Scott Hardie | February 2, 2020
After 17 years, I'm making the very first changes to Celebrity Goo Game's Hall of Fame. I'm surprised that it lasted so long without them!

I'll go into a lot of detail below about what I'm changing and why, but if you just want the short version of what's happening:
• I'm updating the eligibility requirements for the game's current era, and publicizing them for the first time.
• Each year, I will induct everyone who is newly eligible, regardless of how many people it is. Sometimes it will be zero people.
• I'm retroactively changing the induction year of many previous inductees, to match the year they were first eligible.
• I'm retroactively inducting one former player (Kelly Lee) who meets the requirements.
• There will be no new inductees this year, for reasons I'll explain below.
• Induction will always happen on February 23 going forward. (It has varied to March 17 some years.)
• There will no longer be trophies given to each new inductee.


From the beginning, I always intended the Hall of Fame to be a positive experience for players. The whole point was to say "thank you and good job" to people who went above and beyond in their playing. I kept the eligibility requirements private in an effort to focus on the people who were chosen instead of turning it into a public horse-race about who's next, and I arbitrarily decided to honor one person per year so that the hall wouldn't be flooded with too many people at once.

But the experience hasn't always turned out to be positive, to my considerable disappointment. There have been years where multiple people were eligible, and I had to make a difficult choice to pick one of them, and the others felt passed over and dishonored. There were also years where someone felt like it was their turn, when in fact they hadn't met the secret requirements, and they felt passed over and dishonored. I hate that anybody felt bad about this system.

There's also the problem of entropy. As the years went by, fewer people played the game but more people were inducted to the Hall of Fame. It was inevitable that some year would have to be the first without a new inductee. (If I wasn't making these changes at all, 2020 would have been that year.)

An obvious solution dawned on me recently: I should not have fixed the number of inductees at one per year. With a variable number, I could induct multiple people or no people on any given year, according to the needs of the game. There would have been a lot fewer hurt feelings that way. Let's make it so, starting now in 2020.

It's such a perfect solution that I wish I had a time machine to go back and do the entire Hall of Fame over again. Instead of people telling me (publicly or privately) how disappointed they were not to be celebrated when they thought it was their year, they'd always get in. There would be no public speculation about whether I'd choose player X or Y or Z this year if they were all ready for the honor.

I can't go back and un-hurt people's feelings, but I do have a "time machine" in the sense that I can revise past years of induction in the text on the website. And why not? Everyone should be inducted on their first year of eligibility. This isn't like the baseball hall of fame or the rock & roll hall of fame where there might be thousands of new additions annually if the gatekeepers didn't narrow down the list to a handful. This is a silly little web game; it already only has a handful of candidates. I want my players, many of whom I consider friends, to get their recognition as soon as it's technically due.


The other major mistake that I made from the beginning is not publicizing the eligibility requirements. They were always set from the start; I never changed them in 17 years, until now. But I always kept quiet about them, and that was wrong: It would have helped rather than hurt to have brought them out into the open. I was worried that people would get too busy counting down the days until someone qualified and it would turn into a competition, but that happened anyway. And without anyone knowing the precise qualifications, the public speculation about whose turn it was next set up some people for disappointment. I really regret that, and I'd like to set the record straight.

Before I share these, I want to mention that I know of one (and only one) mistake that I made with the data. Back in 2010, Amy Austin was a very dominant player (she was called "Darth Goo" for winning so often), and there was speculation that she would probably get into the Hall of Fame. But I checked my data, and Russ Wilhelm was the only player that I could find who met the requirements. I inducted him, and there was some surprise, and several people told me they felt like Amy was passed over, and I told them that she didn't meet the requirements, and it blew over. But the following year I checked my data again, and I had made a miscalculation: I had one year wrong in my math, and Amy was eligible the previous year after all. I felt awful about it, but I didn't bother to mention this because the time had passed, and because I still didn't want to make the requirements public, and because I didn't want to diminish the honor already given to Russ (who's such an excellent player in his own right that I found it strange that he wasn't in the conversation the previous year). Anyway, I inducted Amy and meant every nice thing that I wrote about her, and I wrote some code to check the requirements going forward so that I wouldn't make a manual math error again, but it has bothered me all of these years that I got that wrong. I'm sorry, and it's a long overdue apology.

With that said, these were the original six requirements to get into the Hall of Fame, set way back in 2003 and not changed until now:

1) You had to have been playing for at least five years on the date inducted. This was due to the Hall of Fame launching on the game's fifth anniversary. Matthew Preston was the natural first inductee because he had been there since the day the game started.

2) You had to have solved at least 100 goos. That must seem like a very low bar by today's standards, but this rule was set back when the game was played weekly instead of daily. :-)

3) You had to have won the game at least once. It's hard for me to argue that you're one of the game's greatest players if you haven't actually won the game.

4) You had to be an active player. If you disappeared from the site months ago or years ago, I wasn't going to write a tribute that you wouldn't see. Numerous players qualified by the other requirements but left the site before their fifth anniversary, and I hoped that they would return and start playing again to re-qualify. None did.

5) You had to have made some kind of notable contribution to the game, even if a small one. This was fodder for writing the article about you. It could be that you were such an aggressive competitor that you changed the way that I wrote clues or that other players approached their strategy, or maybe it was that you were a friendly player who encouraged sportsmanship and got people talking about the game, or maybe that you submitted some creative goos of your own and stretched the boundaries of what a goo could be. There were many different ways to satisfy this "requirement," and it was by far the easiest.

6) You couldn't have previously been inducted. I never thought about this as an official requirement until now (I always thought of there being five), but it makes sense to count it: I won't induct someone to the Hall of Fame who's already in it. So it's been a de-facto prerequisite all this time.


So, the Hall of Fame needs some improving. If I'm changing the one-inductee-per-year rule, which feels like a common-sense improvement, then it's time for some common-sense updates to that list of requirements, especially the one about 100 goos. As of now, this is the official new list of requirements to get into the Hall of Fame. You'll be inducted on the next February 23 (the game's anniversary) after you meet all of these prerequisites.

1) You must have played the game for at least five years. It's ok if there was a gap in the middle. Think of it this way: You must have solved another goo at least five years after your first solve.

2) You must have solved at least 1000 goos, adjusted for inflation. That means that goos from when the game was played weekly count 7x as much as goos from today, and goos from when the game was played only on weekdays count 1.4x as much as goos from today.

3) You must have won the game at least once. I considered removing this requirement, because there are excellent longtime players like Richard Slominsky and Aaron Shurtleff who deserve recognition even though they haven't been lucky enough to win yet. But I think this one needs to stay, for the same reasons as before. Richard, Aaron, and anyone else who hasn't had the right luck yet to win: Keep playing! I look forward to writing your induction when the time comes.

4) You must not have been previously inducted. As before, nobody gets in twice.


By applying these new eligibility standards retroactively, not much changes. Everyone who is already in the Hall of Fame will remain there, as they all meet the new requirements. Some people have a new "induction year" based on when they first met the new requirements, and I'll be revising their pages accordingly. (In all of those cases, the year is earlier than it used to be.)

Only one person is now retroactively due for induction that didn't get in the old way: Kelly Lee. In the first few years of the game, Kelly was one of the major players, and she would have gotten into the Hall of Fame on her own if she hadn't stopped playing consistently in 2002. (Remember, the old way required that the inductee continued to be active.) She returned to the game from time to time since then, and she finally crossed the 1000-goos-adjusted-for-inflation threshold in late 2010. It feels strange to write about Kelly now that she's inactive in the game, and it feels more than a little nepotistic and self-serving since we got married in 2014. But fair is fair; I'm happy to admit her retroactively under the new rules. Mathematically, it shouldn't be possible for this to happen again with anyone else, unless I revise the prerequisites again.


For reference, here is the original list of inductees the old way:

2003: Matthew Preston
2004: Aaron Fischer
2005: Denise Sawicki
2006: Dave Mitzman
2007: Mike Eberhart
2008: Lori Lancaster
2009: Steve West
2010: Russ Wilhelm
2011: Amy Austin
2012: Steve Dunn
2013: Justin Woods
2014: Joanna Woods
2015: Mike Rothstein
2016: Chris Lemler
2017: Samir Mehta
2018: LaVonne Lemler
2019: Erik Bates

And this is the revised list, after adjusting the requirements retroactively:

2003: Matthew Preston
2004: Aaron Fischer, Dave Mitzman, Denise Sawicki
2006: Mike Eberhart
2007: Lori Lancaster
2009: Steve Dunn, Steve West
2010: Amy Austin, Russ Wilhelm
2011: Joanna Woods, Justin Woods, Kelly Lee
2013: Chris Lemler, Erik Bates, Mike Rothstein, Samir Mehta
2016: LaVonne Lemler

That's the way that I wish it had played out. Better to fix it late than never.


Other changes:

I'm done giving out trophies to people inducted. It was always kind of silly to get a trophy stamped with the year of induction when you weren't quitting or retiring from the game. In latter years, some players even turned it down, not wanting the trophy. Why continue to spend money on this? For a while, I wished that I had given out trophies for winning a season instead, but some players have won so many seasons now that all of those trophies would get out of hand.

I have also taken the occasion to make some long-needed back-end improvements. Adding a new person to the Hall of Fame in the future will be a lot easier for me.

For a brief time, I started publishing each year's new Hall of Fame article in mid-March instead of in February, so as not to seem like I was favoring one of the competitors by announcing them right before the end of the winter season. But I haven't done so for the last few years, and under the new system, it doesn't matter anyway, since I don't "pick" a person any more. So just to be clear, the new inductees will always be published on February 23 going forward, if there are any that year.


In conclusion:
- Congrats to Kelly, not that she'll probably see this!
- Congrats to everyone who has now gotten in "earlier" than they did before!
- Congrats to everyone who got in on their first eligible year and stayed that way!
- Apologies to Amy for the math error!
- Good luck to everyone who has not yet gotten in! I am sincerely and enthusiastically rooting for you! You can do it!

Questions and comments are appreciated as always.

Samir Mehta | February 5, 2020
[hidden by request]

Scott Hardie | February 6, 2020
Thank you! That's very kind. I feel a little silly putting this much trouble into something that is probably going to have little effect going forward (it might be a long time before we have another inductee, if ever), but I enjoy it. I wouldn't do any of this if I didn't enjoy it.

It's most definitely bad that we are not gaining new players! Everyone leaves sooner or later, even the most dedicated people, and so the day could come where I could pull the plug on the game due to lack of activity. (How low can we go? I honestly don't know. There was a brief spell in the early years where Matthew Preston was the only consistent player among a few lurkers and guests, and I kept the game going at that point, so who knows.)

I need to do more to market the site, and to work on converting guests into players (we get an influx of new members with every Oscar contest but they almost never try anything else on the site), but those aren't my areas of expertise. I'll work on it. If anyone reading this wants to help, the first thing that you can do is promote the site via word of mouth to see if anyone wants to try the games here. If you do so online, it's especially helpful if you say this somewhere publicly viewable where search engines can find it, because that helps even more. If you can help me further with boosting interest in the site, with advice or suggestions or ideas or whatever else you have in mind, I'll be happy to take it.

Aside: Most web sites are about traffic because that's how their advertising model works. They just need lots of people to visit the site. To the degree that they care about "engagement," it means someone commenting below an article or sharing it with friends; it's an added bonus. Our standard of "engagement" is different and all-important: I don't care how many people visit the site tomorrow if none of them participate in the games. And this is all a problem because nearly all online marketing companies that you can hire to promote your website are about driving up traffic; they're not interested in getting you people who might actually participate, they'll just get you people, period. If I have to convert strangers into participating members myself, I'm not terribly good at that, and I don't think the rate would be very good; it might be something like a 0.01% conversion rate. I'd have to pay a *lot* of money to get the kind of high traffic that might result in a few of those strangers becoming regular participants. But I'm continuing to think about this and research this; I'm certainly not giving up.

Samir, you're probably right about Pynchon. I think I wrote that clue in a hurry and meant to say "one of his best-known books."

Chris Lemler | February 6, 2020
Scott I try and promote it to people that I work with but that just don't find entertaining like I do and my mom. But if people I tell would just try it and stick with it I think they would see why its so much fun to play. I have thought you have done a great job with this site as other players would agree. But I will keep trying to get people to join the site.

Scott Hardie | February 8, 2020
Yeah, I can see that. Once upon a time on the Internet, you could tell people about this weird little website where you can play celebrity trivia games and enter Oscar prediction contests and so on, all for free, and they'd be happy to check it out. These days, people tend not to venture beyond the biggest websites, and they're reluctant to create an account at someplace like this because they expect their personal data to be abused. There aren't a lot of websites like this, so it's not easy to convince people to check it out. But I appreciate that you try. :-)

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