Dec 13, 2007

The ePrize Fund

Per a comment yesterday, it almost sounds like Dwoskin was in charge of this year's Holiday cards... This year recipients received notice that a donation has been made in their name to the ePrize Fund.

Afraid that this was akin to George Costanza's "Human Fund," I did some googling and found these links:

  • ePrize: a true SE Michigan success story
    "The company also recently launched its ePrize Fund, a nonprofit charity intended to promote and help grow creativity and entrepreneurship in the area and around their other offices, located in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and London."
  • E2newsletter · Issue No. 11
    "This year, we started the ePrize Fund, a 501(c)3 charity that provides fund and volunteer time from our team members to local organizations that support the ePrize philosophy by fostering creativity and entrepreneurship."

That's quite a bit different from the usual ePrize year-end gift of piñatas and bats or other garish tchotchkes of years past. I'm curious if ePrize employees got any kind of holiday bonus for 2007. Also, I'm wondering if there are any holiday pink slips being put into the stockings hung with care... that's been a long standing ePrize tradition. "Get off the bus!"

Dec 11, 2007

Video Time

As promised, below is the video for the MEDC commercial spot. Indeed, it is rather embarrassing.

And here's a recruitment video for ePrize disguised as a clip about the Schoolcraft college Flash event that they co-sponsored a few weeks ago.

Oct 24, 2007

Odds & Sods

Good news, the "toothpick in the cake" line has been removed from the ePrize "Careers Page." Glad that cooler heads have provided some fairly well-written job descriptions.

In other news, I hear that there's a harrowing TV commercial on the air featuring Michigan native Jeff Daniels touting the benefits of Michigan businesses. The commercial also stars ePrizer Alesya Opelt. I have yet to see the spot but have been told that "once you see it, you'll be scarred for life." I'm hoping that this makes an appearance on the ePrize Blog soon!

And, a fond adieu to the big group of Quality Assurance staff that were let go recently. Maybe this explains the existence of some broken links and items that otherwise should have been caught... (Psst, lots of broken links on the "In The News" page of the site -- 9/10/2007, 8/4/2007 Detroit News, 7/31/2007 Detroit Free Press, etc). I'm sure everyone that was canned so gracefully will land on their feet. They're always a need for quality assurance.

Oct 15, 2007

The Wonderful World of Javascript

It's with great fun and a small amount of irony that developers utilize javascript like it's going out of style at my current place of employment.

While javascript was used for some rudimentary form manipulation here and there at ePrize during my tenure there, any and all "heavy lifting" was done via the back end "toybox" framework. Whenever anything more was being asked of a front-end script the immediate hue and cry from the crowd was, "What about users who have Javascript turned off?!?" This may be a valid argument... or not. There was little-to-no metrics support of our sites at the time, especially in regard to javascript/ECMAscript acceptance. This eliminated all options for AJAX, et cetera.

Ironically, this would also have eliminated the "brilliant" "vision" of some who proposed much more "robust" javascript usage (basically, using MooTools) which was to "revolutionize" the interfaces of ePrize promotions. These were to be the "sizzle on the steak," as our PR person would say ad nauseum. So, which is it? Javascript or not?

Scott® Common Sense Community Spook-tacular Halloween Sweepstakes

Going through the promotions that are currently live, I see little-to-no sizzle and a lot of gristle. For example; pulling up the first promotion I caught on (your favicon has gone missing), Scott® Common Sense Community Spook-tacular Halloween Sweepstakes, I would certainly think that the jack o' lantern so prominently displayed on screen would have a little candle glow associated with it. Animated gif, simple swf animation, something to make it shine (pun intended) just a little. If the argument comes back, "There's not enough time to do that," then welcome to my world circa every day during my tenure at ePrize. Those kind of things are "nice to haves" and not the kind of snazzy stuff that the sweatshop mentality/workload allows.

Oct 11, 2007

Competition Coming?

Good news, folks. Looks like there's some healthy competition coming to Detroit for ePrize. Looks like Slither can be retired as a new player enters the arena.

Get those resumes ready.

Sep 19, 2007

Three out of Eight Ain't Bad

Back in March I suggested a list of eight items that ePrize could/should do. I just can't help but still provide feedback to the company that once nursed at my breast. Call me a nurturer.

Lo and behold, several items on the list have come to fruition. There is now an ePrize blog as well as the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds on both the Portfolio page as well as the News page. Both of those pages should have calls to the RSS feed in the <head> of the page but it's a start!

Three down and five more to go, folks. Still no closer to being standards compliant (528 lines for that home page? Please! Could be something to do with this... <meta name="generator" content="Adobe GoLive" />). Keep it up!

Aug 24, 2007

Adios Caffeine

The Beaker was EmptyCaffeine™ has gone the way of SweepsXpress, it seems. The team was dissolved this week. Curious to know what the real reason for this was (not enough support/marketing?) versus the official spin.

Personally, I don't think that it was given enough of a chance. It's only been alive for a few months. Again, had they spun it out as a separate business arm and not associated it with ePrize at all but treated it like a different business (rather than cheapening the ePrize brand), it probably would have had legs. Here's hoping that everyone on the team (that deserved it) lands on their feet.

Aug 2, 2007

Couple Updates

Seems like since <ding dong> the wicked witch has passed that things may have actually gotten better over at "The Prize." At least, the grapevine has quieted down quite a bit over the last few months (heightened restrictions on outside communication?).

Half the people I talk to say that things have gotten better (the established employees) while the rest say that things suck (people hired in during the last month). And, the glow seems to have gone out of the MePrize blog.

So, like all good "internet journalists" (an oxymoron), I rely on rumor and conjecture. One thing that looks somewhat suspect is the latest promotion from Built with .NET and not bearing the "" URL, it looks like ePrize isn't the AOR with Northwest any longer. Even sadder, the flow and presentation of this NWA Dream Trip promotion is terrible. They fall into the same traps that I used to rail against; a horrible losing experience and having to fill in my user information when NWA should already have that info on file.

Meanwhile, looks like Jackie Trepanier is looking good in this blog (with an overly large header image -- the blog, not Jackie).

May 15, 2007

Pay Only For Performace

Where are you, QA?
QA, where are you?

Apr 3, 2007

ePrize Jeopardy

I swept the board. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Play ePrize Jeopardy. Note that the host is annoying as heck, but what do you expect with that name?

Mar 22, 2007

Down on the Cube Farm

EPrize CEO builds culture of creativity

I'm not quite sure of what to say about the article in today's Detroit News written by and starring ePrize CEO Josh Linkner. Of course it's self-congratulatory but it seems a bit self-obsessive as well.

Personally, there were times that I would have liked to have had a ho-down on a cube farm rather than sitting at a card table.

Mar 16, 2007

Intense or Just Tense?

I'm currently working with a former ePrizer and, strange to say, it's only been at this new place that I've ever seen her smile. The ability to smile is one of those things that one sacrifices in such an intense workplace. I think that all spouses, significant others, friends, and family members of exPrizers would say that they're much happier people now than they were then.

It's odd. There are dozens of people that I used to spend hours on end with every darned day of the week that I've managed to lose all contact with. They're either too darned busy or too darned pissed off to maintain any kind of links with me or any other exPrizers. The pace is just too fast and furious to worry about things like absent friends. Out of sight and out of mind. Worse, exPrizers are often demonized after their departure. All things wrong becomes attributed to them and their names are cursed with abandon. Upper Management doesn't do much to help stem this situation. Rather, they pile on and have been known to out and out lie about departed souls. "We talked to them several times..." "They were on a sixty day improvement plan..." "They just weren't 'A' players..." and other rote excuses come too easily when pressed about the departed.

If you're not spoken ill of, you're not spoken of at all. Letting anyone know that an ePrizer has "crossed over" is poo-pooed if not outright verboten. Sending out an email to wish people well and provide new contact information is the exception and not the rule. When one manager sent out a note to say his farewell to a team member and bid him good luck for the whole company to read he was later called on the carpet.

Thinking back on how intense everything was and how tense everyone was at ePrize it doesn't surprise me that we get some amazingly hot-headed comments from current employees here. But, more importantly, this has made me consider what I was like during my tenure at ePrize and I've come to the conclusion that I probably wasn't as nice as I could have been. I knew what was best for my department and for the company -- based on the information I was given. That said, I pursued things doggedly and waxed dogmatically. This didn't always lead to me coming across as the most perfect ray of sunshine. If I stepped on you along the way, I'm probably sorry but I'd have to evaluate that on a case-by-case basis. Just know that outside of ePrize, I and all of the other exPrizers that I've had the pleasure of knowing, are much more prone to smile and be polite than we used to be.

Mar 9, 2007

SweepsXpress Gets Press

You're Like a Toothpick in the Cake.

  1. ePrize Blog - Ideally, this could be Josh Linkner's baby where he could post any articles he's written, talk about his speaking engagements, and generally inform folks of what he and ePrize have been up to. A great PR tool and, perhaps, it might bump blogs like this one out of the ranks of search engines.
  2. News Page as RSS - Create a back end system to allow the ePrize PR maven to cut, paste, and format articles that would feed into the ePrize news page as XML to be parsed out as XHTML. Allow users to sign up for this as an RSS feed or as an email update (a la Feedburner). This would eliminate production time as well as increase SEO while also showing that ePrize can handle current technology.
  3. Promotions Page as RSS - Likewise, maintaining the list of current promotions via a tool that could tag promotions as the handful of categories (Automotive, CPG, Media, etc), sort them and utilize the promotion end date to pull any "dead" promotions could make this an automatic process rather than a manual drudgery. Likewise, if these could feed out as an RSS feed where users would be notified of new promotions would be ideal. Eliminate manual processes and increase visibility, sounds pretty good to me.
  4. Skin 404 Page - As I was surfing I hit a 404 page on It was very ugly. This doesn't have to be the case.
  5. ICO across the board - The <link REL="SHORTCUT ICON" href="images/e_box.ico"> tag should be on every page, not just the home page.
  6. Become Standards Compliant - The site is a mess of Flash and Table-based HTML. It's time to actually make this site as advanced as the compliant coding ePrize used to use on all of its promotions. This will increase flexibility, SEO, and make it look like the company actually can use web technology as it should.
  7. Fire Copywriter - Get rid of whoever wrote up the job descriptions on the Careers page. "You're like a toothpick in the cake" is some of the worst copy I've ever read. It's up there with "You're the sizzle on the steak." These Cole Porter wannabe lines are the cream in my coffee.
  8. Use Meta Tags on Promotions - I sent this one to a software engineer over a year ago and it doesn't look like it took hold. There's nothing more annoying than Googling "ePrize" to come across scads of expired promotion pages. Proper use of META tags would help keep promotions out of the search engines. Of course, there are some major promotions that would have done well with proper SEO and meta information (Palm, Pampers, etc) but those "one and done" promotions don't really need to live in perpetuity, do they?

Feb 28, 2007

Found on MySpace

Sorry, just had to share this ad I found on my MySpace page today -- I thought for sure that ePrize had taken out banner ads on there.


Feb 3, 2007

Word from the Zoo

The word from the Detroit Zoo is that the latest departure from the ePrize fold is COO, Mickey Mouse fan, and leagal eagle Robb Lippitt. Was it a coup for the COO or a more-friendly departure than when Keith Simmons flew the coop? The verdict is still out. It's a sure bet, though, that Lippitt leaves fat with cash for greener (not greener, redder, and purpler) pastures.

Details are a bit sketchy on the new COO waiting in the wings. Former Microsoft exec and not much else is known at the moment. It's only said that he's one hell of a singer and can do Sudoku puzzles with lightning-speed.

Jan 27, 2007

F'd Companies by Philip J. Kaplan

Despite having lived through the "Dot Bomb" years of 1999-2002, I'm still fascinated by the overindulgence and rampant bad ideas that venture capitalists poured their dollars into before the bottom fell out of the market.

Better known as "Pud", Philip J. Kaplan was the brains behind This website was a "must read" as it chronicled the abuses of employees and general wrong-headedness of countless start-ups. Sorted and collected in F'd Companies, this 2002 book gives a few paragraphs to hundreds of dot com companies that burned bright, aimed for an IPO, and imploded taking millions with them when "the bubble burst."

Filled with far too many masturbation and auto-fellation jokes, CAPITALIZED RANTS, and cross-references, this thin tome still manages to provide some valuable insight and successfully captures an era of American capitalism. It's amusing to read about the original (a file storage location) and see the ideas that just won't stay dead (Yahoo Answers is the current incarnation of a zombie-like internet idea). A good afternoon read, F'd Companies is lesson for all still working on the web.

Jan 22, 2007

Staffing Services - Are They Worth It?

I’ve got resumes on file at all the staffing services (aka Freelance Houses) I could find after I parted company with my last company. Overall, they didn’t do me a lick of good. Has anyone else had good experience with them?

I got a lot of talk, some smoke and a few mirrors. I took some tests and proved my mettle but nothing ever came of it. The same thing happened the last time I was between jobs (or about to be between jobs), which leads me to believe that they’re just not for me.

BTW, I'm not in the market. This is an older post that I hoped would spark some commentary but it seems like the blogosphere is dead lately. Almost makes me miss 'eprizer'.


The 25 Secret Perks of Working at Google.

Google’s coming to town (Ann Arbor, that is) in a big way. Before you apply you should know a few things. First off, they’re not the best place to work if you’re a woman. Secondly, it’s not a place to work unless you’ve got a “big name” on your college diploma. I’m waiting for the day that someone sues them for discrimination based on education. Apparently, if you’re up for a promotion or even a perk and the other person in line has a “better” education (that is, a better name on their diploma such as Stanford, Harvard, etc) then your ivy league competition is going to leave you in the dust.

Applying to Google isn’t going to do many folks too much good when they make the move to Ann Arbor, I reckon. They’re probably just going to tap into UofM, hiring college kids for slave wages with just a few open positions for managers to try and sort out the younglings. That’s my theory, anyway. Needless to say, I won’t bother sending over my resume any time soon.

Jan 17, 2007

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

2001: A Space Odyssey I'm sorry, I just can't help it. After reading the description of "ePrize 2007 Space Odyssey" I just couldn't help but try and imagine the unveiling of this year's company theme. I picture a huge purple, red, and green monolith surrounded by upper-management dressed in ape suits, beating each other with bones. Cue Strauss's "Also sprach Zarathustra" and kick off the big party with lots of chocolate covered coffee beans ("Get it, Caffeine!!" cackles the marketing person who quickly earns the new nickname 'Captain Obvious').

That probably wasn't the case but it sure makes me smile to think of it.

By the way, I find it very ironic that so much time, money, and effort were poured into ePrize having a proprietary analytics tool and I see that there's such a thing as "" but I'm also seeing Google analytic code on the Caffeine homepage. Are the rumours of an ePrize and Google partnership true?

There are some other surprises on that page such as a lot of empty tags (<div class="bulletImage"></div>) and some strange uses of <br /> tags for vertical spacing (<div align="center"><br /><br /><br /><br /></div>). Now, don't quote me, but I think that <dig align="center"> has been depreciated for a while now, though I suppose this is okay as the Caffeine site isn't done in XHTML and doesn't pretend to be W3C compliant. Just call me "Captain Code-Nazi."

Jan 16, 2007

Fan Mail

Just wanted to share this note I got today:

Captain Snoop I really hope that this bellyaching blog is written by Mike White. It would just make it so right. He made it through all of the firings in the early days of ePrize because he's the biggest kiss ass in the company's history.

White was so about conformity and towing the company line that he used to rally to have the entire SE staff fired when their supervisor stuck up for them for being round pegs in a company of square holes. He was passed over for promotions quite a few times and just didnt' get the hint. Ass kissing can only take you so far before you actually have to have talent.

The company's only gotten better since White got fired. Coincidence?

Jan 10, 2007

What's So Wrong With Peace, Love, Understanding & Bagels?

What's So Wrong With Peace, Love, Understanding & Bagels? ePrize never was one of those "bubble companies" like those we used to laugh and dream about being at when reading There were no on-site masseuses, champaign wishes, or cavier dreams. The biggest perks we got were some snacks and five-cent soda. When things got tight when Rare-Medium pulled out funding the snacks went away but we always kept the cheap soda. The one thing we didn't have was bagels.

One of the project managers was determined that giving employees bagels on a regular basis would be a tremendous morale booster -- not that he ever brought (m)any in on his own. My boss scoffed, if not openly mocked, this notion. Even years after this PM departed you could still hear my boss chuckling to himself, "Bagels... Ha... what a crazy idea... Nice..."

The funny thing is, I was talking to a former coworker of mine who has come to work for a company that does a regular weekly bagel day. Without prompting he waxed romantically about those perk those little, round, dense, chewy, doughy rings of goodness. I guess sometimes those little things do matter. Food for thought.

Jan 8, 2007

Caffeine Is Nearly Here

The all new SweepsXpress is nearly here. Now called Caffeine", the idea-that-never-dies behind this new branch of ePrize is the creation of DIY (do it yourself) sweeepstakes that tie into the pooled... well, here; I'll let Shaun McCormack and Christopher Heine explain back from their March 8th, 2001 article in the Detroit News titled "ELotto Program Dangles $1 Million Carrot":

Marketers can showcase tickets on their home pages, in banner ads, in pop-up boxes, through e-mail messages or on e-commerce pages.

SweepsXpress lets marketers launch a fully licensed and legal sweepstakes promotion on their site in 24 hours.

"This normally takes 30 to 60 days," Linkner said.

SweepsXpress is a prepackaged Internet promotion designed by ePrize. Marketers need $950 to launch a sweepstakes as well as one line of HTML code in order to integrate it with their site, Linkner said. The cost includes technology, sweepstakes licensing and prizes.

With SweepsXpress, several marketers take part in the same promotion and can share the cost of one expensive prize. Sweepstakes entrants can come from any Web site, but there is only one winner.

"Odds of winning are spread across multiple sites, so it reduces the cost to marketers," Linkner said.

SweepsXpress promotions run for 90 days and attract consumers using a three-year lease of a Porsche Boxster, a cruise for two to Hawaii, a Sea Doo GTI personal watercraft or a year of mortgage payments up to $1,500 per month.

"We feel the best way for marketers to break through the clutter is to offer big, sexy, exotic prizes," Linkner said.

Caffeine Now The key difference appears to be that Caffeine will run on Flash rather than HTML. I wouldn't be surprised if the good brains of Terry May are behind the architecture there as he's frighteningly smart. Going through one of these promotions for, I would only advise that the page loadtimes even on a T1 are pretty darn slow. Hopefully that gets addressed before the official launch.

Though Caffeine has been in "Development Hell" for ages, it looks like key players are pulling it out of the Stygian depths for an immenent and successful launch. Congrats!

Jan 6, 2007

Amusing Comic

Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Fuckwad
Thanks "Year of the Chump"! BTW, I'm curious to hear what the theme of 2007 is! I hear that the holiday party is coming up. It's a little after the Holidays, isn't it? Or is this a pre-Tu B'Shevat party?

Jan 5, 2007

The ePrize Video

Wow. I can't recognize 95% of the folks in this video. The hiring boom continues. Are all of the folks featured here still working at ePrize? Glad that Matt and Jeremy are on the poster frame. :)