Question about challenges

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newbie

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We were talking about "topics" for challenges and I am wondering what people are looking for or most interested in. I understand that in summer and around holidays, people are busier and may not have the time to dedicate to a challenge. We want them to be fun, interesting, and of course, challenging.

I saw a couple comments on my recent post in Photos about how they would feel the ribbon pour might be too difficult for them. Personally, I don't think that's true and I think everyone could get a good soap out of it but if people feel something is too difficult, they are unlikely to sign up. We certainly want things in which people are eager to participate.

What sort of challenges are you guys most interested in? Is monthly too often? Do you have suggestions for techniques or design challenges? Is there a way we can improve them and improve people's desire to jump in?

We have stayed away from the idea of a prize or prizes because it changes the feel of the thing but is that something people would like to see added? I am more reluctant about adding that but what is you opinion?

Please be honest!
 
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Judiraz

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I think a challenge is meant to spread your wings. How would we ever learn if we don't try? Sometimes we may not want to post our results, but we still learn the basics of a technique. Keep pushing us!!
 

Misschief

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Personally, I'm more interested in trying the techniques than I am in prizes. I wish I had more time (and space) to try all the challenges but, alas, I don't. If I don't enter, it's only because I know I'll be too busy or tired to do it. I do research each of the techniques that are introduced in the challenges and so, even if I don't enter the challenge, I'm still learning about that technique.

As for the difficulty level, isn't the whole idea of a challenge to show you something you might not have tried before and "challenge" you to try it? That's what I love about them. As for time frame, I think once a month is fine. Sure, we all get busy at certain times of the year (summer - which happens at opposite times of the year depending on where you are - and major holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving) but, at those times, perhaps it might be a thought to offer simpler challenges rather than something more involved.
 

newbie

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I completely agree with those sentiments, 100%. Because we have such a broad range of experience on the forum, there will be some challenges that are more difficult to newer soapers but that is to be expected. I still hope they will participate because how do you get better at anything if you don't explore and fail a bunch of times?

I didn't post that about my upcoming challenge looking for encouragement about that specifically. I'm too stubborn to give up that idea even if people perceive it as difficult. ;)

We are still wondering though if there are things people are looking for in the challenges that we could target. Ideas for challenges are welcome. Is monthly too often? Are people more likely to participate more regularly if it were every other month? Are holiday months too busy in general and it would be wiser to take a break?

Would people like to see broader challenges, such as make a soap based on X theme? We've been trying to mix design and specific technique but for design challenges, do people like a very open idea, like make a soap based on your favorite Beatles song (we haven't done anything that open, I don't think) or are things like design a soap using texture, which has some specificity to it, okay?

Toss out ideas if there is something you are interested in seeing done.

Thanks for that feedback, Misschief. Simpler challenges on known busier months seems obvious but I don't think we really thought of that. Noted!
 
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TeresaT

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Here's my opinion, for what it's worth. If there was a prize, I definitely would not enter. I've only been soaping a little more than a year. While I know what I'm doing, when it comes to making a batch of soap, I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to swirls and colors and techniques. I look at the soaps y'all post as your fails and think, "Dang, I wish my awesome soaps looked that good." I'm still intimidated when I post my photos of my soaps, but you know what? It's soap...it'll get you clean. And, every batch I make gets better. I've gotten wonderful, amazing complements from people on this forum that make incredible soap, so that truly makes me feel great. These challenges, to me, are fun learning processes; we all get to vote on who our favorite contributor is. There are some that have been making soap for a long while and consistently turn out amazing results. For me, if there was a prize involved, I wouldn't participate because I'd feel like I was a finger painter up against the likes of Michelangelo or DaVinci.

If there were experience levels of competition, I still wouldn't participate. One year for one person isn't the same as one year for another person. Although the time frame is the same, the number of batches--therefore the comfort and/or skill level--is completely different. Making experience levels by batch numbers would be too complicated/confusing and not worth the effort and energy needed to put into it. That would become a full time job in itself.

I sign up for just about every challenge since I started doing the challenges and usually manage to make at least one batch for it. (I didn't soap in the winter, though. SAD kicks in around Oct/Nov and I can't function well until Feb/Mar.) I may not post a photo for it, but I try it out the technique.
 

dixiedragon

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I think the challenges are fun. Even though I've only participated in one! I do wish they went longer. I don't necessarily think that a new challenge every month is too much, but I would like the challenges to be announced 8 weeks before they are due. Gives more time.
 

Steve85569

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I try the challenges so I can learn different techniques in soap making.
I have only been soap making for a little while now and it's a great way to, well, challenge MYSELF to learn and do things I would not normally try. The challenges have expanded my limited abilities and continue to do so.
Even when I don't enter the challenge I still watch the instruction video and get gears turning in my mind ( which isn't always a good thing:mrgreen:).

The ribbon pour sounds interesting to me but I'd probably need a hint or two on a recipe that didn't go too fast. Probably back to a low water content so it moves slowly.

Steve
 

mzimm

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I don't have specific suggestions about what future challenges should include, mostly because any design, theme, technique, etc will be plenty challenging for me. I don't think you have to wear yourself out looking for "new" techniques to present, because every single challenge allows for the chance to learn more. Personally, there hasn't been a single challenge that hasn't interested me on some level, and all have been extremely rewarding to enter.

As for "making it fun" for us, well, ANY soap-making will be fun, IMO!

And as for whether or not prizes should be offered, I say no. I for one don't care at all whether there's a potential prize, that has no bearing on whether or not I enter. For me, the biggest deciding factor is time. Do I have time this month or not. I hated to stay out of the Clyde Slide, but I knew I'd have little or no time to work the technique, even once. And next month looks pretty slim, too.

I realize that a great deal of time goes in to preparing tutorials and videos, and I'm guessing from a presetenter's point of view, getting only a handful of entries could be frustrating. Since you won't know in a given month how many people are going to sign up, I wondered if you might like to set a minimum # of entries before the challenge is "on." And then extend the sign-up deadline until that minimum is met. That way, you don't really have to have a set interval for challenges.

Thank you for asking our opinions. I don't think I've "been around" long enough, either on this forum or at soaping in general, to be of much help to you, but I do think it was lovely to be asked.
 

TheDragonGirl

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I like the contests how they are- and I really like the way they're mostly centered around techniques. The themed ones just really don't catch my attention as well, I'm not learning as much or anything from them except maybe colour theory.
 

MySoapyHeart

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Here is my view on things:

1) No prizes. Because to me it about the challenge itself, what I feel I can test out and what I can get out of the challenge, rather than getting a reward for being so called no.1
A prize would not make me more interested in participating in any way, shape or form.

2) Ideas for challenges... I have been searching for pictures of soaps that has the efffect of wood. I searched for Wood grain soap, (link to images) and found the idea of that interesting.

-- As some of you may have read in my entry of june, I love trees. I love the smell of them, the colors and the fact that they are miracles, althoug we take them completely for granted.

Trees give us shelter from the sun, they give us oxygen, we can keep warm by burning wood, we can build houses from them, we can carve the wood and make utensils, plates, cups, desk, lamps, table, chairs and other furniture.

I have grown up on the very edge of the forrest, by bedroom window was facing the forrest edge that I often had to run to. And trees are to me very interesting. Because they can have sooo many different kind of textures, colors, smells, shapes, etc.
--That could be a challenge, interpret a tree into soap, and make a soap of what you appreciate about trees? Fragrance? Textures? Colors? The moss that grows on them?
But perhaps it is already been done. Or I may be the only one interested in this type of challenge, heh.. *cough* : P

3) Everyone here are not at the same level, never will be. And it is absolutely impossible to do challenges that makes everyone equally comfortable. Neeeever gonna happen.
So, If a challenge comes up and I myself feel it is too difficult for me, I can either moan, groan, complain and sob about how difficult this is, can`t they do anything easier instead?? *insert crying baby voice*.

--
Or I could lift up my sleeves and at least try, and see what happens! At the very least I can sit by and watch everyone elses try, and cheer them on from the sideline, giving positive support and compliment their efforts!

4) Montly, by-monthly.. I am not sure if it matters. But then again, perhaps people may take a bigger chance of participating - even if they don`t feel secure enough that they will be able to produce something that they are comfortable with.
Because if challenges are not held that often, perhaps people will take a bigger leap of faith trying out what they aren`t super skilled in doing. Or else they would have to wait a long time until next one, and that may also be one challenge they aren`t all that comfortable with...

Anywho, just my view on things. May not make any sense, but it was all I got today, I have been really sick for a long time so I feel a bit empty right now.
 

IrishLass

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I agree 100% that a challenge is not a challenge unless its a challenge!

Some challenges may look to be easier to accomplish than others based on our individual level of swirling skills, but I want to encourage everyone to never let looks deceive us to the point of stopping us from trying.....

For example, some swirls that I have done in the past that seemed like they'd be quite impossible for me to ever accomplish at first glance, turned out to be quite do-able when I actually put my hand to it (i.e., the peacock swirl). But with this month's challenge- the Clyde Slide- my first glance told me the just opposite- i.e., it told me that it would be an easier swirl for me to accomplish. But wouldn't you know it- things are proving to be a bit more of a bugger for me with this swirl. :lol: But I'm not giving up just yet- I still have time before the month is up!

In regards to a prize to the winner at the end: From what I understand to the best of my knowledge, the offer of a prize is not a normal/regular occurrence with the SMF challenges. The reason that a prize is being offered for this month's challenge is because our head Admin has a bunch of SMF stickers on hand at the moment from our July Supporting Member's discount special, and she thought (and I agreed) it would be a nice gesture to offer one or two of them (depending on how many are left) to the winner. If this is a problem and y'all would rather not have such offers on the table for any future challenges, just let us know. We're open to whatever y'all decide. :)

This month's challenge is actually the first I've ever entered, so I'm not the best person to offer an opinion on whether the logistics of having a challenge on a monthly or bi-monthly basis would be better or worse. I suppose much would come down to the one presenting the challenge.... what with putting together a video and all that, but I do like the idea of there being one here to enter each month......mostly because I have newly decided to challenge myself to try to enter each challenge. lol

Re: ideas: Well, with the way this present challenge is going for me, I'm thinking that anything you decide to put up will be a challenge for me in one way or another, so I'm content to just go along for the ride. lol

Although..... it might be pretty cool (maybe during the thick of the busiest season) to leave one month as a 'free-for-all' personal challenge where one can attempt the best rendition of a swirl they've most wanted to achieve.


IrishLass :)
 

Guspuppy

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challenges - I prefer technique over themed, personally, but that's mostly because I'm not artistic enough for themes and I am new enough that every technique IS a challenge to me. I've never even done a simple ITP spoon swirl yet. And challenges are fun!

prizes - no thanks! For all the reasons entered above.

timing of challenges - monthly seems good to me, and if the developers are running out of ideas I'm good with repeating former challenges too. It would give all us new members a chance to try the ones we missed - not only on our own, but as a group with hints and encouragement from others. I know that I myself can never WAIT for 'failure' photos to start showing up on the challenge threads, much less the entries at the end of the month. I love seeing everyone's attempts and how it worked out (or not) for them!
 

nsmar4211

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Prizes-bragging rights maybe... what about forum flair? Personally just saying "I won" is enough but that's me.

I would love to see some challenges for those of us who do HP :). I drool over the pretty swirls and all and enjoy seeing everyone's results, but I don't have the space/time for CP right now. Problem is, what could HP participate in except themes..

Monthly is fine (because I haven't done any LOL) but I can see bi-monthly being good too.

The requirement of a video cuts me out of a lot of things though...
 

artemis

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First, before I could enter challenges, I followed the challenges every month. I only just entered for the first time. I didn't do it because of a prize. I entered because it was like a game, or sharing what I made.

As a member of the audience, I like both technique and design challenges. I like to learn about new methods, but I also like to see how people interpret a theme differently.
 

galaxyMLP

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I'll say this, I'm running next month. It is a themed challenge. Sorry for those that don't like it! I'm going to try something a little different with it though!

It's very difficult coming up with new techniques to try for your month! Especially since I feel like as the person making the video, I should have made the soap with that technique successfully at least (very least!) once before.

I've never been a swirl-er myself so these challenges have really helped me expand my swirl library. I'm more of an experimenter/soap property tester and unfortunately you can't have a challenge with something like that for the most part. I almost came up with a salt bar challenge but I just wouldn't know what to incorporate with it and I don't want to make it too rigid.

I like the "flair" idea for winners. Though that might alienate some who would see it as a prize.

I like the wood grain idea! There are some other challenge ideas on the list we originally made that I thought would be great, but after seeing so many challenges done I'm not so sure would be.
 

SunWolf

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My 2 cents, for what it's worth.

1) Prizes. Nope, not needed, the meeting of the challenge is it's own "prize" for me. Although, I do covet a sticker for my jeep...:)

2) Type of challenge. I like the technique challenges best, but the whole idea is to challenge myself, so I am up for pretty much anything. Though, I mainly make loaf soaps, since they are easier to label and sell as a consistent, repeatable product. For example, the mosaic challenge resulted in a soap to use around the house, since each bar had a different portion of my picture and looked strange by themselves. Of course, had I chosen a pattern that repeated, it would have been fine...

3) Frequency. Monthly is fine for me. We know when it starts and ends each month, and we can decide if we have enough time or not, and can plan accordingly. I kind of like the idea of setting a minimum number of entries needed before the challenge officially starts, though. However, some of the more challenging ones (the birds and the mosaic) have been a bit short on entries, so they may take a while to fill enough to start the challenge. Worth giving it a try.

I do love the challenges, and have much respect for those who put their time into designing them for us each month.
 

Cindy2428

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Totally agree 100% with Misschief's post. The "prize" is about soaping with everyone here. I like the 30 days - It has a date certain to it and for procrastinators like me, makes me get on it.

As for future challenges, I missed a few so I would love repeats..... Also salt bars, peacock swirls, milk, different liquids soap, ombre soap, shaving soap - TEG you would have to do this one!; using embeds, different additives, 5 colors+; mantra swirls, Taiwan swirls; funnel pours, HP challenge....
 

earlene

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Difficulty does not bother me. I prefer to be challenged in order to learn something new.

However, sometimes it might be difficult for some members when specialty tools/equipment might be needed. Perhaps some suggestions of what might work instead to take the place of a particular tool/piece of equipment would be nice. (I'm not saying that has not been done, as I am a fairly new member and have only participated in 2 challenges.)

Monthly challenges is the perfect frequency in my opinion. Making it less would only limit the availability of joining in for people who are pretty busy already. Not everyone can participate every time, and I think that is just to be expected, but I do not believe everyone has the exact same busy times so trying to limit based on what may be a busy time for some would decrease the opportunity for others. Also I don't think it is a bad thing when there are fewer participants. Sometimes a small group is less intimidating.

I don't think traditional holidays actually effect every one of our members. I can soap anytime. Holidays make no difference. I doubt I am the only one who doesn't find holidays to be an issue. It's my traveling schedule that affects my ability to soap at home more than anything else.

Before addressing my other thoughts, I'd like to say that I wish that past challenges* and past challenge entry threads* were easier to find. I wish they could all be moved into their own category/forum/sub-forum. For me, I liked looking at the ones I could find and try some of the past ones in order to learn a new technique. I really enjoyed learning the ghost swirl utilizing the past challenge to do so. I was so happy to find it here because I couldn't really make head nor tales of the method when I read about it on Auntie Clara's blog. I believe there is a wealth of information in past challenges that are so buried they are hard to find. AND the entry threads for each is even harder to find. And if the challenges were in their own category/forum/sub-forum it would feel more inclusive. (Just a thought.)

Types of challenges I'd like to see: Occasional repeats of some of the challenges would be okay with me because newer members like myself have not had the opportunity to participate for very long so could benefit.

Mixed techniques can be fun in a challenge, too. That's what I did in the Mosaic challenge. I used the ghost swirl for part of it as well as the mosaic method. I really enjoyed doing it that way. In fact, I'd love to see another mosaic challenge again some time in the future (not right away, but some time).

New techniques, of course, when something new in the soaping world comes along, which I suppose is what the ghost swirl was.

Challenges using different ingredients could be fun, too. Maybe something where it includes a homemade infusion of the soaper's choice or something that requires that extra step of making an additive more or less from scratch. Or one that utilizes non-traditional ingredients (the beta carotene used by SunWolf in the mosaic challenge, for example). Or a challenge to try a mixed lye solution (95%NaOH & 5%KOH) or a higher lye concentration or a specific ingredient like vinegar instead of water or something along those lines. Not everyone is going to want to do every one of these things necessarily, but some might really like to learn and don't want to do all the experimentation all their own. So as a group in a challenge can make it fun.

HP swirling or design techniques would be challenging, and some members may not want to participate, but those of us who do HP some of the time (that's where I started) might really like that kind of challenge. Re-batch design challenge might be fun, too. I made several attempts last month trying to come up with something more interesting to do with soap trimmings and it was challenging to try and create a design to include confetti (which I had never done before - confetti soap.)

And I'd really like a Pointillism challenge. Has it been done before? If yes, please repeat for those of us interested in repeats or new enough that we haven't seen it.

Sometimes offering a sample recipe (not requiring it, but just an example that would work well with) a particular challenge; for example when a really slow moving recipe is preferable for an intricate design challenge. That has probably happened in the past, but I don't know because I haven't read all past* challenges. It's just something that came to mind.

I'd just as soon not have prizes, although I guess it doesn't really matter to me as long as it wouldn't mean that I'd have to pay an entry fee, and that's where I think prizes could lead at some point. The cost of making the (potentially) several batches of soaps for each challenge is already enough without adding entrance fees to cover the costs of mailing and/or obtaining prizes.

* for clarity: past meaning, previous, old and very old challenge entry threads as well as all the challenges not current ones
 
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dibbles

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I need to preface this by saying I don't have a full time job, or kids at home, or too many other demands on my time. So my perspective is different from those who do have a limited amount of time to soap.

The first challenge I entered was the inverted stamp (the second SMF challenge - I didn't have enough posts for the first one). I had only been making CP soap for a few months at that point, and I had to work up a lot of courage to post my entry.

I like the way the challenges are structured right now. I like the mix of technique and design/theme. I like one a month. I guess my feeling is no matter how long the challenge was open, people would still sign up and not get a soap made or feel what they made wasn't 'good enough' to enter.

I don't think you should worry about the challenges being 'too challenging'. Challenging for one person is different from what is challenging for someone else. I have a list of 'to try' soaps. The high/low water was on that list, and would still be sitting somewhere near the bottom if that hadn't been a challenge. For me, that was a technique I really wanted to try, but for some reason found intimidating. newbie's tutorial and the suggestions of others broke it down to a manageable process for me. I tried the Petra Swirl 6 times, because I really wanted to learn to do that (getting there, but still not nailing it). I really enjoyed the discoloring FO and interpretation challenges and seeing what everyone's imagination brought to that.

As to prizes - not necessary. I won't lie - it feels good to have people like my entry enough to actually vote for it, but that isn't why I enter. The sticker is a fun idea. Another idea would be a certificate that the winner could print out and put in a binder if they wanted to. I don't think there would ever be problems around something like that. If you are talking about monetary prizes - I wouldn't go there. Right now we have such a supportive and encouraging environment, and I would hate to see that change. I feel like the SMF challenges came about, in part, by a general frustration with other challenges, but I may be way off base on that.

Future challenge ideas - I'll try to think of something helpful. It could be something as simple as an ingredient; honey, or something readily available to everyone (although that might not be practical). I like the idea along the lines of a favorite Beatles song. I've never done HP, and really have no interest in it. So I'd just sit that one out. Every challenge won't appeal to every person.

The challenge team is doing a great job, and your efforts are appreciated.
 

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