Operaplot Feedback Form

While we’re all thinking about it, Miss Mussel thought it might be nice to get some feedback from operaplotters about what you liked/didn’t like about this round of the competition.

There are a lot of ideas floating around about how to make the next competition better and hearing your thoughts is extremely helpful.

Problem #1
The sheer number of operas represented proved to be a bit of an apples and oranges situation. To give the judge an easier time and perhaps focus things for participants the following are ideas are being bandied about:

1) Categories – awarding prizes based on best 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st century operas or perhaps dividing by style.
2) Putting together a list of say 25 operas that participants may summarize – it would be a good mix of popular, more obscure and across several time periods

Problem #2
This round, entries were in English only. This was purely for logistical reasons since it was the first real round. In future, should Miss Mussel

1) stick with English
2) introduce German and French categories and either recruit a multilingual judge or three separate ones.
3) other ideas

Problem #3
Contest length — 7 days seems ideal but would a shorter contest, say three days, be more fun?

Problem #4
Frequency — would you like this contest to be held again? If yes, how often? Annually, semi-annually, once a quarter, weekly?

Problem #5
Getting the word out – this isn’t really a problem as such, since the press response both on and offline has been unbelievable. Are there any other ways to get the word out? Would bloggers like press releases too or is Twitter notification enough?

Problem #6
Admin – We did drop the ball a bit here. There is no easy way to transfer the operaplots from Twitter to Excel, so it has to be done by hand. Of course, with so many entries over such a long period of time, missing out some is inevitable but certainly not ideal. Any techies out there have a magic script that will take care of this?

Anything Else
ummm….this is where you chime in with any other thoughts….preferably related to #operaplot but the mike is open.


  1. mlaffs

    Problem #1
    The sheer number of operas represented proved to be a bit of an apples and oranges situation.

    I’m definitely in favor of any kind of structure that would make it easier for judges & for readers. Categories or limits are great because half the fun of the contest is reading what others come up with.

    Problem #2
    This round, entries were in English only.

    1. Do research to find out what interest there is in other languages/countries.
    2. Use findings to prepare next round accordingly.

    Problem #3
    Contest length — 7 days seems ideal but would a shorter contest, say three days, be more fun?

    Length and frequency are good questions because there was definitely a sense of buzz/distraction during the contest, and a let-down when it ended (waiting for results).

    Problem #4
    Frequency — would you like this contest to be held again? If yes, how often? Annually, semi-annually, once a quarter, weekly?

    ALWAYS. If you choose to go the route of creating a list of operas for contestants to choose from, this becomes a wonderful intellectual exercise, with new challenges each round. I would plan for more frequency and then scale back if the interest isn’t present.

    Problem #5
    Getting the word out – this isn’t really a problem as such, since the press response both on and offline has been unbelievable. Are there any other ways to get the word out? Would bloggers like press releases too or is Twitter notification enough?

    I would email bloggers, but not full press release. I’ve found that bloggers prefer short & sweet.

    Problem #6
    Admin – We did drop the ball a bit here. There is no easy way to transfer the operaplots from Twitter to Excel, so it has to be done by hand. Of course, with so many entries over such a long period of time, missing out some is inevitable but certainly not ideal. Any techies out there have a magic script that will take care of this?

    Find a twitter-savvy person to build a tool for you.

    Anything Else
    ummm….this is where you chime in with any other thoughts….preferably related to #operaplot but the mike is open.

    What happens to prizes that were donated but go unclaimed?

    I really like the idea of a list of operas that contestants choose from, because then you could have fun with themes and other intellectual challenges. Would give structure & guide the contest, plus make it more clear what judges are looking for. Today was a complete surprise.
    I like the idea of themes and categories so much that I would volunteer to help administrate.

    • Miss Mussel

      Thanks so much for taking the time to answer in detail.

      The deal with the opera houses was that they put their tickets into the pool and if they don’t get chosen, then they are not needed. This low risk approach is part of what motivated so many houses to participate I think.

      Also, thanks for volunteering some admin time…it’s much appreciated. I’m going to take some time to think about the way forward for #operaplot and I’ll be in touch.

  2. Nicole

    From @mlaffs: “Would give structure & guide the contest, plus make it more clear what judges are looking for. Today was a complete surprise.”

    Agreed. Can you tell us what the criteria were for this round, and next time, can you tell us ahead of time what they will be? I think many entrants wasted a lot of effort trying to excel in ways that didn’t count for anything in the judging. I thought that both @MMmusing and @frindley (and others, but they come to my mind first) had some brilliant entries that unfortunately didn’t make the list, for reasons I cannot determine. While enjoyment is of course its own reward, the competitive element is part of the fun, and it’s no fun playing if you don’t know the rules.

    • Miss Mussel

      There were no criteria. This was the first large-scale competition, so I wanted to leave it as open as possible for people to experiment and have fun with it. As an example, I had no idea people would be so taken with setting the plots in verse.

      Also, because I am not judging, I don’t know what appeals to someone else and I didn’t think it prudent to limit it based on my own arbitrary preferences.

      The likely reason for some brilliant entries not making the list is volume. Only 1 percent of the entries won a prize. 2 of my favourites didn’t make the list either.

  3. frindley

    Being named in Nicole’s comment prompts me to think about the criteria I was subconsciously applying in this round & writing and reading. I think I was influenced by Frere Mussel’s comments re Round 1 & the way he gave credit for charm, and especially this about @ogiovetti’s winning plot:
    “It is very fluid and it gives an over-all summary not a play-by-play. I feel I could see this on a program or in a magazine somewhere.”

    I know that the plots that really caught my eye this time around had those same qualities (&/or they were limericks of the most audacious kind!), and they were often the ones that had enough “flow” in the expression that I could easily remember and repeat them to others, e.g. at my workplace or in an opera house foyer. [Disclaimer: my business is writing and editing for concert audiences, so it’s natural I’d value all these things whether Frere Mussel had or not.]

    My point though: in the absence of stated judging criteria, I was applying my own values (which we all did anyway) but evidently allowing memory of the previous round to guide me.

    I’d only add: I don’t feel my efforts were wasted in the slightest because I haven’t had so much fun in a long time, both participating and following along. (When’s the next one?!)

    • Miss Mussel

      Well put Frindley! These are the things I was thinking as well but didn’t quite know how to articulate. Perhaps next time, I’ll mention these ideas as general guidance.

  4. Danny

    Hey, don’t forget the half-Latin/half-French entry…

    Frankly, the problem with the contest is that it’s on Twitter, but then again, that’s the whole point. It would be easy enough to have a form where people could enter (and even note which opera), but it takes away from some of the fun for people who are into Twitter, and it would probably cut way down on entries by people too lazy to go to a separate website to fill out a form. (And if your host doesn’t offer it, you can always fall back on Google Docs’ free service.)

    Restricting the list of operas would considerably remove the fun. It’s not surprising that only standard repertoire won, given the judge, but the most rewarding part for me was finding a way to deal with the fact that the obscure operas are obscure in the summaries. And I knew I wouldn’t win, but hopefully a handful of people pay close enough attention to Knee Play 1 or have their Medieval operatic precursors down to enjoy my entries, which is what makes it worthwhile.

    Just a thought: maybe try out liederplot instead of opera, so people can twit about St. Anthony and the fishes or that lonely winter walk through the woods. It might add an interesting wrinkly rather than just sticking with operas every time.

    • Miss Mussel

      I’m not entirely convinced about this webform idea. A large part of the Twitter appeal is that the entries are shared with people I have no contact with and who don’t know me..i.e followers of entrants.

      Having the contest run via webform requires people to take an extra step, which is not ideal and also takes away a valuable pr platform.

      I’ll put liederplot in the idea box along with Schenkerplot, Mahlerplot and @ogiovetti’s oscarplot.

  5. frindley

    Problem #1
    1) Categories is a good idea (and please reinstate the Darwin Award & I loved those tennis scores!). Dividing by historical period of the opera would, I think, be a bit arbitrary, and one category would be very crowded. Also more research/checking required to administer. But dividing into categories by style of summary could work: standard summary, dialogue based, limerick/rhyming, haiku, summarising-with or without-naming-characters, plots that incorporate musical references, plots that can be sung… there are all sorts of crazy category possibilities.

    2) But *please* don’t restrict us to 25 operas, no matter how well chosen. I’m not sure anyone wants to read 20-30 summaries, or more, of the one opera. Variety is the name of the game! And a huge part of the pleasure was thinking about which operas would lend themselves to plotting, and becoming reacquainted with operas that I knew only hazily.

    I personally *loved* trying to puzzle out some of the entries as they came through. My Reader’s Choice prize for the best plot leading to a new personal discovery goes to @otterhouse: The Postilion always marries twice… (Adam’s Postillon du Lonjumeau)
    But if you restrict us to 25 specified operas then all of that fun will be lost.

    Problem #2
    If extending to other languages, have distinct tags (along the lines of #operplott for German, #operalivre for French). Yes it means that we need to follow more than one hashtag search, but it also would allow individuals to pick and choose which languages we play and follow, according to linguistic ability.

    Different languages would definitely be a top-level categorisation (via hashtag) and a way of splitting up the judging duties as well. (So I think I’m suggesting that these would effectively be separate competitions, but running simultaneously and attracting mutual interest.)

    Problems #3 and #4
    Seven days felt right. I would say no more than twice a year or there’s a risk we’ll fizzle out from #operaplot exhaustion and we’ll never get any work done. We could have a regular #operaplot season (like the hunters have a shooting season) when all libretti are game for a plot!

    Other Suggestion #1
    This will make you laugh: I endorse the 10-plot limit. I would also say no entering from second accounts, unless(?) the second account is a bona fide pre-existing one (e.g. if one twitters personally and professionally and so has a multiple presence on twitter already). This would make us be more selective in choosing our entries as well as helping reduce the judging burden.

    Of course, what we might then want is a way of sharing draft, whimsical &/or second-thought plots with the plotting community during the week. Perhaps #sitzplot ???

    Other Suggestion #2
    Given the popularity of this and the sheer volume of entries, I’d endorse a judging panel. That might actually make administering the judging more work, but with hundreds of plots to read and assess (and surely it will grow!), giving them all to one brave, intrepid soul is asking a lot.

    • Miss Mussel

      Good suggestions all.

      In the end, I don’t think many people exceeded the ten plot limit anyway, so that wasn’t as much of a problem as I originally anticipated. I think I will reinstate it in future though to keep the quality high.

      People really seemed to like the Orphan part of the contest, so perhaps I can reduce my admin time by crowd sourcing the answers. Each time I learn more and more though, so next time should be less arduous.

      I really like operaplott and operalivre…I’ll have to keep those in mind.

      Re: Judging panel…yes, it turned out to be much more work than I expected and Danielle is a hero for taking such care over selecting winners. I thought the winners would be more obvious but there were so many good ones, it really was almost impossible to choose.

      If we do categories, a panel would make sense…otherwise I think it would be more trouble than it’s worth.

  6. Nicole

    I’m going to chime in with agreement on lots of @frindley’s suggestions.

    A judging panel is an excellent idea. I think there would probably be lots of volunteers, both in “real life” and on Twitter.

    I also agree that other-language contests should be welcome, but should be separate competitions. The French-language ones compete against each other, as do the German-language ones, etc.

    Finally, I definitely think that there should NOT be restrictions on which operas to use, either by century or by a predetermined list. (And determining winners by century doesn’t seem to make much sense to me, since some centuries have tons of material and may yield many great operaplots, while others have much less to work with. I’d hate to see only one winner for 19th century opera!)

    I’d also like to see a “People’s Choice” winner — well, actually, more than one. It would be great if we could vote for ones we liked. (That could still be done for this round, even if no prizes — there were so many good ones that I’d like to officially be able to recognize and laud via voting.)

    • Miss Mussel

      I do like this People’s Choice idea. I considered it briefly for the previous incarnation but was too bogged down in admin to make it happen. Now that I have a better idea of how much work is required, I can plan to include this.

  7. Jennifer

    A judging ‘panel’ would be better than one judge. At least three experts, like on the Met Quiz. Or even 5-10 of them, if there were a point system and specific criteria or even categories.

    I wouldn’t recommend limiting the number of operas. There could be sub-contests for specific popular titles, this way opera companies could easily draw from #operaplot art in their PR.

    Multilingual #operaplotting should be highly encouraged.

    • Miss Mussel

      Arranging 5-10 judges would be a bit of an admin hassle I think. I’m not that well connected yet, so don’t have any favours to call in.

      Sounds like limiting the number of operas is rather unpopular across the board! Will have to think on that one.

  8. I’d agree that an enormous part of the fun here was that the field was wide open: any opera, any approach. It was a true learning experience (and lots of fun) to do the detective work and to see the varying ways people tackled it. (When Nicole came in with the no-spaces, initial-caps solution to too many words, I was impressed and very jealous I hadn’t thought of it first.) I’d guess there were several hundred entries that were very successful based on some criteria or another – which is to say, I enjoyed reading so many of them that I can’t really imagine saying what the 5 or 10 best were. So, Ms. De Niece’s job was really impossible, but I think it’s great that she took the time to decide what she liked best.

    It reminds me of game shows like “Who Line Is It Anyway?” or “My Word” in which the judging is amusingly arbitrary because the task is impossible – and because the real point is just enjoying the variety of entries. (By the way, this is the fundamental problem with music competitions; the point should be hearing fabulous performances, but the focus gets turned on trying to objectify the subjective.) I think the celebrity judge thing was a good idea that basically added to the whimsy of the whole experience (and, like the prizes, helped attract interest), but the real value of the whole thing is reading through all the entries.

    It’s hard to say if future contests make sense; I initially thought even this second round was unnecessary, but I was proven totally wrong and was amazed at how it went. I think if you could find a way to organize a web-based entry form (which, ideally, would allow contestants to specify the opera to you, but not to the public), it could help. Twitter was of course important in defining the parameters of the contest and in spreading interest virally, but it’s clearly not a great archive tool. It would be cool if all submissions were done via web (including opera title not revealed to public), and then sent straight into the #operaplot stream (sans opera title) for Twitter followers. That would allow the fun of casual, real-time following, but also make it easy to keep a sortable online archive.

    Thanks again for doing this. I can easily imagine using many of these entries in classes, lectures, and the like. A very cool resource.

    • Miss Mussel

      My pleasure. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the competition. If I can find a script that would export Tweets to Excel or even Word, that would solve a lot of the problems with forgotten and misattributed tweets and make identifying them a lot easier.

      Google Docs for identifying is an idea. I’ll have to investigate that further.

      You are welcome to use any of the entries for academic purposes but please include the name of the person who created it as well.

  9. A follow-up thought. I’ve realized that it would be hard to make a web-based form that could send an entry to Twitter because now it would need to include the contestant’s name in the 140 characters. You really want the entries to be tweeted by the user. What might work is an online entry form that limits the plot to 130 characters, but also has fields for opera title and Twitter username. Then, it could feed the entry text (plus #operplot tag) back to the user with a reminder to tweet it right away. Meanwhile, the web-based submission page automatically puts the plot and username into a sortable (by date & contestant) online database. Yeah, it’s a slightly unwieldy 2-step process, but I figure someone who’s already taken the time to craft a plot won’t mind a slightly more elaborate entry method. Notice that I’m not volunteering to do any of this!

  10. Re Problem #1 (too many operas), I do feel for you all, but these problems of success are ones that many quizzes would love to have. Keep it a free-for-all and live with it!

    Similarly I can see that Problem #2 (non-English entries) must make your life difficult, but it added to the exotic texture of the competition so I’d allow non-English entries. In fact there should be a special prise for the first Klingon entry that none of us would understand ;-)

    I think 7 days (Problem #3) was perfect.
    I think the frequency thing is your lipid call (Problem #4). Annually seems right to me, bu let’s see how long it takes you to recover!
    I think keeping it Twitter focussed is fine for Problem #5. The twitterness of it made sense of the 130 character restriction, gave a real buzz to twitter that week, and found me lots of new twitter friends to follow.
    For Problem #6 (the admin overhead) firstly do not feel that you “dropped the ball”. I think that it was good that it felt like one person’s passion rather than a PR exercise. If it goes too smoothly it’ll feel all wrong. That said, the more community help you can muster. I don’t know how straightforward a wiki would be to set-up, but that would work for identification, categorisation, and translating. If not I think you can open up a spreadsheet on Google Docs so that everyone has write access, though perhaps I’m being too trusting.
    Whatever happens I think it would be wise to include a link to the tweet with each #operaplot recorded. The twitter search facility only includes recent tweets, already you cannot click “Older” enough times to recover all the entries.
    I do like the idea of a people’s choice too next time. If the #operaplot tweets are numbered on your blog an #operaplotvote on twitter would be straightforward.
    Thanks Marcia, I’ve loved it: http://twitter.com/dumbledad/status/1804324790

    • Miss Mussel

      You’re welcome. I’m glad you had such a good time. In between admin stress attacks, I rather enjoyed it myself.

      I’m hearing a resounding yes to French and German entries from all commenters, so that is definitely something to put on the list for next time.

      Hopefully, as more people use Twitter for things like this, there will be an easier way to manage everything.

  11. frindley

    Michael’s suggestion re having a 130 character field in a webform has a practical problem in that some of us (one of us?) quite enjoy finding ways to incorporate the hashtag into the operaplot itself, i.e. we need the 140 characters for it to be complete, the hashtag isn’t just something you can remove from the beginning or the end.

    But really, that’s beside the point, because I heartily disagree with this stance: Twitter was of course important in defining the parameters of the contest and in spreading interest virally, but it’s clearly not a great archive tool & ergo, let’s run it by webform and just feed entries to twitter.

    I would say that Twitter (and entering via Twitter) is absolutely essential to the character of operaplot, despite the medium’s archival limitations. It’s not just about spreading the word or defining parameters.

    If we entered via a webform that fed the entries to twitter we’d have lost a crucial element: twitter followers would have no idea who’d submitted each entry. And one of the great joys of the exercise was following different people’s entries and responding to individual contributions. It was lovely, too, to see entrants egg each other on to increasing flights of fancy and formal innovations. And I know I certainly found some interesting new people to follow during the week, which has been the lasting pleasure of the whole exercise.

    What I’m saying, I guess, is that the absolute beauty and total genius of operaplot (the result of its being run on Twitter) is that it is so convivial.

    Personally, I’d be willing to take the extra step to manually plug my entries into a webform in addition to tweeting them if that helped Miss Mussel with managing the entries. But I would hold that the first point of entry should be the tweeting of the plot in twitter. Under this variation the webform would need fields for twitter id, the 140-character plot+hashtag, and the original tweet url.

    • Miss Mussel

      Once again, you’ve pretty much read my mind. I’m not keen on having two steps in the entry process. There has to be a way to make this easier…it’s just a matter of talking to people that know how to do that.

  12. @frindley

    I agree with you; in my second comment above, I mentioned having overlooked the need for the plots to be twittered by their creators. And yes, it would be possible for Miss Mussel or whoever is helping running the competition to put all the Twittered information into a web database; I just think it would be fairer to give the contestants the responsibility of ID’ing the operas they’re plotting, since often the answer is pretty obscure. After all, even one of the winners was assigned to the wrong opera.

    Good point about including the hashtag. I hadn’t thought of that.

    The advantage of a sortable online database is that it would make it even easier than Twitter does to track a single person’s plots. Also, it was a little sad to me that more of the wider classical blogosphere didn’t participate. (There are many opera-crazy bloggers I expected to see involved.) I wonder if the Twitter thing just scares people away, and if a smoother alternate entry method would help bring in more people (not that there weren’t a hugely successful number of people involved!). Of course, in a year’s time, Twitter will have either spread much deeper roots or been replaced by something better!

    • Miss Mussel

      Is this listing of tweet off of Twitter something that could be accomplished on blogs? Many people who entered did that and I would hazard a guess that the majority of people on Twitter have a blog of some sort.

      I like the idea of people spreading the word on their own platform as they feel excited about it.

      In terms of Twitter being an obstacle for entry….there was a place made available to enter without being on Twitter (blog comment), which was advertised on Twitter and the OM. I figured if that wasn’t enough options for entry then too bad.

  13. frindley

    Good points, all. And true, we should have some way of entrants ID-ing their entries offline from twitter, so as to help the judging side of things without spoiling the guessing-competition aspect of it for the participants.

  14. frindley

    A late thought: there is one “category” of opera-plotting that would benefit tremendously from being moved right off twitter and that’s the limerick. Given that the form has its own constraints, there’s really no need to make it conform to a character limitation as well. Imagine the limericks that would have emerge if they didn’t have to be forced into a container that was just the tiniest bit too small!

    Within a twitter-based competition, a classical limerick could still be twittered via a link to the complete text.

    • Miss Mussel

      Ah, the limericks…that did grow into a sub-competition of its own. I was amazed at how many entries were set in some sort of verse.

      I’m inclined not to make the full-sized limerick part of the operaplot competition mostly because I think simple is best and if the character limit is extended for limericks, why not couplets or prose plots?

      A fringe operaplot limerick competition run on someone’s blog might be nice though ;)

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