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Locked: [Other] RFD Contests Forum - Frequently Asked Questions for Contesters and Posters

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RFD Contests Forum - Frequently Asked Questions for Contesters and Posters

Welcome to the Frequently Asked Questions page for RFD's Contesters and Contest Posters.

This document is the outgrowth of various questions and discussions that have taken place in the Contest Discussions thread over the years, and more recently the Replying "Thanks" (etc.) in Contest Threads poll.

Thank you to various RFD members (including gbamber, ishfish, vilmark, hoob, and many others) for their encouragement, contributions, comments, and suggestions. Any errors and omissions are my own.

Note that this FAQ is geared towards beginner/hobbyist contesters, so please keep that in mind when reading. Professional contesters will probably find little or no value to Section IA ("Contesting Basics (not specific to RFD)"), but Sections IB and II ("For Contesters - RFD Specific" and "For Contest Posters" respectively) may be useful for any newcomers to this Forum.

This FAQ will be locked upon completion. Any questions/comments/suggestions regarding specific points or additions should be addressed in the aforementioned Contest Discussions thread.

(Note to moderators: additional sections marked as "<Empty Space>" have been added and soft-deleted throughout this thread (approximately once every 5-6 posts) to facilitate future additions without having to move around the various sections. All you'll need to do is "undelete" an "<Empty Space>" section when adding new material).
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Part I - For Contesters

A - Contesting Basics (not specific to RFD)
  1. What's the difference between a "Contest" and a "Sweepstakes"?
  2. How can I tell if I'm eligible to enter a contest?
  3. Why do many contests exclude Quebec residents?
  4. What are Voting and Judging contests, and should I enter them?
  5. Should I open a contest form by clicking on the link from the contest post, or should I copy and paste my own url?
  6. When entering a contest, what/how much information should I provide?
  7. Should I get a cell phone just for contest use?
  8. Should I get a separate email address for contesting?
  9. How do I keep track of what contests I'm entering (or have already entered)?
  10. Should I use a form filler?
  11. Do people entering via the "no-purchase-necessary" mail-in method ever win?
  12. How many contests is "a lot" - should I be entering more of them? / How much time should I spend entering contests?
  13. What are my odds of winning?
  14. When/how often are the prize winners decided?
  15. Am I required to pay tax on my contest winnings?
  16. I've been given a mathematical skill testing question to solve. The sponsor hasn't broken it down into nice separate steps, and I'm not sure what to do.
  17. What's Rafflecopter?
  18. Am I required to subscribe to newsletters?
  19. Should I open a social media (e.g. Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/G+) account?
  20. I already have a Facebook account - should I open a second one for contesting?
  21. I just entered a contest and it's asking me to "share" it on (Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/G+). Is this required?
  22. Am I required to "like" the sponsor's Facebook page in order to enter their contest?
  23. A Facebook contest is asking me for permission to install an application. Should I grant it?
  24. I just entered a Twitter contest. Should I also "follow" the Sponsor's twitter feed?
B - RFD Specific
  1. How do I read the thread titles?
  2. I see "Once", "Daily", "Weekly", "Monthly" and "Other" beside each contest thread. What does that mean?
  3. The forum's always showing threads with the most recent replies first. I just want to see the most recently started contest threads. How do I do this?
  4. I've been away for a while and I need to catch up quickly. How can I find out which contests are ending soon?
  5. I'm only interested in viewing the "Once" contests. How can I do this?
  6. I found a problem with a contest post. What should I do?
  7. How do I keep track of threads that I've already looked at?
  8. What's this "Thanks" button I see below the poster's name?
  9. I've entered a voting contest - can I ask for votes? I can get bonus entries if people enter using my code - can I post my referral link here?
Part II - For Contest Posters
  1. I'd like to post a contest I found. How should I format the contest thread title?
  2. Why are expiry dates formatted as YYYY/MM/DD and placed at the start of the thread title?
  3. What information should I include in the body of the contest post?
  4. Why is reposting a contest bad?
  5. How do I search for existing contest threads?
  6. Why did you remove/edit my referral link?
  7. Why was the URL for my contest censored / why was my contest thread deleted?
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What's the difference between a "Contest" and a "Sweepstakes"?

It's just terminology, and another difference between "Canadian English" and "American English".

In Canada we almost universally refer to any prize giveaway where the entry is free, and the outcome is uncertain as a "Contest", regardless of whether the outcome is decided by random selection, by judging, or by voting.

However in the U.S. they are very specific about that, and a "Sweepstakes" will always refer to a type of contest where the outcome is random, whereas a "Contest" will refer to the judged and voting varieties.

In the UK and in some other parts of the world, contests are often also referred to as "Competitions".

And just to add to the confusion, sponsors will somtimes refer to their contests as "Giveaways", even though some other giveaways are actually "Freebies", where the first X number of people to send in their information will automatically receive the giveaway item.

The key is to read the rules carefully before entering, so you know precisely what it is that you're getting yourself into.
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How can I tell if I'm eligible to enter a contest?

For most well-managed contests the rules should be very clear about eligibility requirements, so be sure to read them.

If eligibility is vague, and they don't explicitly say so one way or the other, then it's generally safe to enter. It's up to you if you want to take the "risk".

"Void where prohibited" would generally be interpreted to mean jurisdictions such as Quebec.

Also when eligibility is based on geography it's usually "residency" that matters. So for example if you're a U.S. citizen, but living permanently in Canada then you'll be able to enter Canada-only contests, but not U.S.-only contests.
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Why do many contests exclude Quebec residents?

The main reasons are:
  1. language and marketing. The firm may not operate in QC due to differences in language, culture and marketing, and therefore there's no point in offering a contest there, or else they have a different marketing strategy and holds other promotions that are open to QC residents only.
  2. the rules set out by the Régie des alcools des courses et des jeux (the Quebec regulatory agency that's tasked with providing oversight over all contests run in the province). Many companies can't be bothered with the time, effort, and expense of complying with those rules, so instead of running afoul of the Régie, some contests will just exclude QC residents entirely. For more details on the Régie's contest requirements, see here: http://www.mcmillan.ca/Files/FortuitousEvents_0610.pdf
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(Thank you to hoob for contributing the original material that went into this new section. I've edited it for length and made a few minor additions - Ed.)

What are Voting and Judging contests, and should I enter them?

Voting contests depend entirely on an entrant's ability to gain support from the pool of eligible voters. In an ideal situation, the highest quality submission will also be the one that garners the most votes, but that's not always the case. In practice most vote competitions come down to a simple popularity contest, and the winners are those who are best able to promote their contest entry and marshal the voting power of their network of contacts. Inexperienced entrants and those with small networks are at a decided disadvantage when competing against veteran entrants who are skilled, dedicated, and highly experienced in promoting their contest entries.

Furthermore, while the majority of voting contest participants are honest, there is much controversy over the alleged tactics used by small numbers of vote contesters and suspicions abound of such activities as vote buying, vote trading, fake voters, co-operative voting groups, and votes from ineligible voters.

As noted elsewhere in this FAQ, vote solicitation is prohibited by RFD Forum rules.

Judged contests are competitions where the winners are selected based on the merit of their contest submissions, by a (panel of) judge(s) appointed by the contest's promoter. Each submission is evaluated using criteria defined by the promoter, and details of these should be clearly stated in the rules. The evaluation criteria are typically weighted between the quality and creativity of the submission, and the submission's relevance to the promotion's theme. Judged contest entries usually require the submission of a creative work, such as photos, stories or essays, or possibly complex requirements such as video diaries or travelogues.

For those contests that are judged competently and impartially, a genuine submission can legitimately win on its merits by impressing the judge(s) with its quality, creativity, and adherence to theme. The issue is that it's difficult to be certain if the judging process is carried out competently, impartially and as described in the contest rules (assuming the criteria are described at all).

The advantage to judged contests is that those with high barriers to entry such as very specific or complex submission and judging requirements will have far fewer entries to compete against, increasing the likelihood that your entry will stand out. However, because the process is non-random, an element of bias may be introduced by the judges whether deliberately or subconsciously. Furthermore, while most contest promoters and entrants are honest, there have been cases of biased judging with winners being friends / family members / employees of the judges and/or promoters. In some cases entries have been plagiarised, and in others the judging criteria have been changed post-submission.

Finally, some contests may combine both judging and voting. In some contests judges will narrow down the submissions to a small pool of finalist entries which are then voted-upon, while in others the public vote will determine the pool of finalist entries from which the judges select the winner.

Either way, voting and judging contests require a major commitment of both time and effort, and you need to decide for yourself if it's worth putting in that time and effort without knowing for sure that a level playing field exists.
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Should I open a contest form by clicking on the link from the contest post, or should I copy and paste my own url?

It's usually safe to open a contest entry form by clicking on the link in the contest form thread, but some sponsors are picky about that. Some will even say in the rules that "linking to a sweepstakes site is prohibited". So just to be safe, it's probably best to save the link elsewhere (like in a spreadsheet or WORD document, or in a bookmark/favorites menu) and then open the entry form from there.
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When entering a contest, what/how much information should I provide?

Provide everything that's explicitly required on the form, and nothing more. There's already more than enough of your personal information floating around out there.

Regarding your date-of-birth, a contest sponsor really only needs to know that you're old enough to enter their contest if there's an explicit age restriction. Feel free to "fudge" (but not outright lie) - for example if you DOB is October 31, 1985 then put in October 13, 1985 - so if they ever call you on it you can just claim that it was a typo (transposition error).

If the entry requires your address, then it's a good idea to put an address that will be able to accept deliveries. Although in most cases sponsors will contact you to verify delivery address, in many cases prizes just show up unannounced so you shouldn't use a fake.
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Should I get a cell phone just for contest use?

It's not necessary, but there are certain advantages to having a separate phone number from your home or work:
  • if an entry form requires a phone number, then you have an alternative to providing your home number
  • if the sponsor is unable to contact you via email, it provides an alternate method of contact
  • if you get a call, then you know it's contest related
  • if you move or change jobs, your number stays with you
  • these usually come with voice-mail, which is useful if you don't have voice-mail or an answering machine at home or at work
  • in cases where it's optional to provide a phone number, then you can feel safe in providing your contest phone instead of your home phone
It's easy to get a cheap basic phone with prepaid credit, here are a couple to consider: Note that basic providers such as Petro-Canada or Speakout don't support many SMS "short code" contest entries (for example text: "HAVEN" to 12345), but fortunately SMS contest entries are still small in number.
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Should I get a separate email address for contesting?

It's not necessary, but it's a good idea. Some advantages are:
  • if you choose to opt in to newsletters, you won't see your personal or work email getting filled with spam (solicited or not)
  • if you get a yahoo!, gmail, hotmail (or similar) account, not only is it free, but as long as you have internet access then you'll have access to your email
  • you keep your free emails for life (or as long as the email service still exists). On the other hand, if you change ISPs or jobs (assuming your work even provides an email) you might find yourself scrambling to transition your contests. Worst case scenario, you lose access to an email address and then you win a contest.
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How do I keep track of what contests I'm entering (or have already entered)?

There are many ways, and you'll have to decide what's best for you. These are some of the more common methods:
  • recording them in a document (e.g. Excel/Word/Outlook)
  • recording them in your email (for example, Hotmail/Gmail/Yahoo), so as long as you have internet access you also have access to your links.
  • recording them in a Sweepstakes software, for example: http://www.wavget.com/sweep.html
  • saving them in Roboform or Lastpass (see: "Form Fillers", below)
  • bookmark your repetitive (i.e. Daily/Weekly/etc.) contests in your browser. You can group them in different bookmark folders (for example 25 contests in each, organised however you like), and then launch each folder separately.
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Should I use a form filler?

The two most common form-filling software programs are "Roboform" (http://www.roboform.com/) and "Lastpass" (http://lastpass.com/). They weren't originally designed for contest use (the intended use is as a password store), but it didn't take long for Contesters to figure out that they could save a lot of time by using them to fill all of their contest entry forms instead of having to type each one by hand. RF and LP have both free and paid versions.

You could also the auto-complete that comes with most modern browsers, although some work better than others.

Some contests prohibit the use of form-fillers, but there's a lot of debate on whether or not form-fillers are really detectable. So the best thing to do is to be careful of when you use a form-filler: either don't use them in contests where it's use is specifically prohibited, or else don't automate your contest submissions - if a sponsor can see that you're entering their contest within 0.5 seconds of the form opening on your browser, then it's a pretty good bet that you're using a form-filler. This pretty much goes for using any software or scripting.
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Do people entering via the "no-purchase-necessary" mail-in method ever win?

If a contest is truly random, then it shouldn't matter whether you got that contest PIN from buying a pizza deal, or by requesting one through the mail. But that doesn't stop sponsors from barriers to entry by asking you to write a 500 word essay, or including a 9" x 12" self-addressed stamped envelope with your submission. And of course, you still have to deal with the vagaries of Canada Post.

Also, beware that contests which allow mail-in entries will often have different (usually earlier) entry deadlines, so make sure you're clear on the deadlines before you put that envelope in the mail.
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How many contests is "a lot" - should I be entering more of them? / How much time should I spend entering contests?
  • Some people enter every day, 365 days a year; others only enter contests sporadically.
  • Some people enter every contest they come across and are eligible for; others are extremely selective.
  • Some people enter every type of contest; others only enter single-entry contests.
In short, that's totally up to you. It's whatever you're happy/comfortable with (and have the time to spare).

There is no "right" amount of time. It's whatever you feel comfortable with, and that you can spare. The most time consuming part of contesting is reading through the rules and understanding the mechanics when you come across a new contest.

If you're efficient with your contests, you could probably go through a hundred "Daily" entries in an hour. If you automate, you can go many times faster (keeping in mind the risk of disqualification). For many contesters, spending 1-2 hours a day entering contests is pretty reasonable.

Then there are some people for whom contesting is their entire life, see examples here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqfBCGyfp8g#t=1626s (the show is from the U.S., but the video link will take you directly to the only Canadian featured on the show).
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What are my odds of winning?

That depends entirely on the contest.

With most contests, the odds of winning are based solely on the number of entries received - so the more entries that are received, the worse your odds are of winning. So for example the odds of winning a well-publicized national contest with a large prize and low barriers to entry would have much worse odds than an obscure local contest with a small prize, that requires you to write a 500 word essay and then submit it by mail. However regardless of the number of entries submitted, these contests are guaranteed to have a winner.

Estimates vary, but consider that if only 1 in 10,000 adult Canadians entered a single-entry Canada-only contest, there would already be at least 2,600 entries. Of course, your odds of winning a U.S.-based (but Canada eligible) or International contest would be proportionately worse. That's not to say it's impossible to win one a U.S. or International contest - just be sure to manage your expectations and keep things realistic. Also, if a contest allows repetitive entries (e.g. Daily entry) the advantage obviously goes to those contesters with the time and organization to be able to enter every day during the contest period. Single entry contests tend to level the playing field somewhat.

Instant Win contests run somewhat differently - in most cases an "IWG" will have a pre-determined time (or times) each day of the contest period, and the person entering closest to that time will be the instant winner.

In contrast, a very small number of contests will have fixed odds of winning a prize. For example a contest may state that a random number will be generated at the end of the contest out of 100,000,000. An entrant will only be selected as the winner if the number assigned to their entry matches the randomly generated number. In these types of contest, there's no guarantee that the contest will produce a winner. This is similar to say Lotto 6/49 where a ticket holder only wins if they're in possession of that lucky 1 in 13,983,816 sequence of numbers. An example would be some (but not all) of the Reader's Digest contests - you'll need to read the rules carefully to determine which type of contest it is.

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