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Hack Hotbot, Part V: The Results

June 21, 2003

The Hack Hotbot contest winners are slated to be announced today, so it’s time I tell my tale. Where to begin… A longish summary of the story thus far is found in parts one, two, three, and four.

But a quick summary because that’s a lot of text to get through: Terra Lycos ran a CSS design contest open to US residents only. I complained on here and linked the contest. An employee found the link and e–mailed me, telling me I should enter, but obviously didn’t bother reading that I was Canadian and therefore ineligible. I responded. They told me to enter through a US citizen. I did.

And I won. Grand prize was a huge TV, and two ‘first place’ prizes were 20GB iPods. I took one of the first place spots. I was informed back in the beginning of May, and the past month has been spent figuring out what in the world is going on. A big thanks to Lincoln Jackson (yes, the same Lincoln mentioned in part two) and Corey Matthews of Terra Lycos, and Douglas Bowman of Stop Design for helping me out, but their legal department decided I wasn’t allowed to win.

Naturally I’m disappointed. I spend a lot of time working on various projects with no expectation of compensation, so when something like this comes along that I throw myself into, I figure it’s a way of getting something in return. But not this time.

Maybe I should have known better. I had a bad feeling about the contest from the start. A World Wide Web design competition only open to US citizens — bad move. An employee spamming me to enter without reading the front page entry on why I couldn’t — bad move. Code that was hard to work with and offered little to actually ‘hack’ about the design — bad move. Changing the code after the contest ended, thus breaking the entries — really bad move. And the past month of dwindling communication pretty much cemented that they weren’t going to award me the prize, so now that I know for sure, it’s no surprise.

The silver lining in all of this is that while not directly inspired by it, a by–product of my discontent with the contest was that we got a Zen Garden out of it. And the Zen Garden seems to be leading to some exciting opportunities for me, personally. So I can’t help but take a Zen–like approach and realize that in the grand scheme of things, I won anyway. It would have been nice to have an iPod, but I suppose it wasn’t in the cards.

update: I can’t believe I missed him, but Joshua Kaufman also deserves some credit for the CSS work he did on the project. While his code didn’t end up in my final submission, he did some great work as we hacked away together at this difficult challenge.

Reader Comments

MikeyC says:
June 21, 06h

Yeah, that sucks. I live in Toronto, and have run into similar situations when trying to enter US-only contests. Zen Garden is a worthwhile by-product IMHO.

By the way, here’s my half-assed, half-finished attempt at Zen:

which is based on my site design:

Surprisingly, a lot of the stuff was directly transferable from my stylesheet. For example, my footer uses an id of footer just like the zen template, while other stuff was as simply as changing the name of the id/class in my stylesheet.

Paul S. says:
June 22, 02h

Well I gotta tell you the truth about these US only contests…we can’t allow people like you in because we like to win! Hehe, but honestly that really sucks. The world is now a better place with Zen Garden.

doug says:
June 23, 03h

Still no results posted on that page as of right now. But if you’ve been informed, it sounds final. As a former employee at Lycos, I’m ashamed of them, and I know other current employees are too. I’m glad it pushed you to create the Zen Garden. But, publicly stated, this blows.

June 23, 06h

Sorry to hear the news, Dave. It’s really a shame they couldn’t have their act more together than that. You can live knowing that one of the best CSS communities knows who the real winner is, and you’ll be remembered for it. Keep up the excellent work and cheers.

Chris says:
June 24, 02h

Shhhh. All the good CSS coders are supposed to be from California or New York. Are you trying to ruin the secret!?!!??!?!!?!?!

Anthony says:
June 26, 06h

You should definitely buy yourself an iPod as a consolation prize.

Lee says:
June 30, 10h

You got robbed, but the other posts are correct: Zen Garden is definitely compensation. I’m starting with CSS and the resources here have been a tremendous help in learning valid, standards compliant code & CSS. Thanks!

Peter says:
July 08, 10h

And you think it’s bad in Canada… try living in Europe! There’s still a few things that are open to US & Canadian residents but none elsewhere - so you’ve still got an advantage :-)

Eric says:
July 15, 04h

Actually, i was doing tabled designs (and sexy frames!) until i found Zen Garden. Now i’m all about the CSS :) Now i gotta work w/ IE around the bugs…!

scottbp says:
July 21, 11h

I do find myself wondering just what laws would be contravened by giving you the damn ipod?
I guess it must be an anti money laundering thing?

Michael Grazebrook says:
September 04, 09h

On Zen Garden: I’m learning CSS for the first time. Zen Garden is exactly what I need: it shows me what can be done, and hints at what can’t. It was the second link I tried on the w3c site (the first being a tutorial). Lots of nice code to inspire me. An excellent resource.

On that prize business:

Astonishing! OK, I can respect the limitation of their legal department. But there are two obvious responses:

(1) Get the permission of the person who whould otherwise have won - they’d be pretty much honour bound to recognize you.

(2) Donate an extra prize with an honourable mention and note that you would have won if you were in the US.

Pretty crazy, really, the damage to their image must be worth far more than the prize (probably the fee for the lawyer taking the decision was worth more than the prize too). Especially since you’ve produced such a great site!