Some points I'd like to add.
1) What if... a CH was overwhelmed by the 1000+ (sometimes 2000+) entries and simply gave up on the whole thing and left the contest unawarded, but Not before first registering a domain name or two that he/she liked.
2) I know it can be hard to strike the right balance between the user experience of CH and contestant. How many total entries is ideal for a first time CH? How many is too many? Quantity vs quality. Obviously, more entries means greater chance of getting a good name, but I think we are an eager bunch, and collectively we can be a formidable horde even if the CHs do not realize it at first. It appears many CHs are first timers and not experienced, many are also busy people, did we unwittingly chase some of them off? They may love it at first, but later drop out when it gets too much. I remember we used to get about 50 participants per contest, now that number has doubled, what if in the near future that number doubled again? With just 10 tries, along with withdrawals and resubmits, It's not hard to foresee CH having to deal with 3000+ entries, what kind of UX would that be?
3) So for winner selection, how about combining a number of criteria:
- Star ratings
- Number of words in name, syllables count, word length, etc (based on objective criteria, good naming guide, etc)
- Consider the total entries submitted by a contestant (less is better, this includes withdrawn entries), per point (1) and (2) above, it may encourage more thoughtfulness and maybe help decrease the (+-)1000 entries typical these days, in favor of quality names.
- For domain contests, per point (1) above, check if the domain has been registered since the contest ended, and use that as a deciding factor. Paying close attention to the registration date, the reg date should be in conjunction with the contest, and not been registered before the contest had even begun. Also, this could be yet another let down for the CH, to see many great names only realizing later they are unavailable for purchase.
4) I like the community kitty suggestion from @seezall and others, and the possibilities that can bring.
BTW, I think SH is doing a great job. Thanks for reading