In light of the apparent rash of abandoned contests I have participated in recently (most of My Shortlist was "suspended" or "abandoned" at one point), I decided that I wanted to do some research into these deadbeat contest holders and see if there were any things I could have done to avoid the frustration of seeing one contest after another become abandoned. Of course there is almost nothing any of us can do to keep a contest from being abandoned. However I think there may be some ways to identify potentially risky contest holders and know when to skip a contest because of those risks.
I haven't exactly thought of a laundry list of tips, but I have a few tips I'd share, and hope that maybe other people have found ways of reducing the level of risk they subject themsleves to in contests that they might want to add.
• Check the domain - It may seem obvious to some, but this is something I just recently began doing and wish I had done in the past. If someone is running a contest for XYZ Media, see if xyzmedia.com (or .net, .co.uk, etc) have been purchased. More often than I expected, I found that people were running contests for companies with names whose domains had not been purchased. I even found one contest where the person wanted a specific domain name included in the logo, yet they hadn't purchased that domain name. And guess what... the contest was abandoned, as were the other ones where a contest was held for a domain name that was not purchased. If someone can't bother to buy a domain name, how can they be expected to go through with paying the winner of a contest?
This info also might be interesting to anyone burned by a particular contest holder. I won't advocate doing this, but if you felt inclined to get a little revenge on a deadbeat CH, you might hit GoDaddy and scoop up that un-purchased domain name.
• Check the history - While the new contests system doesn't count contest posts against your post count (and subsequently prevents searches for past posts in contests), you can sometimes still find a contest holder by searching for their username in the main contests area.
You might think that a CH who abandons a contest would simply sign up a new username if they want to run a new contest. While sometimes that is true, I was amazed to find that a good number of deadbeat CHs don't even bother to create a new username after abandoning a contest. Sometimes a quick search for a username will reveal past contests that were suspended, abandoned, or cancelled, and this info can be very useful in deciding if you wish to enter a contest.
Sadly enough, some SitePoint veterans have been guilty of abandoning contests. Do your homework before entering, even if the CH has 1000+ posts. Their past actions in contests should speak louder than their post count.
• Search for the company name - One way to potentially identify a past deadbeat CH using a new username is to search for the company name being used in the contest. You might find that a contest has already been run by a different user for the exact same company name. This is not a 100% guarantee that the new user is the same person as the old one, but it does give you something else to think about before you put any time into crafting your entry (if you decide to go ahead and enter).
• Keep a list (mental or physical) of people to avoid - Sometimes you can spot a username you recognize from a past contest and immediately know to avoid that person. Keeping a list of contests you've been burned in could help, too. I have a list I've compiled myself that I won't post publicly, but it is available online and anyone interested can PM me for the link.
Have any other ideas on how to look for pitfalls in contests? Let me know and I'll add them to this list.
I also think this discussion reinforces my claim that a new forum is needed for these sorts of discussions. Maybe through sharing ideas like this, we can finally do something about the abandoned contests.
yeh ditto these suggestions, but also I look at when the person joined...it doesnt tell you everything, but it does tell you if a person has been around and browsed the contests, gotten to know the community, or just created an account to start a BS contest.