Month: June 2016

Vote Your Conscience on Facebook

Our superstar new intern, Rob “Double Tall Non-Fat” Goodlatte, just whipped out a Newsvine election widget for use on Facebook. If you have a Facebook account and want to express an endorsement for the 2008 Election, head over to the page below… it only takes a second:

Newsvine Election ’08 Widget for Facebook

This is the first in a series of excellent election-related Newsvine features coming very shortly. Stay tuned.

TeamSnap is a Really, REALLY Nice Site

Just a few hours ago, Matt Triplett and the fine folks at SparkPlug released a site called TeamSnap.

It is quite simply the bees’ knees.

TeamSnap is an application built on Rails designed to help people manage their amateur sports teams online, and it’s one of the best executed pieces of communication design I’ve seen in awhile. Not only is the site beautiful but everything is exactly where it should be. Within seconds, you know exactly what you can do with TeamSnap and exactly where to click in order to get started.

There are just so many things the site gets right that it’s hard to know where to start:

  • Feature set — Not only can you do the basics like publish a calendar of your team’s games, but you can even coordinate who’s bringing “refreshments”. For some reason, the team chose to make the beer icon blue which I don’t quite understand, but whatever. A lot of thought has gone into exactly what needs to be organized in sports leagues and these guys are clearly designing from experience.
  • Tour — The walkthrough is easy to follow and the screenshots are crisp and illustrative.
  • Testimonials — Everyone knows testimonials are often suspicious and overly pithy so TeamSnap created satirical ones instead.
  • Beautiful iconography — Every icon exudes a cohesive, friendly tone that makes me want to click.
  • RSS Feeds — You can follow all of the latest developments with your team not only via email, but also with your newsreader.
  • Structured data — TeamSnap ships with support for 24 sports (including “Dragon Boat”) and one of its important capabilities is storing structured statistical data for each sport. This means, you’re not just uploading a Word Document with play-by-play in it. You’re actually entering stats for all players on your girlfriend’s beach volleyball team (and then hopefully explaining everything in personal sessions later). Hugely powerful.

I’ve always thought the most interesting social networks out there were not pure social networks but rather networks built around an existing subject matter. While TeamSnap may look on the outside like a beautifully executed organizational tool, it’s actually social software built around one of the most technologically dormant (and ripe) social constructs around: recreational sports.

I expect TeamSnap to do very, very well once it’s out of beta, and I give Matt and crew a huge thumbs up for designing an excellent product at an excellent time. I will also be hiring Sparkplug the next time I need something awesome designed.

Well done you!

Desperately Seeking Pine Bros.

How are these brothers still around? Punks.

Everyone knows cough drops are wolves in sheeps’ clothing. Pretending to cure you of your esophageal ills, these sugary lozenges usually do nothing more than stimulate your salivary glands into wetting your throat down until the next dose. The better they taste, the more you eat, and the less frequently you think about how crappy you actually feel.

When I was little, the undisputed taste leader in cough drops were Pine Bros (also known as “Pine Brothers”) chewy throat lozenges. Actually, back then, I don’t even think they were called “throat lozenges”… just “cough drops”. Short and sweet. They came in Honey flavor and Cherry flavor and had no medicinal value whatsoever. Just soft, chewy, long-lasting, and fabulous on the tastebuds. We ate them like candy. Awesome candy.

I forgot all about Pine Bros. cough drops for about 15 years between the late 80s and around 2002 when I unexpectedly found a reference to them on the internet and had to have them again. Through, I was able to order several cases at very reasonable prices. The recipes had changed slightly and the lozenges were now being sold as “glycerine based zinc supplements” by a different company — with nary an actual Pine brother to be found — but they were still great. I ended up buying several more cases until the product suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth a couple of years ago.

Since that time, subsequent product searches have come up empty. There are even posts on eBay offering top dollar for any existing supply.

… which leads to my two questions:

  1. Does anyone know exactly what happened to these things and why?
  2. What is currently the most widely accepted substitute for Pine Bros. cough drops in the world today? I’ve recently gotten hip to Airborne Gummy Throat Lozenges which are pretty damned close to the real deal. The upside is that they taste every bit as good as the original, but the downsize is that they are a whopping $3 a pack and you have to pick out the nasty licorice ones from the otherwise great flavors of honey, orange, cherry, grape, and lime. I have also heard that Grether’s Pastilles and even Weight Watchers, believe it or not, are making decent substitutes for the originals. Anyone tried these?

Lessons from Mayweather/De La Hoya

Anyone who watched the Floyd Mayweather/Oscar De La Hoya fight last night was probably a bit disappointed at how the fight turned out. Both boxers fought well and it certainly wasn’t a hugging match like some of the bad heavyweight fights we’ve seen recently, but at no point was either fighter in danger of even losing their balance, let alone getting knocked out. For as many times as Mayweather spoke of “knocking the shit out of Oscar” before the fight, he didn’t seem to even bruise the man.

But the victory went to Mayweather anyway, mainly for his surprisingly defensive strategy of not throwing too many punches but landing a decent percentage of them.

There were a lot of interesting things about this fight though, aside from the lackluster action inside the ring:

Firstly, HBO did a spectacular job of hyping this matchup. I and almost everyone I watched it with were only excited for the matchup because we’d watched the well-produced “De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7” series beforehand. The 4-part series was an inside look at the fighters’ lives and training regimens leading up to the fight. Filmed in high definition and brilliantly edited in a short amount of time, the series really made you love Oscar and hate Floyd. The end result was the richest fight in boxing history and one that was viewed by thousands more “casual boxing fans” than would have normally watched. More fights should receive this treatment.

The lead up to the fight also reminded me a lot of one of my favorite reality shows, The Contender. The Contender captures the drama of the boxing lifestyle and the actual boxing is often secondary. After last season was over, I spoke with someone high up at ESPN and made a suggestion I hope they take: show each episode on ESPN and ESPN2 simultaneously. Make the ESPN2 episode a half hour longer, showing the entire unedited boxing match at the end instead of the made-for-TV cutjob that’s on the flagship station. We’ll see if that happens.

Another interesting thing about this fight is that no boxer seemed to be injured at all the entire time. The standard boxing 10-point-must system scores rounds based on “injury” with most rounds ending 10-9 in favor of one fighter. I wonder if a better system would be to score all rounds 10-10 unless there was actually a legitimate pounding that took place. Under this system, almost every round in last night’s fight would have been 10-10 (possibly all of them) and the end result might have been a draw. The more important consequence of this system is that boxers would be more aggressive though. After the fight, De La Hoya said something very accurate. He said “If I didn’t bring the fight to him, there would have been no fight.” He was right. De La Hoya was the only one pushing the action, but unfortunately, he was not rewarded for it.

I also thought it was interesting (and bizarre) that Floyd Mayweather’s dad openly admitted that he thought De La Hoya won the fight afterwards in his interview with Larry Merchant. I know Floyd Sr. and Floyd Jr. are a bit estranged, but man, that is tight. If I were Jr., I’d be pissed.

The last interesting thing about the night for me was that several people I watched the fight with brought up the famous Tyson/Holyfield ear-biting match in 1997, and for a lot of us, that was the very last fight we ever paid to watch. If over 50% of us boycotted PPV boxing after that, I wonder how much money the industry has lost because of that incident. That was 10 years ago and the sport just doesn’t seem to have recovered from it. I think the industry should look long and hard at what dramas like The Contender and De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7 can do for the sport. They’re certainly more effective than anything else that’s been tried.

Most Profitable Web 2.0 Business: Conferences

The tech conference business continues to amaze me. I just received an email a few minutes ago from the organizers of the annual Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco telling me I am a V.I.P. and I can attend their conference under this special classification. Sweet! I’m thinking free admission, maybe hotel and airfare too. Something like that.

In reading the rest of the email, it appears I’m being offered the V.I.P. rate of JUST OVER THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS. And that’s $500 off the Very-Unimportant-Person rate!

Who has the enthusiasm to pay these sorts of prices? Even when I worked at Disney, a multi-billion dollar corporation, I would never even dream of taking $3000 out of the budget for an event like this.

Nothing against the conference… I’m sure it’s great. I just can’t think of a single conference I’d pay over a $1000 for (and even that is expensive) unless part of the deal was a personal dinner with Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Gisele Bundchen.

In a way, I guess these sorts of conferences are like business travel for airlines. They figure since companies are footing the bill, the price elasticity of demand is low.

As for me, I’d rather spend that $3k on any of the following:

  • One week trip anywhere in the world (with a decent budget!)
  • Husky season tickets for both basketball and football
  • A donation to a charitable cause.

I guess you can’t blame the organizers of the conference for charging $3000 because clearly people are willing to pay it, but if you really want individuals showing up at conferences, it would seem that Techcrunch20 or unconferences would be the better routes.

Oh well… off to go plan my first conference I guess. I’m thinking “Fortune 100 Giselefest 2007”.

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