The People Who Made Blogging Worth It

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Closing Down the Dream

When I was a young boy, my father would take us to various resorts during summer. From March til May, those were the months of adventure. Sometimes, he'd drive us with no particular destination in mind - we just stopped when we were hungry and settled on any resort that looks "adventurous" and intriguing.

One of our favorite resorts was in Crystal Springs I think in Laguna province. It was really a pleasant experience and not so expensive. We'd go to the supermarket to buy several kilos of liempo pork and my dad would also buy a small grill so we could barbecue them.

It was a fun time.



I always wished that we'd have our own resort and we could stay there for a long time. It was my dream and I guess, also my father's dream.

We did it.

But now that we're here, I've learned that there are some things I just would not sacrifice in exchange for money. Running a resort in a secluded area surrounded by poverty is not easy.

Opening up for all to come in, also opens my family up to certain circumstances which I would not otherwise risk.

That's why I decided to close it and just maybe use the land for farming fruits and vegetables.

Besides, my wife is going to give birth soon and we do not have the staff to help out with the thousands upon thousands of details.

Prizes.org
I've had a good run with the website during it's earlier days and managed to earn $1,500 dollars since July 2011. At the onset, I genuinely felt that the website could make a difference in people's lives and be a reliable platform for outsourcing, promotions and contest making.

But sadly, now I must bid farewell to it. Not that I'm doing so because of losing in their biggest contest ever. But because of graver things that I saw play out when it came to the site's management and of the other things that are happening with the community there.

One of the things with holding contests for money online is the inherent amount of social engineering involved. Add to that the myriad technical aspects of holding contests and you have a potent brew of discontent, abuse and even fraud.

1. The Platform is Ripe for Fraud and Scams
They have no policy when it comes to restrictions on affinity. Let's say that Person A decides to hold a contest in creating a logo. Person B is Person A's cousin or workmate or friend. Person B can join and Person A can let Person B win. This, while thousands of other people work hard to provide content that Person A can use.

What's so bad about that?

Predetermination of winners.

2. The Voting System
A. There have been a lot of instances when contest participants won simply due to the sheer amount of votes a person has. In fact, I believe that there are certain groups within the platform which take advantage of this. My initial assessment is this - they could be holding their own contests, enlisting the help of their friends in creating fake accounts and then making themselves win.

Why?

To get a boost in ranking.

Though inconsequential and not really an accurate barometer for "talent". Having a high ranking is advantageous when it comes to joining contests simply for the exposure. In contests, a person with a high rank can be made more prominent than the other entries. Hence, by creating fake contests with fake winners and artificially inflating one's rank, you have an instantaneous competitive advantage over all the others.

B. As somebody has pointed out to me, the coupon system is being abused. Coupons are credits aka "money" that one cannot withdraw and is granted to you once you verify your account. You can only use them to create contests. Now the catch is people create contests which already have gamed results.

The solution of course would be to do away with the coupons. But that would only stifle the amount of contests being created and held on the platform. Without a constant stream of contests - the project suffers.

Community

I held very high hopes for the community at large specially since everybody was open in the beginning. There are a lot of good people who work hard and participate constantly and promote prizes.org endlessly - and most of them remain unrewarded.

But with every community which focuses its goals on making money - there's bound to be trouble. It's the Goodblogs.com problem all over again. It's sad but there is a precedent and I have seen how these things end. Goodblogs.com is essentially similar to Prizes.org except that it focused on written content. The site owner is a cool dude who wanted to reward his writers by offering money for the one who can write the post with the most votes. The price was $20 a post.

In the end, there was a lot of bickering and trolling. 
The same thing is now happening with Prizes.org. Some members of the site, are also aware of the scam contests being created.

Frustrations lead to envy, envy leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to trolling for personal information.

I'm not saying that this is the general rule, I only know 2 or 3 who are constantly attacking people simply because of their suspicions. The thing is, they could be right - that the person they are attacking is cheating. But their way of attacking the problem has turned the community into an urban street where stray dogs fight over scraps of meat.

That aside, I'll always remember the fonder times when everybody involved actually wins.

The Future
Like I said before, there's still some hope left for the site - if it manages to understand the importance of building the trust of its members and community. This is a situation where the technical aspect of site management should play a secondary role to building up the community. Otherwise, people just start leaving, tired of wasting their efforts for nothing.

While some may argue that I am just being a sore loser, I'm just saying that I am tired of defending and promoting a dangerously flawed system.

Oh yeah, proof...

1. This is a fraud
2. What do you feel when you work hard on this site for nothing?
3. Unsportsmanlike Conduct
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