Not All Fun and Games

Online contests can drive Web traffic, but companies must address problems quickly or face a torrent of "viral" criticism

James Furdell is a veteran manager of fantasy baseball teams. Along with a handful of college friends, he has participated for the past decade in online leagues hosted by ESPN. But not long after the first pitch on Opening Day this April 1, Furdell, a software engineer and Seattle Mariners fan, noticed that something wasn't quite right with his team. Much to his frustration, the roster appeared to be frozen. He couldn't snare a hot prospect or cut a fading journeyman. "I logged in and realized I couldn't make any changes once the first game had started," Furdell says. Later, when he noticed that he couldn't pick up players other teams had dropped, even days after the fact, Furdell decided to sit out the season. ESPN had a problem.

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