Internet, you let me down *UPDATED*

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that every year Juniper Moon Farm gives away a flock of sheep. There are several reasons we do this but the most important one is that I want to pay forward all the kindness that was shown to me by shepherds and my readers when I started this business. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life, and although it does put some strain on the me and my staff, it’s something I had planned to do every year that I own the farm.

Last year, there were a few hiccups after the giveaway that gave me pause and really made me think about whether or not we wanted to hold another giveaway. In the end, Caroline, Zac and I decided that, on balance, more good came from the giveaway that bad, and that we wanted to continue the tradition.

Unfortunately, this year’s giveaway has been kind of a nightmare. Between the accusations of cheating, the actual cheating and the name calling, I lost my enthusiasm for this. I’ve had to monitor the comments CONSTANTLY, never letting more than a couple waking hours go by with checking to make sure someone hasn’t posted another nasty dig at someone else.

I’ve also had to watch the votes, since so many people insisted on cheating for the candidate they were rooting for, even after I posted a note on the voting page explaining that I could SEE who was cheating and explaining that, if anything, they were hurting their candidates chances of winning. I even followed some of the votes back to various forum that had linked to the giveaway and read posts from people bragging about voting 16 or 20 times in one minute.

We also had the time-consuming task of fielding emails from people pointing out that SOMEONE MUST BE CHEATING and demanding that we DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT NOW!!!

Now, I have to say that none of this behavior came from either of of our four candidates. If I weren’t absolutely sure of that, you can rest assured that the candidate in question would have been dropped from the contest like a hot rock. Nope, it was the friends (and in one case, family) of the candidates that caused all this ugly and unnecessary drama. And can I be honest with you? I am disgusted and angry about it.

A handful of people who can’t follow the very simple rules have kind of wrecked this for us. Something that should have been fun and lovely has been tainted. Way to go, internet!

I don’t know what we will do differently next year but I know that when we next giveaway a flock of sheep, it will bear no resemblance to this fiasco. Caroline and I have talked about having the candidates raise money for the Livestock Heritage Foundation or even bringing all the finalist to the farm for a week so we could meet them and make sure they are the kind of people who we want our sheep to spend the rest of their lives with.

In case you’re wondering why we make the candidates jump through these hoops in the first place, it’s because we want them to have to work for this. We want to know that they have what it takes to take care of a flock of sheep because it’s. not. easy. I know there are a lot of sheep farms with blogs these days, and we all may make it look easy but it isn’t. It’s exhausting, filthy and occasionally heart-breaking work. It’s about always putting yourself last and the needs of the flock first. It’s about being committed to something that is never going to make you rich and never going to get easier. It’s not for everyone.

I’ll be announcing the winners sometime tomorrow and I apologize for the tantrum but I felt like I had to say something, and I didn’t want to taint the post announcing the winners with all this ugliness. They deserve better than that.

I would love to hear your suggestions for future flock giveaways.

**Update: I just wanted to say thank you for the outpouring of support y’all have left in the comments. I generally try to keep things upbeat here, because none of us needs this space to turn into an additional source of drama, which is why I felt guilty about posting something so negative. I was just fed the hell up last night.

In response to those commenting in other places that I was asking for this kind of behavior by not having tighter security for the voting, I have to say in my defense that we have never really had a problem before with asking our readers to behave like adults. Somehow this blog has always managed to avoid the nastiness and incivility that plagues the rest of the internet. Go figure.

And honestly, the cheating was really the smallest problem. It was the hurling of insults that really drove us all crazy. I don’t understand why people felt the need to be so vile, but maybe that’s just me.

Thanks for all the supportive comments and suggestions. We will certainly do the giveaway again, but in a way that recognizes the realities of the internet.

54 Comments

  1. I wouldn’t call that a tantrum at all. I’m sorry it turned out that way. :(

  2. I love you. Well said.

  3. not a tantrum at ALL
    i really haven’t followed the give away this year and am sorry to hear how BADLY people have MIS-behaved.
    that totally SUCKS.
    sorry you had to go thru it and
    also
    a good opp for a change to make it even BETTER.
    cause u do SO MUCH
    and give SO MUCH
    do it in a way YOU LIKE
    and
    so there.
    i’m glad u’r picking a winner soon cause then this ickyness can be left in the hay with the poop.

    lotsa love and hugs
    rona

  4. Good Grief!! I am very sorry you have had to endure this. Are only shareholders allowed to vote? Would that help? We (“the internet”) obviously need a serious timeout!

  5. It’s a shame that people have to turn such a kind and wonderful gesture into such an ugly spectacle. It takes the focus off of what it should be on. You’re amazing for giving such a gift to someone and to have it tainted by bad behavior is a shame. You have every right to be hurt and angry.

  6. I’m sorry to hear how difficult this has been, but I really hope this doesn’t dissuade you from doing the remarkably wonderful things you do!

    Perhaps one way to avoid to inappropriate comments would be to turn off or block comments during the voting period. If you think that the voting aspect of this may be causing the problem, you might consider having the finalist selected by a panel of judges, rather than by popular vote?

    While you are thinking about ways to make this giveaway process more peaceful and civilized, please feel free to bounce ideas around if you need to. You are doing such a beautiful thing. I would hate for your generosity to be derailed because of a few ugly people out there.

    • Susan

      May 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      Tracy, I feel like a perfect idiot because it never even occurred to me to turn off the comments. D’oh! That would have been a big time saver.

  7. I appreciate the explanation very much. I had no idea what was meant by references to ill mannered folk during this giveaway. I admit I was paranoid as heck that I may have said something I didnt realize was snark. The shareholder idea is a good one. Also, fundraising prereq’s. is also good. Local beauty queen candidates have to sell buttons, then do an interview to win their crowns. This is about committing to living beings and should be serious business. Im so sorry for the souring of a beautiful mission.

  8. Judy aka lamazeteacher

    May 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Yes, there are too many a-holes in the world who don’t follow the rules.

    Unfortunately, all this ugliness fell on your shoulders.

    You have all the reasons anyone could possibly think of to be angry, hurt and very, very disappointed that all your hard work was so tainted by these people.

    And you were absolutely right to post this message. I certainly wouldn’t call it a “tantrum” when you have very rational reasons to express the way you feel.

  9. How sad. I hope you can find a voting mechanism that won’t allow folks to vote multiple times.

  10. Oh, Susan. :-( I hope next year goes much smoother. What you’re doing is such an amazing kindness. Hold on to that, and stay strong. *hugs*

  11. I find the behavior disgusting and don’t think you’re ranting at all. I do believe that the candidates can influence their supporters and should have stepped up and asked them to cease and desist — both publicly and privately.

    I like the idea of having the candidates raise money for a nfp Foundation with the winner being the one that raises the most money. Maybe JMF could start a Foundation to help shepherds get their start?

  12. Susan (sjanova)

    May 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    One vote per day per e-mail address could be changed to one vote per e-mail address, period. And yes, turning off comments for the time in question likely would be helpful.

    Not a tantrum at all. I am sorry that you’ve had this ugliness. From what I could see, the four candidates are all outstanding — and very different — and don’t deserve to be associated with it in any way. And I know Juniper Moon Farm doesn’t warrant anything like the hassle you have had.

  13. I am so sorry. I had no idea this was going on. As always, you explained the situation with the utmost diplomacy and I applaud you for that — in this situation, I may not have been able to be so civil. I ABHOR cheating and have zero tolerance for most internet voting contests I come across because of this exact behavior and I am so sorry your contest was tainted by that mentality of voter.

  14. I for one have thoroughly enjoyed reading about and voting for the candidates. I am sorry to hear about all the subterfuge going on. Keep up the outstanding good work you do. I can not wait to one day visit your farm.

  15. Good heavens, hugs to you. I like the idea of shareholders voting and also the fundraising. I would take out the “general” voting all together. Whatever happened to the young man from last year?

  16. And good for you, Susan, for having the courage to speak out! There is a solution to this–a way that you can continue to “pay it forward” and help new shepherds start a new meaningful life, while not having ugliness intrude. Keep the conversation going, and the right solution will emerge.

  17. I Like the ideas of having the finalists do some sort of work to show that they are indeed the worthiest of the lot–its like a job interview. I also think that having them come and be with the animals as part of the process should be a pre-req–after all, you are gifting them with a flock of YOUR babies and should see them personally. Though I understand this may be a difficult thing for some. But surely, he possibility of a free flock would be worth it? I also really liked Tracy’s idea of a panel of independent Judges who are unbiased.

    A way to deter this is perhaps to give the finalists a three strike rule–if someone who is voting for them gets out of line, and cheats and is ugly, warn the finalist, if the finalist gets three warnings, they are out of the running. It might make them get serious about having their people exert some self control. That may seem harsh, but if the friends and family know that their person’s dream is at stake and this lovely, selfless gift is at stake, they may think twice about what they say and what they encourage. Just a thought.

    Please don’t lose hope. You are doing a really wonderful thing.

  18. I think you should just have a small group of judges pick. Narrow it down like you usually do, then during one of your weekend gatherings (shearing?!) show the four top possibilities, and do it by paper ballot at the farm – one vote per attendee. Giving “the internet” too long to spam the voting, and cause bad karma in the comments is too much grief for you during a busy time.

    Make it easier on yourself — it is your give-away, after all. And it’s done out of love!

    Cheaters should be ashamed. (And all their wool should be confiscated!!)

  19. Ah well, people never cease to amaze me…especially over the internet. It can bring out the worst in some because they feel somewhat anonymous. You are the one giving away your precious animals, so, while it may be difficult (though probably not as difficult as what you’ve been through), you should have the final say. The idea of an independent panel would take some of the burden from you, but I’d still give yourself the last word in the final decision. If people don’t like that process, then they shouldn’t apply. I’m sorry that this has been tainted. It’s a wonderful thing you are doing, with only the best of intentions. Try not to let less than honorable people ruin the whole thing for you.

  20. So terribly ungracious. And if anyone of these people or their followers knew only one thing about you it should be that you expect people to be gracious when they are receiving a gift!! My gosh, they wouldn’t have to read the blog very often or very deeply to know that. So it tells me only one thing: they didn’t even try to get to know the person who would be so kind as to empower another shepherd to live their dream. That is disgraceful.

    Susie, you are a saint for not just calling off this whole contest and selling the prosepective lambs to other shepherds who would gladly pay top dollar for these beautiful fiber animals! You have worked so hard to make this a fun and rewarding contest. You deserve better than this.

    Bottom line…the voting is largely symbolic since you get to decide despite the popular vote whether or not the top voted entrant gets a flock. I say just cut out the voting next year and you decide. Make it harder to get in…video plus essay plus an application with tons of information to review. This shouldn’t be as easy as passing a link around facebook to get your friends to vote for you – are all those friends actually going to be around on the worst days of shepherding? Doubtful.

    And for all those who are reading my comments and thinking I’m harsh…I was one of the entrants in the first flock giveaway. I became a better person just for having entered. This contest and my essay changed my life. Juniper Moon Farm is a big part of my life still and I am deeply blessed to have that relationship. I will never take for granted what power this contest had in my life…and I did NOT win.

  21. Flabbergasted.

  22. Gobsmacked. Really. And that was absolutely not a rant. In fact, you have exhibited amazing self control, and graciousness by keeping separate from the announcement of the winner.

  23. This is really disappointing. I think most of us know that you do this with all your heart and it makes me so sad to think about people shortchanging that. Perhaps a voting system where you only get one vote period? Could narrow it to 2 and then vote for finalists. . .I hope the person I voted for has family and friends with integrity enough not to cause you such havoc.

  24. Leslie from California

    May 7, 2012 at 12:59 am

    just wow… this is so sad… Susan I know that you try very hard to to keep things fair and above board… my heart goes out to you, cause I know this is the last thing you need.

    I kind of like the idea of them having to raise funds. But perhaps the voting is done by secret ballot. You select a board of voters, give them the outline of how you want them to evaluate the candidates and that be it. You can reward your board with some yarn or a discount on a stay at Juniper Moon… or maybe a puppy…. hehehe

    I am sorry that you were put through this… secret ballot…. that’s my vote.

  25. I think this needed to be said. Thanks for letting all of us know what has been going on. And thanks for being so gracious as to make it a separate post, so that we can all just rejoice with the winner in a separate post. Funny how exited I can be about this, even if I do not know you nor any of the candidates. This give away is such a sweet gesture that does spread good vibes in a way would not have been possible in the same way had it not been for the internet. So thanks for all your hard work on this Susan. Much much appreciated by so many of us anonymous readers out there.

  26. Just a thought, I think that people will cheat when they think they can get away with it, period. It’s, sadly, human nature for some. I like the idea of fundraising, and I also like the idea of people coming to your farm and you deciding. But I also think there is benefit to voting. I, for one, despite being a dedicated spinner and knitter and designer had never been to your blog until a friend was a contestant in this year’s giveaway, and now I’m hooked! Even my husband asked if I’d seen the puppies. Haha

    What if you limited to one vote per IP address and be done with it? It could count toward their standing in the contest, but not be the determining factor. It could be a three step process, maybe, like a phone interview, the voting and a fundraising aspect. While I appreciate that this would put a lot more work on your shoulders, it might be the best way to have a fair playing field. Not just people with friends all over the Internet will have a chance, not just people who are good at interviewing would win, and not just people who are talented in fundraising. This would also show the level of commitment of your entrants.

    I found that one thing that concerned me was if the flock would be a hobby flock for someone or not. And since I buy fleece and yarn from several local shepherds here in Alberta, I know how much hard work and dedication and time they have to put into their animals. But if people had to really show their level of work ethic and commitment to the sheep before they even had them, that would be reassuring for me as a voter.

    Either way, I think you are a fabulous person for doing the contest, and it shows your generous spirit, and how much ou love your sheep and your lifestyle to want to pass it onto a deserving candidate. I really hope you keep the contest going, as I think it’s a fabulous idea, and so kind.

  27. Ugh! So disappointing! Bravo for speaking-up. How can something so wonderful go amuck? I applaud your efforts and I’m sure all will be resolved in time! I also like the idea of working the candidates with the sheep…

  28. If the “cheater” would take their talents and apply them productively, just think what good could be done in the world! Shame on them!!! All it takes is “one” to ruin it for others. Nice to see all the POSITIVE comments above though! You are doing something SO amazing and GOOD, don’t let this stand in your way. Bravo, kudos, thank you for your AMAZING generosity and kind heart!

  29. As one of the four – I gotta say – I think you have a right to rant, if you’re even ranting. To me it just seems like explaining. I have a love/hate relationship with the internet… this is one of the reasons why. I kinda backed away from the contest a little… not a very good competitive spirit, but it did feel very different… I didn’t fully understand why, but I could tell the comments were a problem. I was scared to read them as it’s so hard putting yourself out there in the first place. As for future contests… Firstly, I think you have a right to have contestants go through whatever rigamarole you’d like. It’s a dream, and a handful of precious lives you’re giving to people. Maybe make it a 2 stage process? One contest to be a finalist, then finalists come to your farm and meet you, and do whatever you’d like. It might mean it ends up a more local contest… but that’s probably okay. As for controlling voting – I have absolutely no technical know-how… :)

    I’m so sorry that this beautiful thing that you’re trying to do turned into something that caused you stress.

  30. Susan- Last year, you introduced us to RJ Straw, he is a treasure. His blog is one of my favorites. What you are doing in giving shepherds, young and old, a start is a blessing.
    I am sorry that this year is so hard.
    The fundraising qualification is a good idea. I wonder if it might open folks to cheating if the winner is automatically the one who raises the most money. Some areas of the country are in stronger shape economically; some contestants might have smaller circles of friends to support a charitable effort; some contestants might have the resources to make contributions out of their own pockets.

    Opening your home to the contestants would give you a chance to get to know them more directly. If they have to participate in the hard parts of farm work, it will also give them a realistic idea what they are getting into. I suspect that there is more poop than lamb cuddling on a daily basis.

    Finally, hold contestants responsible for the behavior of those who vote for them. If their status as contestants if endangered by their friends and families, they’ll find a way to get them to behave.

  31. So sorry to hear that something that should be inspiring, uplifting and fun was ultimately the opposite.

  32. Sorry that you have had to go through all of this. Especially while trying to survive lambing. Why not include the shareholders in a part of this. Have them be part of the voting process….video submission, popular vote (turning off the comments and limiting 1 vote per address,period) then getting the shareholders vote.
    What you are doing is incredible and you should feel wonderful about it. Hold on to the good:)

  33. Your generosity is a beautiful thing, and your heart is definitely in the right place. I apologize for those who through immaturity or other issues ruined your beautiful gesture. Your blog is a joy to read. Continued good fortune to you and yours.

  34. Really sorry to hear it turned out badly.

    I like these suggestions for next year: (Yours): Voting requires a donation to your charity of choice — that will increase signal and keep down noise AND raise $$ for a worthy cause. And (Tracy’s): turn off commenting from the get-go — you don’t need that aggravation.

  35. Forgot to mention: Add me to the list of people who first heard about your blog when you did the first flock give-away. But there are limits to how much aggravation anyone should have to put up with, regardless of the publicity it generates.

  36. I think the idea of you, Zac, and Caroline and your people at Juniper Moon doing the judging is a great one. Voting on the internet is quite difficult to monitor and you are the most important people to make the decision!

  37. Dear Susan, I wish to add my support for your generous give-a-way and sympathy for the disappointment in the voting dishonesty. I agree that the judges for any future contest should be from Juniper Moon. Thank you for all your blogs, they brighten my day .

  38. I agree with Martha, above. It’s your decision – you being either just you, or your and your team, or you/team/a small group of proven committed people (your shareholders). At one point a while back, you had a small, invested blog following, but your growth and success means that the readership of the blog is now much larger and more varied, and may include people who are only interested in a particular finalist rather than the farm and the flock. Scaling back the field of who can vote may be a good idea – either the shareholders (who have voted their love for the farm with their $ and commitment), the staff, or just you.

    If you really do feel it’s necessary to let the public have a say, then a one-vote per address policy seems best. I’m thinking back to the about.com polls, and being able to vote once per day has more to do with remembering (or automation) than a true love of the candidates.

  39. Very frustrating and disappointing the spirit less than good can enter something that holds a spirit of pure good.

  40. One additional thought even though I have no suggestions I can think of for this issue. You say there are numerous sheep farm blogs. Yes, there are, You say it is not easy. I believe it is not. Susan, you are of the cloth that makes what you do look easy, but the well-discerning eye can see it is not easy, without much effort, much self-investment. People of such cloth are less than the people that want such lovely things without their own same level of effort. And, they are blind to what it is they do not yet know how to give to have such. They yearn for that external beauty without knowing it is the deep effort that is what makes the beauty they see. The animals would suffer over time. You are a very wise and devoted shepherd to invest as you do to KNOW to whom it is you are giving your animals. Therefore, I believe the further KNOWING you need will come.

  41. Kay from Bedford, VA

    May 7, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Did not know all this was going on. I am sure the Greatest Shepherd of us all is disappointed in the behavior of a few. There are some wonderful suggestions given and as one said , a chance to regroup and try a new method. On a happier note, love the webcam and the puppies. Was not familiar with the breed as we have always had Great Danes but got on the Web for knowledge and information. Thanks for helping me to increase my Breed knowledge.

  42. Whoah! I had no idea this was going on. I think 1 vote per person should be good enough… and the shareholder idea sounds good. Perhaps it will keep things more neutral and limit the number of votes you need to count? I’d be disappointed too if people couldn’t just read instructions and behave. It’s ridiculous.

  43. Two thoughts – You appoint a “panel” of judges or like other commenters have said turn off comments and only allow one vote per email address.

  44. Susan,
    You are being a true pioneer in so many ways. I, for one, am somewhat irritated (well, stronger than that, but not a word I want to use on a post) at those who did not respect your hospitality and generosity. This is not a rant. It’s important for your shareholders to know what’s what. I find the behavior of cheating truly disrespectful of you, of your fine staff, of the animals and of the online community.

  45. Righteous indignation is not a tantrum. Really. You have cause to be upset.

    As to suggestions about how to run the giveaway next year, I think your idea of having candidates come to the farm is a good one. If you would prefer to allow voting, you could limit voting: let only the shareholders vote (possibly just once per email address); permit at-large voting, but just one vote per email address (of course, people who want to cheat could create multiple email addresses). What seems clear is that the system needs to be set up in a way that doesn’t readily permit cheating and doesn’t require a whole lot of monitoring on your part.

    Disclosure: I’m a shareholder. I voted twice (on different days) because I liked two candidates.

  46. Jane from Maryland

    May 7, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I gotta say, we in the JMF do a generally good job of keeping ourselves positive and supportive of you and the farm and one another. It’s all the more shocking when negativity emerges. So I appreciate all your efforts to keep it real and steer away from weird behavior and negativity that people online usually reserve for people they don’t know. This is our safe place…thank you for keeping it that way.

  47. 1 – how about using the voting as a way to fund-raise, a dollar a vote via someway. 2 – PO boxs, one for each candidate, one per day, signature and printed name required – emptied daily and if there is an insane amount, check ‘em out closely. 3 – One per email. 4- Two strikes and you are out and post when one of the contestants has a strike, but than again, someone could go and sabotage them. As always, the choice is yours, you just let us think we are making the decision!! (this is said with much humor and mirth, you wouldn’t have chosen the finalist if you did not think they were capable!! ) And you are just putting into words what we all feel reading of the cheaters. Thanks!

  48. Kristin Mccurry

    May 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I was going to say something really smart about people acting like children, until I remembered that one of your winners was a young adult, who was an incredibly gracious, mature young man. Perhaps he should give lessons to others?

  49. Before I got the end of this post, I was thinking ‘please just split the flocks into 4 and make everyone happy!’. I love your decision! I don’t know you, but you are obviously a very generous and caring person.

  50. Maureen J (mljan)

    May 7, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    First, it’s not a tantrum. Good for you to say it as it is. In the 80′s I worked on a pre-internet project that tested a web-like product in a select group of homes, and one of the first “benefits” some people found was anonimity-cloaked nastiness. Sad discovery.
    My suggestion would be to only have your shareholders and perhaps former shareholders vote. These are people who are admirers of you and what you are trying to do, and we care for the animals almost as much. (I know, no one can care as much as you, but we try.) You have our identities and know where we live. We have a stake in you.

    Also, turn off comments.

  51. Rebecca Adcock

    May 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I agree shareholders and former share holders vote and comments turned off. We are faithful followers of Juniper Moon, appreciate the work you guys do on a day to day basis and many of us would love to be able to do what you do (at least I know I would) but since we can’t we support those who can

  52. Keep up the good work. As many of the others have said, I support you and all the good that you do and smiles (and sometimes tears) you bring to us. Thanks.

  53. That’s hardly a tantrum. You expected adult behavior from adults! I’m right with you on this one. Raising money or doing farm visits sounds like a great idea.

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