Thursday, July 31, 2008

Update on the Oklahoma Hoax

About a month ago, James Conradt thought it would be a really cool idea to manufacture an elaborate hoax against two Oklahoma football players. He crafted a quality fake -- complete with the graphic look of the Daily Oklahoman, the newspaper of record for OU sports and the state of Oklahoma.

Immediately, all sides pounced on Mr. Conradt, who claimed he was really, really sorry and shucks, it was just a joke.

No one is laughing. Not college athletics. Not the media. Not the internet intelligencia.

Conradt now faces a 10-count lawsuit from the Oklahoman's corporate owners.

Tony Barnhardt at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution provided nice perspective, a good update and a quality payoff quote:

Here’s why this case is important. Because of the freedom of the Internet, some people are lulled into believing there are no rules and no accountability. Some people believe there is one set of rules for sports fans and one set of for everybody else. This case will prove that is not true and that is why I expect the Daily Oklahoman and their lawyers to make an example of this guy.

Tony is dead on. I've said here, I've said on B&B, I respect the opinion of fans, and their right to scream and yell all they want. I'd like to see a little more transparency from fans -- have the respect to put your name on your opinion -- but accusing a college student of cocaine usage is, well, criminal.

If Conradt was a "regular" journalist, he'd be on the docket for liable in a heartbeat. What all those defenders of the "satire" are missing is they are citizen journalists when they do this kind of reporting, and the rules apply to them just the same as Tony Barnhardt.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dr. Smith, Meet Dr. Horrible

In case you missed it, last week's Entertainment Weekly carried a story about the phenomenal success of the Dr. Horrible Sing-Along Blog project. As a way to kill time during the writer's strike, Joss Whedon came up with the high-concept, internet-only story, and enticed the likes of Neil Patrick Harris to get involved.

The money quote, provided by Felicia Day, who played Penny in the "series":
"There are a lot of things that Hollywood doesn't understand about the Internet. It's kind of the reverse of mainstream media: You don't want to aim for everybody. You want to aim for the target audience, and that passionate audience is going to spread the word. Clearly, Joss got it. Dr. Horrible was all word of mouth."

This plays on so many levels. Whedon and company proved once again, quality content can go direct to the consumer. No studio. No production house. Just a great concept and solid . Think I'm making it up -- read the master plan. Tell me again, with the right equipment and commitment, an athletic department creates live game content direct to it's fan base -- that's bad why?

Pick up a copy of the Aug. 1 EW issue (Batman's on the cover) and read how the story is presented. It is nothing more than a stream-of-consciousness-meets-chat-room article. Instead of a piece of C2S paper, I can easily imagine the character's back-and-forth with flickering cursors on a flat screen. All that's missing is the comment box.

But wait -- if you read the story on-line it is six pages long (not the one and a half in print) because they have the "expanded oral history" right here. They. Get. It.

And now, who's laughing all the way to the bank? Dr. Horrible DVD with extras. Dr. Horrible movie deal. Dr. Horrible sequel. Let me think, who owns the rights to that . . . . . oh yeah, none of the studios, that would be

By the way, when it first launched on its own website, Dr. Horrible racked up 200,000 views per hour and crashed the server farm while it was free. That part ended July 20. If you want to check out the sensation, you'll have to give up a little kwan and purchase the episodes at iTunes. Again, who's profiting by giving it away? That would be Whedon.

What if a major university decided to start it's own production unit . . . .

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sports and Politics Don't Mix

After religion, the two most passionate interests of human beings are sports and politics. It can be a dangerous tail when the two mix. Anyone remember Richard Nixon weighing in about who the number one team in the country should be? I'm not saying that caused Watergate, but the facts are Joe Pa is still the head coach at Penn State and Dick was run from office.

Here's the latest entry in the bad things happen when you let the glycidyl ether mix with the curing solution -- you get an epoxy that sticks like nobody's business:

"I spoke with Matt maybe three days ago," Jaguars running back Fred Taylor said. "He's a man. Like all of us, we're all human. I'm pretty sure a few of you guys voted for George Bush. In that breath, a few of you guys are probably [ticked] off about gas prices, too. We all make mistakes is what I'm trying to say. The thing is you can't do it twice."

Let's parse that out. Fred Taylor is right about second chances and learning from mistakes. He's speaking of teammate and former Razorback Matt Jones' arrest recently. The insertion of politics in the middle, well, it's pithy. It's even clever. In the end, Taylor's politics will override his message of support for his teammate. Jones gets an unintended national bounce for his problems into a whole new group of media, courtesy of his teammate's well-intentioned attempt at defense.

My personal advice in these situations for sports figures is you can not win at politics. Sports remain one of the few places in American life where the Blue and the Red states can really become Purple. Everyone U.S. Senator wants Redskins tickets -- it's neutral ground. In an election season, commenting about your personal vote should be off limits. Don't answer that question is my advice to athletes.

I will admit that my feeling about voting is colored by personal experience. One of my high school teachers, Mr. Dunn, said it best. He was one of those inspirational teachers, so of course I remember important things he said. In Louisiana, the governor's races are off-set one year from the presidential cycle (we always had to be different). One of the students in American History ask Mr. Dunn who he voted for.

A little background. Mr. Dunn was a former haberdasher in the truest sense, and was a gentleman's gentleman in the classroom. Here's a guy who was extremely even keeled. Nothing flustered him. Picture Ben Stein as your high school civics teacher.

Mr. Dunn wheeled on the student who asked, and for the first time -- and the only time I recall -- there was fire in his eyes. "You don't ask people who they voted for," Dunn snarled. "That's personal, and there is nothing more personal in America." He went on to explain how you should never, ever give up to anyone what happens in that voting booth. That it was a sacred thing.

I've wondered in years since what make him so sensitive to the question, but on a societal level he could not be more correct. The ballot might be Australian, but there was nothing that changed American politics more than the implementation of the secret ballot. I suspect Mr. Dunn is spinning in his grave at the thought of exit polling as it is used today.

Meanwhile, back at the point -- Mr. Dunn is right. I don't know who Taylor voted for, but he's given us a pretty good indication. In turn, he's singled himself out. He's made himself a story that he probably didn't intend.

I return to my No. 1 technology advice: Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should -- and putting your politics into sports quotes certainly qualifies for that maxim.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How Could You Forget the Chiefs?

While working on some new facility pages, Maxine Nightengale reminded me of a horrible mistake. No, not the roughly 27,459 typos in the website (I kid, only 7,459), but of a social networking error. In the course of updating the profile here on the the blog, I can't believe I overlooked perhaps the greatest sports movie in the history of cinema.

I speak, of course, of Slap Shot.

Sure, I remembered Rollerball, which I find to be an incredibly powerful social commentary that speaks to us today (the Jimmy Cann original, thank you). But how could I overlook the Hansen brothers?

I grant you that for SIDs there may not be a better movie than Bull Durham. The references are now ancient for the current generation, but Nuke LaLoosh's media training at the hands of Crash Davis and the rookie's growth from mere meat to major leaguer remains the gold standard.

Back to the Valley of the Razorbacks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Blocking Bloggers

We've spent our share of time commenting on the fact that you can restrict, but you simply will not be successful in blocking a determined blogger. There's also no better way to exacerbate a public relations problem than daring the B&B crowd.

The rules change, however, when you are a government -- oh, say China -- or if you are a media organization -- in today's case, the Los Angeles Times.

Those darn internets strike again as Slate's website hits LAT square in the face with a memo distributed to suppress the mention of a certain National Enquirer story about a certain Democratic politician. I'll be coy too; not out of fear of the editors but out of respect for the person involved.

This sets up a classic new vs. old media battle, and one that just might be inside the house. It cuts to the heart of what journalism is becoming today.

Is the Enquirer a "legitimate" media in the old-school sense?

Is it appropriate to gag your own staff?

With a multitude of sources, does the LAT do itself a disservice by not participating in the frenzy surrounding the rumors? In a business sense, a huge YES. They are driving readers away to find the story. In a reputations sense, an undecided maybe. If the Enquirer proves wrong, the LAT gets the kudos for holding back. If the rumors are true -- and other news organizations now jumping on this are finding independent verification -- it is another blow to the reputation of the LAT.

Monday, July 21, 2008

There are no Secr3ts

Kudos to the posters on Hogville and Woopig for slipping under the splash screen covers. I hope the house wasn't too messy in the last 24 hours before launch. Reminds me of the day I just walked into the open door of Starbucks in Fayetteville on the Wednesday before it opened -- here, have a cup of coffee on us.

Again, thanks to those who did a little unofficial testing (yes, we needed to fix that pre-production banner Razorback, and seriously, thanks for reminding me).

Never amazed, but some of the folks I work with wondered who leaked the URL. It was a live server build -- no real shock here.

Over the next few days, I'm anticipating lots of corrections. This was not only a complete redesign -- including some new coding in the database -- but a merger of two distinct data bases (that's a first for our vendor). It went pretty smooth, and looks reasonably clean.

In the meantime, don't be a stranger with the error reports. Let's call it, cloud proofing.

Bonus points today for the movie reference in the title.

It is Done

Note the time stamp. Last parts in that can go in before tomorrow -- strike that, today's -- launch. I'm going for a nap. With any luck, regular postings will resume Tuesday or Wednesday. Thanks for the patience of readers while we finished out

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Not So Anonymous Internet

This story set will lead to further posts, but I'm marking it for readers right now. In case you missed it, a Nebraska fan decided to get even with some message board posters by creating a fake story about the arrest of some Oklahoma players.

Thanks to solid Photoshop skills, the faked story and front page image of the OU student newspaper website was too good. The hoax got out of control in a hurry, and now James Conradt faces the very real prospect of legal action.

Coverage in the Oklahoma newspapers and a very solid commentary from the NCAA's blog.

As Drudge would say, developing . . .

Thursday, July 10, 2008

End of Days

This week's TWIT repeats a story -- too good to perhaps not be apocryphal -- about the press room reaction to the last round of firings at the Tampa Tribune. The remaining staff was told bluntly to stop thinking of the website as the adjunct. The print edition was now the adjunct to the website.

At the Houston Chronicle, mentioned earlier with their on-line database of salaries, the writers are instructed to use their blogs to do their primary work. In other words, it's news -- the textual equivalent of 24-7 cable news channel.

You Must Find Your Own Path

Yes, Grasshopper, the path to enlightenment is the walk, not the answer. As your university decides how to engage the blogosphere, remember that your answer may be to not engage. From our good friends at WOMMA, and their on-line daily feed, comes this very good pitch from Search Marketing Gurus about not blogging.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Databases: Even More Fun than FOI

The Houston Chronicle posts a search engine that can be used to search the salary of every public employee in the city and county. If you really want to know, click here.

No longer need to file the FOI. Don't even have to go to the public library. The public records on your desktop.

Colleague at a public school remarked this wasn't fair. How can they get phone records? How can they see salaries?

Until you go to work in the private sector, guess what -- "they" are the people, and "they" pay the bills.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


If you keep up with Arkansas you know we started the countdown clocks on our current men's and women's athletic websites. The new starts July 21.

It's the next evolution for our school, and I hope the fans and media find it useful. There are some lofty goals set -- more streaming, broader gameday presentation, quicker stories -- but we hope that we can become the place fans look to first. Comments after? Well, that's up to them.

For the regular readers, I will beg your indulgence over the next two weeks. Posts here will be less frequent. Anybody want to build some HTML nested tables for fun?

Monday, July 07, 2008

It's About (Your Other) Family

As we get back into the grind after the holidays, I'm reminded once again that it's important to have friends and a good support system for this kind of job. Tonight is Monday, and when I'm in town, that means calling the weekly county weather spotters net.

Couple of the folks on that net had commented to me during the annual Field Day how much their ham radio family meant to them. None of the folks involved in storm spotting here are really into the Razorbacks, or athletics for that matter. But they wanted to know how it went in Tampa, because I'm part of their family.

Jack Buck, Jr., really got shelled by the national media for saying he was more into checking out The Bachelorette than whatever MLB game was on TV. On the one hand, Jack, you probably shouldn't have said that out loud. In this business, they don't take kindly when they think you might have other interests -- Jack just found that out.

But you need something that isn't college athletics. Some place where everybody knows your name . . . or in my case, your callsign.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

While you're enjoying the firecrackers, we'll be taking 360-views of athletic facilities for the new Arkansas Razorback website. Oops. Did I say that out loud? Delete that. Instead, enjoy a quick take on Fan First philosophy and how that relates with the presentation earlier this week at CoSIDA.

The internet is a community, and the community grows through sharing. At the same time, through sharing others may profit from our creative work. Protecting digital rights and monetizing the eyeballs are the immediate goals, but if we place too many restrictions between our institutions and our constituents we stand to lose more than a few bucks in on-line memberships.

Who do we want to win? In a free market, the consumer wins. In a restricted market, the producer wins. Here’s the problem – tribal loyalties aside, the internet is never a zero sum game. There is a delicate balance between being first with information, becoming the messenger your fans trust and come to first, and shutting out others in exclusivity agreements that alienate the media. The corporate media made sports what it is today by using it as a vehicle for commerce, but it is not permanent. A century ago, professional bicycle racing was among the great spectator sports and an African-American cyclist, Major Taylor, was the highest paid athlete in America. Half a century ago, professional basketball was nothing, a fringe small market entity. A quarter century ago, who paid attention to stock car racing outside of the deep South. A decade ago, a half-pipe was something you bought at the plumbing supply – now it’s an Olympic venue.

Nobody said we couldn’t compete with the media. Actually, I have heard leadership of the major sports writer’s associations make the claim that because most of us work for state entities we should not be allowed to sell advertising and break stories against their newspapers. Nevertheless, the very heart of our business is competition. As athletic departments, we seek to win games, to sign recruits, to hire and retain the best coaches, to build facilities – why don’t we compete to make sure our fans read our copy, view our shows, listen to our broadcasts.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


I'll open the comments while I'm airborne for home. Interested in feedback from other SIDs on the presentation.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Key Terms for the Future

If I haven't already, I'm putting my copyright marker down on these concepts:

B&B -- That's message boards and blogs, the heart of the new media group that we are trying to influence through our efforts. They are drivers of opinion, both fans and media.

"Not since the invention of written language has the barrier to mass communication been lower in human history
" -- Quote me on that. "This is a fundamental change in communication theory, one that we struggle with on a daily basis."

Not exactly the shortest concept, but one of the keys for tomorrow:
"It is written, it is spoken, it is visual – it exists in all three planes at the same time. That’s a paradigm shift in the classic sense, but the shattering of the barriers to entry into the mass media to the general public results not in change but destruction. When the medium becomes so pervasive, so complete, what differentiates one entity from another – it’s the message. The thermonuclear impact of this mode of communication effectively turns Marshall McLuhan’s great parable on its head: He who controls the message controls the medium. McLuhan imagined a global village led by tribalism, but messengers rule in the new medium. By not engaging the B&B, we concede the control of our message to others."

Happy trails to all as I head back home to Fayetteville. Let's root for no storms and not another voyage on the SS Minnow.

Pot, Kettle; Kettle, Pot

Rolling through the post-event comments, one of note was a pretty strong shot at Spencer Hall for sitting at the dias and blogging while the session went on.

Well, he's a blogger. What did you expect?

Here's the hook. The comment on Spencer's blog started with, "You're so unprofessional for blogging . . . ."

A) I think Spencer made it very clear, he gets paid for blogging -- ie, he is a professional -- but by no stretch of the imagination did he claim to be a professional journalist.

B) Um, why are you sitting in the audience reading a blog while we're at the podium making a presentation that your institution is paying for you to attend. And posting on it.

One of the very interesting side notes -- there were at least four persons in the room, fellow SIDs, that were posting to Spencer's blog during the event. In a way, that speaks to the coming change in events.

In answer to the worries about the transactional blogger violating the rights agreements of our various companies, ponder that exchange. I know it is almost impossible during time outs at Razorback football games to send or receive texts. In large part, its friends commenting to each other about the last plays. Once again, a digital community within the real one.

As we see broader roll-out of 3G and Edge devices, more and more text becomes descriptions of the events. Instead of worrying about whether this undercuts the rights holders, maybe the rights holders could sponsor community groups to engage that discussion. And sell ads.

One of the running comments during the week on other panels went something like this: I don't know who those people are who are playing along with TV on their laptops . . . or I don't know who those people are answering the surveys during the commercials on TV.

Entertainment networks wouldn't take the time to create those interactives if they weren't capturing time and views for ads on those pages.

It's something to think about. Hello, Stat Crew? Yes, could you rebuild the media view with a chat window and port it to Windows Media 6.0 and iPhone SDK . . . .

By the way, my intellectual property attorney would like you to know that by that statement I have claimed initial patent on the concept of any statistical presentation of college sports linked with the idea of chat windows for interactive fan communities at the games, and those mated with targeted advertising based on existing profiles, cell phone number and SNW harvested data.

No. Seriously. I mean that.

No, Thank You

The presentation is over, and I'm a little disappointed I didn't make to the room faster.

My great thanks to Dan Gillmor, who I think everyone could tell just how sick he was from the audio, and Spencer Hall, who is really a human being, for participating.

The goal was to create discussion. That's why we spoke short, and we're looking to get the questions going. I think one of the best follow-ups I had after the fact was from one of the questioners, a major conference office rep, who said that it was a bit scary.

Yes. It is. The new world order in this completely open posting word is, well, new. It's a jarring, system-wide change. We must evolve to respond to it, both as an organization and as institutions.

Let me repeat what I said at the podium -- this is a community. We must have discussions; among ourselves, with our fans, with our administrators.

I can't stress this point enough: have the conversation internally about what you will do to engage with the B&B world. Know that the answer for your institution may be we are not going to interact with them. That's OK -- it is your message and your school.

That, however, is the key. You must be the master of that message, the conduit through which the message flows. It is our future.

Don't fight the future. Never really worked out for Fox Mulder.

And lets see how many of you are reading -- the password is Afghanistan Banana Stand

Shhh! Don't Tell Anyone Else

Here's a little langiappe that isn't going into the presentation or the handout. Just for the cool kids here on the blog:

If you want to know what the impact of technology is having on the creative business, consider the release of Radiohead’s latest album. They made it a free download, pay what you think it is worth. They made about $1 million off the release. Sure, not everyone paid; but many paid more than if Radiohead had distributed it by disk or other on-line services. That fact is well noted in the on-line business community. I have another take not spoken. To me, it’s less about the giving up of control over the price or the digital rights management. It’s the fact Radiohead could create and produce its own album without the need for the record label, and distribute it through their own marketing channel. There is a reason why the networks, the providers – cable, satellite and IP-based; and the conference offices are racing to sign up athletic departments and lock away content for big money and very broad control rights. They know it too. My prediction: the schools that retain control will make the Notre Dame move to become Team NBC in the 1990s incredibly small potatoes.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Why Bother with the B&B Anyway?

The fifth and final W in the Rules of Engagement

Why engage? Call this the Jesus effect: you go where the sinners are. If a group is spreading misperceptions about the coach, a player or a situation, often the best way to deal with it is by direct discussion. Just over a decade ago, SIDs sat round and complained about those non-journalists on the radio, fomenting trouble, reporting rumor and, gasp, letting callers on the air to say whatever they wanted. Today, would anyone let a sports call-in host run without challenge? And how many encourage the talk radio host through press credentials and access? The Southeastern Conference established Radio Row at football and basketball media days. Why? To organize the growing numbers who wanted to just show up and grab interviews, but there is no small extra benefit of bringing them inside the big tent of “respectable media.” Plus, if you don’t think the sinners and the saints are together on the boards – ask one of your board owners for a demographic of the membership. Chances are very good that some of the highest level donors to the program are hidden in those screen names. Even if your administration does not believe these are good reasons, here’s the kicker: the media reads it. Let me introduce a side concept – force multiplier. One reporter can sit in the office and scan the information just as easily as you can. No need for dozens of beat reporters when you have hundreds of citizen journalists out there. Gannett calls it crowd sourcing; Dan Rather calls it unemployment

Listening to Others

I've got this quote on my coda sheet tacked to the wall over my computer that says what you think of on your own is at best monotonous. You learn from taking your thoughts and meshing them with what you learn from others.

Listening to Michael Moran, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society at Penn State, talk about the once upon a time relationship of the SID and the young media person. The SID was a mentor, explaining the rules, helping guide the newbie along. It wasn't manipulation, it was vested interest. The school doesn't want uninformed opinion in the paper. Newspapers didn't want to have to clean up stupid mistakes that made it to print.

Let me take Michael a step further -- interacting with the B&B community can be the same. Many of the board owners do not have a good understanding of the legal nature of athletics. NCAA rules are often misunderstood. HIPPA and FERPA even less. Sometimes, explaining why things can't be said is as important as saying things.

At the end of the day, most of the people in the blogs are fans. They may have less tolerance for error, they may be essentially darker in their outlooks, but they want to help. They want to be a part of the program. Not unlike the good old days and the cub reporter on the beat, we need to find ways to relate to the B&B.

There are Some Signs You Don't Expect

This sign was found:

A) Yosemite National Park
B) Devil's Den State Park, Arkansas
C) Lookout Mountain, Tenn.
D) Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver

The answer, disturbingly, is D. Yes, and the neighbors in the very urban parts of West Vancouver -- we were all of 15 minutes from downtown -- are constantly worried about the bears coming down to hit the garbage cans.

Frankly, I think this is terribly cool. It reminds me a bit of Fayetteville, a town that while quite small urban is still very much a part of the Ozarks and is maintaining that nature feel.

When Libby and I moved to Fayetteville, one of the stories in the paper was about a Black Bear cub that was hitting the dumpsters on the main road, obviously separated from its mother. That was 1989. Guess what -- we had bears in the city limits just last year.

And for those traveling, Lighthouse Park is second only to the world-famous Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Both feature old-growth trees, but I really liked Lighthouse for the quiet trails. Of course, the sign was cool too.

Here's a glimpse of the lighthouse of the part of the same name.

And -- a Happy Canada Day to my colleagues in BC that were so helpful this year on our "foreign" tour and my good friend Jack at University of Calgary. We'll all miss you today in Tampa at convention.