Blogstakes. Tell everybody and win!

What is Blogstakes?

Web Bumper Stickers

You may have already won

9:25 pm et  ¦  Wednesday, October 8, 2003

This afternoon, 16 messages went out to dafa people to verify contact information and confirm eligibility. Once I have their responses, I’ll contact their referring blogs and our sponsors can start awarding prizes.
In the meantime, work continues on the new A List Apart site and my publishing company Weblogs, Inc.
Plus Niki and I are glued to the Yankees game. It would really suck if next year we have to taunt Red Sox players with chants of “2003”. It just wouldn’t be the same as “1918”.

Zeno of Elea would have loved blog marketing

8:10 am et  ¦  Friday, September 19, 2003

This week saw the end of the first Blogstakes contest, the one for Clip-N-Seal. Soon I’ll set up a script that lets Clip-N-Seal randomly pick their winners and notify everyone who participated in the contest if they asked to be notified.
Then I’ll delete all of your email addresses.
It was no surprise that blog marketing is powerful in short bursts. That’s the nature of blogs. Links to a hot new site spread like crazy through the blogosphere and two days later (as blog entries falls off of the main screens and onto the rarely-visited archive pages) traffic dropped to half. Then half again the next day, but it never died completely. Blogstakes settled on a couple of hundred visitors a day — partly because of the speed at which it made its way into Yahoo and Google and partly because of the dozens of sites that added Blogstakes links to a fixed location on their blog like a BlogRolling list or a BlogShares link.
Before launching Blogstakes, I had to solve issues like how to start a contest that requires inbound links to run. If you visit a contest and a requirement for entry is that you’re visiting from a blog and no blogs have linked to my contests, then how can you enter? I created an engine that analyzed new visitors to determine whether they were coming from: a known blog; an unknown blog; a site that sends visitors, but isn’t allowed to co-register as a winning blog (like Yahoo or a contest sponsor); or no detectible blog at all. The “no detectible blog” visitors were people who either typed the URL into their browser (so they came to Blogstakes from no other site) or they were using security software that hides “referer strings” and negates my ability to detect their blog of origin.
My original plan for visitors who didn’t come from a valid referring blog was to have them click a “randomizer” link and send them to one of the blogs that had already referred someone to Blogstakes. Then they could explore that blog, find the link back to Blogstakes and enter the contest. But some people had problems with the random link taking them to the same site every time they clicked it. So I made it a list of ten referring sites. Then I ran into a new problem: I was sending people to a site that had sent people to Blogstakes a couple of days ago, but no longer had a link to Blogstakes on their home page. So I created a system of link aliases that allow me to send people to the archived entries that have Blogstakes links — eliminating lots of frustration.
Blogstakes is just getting started. I have more features in the pipeline and some great contests coming up. Just between you and me, I knew that I wouldn’t have enough time to get new contests running (since I’m hard at work developing a massive Web publishing system and Blogstakes is just a fun diversion for me), so I set the first two contest deadlines far enough in the future for me to prepare the next batch of contests. Upcoming contests will run for less than the four to six weeks of my original two contests.

A September 11th To Do List

9:50 am et  ¦  Thursday, September 11, 2003

  1. Send email to friends — like Richard the great SQL developer — who were in the buildings two years ago and made it out.
  2. Accentuate the positive: When recalling those events, focus on the good that came in the weeks following the 11th. Remember how Jason opened our office in the city to several displaced companies including Logicworks (then DTI) and how Logicworks donated networking equipment so we could keep everyone connected even after they were allowed to return to their offices.
  3. Take Walter out tonight to celebrate his 34th birthday — a day he used to share with Harry Connick, Jr. and Moby, but now a day they all share with the World Trade Center.
  4. Keep Walter away from television screens.

All blog marketers are going to hell

4:15 pm et  ¦  Wednesday, September 3, 2003

I found out where some of those people from 1994 ended up. You remember the ones that believed any commercial use of the Internet — like banner ads or putting your magazine online and charging money for people to read it — is a corruption of their pure medium? They have blogs now.
But what is “pure” online?
Is it wrong or deceitful for Mena Trott, DL Byron and Macromedia employees to tell their stories to customers using blogs? I don’t think it is.
Maybe if you’re promoting anything at all online (including yourself), then you are evil, but that would include just about anyone who is doing anything online. Let those whose blogs are without Google AdWords send the first flames.
How evil would you rate conferences on blogging, books on blogging and corporate blog-training?
Blogstakes is a derivative work. Without blogs and without incoming links there is no Blogstakes. It’s no different from BlogShares, Blogdex, Daypop, BlogRolling and dozens of other sites in that respect.
Blogstakes is both a social experiment and a learning experience. I’ve built a set of tools that tackles a long list of features: tracking referring sites, processing registrations, generating XML feeds, activity tracking, redirect tracking and detailed reporting.
Now I’m watching Blogstakes links make their way through the blogosphere and I’m meeting people I never would have heard of before they linked to Blogstakes. All but two of the messages I’ve received have been positive and several people have raised intelligent questions about the logistics of a Blogstakes contest.
Question: What happens when I link to the BrowserCam contest on my blog and someone goes and signs up for Free Panty Hose For Life instead?
Answer: Then you and that person might both win free panty hose for life. I’m considering solutions to this issue that still allow painless blog participation — ones where they don’t have to pre-register and opt-out of contests or contest categories. This is one reason why you haven’t seen any new contests yet.
Question: What if someone has cookies and “referer strings” turned off by their security software?
Answer: I don’t recommend disabling security software just so you can enter a Blogstakes contest.
Question: What if someone links to a contest from someone else’s comments section? Does the blog that sends entries win a prize or the person that posted the comment?
Answer: Only the blog’s author can link to a contest and qualify to win a prize. I call putting a contest link on someone else’s site using their comments forms “blogstakes slamming” and those entries are disqualified.
There are supposedly more than 900,000 blogs out there and I know now a few thousand more than I did two weeks ago.
I’d love to know what you think about blog marketing.


10:08 am et  ¦  Saturday, August 23, 2003

All of the visitors and contest entries don’t really say “you have arrived” quite like getting your first 4-1-9 spam. Now that tells me that my five-day-old site is on the map.
Thank you Mr. John Williams, accountant with a private bank in the United Kingdom (UK).
Wait a minute — his email specifies that “in the course of this transaction, everything must be done in absolute trust and confidentiality.”
Does mentioning your email on Blogstakes disqualify me from receiving my share? I mean, we are talking about 25% of £4,182,000.00 (Four million, Two Hundred Thousand British Pounds) which is approximately $7,182,000.00 (Seven Million, One hundred and Eighty-two Thousand US Dollars).
I can’t help but wonder, “What would Eric Cartman do?”

I can’t believe it’s not button

2:20 pm et  ¦  Thursday, August 21, 2003

The second most popular question I get from visitors is, “Where are your little buttons?” There they are over there on the right. If you want to use them, please do so by downloading them to your own site.
The RSS ones came from other sites and the three custom Blogstakes buttons were made using the awesome button maker from Kalsey Consulting Group which is just an interface for a script by minimal verbosity.
The most popular question is, “When are you giving away a truck?”
It was just an analogy!

You like me, you really like me

4:32 pm et  ¦  Tuesday, August 19, 2003

About 24 hours ago, Blogstakes was unleashed and it’s moving pretty quickly. I’ve been interviewed on Up2Speed and Boing Boing and the mail I’ve received from bloggers and interested contest sponsors has been incredible.
Thank you for your warm response!
Now back to our regularly-scheduled development work.

Let’s do launch

3:21 pm et  ¦  Monday, August 18, 2003

Blogstakes is a unique new kind of sweepstakes with two winners for every prize: a person who entered and the site that referred the winning entry. So if the prize is a truck, then the winning entry gets a truck and the blog that sent them gets a truck too.
Blogstakes opens today with two contests.
One of them — Free BrowserCam for a Year — is a good match for people who design Web sites and the other — The Clip-n-Seal Fresh Party Pack — is a good match for people who eat.
There are more contests launching in the next few weeks. If you aren’t someone who builds Web sites or eats, sign up for the announcements mailing list or subscribe to an RSS feed and maybe I’ll have something that appeals to you in a future contest.

A snow day in the middle of summer

3:22 pm et  ¦  Friday, August 15, 2003

Everyone I work with is home from work today and many of them are still without electricity or running water. Since my electricity was on and my server in the city had not yet reappeared, I tinkered with some SQL code for my next version of Meet The Makers and I braved the shopping throng to replenish my Diet Coke supply.
You might not know this, but the word “throng” is a Middle English word from before the 12th century and — despite what you think — it is completely unrelated to the words “throb” and “thong”.

We’re gonna turn it on, we’re gonna bring you the power

3:13 am et  ¦  Friday, August 15, 2003

The lights came back on, so I shut the candles down.


6:12 pm et  ¦  Thursday, August 14, 2003

Maybe you’ve heard a story like this one: I was in a chat session with co-workers in LA and NYC and I was knocked offline when the power died at my home office in White Plains. Before I could call anyone to explain my sudden disappearance, they called to tell me that their whole building in the city just lost power. Uh-oh.
Thankfully, my wife and son are safe in Florida this week. I mentioned that to my neighbor across the street and he suggested that while I was a bachelor again, I should “get a whore.”
Get a whore? That is so wrong.
Aren’t you supposed to refer to them as escorts or call girls? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s only number six on the list of things they like to be called.

All systems go

5:15 pm et  ¦  Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Blogstakes should be ready for launch tomorrow. I’m doing final testing on referring site detection. It will be a big relief to finally make the site publicly viewable.

Don’t fret about that, Pilgrim

11:45 pm et  ¦  Monday, August 11, 2003

I’ve created XML data feeds in the past, but until today I never had to create ones in RSS format. Thanks mainly to the “dive into” man himself, Mark Pilgrim, I now have the three most popular versions of RSS running for those who prefer to get their blog updates without giving up an email address. Mark’s articles have a ton of personality and are always a real pleasure to read.
If you aren’t yet using a feed reader, you can try out Nick Bradbury’s FeedDemon (which I use), NewsGator (which runs in Microsoft Outlook), NetNewsWire (which runs on Macs) or choose from dozens of other programs.

It’s hardly ever heard and mostly what I need from you

10:03 am et  ¦  Thursday, August 7, 2003

I transferred a domain name from its old registrar to Go Daddy because they have great tools, low prices and I interviewed their president and trust their company with my business. When I submitted the request, I got a confirmation message that said the transfer would take 5 to 7 days depending on the level of cooperation the “losing registrar” gives them.
What an honest way to describe my former domain name registrar.

Rack and opinion

7:20 pm et  ¦  Wednesday, August 6, 2003

The people I contacted have weighed in with some fantastic advice. One power blogger said she was worried that she would send people to Blogstakes to register for contests and that I would use their addresses to spam them endlessly. I explained that the addresses will only be used to contact winners and tell people who won if they said they were interested. That was her only concern and I need to make that really clear on the entry forms.
Another blogging guru said that the calendar had to go. Tap tap tap click. Calendar? I don’t see any calendar.
My plan was to have links to old news entries and my twist on the usual blog calendar was to add future links to contest deadlines. But text works just as well for both of those things and now I don’t have to program any calendar navigation scripting. That’s fine with me.

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlebloggers

4:50 pm et  ¦  Friday, August 1, 2003

I have contacted a handful of bloggers that have either commented thoughtfully on the subject of blog-related marketing or ones that I just have a lot of respect for. So far the feedback has been positive and constructive. I’ll have to find a way to reward these “Friends of Blogstakes” — one that doesn’t involve rigging contests.

ISP, therefore I am

11:29 am et  ¦  Monday, July 28, 2003

Our domain name is working now and most of the BrowserCam-detected design flaws have been squashed. I have meetings this week with some companies who we hope to have on board providing great prizes in the near future. Wish me luck!

No thanks, I’m just browsing

11:29 am et  ¦  Saturday, July 26, 2003

Today I tested the Blogstakes site in BrowserCam. Blogstakes looked great in every modern browser and failed spectacularly in a few older ones — but it looks way better in Linux browsers than I imagined it would. So I’ll be hiding styles from the older browsers.
This is one of two site designs that I’m working on and testing in BrowserCam this weekend and both are related to blogs or blogging. I think it was Black Sabbath that said it best in the early eighties: “Blog rules.”

Walls of voodoo

4:09 pm et  ¦  Friday, July 25, 2003

I’m still waiting for my ISP to open up a firewall port so I can start running this thing at a proper URL...
When Smokey The Bear says, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” he’s talking directly to me.

One down, one to go...

12:12 pm et  ¦  Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Feedback on the first Blogstakes design from a trusted critic has led me in a new direction — one that is more structured like the kind of sites I usually build and way less goofy. Maybe someday — when I know you a little better — I’ll show you the crazy design that never saw the light of day.
The Clip-n-Seal templates are in. I really like the designer they use. He turned in a really clean page with a soft palette and tasteful illustrations. Only one more contest to prep before we go live.

Blogstakes prepares for launch

12:40 pm et  ¦  Monday, July 14, 2003

My first Blogstakes design is complete and I don’t really know where it came from. Most of my site designs are more corporate and function-driven, but this one is bright and playful.
We’ve got two great contests signed up already and we’re just waiting for their page templates to come in so we can go live. Then we’ll confirm the prizes and set deadlines for the contests.

A table for one, please

9:49 pm et  ¦  Thursday, July 3, 2003

I sketched out the database structure for Blogstakes and turned it into tables, indexes and stored procedures. Am I the only person who finds the database and architecture portion of building a Web site almost as exciting as seeing the finished product?
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