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Archive for April 6th, 2010

Weplay.com - Something to Believe InWeplay.com is a great experience and it’s a great start-up to work at.   At its core Weplay is a clean-well lit platform for parents, kids and coaches helping them do all the things you want and need to do in youth sports and family life. On a somewhat biased note (I’ve got young-ins!), it’s a social platform that younger people can cut their teeth on.

Weplay is exceptional to me because I work on it, I use it and I love it.

Weplay has a responsive and responsible community who help build and define it.

These are remarkable characteristics that, in my experience, are rare for a “new media” effort.   Certainly it doesn’t yet have 25 million people visit the website or use the API or use the mobile app yet (closing in on a million Unique Users and 8 million pageviews ain’t bad, though!).   It does have the core of something special and it has a team working on it that understands how careful and dedicated a company needs to be making something users actually care about.

There are no shortcuts!

When we develop product ideas the decision making process is very simple and very challenging.   Is whatever we’re about to build something we’d use as parents, coaches, and participants in sports?   Is what we just released and are thinking about improving actually being used?

And by use, we don’t mean can we pump some internet traffic through it, can we push ad impressions against it.   Is Weplay actually being used to manage real teams, deliver real snack schedules, help kids learn real skills, help kids strengthen real world friends, and so on?   Is it something that is increasing the engagement in learning, practice, and competition?  I’ve seen the evidence that it is.

Another tough but important question about long term success – if Weplay went away would a user have to change their behavior dramatically?   Not very many services, technologies, media experiences can answer that in the affirmative.   I believe Weplay is a “must use” for a good deal of our 300,000+ members.   Frankly, I’d rather have 50,000 users who must use a service, than 3 million passer-bys.   Perhaps that’s not popular to say in new media, but over the long term of a business it is vital to become a must use for a core set of users.  There are business graveyards full of media/software experiences formerly of 50 million+ “users” because they never became vital to some users’ regular daily behavior.

Great technology is defined by Usage, not Code.

Weplay has very slick code.  I could show you lines and lines of clever ways of delivering the experience.  But that doesn’t matter.  What makes the Weplay technology platform special is that a huge percentage of the code is actually currently vital to the experience is repeatedly put to use by the user base.   I’ve worked on code bases that maybe less than 30% is still actively invoked.  In fact, I’d say that’s very common in the media world.  Of course, if the codebase were small and very simple this might not seem like such a big deal to be so tight.  Weplay is not a simple platform.  It contains calendaring, alerting, social graph integration, profiles, private messaging, online awareness, media transcoding, media uploads, sharing, full blogging platform, points system, friending, groups, “fan pages”, an “answer” system, walls, a full/more traditional CMS, tracking/analytics, and so much more.  It’s high availability, cloud based, and has multiple upgrade deploys a week.   And it’s only team of 6 people building and maintaining that code base!

You can’t fake fun!

Can't Fake These Smiles!

Believably faking a smile and a laugh is one the hardest things to do.  Spend time on Weplay and you’ll run across thousands and thousands of smiling and laughing kids, teams, coaches, grand parents.   Spend time at the Weplay offices in NYC and you’ll see the team smiling.   The Weplay team can’t help it… other people smiling makes you smile… ya know, that evolution, fixed action pattern thing is tough to shake!…   I’ve never worked on a platform that produced and shared as many smiles.   Youth sports is FUN.  A platform about youth sports is fun.   Weplay is a fun experience and you can’t fake that with fancy designs, clever marketing, or great PR.   Don’t take my word for it.  Join the community and you’ll see what I mean.   It’s not “fun” like playing modern warfare 2 on XBOX.  It’s fun like going to a saturday afternoon baseball game with sun shining down and kids running around doing their thing.  You can’t fake that.

Is this blog just spin for something you’re working on, Russ?

If I didn’t think the experience backed it up, then yeah.  But I challenge you to sign up, log in and experience Weplay.   For those that personally know me, you know when I’m just schilling for a product (probably can’t fake real enthusiasm for a product either!). It’s usually the products and companies I don’t write about, post something on facebook, etc that I don’t believe in whether I’m working on them or not.

One of my personal goals for 2010 is to build, design, consult, contemplate, talk about products I believe in and actually would or do use.  Period.

(Just for the record I love windows 7, the iPad, Wolfram Alpha, Mathematica, XBOX live, and several hundred other very cool things…….)

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I’ve avoided posting much about Tiger Woods.  It’s just too easy.  However, today ESPN had a piece from Rick Reilly that is just too crazy to not poke at a bit.  The piece isn’t badly written or “wrong”… it’s  crazy in its assumptions and bombastic its claims and it might just be an accurate reflection of golf’s, ESPNs, sports’, and Tiger’s audience values.

Here’s the zinger of it all:

We don’t usually build statues of nice, helpful, well-balanced men.

This sentiment seems to call out a justification of Tiger Woods’ behavior – in the pursuit of greatness you should do anything… in fact, greatness is a result of Tiger Woods’ “self-obsession, a limitless appetite for domination, me-first-ism to the extreme.”

That’s the same logic used by people to suggest that great comedy comes only from troubled souls, good writing from lonely people, successful business from obsessed workaholics, etc. etc.  These are catchy statements that help people wrap up complex situations but they really aren’t justified.  For one, you can’t at all determine causation from correlation in any of these examples.   It might be that great sports stars learn those behaviors while playing their sport, or they self select into the sport, etc. etc.

He vows no more “entitlement.” But Tiger Woods always played as though the trophy had his name engraved on it when he showed up Tuesday.

He vows to “tone down my negative outbursts and … my positive outbursts.” But can he win without the fist pump? Can he win without passion?

So… if Tiger Woods doesn’t win the Masters will Reilly and the audience blame rehab? Tiger’s wife? Buddha?  The Weaker Fist Pump?   There’s a subtle suggestion in this article that suggests that Tiger sorting out his personal life might not be worth possibly losing some golfing success.

I suspect there’s a good chunk of the audience that share these value statements – winning golfing tournaments might be more important than the other stuff……….

If Tiger Woods wins his last 4 months of behavior will fade quickly from the public discussion.   (Remember what Kobe Bryant did a couple of years ago? No, not that winning MVP and championships….)

I’m not saying it’s good or bad values that we’re seeing on display or I share any of these.. just calling out that there are value systems at work here and they often aren’t very politically correct.

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