Friday, 31 March 2017

Unboxing March 2017

I don't normally do unboxing videos - I don't win enough prizes to make them worthwhile. Then I figured, hang on, there's probably enough compers out there who feel exactly the same. So here it is, my first unboxing video, dedicated to our daily disappointments!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Take one

This year, one of my personal challenges is to enter as many video-based competitions as possible.
That’s not because I’m some bright young camera-wielding hotshot - quite the opposite in fact: I need the practice (and yes, it *is* way too late for me to be bright or young).

So what’s the rationale? Simply put, I suspect the number of video-based competitions is going to increase over the next few years. Why? Because we all have the technology.

Technology is plainly changing the comping landscape. To state the obvious, there were no web-based comps before the internet, no follow-RT comps before Twitter, and no selfie comps before the world and his dog had a front-facing camera in their smartphone.

Of course, today’s front-facing cameras don’t just take half-decent photos - they’re also capable of capturing respectable video footage too - and things will only improve.

I’m not born-digital. Aside from berating retailers, I get little joy from Twitter. Likewise, Snapchat, with its vacuous filters and counterintuitive interface, has done nothing for me except pacify my children during weddings and funerals.

In short, I am, despite my best efforts, a 42-year-old Luddite, guilty of spawning children purely so I have someone to sync my iPod when I retire.

Today’s children will be playing with video like we played with Chuckie Egg. Sure, they’ll still have written assignments at school, but video-based assignments aren’t going to be limited to drama and media studies lessons. Their media literacy is going to be all over ours. And this is where I draw the line - I’m not going to let the next generation outdo me when it comes to video comps!

Right now, I have only my phone and the video-editing software that came bundled with Windows. I’m sure there are plenty of free or modestly priced video editors out there, but for me the priority is such basics as lighting and narrative.

By way of example, here’s my entry into the recent WD40 life-hacks competition.
I really should have looked more closely at the contrast on the purple ink I was clearing up, as the light bleaches it out somewhat - I can only hope it’s sufficiently visible for the promoter. I also hope the promoter enjoys the footage of my lad’s apology that’s woven into it.

Here, I confess that he was actually apologising for a different misdemeanour - I just had the footage on file, as it were, and saw an opportunity to use it! Nonetheless, such confession bears emphasising. Compers already prepare for photo comps by snapping everything from sunsets to messy bedrooms - because who knows when those pictures will come in handy… All I can say is that a change is going to come, so start saving those video clips too!

How do you find technology is changing comping? Do you yearn for the "good old days", or do you embrace each new development as it comes on scene? What are your tips for video comps?

Monday, 20 March 2017

Do you remember the first time?

The dry spell is over. All wins are great, of course, but some make for better copy than others.

For example, there’s only so much spin you can put on being the only entrant in a Twitter comp to win a branded beanie hat from a company specialising in cattle disinfectant.

I also won some teabags. Well, technically, I was tagged in a comp won by an Instagram tag buddy, but any port in a storm, right?

So, in the absence of exciting stories, I’ll fall back on throwback and tell you about my very first win.

It was the summer term of 1999, which would have made me 14. A chap from Cambridge University Press came into our English class to talk about something - I’m guessing publishing, but the memories are hazy - for all I know, it was the mating habits of the Palawan stink badger.

At the end of this clearly memorable session, we were, as was the norm, set our weekly homework. What made this week different, however, was that (a) it would take five minutes instead of the usual hour or more, and (b) there would be prizes.

I wasn’t the kind of pupil to need reward-based incentivisation; however, I did have an admirable track record when it came to rushing my homework to get my parents off my back so I could get on with my R&R. Thus, when I was tasked with writing a story in a sentence, it was as good as giving me a week off.

Mine wasn’t the best entry. The best entry was (I later learned) plagiarised from Stephen King. The judges clearly suspected something was afoot, however, and awarded first prize - a concise Chambers Dictionary - to my hastily tossed off guff about a radioactive worm. (Stephen King, since you ask, bagged but a pocket dictionary.)
My story in a sentence, aged 14, as recovered from the July 1999 Parents Newsletter. 
I still have the dictionary. The dust-jacket is long since perished, of course, and the spine flaps around in the draft, and if you want the skinny on latte or for that matter any other contemporary term such as LOL, vape or emoji, it’s plainly no use at all. That said, if I want slumpflation or perestroika, then it’s totally my go-to reference book.
Dictionary cover
I’ll be honest though, it’s not the win that got me into this game. Half my class didn’t bother with the homework, so I didn’t feel like I’d won fair and square. What’s more, the plagiarism wasn’t even confessed for another couple of years, so I simply couldn’t understand how I could possibly have beaten Stephen King. It didn’t sit right.

Oh the innocence! I love that it never even occurred to me that someone might cheat. But more than that, it makes me laugh that I didn’t value my win because the odds weren’t long enough. Coming from someone who did a victory dance after scoring a cow soap beanie against zero opposition, that really is incredible.

What was your very first win? Did it give you the bug, or did that come later?

Monday, 13 March 2017

Prize piles

The last few weeks haven’t been kind. I blame the change in routine. No longer can I use my lunch break to search Twitter for short-lived comps with precious few entrants. Instead, I’ve been sitting down in the evening to run my searches and trawling through page after page of irrelevant US posts. The fact that I’m exhausted by this point only compounds matters.

I’m working to fix this, of course. But in the meantime, I’m reminding myself about my luck credentials by dusting the virtual trophy cabinet, which is to say, working on my Winspiration Pinterest board.

Mostly, my prizes come in drips and drabs, so I can only really snap them one at a time. Last December, however, was my most successful month ever - in fact, things went so well that my wins were stacking up on my desk faster than I could find homes for them. At one point I was even thinking: Is this what it feels like to be Di Coke? Because if it is, she must feel BRILLIANT!

And that’s when I remembered prize piles.

When I first started comping, I used to pore slack-jawed over the winners’ stories on Prizefinder, gasping at the heaps of things some people were winning on a monthly basis. And I thought: one day, this will be me. And so it was - I was living the dream!

Dry spells are an inevitable part of comping, but it’s how we cope with them that defines us as compers. So, when I realised that this beautiful moment was unfolding before me, I captured it, intending full well to use it in my next trip to the luck recovery clinic.
Some of my wins from December 2016
When I look back on this picture, I think YES - I really can do this! I may not be able to make an actual pile in any given month (read, most months), but I'm a total advocate for snapping every last win for posterity. The prize spreadsheet is undoubtedly great, but never underestimate the emotional value of those Kodak moments!

Celebrating past glories is just one salve for bruised luck muscles - the best recovery programmes always draw on a combination of therapies. How do you massage your luck back into shape again?!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

#Snatch: Getting grabby

My previous post gave you an idea about how to look after your stash. This one will focus on a recipe for more aggressive growth.

Now, before you even think about who to snatch from, it is essential to think about WHEN to snatch.
First of all, there’s no point snatching what you can’t defend, so don’t snatch before bed or before driving to work. The current radius for snatching is 1,500 metres, so if you’re stuck in traffic, you’re a sitting duck (I’m assuming here that you’re a law-abiding citizen who doesn’t play with their phone while driving).

Second, most collectors, even the early-birds, aren’t going to start collecting before 6AM. Sure, there are shift-workers and insomniacs out there, but we’re talking the Joe Normals here. In other words, if you start snatching on your way to the office, you’ll probably have to sit on the bulk of those parcels for a few hours. Personally, I’d wait till late morning before logging in.

As for whether there's a better time to play in order to find the prizes - no. They're distributed according to a random algorithm. That said, if a major prize is about to be dropped - such as a £1000 parcel - then this will be announced on Twitter.

Next, you have to decide WHO to snatch from. There’s an icon in the bottom left-hand corner that turns green when there are potential targets in the environs. Tap that, and the app will bring up a list of all the snatchers in the area.
List of local players
Bring up a list of local players and choose whose parcel to snatch 
This is when the game starts getting really devious, because it provides intel on everyone in that list - just click on each player’s avatar to learn about them. Crucially, this isn’t personal information; rather, it just tells you about how they play - how many parcels they’ve found, how many they’ve snatched, and how many they’ve lost.
Profile info
Sample profile info

What follows is my theory rather than game science, but I’ll share it anyway:
  • Providers are players who have lost almost as many parcels as they have obtained and are the least likely to put up a fight. In the first instance, therefore, I aim to snatch from these guys.
  • Collectors are players who have collected significantly more parcels than they have snatched. I suspect these guys are more frugal with their coins, so I target them if no providers are available.
  • Snatchers are players who have snatched significantly more parcels than they have collected. These are the most aggressive players. You can, of course, snatch from a snatcher, but for my money, it’s more of a gamble whether they’ll defend and the coins you spent to snatch will be lost for nothing.
It is currently possible to shakedown a single target for everything they’ve got - a process I call mugging, because it’s more aggressive than plain old snatching. It isn’t a particularly friendly behaviour, but if your mark turns out to be holding parcels with only an hour to mature, well, there’s an obvious incentive to keep snatching.

There are also tools for collecting - a radar to extend your collecting radius (200 coins), and black holes and tornadoes to automatically snatch parcels from anyone in range. I've not yet used any of these, however, so I can’t really comment on their effectiveness, other than to say the snatching tools need to be deployed in areas dense with players or you're wasting your money.

If you’re unable to snatch because you’re running out of coins, there are two options: get your friends to play so you can claim referral bonuses, or just collect boxes and be patient!

So, that’s defending and snatching covered. That just leaves revealing what’s in the parcels and redeeming your prizes, and I’m not going to say anything about that because it’s so easy!

Good hunting!

If you haven't yet installed the app, get yourself over to the App Store or Google Play. If you follow my referral link and add “95J73U” as a referral code (on the 500 Free Coins tab) then I get an in-game reward (thanks!).

If you have any more tips, please share them in the comments below.

Friday, 3 March 2017

#Snatch: The art of defence

As I mentioned previously, I’ve recently dropped Pokémon Go like a cold lead dumpling in order to play Snatch, the new augmented reality game where you can win actual prizes rather than virtual monsters. This post is for all the newbies out there who are about to jump in and join me.

The absolute first thing to do is to set up your profile. There’s not much to say here, but I recommend picking a gender-neutral name and a non-female avatar, if only to avoid gender-based mugging due either to trolls or the (flawed) argument that female players are more likely to have their phone in a bag where they can’t hear its notifications.

After watching the tutorial (I’m not going into the basics here), the next thing to do is check out your environment. Don’t start snatching. Don’t start defending. This will only eat up your very limited wallet of coins.

Your environment will largely dictate the way you play this game. If you’re out in the sticks on your own, then you’re going to be a collector - picking up parcels in the street, taking them home, and waiting for them to mature (or, to use the lingo, waiting till you can lock them down). Your game will be a relatively sedate affair, but rewarding nonetheless.

If you’re in the city, however, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Before snatching anything, just spend a day collecting parcels. Parcels take six hours to lock down. That’s a long time to defend, so unless you’ve got multiple parcels due to mature within a couple of hours, don’t bother defending. Your goal at this point is to see how aggressive the locals are, and if it is possible to hide from them.

About that defence. It comes in two forms: reactive and proactive. Reactive is more expensive, but when you need it, you need it. Proactive is more of a gamble. It’s insurance. It might not actually be necessary, but what price peace of mind, right?

There are two forms of reactive defence:
  • Snatch-proof vest (40 coins) - unless you’ve less than 50 coins, don’t bother. It offers protection from a single attack, and frankly makes you look vulnerable to a second.
  • Smokescreen (55 coins) - gives you 15 minutes of protection.
Proactive defence, meanwhile, comes down to the following:
  • Tent (75 coins) - 60 minutes of protection. Great if you’re not going anywhere and much better value than four smokescreens. [note: this has been a little glitchy this week, but the developers are aware of the problem]
  • Invisibility cloak (125 coins) - 60 minutes of protection. Great for snatching in crowded areas. 
  • Emergency battery (60 coins) - 30 minutes of protection. Can be deployed only if your battery is down to its last 19%. Yes, I have deliberately run down my battery to use this.
There are also safe houses. Safe houses are the little green buildings on your map where you can check in for an hour of free protection. In real life, these are commercial premises such as Pizza Hut, Top Man, the Apple Store or All Bar One. So, if you’re out and about in town, plan your route carefully and you could well lock down a whole bunch of boxes without spending a penny. Bear in mind, however, that you can only check into each safe house once in a 24-hour period, and your safe house time is limited to three hours per 24-hour cycle.
To show what a safe house looks like
There is of course another form of defence: truces with your neighbours. That of course is easier said than done: players can snatch your parcel from 1.5km away and there's no way to communicate with them. You'll just have to find out who is playing, and what their usernames are - good luck with that!

What you can't do is switch off your phone or your mobile signal, or hide in an otherwise "dark" spot, as the game will just park you at your last known coordinates leaving you totally open to attack.

For best results, always carry as many parcels as possible. In this way, the unit cost of defending each parcel is lower. It makes little sense to deploy a cloak for a single parcel, but if you have ten, well, that's another matter. (EDIT: If you find a parcel while you're snatching your tenth parcel, it's technically possible to hold 11 parcels - see below.)
Extreme snatching: Proof that it's possible to hold 11 parcels (pic provided by Tara Barrett)
Note also that you've 90-100 seconds to defend against a snatch [EDIT: 3 minutes according to the T&C], so don't panic if someone starts grabbing at your stash. In fact, if you're about to deploy a smokescreen anyway, let the clock wind down a little in order to nab yourself an extra minute of defence (it all counts!).

Finally, it's also important to know when to fold, as it were. If you've got, say, nine parcels ready to lock down within the hour, but one that's going to take three hours or more, then unless you plan to stock up on another armful of parcels to go with it, it's collateral damage. Just because you paid to snatch it, doesn't mean you have to keep throwing coins at it.

So, that’s the defence, what about the snatching? Tell me about the snatching!

I'd love to - but haven't you read enough for one day? Tell you what, how about you practise locking down a box or two and I'll wrap this up in my next post.

If you haven't yet installed the app, get yourself over to the App Store or Google Play. If you follow my referral link and add “95J73U” as a referral code on the 500 Free Coins tab then I get an in-game reward (thanks!).

If you have any more tips, please share them in the comments below.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Let's #Snatch

This week, I've been mostly playing Snatch.

For the uninitiated, the simplest way to describe the game is Pokémon Go but with real prizes. However, that doesn’t do it the slightest bit of justice. Imagine a game where "rational" individuals might not cooperate, even when it might be in their best interests to do so, and you’re getting closer.

The aim is simply to collect parcels. Once those parcels are six hours old, they are locked down, and you can claim the contents. So, more precisely, the aim is to hold parcels until they mature.
There are two ways to collect a parcel: find it on the street or snatch it from another player.
In a perfectly cooperative world, players would go for a walk, collect a bunch of parcels, and sit on their stash for the next six hours. Life, however, isn’t like that. Unless you drag your stash off to a giant field or sit in a dinghy a couple of kilometres out to sea, the odds of you getting through the next six hours without someone trying to pinch your parcels are low to nil - especially if you’re in an urban area.

There are ways to protect your stash, of course, and these can be grouped into reactive defences, proactive defences and safehouses. I’ll talk about gameplay in my next post. Before that, however, I must mention the prizes: cash and vouchers are the bread and butter (with some golden parcels containing up to £1000), but you can also win other prizes, including (at the time of writing), t-shirts, flights, tickets to see Justin Bieber, and a PS4. So far, I’ve won a two-month NowTV voucher and £1, but I’m sure there’s a cheeky Nando’s round the corner.

If that’s enough to whet your appetite, go get the app from the App Store or Google Play. If you follow my referral link or add “95J73U” as a referral code when prompted then I may even get an in-game reward (thanks!).

My next post will discuss the gameplay in more detail, so if you’re worried about splurging your coins too quickly, you might want to wait until after the weekend.

Chat soon!