With March Madness behind us and a distressingly Olympics-free summer approaching, you may find yourself in dire need of new ways to waste time at work. Fortunately, the good people at the Word of the Day Is are here to help. And with their new twist on the giveaway, it will be easier than ever to achieve virtually nothing while still acting like you’re looking busy. Get a little lucky, and you’ll win $1,000. Color me intrigued.
The object of the new online game could not be more simple. Each day, game-runners select a word. Contestants, predominantly bored office workers, then log into a private Slack channel and try to guess the word for a chance to win $1,000. If no one guesses the word by 11:59 p.m. Eastern, then the game is scrapped and users begin trying to guess the next day’s word. When someone gets it right, a bot identifies them and the creators send them their money. Easy!
Daniel Greenberg, Director of Strategy and Distribution at the creative agency MSCHF — which created the app — tells Inverse that he and his colleagues came up with the concept and put it together in just a weekend.
“Last Thursday or Friday we had this idea, a pretty ludicrous idea, which was ‘what if we made a Slack channel where if you guess a word, you can win $1,000,” Greenberg explains. “That’s literally it. We built the bot over the weekend and late Monday morning we just pushed it out.”
There’s been one winner already, an San Francisco-based copywriter named Erika Yost who, after the game’s bot dropped a hint that the day’s word was an adjective, managed to conjure up “inscrutable” on Tuesday. In a (where else) Slack direct message, Yost told Inverse she found out about the game through a colleague and happened to have some down time.
“[There was] no real strategy, I’m a writer by trade and know a lot of words so just guessed whatever came to mind,” she says.
In the two days that the game has been live, it’s garnered enough users to keep about 500 people in the Slack room at all times, with about 30 more joining into the game each hour. New guesses come in by the second, and the infamous “several people are typing” indicator at the bottom of the Slack chatroom rarely disappears.
Greenberg says that, in most cases, people seem to be finding the app by word of mouth. He knows this because new entrants all provide an email to sign up, which lets the game-runners watch as their invention hops from office to office based on the domains of people registering.
“Some of these people are playing for hours straight,” Greenberg says. “We got a message from someone claiming to be a manager saying we fucked up productivity because all their employees were playing this game.”
Greenberg says there’s not really a goal to this project, but the agency does this kind of work for brands trying stand out on the internet, and you’ll recognize their work if you pay attention to “viral stories.” They made a font you can download which looks exactly like Times New Roman — but “5-10% wider” — to help lazy students pad their term papers, and an app to “help” men track their morning erections. For the ice cream company Ample Hills, they made a YouTube channel where people watch a man eat ice cream with topping they’ve requested. It’s got about 29,000 subscribers.
“Really. the core of it is we just like to make cool shit for the internet,” he says. “No one’s really ever used the Slack channel as a product. So we’re hoping, if this takes off, then it’s cool that we did it first.”
The company itself is prepared to keep bankrolling the product, though it is counting on at least some days when there’s not a winner. The next couple weeks’ worth of words have already been selected, Greenberg says, and they’re eager to see how far this thing can go.
At least at the moment, unless it pops off further, it’s not bad odds as far as giveaways go. There’s about 170,000 words in the English language, according to Merriam Webster, which sounds like a lot but remember that the odds on conventional giveaways like the lottery are about one in 14 million. There may be a lot of words but there are a lot more numbers.
As for Yost, she reports being pleasantly surprised by the whole thing. With her $1,000 windfall, she plans on having some extra repairs done on her car. And after winning Tuesday’s contest, she was back the next day for more.