On Sunday, January 16th Yakezie.com received around 6,300 visitors thanks to Little House’s (Yakezie Scholarship Committee Member) efforts to reach out to other organizations online. That organization was Fastweb.com, a site that helps students find monetary support for education around the web.
Not expecting such a surge in traffic, immediately things started going haywire. My registration e-mail notifications started flooding in, and then personal e-mails started coming in asking why they didn’t get an e-mail confirmation to register to the allow them to apply. Frantically, I tried addressing all problems over comments, Twitter, and e-mail myself as Chris was not near a computer. When Chris returned, he did some testing and things seemed to work, but because of the sheer flood of visitors, things locked up.
Our e-mail system (Google) supposedly has a ~200 limit per day on sending e-mail notifications for new registrants. After about 1:30pm on Sunday, the 200 limit was quickly hit but the registrants kept coming in. As a result, any eager student who was looking to register and compete could not. Oh my, how bad I felt for them.
MY FEAR AND GUILT
The main reason why I started the Yakezie Scholarship vertical was so that Members could rally around a common cause to help support a person financially to further their education. We all have different personalities and goals, but I strongly believe that the Yakezie Scholarship and our motto of selflessly helping others will hold us together for the long term. Education is the single most important attribute one can have and develop to get ahead.
I had two fears before launching the scholarship initiative. The first fear was that there wouldn’t be enough interest in writing a 700-1000 word essay to compete to win. Success takes effort and audacity. As a result, we made the essay process as meritocratic and transparent as possible. If you comply with the guidelines, your Scholarship gets posted, readers vote, and the top three vote-getters win.
The second fear was that there would be too much interest. With this fear, I decided to increase the number of winners from one to three, and work harder to rally support for the Scholarship fund. For two consecutive months, Members, Challengers, and readers have pledged over $1,000 to help support three essay winners for their educational endeavors. I’m so proud of everyone who have contributed.
The first Yakezie Scholarship received a total of 14 entrants. Although I highlighted beforehand that we would only run the top 10 as decided by the committee, I felt bad denying someone who spent the effort a chance to win. And so, I dealt with my guilt by running all 14 essays. I was supportive of every single one of them, making sure they submitted all pertinent info while guiding them a long the way.
With the second Yakezie Scholarship, I now fear we will have over 300 applicants with only 3 winners. I mentioned in a post on Yakezie.com that we would run the top 30 if we had more than 20 entrants. I never imagined that our little initiative would receive potentially 10X the number just a month later!
HOW TO DEAL
I now fear more having too many applicants over too little going forward. With a few applicants (<30), we can personally reach out to everyone. With many applicants (100+), we can’t accept them all to be published since there is a limit to when each contest will end. Furthermore, the Yakezie Network is a personal finance and lifestyle blog network where we plan to run our own content. We’re careful to balance all three verticals of Personal Finance, Lifestyle, and Scholarship.
Thinking Out Loud Solutions:
1) We run our own Member Articles and guest posts on Yakezie.com’s homepage, while concurrently publishing the top 30 Scholarship Applicants on another page on Yakezie.com that can be found via the home page.
2) We rule out all essays which do not follow guidelines (i.e. 700-1000 words, answers one question, provides all pertinent contact info, bio, etc). We are surprised by how many applicants don’t follow instructions.
3) We expand the Yakezie Scholarship Committee beyond myself, Chris, Jennifer, and a friend of mine so that more of us can evaluate the articles to be published and ensure the ones who follow directions and are the best written go through.
4) We build better systems on Yakezie.com to handle the submissions and sort automatically. Once we have a great system in place, we should be able to automatically sort by word count, title, etc and make evaluating easier. We may need to permanently upgrade our servers from VPS to dedicated to handle future spikes.
I STILL WONDER WHY ALL THE TIME
800 words later, I’m coming to terms with my guilt because I realize I can’t help everybody. Perhaps it’s due to my travels abroad that I’m so conflicted and think about poverty and inequality constantly. Why are some people born with nothing, while others are born with everything? How does someone born with less compete effectively against someone born with every advantage? The answer I believe is through education. Education is what allows us to make better life choices. Education opens doors to new opportunities and provides a perpetual gift back to humanity. Education is what sets us free.
The only thing I can control is making the Yakezie Scholarship as smooth and meritocratic as possible. I’m trying hard every single day to make this opportunity work. Inevitably there will be kinks along the way. Sometimes, I wonder whether it’s easier to just give up. I could free up 10+ hours a week, reduce my stress and not have to feel so bad about trying to do some good. But then again, where’s the challenge in that?
Readers, do you ever feel guilty about how good you have it? Does your guilt ever consume you so much that it becomes debilitating? Do you ever wonder why some are so fortunate and others are not?