Well. Erm … Wow.
When I put a competition on the web site for just 5 copies of the book, I wasn’t sure what to ask as a competition question. I didn’t want to ask anything too hard/tricky, so I left it quite open and decided that the way to win a copy was to entertain me with some creative writing - just as I found it really funny the way that people would draft over-the-top creative begging letters on Freecycle. It’ll be fun, I thought.
250 entries of creative writing later, and I have a very different opinon. I wish I’d gone for a simple closed question along the lines of "what does HTML stand for" and then just done a lucky dip!
I must confess that it’s been great to read through some of the funniest and silliest emails I’ve received in a long time; I’ve also received emails from people who appear to be on the verge of self harm or even harming me or their nearest or dearest if they don’t win a copy. Well, I did say to exaggerate! I received emails from people who:
- wanted a copy to create a web site to put a site of themselves online to get back at a cheating ex
- claimed that their dog had eaten all of their html coursework
- were living rough while supporting their family of 15 blind, amputee children
- thought the book would make a good doorstop or help with a wobbly table
- started their email to me as "Dear Andy Clarke" or "Dear Ian whoeveryouare" (fail!)
- wrote several pages’ worth of back story, worthy of publishing as a novella
- admitted being senior people in their respective industry, responsible for web … and not having a clue what they’re talking about!
- taught me all about squirrel habitations (yes, it did relate to building a web site)
- claimed their pregnant wife just likes the smell of SitePoint books and the local supplier just ran out
- were abducted by aliens and had all programming knowledge wiped from memory following a particular experiment
- said that they were fed up with camping in the aisles of the local bookstore to read my book and that if they didn’t get a copy, their continued presence there might cause the store to stop stocking the book
Then there were quite a lot of emails which seemed to be genuine tales of woe - too many for a measly 5 copies to help out with! I really started to feel how difficult it must be for people working in charities having to turn down requests for help for things a lot more important than some (in comparison) silly little book.
In the end, I decided to choose a mixture of people who either made me laugh the most or who I felt would get the most benefit from learning the book. For reasons of privacy, I’ll not mention full names/details here - I’ll contact the winners directly, but they were:
- A photographer whose website looked in need of a make-over (but whose letter to me was the most colourful of the bunch!)
- 10-year-old Dennis whose ‘tutor’ was Dad but who was doing a rubbish job and needed to be fired (now he is)
- Kevin, recently unemployed and looking to re-train (a sign of the times - there were quite a few of these)
- A schools outreach program in Zimbabwe
- A new mother trying to learn a new skill so that she can manage a business from home and bring up the baby too (awww!)
Now, because there were so many funny entries to the competition, I’ve selected some of my favourites and collated them here. Once again, I’ve removed the authors’ names to save them from any potential embarassment, and have also scanned through to make sure that there are no other personally identifiable pieces of information.
Thanks to everyone for taking part - it’s been fun … but I’ll definitely go with the closed question approach next time!