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Flurry of questions after Medallion Hunt

I’ve fallen behind in responding to a collection of questions/comments about The Eagle Medallion Hunt, which ended May 15 at the Riverfest Block Party with James Cline winning the grand prize Suzuki car.

We got a great amount of positive feedback. With some exceptions, the biggest complaints seemed to come from people who didn’t guess the right answer or, who didn’t participate but wanted to complain about the contest anyway.  Some questions came up repeatedly:

Why can’t you just go back to the old way, with a physical medallion hidden?

At this point, we have no plans to do this. The contest was discontinued in this form in 2000 because, despite repeated pleadings and admonitions, some hunt participants continued to damage public and private property. This happened repeatedly, and we’re not willing to create that possibility again.

Some people misunderstood the concept of this year’s “virtual” hunt and thought all clues could be solved via computer. That wasn’t the case. We tried to create a few clues that required people to know or learn about Wichita and its history. That’s why I loved getting emails or comments from people who participated with their whole families, and some folks — even some who guessed incorrectly — said they learned things they didn’t know about the city and had fun doing it.

I understand that no form of a contest will make everyone happy. Somebody will grumble no matter what the format or the rules. So we try to solve the biggest problems by the way we structure the contest.

What did you think of the outcome? Did the contest go the way the Eagle wanted?

We were very pleased. With a new format, we didn’t know what to expect — how many entries, how many correct answers, etc. We know there’s no way to run a contest like this and not generate complaints about the rules and the outcome. But I was very happy to get so many positive comments from people who enjoyed playing. There were no major glitches, and we got plenty of feedback to consider if we continue the contest next year. I appreciated the time people took to email, call or talk to me in person about how they thought the hunt worked.

Will you continue the hunt next year?

It’s too early to make that decision, but we were happy with the way the hunt went, and that would be a major factor.

Who wrote the clues?

Some people asked because they wanted to offer compliments, others were looking for the right people to throw things at. I don’t want to be more specific than this: Eagle staff members determined the “virtual” hiding place and wrote and edited the clues.

Why didn’t the contest end on the first correct answer?

The previous format of the contest — with an actual medallion physically hidden — had to end when the medallion was located. That might (and did, sometimes) happen two or three days into the contest. This year, the grand prize was four times the value of previous prizes, and we wanted to give more people an opportunity to participate — to let all of the clues run their course.

We added incentives for the first people who guessed correctly. The first person who submitted the right answer, for example, won a 32-inch LCD TV, plus got 10 extra entries in the drawing for the car. That meant that she had 11 of 177 entries in the drawing. Those are pretty good odds for a grand prize of that size. I understand the argument of folks who thought the contest should end after one correct guess. But we think the benefit of letting more people participate through the duration of the contest is very fair, especially since there’s also a premium for being first.

I’m suspicious about groups of winning entries from people with the same last name. That doesn’t seem fair.

We did see several cases in which more than one person from a family entered. In most cases, I think that’s fair. For example, when a family participated together in solving the clues, it seems reasonable that they should each be able to enter a guess. I realize some people disagree and think a team should only be allowed one guess.

In a couple of cases, though, family members with out-of-state addresses entered guesses identical to local participants with the same last name. It’s possible those entries were not from people who participated in the hunt. But at least one person commented that his or her family member moved out of town, and still participated long-distance. Admittedly, it would be very difficult to determine whether multiple last names are all legitimate participants. We initially considered limiting the contest to Kansas residents this year but chose not to. That’s something worth looking at again in the future. But the idea has been to open the contest to more people, not to exclude.

Why did we only get to submit one guess?

We wanted to make the contest more challenging by adding an element of risk/reward. If people could guess over and over, there’s really no strategy involved. Think about Jeopardy — if you buzz in and don’t have the right answer, you lost your shot. You don’t get to keep buzzing in with more guesses. We wanted people to weigh the benefit of being first vs. the risk of being incorrect.

Why wouldn’t you tell me if my answer was right when I submitted it?

Because we didn’t want to see the confirmed correct answer on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc., while the contest was continuing.

How many people submitted correct answers?

157. There were 777 entries submitted.

Did the Riverfest staff approve the clues and hiding spot?

No, only Eagle staff members (four of us) knew the location. Riverfest people helped us with contest logistics and arrangements for the car drawing at the Block Party. They were a great help, but did not administer the contest. On a side note: I don’t know the festival staff members we worked with always seemed so relaxed (and organized). The amount of detail they handle in coordinating the festival was frightening.

Thanks to everyone for comments and feedback. It’s been terrific to hear such positive responses from people who enjoyed playing and were glad to see the Medallion Hunt return.

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