way the article itself was written.

Maybe they teach differently elsewhere, but my teachers would hand back your essays covered in red ink and have you rewrite until ALL of the grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors were corrected. If you did not cite a source, you lost grades. There was no "let someone else fix the mistakes" mentality. I find that mentality childish-it is like a child throwing all the toys on the floor and saying "Let Mommy clean up the mess". How long do parents tolerate that behavior? Not very long.

The generation of children coming up who make horrible grammar errors and spelling errors and rely on the computer are going to be our future editors. So, if you want to look good, you will have to write it that way yourself.
 
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The generation of children coming up who make horrible grammar errors and spelling errors and rely on the computer are going to be our future editors. So, if you want to look good, you will have to write it that way yourself.
A fair and very good point.


Will
 
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I'm afraid I'll have to disagree, I think this will do nothing to bump up the quality of content and certainly not the quantity of submissions. rlist made a lot of sense in his post above, it is worth re-reading.
I already agreed with rlist.

This is the bonsai community and the sad fact is that every major bonsai publication, especially those published in America scrape by for content for every issue and in many cases must recycle older content in order to fill the pages. I speak from personal experience and knowledge that this is not only true for print publications but also for forums and even club newsletters.


Now couple that with the "crab in a bucket" mentality that is all too common in the forum community and you really have a problem with creating and maintaining a good and steady source of articles of any quality. For those unfamiliar with the "crab in a bucket" mentality, those who have gathered crabs can tell you that if you put a single crab in a bucket it will just climb right out, but if there are other crabs in the bucket they will pull the crab who is trying to climb out back in every time. In other words, it is difficult for anyone to attempt to write articles or contribute to the bonsai community in anyway because the other crabs are quick to pull them back down. I could point to the harsh words exchanged right on this forum in the "what have you done for the bonsai community" thread where people instantly called those who posted braggarts and such. I could also point to the discussion in which I was told that since my bonsai do not measure up to some peoples standards that I am not qualified to write articles. Fortunately world class artists like Walter Pall and the publishers of bonsai Magazines do not feel the same way.
If it sounded like I was calling the replies to your thread braggarts, and I know it did to some who said so, I am truly sorry. I did not mean to disparage them. And Walter's point made in this forum was spot on! I have had to deal with the same criticism from two people who post here and shall remain nameless, Will. Yet from one of them you got a pass and I got smacked around. I have just always been looking for some fairness.

My articles are not about artistry. I make no claims to artistry. They are about technique, and I have received some fantastic feedback about them. But they are what they are. I don't have to show Walter Pall type results because I don't start with his material, and I am dedicated to showing the nuances of technique. So does the article stand or fall on whether I have show trees? Of course not. Being a reporter, as Walter said, does not require that the reporter be the person they are reporting on.

What it does require, is some objectivity and the ability to show these things without trying to give the impression of more expertise than one has.

Who in their right mind would want to take the time to write an article with receptions like that? It's difficult enough to write one and get it published without certain crabs in the community dragging you though broken glass for no other reason than that you made the effort.

All that aside, the key to a good article is not "grammar, word usage and creativity" or goals, etc. The key to a good bonsai article can be summed up in three areas.

Good photos, Bonsai Today magazine demands such as does AoB, nothing else will be considered, no matter how great the article content is. Fair? Right? It doesn't matter, pictures do wonders for a bonsai article, it is, after all, a visual art form. There are magazines and forums that do not have such high standards for pictures but you can never go wrong by using the best.

Good content. The article must describe the technique or technique well and in such a manner that the reader can understand the points being made and absorb the information given easily. The content must also be solidly based on sound principles and examples, sources, or references greatly add to the weight of what is being said. If you talk over your readers head, you're all done.

Innovative. An article about how to wire a tree properly may be well wrote and well executed but it's been done so may times that unless it shows something new, it is just another article on wiring a tree. This is hard and often causes much debate. For example, I have articles like, Three dimensional bonsai, mushrooms as accents, and the myth of the single front that were not received well at first but earned respect as time went on. They were new and spoke against common thought. But because of the huge discussions that they created, they were highly successful.

And lastly, article contests generally mean very little unless you have a qualified judge. Popular voting never works, after all the members here are not publishers and we all tend to favor those we know. An interesting example of article contests is when I wrote, "The Future of Bonsai - The Third Dimension" originally for an article contest in which it took 11th place. Believing in the article, I submitted it to Bonsai Today who immediately picked it up for publication and published it in issue #101. I also posted it at AoB where it received quite a few comments from many talented artists from around the world.

The funny thing is that the concept was not new, Colin Lewis wrote about doing such styling in his "The Art of Bonsai Design" book and Walter Pall has a history of designing trees with many viewable fronts, in fact he allowed me to use pictures of one such tree of his in my article. Walter later went on to show his bonsai in a World renowned art gallery where anything but bonsai with multiple fronts would have failed miserably. I was only the first to put it all together and tie it into a article.

That is what it takes, belief in what you are writing, plenty of research, and the stubbornness to ignore the critics (who seldom write anyways) and follow your own path.
So where did you touch on original work?

Worry about the grammar and spelling, and word count after you have the idea and the words down After all, isn't that what editors get paid for? ;)
I wasn't proposing an article gestapo, but thanks for your thoughts. I agree with a good deal of it, especially what magazines are looking for, that was good.
 
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I like the idea of an article critique. However, to avoid back and forth ego bashing/kissing up to, it'd have to be done solely on a point basis with no discussion. And yes it would all be opinion, but hopefully enough people would vote that it would show the strength/weakness of the article. Then you could have a seperate discussion of the IDEAS in the article, and not a bashing of the way the article itself was written.
Thank you for that, Susan. Good point.
 
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Always be sure however to cite your sources, I forgot once in a introduction to an article and it brought down flaming hail from my usual critics crying foul and plagiarism, fortunately my publishers seen it for the minor infraction it was and still continue to publish my articles. A lesson well learned.
My apologies, I completely missed this.
 
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Now, taking all that has been said on this subject here, I do think Chris had a good point when he brought up an article contest. I know I said they seldom work, but with the right judges, and the right rules, it could indeed bring in a lot of content to a forum, not to mention activity.

If such a contest was ever considered, I'd nominate Chris to head it simply because I think he could well raise the level beyond what other such contests have accomplished.


-sorry Chris, I was editing and correcting spelling errors and changing my closing on the article so much, that the piece about originality may have been added after, not there when you quoted, or was rewrote before you posted. My apologies.


Will
 

cbobgo

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I made a comment in the other thread, but I'll make it again . . . with all the other sites out there with article after article on numerous topics, do we really need to make such an effort to write a bunch of new articles here? Is that really what we want this site to be about? I thought that was supposed to be the forte of KOB and AOB. Why duplicate what they are doing?

Isn't it enough to have a site that is easily navigated, where bonsai can be discussed relatively civily, and without all the newbie posts? Those are the real strengths of this site, that's what we should continue to focus on, in my opinion.

- bob
 

John Hill

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Ok? It’s bad enough judging trees let alone judging articles. Why do you ask? A tree is just what a person sees in it. To one it is great to the other it is terrible. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. So if you have 5 judges and 2 of them have a certain aspect of what he is seeing and the other 3 have a different view what tree is going to win? The same goes for articles some may get something from it and others may not get a thing. So are these articles for the beginner or are they for the intermediate, or are they for the advanced? Do you see where I am coming from here? Each and every one is going to get what they can out of the article and some are going to get nothing so the person that is getting nothing is going to vote no!
Then you have favorites, a few may like one author and one like the other, who’s going to win?
I have read my share of articles; believe me and some I get something from and some I don’t but yet they were both good articles.

Will, I have read your articles and you are good, same for Chris you both are great authors and I respect both of you. You both have talent and you both are into teaching others the best you can. I highly respect that and my hat is off to you guys.

So if I had to vote on which article either one of you wrote I probably would not vote, just because I respect the both of you.

I may get something from one of you and maybe not from both of you. Now I always get something from Vance ;-)
No seriously I respect both of you guys and I feel a little tension between you two, such a shame. You both have something to give to the bonsai community and I highly respect both of you.
I, like Vance have been killing trees for years and Vance probably will agree with me that there are not to many articles written on subjects that we have not heard or have been written before.
Just look at all the bonsai books that are out there? They all cover how to re pot, what tools needed, how to get basic styles, how to prune, but you know what I’m saying? It’s in every bonsai book out there. So to make a long story short I vote not to vote on articles written J they are all good and if we were to vote then I believe that there will be less people willing to write.
Just my plugged nickel’s worth. ;-)

A Friend in Bonsai
John
 
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I made a comment in the other thread, but I'll make it again . . . with all the other sites out there with article after article on numerous topics, do we really need to make such an effort to write a bunch of new articles here? Is that really what we want this site to be about? I thought that was supposed to be the forte of KOB and AOB. Why duplicate what they are doing?

Isn't it enough to have a site that is easily navigated, where bonsai can be discussed relatively civily, and without all the newbie posts? Those are the real strengths of this site, that's what we should continue to focus on, in my opinion.

- bob
You are right, both AoB and KnoB do a lot of articles, as does Sashi-eda Bonsai and half a dozen other places. Do I need to post articles and tutorials here or any other site than the one I am building solo? Probably not, in fact it may detract from my on site's traffic, which, by the way, is not commercial at this time so it's just for my own pleasure.

I was just musing on ideas that struck me. Of course any kind of judging would have to be anonymous, but by the time we all write articles, half of those reading would be able to pick out the author at about 90% reliability just from writing style. So of course, it won't happen.
 

rlist

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Is that really what we want this site to be about? I thought that was supposed to be the forte of KOB and AOB. Why duplicate what they are doing?
Dr. Bob is right as usual. AoB & KoB are the place that something resembling a rating system could be done, as I think the setup and moderation there is more in tune to that type of thing. I say could, as I still don't think that rating or grading articles is what this hobby/art is about.

That said, keep musing Chris, as new ideas and thoughts are what this hobby/art is about.
 

Tachigi

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Like the little green gecko says:

It's like pie and chips or chips and pie
 

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