Hi everyone, I’d like to apologise for having first fallen behind, then for all intents and purposes having abandoned the ZooChat Cup franchise. There were a couple of reasons, some life-admin related, but also some personal frustration and disappointment that my attempted innovations to solve the central problem with the original design - lopsided contests - hadn’t worked. I’ve been wrestling with how to fix it for months, and I think I’ve landed on a way. I’m going to give it a go, anyway. First - the second edition of the European Cup is going to be set aside. I think part of its problem was Cup fatigue, having come straight off the back of several other editions. Perhaps in future we can have a ‘cup season’ each year, without the relentless regularity that emerged following my rather more successful first edition. Hopefully a positive side-effect of my creative block is that the next iteration will feel fresh again. Instead of the European model I’m going to kick off the very first ZooChat World Cup. I’m going to borrow the structure of the tournament largely from FIFA: 32 zoos (down from the bloated 64 that contributed to the lopsided contests), with a group stage made up of eight groups of four, and two zoos from each group proceeding to a knockout stage. During the group stages, the taxonomic categories will be used: each of the six matches in the group will be on either primates, carnivores, ungulates, miscellaneous mammals, birds or ectothermic animals. Each category will be used once in each group, and will be drawn randomly for each match. For the knockout stages, I will return to the concept of ‘biomes’ that I intended to introduce for the Euro tournament, but never got that far. Each group stage will take one week, with both matches from each round within the group taking place at the same time. That’s to prevent gaming the votes, because to mitigate the impact of lopsided contests, I’m introducing a points system. Rather than two poll options - one for Bronx and one for Burgers, say - there will be four. You’ll have three points to assign. If you think one zoo is vastly superior in the given category, you can give them all three points. But if you think the match is closer than that, you can give two points to Bronx and one to Burgers, or vice versa. I will want you to think hard about whether to award all your points to one zoo, or to split your decision, because this isn’t only intended to produce closer matches. The overall percentage of the vote zoos receive across their three matches will be what resolves ranking ties across the group. Whether you give Bronx two or three votes could be what decides whether they - or Burgers - proceed to the next round. Given the smaller 32-zoo field and the global focus, inevitably that means only truly top-tier, world-leading institutions have made the cut. I will reveal in a lower post who’s in and out, but there will be 17 European zoos, 13 American ones and one each from Asia and Australia. The geographic distribution is admittedly lopsided, but the aim is to include zoos that are well-known and will generate discussion, rather than achieving true global representation. Now, let me finish with a note on timing. I said way back in November, I think it was, that I would pick the Cup project up after a trip I was taking to Asia with my girlfriend. That turns out to be true: I’ve got a short trip to Singapore next month to introduce two of the loves of my life - Alice and Jurong Bird Park - to each other before one is lost for good. Before that I’m finalising shifting apartments - we had a flooding issue a few days ago - and finishing off a writing project that was interrupted by having to deal with the move. Therefore, we will kick-off on Sunday, 11 August.