“But if you try sometimes you just might find, you just might find you get what you need.”
A recurring and frequent question that gets asked here on the woot forums and in the shirt derby is “what’s with the pucker?” More than a few have wondered in silence, some have asked flat out “why?” and others plead “no more!” The time has been brewing and has now come for me to begin to draw back the curtain and reveal to some degree why the pucker exists and how it came to pass. As time goes on, I may add to these initial thoughts and I thank you in advance for your patience and attention.
Remember the first shirt derby? When it was brand new and everyone was excited and trying to figure out how to make entries and participation was itself reward enough? The derby was something anyone could enter. It held the dream that any wooter could be a designer and get his or her shirt printed. It was a time of freshness, fun, and anticipation.
That first theme was “one.” I knew I had to enter to be part of this new and exciting contest. Woot already had its weekly photochop contest, but it primarily was held over the weekends, and since I didn’t have photoshop, or much time to work on such things on the weekends, I didn’t feel I could enter. The photochop contest seemed friendly with lots of people admiring and praising each other’s work. The shirt derby, with its weekday entry format and long period in which to submit entries, seemed like something I could definitely do. I knew I wanted to enter, but had no idea how to make an entry, especially in “.svg” format. I didn’t even know what .svg meant.
So I looked at all the things I had on my computer, and lo and behold, Visio had the ability to save things as .svg files, .pngs and .jpgs, and the ability to have layered images. Now all I needed was an idea. In the hallowed hall of records, you will dust off three entries of mine in that first derby: an outline number 1 filled with a bunch of “ones,” an awesome gradient-filled clip art smiley with an afro with the words “I woot off at work” printed on it (which was not rejected, for what it’s worth, and also pointed out as being unprintable due to color variants and other reasons, not the least of which being it was not in true six-layered .svg format), and the very first pucker, “One Big Pucker.”
The pucker was the end product of many needs in that first derby. I needed a graphic image to enter, a way to get it on the computer, and a way to save it in the way it appeared woot needed it to be submitted. Having no inherited artistic ability, I thought I could trace a picture using the primitive tools at my disposal. But there were just a few pictures to choose from on my computer. So I picked the one that I could argue fit the theme, ONE, the picture was traced in Visio, and the pucker was born. I saw recently another wooter dug up the vote page for that entry, and I think it got 7 votes.
Having successfully created an entry, I excitedly looked forward to the next week to see if I could make another one. Derby #2 was HEAT. As I wondered what I could do that conveyed a sense of heat, I eventually realized the best I could probably do would be to cannibalize my first entry, recolor it and add some sweat drops, and there you have it:
By the third derby, I decided it would be appropriate (okay, lazy) to continue with my prepared drawing and apply the theme of SUPER POWERS to what I had already created. I’ll spare you the super powered pucker with lightning bolt of power.
Successive weeks brought the map theme, light (I think, or maybe “night,” since I made the bat signal pucker about that time as well, which was for a while my favorite as I manipulated the drawing to add some perspective to make it look like the bat signal was lighting up the sky), maps, harvest, and so on. Each week had a new theme, and each week I went back to that pucker well as a starting point for inspiration. Each week I learned a little more how to manipulate drawings in PowerPoint and Visio, and improved my design execution and detail a little bit each week.
My first breakthrough came in derby 15- Time Travel Souvenirs. I had downloaded Inkscape and the GIMP drawing programs, and learned how to “live trace” to make a much more realistic depiction of my adopted favorite subject. The result of the time travel derby was my “I brought this winning entry back from the future” souvenir from Derby 387- Six Pack:
I was thrilled that I had figured out how to “grunge up” the picture and this one got 48 votes! Not only that, but I had added to my future design history by time traveling and finding a design that wins in the future and brought it back to 2007 to show my future victory. So that was kind of nice.
Other notable puckers soon followed, including:
I believe that if my original “travel” derby entry wasn’t rejected, I never would have thought hard to create this one, one of the more well-received entries I have done:
I believe that if my original “travel” derby entry wasn’t rejected, I never would have thought hard to create this one:
During many derbies, various comments get posted, both for and against my entries, some asking why I do what I do. The answer to this question is profound yet mysterious. To answer this question is to repeat the answer to a thousand other questions. Why do people like penguins and pirates? Why do people like layers of wings in flight on their T-shirts? Why do guys like action movies and girls like chick flicks? Why does classic rock rule all? Why do you take the same route home every day?
Why is the Pucker here? Because it must be here. There is nothing else I need to do right now during this season of my life. Perhaps I am stuck in a rut with the pucker, but I disagree. The Pucker remains fresh, involving, creative, and relevant. I try to keep the Pucker continually changing and evolving. Although the pucker is there, it has certainly changed its look over the months, from a primitive line drawing to a cartoon with stick arms and legs to a hint of a shape in a spilled beverage. As I learn more of the ways to manipulate drawings and art in the drawing programs I use, I try to incorporate this in new entries. When the theme is announced, a pucker can usually be incorporated, but sometimes it’s hard. The hard ones have resulted in some of the most memorable entries:
I am really not particularly good at coming up with new original ideas, so I pretty much have to stick to what I started out with all those derbies ago: one big pucker. For me, it’s easier to read the theme, add the words “be sure to include a pucker” to it, and go from there. Everyone needs a creative starting point, and for me, it’s the Pucker. I have had some non-pucker related entries, and I am sure more of them will come as I grow as a “designer,” but right now and for the foreseeable future, my focus remains on the pucker. The pucker designs have not remained stagnant by any measure. As I have designed different versions, I have learned how to cut, paste, select, color, layer, vectorize, draw, and shadow. I have learned how to work with independent layers.
I like the pucker. To me, the pucker represents happiness and simplicity. The pucker is comforting, welcoming, and knows no limitations or enemies. The pucker is not political, and knows no boundaries. Everything is better with a set of red puckering lips. I want the pucker to remind us that we’re all part of the world, and we don’t need to take everything so seriously. The pucker is a guinea pig with a pancake on its head. This world needs the pucker. When you see the pucker, you see the excitement and happiness that comes when democracy is exercised.
I have seen that the shirt derby attracts a variety of skill levels, and sometimes it’s not the skill and detail that wins, but the execution of an idea. The creativity that we all see in the shirt derby is incredible, and it is always entertaining to see the many different interpretations of the theme by so many different individuals. It is similar to the photochop contest in that way. Sadly, I have seen that some members of the voting body of wooters sometimes does not treat fellow “designers” with the respect they feel they deserve. Rather than comment on a design with positive words of support, like in the photochop contest, it seems that more and more commenters like to insult the creators and point out flaws or other negative aspects. I have seen “designers” attack other entries with unkind words for no apparent reason. There is no need for these personal attacks. Putting other people down does not make you look cool. Pointless venom never has the effect you want it to. Neither does drippy sarcasm.
I believe that if you have an entry in the shirt derby, follow the lead taken by those who regularly participate in the photochop and dodgeball. If you like another entry, please share your positive comments. If you don’t like an entry, if it’s not your cup of tea, please consider keeping it to yourself, as it doesn’t help the conversation. That’s just not woot, and I think we all know it. I don’t believe woot was created to be a community of people who put each other down. There’s so much of that negativity elsewhere in the world, and it shouldn’t be in a place like woot, a website that appears to take pride in its ability to not even take itself seriously.
Have you looked at any of the great material woot provides on a daily basis? Item descriptions, fun links, news and analysis (well not really, just checking to see if you are still reading), all this contributes to the light-hearted and fun culture of woot. Snippy comments and attacks shirt designs and their creators does not mesh well with the atmosphere that woot creates.
Let’s all choose to make positive comments toward things we like, and subscribe to the “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” mindset for all other comments. I believe that if each of us thinks about it, we will conclude that this is something we can do. And I believe if we all are kind and decent to each other, in victory and in defeat, we all will become better wooters, and better people overall.
I believe the “I’d want one” button should mean just that. I believe in one person, one vote. I almost (but don’t) believe in one entry per person. I believe I have too many asphalt T-shirts. I believe that if one line was drawn for each word in this document, there still wouldn’t be enough lines to faithfully recreate my line drawing entry for Derby #32.
I believe it was my last second vote to cause the historic tie in derby #2: Heat. I believe that one more woot purchase will give me the black square, and although hovering your mouse over it will make a box pop up that tells you I’m better than everyone else, be aware that three of those woots were random crappy calendars and one was a Roomba.
I believe that if a miracle happens and one of my pucker entries wins and/or is printed on a shirt, I’ll be exceptionally happy, but it won’t define who I am. Maybe I’ll stop and do something else with my entries, like noses or eyeballs. But I reserve the right to continue with the Puckers, because the Pucker remains my single and greatest source of ideas and creative thoughts. In fact, I am pleased that my entries have evolved in such a way, and am excited to see where this goes in the future. The theme, framed by the pucker, adds to my ability to create a design, and my desire to learn how to better manipulate drawing programs helps increase the technical appearance and complexity of the drawings. My self worth is not defined by my successes or failures in the shirt derby.
I believe that most of us want the shirt derby to be positive, encouraging, exciting, and fun. I am seeing a growing number of wooters who seem to agree with me, and implore you all to consider whether or not your actions are contributing to the type of shirt derby you really want to see. I believe that in the upcoming days I will be reminded (and shown) that I have posted some mean comments towards fellow entries in the past, and apologize in advance. There’s nothing I can do to take back words in the past, but I will work hard to keep things positive and supportive in the future. This is why I continue to produce pucker designs, to improve my artistic skills, to share them with the woot family, and to participate in what is, I think, one of the coolest contests on one of the coolest websites ever.
Part 2, 17 March 2008
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here?
You will all be happy to know that there are still plenty of things you can do on woot while you’re on probation. Here’s a partial list:
- Buy stuff from any one of the woot family of websites
- Enter the shirt derby
- Vote in the shirt derby
- Read the forum message boards
- Talk to the screen about what you would say if you weren’t on probation
- Read PMs, but not respond to them
- Think long and hard about rules
- Read the forum message boards
Thanks to those of you who sent along the kind words of support and/or condemnation (but mostly support) via PMs and other means while I was serving my time. I totally know that while I was wildly entertaining myself by overtly breaking rules that I totally knew would put me on probation, the harsh whipcrack of probation made for a painful time of withdrawal. Wootirium Tremens, if you will.
The moral of the lesson: don’t ever type OBNOXIOUS FIRST POSTER unless you want probation, and don’t ever hit the “post” button 41 times to repeat the same post over and over again, even if it’s on a sellout.woot message board that appears to have had no recent posting activity.
So a lot of thoughts have passed through my mind as I patiently served most of my 256 hours probation for spamming. I figure I ought to get these thought out there before I get put on probation again for doing something as harsh as spamming. The trouble is, I really don’t know exactly which post of mine was the spamming one, particularly since I was already under the probation for hitting the “post” button about 41 times on one of the sellout.woot product threads.
Yeah, if anyone can let me know just what the spamming was, I’d appreciate it. I certainly don’t want to do that again. There were a few posts that indicated there were actual lines you could cross to get you slapped with predetermined amounts of probation. I don’t want to know what the lines are, since it was mentioned that some people would then just dance immeasurably close to but not cross that line just to be foolish, but I really really would like to know what is considered spamming. I really don’t think I spammed anyone or anything, so I would like to know.
One fellow wooter made a comment that he’d like to see my probation become a flat out lifetime ban. That stung for a while, but after I thought about it, it really came across as a positive statement of encouraging words. I realized that, at the time that comment calling for a lifetime ban of me (and also the pucker, which I have talked about before), I had been on probation for a couple days and had not posted anything for a while. This meant that in order to see that I was on probation, he had to have seen a past post of mine that had the dog by it. Then he had to have sought out one of my derby entries, looked at them all to find one with a negative comment so he could respond, and then take the time to type up a comment about all of it.
After putting these pieces together, I felt kind of good that such energy was put into researching my entries, critiquing them, and formulating a response. Maybe it’s my “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” opinion that I would have just not written anything had I not liked something, but to put so much effort into making a negative comment is sort of a compliment when I really thought about it.
An interesting tangent to this topic is, “well, if you keep your negative comments to yourself, that means you ought to post your positive comments on all the entries you like, or else it will look like you don’t like any of the entries, right? So why don’t you post nice things for the entries you like, then? It looks like your lack of posting your feelings about entries means you really don’t like any of the entries, and that’s just arrogant of you, isn’t it?”
Using this circular logic certainly makes me look like a meanie. Although I sometimes comment on entries I really really like, I normally refrain from doing so because of the “negative halo effect” that I so pompously feel I might have, being the creator of such polarizing entries that other commenters might change their opinions about a particular entry if I publicly support it. Like I said, it’s probably the height of arrogance for me to think such things. Probably most voters don’t spend too much time reading other peoples’ opinions about things before voting.
But there sure were a lot of entries in the “Lyrics Illustrated” derby, huh? It was just about as free-range of a derby topic we could be given, since there’s pretty much a song that can be associated with most things drawn up, I wager.
flippin’ sweet! animated gif!