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.

A September 11th To Do List

  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

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 TrottDL 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 bloggingbooks 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, BlogdexDaypopBlogRolling 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.

Let’s do launch

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

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.”


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.

No thanks, I’m just browsing

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.”

One down, one to go…

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.