Jun 20

The World Cup Of 1990 (Admin)

FT6 comments • 916 views

This month’s poll at @peoples_pop on Twitter is about the year 1990.

This is the nerdy procedural post about how I’ve put it together and how I’m going to run it. DO NOT READ IF YOU HATE ADMIN.

With each poll there are two big questions – how to encourage nominations that make the poll interesting, and how to bracket it to make it competitive (i.e. painful) from the start.

Nominations first. My original plan with the nominated polls was to curate nominations. But with the cover versions one I decided to poll (almost) everything. This may have been a mistake, as the resulting 96 (!) groups were, to say the least, a big undertaking especially when so much of the material was unfamiliar.

The year poll needed to be smaller but I still didn’t want to be excluding stuff people wanted to have in there. I decided to drop nominations per person from 3 to 2 and introduce a rule to make sure enough obscure/minor/fresh stuff got in – since discovery is a big part of the fun. I also decided to formally exclude any songs that had got to the ‘Final Groups’ (last 24 or 32) of previous polls (they’ve had their chance to shine!) and cap tracks at 3 per artist.

The other big question is bracketing.

I originally thought I might go back to the People’s Pop method of bracketing the tracks by number of streams as a proxy for famous-ness, which worked well at keeping somewhat quirkier picks in the contest for longer. 

But as the nominations came in I decided to bracket by genre. This was partly because, inevitably, I was getting a LOT of UK indie tracks, and I didn’t want them swamping everything else.

However, bracketing by genre has a snag – you need a relatively even number of nominations per genre. A lot of tracks fit into more than one, which let me juggle things around. Even so, I gave myself a bit of wiggle room by reserving a dozen or so nomination slots to balance the brackets and even things up.

So I ended up with 256 tracks, which divide into 16 brackets, each of which I *then* split out by streams. So each bracket has two “popular” and two “obscure” Round 1 groups.


I then randomised the ordering of the popular and obscure groups, so every day we’ll have some of each to vote on, but a mix of genres within every day.

What will this actually look like? It will mean that in Round 1 a lot of big names will run up against other big names. If you think of the half-dozen most famous baggy tracks from 1990, for instance, then several of them will be up against each other right at the beginning.

There will also be groups full of total obscurities where – I hope! – you’ll discover something you like anyway. And there will be groups that seem abominable – though not quite as starkly as in the covers qualifiers.

By the time we get to the last 64 we should have tracks that are all good AND a solid mix of genres, the known and the relatively unknown.

That’s the plan, anyhow! Let’s see if it works.

The World Cup of 1990 runs throughout July on Twitter.

A Spotify Playlist (of the available tracks) is here.


  1. 1
    Steve Mannion on 1 Jul 2020 #

    Could two nominations by one person be in the same group in the earliest stages then? I might’ve rethought choices if so.

  2. 2
    Tom on 1 Jul 2020 #

    Yes, I didn’t take note of who nominated what so this could happen. (Which were yours?)

  3. 3
    Tom on 1 Jul 2020 #

    Oh I looked it up – they aren’t in the same group in Round 1 at least. (One of them is up tomorrow!)

  4. 4
    Steve Mannion on 1 Jul 2020 #

    Ah fair enough – I should’ve had one be a hit really but glad they’re considered different enough to not be together in a Group Of Def (II) just yet (although I’m sure both will get trounced by more well known equivalents of what they offer).

  5. 5
    chelovek na lune on 2 Jul 2020 #

    Well, this is fantastic. Some old favourites here, but I’ve already been introduced to some quite splendid stuff of which I was unaware, or had never heard, and some others I think are OK but haven’t conciously listened to since, well, probably 1990, or 1993 at the very latest.

    I can’t help but conclude that in some ways my tastes don’t align with the trend of votes though. WHY U NOT ALL LUV BONGWATER? being the most blatant case. A couple of really tough rounds to vote in so far. Pet Shop Boys vs Prefab Sprout vs Marc Almond vs a track everyone else really likes that I don’t care for much most notably/.

    But – I’m really looking forward to watching the rest unfold. And hearing lots more great tunes….and some that aren’t too, I guess.

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