Just a couple of comments.
I wouldn't get too close or too 'chummy' with a team before judging. Strolling by and saying 'good morning' or 'good luck' is fine in my book. Asking about recipes, cook times/temps, etc. is over the line. My rule is to stay out of a team's camp before judging. I can visit and BS afterwards.
Smoke ring is way overblown. I don't judge up or down based on it. I've had product that had no ring at all and it was wonderful, and I've had product that had a huge dark ring that was awful.
Judge the product as presented. Don't take skin off or change the presentation. Take at least one bite the way the team wanted it done. They made the decision and worked their butts off to get it that way, I at least can take one bite the way it was meant.
Why would an entry get DQ'd if it LOOKED LIKE the ribs weren't completely seperated? Appearance phase would NOT be the time to DQ for that reason. When a sample is pulled from the box and it doesn't seperate from the others causing a shortage of samples, THAT would be the time to DQ.
Lead Cook 'Second Star BBQ' using a Big Orange 'Prince', 22 OTG, SJS FBA & KCBS CBJ