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Monday, August 30, 2010

SPOTLIGHT FEATURE- Up Close and Personal with August Mistral and Casey Caerndow- Owners of 95,000l Diamonds Model/Photo Contest, The Longest Running Photo Contest in Second Life.- Lanai Jarrico Reporting...

Staff Reporter
• Monday, August 30, 2010
There are a lot of contest going on in Second Life, from treasure hunts to best in whatever theme Contest hosts can think of but what separates this contest from all the others, is the fantastic prizes, unbiased judging panel , the attention to detail and fairness along with great customer service. Something that is hard to find all in one place.


Lanai: I notice that August, you have been in second life just as long as I have (2005) and Casey you have only been here since 2008. What brought you two to Second Life?
August Mistral: My son wanted me to set up an account and camp and give him the lindens, so I did
casey Caerndow: A friend of mine invited me to see Second Life so I looked it up and decided to try it

Lanai: Would you consider SL an extension of your real lives?

casey Caerndow: Yes I would

Lanai: What about you August?
August Mistral: Yes. DL is very much a part of my FL. I spend time here, I meet people, I fell in love with Casey, we work together, we play together, we talk and laugh, and we do interviews...Hee hee

Lanai What do you both do here?

August Mistral: We spend almost all our time together, most of it working on the contests lately
casey Caerndow: I do some building, trying to learn about sculpting, I spend a lot of my time dancing and working with August. We spend all of our time together. We both have somewhat separate areas of the contests on which we work. Yes, we're in love. When we work, we are usually dancing. When we go somewhere, we always go together. Casey is responsible for all the building and administration.

Lanai: I think that is very sweet to have found your perfect partner in business and in love here

August Mistral: She takes care of the shops and ad boards and people who rent them and handles the prize games, the mini-contests. I mostly work on note cards and how to drum up business.
Lanai: When did you meet and what made you decide to Establish Diamonds Model/Photo Contests?

August Mistral: We met at another contest in Jan, 2009 and started talking and dating. We had an amazing connection right from the start. I started Diamonds in February 2009. I proposed to Casey in April and we became partners and we were married in July. We became partners in Diamonds sometime in Feb or Mar, I think.
casey Caerndow: We have been very happy together

Lanai : aww congrats!

August Mistral: I have more; I'll let Casey talk a bit Hee hee

Lanai: lol ok
casey Caerndow: hahaha

Lanai: have something to add Casey?

casey Caerndow: August pretty much said it all! Except for the part where I chased her all over SL
August Mistral: ha ha ha

Lanai: lol

August Mistral: I'm glad you caught me

casey Caerndow: Me too!

August Mistral: I'm sorry I said it all, baby, I'll let you do more of the talking...but I didn't fully answer your question, Lanai

casey Caerndow: You’re a wonderful talker baby

Lanai Jarrico: its ok you answered it fine. How would you define yourself as a team? And what do you thinkis the key to maintaining a successful business like yours?
August Mistral: Baby?

casey Caerndow: We make a great team we both have different qualities. August is the brains; she knows how to run a business very well.
August Mistral: Awwww. Thank you, baby

casey Caerndow: She gives me ideas and I run with them:). Your welcome.

August Mistral: Yes, Casey is a very hard worker! She works miracles! She takes the ball and runs all the way to the goal line.
casey Caerndow: Hahaha

August Mistral: Without Casey, nothing would get done. I have the ideas and she makes it all happen!

casey Caerndow: Not true it takes both of us
August Mistral: We complement each other very well and "successful" is a vague term.

Lanai: why? Being happy can be a success
August Mistral: If successful means enjoying our work and each other, then we are more successful beyond dreams

Lanai: well said

August Mistral: Money is how some people judge success. We lose a little money some months, make a little some months. We NEVER stress over money or work. We are very happy with our contests.
Lanai : I think that is sad when people judge your success based on how much money you have. It’s a good thing you don't let it determine who you are and what you do here.

August Mistral: Right.

Lanai: How long has Diamonds been around? You have two different contests, Diamonds and Rubies. Can you explain each contest?
casey Caerndow: Diamonds was started in February 2009

August Mistral: Diamonds had a format similar to almost all other contests: run for a month, have prizes for voted, one prize for judged. I felt that some people would like a shorter contest. Rubies started with contests that ran only two weeks. It had smaller prizes and we ran two a month. It was very hard to administer, so we changed it to three week, for about a year.
Lanai Jarrico: How did that work out?

August Mistral: No one seemed to appreciate the shorter format, so starting in Sep it will run for an entire month. The number of judged winners increased in Oct, to two at each contest. In January, the judged winners increased to five.

Lanai: Did you create your own contest system? How does it work?

August Mistral: We kept contacting the creator of the voting system for improvements. About November she said she was retiring.

Lanai: oh no

August Mistral: We bought the system from her and we have full, exclusive resale rights. We hope to continue to improve it and we are trying to find a scripter.

Lanai: I was going to ask if you created the system

August Mistral: No. Casey takes care of all sales and administration now. I contact scripters with ideas of how we want it improved.

Lanai: Can you explain how it works?
August Mistral: Most contests are basically the same... Photos are set up and people can vote for the photos of their choice. The number of times they can vote can be adjusted to once a week, once a day, or unlimited. The minimum vote can also be set. And Administrators can be designated.

Lanai: Is it one vote per avie that registers or can that be changed?

August Mistral: One avie can vote for many contestants. If voting is set to once a day, then one avie can vote for any one contestant only once a day. Avies can still vote for multiple contestants.
The system automatically makes all calculations. Votes and lindens are recorded and displayed for all to see and an administrator stops the contest at the designated time. Prizes are then paid.

Lanai: that’s a good thing, so contestants know where they rank

 August Mistral: Yes, sometimes we have quite a "race". It is really a lot of fun!

Lanai: Sounds like it! So, You have this system for sale as well as using it for your own Contests, What options do you have to offer your clients?

August Mistral: They have all we administrative options we do. We offer a 100-seat edition and a 20-seat edition for less. We offer full support in helping them get their contests started

Lanai: can you list the prices?

August Mistral: Yes, Casey?

casey Caerndow: The 100 photo addition is 3500L
casey Caerndow: The 20 photo addition is 1500L
Lanai: What is the Grand Prize to winners and how often are these contests run?

August Mistral: Yes, at both Diamonds and Rubies, the biggest prize is having you photo in next year's calendar. Casey, would you like to describe our non-cash prizes?

casey Caerndow: Also our contest only uses 7 primes for the contest leader board, plus each photo
August Mistral: Yes!

Lanai: oh a low prim system that’s good to know!

August Mistral: Lower prims than anyone and no lag!!!

casey Caerndow: We have beautiful photo albums for the winner of both Voted and Judged

August Mistral: Casey makes them herself!!

Lanai: Awesome. So you make albums of all the contests too?

casey Caerndow: Yes

Lanai: cool and calendars of all the monthly winners?

August Mistral: We will have 4 calendars: Diamonds Judged, Diamonds Voted, and same for Rubies and Yes, just the #1 winners in the calendars.

Lanai: oh I see

August Mistral: All 10-16 judged winners and all 15 voted winners receive the photo albums. Then we also have cash prizes. 95,000L total

Lanai: wow that is a nice amount of lindens for a contest. Do you pick themes or let your contestants decide?

August Mistral: We decide the themes almost a year in advance. A contestant can certainly suggest a theme. Casey also makes calendars for the next year. We will have 4 calendars: Diamonds Judged, Diamonds Voted, and same for Rubies. Just the #1 winners are in the calendars.

Lanai: Do you repeat themes?

August Mistral: Yes, it would be impossible not repeat themes after being around for a while. Many contests have Christmas as a theme every December, and we will have that theme for a second time this year. We're planning something else for next December.
Lanai: So, who judges your contests?

August Mistral: In the past, we have had the photos judged by peers. Right away we started added a panel of unbiased judges. Also, we encourage the judged winners of previous contests to make selections. We have a lot of input, and they often select more than one photo at each. 
Lanai: Would the 95,000 be split between the winners?
August Mistral: Yes, to 15 voted and 10 judged. If we have more than 10 judged, which we often do, that is extra.

Lanai: Do you have a contest going on now? If so, how can people join it?

August Mistral: We have two contests going all the time. People can enter the contests by joining the Diamond group and dropping a photo on either Casey or me.

Lanai: Some people aren’t photographers but may want to enter. Do you provide a service for taking their photos for them? If so who does them and what is the fee?

August Mistral: We have a staff of photographers who will take their photos for free
Lanai: that's a great service

August Mistral: Yes, a lot of people like that

casey Caerndow: Plus we have a photo studio if people want to take there own photos. That is free to use also.

Lanai: Let’s lay the negative thoughts about Photo Contests to rest. I remember when Photo Contests were new and growing in popularity a couple of years back. A lot of people really got into them as a quick way to make money. Do you feel that Photo Contest still have that same stigma of being a popularity contest and a sham by using alts to collect extra votes. What do you think about the negative responses to these types of contests?

August Mistral: I remember when contests started becoming popular, too. They started out as vote for the best photo; People were encouraged to have their friends vote. The contests became popularity contests, not judged on best photos. Then people started using alts to vote. Contest owners tried to combat that several ways. Ultimately, unlimited voting is the most fair and that is how most contests are run today AND...A big thing to me is getting back to the judged. That is why we have so many judged winners, with great prizes!!! Many girls enter just for the judged portion. They need no votes, no lindens, no work, and no friends! Just a great photo!!! By the way...We were one of the pioneers of unlimited voting...And the first I know of to have 2 judged winners. And still the only one to have five judged BOTH contests!

Lanai: Let’s Say I wanted to create a contest of my own, what would you recommend I do first to ensure the contest runs smoothly and there are no issue?

August Mistral: You need to plan it just like any other business. You need a place for it. You need to promote it. You also need to remember that you will not get contestants without going out to get them. So, the build might take a week, the promotion three weeks.

Lanai: You advertise 95,000L every month to a winner of your Diamond Photo/Model Contest. This is a substantial amount of Lindens to give away each month. What is the average amount of Lindens that can be made, hosting these Photo Contests?

August Mistral: We probably average a profit of less than 2000L a month, and it is a lot of work. We do it because we enjoy it. There are others who make a lot of money, and that is their objective. It is not ours. We want to concentrate on the judged, which is unprofitable

Lanai: But do you at least break even?

August Mistral: Overall, yes.
Lanai: What separates Diamonds from all those other Photo Contest in SL?

August Mistral: Several things differentiate us from the others.

casey Caerndow: We do run a fair and honest contest, and we try to make things fun for our contestants and we have mini parties with live DJ's and have free prizes for people who are present at the parties.
August Mistral: We are one of the biggest with the winnings in the voted and a lot of people like that, plus, we aren't going to run away with the prize money! I tell people to watch for red flags and enter those contests cautiously if there are any red flags. One red flag is a huge prize for #1, like 100,000, if the owner has an empty profile and another red flag is high entry fee and high minimum vote, like 100 to enter, 25 to vote would start to be high. Some contests you have to buy a 500L outfit from the owner to enter. Well, that's a 500L entry fee! Unless, you want to buy the outfit anyway.

Lanai: If there is anything else you wish to say to our readers about your Contests and packages I may have missed?

August Mistral: We like to focus on contests that are fun, fair, and exciting, whether they are interested in judged or voted. Also, you could win both at the same time! Our hearts are dedicated to that goal. I think our contestants can see that in a lot of nuances.

Lanai: I’m going to close out this interview with my final though. After meeting you two, I have to say, you are running a great contest business and your customer service is very well presented.
Usually, when I purchase an item or visit a location, I’m not greeted or even personally IMed by the owner to thank me for my business. It is certainly not against the SL law or expected but it shows Great Customer Service and that you really care about your clients.
Thank you for taking time out of your day for this interview, it was a pleasure and I wish you both the best of luck with Diamonds.
casey Caerndow: Thank you, Lanai

August Mistral: This was our pleasure and our honor, Lanai! And apart from the interview...we'll be glad to help you with your own system when you are ready.

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