[Paleopsych] CHE: A Web Site for Winners, or, More Likely, Losers

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Wed Jul 20 20:29:20 UTC 2005

A Web Site for Winners, or, More Likely, Losers
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.7.22


    Who would choose to click repeatedly on a big red circle on a Web
    site, only to be told again and again that he or she is a loser?

    About 1,000 people a day.

    That result surprises even the three Stanford University graduate
    students who started a site called the Winbutton. For a while,
    visitors to the site who clicked on the red circle -- which contains
    the word "win" -- stood a slim chance of winning money. But the
    jackpot was usually no more than 10 bucks.

    More often than not, clickers were fed a variety of quotes telling
    them how pathetic they were. Some examples: "At least you still have
    your looks." "Dude. What can I say. You just suck." "Winning isn't
    everything ... but you are still a loser." "You lose. You must be a
    Stanford undergrad. Loser."

    "To be perfectly honest, I don't know why people click on our site,"
    said Alain T. Laederach, a postdoctoral student in bioinformatics who
    helps run the site. "I think they're sort of amused by it, by the
    funny quotes that you get when you lose."

    Mr. Laederach's personal favorite: "Dear Loser, welcome to dumpsville.
    Population: you."

    He and his buddies, Bernie J. Daigle and Brian T. Naughton, who also
    do research in bioinformatics, started the site about seven weeks ago,
    mostly for fun but also hoping to make money if enough people clicked
    on the advertisements that popped up each time users pressed the "win"

    The Web site generated revenue using Google's AdSense program.
    Winbutton got money from businesses when visitors clicked on their
    ads. The subjects of the ads were related to words in the "loser"

    Google got wind of the site, however, and last week pulled the
    advertisements, saying Winbutton violates company policy, which bars
    Web sites that involve gambling from using AdSense.

    Winbutton is still operating, but the jackpot is now empty.

    "It was fun while it lasted," says a note on the site. "Our hat goes
    off to the guys at Google who figured us out pretty quickly."

    It seemed that most Winbutton fans weren't interested in the ads
    anyway, says Mr. Laederach.

    The site took in $150 in advertising revenue but paid out the same
    amount, divided among 15 winners.

    "It doesn't seem like our model was perfect," Mr. Laederach

    He was not even sure that the site complied with federal law.
    Christine Hurt, an assistant professor of law at Marquette University,
    argued on the Conglomerate Blog this month that the students' site may
    have been an illegal gambling business.

    The three students last month opened a related Web site, the
    Losebutton. Visitors there view a different quote about winners each
    time they click on a "lose" circle. That site's jackpot, too, is $0.

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