Hack Hotbot, part II

March 13, 2003 5PM PST

Hey, I like the initiative that Wired and Hotbot have shown recently just as much as the rest of the web development community, so Terra–Lycos is okay in my books.

But I was a little jaded after learning that the Hack Hotbot contest isn’t open to the ‘world–wide’ half of the web, only U.S. citizens, so I posted about it. Well, it would seem our good friends at Terra–Lycos did a bit of surfing this afternoon to find out who was mentioning their contest. I had a small swarm of lycos.com activity around noon to one, the referral coming from what looks like an intranet search (powered by Inktomi) for “hack hotbot”. One of the pages hit was my contact form, and I was sent an e–mail:

Thank you for the HotBot mention within your site. We are running a skinning contest which may interest you. We are giving away a 57” TV as the grand prize. Your site tells me that you would make a mean HotBot skin for the contest.


Lincoln Jackson
Sr. Director, Search Products

I was a little surprised, to say the least. I’ve spent a bit of time formulating my response, and here it is:

Well gee, Lincoln, I appreciate the kind words, but you didn’t even read the post you are referring to before auto–replying.

In fact, I specifically expressed my desire to enter the Hack Hotbot contest that ‘may interest me’, so I knew about it ahead of time. Which means this is probably a form letter, so I guess I can forgive the wording on that part.

But let’s go back to my post for a second. I mentioned that I’d love to enter the contest, except for the fact that in your official rules, point 6 (General Conditions) states that the “Contest is open to legal U.S. residents who are 18 years of age or older.” This means that I, as a Canadian, am not even allowed to enter. (we Canadians know better than to enter a contest without checking these things first, since a lot of American companies like to do that to us)

So here’s where we’re at: you decided the contest was important enough to take up my time telling me about it, but you didn’t think I was important enough to spend the time making sure I was eligible to enter. I’m a bit hurt Lincoln, and I’m sure you can see where I’m coming from.

But I’m a pretty reasonable guy, and I think we can work this out. Opening the rules to allow the international design community a fair chance would be highly appreciated not only by me, but by the rest of the designers who felt a bit slighted that they couldn’t get a fair shot. Since we’re halfway through the contest, a deadline extension of a week would be great too.

Oh, sure, it might cost you a few extra bucks to ship the TV if somebody in the Netherlands takes the prize, but if you’ve already dealt with the logistics of getting a bigass TV to someone on the opposite coast, it really won’t be that much harder to get it to another country, will it?

I’ll await with baited breath your response,


Let’s put the pressure on them to open this up. I want a shot at a damn iPod.

update — 9:21am, 3/14/2003: I’ve received a few responses from Terra/Lycos, including a great explanation from one of them who really does care about this, and regrets the way it was handled. The official word is that non–US citizens are recommended to enter the contest through US mailing addresses or in collaboration with US citizens.

I feel a bit hesitant though, since the reason it’s US–only to begin with comes from their legal department. I wonder if there will be any problems if the winner happens to be a non–US citizen entering through a third party.

Still, I have in writing from Lincoln that this is okay, so if anyone enters and has problems, get in touch with me after the contest.

Feel free to use the comments below to hook up with a US partner.