In a change from my usual posts around Salesforce and things that go awry, I’m not piling in on Salesforce UK. They are trying to do a nice thing for one lucky member of the community, and some people are trying hard to prove that even in a supportive community like Salesforce, we can’t have nice things).
To paraphrase Bill Shankly (who was talking about football, or soccer for any Americans reading):
Someone said to me ‘To you winning a trip to Dreamforce is a matter of life or death!’ and I said ‘Listen, it’s more important than that’.
The Salesforce World Tour London saw the second iteration of the #BlazeATrailContest to win a trip to Dreamforce as the social ambassador for the UK & Ireland community.
Last year’s contest was won by Cristina Bran after a hard fought contest against Julia Doctoroff and my colleague Rob Arnell. Rob soon realised that he was outgunned in terms of community reach by the other two candidates and accepted he wasn’t going to win. That shouldn’t have been the case, as the competition was supposed to be based on the submissions, but we all live in the real world. There was campaigning, nobody was surprised and those that weren’t the best at it accepted the situation with good grace.
It’s fair to say this year’s contest went in a slightly different direction.
The campaigning started hard, probably based on watching how things played out the year before. There were a few murmurings about the volume of posts in the success community and on twitter, but as was the case last year, we all live in the real world and get on with it. Then things got weird.
Enter the Cheerleaders
Suddenly the campaigning stepped up a notch. Cheerleaders for the finalists appeared on twitter telling us who to vote for. The vast majority of these didn’t explain why we should vote that way, the merits of the various submissions and why their chosen one stood out from the others. Instead, they referenced the historic work of their candidate, or how much they’d enjoyed meeting them, that they were awesome. Sometimes they didn’t give a reason, just vote the way I say. I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if most of these cheerleaders hadn’t seen all (in some cases any!) of the submissions, but were simply campaigning for their friends. Not a big deal, but definitely a step up. Then things got weirder.
Strong Arm Tactics
Complaints appeared on twitter about DMs demanding votes, again not explaining why, just assuming their word is enough to swing a vote. Bordering on bullying in tone by all accounts — I didn’t receive any of these so I can’t vouch for the accuracy, but feelings were starting to run high. The distribution of votes didn’t seem to be changing much, so it was more unedifying than effective. Then things got super weird.
It’s Wrong When I’m Not Winning
The campaigning was suddenly much more effective for one candidate, and all hell broke loose. People who’d been happily demanding that others vote blindly along with them suddenly had an attack of the morals. “Campaigning is wrong” they cried, now that someone else was better at it.
There was a spike in votes, which Salesforce UK investigated and found no issues with, so the contest continued. Then some of the cheerleaders showed their true colours, that Ohana is just a word in the Hawaiian dictionary, and that it’s not about lifting everyone up, just the chosen few. Because their finalist wasn’t going to win it was all a fix and the winner was undeserving.
Apparently previous contributions should matter, or technical expertise, or what role the finalist has in their company. A constant in these complaints was a lack of any reference to the entries — they seemed irrelevant in this X-Factor style imbroglio, when they were the one thing that could be argued about. I’m not calling out anyone in particular, but if you recognise yourself from this description then maybe wind your neck in a little in future.
I should point out that the finalists were all graceful in accepting this, although two of them were obviously disappointed, it was the cheerleaders that were the problem.
How to Stop it Happening Again
There were calls to limit the voting to members of the Salesforce community only, which I think is a terrible idea. I guarantee that it will be a popularity contest and take into account people’s previous community contributions rather than the quality of their entry. If someone attending a Salesforce event created a great submission it would be really unfair if they lost out to someone with an inferior entry just because they’ve been around for years. These competitions aren’t a gold watch for a long career, they are based on a one-off performance. Opening the voting up means that it’s not just a bunch of old mates glad handing each other into the winner’s enclosure, and I’m saying this as someone with a lot of history that would probably benefit if it was organised this way.
That said, opening the vote up does mean that whoever has the highest profile is in a good position, which isn’t the point of the competition either.
My suggestion to Salesforce UK for next year is : you’ve got great connections with the likes of Google and Microsoft, so get three or four of their community managers/evangelists to judge the entries, and make sure they have no prior history with any of the finalists. They’ll be completely out of the Salesforce ecosystem so will have no skin in the game, but will know what makes a killer blog/video in this space. There will still be some unhappy people, but it would hopefully avoid most of the drama.
I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — Umpteen Certifications, including Technical Architect, multi-time MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom who are hiring.
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You can find my (usually) more technical thoughts at the Bob Buzzard Blog