Iraq of servers

After contacting and confirming all of the winners of our first two contests, we received a note from the Free Year of BrowserCam grand prize winner which contained the following:

I really appreciate this award and would like to make the most of it. However, I’m in the Army National Guard and my unit has been activated in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The orders are for 2 years, which would take me beyond Jan 1, 2005. If you could save the account, I’d really appreciate, if not, pass it on to someone who can make the most of it.

Wow.

They’re holding your unlimited usage account for you as long as you need.

Come home safely!

Get your clip on!

I sometimes worry that someone might be underwhelmed when their Blogstakes prize arrives, but letters like this give me the courage to carry on:

First of all, wow. What a great prize. When I came in the door dragging my two screaming kids in from school, I had only enough energy to open the box up and realize what it was and who it was from. I saw a couple bags of chips with the clips, and thought, “Hey, that’s neat.” Later when the kids were in bed and hubby and I dug through the box, I couldn’t believe how much stuff was there!

And I have to say that the clips are amazing. Even my 4-year-old can get the clip on. Those other clips that you buy at the store are hard to get on, and they don’t work. And I can finally stop using bread ties for the frozen bags in the freezer!

I’m so glad you liked them!

Shake it like a BrowserCam picture

“A Free Year of BrowserCam” Grand Prize Winner

BrowserCam Runner-up Prize Winners

Congratulations to all twenty-two BrowserCam winners. I will be frequently checking your online portfolios to make sure that you’re creating top-notch cross-platform Web designs.

Frosted Blogstakes

I got my hands on some Slappa Hardbodies yesterday. No, no, no. They’re not what you think. They’re these rugged, velvet-lined CD cases that also hold all of your CD booklets.

They’d make a great Blogstakes contest.

I also got a copy of the ultimate guide to business blogging. That’s not what they’re calling it, but it is full of great advice for businesses looking to venture into blogging, case studies of business blogs (including our good friends at Clip-N-Seal) and somewhere around page 93 they mention one of my earlier rants.

Great work, Marketing Wonks!

Subliminal snowmen

Do yourself a favor and go see the new Will Ferrell film, Elf. Don’t be selfish; take a friend and share the laughs. Myself, I would go see it a twelfth time if I didn’t have so much self-restraint.

Do you like angelfish? If I wasn’t so concerned for their welfare, I would buy a barrelful of angelfish and throw in some squirrelfish and damselfish to help them with their self-esteem.

P.S. — Don’t go see Elf without reading The Da Vinci Code. I’m not saying that Elf’s plot is lacking anything in and of itself, but a seemingly simple story like Elf’s often reflects the perfect channel for hidden symbology. Elfmight make more sense once you’ve acquired that novel for your bookshelf.

In the fresh

Clip-N-Seal Grand Prize Winner

Clip-N-Seal Runner-up Prize Winners

Congratulations to all ten of our first round of winners.

Coming soon: new Blogstakes contests and we’ll be announcing the winners of our BrowserCam contest.

You may have already won

This afternoon, 16 messages went out to 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

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.