Seasonal Ranking Systems

Posted: May 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

I asked for topics dealing with slam that people wanted me to talk about.

Daniel, better known as DMP in some circles, asked about our seasonal ranking method. Daniel hails from Vancouver and it appears he likes the simpler version that they use out there.

Here is a topic that is dear to my heart.

I do want to start with a disclaimer that I am not trying to claim anyone is WRONG for using whatever method they use. I am just going to try to explain why it is that I think the method we use I better.

Let’s start with points-based systems like they use in Vancouver. After each slam, poets are given points based on their finish. The points are scaled so first place gets a lot more points than second etc. You get points added to your total and slam-bam, it’s all done.

Advantage to this system: It is simple. Anybody knows exactly where they are at all times. If you know you had 5 points and you know you gained 3 points, you know you now have 8 points.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

I will admit that this is a HUGE advantage. People who want to track their results have a very easy time. They don’t have to wait until the rankings are updated. (Though, to be fair, it is pretty rare that our rankings aren’t updated within a few hours of the slam ending as far as CapSlam goes. It takes longer fur Urban Legends or OYPS because I have to wait until the official results are sent to me.)

Disadvantages: there are a lot, in my opinion.

First off, what does it measure? Placement only. There is no difference between missing first place by .1 and missing it by 3.1, as long as nobody finished between you. It is also purely a ‘counting’ stat so it only tangentially measures the quality of the result (other than that you ‘count faster’ by doing better).

You have an interesting mix of discouraging people to slam as well. Since the system involves a cap on the number of times you can slam (which you need in any counting system, otherwise it will be quantity you are measuring over quality for the most part), you are discouraged from working on pieces on the stage. The system says you shouldn’t step up unless you are convinced you are going to put on an A-1 effort. That discourages experimentation and invention. It discourages slam.

It also discourages you to slam when you know that there are top poets signed up. Since the system is completely built on placement and not individual performance, a poet is rewarded for slamming on nights when there is less talent on the stage and ‘punished’ when there are better.

(I know that there are plenty of poets who don’t care about things like this, but then the system used probably doesn’t concern them anyway.)

With all of these disadvantages, the one that really stands out for me, is the fact that you only are measured if you score in the top section of poets. (I believe in Van it is Top5, but this goes for any counting system.) The poets who do not finish in the Top5 are not recognized in any way other than a counter tick on the Number of Times Slammed list.

The system we use is called the Bytown Ranking Method, and is used at a number of slams in Ontario (and possibly elsewhere – I have had a number of slams ask me to explain it to them, but I can’t promise they have adopted it).

(Disclaimer: I am one of the creators of this method, so I am obviously biased)

I will start with the disadvantage, even before I explain the system, because it will become apparent.

It is kind of complicated.

It actually ISN’T that hard to do, but it SEEMS complicated and you can’t just look at the rankings and your new result and know immediately what the exact effect will be.

Here goes: after every slam, each poet will have two scores: their final placement and their single best score out of 30.

Each poet will get to use their three best placements and three best scores (from individual nights) in their seasonal rankings. They are added together (so a 1st, 3rd and 7th gives a ranking score of 11). They are then sorted ascending and poets are ranked so that the best season scores gets a rank of 1. The second best gets a 2 etc. We do the same with scores (but descending) and get a separate ranking. The two rankings are added together, ordered and BAM, you are done.

(There are some fiddly bits to ensure people who have slammed less than three times are ranked lower etc.)

So, clear disadvantage, right? Yeah, I get that. I just think the advantages WAY outweigh the complexity.

Advantage: It ENCOURAGES people to slam.

There is no maximum number of slams per poet. They get the score of their three best, so they can’t keep adding on more totals so there is no need for a cap.

Slamming more still HELPS, as you get your three best, so slamming a fourth will not hurt your totals, ever.

We grade both placement and score so there is no reason to try and ‘avoid’ top poets. It may be a little tougher to get the best placement, but a night with lots of great performers will tend to increase the base score, so if you are hurt in one area, you are helped in the other.

It gives an ACCURATE representation of the sometimes slight difference between results. A close second and a distant second are quite different things and are shown that way.

EVERY poet who slams shows up in the rankings. Every poet counts, not just the ones who sit at the top of the mountain.

Now, to me, these advantages outweigh the disadvantage by a lot, but to those who are still concerned about the delay in understanding your results, remember that the delay is only as long as the person who is handling the scores makes it.

I make a point of updating Capital Slam Results on the night of the slam, once I get home. If other people don’t, well, that isn’t the system. (And I am not criticizing those people… not everyone prioritizes things exactly the same way that I do… isn’t it grand?)

I will say that a friend has created a web-based program that would allow all of this pseudo-complicated stuff to turn into basic data entry. He made it so any slam that registered could enter the results and have it automatically recalculate your rankings for you, easy as pie. I just need someone who can design the front end and security and we would have a service available for every slam across the country that wanted to use it….

Any web-savvy folks out there want a project?

  1. Panos says:

    Firstly, good to know how the actual system works; a little complicated but it makes sense statistically.

    It has been a curiosity of mine (recent events aside) what the adv/disadv of having the poets ordered inverse from the first round in the second round? (i.e. last poet of the first round goes first in the second round)

    • rpriske says:

      There is no real disadvantage if you have a second round sac. (Without a second roudn sac, someone is going back-to-back every time. Even with a break, that is tough.)

      The reason CPC decided to NOT do that (as we did that for years), was to make the show more exciting. Though it is easy to feel the disadvantage fo THAT when you take that draw in the teeth as we both did recently.

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