The Cube of 100 pixels is 1 million pixels, and I’m selling them as ads.
It’s been done once before, differently.
But most believe it can’t be repeated. I don’t think anyone’s tried that hard, and now I plan on applying some creativity and elbow grease to making the magic work a second time.
When I first had the core idea for this site, that a cube 100 pixels wide contains a million pixels, I threw everything into realising the dream of selling those pixels for a dollar each as ads.
It turns out that standing in the way of making this concept work, the big challenge of pulling it off, is a classic chicken and egg problem - everyone's holding back to see if it will work first. Initially I turned to friends, and past/present clients of my business, who all responded with incredible generosity in buying pixels at the full price. I ran the Australian Graphic Design Association's website for 11 years as well, so several design colleagues bought in too.
Unfortunately, this only encouraged me to think the idea could work with strangers. With a few it did, but the price for a minimum of 100 pixels was far too high for strangers to buy into at $1 per pixel when there was no guarantee I would ever reach any 'critical mass' of advertisers.
I threw everything I had at trying to iterate on the premise, and raise publicity for the site, but to little lasting effect. After months of pushing the site and no word-of-mouth spreading its story I was feeling very burnt out and discouraged. FAIL! I didn't look at the site for a whole year.
Then recently I checked the site's logs, and to my great shock discovered that I'd been making a small but steady stream of sales of low numbers of pixels - $9, $1, $16, $4 (there's an area in the middle of the Cube where ads of 1, 4, 9, etc pixels can be bought)
A faulty spam filter had been blocking all notifications of sales, and I'd assumed none were happening. After hastily placing the ads of recent sales, issuing refunds for those older than a month, and apologising profusely to everyone for my mistake, I began to think about the site again.
I still believed that the core premise of the original MillionDollar HomePage is worthy of working again, but clearly I hadn't done enough to succeed. And yet, a trickle of complete strangers were buying pixels in the Cube with no marketing effort on my part. I began to wonder if I'd missed something...
So I gave it a lot of thought now that I had some fresh perspective, and finally the idea popped into my head late one night of dropping the price for early subscribers one hundred-fold but then increasing the price progressively to match each percentage of sales. Suddenly the high price-barrier for early participants was gone! The progressive pricing model rewards early adopters and gets me at least half-way to a million dollars if the site starts working, at which point there should be enough publicity and traffic to make renewing ads worth at least considering.
Make your own full-scale
model of the MillionDollarCu.be!
Download the plans
I prototyped the idea, got feedback from friends, and on Thursday I quietly rebooted the MillionDollarCu.be under the new progressive pricing model. Since then, I've sold 1700 pixels to complete strangers who've come by at random and thought 'that looks like fun'. Now granted, under the new pricing this has only netted me $17 minus costs (less than 2% of the pixels are sold, so the price for 100 pixels is currently set at $1). But I'm excited by that!
When you consider the complexity of using something like AdWords to advertise your site, which costs you for every click, spending a flat $1 to list your site in the Cube isn't a big ask for a significant number of people.
"It looked like too much fun to pass on. The pricing, for what it is, was quite reasonable as well." — John P., who bought 800 pixels on Monday.
If you remain sceptical, that's completely understandable. But I think this new progressive pricing model has the potential to breath new life into the idea, while making it fairer for early adopters who are shouldering a greater risk of it not succeeding than those who join in later. And so I'm going to see how I go with it. If nothing else, I owe it to the people who've already bought pixels to find a way to make it work!
The 3d effect on the home page has been temporarily disabled while I focus on other features, but if you're running Safari on Snow Leopard or later you can still see how it looked in an archive of the page here
If that’s a lot of jargon, what it means is that for people visiting who have Snow Leopard and use Safari, the home page now appears in animated 3D - every ad is a 3-dimensional cube!
The picture below just doesn’t do it justice.
To quote the famous British web designer Andy Clarke:
“Got Snow Leopard? Open this page in Safari http://MillionDollarCu.be/… and I bet you’ll say “Holy crap!”
Okay, first-up: today there’s a new version of this site’s homepage that’s been designed specifically for the iPhone. What is unusual is that the iPhone version uses native gestures to move between ads - swipes from left-to-right or right-to-left.
A video shows these in action if you click the picture above. You’ll also discover a cool hack for the MillionDollarCu.be - it’s home page has one of the first ever Konami Code designed for the iPhone. You activate it to reveal an Easter Egg by using a special combination of gesture strokes. I’ll leave it to you to uncover them. But watch the video first!
In a regular web browser, the home page of this site actually has two Konami Coded Easter Eggs hidden, and the first of them was listed at KonamiCodeSites.com last week. The MillionDollarCu.be was the 6th site to be listed there, and in the week since the MillionDollarCu.be has had almost 15,000 visitors, has served over 60,000 ads and pages, and chewed up about 16GB of traffic :-)
As I said above… w00t!
So something I’ve been thinking about lately with respect to the MillionDollarCu.be, now that ‘phase 1’ is complete (see below), is that for it to work I don’t need to connect with a gazillion people in phase 2. I don’t need to connect with a thousand people, or even a hundred. 10? Nope. Just 1… the right person, that someone who will be pivotal in helping this site succeed, and would want it to.
If one key person will end up being pivotal in making this site succeed, then I could use your help in finding them.
I don’t know who that person is, and probably, neither will you. But if everyone’s just 6 six steps away from every other person on the planet, then I believe someone you know will be the best person to be the next person in that chain of 6 people, and you’ll know who THAT person is. I don’t want you to tell everyone you know about this site, because most of them won’t get it - tell the one person you know who’s the most into technology or the Internet, or pixels, or mathematics, and whom you judge will get a real kick out of the Cu.be and what I’m writing in this post. Email them a link to this post right now, by clicking this link.
The 3 Phases of the Cu.be
As I’ve told people about this site, a question that has cropped up a few times is, why would someone buy pixels in your cube? And it’s been tricky to answer, because I think there are three phases the site will progress through: The First 1%, the Next 9%, and the Last 90%, and each has different reasons people will buy pixels in the Cu.be…
I’ve already sold the first 1% of the Cu.be’s pixels to friends, family, clients, colleagues, and early enthusiasts. That’s 10,000 pixels! Largely they were motivated by loyalty (or pity ;-). So now we move to phase 2, the Next 9%.
These are the people who have a website, but more importantly they really like ideas. They might buy 1 pixel, 9, or a hundred, but they have the discretion to indulge on a whim. They’re not really buying pixels for the eventual traffic, although they’d appreciate that too, so much as saying ‘I like this guy’s moxie, and I can afford to splash out on a few pixels in his cube to link to my own website’. It’s an emotional decision.
How many sales will it take to sell the next 9% of the Cu.be’s pixels? By my rough calculations about 240, but let’s round up and say 250 sales, worldwide. The trick is to find those who’d be interested and not pestering people who would never ‘get it’.
Who do you know that loves the Internet the most? They probably know all the latest web-memes, and they have a website for their hobby or business, or maybe just a cool Facebook profile or MySpace page. Think of the ONE most appropriate person, and click this link to send them an email to read this post: Hey, I think you’ll get a kick out of this…
And the timing couldn’t be better - the site just passed the milestone of selling 100x100 pixels. i.e. 10,000 pixels or 1 whole layer of the 100 layers in the Cu.be!
To celebrate I’ve turned the MillionDollarCu.be’s home page from white to black! Why not? :-)
Current tally: 10,346 pixels sold.
|ps.||If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll be presented with such treats as CUBE, DEFENDER OF THE POLYVERSE. “Face The Dreaded Cone!”|
|pps.||There’s a new press page listing who’s talking about the MillionDollarCu.be|
|pppps.||I’ve barely gotten started. There’s so much more to do!|
Okay, a lot has been happening behind the scenes, and few bits of that are already visible in the site. More news to come soon I hope. In the mean-time, the site’s getting more traffic from ever-more places.
Pixel-wise, the site is on the verge of hitting 10,000 pixels sold, which will mark 1%. I’m very pleased by that. Sales of pixles have gone from single-digits to double-, triple-, then four digits, and now the site is going to hit the milestone of 5 digits!
To celebrate, I’ve changed the logo of the MillionDollarCu.be to add more 3D bling:
Current tally: 9,935 pixels sold.
The IDG website IT World has an article on the Cu.be today: 1 pixel? World’s smallest online ads debut.
Hi to everyone visiting for the first time!
Well, this is a pleasant surprise! Howdy to everyone visiting from NOTCOT.org, and thus the USA. G’day from Australia!
Read below for the story of the Cu.be of 100, or just scroll down to see how it’s all evolved over the last month or so.
ps. If you have a blog or column, a link and mention of the Cu.be would be very welcome. Do you use Twitter? Twit it ;-)
pps. If you didn’t see the roving eye on the home page, you clicked away too quickly. Go have another look, and this time give it at least 8 seconds!
A quick update on how things are going with the Cu.be…
In just the last week I’ve added 3 cool new features to the home page (read more about them below), sold hundreds more pixels, and started a promotion that’s a world first ;-)
Meanwhile, some weeks back I reached the milestone of selling enough pixels to have paid for the costs and time I’ve spent setting up the site, and then some. Now I’m aiming for a new milestone of 5 digits — 10,000 pixels (currently nudging 9,000!)
One ad at a time, pixel by pixel, this page is turning into a collective work of post-modern art. How will it look next week?
new Cu.bic featuresFirst, and I think this is a world first… there’s a new area marked off in the middle of the home page, with black and yellow hazard stripes around it. Inside I’m selling 1-pixel ads. Yep, 1 pixel. It’s partly an absurdist publicity stunt, but you get a link and pop-up description of the link, so it’s real! Just try clicking or hovering over the links that are already there :-)
categoriesSecond, I’ve added the feature of categorisation of ads to the home page: Click the ‘categories’ tab on the right side of the home page, and then click some categories… see what happens.
3rD.lyThirdly, the animated ‘x-ray’ cube on the right side of the home page now displays where an ad is within the 3D space of the cube - you can see the ads inside it!
Move your mouse cursor around the page grid to see it in action.
Current tally: 9,003 pixels sold.
Announcing the world’s smallest pixel ads — 1 pixel!
No one has ever sold 1 pixel ads before, for a very… good… reason… it’s ridiculous. Imagine trying to hover your mouse over a bunch of 1 pixel hyperlinks — there’s a demo of one of ’em over there to the right. It’s taking small-scale to the extreme — and that appeals to my sense of humour.
There’s been a few takers already, as seen to the left.
So now you can buy a 1x1 pixel ad that links to your business web site for just $1. It’s not just any ad… it’s the world’s smallest online ad.
1 pixel ads - a very limiting and ridiculous innovation of the MillionDollarCu.be :-)
To buy 1 pixel (or more), click here.
Wow! Even the smallest mention in The Age newspaper brings a huge jump in traffic…
Current tally: 8,400 pixels sold
(update: it turns out the article was syndicated to the Sydney Morning Herald too!)
Putting aside selfish matters like selling pixels for one moment, I want share a serious topic that will hopefully broaden your knowledge of pixels, and at the same time explain what the cube is made of…
Pixelium (pronounced /ˈpɪkzɛlˈiəm/) — is a virtual synthetic element with the symbol Px and atomic number 100. A highly unstable transuranic element of the actinide series, pixelium is created by bombarding phosphors with electrons.
Relatively little is known about its chemical properties, but it can be excited into various energy states such that it gives off any colour. Large amounts of pixelium are produced as a by-product of computers every day around the world.
The nucleus of pixelium is made up of the R, G and B subatomic particles (subpixels). These usually appear in multiples of 8, but there are other isotopes that feature 16, 24, 32 or even 48 bits - the most stable being 8-bit with a half-life of 100.5 days. Pixelium has the unique property among elements of being the only element large enough to be visible to the naked eye, just.
Current tally: 8,200 atoms of pixelium sold :-)
ps. Hey! No fair! Don’t go thinking you’re getting a refund.
Garry Barker, technology editor for The Age newspaper visited Cube HQ at its secret location nestled in the foothills of Melbourne yesterday. He was here to interview me about the MillionDollarCu.be, for an article that should be out in the next week or so.
It was very cool. The Age is probably Australia’s most prestigious and respected newspaper, the paper of record, so it’s a big thrill for me to have been interviewed by one of their editors.
I can’t wait to see the article, but in the meantime I can comfort myself with the fact that the number of pixels sold has leapt.
Current tally: 7,700 pixels sold.
This week I’ve reached the milestone of selling 6000 pixels. Woohoo! By having sold over 6000 pixels already, I’ve more than paid for my time in setting this site up, passed every other attempt to repeat the success of the original site I can find, and had a quite a few laughs along the way.
From this point on, any pixels sold will be almost purely profit. Now the focus switches to building up traffic for the advertisers.
I am the biggest coward, but if I reach my estimated target of 280 sales to hit ‘critical mass’, to celebrate and ‘mark the occasion’ I’ll pick at random from one of those sales between 270 and 280, and have those pixels tattooed on me. With the image-owner’s permission. I’m thinking somewhere discreet!!
In fact I’m already having second thoughts. But, it would be amazing to prove the doubters wrong, and heck, you only live once. I could probably survive getting one tiny tattoo done — my first.
I just know I’m going to regret having written this later :-)
ps. Current tally: 4,500 pixels sold @ $1 per pixel.
Well, it’s been a week since I quietly launched the site, and I’m chuffed to say that I’ve already had 11 sales totalling US$3,000 which covers a large chunk of the time I’ve spent setting this up. Soon we might be heading into profit territory - scary thought! Still 269 sales to go until hitting what I calculate will be ‘critical mass’.
I’m going to start the first timid steps in my planned publicity campaign in a few more days, but in the mean-time, I’ve been busy adding a new section to the site that I’m calling Sneezers. ‘Catchy’ title huh? No, I didn’t think so… oh well. I won’t repeat here what’s in that section — go take a peek — other than to say it’s all about spreading word of the MillionDollarCu.be, and it contains some ideas and resources to help everyone do so.
We all have heroes in life… people of accomplishment that we turn to for inspiration when something difficult comes along. And so, faced with having to publicise my hair-brained scheme (“Our model is the trapezoid!”), I turn to one of the cultural giants of our age, and ask myself, “What would Homer do?”
A: John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber, John Gruber.
Okay. So that
won’t work can’t fail! I take consolation from my major discovery that The Cube of 100 can be seen in the background of the 1995 Simpsons’ episode famous for showing Homer entering the third dimension!!
Hey. If The Cube of 100 shows up in places like that ‘for real’, how can I out-do that with Photoshop? :-)
ps. Current tally: 2,800 pixels sold @ $1 per pixel.
Late News on Friday afternoon: There’s a new article in IT-Wire about the MillionDollarCu.be! MillionDollarCu.be: can lightning strike twice? I consider it very even-handed and complimentary. Happy :-)
Wayne Rankin, one of the godfathers of Australian graphic design has just bought 900 pixels! He sent me an email saying “I like the spirit of your idea.” In fact, being the force of nature he is, Wayne couldn’t leave it at that - he followed that email up with this graphic…
Brilliant! Thanks Wayne.
pps. Current tally: 2,500 pixels sold!
If you’re here for the first time, and wondering what it’s all about, here’s the story…
In 2005 a young man in the UK, Alex Tew, had a simple and original idea — a very good idea. He set up a page declaring he’d sell 1 million pixels on it to all comers for $1 per pixel, and it earned him $1,000,000 in a matter of months.
The idea spread by word of mouth around the internet, driving increasing amounts of traffic to his website, and from there to the websites that bought his pixels.
It’s too good an idea not to work again — it deserves to work more than once. At least twice ;-)
And that should generate a lot of traffic as word travels that it’s being pulled off again. Traffic that you can buy into here for $1 per pixel.
This site is my attempt at creating a novel and entertaining new perspective on the original idea.
So what’s the new twist, I hear you ask? Well, try to imagine what a crowd of 1 million people would look like. Personally, I can visualise smaller numbers, say 5, 10, 20 or even 100. But beyond that my brain just shrugs its shoulders and thinks ‘many’. Very big numbers are hard to picture.
So if I take a cube whose sides are only 100 pixels wide like the one to the right, that’s pretty easy to fathom, and if I multiply those sides together to get the volume of the cube, I get… wait, that can’t be right?! 1,000,000?! How can such a small cube have such a big number inside it??? It’s completely counter-intuitive, but that’s maths for you… sometimes it throws a curve-ball. 100 x 100 x 100 gives you 1 million pixels. Cool huh?!
I call it the ‘cube’ of 100.
My plan is to sell a semi-permanent lease on pixels from inside the ‘cube’ of 100, laid out on the home page. Each pixel will only be sold once — once they’re sold out, that’s it! People can specify a web link, an image, and some descriptive text, and these will appear on the home page of this site until at least Oct 10, 2010. That’s 10/10/10!
The earlier you buy, the more traffic you end up getting. If you have a website or weblog whose Google ranking you want to improve, five minutes here and you’re set to boost visits to your website for over two years! Purchasing pixels is a set-and-forget process — the web traffic from here becomes a self-generating (viral) marketing machine.
Publicity and your word of mouth need to spread the word far and wide that this is going to be the first site ever to repeat the success of the original. :-)
Many others tried 3 years ago, but all half-heartedly and with no inspiration, in a saturated market. Today, it’s a forgotten and overlooked idea, ripe for repeating.
“Crazy. I salute you.”
“Really crazy and funny. :) … it’s nice to see a new twist. ;)”
This is just the first step. I have lots of plans for this site and The Cube of 100 in the coming weeks.
I admit that the idea that this could possibly work is pretty cheeky, but what the heck. It’s only cost me my own time to set it up. And if it works… well, I’ll figure that out as needed.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot - you can buy pixels now - the store is officially open for business. US$1 per pixel.