May 9, 2008

TBWP - An Interview

Just yesterday, after finding out about it through a friend, I blogged about why I liked the idea behind "The Big Word Project".

Finding myself having some troubles with a word I wanted to buy, I contacted them and I got a pretty quick response.
We started exchanging emails back and forward and as I am always interested in how ideas are born, I ended up asking the guys (Lee and Paddy, the ones in the picture) if they would agree to an interview via email.
They agreed to answer my questions... and (insert here music of Law and Order) this is their story:

Was this born out of boredom, the need to make some bucks or....?
- Lee: Paddy and I both studied the same under grad course and we've been thinking of different projects for years but we never got round to implementing them. We incorporated TBWP into our course so that we would have the time. I guess you could say it partly down to University research and partly high student debts :-)

How you came up with the idea? Was it deliberately (where you searching for something like this) or just appeared brainstorming about something else?
- Paddy: We always knew that we needed a mass collaboration project where thousands of people contribute a small amount of money/effort to make it work. One day we just thought, why not sell the words of the dictionary?!

Is it in any way connected to your Master?
- Lee: Yeah, we thought of the idea and then thought we could incorporate it as part of our Masters as a mini-project (that grew into a big-project). I was researching web applications and Paddy viral marketing so it fitted in nicely.
- Paddy: We have been able to gain so much knowledge from this project and also obtain a whole wealth of contacts to avail of in future projects. Our project management skills have been vastly improved which has really helped us to structure and carry out other Masters projects.

I noticed that some words are going to sites that are under construction or parked. You are not filtering at all the content or do you have some type of filter (i.e. porno) but you still allow parked sites just because they pay?
- Paddy: We go through all the websites submitted to The Big Word Project and flag any ones that contain obscene/ offensive/ adult content. We offer them the chance to change their link or a full refund. So far the website hasn't seen that many pornographic sites submitted. Yeah, we allow parked sites, a lot of people see a word that would be perfect for their site but their site is still in production so parked site's are fine.

Are the words pre-approved (you have a list and what is not there can't be use) and therefore finite? Or ANYTHING that is in a dictionary can go there?

- Lee: Not at all, anything that's a real word can be used. We're using the Oxford English Dictionary as reference. We have about 180,000 words on the site but we're missing loads so feel free to suggest more. We're not including places or names (unless the name is in the dictionary).

Have you been surprised for the response so far? Have you ever make any assumptions at the beginning of how large could be the demand for words and therefore how much money can be made?
- Paddy: We have been amazed at the response so far! The site really took off after 3 days when John Gruber mentioned us and has grown since then. We've been blogged about more than 250 times (that we know about) and we're continuing to sell words everyday. We just passed the 4,000 mark so we're really pleased! If we sell all the words that are currently in our list we could potentially make around $1.5Million. Who knows, we may get there yet!
- Lee: That would be nice :-)

I guess that if you are approving the sites, you have seen so far around 4000 sites. Anyone that caught your eye?
- Lee: Oh yeah, there's loads of interesting sites out there that we've come across. Visit our blog to see what interesting sites we come across. Everything from racoons to foot fetish sites are among the words. Some words that link to 'big' sites include 'skins', 'treacle', 'movie' and 'brick'.

So this is the idea in their own words. If you still haven't visit The Big Word Project, check it out... and let me know if you can avoid the temptation of clicking on every word, just to see what website is behind it!


Lee said...

Looks great Sandra! Pleasure doing the interview.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to own "shit" but unfortunately it was taken. I was surprised to see "horseshit" as a suggested alternative. Now I am well aware what "horseshit" means, but I had to check Old Oxford for that one. Wasn't there. Now I think it's horseshit that it didn't make that dictionary, but I thought that was your rule that it be in that dictionary.