Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The one with the pie

I won a pie last week. I was expecting a voucher, not a fresh meat pie. Certainly not a fresh meat pie that had spent the weekend in a courier's warehouse without an ice pack. In June. Possibly I'm a bit precious, but I didn't eat it. Did I mention it was also a day past its use-by date? Is there such a thing as ornamental pie?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Rise of the Robots

Twitter bots. Everyone hates them. I say “everyone”, but who knows for certain? Their proponents aren’t especially vocal on the matter.

In case you missed the memo, a Twitter bot is a program that can be used to (a) automatically follow Twitter accounts and (b) produce automated posts, such as retweets. And in case you haven’t yet put two and two together, this means that they can hunt out follow-RT comps on Twitter and enter them - automatically.

Evil robot! Evil!

This is where the frown starts to spread across most compers’ faces. But why is that? What’s actually wrong with automation?

Have you ever used keyboard shortcuts or a form-filling plugin such as Autofill on Chrome, or an app such as Roboform, to fill in your address details? That’s automation by any other name, so isn’t it in the same ballpark?

Short answer: no.

For a start, there’s the matter of targeting. If you’re using Autofill to populate some address fields, you’re doing so for a competition that you have decided to enter. Twitter bots are a ruthlessly efficient way of scoring the odd win, much like the indiscriminate dredging of sea beds is a sure-fire way of catching a crab or two. Dredging for crabs would cause untold collateral damage to other marine life and the environment. Twitter bots are likewise wasteful and damaging. Prizes are won that can’t be claimed and promoters get wazzed off with people wasting their time, not to mention any negative publicity associated with the poor sportsmanship. In any case, it does the comping community no favours.

Promoters host competitions to raise the profile of their brand or their products. They want people to interact with their brand - to engage. This, after all, is the first stage of customer journey - the “first moment of truth”, I believe they call it. And these robots, while all very clever, don’t engage. Autofill might save a few seconds of typing, but (a) typing your address isn’t brand engagement, and (b) if nothing else, you have at least paid the promoter the most basic courtesy of reading their name.
In sum: employing a robot might not always break the letter of the law, but it’s certainly not in keeping with the spirit of it.

But what to do? Compers could tell promoters when it looks like a robot has won their promotion - but would that help or would it just shine a bad light on the comping community? Furthermore, how many people would actually tell a promoter if they suspected a winning account of being bot-driven? Who wants to be a grass or a bad loser?

It’s not like promoters can add a CAPTCHA test to their tweets, is it? Or is it? Even the most basic of effort hurdles could help here. Sure, keep the follow & RT entry criteria, but require a pertinent comment or photo and the bots will be stopped in their tracks. Enough of this and they will wither and die. We can at least dream, right?

Terms & conditions on Twitter comps are notoriously lacking, meaning that automated entries are not expressly forbidden as religiously as they are for regular web comps - how does that make you feel? What would you do to change this? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

How to be a winner (when you're not winning)

“But how do you stay positive when you’re not winning?”

It’s a common question, but the first thing to remember is that no one wins all the time. Even world-class compers have dry spells. I suspect their droughts are shorter, but everything is relative. The important thing is maintaining a positive outlook.

That, of course, is easier said than done. And what works for one person may not work for another. For instance, some people have a portfolio of motivational mantras. That’s not really my bag, though I would agree that:
  • the dictionary is the only place where quitting comes before winning; and
  • winners are just losers who don’t give up.
Some folks, meanwhile, put great stock in karma. Dismiss this as hokey superstition if you will, but first take a moment to dress it differently. Call it community. Invest in it and there will be dividends. Find yourself some comping buddies. If you see comps local to them, or with prizes you know they want, or effort-based comps that play to their strengths, then let them know. The favours will be returned. Support will be reciprocated. Karma by any other name would smell so sweet.

But what if you need something more empirical? When I need to feel lucky, I just remind myself that I *am* lucky. I’ve a number of ways of doing this, but mostly they boil down to the same thing: celebrating previous wins.

Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to dig out the spreadsheet. You have a spreadsheet, right? (If not, stop reading NOW and don’t come back till you’ve read everything Di Coke has to say on the matter.)

There are two ways of considering this data: frequency and bottom line.

Bottom line is great. In the UK, at the very least, that’s your tax-free haul. Cool stuff you haven’t paid for. If you’ve had a few big-ticket wins, it makes even better reading.

My bottom line isn’t outstanding. That’s not to say I’m unhappy with it - on the contrary, it’s a very reasonable conversion rate given how much less effort than some people I put into comping. But what really works for me is my win frequency. I like it when people who don’t know me from Adam call me up or e-mail me just to say Hey! You! The winner over there! My kids don’t do that. My friends don’t do that. And I certainly can’t imagine ever having a job where my boss would do that. It’s validation that civilian life just doesn’t offer.

Of course, all this is just numbers. A more tactile way to feel lucky is to get your hands on those prizes right now! Last year I won a watch. Every day when I put it on I think, “that’s my lucky watch”. It’s the perfect piece to accessorise my lucky tee-shirt and my lucky hoodie. Heck, I’ve even got lucky pants, for when things really get tough. In short, dress lucky. It doesn’t matter if those wins don’t coordinate, or if it means wearing three dressing gowns to go down the Co-op, because you are literally dressed like a winner.

Lucky pants
I guess I should have ironed them. Sorry.

While you’re at it, dig out any vouchers you’ve won but not yet redeemed. No doubt there’s a reason why you’ve not yet spent them, but if you’re feeling like luck is running dry, make time to remember the good times. Get yourself a baby sitter and enjoy the fruits of your labours!

Last, but certainly not least, take a minute or two to reflect on your game. Don’t sulk about what you haven’t won - that’s not remotely helpful. But do ask yourself if you could do better. Again, I won’t dwell on this because Di Coke has covered it already. And besides, it’s really hard to type in these lucky mittens.

Now, begone and be lucky!

Have you got any tips for weathering the dry spells? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Worst. Competition. Ever.

There's a sad minority of promoters that hate compers and won’t stand for them entering their giveaways. I've even seen some cheerfully slander the whole community with the same tar-brush, accusing them of entering any old comp for any old tat. I say, screw that, I really needed that toothpick.

OK, so that last bit's a porkie - I've never tried to win any quantity of toothpicks - but I will admit that when I first started comping, I followed the common rookie path of favouring competition quantity over competition quality. Naturally, it wasn't long before the prizes didn't start rolling in and I decided to change tack.

But comping for any old tat? Don't be daft. Obviously, some promotions are more exciting than others - we'd all rather win an iPad than a pint glass - but if it's neither use nor ornament, why waste time trying to win it?

Perhaps the accusation is directed at folks who enter a lot of low-value comps. Well, my dad always said never to judge a man till you've walked a mile in his moccasins. (Or was it was Michael Jackson? I always get them muddled...) In any case, the argument still stands. I offer myself as a case in point. I don't have depression per se, but in winter especially I do suffer some stinking long funks. The rush of endorphins associated with winning sometimes does more for me than the prize itself. In other words, prizewinning is a crutch for mental health; that it happens to come with a souvenir is a fantastic bonus.

I've also had enough addiction issues to recognise compulsive behaviour on my own part, so I will come clean: I had no immediate need of the Popeye hat I won last year, but given the 50/50 odds, I couldn't resist the punt. In short, I am what I am, and that's all that I am.

Confession, they say, is the road to healing, so I hope you won't judge me too harshly. Cast the first stone in the comments below, if you must. However, I suspect I'm not the only person who has, at some point in their life, entered a giveaway more for the hit than the prize - after all, who doesn't want to be a winner? In the name of group therapy then, might I suggest a session of competitive confession?

In return, I offer you what I hope will be the most amazingly mediocre prize that you have ever contemplated: 20 drains* from around the fine city of Norwich. A perfect gift for any drainspotter! Oh, and more importantly, the warm glow of being a winner too.

One of the drains included in this prize ... I call it "Gotham"

(For the purpose of clarity, that's 20 photographs, taken by me, of different drains in walking distance of my house.)

But what do I have to do to get my hands on this unique collection, you ask?

I'm not going to ask you to jump through 43 Rafflecopter hoops. In fact, you're under no obligation to return to this blog, EVER (sure, I'd love to see you again, but you're busy people and I respect that).

All I ask is that you leave a comment below, telling me the most underwhelming thing you've ever won or tried to win (apart from a load of drains).

I'll contact the winner via Twitter, so please leave your Twitter handle as well. If you're up for the sport but really don't want the pictures, then you're welcome to comment and not leave your handle - I'd love to hear from you anyway.

The closing date for entries is 23.59 30th June 2016.

One of the drains included in this prize ... This one is "Mothership"

Terms and conditions
1) The prize is 20 photographs of various drains located in the city of Norwich. The photographs are in jpg format and can be supplied zipped or unzipped. Images are individually available elsewhere, if you know where to look for them. There is no cash alternative.
2) The closing date for entries is 23.59 30th June 2016. No further entries will be accepted after this point. You can still comment if you like, but there has to be a line in the sand.
3) Each entrant's name will be written on separate pieces of paper and buttered. The winner will be the first name to be licked by my cat. Either that or I'll use a random number generator - whichever proves more practical.
4) I will announce the winner on this blog and on Twitter.
5) The winner has seven days to claim their prize. If the prize hasn’t been claimed in this period, I will redraw. If you think I'm going to butter any more paper, however, you've got another thing coming.
6) The winner will receive their images via e-mail and the bragging rights via mental projection.
7) Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
8) I will not use your information to sell you encyclopaedias, or to get anyone else to sell you encyclopaedias.
9) This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Twitter, Blogger or any other social network. Neither is it sponsored, endorsed or administered by Pukka Pie.
10) I reserve the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of my control. Yes, that does include zombie apocalypse. Any changes to the competition will be clearly added to this blog post.
11) I think that’s it, but if I have forgotten anything fundamental that might void this endeavour, please let me know.

*not manhole covers

Friday, 3 June 2016

The one with the electric pencil sharpener

Compers all have wish lists. Whether they write it down or file it away in their memory palace, they all have a bunch of things they want to win. Based on no market research whatsoever, I’d wager my career wins that most of these lists are chock full of big-ticket items such as cars, holidays and anything manufactured by Apple. I’ll stick my reputation on the line too and venture that most wish lists do not contain electric pencil sharpeners.

Mine did. Well, it sort-of did. Which is to say, I’ve been after an electric pencil sharpener for some time now. So, why didn’t I just buy one? They are, after all, modestly priced. Fair point, but they are also a bit frivolous, especially in a house that’s already home to at least six bog standard pencil sharpeners. I’d forgive you for thinking I live a cosy middle class fiesta of rye bread and pickle, but the simple truth is that I find it hard to justify the purchase of ostentatious, high-falutin’ stationery.

Thankfully, along came #NationalLimerickDay. No, I’d not heard of it either, but every hashtag day presents an opportunity, and in this instance said opportunity was hosted by Rymans. The task: write a stationery-related limerick. The prize: a £20 gift card.
A mediocre limerick

As you can see, my composition was far from excellent, but given that most of the (very limited) competition either went off topic or failed to scan, it was in its own way a standout effort.

One week later, I’m standing in Rymans with gift card in hand. My initial thought was to blow it on an inkjet cartridge, but while ink might be more expensive than champagne, it is by some margin the inferior treat.

You see, winning essentials is of course fabulous, but winning fabulous things is surely fabulouser. And, in terms of modestly priced non-essentials, the electric pencil sharpener is the fabulest, if not the fabuloustest. You want a benchmark? Earlier this year I won an iPad Mini, and compared with the electric pencil sharpener, it didn’t change a single atom of my life.

Some pencils

Owning an electric pencil sharpener is a life-changing experience. It's zen in a plastic case. If you’re scoffing right now, I bet you don’t have small children who can’t yet be trusted to sharpen their own pencils, and I bet you’ve never experienced the wrist ache of the full pencil-box sharpening session. I’m through the looking glass and I recommend you join me.

What’s the smallest thing on your wishlist? Let me know in the comments below!