An Apology To the Participants In Our Cutest Pets Challenge

The competition launched yesterday and the traffic crashed our server. Allow us to explain.

To the 600-plus people who submitted for our Cutest Pets competition and to the hundreds of others who tried to vote on it, we’re sorry. Yesterday was a disaster, and I’d like to explain why. 

Here is what happened: We didn’t anticipate the amount of interest in the competition, which runs using a format we call the “Showdown.” It selects two pets at random and allows the reader to click on one or the other, signifying which they believe is cuter. We also included a skip button, which would fast-track you to another matchup. Good idea in theory; in practice, however, it was something akin to pouring gasoline on a fire. The traffic overloaded the server. This is why you became very familiar with five second load times and 504 errors. This also affected our server’s cache, which may be the reason many of you saw so many recurring animals. 

Here is what we have done: Yesterday, we expanded the resources of our server, and we believe we have more than enough to accommodate the traffic. We also have gotten rid of the “skip” button. We have eliminated the confusing leaderboard at the bottom of the page and replaced it with a page containing each submission. You can now peruse all of those beautiful pets in one place whenever you like. We have also made a $5,000 donation to Dog and Kitty City/the Humane Society of Dallas County.

Here is where our communication could have been better: This is a contest that uses randomized matchups to create a level playing field for all. Many have requested an individual link to vote on your pet. The problem with that is that not everyone in the competition has thousands of Instagram followers. We want each pet to have the same chance at winning, and handing out individual pet links will skew the results to favor owners who are superior marketers.

This is also why the winner of this contest will not be determined by volume of votes, but instead by the percentage of matchups he or she won. For instance: if Fido gets in 500 matchups and wins 400 of them, he has an 80 percent rate of victory. If Milo gets into 1,500 and wins only 400 of them, that’s a victory rate of somewhere around 27 percent. Fido wins.

Monday’s launch triggered a bevy of frustrating user experiences, and we sincerely apologize. We believe we’ve fixed our problems going forward, and that the remaining weeks will provide plenty of opportunities for you to help declare the cutest pet in Dallas. We’re reopening voting today at noon.

If you have further questions, you can find an FAQ here. You can also email us here, message us on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a comment below this post or on the contest page. We’ll be monitoring all these channels for the duration of the competition.