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The Million Dollar Blog

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Wednesday 22nd February 2006

Live online Q&A

Tomorrow, Thursday 23rd Feb, I will answer questions in a live Q&A session on the Financial Times website between 1pm and 2pm GMT.

More info and details on how to submit questions at www.ft.com/tew (my answers will also be published on that page, some may even make it into Friday's edition of the newspaper itself).

This is a great opportunity to get a question to me (and answered) without sending a message to my overflowing inbox (currently 5,039 unread e-mails in there!). The more unique/thought-provoking the question the more likely it will get asked, so get your thinking caps on. See you tomorrow afternoon!

Posted by Alex @ 11:20pm

Sunday 19th February 2006

Bmm ksshh!

Ok, so it took a little longer than 7 days to get back online. Apologies, particularly to the blog-addicts. No more promises about when new blog entries will come - I will simply update as often as possible, when I feel like I've got something worth saying. I'm a big fan of the idea of 'quality not quantity', eg. I'd rather have something interesting to say not-very-often as opposed to not-much-to-say all-of-the-time. The best thing to do to be kept up-to-date on important news is by joining my mailing list, members of which I treat to sporadic newsletters.

Alex Tew with German TV crew, from RTL

Ok, some news. Well, rather predictably, things have been constantly busy; I've been rushing around meeting all sorts of different people for all sorts of different reasons, in all sorts of places. That's in between a seemingly never-ending stream of interviews, eg. German TV (RTL) last Tuesday at home. So yeah, it's been quite hectic during the week, although I have managed to spend the last two weekends (including this one) back up in Nottingham seeing my friends from University, which has been great.

Infact, just this Friday gone I attended the midlands heat of the UK Beatbox Championship, organised by HumanBeatbox.com, the site I founded 4 years ago at school (I no longer run it though). Shouts to organiser Shlomo and my man Ean who judged the competition (and to Petebox for winning). I even dropped a few beats myself, which was cool despite not having performed on-stage for around 18 months. If you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, check this Wikipedia article.

Back in pixel-world the site has continued to receive an average of around 22,000 unique visitors every day in the last 2 weeks, which is pretty incredible considering most people thought the number of visitors would instantly drop after I sold the final pixels on the homepage. Sure, visitor numbers will likely tail-off as time goes on, however for the moment the site is still really busy, and it's my opinion that the site will continue to receive a steady, but probably smaller, stream of visitors forever more.

I'm still getting hundreds of new e-mails each week, and trying my best to at least read them, although even that is proving difficult given how busy things are. Once again, please bear with me as I try to get through the backlog of messages. Oh, and a quick reminder to reserved-pixel owners: please get your images in by March 8th - the deadline for reserved pixels to be filled, as stated in previous blog entry.

Final thing for now, check out this recent interview where I talk about how I hope to follow-up the success of this site...

Posted by Alex @ 11:46pm

Sunday 5th February 2006

Animated homepage, pixels deadline, future thoughts

Woah. That was quite a wait for the latest blog entry eh... almost 2 weeks infact. Well a lot has been happening and I'm only seeming to get busier, so what I'm going to do is aim for weekly blog updates from now on (less frequent but hopefully more substantial). So for those of you blog-addicts who can't help but check every day, be safe in the knowledge that on the 7th day of clicking there should be some news from me!

Ok, so what's new? Well, aside from the usual (thousands of e-mails, phone glued to ear, various meetings with various people, media interviews, pondering the nature of existence etc.), my man Gav has come up with an awesome animated graphic showing the development of the homepage, from start to finish. Here it is, in full technicolor glory (click to see a bigger version):

It's quite fascinating to watch how the ads have built up over time; I'm sure for academic-minded folks it could make for interesting study (eg. why the distribution of pixels took place in the way that it did). Speaking of pixels, you may remember that I said a deadline would be announced for reserved pixels to be filled. Well, here it is!

Reserved Pixels Deadline: Wednesday 8th March 2006

That gives reserved-pixel owners just over one month from now to supply their images. If images are not supplied by the above deadline, we will fill the reserved blocks with images of our choosing. So please, send your images in ASAP. I would also like to give a friendly reminder to existing pixel owners that you cannot change your images or links (however, if you think your pixels might potentially be infringing a 3rd party's trademark, as some pixels in the past have, please let us know immediately).

Ok, so enough of the official ramblings. How am I feeling? Well, a little more chilled out. Only a little though. There's a lot going on, everything is still hectic, but I'm starting to get more organised, particularly with the help of my family (my mum is now my part-time PA, and I also now employ my older brother Nick, full time). Aside from trying to work out what just happened to my life, I'm also beginning to develop a vision for my future. It's fun - there's a lot of excitement amidst the chaos!

There really are so many interesting doors open now, that it's a matter of deciding which ones to walk through. I guess it's quite an intense period of soul-searching: exactly what do I want to do with my life? Of course, that's a very difficult question to answer, but I think I've got some idea of where I want to be heading.

Unfortunately right now I can't be more specific about some of the things that I will be getting up to in the coming year. But trust me, there is some really cool stuff in the pipeline. You will of course have to keep checking this blog to be kept up-to-date! But yeah, I really hope you will continue to share this journey with me, it's only just starting... ;)

Hehe, don't you just love corny lines!?

Posted by Alex @ 10:57pm

Monday 23rd January 2006

Writing an eBook

Far from everything quietening down now the homepage is effectively complete (all one million pixels sold), things are as busy as ever. I'm aware that I've not updated the blog for a good few days, and my (fairly lame) excuse is that because so much has been happening, I thought I'd save everything up for a nice extensive blog entry. Hmm... sure thing Alex!

The first thing to say is that although all the pixels are now sold, I will be continuing to update my blog with news for the foreseeable future. I will continue to provide updates about the site and I will also give you news about what's going on in my life (eg. new projects, sock purchases etc.). There's loads of cool stuff coming up in 2006 - one thing in particular I will talk about later on in this very blog entry (hint: look at the title of this blog entry).

Oh yeah, regarding that picture of me above, I was going to change it because I'm not a great fan of the whole 'I'm not a geek, look at my big arms!' pose (I promise though, they are not photoshopped - everyone's arms look bigger when folded), however, because I think that photo is now an intrinsic part of this blog, I will be leaving it there forever, to go down in web history like the rest of the site, regardless of how much it will taunt me for the rest of my days.

Ok, some proper news now. The site has been incredibly busy in terms of traffic since it came back online after the extorsion/DDoS attack. There have been over 1.1 million unique visitors to the site since Wednesday 18th Jan, when I last updated the blog. That means that in the last 4 weeks (including the 6 days of downtime from the attack), there have been over 4.3 million unique visitors. Which is pretty incredible. I expect the traffic will begin to tail off now the homepage is full, however I do have a few cool ideas to keep the site interesting in the future (aside from this blog, which may or may not be interesting).

As for me, I've spent the last week doing a whole load more press interviews, so no change there. Most notably, last Friday I appeared once again on Richard & Judy here in the UK (to update them on the site attack), and today I did a live link-up from London to the US, for ABC News. I've also been meeting lots of interesting people recently, for instance last week I attended a young entrepreneur event laid on by Simon Woodroofe, founder of the successful Yo! Sushi chain (and of BBC Dragon's Den fame). It was a great experience to meet Simon and lots of interesting young people who are successful in business. I imagine it will be the first of many such encounters.

Now time for my first proper announcement regarding my next steps...

I am happy to confirm that I am starting work on an eBook - my aim being to share the experience I've been through in much greater detail, and share some of the business and life lessons I've learnt along the way. I'll also describe in much greater detail how I arrived at my 'million dollar idea', and how you too can come up with a great business idea (and crucially, put it into action). I will also provide insight into some of my marketing 'secrets' that made The Million Dollar Homepage so successful.

Overall my eBook will be a fine blend of telling my story and providing useful advice and information for aspiring entrepreneurs (and established entrepreneurs, too). Don't get me wrong, I'm still learning new things every day, I just feel that I've learnt so many important things over the last 5 months that they are worth sharing in-depth. I'm starting work on my eBook this month and I hope to publish it prior to my 22nd birthday, which is in June. To be kept-up-to-date about developments, please keep checking this blog, or join the mailing list.

Finally, on the site, I can confirm that a deadline for reserved pixels on the homepage to be filled will be announced soon. So reserved-pixel owners, please get your images ready if you havn't already. I want the homepage to be fully completed so it can be frozen in time - no further changes permitted - in order to take up its place as a piece of internet history; like an internet time capsule. I think it will be fascinating to look at the homepage image in say, 20 years time, and see how the internet has changed since 2006...

Pixel on!

Posted by Alex @ 11:14pm

Wednesday 18th January 2006

Site back online - hoorah!

Yes! The site is back online. But! Before I go into more details about the attack, I want to bring the focus back to last week's eBay auction of the last 1,000 pixels, which ended one week ago on Wednesday 11th January (unfortunately just prior to the DDoS attack on the site beginning).

So folks, please take a moment to congratulate Elijah Kliger of Brooklyn, NY, for becoming the proud owner of the last 1,000 pixels for his new site, MillionDollarWeightLoss.com, which sells a variety of weight-loss products and supplements. The winning bid was $38,100 - well done Elijah! His pixels, effectively the final piece of my 5-month pixel adventure, have now been uploaded to the homepage, as highlighted here:

The last 1,000 pixels were sold on eBay to MillionDollarWeightLoss.com

Regarding the attack on the site and the associated ransom demand, I'm happy to report that I did not pay a penny of the $50,000 that the perpetrators of this technological attack were after. I'm also happy to report the site is back online thanks to the great work of my hosting company, Sitelutions, and DDoS-prevention technology ProxyShield® provided courtesy of Gigeservers / DDoSprotection.com. Thanks guys, I appreciate your hard work in getting The Million Dollar Homepage back up and running again, after almost 6 days offline.

One more technical point: although the site is online again and seems to be operating fine, my host Sitelutions are still looking at various options to strengthen and guard the site for the long-term. All in all though, we're confident the site is now safe from this particular attack and all future attacks of this kind. Thanks though to all the different tech companies who have e-mailed offering their help and support, we'll be in touch if needs be. It is really nice that everyone has been so supportive.

On the legal side of things, I can confirm that the FBI are investigating the attack, and that is because my site is hosted on servers in the USA, where my hosting company, Sitelutions, are based. I'm also liasing with my local division of the National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) here in the UK. My fingers are crossed we catch those responsible for the site attack / blackmail, but I'm aware it can be very difficult to track these types of people down, because they know how to cover their [digital] tracks.

A side effect of this attack has been loads of new press coverage, eg. Financial Times, BBC, Forbes, MSNBC, ZDNet, ABC News, plus much more. This has meant over 350,000 people have visited the site today alone, and tomorrow (Thursday) will likely be even busier. Perhaps the attackers have inadvertantly done me a favour! That'll teach them. Of course though, I'd rather this situation had not occurred because it's not the smooth ending to the site I was hoping for, and I must be honest, it has created a great deal of stress and work for not only myself but a whole load of other people. But I guess it's just another twist in this crazy tale, and it's all a good learning experience. Stay positive, Alex, stay positive!

Anyway, I'm just glad to have the site back online and I apologise to all the advertisers on the homepage for the site downtime. However, I do hope all my customers will see that I acted in what I thought was the best way: to get the site back online without paying the ransom. What bothers me though, is why these tech-terrorists don't use their obvious computer skills for more constructive purposes? I'm sure they could use their knowledge and skills for more positive and profitable things.

Crime does not pay - creativity does!

Posted by Alex @ 11:50pm

Tuesday 17th January 2006

Site downtime, DDoS attack

I can confirm that MillionDollarHomepage.com has been subjected to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack by malicious hackers who have caused the site to be extremely slow loading or completely unavailable since last Thursday, 12th January 2006.

I can also confirm that a demand for a substantial amount of money was made which makes this a criminal act of extortion. The FBI are investigating and I'm currently working closely with my hosting company, Sitelutions, to bring the site back online as soon as possible. More news soon.

Posted by Alex @ 5:31pm

Friday 13th January 2006

eBay auction winner: MillionDollarWeightLoss.com

Congratulations to Elijah Kliger of Brooklyn, NY, for winning the eBay auction for the last 1,000 pixels, for his new site MillionDollarWeightLoss.com - an online store selling a variety of diet-related products. Mr Kliger, director of business development at firm Netnutri.com, is now the proud owner of the last piece of internet history! His pixels are the 'DIET' logo as shown below.

The last 1,000 pixels were sold on eBay to MillionDollarWeightLoss.com

I can confirm that full payment of US$38,100 has been received from Mr Kliger for last 1,000 pixels. Which means officially all one million pixels on the homepage have now been sold, with total income standing at US$1,037,100 - not bad for less than 5 months work! But it still hasn't sunk in yet, and I'm not sure when it will.

I will do a proper list of thank-yous in due course, but in the meantime a big thanks to all pixel-purchasers for seeing the potential in my idea, and to everyone who has supported me in my quest for a better bank balance, and er, better socks. It's been an amazing experience, and I look forward to writing about it in more depth and sharing some of the experiences I've had, and lessons I've learnt.

Oh yeah, a final quick note: MillionDollarWeightLoss.com is not owned, endorsed or sponsored by MillionDollarHomepage.com, for those of you who were wondering :)

Posted by Alex @ 9:31pm

Wednesday 11th January 2006

eBay auction Update

The auction for the last 1,000 pixels has ended! The winning bid was US $38,100.00 - there were higher bids made but these turned out to be non-serious bids so I removed them just prior to the auction ending. I will announce the winner once the full payment has been received. Stay tuned!

Posted by Alex @ 6:45pm

Tuesday 10th January 2006

Media treadmill, eBay auction countdown

The last two days have been absolutely non-stop! I've been in London doing a rapid succession of interviews with media from around the world. Yesterday morning started with a live interview on Bam Bam's breakfast show on Kiss FM (in the UK), where I was billed as a mystery guest, which was fun. But me, a mystery guest?! Things get crazier every day.

Alex Tew, with Richard & Judy, Jan 10th 2006 A load more interviews by phone and a few meetings with various interesting people took place throughout Monday, then in the afternoon I headed over to a TV studio in South-East London for a live interview on Richard & Judy. For those of you outside the UK, Richard & Judy are effectively known as the king and queen of daytime television here and are famous for their relaxed, friendly style of presenting. The interview was great - I certainly felt at ease despite being live to 2 million viewers, and I think that's all credit to Richard & Jusy for creating that relaxed, informal atmosphere. They also stayed after the show for a drink and a chat with all their guests, which was very courteous.

Today was also jam-packed, mixing TV interviews with German stations RTL and ZDF in between a plethora of phone interviews and a couple of face-to-face interviews for some magazines. I must apologise for not returning all the calls I've been receiving, it's been so busy it's unreal. To give you an idea, I would switch my phone off for an interview, then half an hour later switch it back on to find 12 messages on my voicemail. It can be quite overwhelming - I could do with a full-time PA!

The big article today was a follow-up by the Wall Street Journal, which is a really big deal (WSJ is read by over 2 million businesspeople worldwide). The article, which is also available online but only to WSJ.com subscribers, touched on how things have progressed in the last couple of months, including the impending end of the eBay auction. It also provided some insight into my daily routine and how things have changed for me as a result of the site's success.

Speaking of eBay, bids on the auction did hit over $160,000 but have since fallen back down to $140,300. This is due to bid retractions from a few bidders, for reasons unknown. Anyway, I am doing my best to keep the pre-approved bidders list to genuine bidders only, but I must admit it's difficult to know who is serious and who is not, without requiring some money up front, which gave me an idea. For high-profile/high-value auctions (or perhaps even all auctions), eBay could require a deposit from all potential bidders. eBay would hold these deposits until the end of the auction: the losing bidders would receive their money back in full, the winning bidder's deposit would go towards the final value of the item. This would require a certain degree of committment from users, and discourage fake bids. Just a thought.

Anyway, so the auction finishes tomorrow and the last 1,000 pixels will be sold! It will be exciting to watch what happens in the closing minutes of the auction, and I will do my very best to prevent anyone spoiling the fun with fake bids at the last minute, which is a possibility. Therefore, once the auction ends please give me at least 24 hours to confirm the winning bidder. I will not be announcing the winner until funds for the auction have been received in full so it may even take longer than 24 hours, but I will make updates on this blog after the auction ends and let you know what the latest news is.

It's hard to believe this little project of mine is entering it's final stages. One million pixels of internet history will soon be frozen in time, the homepage complete and ready to take its place in cyber-history!

For me though, this is not the end, it's just the start ;)

Posted by Alex @ 11:40pm

Sunday 8th January 2006

Deferring my degree, BBC feature, Richard & Judy

Another really busy few days - tonnes more e-mails, phone calls, interview requests and so on. A little bit of sleep too! Also, various interesting job/business/media offers have continued to pour in, adding to the pile of opportunities I've been presented with over the last few months. It's going to be fun working out what direction to take. I've also made a decision regarding my studies: I am going to defer my degree until September. This will give me time to organise my life, consolidate my financial position (eg. pay the taxman!) and explore some of the new opportunities that have presented themselves. So the plan is to re-start my degree as a freshman in September this year, on the same course, Business Management.

Yes, my site was launched due to the fact I needed money for University, and that's exactly what my aim was (and I did indeed pay for my first term with money raised from selling pixels). I thought, if I aim high (eg. one million dollars) and only get a small percentage (eg. 1 or 2%) of that figure, that would still help me out a great deal. I never expected the site to reach the level of success it has done, not to mention the positive 'side effect' of all the additional opportunities that have arisen as a result.

Starting University is a big change in itself, but to have the website kick off at the same time has been incredible, and as I've said before, somewhat overwhelming. I must admit, I was not prepared for the level of success the website has achieved, so I'm having to adapt and organise myself now. It's challenging, fun, and a great learning experience. One I feel I must embrace. Therefore I believe deferring my degree is the best option.

On Friday a great feature about me and my site was published on BBC News Online. I think it's one of the best articles written so far about the site - it touches on all the important aspects of my story: why and how I started the site, how it became successful and also I talk about some of my tips on creativity. There's even a poll on there. It asks readers 'Does Alex Tew deserve his million dollars?' with options of Yes/No/Don't care. Great to see that 65.48% of the 8,744 people who've voted so far believe that I do deserve the million. That means a lot to me - thank you!

The auction for the last 1,000 pixels is hotting up. There have been 410,877 unique visitors to the eBay auction page itself since I launched it one week ago. There are over 2,800 different eBay members who've added my auction to their 'watch list' and that means I've made it onto eBay pulse - a list of the 'hottest' auctions. Bidding is up to $160,109.09 and I'm sure it will continue to rise over the next few days. I wonder if there will be a last-minute flurry of bids. I'm sure it will be exciting to watch.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon doing a photoshoot with Getty Images, who are one of the world's biggest photo agencies. The photographer, Daniel Berehulak, took loads of great shots which you will likely see in different magazines and newspapers in the coming weeks and months. Tomorrow (Monday 9th Jan), UK folks can see me live on Richard and Judy between 5 and 6pm on Channel 4. Very much looking forward to that - I've been an R&J fan for years!

Oh yeah, there have been over 1.2 million unique visitors to the site in the last 7 days, since January 1st 2006. Add to that figure the 2 million unique visitors that visited the previous week (Dec 24th-31st), that means a total of over 3.2 million people have visited the site in the last 2 weeks. That means, well... the Million Dollar Homepage is HOT! :)

Posted by Alex @ 4:04pm

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