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If you run a contest as a startup, don't be dishonest. JPEGmini scammed me. (dropbox.com)
267 points by massarog on July 9, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 86 comments

You know, I'm generally a fairly sympathetic guy. I've been screwed over enough times in my life to know how it feels, and to be able to feel for the next poor sod who gets screwed over in his turn. That said, I'm starting to get really tired of people trying to leverage HN into being their grievance du jour fixificator.

Sometimes, it's appropriate, as the people who could do something about the problem are here, or reachable quickly through here. The prospect of being shamed before the HN community is probably a very effective motivator for companies who've been engaged in hinky behavior to clean up their acts, too.

But the simple fact is, HN isn't your mommy, and it isn't the police; we aren't here to hold your hand, and we aren't here to fix your problems for you. People are coming here, crying that "someone on the internet was naughty!" over increasingly trivial bullshit like this, and I, for one, am finding it more and more a waste of time and bandwidth.

An alternative point of view is that people are complaining on HN to warn others about scammers and unsavory companies in their mix.

Without being able to name and shame, how are we supposed to create a social stigma towards the bad players?

I realize that the author spent more effort in drafting the complaint than in entering the contest but isn't that a good thing? Many scams rely on people being unwilling to complain when they are nickle and dimed.

"are complaining on HN to warn others about scammers and unsavory companies "

And in the case of this particular issue we know nothing of the person lodging the complaint other than their karma score.

Why is this even to be taken on face value anyway from someone with no contact info that has provided what amounts to little info other than:

"This is the jpegmini contest that I entered to win a Nikon D5100 Camera. They pulled their pages down after the contest ended so I had to pull these from google cache. For the record, I blocked out all names and twitter handles aside from my own and jpegmini's. "

Edit: "their karma score" (if you don't want to read their comments and make a judgement on their credibility of course which most won't have the time to do).

I believe the intended takeaway is 'if you find need of this company's product, use their competitors' instead.'

And yet posts like these usually get right to the top of the front page. People will continue to treat HN like mommy when HN continues to act like mommy.

Sounds like the makings of a YC W12 Company.

loud.ly - Complain with the crowd.

Or grip.er

Some of the issues that have come to light on HN have been genuine, but in this case I feel like this guy has spent more time complaining than he did participating in the contest... They scammed you out of what? 5, maybe 10, minutes of your time?

According to his report they scammed him out of a D510 didn't they?

Its the "People's Court" :-) But more seriously there is a challenge that in the poorly regulated world of the Internet its often difficult to find justice, either from Joe Jobs or scams. If you have a popular blog you can taunt the scammer with cartoons or dry wit, but if you have no soapbox you're left trying to leverage something else.

Like you I find it annoying that this is something folks use HN for but I understand the motivation. I know there have been times when I've filed a complaint with a regulatory agency, or written a representative, and knew in my heart it would fall on presumably deaf ears, but I count on the law of averages to motivate others to do so as well. Sometimes that works, other times, not so much.

Which is why we have popular segments on the local news called <news-outlet>-on-your-side or ActionLine or any number of things like that. Perhaps there is a startup opportunity here, BobsHitList :-) Some folks who are not particularly moral, like RipoffReport, do quite well at it.

Have you considered flagging this story?

They had a contest, you didn't win, he-said she-said and you post it to HN. I'm sorry you didn't win but I don't really see what the point of this post is- shaming this company for... what? Giving away a camera? Without more solid proof you should withdraw your accusations. How do I know you didn't tweet more than once?

More importantly, how did they "scam" you? Did you lose money in this transaction?

Shame on the HN community for piling on this company (which I've never heard of) based on such scant evidence.

Things I find odd:

- OP runs his own online contest company (http://www.linkedin.com/in/giancarlomassaro -> http://anyluckyday.com/ ), but did not disclose it. (Edit: the significance of running a contest company is that people may believe OP has incentive to undermine other people's contests, especially if they are run by a competitor. I don't know that's the case, but it's a fact that should have been disclosed and it suggests that there may be more).

- A couple of the RTs of OP's tweet are suspicious, in that they are from rarely-used accounts (especially https://twitter.com/DailyShitReport and https://twitter.com/vinmassaro ).

Are those the problem? Maybe. Maybe not. But we only have one side of the story here and it's possible that the company sent more information or simply decided to not further accuse OP after deciding that some of his RTs were not valid.

To be fair, if I decided I had to win a popularity contest on twitter, you bet I'd hassle some of my friends who haven't seriously used twitter in months and make them retweet my stuff, and I don't think I'd feel bad about it (other than for annoying my friends). I don't think it's realistic to demand some eligibility requirements for being a proper twitizen before your vote can be counted.

Not sure what my company has to do with this, as I promoted this from a personal account and not my company account.

All RT's were from legitimate accounts from friends and family. Nothing in their rules state that you could not have friends/family retweet, and in fact, they encouraged it: https://twitter.com/jpegmini/status/218018634352689152

In case you don't know, it is extremely common, if not required, for startup types to use the services of their putative competitors. This isn't done to undermine them, but simply for market research, to see how other people are doing stuff. I don't know where you get that this would be distasteful.

They ~scammed~ the OP by fraudently getting free advertisement through twitter, by giving a promise they then broke.

Sure, we can only go on the OP's word here, so let's see what the company has to say.

Even if the OP did tweet multiple times, according to the supposed statement by the company that's fine with them, so short of some other adventurous interpretation or misrepresentation of the rules of the contest, we can probably use publicly available information on twitter to come to a preliminary opinion until the company makes a statement, and then decide who sounds more credible.

Edit: For now, this tweet - http://i.imgur.com/At4py.png - by the company kind of comes off as trying to entice random popular twitter users into participating in the contest, which seems consistent with the idea that they didn't let the OP win because of follower counts.

> "which seems consistent with the idea that they didn't let the OP win because of follower counts." Or, since you supposedly win with the most retweets, this is a very logical statement

I agree that it is good to make unfair things public but I am pretty weary after seeing so much bullying over this kind of stuff lately (37 Signals debacle for example)

>"but I don't really see what the point of this post is- shaming this company for... what?"

Rarely is it the case that I feel like some dispute should be kept private, rather than brought public. In my opinion, the internet is the great-leveler in that context; it's so easy to get things into the court of public opinion. Governments and companies can get away with far less than years past.

The OP felt he was misled, or worse. He tried to deal with the company through private channels, and they ignored him. Bring it on. Let me be the judge of whether I'd like to deal with the company.

Now, whether it belongs on HN is another issue...

Given how rapidly I was downvoted for saying the same thing, I have a feeling (but no evidence!) that the "community" hasn't really driven this post to the #1 slot.

Solid proof was sent to the company several times. They chose to ignore it and even claim that I violated their rules by entering multiple times, which I never did. I have 84 followers, what good what it do for me to tweet the same thing many times when the goal of the contest was to get the most retweets on one tweet? I tweeted once from their app and got 15 retweets on that single tweet.

> claim that I violated their rules by entering multiple times

Actually, they didn't claim you violated their rules. They claimed you entered multiple times... which you had previously claimed violated their rules. But they had already pointed out that making multiple tweets is fine if it is from the same account. And one of the spots you underlined was not the complete sentence. The rest of the sentence concludes with by using multiple/different Twitter accounts. I think it all needs to stay together.

Also, some people forget there are two ways to retweet. You still have the perfectly valid original RT-style retweet (which you might be calling "mentions") and then you have the "new and improved" retweet function. I would guess that the old RT-style does not get included in the retweet count.

Note: please don't take this as an indictment of your story... just that you may not be seeing everything correctly.

Right, as I had stated the winner did not have direct retweets, but rather the original style (which I called mentions). He had 13 of those.

I'm not entirely sure how to run a good search on Twitter to get a count of how many time a person was "mentioned" with a specific tweet. I'm sure you know better than I do since you ran such a search in order to get to the count of 13. But is it at all possible that you missed a couple? And does that 13 include the 1 direct retweet he got?

Yeah, but what exactly are you accusing them of? What is the benefit to them here? It's not like they lied about giving out a camera, they just picked a different winner- there's really no upside to them screwing you here, which makes me think it's less malicious than is being made out.

Were all 15 retweets from other people with unique histories and no way affiliated to your identity?

Where's the solid proof? All I see is screenshots of web pages, which are near the top of the "things that are easiest to fake" list.

After seeing this, I certainly will use one of their competitors if I need a similar service.

Be my guest. I have no dog in this fight- don't even own a mac. :p

Did you read the whole thing?

They scammed him - he posted ads, he won the contest according to the rules, the camera is legally his.

Here you go, https://twitter.com/#!/search/realtime/Just%20saved%2029.4%2...

Don't count tommytrc, or JustIs that tweeted twice. 13 total.

Edit: Looks like I missed the direct retweet, so 14 total.

I accidentally duplicated a status as well (@JuliaRosien). I don't know why you're discounting @typerist's tweet, yes she tweeted twice but it doesn't mean both are excluded, it's only counted once.

So by my count you're tied at 15 retweets each.

Just found something more interesting. 'Dan Julius' direct retweet of @tommytrc looks like it was actually done by someone who works for JPEGmini (icvt-tech) based on my google search their email has icvt-tech.com on the end.



And right from their rules: Employees of Sponsor and members of their immediate families are not eligible to participate in the Contests. All federal, state, provincial, and local laws and regulations apply.

Okay, that is interesting.

F*ck this guys! This startup really does not deserve our attention! From what I see you are the winner!

OP has explained his side, which is compelling. JPEGmini tweeted "You have only seen one side of the story" https://twitter.com/jpegmini/status/222433391025459200

At what point does he-said/she-said matter for a company? How much is negative publicity worth to an early startup?

1) OP is completely legit, which paints JPEGmini in a bad light. Give him a camera and let it go quietly, and get some kudos for giving out two cameras.

2) OP is not legit, which with his compelling argument will still have people thinking something is fishy. Give him a camera and let it go quietly, and get some kudos for giving out two cameras.

For $850, I think winning the kudos would be far more important than a company trying to prove somebody wrong. Sounds like pride is getting in the way here. Chalk up the the drawing as a lesson-learned and figure out a less ambiguous way to deal with the next one.

There's an obvious slippery slope you don't want to go down: Just shelling out to shut up any random guy with a dropbox account or even be bullied into responding publicly to said random guy. Assuming, of course, you're sure you did everything right. We have, as you point out, only heard one side of the story.

Right now, the fallout, as in negative publicity, is pretty limited. The guy comes off as bitter and with an axe to grind. If you're in the market for the product and you come across this thread or the current five clicktivists on twitter, are you going to steer clear of the product?

Of course, they shouldn't be smug or arrogant if they happen to be forced to respond later, but ignoring at this stage is definitely the right strategy IMO.

Just shelling out to shut up any random guy with a dropbox account or even be bullied into responding publicly to said random guy.

That's pride talking. Pick and choose your battles. If you're going to pick this one, make it overwhelmingly compelling. I've never heard of this company, but my first impression is negative. Turn that around.

I wouldn't advocate ignoring it. I'd rather you make me love your company or hate it. Ignoring stuff like this is cop out.

Hell, doesn't Nikon have a camera in the $300 range? Even a response like: "We already picked the winner, and we don't have a budget for two cameras, but we were able to spring for Nikon Dxxxx" would be miles better.

Right now, the fallout, as in negative publicity, is pretty limited.

You're right. They were thrown a curve ball, and they can turn it into an opportunity to leave a positive impression on potential customers who have never heard of their product before.

> That's pride talking. Pick and choose your battles. If you're going to pick this one, make it overwhelmingly compelling.

As I said:

>> Assuming, of course, you're sure you did everything right.

The rest of your post assumes that there is an issue to deal with. There isn't. If they're in the right (again, assuming), being mentioned on the internet doesn't mean they should pivot into crisis mode.

There's a HN post, most of which, including the top comments, is meta and five (5) tweets - all of which are boring knee-jerk condemnation, none of which ask for clarification. If it'd gone viral, if people, if customers started asking what the hell is going on, then respond to them. But at least until that happens, it's a non-issue, PR-wise.

> I've never heard of this company, but my first impression is negative. Turn that around.

Sure. I've also only just heard of this company too. I think their technology and value proposition sounds promising. If I was in the business of putting JPEG images on in the internet, I'd be intrigued.

This is exactly it. Obviously the purpose to this silly contest is marketing. How is that served by getting into a public fight with one of your users?

I bet the company already regrets giving out the first camera, given the low turnout.

My guess is the person who "won" was somehow affiliated with the company so they didn't actually have to give one away.

Either that, or the fact that they have 130k+ followers (vs my 84 followers) so the company thinks they'll get free promotion from them.

Have you proof or are you just tossing another unfounded accusation on the pile?

The latter. But to be fair, only my accusation is unfounded, the OA seems legit.

The other lesson here is if you are going to run a "dishonest contest", decide the winner via a "random" drawing and not something objective.

I wish people didn't used Twitter for contests, it's not transparent and you can't audit it. You can just have a bunch of bots retweet you, or anyone can claim you delete a tweet, etc.

I wish people didn't participate in contests on twitter because I read twitter to see what my friends are up to, and not which products they are using.

I have a second twitter account that is followed only by me for this kind of bullshit. If more people did the same, we'd get fewer companies encouraging Twitter pollution, and consequently fewer children crying about how they got 'scammed' on HN.

I'm sorry this happened to you, but I don't think the power of crowd sourcing should destroy a small start-up based on what still may be a misunderstanding.

Hell, perhaps this will gain them some needed attention.

JPEGmini is oozing with professionalism. "Save disk space with JPEGmini for Mac, tweet you savings".

I would honestly stay clear of such a company, and not just based on their scammy contests.

You would write off an entire company based on one misspelling?

Absolutely. It takes a few seconds to do a once-over of your website copy and a few seconds more to change it.

And their product.

that's pretty much why i dont enter any contests online, they all seem dishonest to me

Only reason why I entered was because I was using their service, saw the contest, and I needed a camera upgrade. Checked the entries and no one had really entered, so I entered, and won....or so I thought.

I actually just won a hotel stay and dinner in a tweet contest:


But then again, it's not some unknown startup, it's a local marketing initiative and I can meet the organizers face to face just around the corner.

I've entered plenty of "(re)tweet this to win" type contests. The barrier to entry is incredibly low, and I've won enough times to keep myself encouraged.

If your time is so valuable that taking the time to (re)tweet something will be a drag, or if your twitter account has some intrinsic worth that could be brought down by this type of tweet, then yes, there's no reason to enter, but then again, if you meet either of these criteria, you probably don't even need to enter contests...

More importantly -- why do you think your followers' time is so invaluable?

Well... a tweet saying "I saved space with some app" is probably not any less valuable to your followers than one saying "Mmmmm... fried cheese... [insert instagram pic here]". I see a lot more useless food tweets than I do contest tweets.

Edit: full disclosure... I frequently tweet food pics and almost never tweet content entries. :)

I won't offer any sympathy to people who spam their followers with companies' advertisements.

Is the "retweet" count on the bottom of Twitter's web UI authoritative?

The company's response makes it sound like they also counted some other kind of retweet, which maybe was quoting someone's tweet instead of pressing the Retweet button.

The winner never had any retweets on his actual tweets. People did quote his tweet, and as stated in our emails back and forth, he had 13 mentions while I had 15 retweets.

Also, correct me if I'm wrong, retweets by users with private accounts are not added to that count.

You should write a blog post or something and get some SEO juice on there so when people search for them they will find out how shitty of a company they are.

"I have a feeling it has something to do with the fact that the winner has 130k+ followers and I have only 84."

Lol if you had put that at the very start of the article, not the very end would of being obvious why they screwed you/tried to get some more publicity, front page of hacker news now.

Funny thing is they sound like lame people, but there product sounds useful. So in effect your probably helping them now, much more than those 15 retweets did.

I dunno, "all the image quality and none of the filesize" sets off my snake-oil alarms.

Ok, how does this makes sense? The relative savings are interesting, not the absolute.

Tried the open source PackJPG ( http://www.elektronik.htw-aalen.de/packjpg/ ) I just ran on a few images. It says avrg. comp. ratio : 78.28 % . And the author answers (my) emails and didn't scam me.

/edit: ok, i don't get what their software does. It is not a new codec, so is it possible that their software is superior to imagick convert -quality 85 ? Any technical details? The whole product seems highly dubious. The PackJPG thing is "lossless" as it does can restore the original jpg.

Here's the key: "an image quality detector ... to determine the maximum amount of compression which can be applied to each individual photo without causing visible artifacts." ( http://www.jpegmini.com/main/technology ) So they can detect that, say, the image looks the same at quality 30 as it does at quality 85, then they compress it at 30 which saves space. Sure, you could have done the same thing by eye, but they're doing it automatically.

See also http://link.aip.org/link/doi/10.1117/12.872231

There's absolutely zero evidence in your post that you were "scammed". At worst they don't seem to understand their own rules, which is far from uncommon & not a "scam".

You are far too trusting. When people start spewing this nonsensical BS and then go dark, nine times out of ten you've been had.

Are you saying they 'accidentally' scammed him? Wow

It sounds to me like 'understanding their own rules' isn't the only problem here. Perhaps a lesson in counting tweets correctly.

I noticed something odd on the JPEGmini homepage. They have a before/after scan over, as illustration of what the product does, but in the source it looks like they are linking to images of the similar size.

Here are the files and sizes referred to in the source:

272K preview-rolands.lakis.jpg 247K preview-rolands.lakis2.jpg 248K preview-rolands.lakis2_mini.jpg 276K preview-rolands.lakis_mini.jpg

I suppose they could have just screengrabbed both images, but that seems to defeat the point...

According to the rules you were supposed to add a few words to the default tweet which you didn't...

I still think it is unfair that they weren't honest - the least they could have done was post a ladder with ranking so you could where you sat. It might have cleared the air a bit? If they say you were disqualified then you would have realised much earlier...

What do that say "There's no such thing as bad publicity", I guess this company is going to JPEGmini, is about to find out. They are getting way more publicity then they thought, but the wrong type.. Too bad, looks like a nice camera.

Sigh, if only you knew how many startup sweepstakes have no actual prize...

All of this for a Nikon camera.... The cheap one.

This guys tried to promote their product with a "fake" contest! I really hate this types of "startups"!

As somebody already wrote - use their competitors insead!

Massarog: People regularly shit on me. So what you didn't get a camera for a tweet. Leave it alone and go find something more important to do with your time.

CublicleNinja: No, I do not. It's a damned contest. He lost. A guy who runs his own advertising company can easily afford a camera. Note I am not running around wising his pain.

So, your life is pain, and you wish said pain on others? Gotcha.


If you legitimately win something and then are scammed out of it you would be pretty upset too. It's no longer about the camera for me though, I'll never get it. It is more about the integrity of the company.

I was referring to the "I saved x MB" tweets. "I saved x%" would make more sense.

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