on a serious note, tho.
i've done a ton of analysis on the contest over the last year or so -- both the objective, data-driven kind and the subjective, ask-a-creative-writing-professor-or-three kind.
the conclusion? our votes are weird.
from a statistical relevance perspective, we're a fairly small group of writers and the contest gives us lots of votes each. that, in itself, produces LOTS of noise. worse, even tho a few of us cluster together on taste, there are still probably 6 or 8 different flavor-camps our regular voters group to.
so, statistically, it's noisy. and taste-wise, it's all over the map.
pushing those tastes to the secondary judging criteria is indeed a winning strategy. that means well-written fun-and-whimsy (everyone likes funny!) as the primary theme is really the only crossover-friendly flavor that is appealing to most of us. hence, it's what can win consistently.
the real challenge is pulling off a non-funny primary motif in less than 1500 words yet still appeals to a plurality of us. that's freakin' hard.
what would "fix" it? giving out points to your favorite stories instead -- most points wins. personally, i'd start with factors of 2. (so, three votes would be: 4, 2, 1) so, basically, a second-place story needs twice as many votes as the first-place story.
is that easy to do in the forum software? nope. does it REALLY matter? personally, i don't think so. writing stories, stretching ourselves on topics, and gaggling over the results is fun. winning be [cool, but still] damned.