Ok, I got to thinking about this topic, and reading all of your well thought out responses and I agree that I do not want to exclude people based on forum activity. I do want to have some method of safeguarding against people who join only to enter contests or to give their vote to someone in a contest.
I was thinking of creating a probationary period at the start of membership. For example when you signup you cannot compete in, or vote on, any contest for the first 30 days. This way it would take alot of forsight for someone to "cheat" the system. In this way no members are punished for lack of posting but we protect the integrity of the contests.
As for the voting method, I cannot reasonably implement a system that forces everyone to vote for all the cakes entered, and based on the scoring results I am seeing, this has not been the problem that it is perceived to be. All of the cakes are getting alot of votes, and the scoring has been very close. We do not have a situation of a small group of cakes running away with the contests.
For those of you who think that protesting the system by choosing not to vote is helping improve the community, I have to disagree. By withholding your votes you only increase the impact of everyone elses vote. If your reason for not voting is because you don't believe in contests, that is fine, don't vote, but if you just have a problem with how others are voting, you are solving nothing by standing aside.
Finally please everyone remember these contests are supposed to be fun, don't take the results so seriously. I mean the prize is hardly worth the effort it would take to cheat the system. Please give me your feedback on the probation status idea. I am trying to find the solution that is fair to everyone, excludes no one, and protects the integrity of the community.
I want to thank everyone for taking the time to respond to this thread, all of you have been extremely helpful.
One more thing I wanted to touch on:
Originally Posted by SquirellyCakes
European or... entered the contest? Would it offend folks because they were not of the right nationality? What about Christmas cake contests, would it offend folks if a non-Christian submitted a cake?
Would you be offended as an American if I said I was excluded from the contest because I celebrate July 1st as Canada Day but not July 4th because I am not American. Should I even have the right to vote on the cakes submitted? What would happen if I entered a Canadian flag cake into the contest?
These are excellent points and I am glad SquirellyCakes brought them up. During the holidays, the annual contest is a "Holiday" cake contest, and the rules state it must be in the theme of the holidays, whether its a generic "winter" theme, kwanzaa, channakka (spelling?) or any other religeous/national/cultural theme that celebrates the season.
Yes, I am an American, and the 4th of July contest is mostly based on the American Independence day, however the main theme for the contest is patriotism. If someone wanted to enter a Canada Day flag, or a Mexican, or Israeli flag, or any country for that matter to show pride in thier country, this would be perfectly acceptable. The main them has to be "patriotism" I do not think I made a very good job of explaining this in the rules, and I will create a better description for future contests. These contests were never meant to be as esoteric as they are perceived.
Being an American, I am biased toward using American holidays as contest themes, this was not meant to alienate anyone, it was simply the easiest and most obvious way for me to go. But I have loads of ideas for future contests from the community, and remember to keep those ideas flowing and share them with me. If you are particularly shy, and do not want to make a public post, you can always Private Message me or one of the moderators with your idea.