Saturday, January 31, 2009
Although Alex Tyus is slowly evolving into a smaller version of Udonis Haslem, and Chandler Parsons looks to finally have his head on straight after a horrendous start to the year, the problem with the Gators this year is that they are consistently inconsistent. One night, they'll go 1-15 from behind the arc, the next night they light it up. For some reason they can't hit free throws lately (only 57 percent against the Vols...ugh). Dan Werner should be dominating the blocks and nailing threes like Matt Bonner in his senior year; instead he continues to get outplayed underneath and can't find his jump shot (1-5 from behind the arc last night). Walter Hodge seems to play out of control too frequently and, like Werner, couldn't make a shot last night if his life depended on it.
The only beacon of consistency for the Gators has been Nick Calathes, Florida's do-it-all Super Sophomore. A couple of days after his second triple-double, Calathes put up a solid game against the Vols with 21 points and 4 assists. However, he got hit with two quick fouls to open the game and ended up sitting on the bench for the majority of the first half. Clearly the Gator offense just does not go without Calathes, as they scored a paltry 22 points total in the first half.
The Gators had little defense for the plethora of Tennessee's slashing swingmen, as the Vols seemed to drive into the lane at will for easy shots. While not as apparent in the Gators' out-of-conference schedule, it is clearly showing that their lack of size inside will more than likely be what keeps the Gators out of the big dance again this year. Highly-touted freshman Kenny Kadji in spurts looks to be the real deal, but he will need to develop at a supersonic pace in order to develop into the Horford-esque player that the Gators need now. Eloy Vargas, the other highly-touted big man that Billy brought in this year, is just not ready, as he appeared to be lost in his brief appearances early in the season, and rumors still persist that a lack of conditioning is still hurting him.
Next season may be the one where Florida finally gets back onto the national stage, with Vargas and Kadji (each having a year of conditioning and the training table under their belts) joining Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin on the interior to provide a more imposing presence akin to the Noah-Horford-Richard frontcourt of 2006. Add incoming freshman superstar Kenny Boynton to provide scoring and great perimeter defense, assume Calathes doesn't jump for the NBA, and the Gators should be a Top 10 team next season. But that's next year.
The only saving grace for this season may be the fact that the entire SEC appears to be down this year (not a single team ranked in the Top 25), and Florida may still be able to emerge out of the mediocre parity in the SEC due to Calathes and Donovan's coaching skills. However, it's hard to look anyone in the eye and tell them with a straight face that Florida can be an Elite Eight team this year. The Gators just do not have the consistency from its current personnel to be a shoo-in for the Big Dance, let a lone make a deep run into the tournament. I hope I'm wrong, but after watching the Gators against Tennessee last night-I'm pretty sure Gator Nation will be biting their nails on Sunday, March 15th when the brackets are released.
Boy was I wrong.
I expected Serena to be her normal self. All tournament long, she looked mentally focused and definitely played with the confidence that comes with having "been there, done that"--a state of mind you obtain after having already played in twelve Grand Slam finals. With a 9-3 record in the finals, she definitely had every reason to be confident coming into the match with Safina.
The only way for the women's championship to compare with the Nadal-Verdasco semi-final in quality of play and drama would be dependent on Safina. She would need to step up on the big stage and play attacking tennis (much like her brother did in his heyday) with strong mental toughness (unlike her brother his heyday, who was famous for his hot temper).
Alas, Safina did neither.
Safina looked unsure of herself from the get go, struggling with her serve and not hitting as aggressively with her long, flowing groundstrokes. Before she realized it, she was down 4-0 in the first. Unlike the Nadal-Verdasco match (when I was glued to my seat for each point), my attention started to wander to other things, like my phone (hmm... I wonder if anyone updated their Facebook/Twitter status), like wondering what I would eat for dinner tonight (marinate some salmon), like...well, you get the jist. Safina didn't win her first game until the second set, and Serena just kept the pressure on with solid (but not great) tennis. Serena continued on to collect a 6-0, 6-3 straight-set victory for her 10th Grand Slam singles title, and fourth Australian Open title.
On the men's side, one of the best rivalries in tennis history will continue, as Rafael Nadal goes up against Roger Federer...their first matchup in an Australian Open final. General opinion suggests that Federer has the edge against Nadal, thinking that Nadal's marathon match with Verdasco (did I mention how great that match was?) will leave him just a tad less energetic for the finals. I'm not buying it, and fully expect Nadal to put forth yet another tremendous defensive effort against the always smooth and deadly-accurate Federer.
Nadal has recently played in arguably two of the greatest tennis matches ever (the already-mentioned Verdasco match and the 2008 Wimbledon final against Federer--easily the greatest tennis match in history). Federer and Nadal seem to bring out the best in each other--just like great rivalries should.
I'm hoping that their match tonight will be just as endowed with gripping, tense, high-quality tennis as last year's Wimbledon final, if for no other reason than to make up for the dud that the women's final ended up being.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Americans, wake up!! You probably have one already...it's called a bathrobe!
I will admit that I felt better after my friends and I mocked the Snuggie in our social networks yesterday (especially the idea of colleges everywhere having Snuggie Parties instead of Toga Parties...nice!), and it got me to thinking of other horrid examples of television advertising that are so bad that they become pop culture phenomenons. So, I present to you:
The Top 5 - Worst Infomercial Product Ads:
#5 - The Snuggie - 2008
"The Blanket with Sleeves": At first I thought only folks who wanted to pretend to be clergy or were just too fat and lazy to dress themselves would actually buy The Snuggie. But it has quickly become a pop culture sensation, doing the rounds on the Ellen Degeneres show, Tonight Show, and even a cameo appearance in the crowd at Barrack Obama's inauguration. Apparently young kids think they're cool... yet another reason to not give children any financial responsibilities.
#4 - ShamWOW! - 2008
The stars of this low-budget commercial aren't "Vince" (the Jersey-esque pitchman), or his headset, but rather the two irritating ladies who emphasize 'WOW' in the product name. Makes me cringe every time. And, you know... he can't do 'this' all day, so act now! Puhhlease.
#3 - Chia Pet - 1982
Ch-ch-ch-Chia, The Pottery that Grows! Nothing screams decorative chic more than having a cheap ceramic mold of a sheep with small sprouts growing out of it to resemble its wool coat. Amazingly, this product line continues today, as the Chia Obama is now available--but I get the feeling that it's purchased more as a gag gift than anything else... right? Right? Please tell me people don't still buy them because they want them. Right?
Here's the original Chia Pet commercial:
#2 - LifeCall - 1989
Granted, I was not the target audience for this commercial back in the day... and I'm sure it actually has saved many a life for the elderly or those in assisted living situations. But nothing was so irritating while simultaneously being hilarious (keep in mind I was in high school) than the dramatization of poor Mrs. Fletcher using her LifeCall necklace and saying "I've fallen! And I can't get up!". Good times. Re-enactments of this commercial graced nearly every college party I attended--starring those who were well-marinated (perhaps myself a time or two?)
#1 - Ginzu Knives - 1978
The grandfather of them all, this was the first use of the "but wait, there's more" sell-line in a television ad. It wasn't until that ad that I realized that I no longer had to slice a tomato with my karate chop! And couldn't the demonstrator bang a little harder with the hammer? Of course he's not going to damage the knife with those little baby taps...
So, this is obviously a very subjective Top Five. What do you think I missed? Comment below.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
As I continue to bask in the glow that is the success of University of Florida athletics over the last three years (read: two football championships and two basketball championships), I recently wondered to myself what were the BIG MOMENTS over the last twenty years in Gator athletics. So, I've put together a couple of lists below. Feel free to comment!
Top 5 Gator Football PLAYS:
Wuerffel to Doering against Kentucky - Sept 1993
This was the play that started the Danny Wuerffel legacy at Florida, as the redshirt freshman QB threw a touchdown to sophomore receiver Chris Doering with three seconds left in the game to overcome Kentucky on the road in 1993. This enabled the Gators to get to the SEC Championship game that year, where they beat Alabama and won the first of four consecutive SEC championships. I was a UF student at the time and was watching this game at a party where everyone went from anxiety-stricken to pure joy and relief--all in one play.
Doug Johnson / Jacquez Green / Fred Taylor - Nov 1997
A year removed from their first national championship, Florida's game against FSU in 1997 was one of the most memorable games ever played in The Swamp. FSU came into Gainesville as the consensus number one ranked team in the country. Florida, already out of the national title hunt with losses to Georgia and LSU earlier in the season, was looking to spoil their arch-rivals' National Title hopes by rotating both QB's Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise throughout the game. After 58 minutes of an electric, back-and-forth battle between the two teams, it looked like FSU would escape with a win after Sebastian Janikowski kicked a field goal to put the Seminoles up by four points with two minutes left. However, the first play after Janikowski's kickoff will go down as one of the most memorable for me... a 63-yard pass completion from Doug Johnson to Jacquez Green. To this day I still cannot understand how Florida State could let Jacquez (who was the only receiving threat on that team) get so open, but I'm not complaining! Follow that with two outstanding Fred Taylor runs (the last for the game-winning TD), a Thad Busby interception, and you have one of the most exciting games ever played on Florida Field. Too bad I passed up an opportunity to go to the game and watched a mere five hours away in TimeOut sports bar in Albany, GA instead. Still banging my head over that poor decision.
Ike Hilliard's catch in the Sugar Bowl - Jan 1997
The 1997 Sugar Bowl drew up a rematch between #3 Florida and #1 Florida State. With Arizona State losing earlier in the day to Ohio State, the Sugar Bowl turned into the National Championship game for the 1996 season. Florida, having lost a close, tough game a month earlier to FSU, took control from the outset and dominated this game behind Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel's accurate arm. While there were many exciting moments throughout the game, the one play that left me in awe from my seat in the Superdome was the Ike Hilliard catch where he stopped on a dime (causing two FSU defenders to crash into each other) and then proceeded to waltz into the endzone. This play sealed Florida's first football National Championship.
Mick Hubert's audio call
Ahmad Black's INT against Oklahoma - Jan 2009
This play proved to be the pivotal play for the 2008 national championship. The 2009 FedEx BCS Championship game was close throughout, and with both Florida's and Oklahoma's offenses beginning to move the ball consistently, it appeared that who ever had the ball last would win the game. After Florida went up by three with a field goal in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma was driving. But Ahmad Black's amazing play where he ripped the ball out of Juaquin Iglesias' grasp for an interception of Heisman-winner Sam Bradford gave the ball back to the Gator offense--and that was all she wrote. Florida proceeded to orchestrate an eleven play, seven minute drive that culminated in a game-ending, trademarked Tim Tebow jump pass for a touchdown... all due to the Ahmad Black interception. I especially love Sam Bradford's wide-eyed look of disbelief that he was picked off!!
Jarvis Moss' blocked field goal - Nov 2006
By far and away, this is one of the most important plays in Florida sports history, as it single-handedly enabled the Gators to get the opportunity to play in the 2006 BCS Championship Game against Ohio State and win their second football national championship. Clinging to a one point lead against South Carolina in Steve Spurrier's first game coaching in The Swamp as a visitor, Jarvis Moss lept into the air and swatted down a Ryan Succop field goal attempt with seven seconds left in the game. This one play is continually referenced as THE play of the 2006 season, and caused Spurrier after the game to declare that "this could be the year of the Gators".
* Jarvis Moss against Ohio State, causing fumble recovered by Derrick Harvey - January 2007
* All Tim Tebow jump passes in 2006, 2007, 2008.
Top 5 Gator Football HITS:
Monty Grow against West Virginia in Sugar Bowl - January 1994
I was at this game, and I remember two things from that night: Monty Grow's hit on Darren Studstill, and a poor Mountaineer fan puking on himself at Pat O'Brien's after the game. Monty's hit was WAY better! The images of Studstill trying to play with his chin strap vertical through his facemask are classic! Monty's consecutive plays also introduced us to a spectacular play by Lawrence Wright (see #3 below) as a freshman!
Brandon Spikes against Georgia - October 2008
Not the most devastating hit in history, but definitely a major statement that set the tone for Georgia's offense the entire game. After a year of stewing on the 2007 loss to Georgia and being reminded daily by the Gator coaching staff how Moreno ran all over the Gator defense in that loss, Brandon Spikes took out 365 days of aggression on Moreno in the Bulldogs' second play from scrimmage. The energy that hit gave the Florida defense enabled them to dominate the entire game. I wish I could hear their 'conversation' after the hit!
Lawrence Wright against Tennessee - September 1995
One of the most vicious hits I've seen in person, this famous hit on Joey Kent separates him from a Peyton Manning pass--and set the aggressive defensive tone in Florida's 62-37 destruction of Tennessee. Lawrence Wright eventually won the Jim Thorpe award in 1996 as the best defensive back in the nation, but it was this hit that put him in the national spotlight as one of the premier safeties in the country.
Jarvis Williams on Miami's Melvin Bratton - September 1986
Okay, so this game is outside the 20-year window I imposed above, but this hit is one of the best hits ever in Florida football history. The Gators went on to lose this game, but the brutality of the hit still makes me cringe even today when I see it. I was in 9th grade, watching the game with my dad in our living room when this bone crusher occurred.
Major Wright against Oklahoma - January 2009
What's with Gator safeties named 'Wright' and massive hits? I'm rating this one as #1 mainly because of the stage upon which it was made (BCS Championship Game) and because I believe it gave the defense confidence that it could continue to aggressively cover the potent Oklahoma passing attack. The execution of this aggressive, defensive gameplan was a major (pun intended) reason why Florida was able to hold Oklahoma to a meager 14 points of offense. Manuel Johnson was pretty much a non-factor for most of the game after getting blown up by Wright in Oklahoma's first series.
* Earl Everett helmetless against Troy Smith and Ohio State - January 2007
* Jermaine Cunningham against John Parker Wilson and Alabama in 4th quarter - December 2008
* Reggie Nelson all throughout the 2006 season!
Comment below if you agree, disagree, or have other special Gator moments I may have missed!
- Gatorchuckie, Jan09
Sunday, January 11, 2009
What I like to do this time of year is take a look at how the conferences all did in the bowls. And since I live in Cincinnati in Big 10 country, I especially love to compare the results of the SEC to the Big 10. However, over the last 5 years, this comparison has been, well... rather boring. The Big 10 is in the middle of a run of underperforming years that is seriously starting to hurt their national perception as a quality conference.
Let's take a look at each conference's records:
|Big East (6)||Cin,Pitt,Rut,UConn,USF,WV||4-2||.667|
|Big 12 (7)||KU,Mizzou,Neb,OU,OSU,Tex,TT||4-3||.571|
|Independents (2)||Navy,Notre Dame||1-1||.500|
|Sun Belt (2)||Fla. Atlantic,Troy||1-1||.500|
|ACC (10)||BC,Clem,FSU,GT,Mary,Miami, NC,NCS,VT,WF||4-6||.400|
|Big Ten (7)||Iowa,MichSt,Minn,NWestrn,OSU,PSU,Wis||1-6||.143|
The PAC-10 had a great post-season, as they went undefeated (5-0). This indicates that the conference may have been somewhat undeserving of the 'down year' tag that was given to them all year long (even though they only had 5 bowl eligible teams--so the depth of the league is suspect). USC may be the most talented team in the country. Kudos to the Left Coasters for a great bowl season.
The SEC is the next best performing conference, with a stellar 6-2 record. Losses by S. Carolina (they shouldn't have been in a bowl with that anemic offense) and Alabama (Nick Saban seemed to fail at getting his team up for this game, as the Tide was emotionless and played with no heart in the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl) were the lone blemishes in their bowl season. Obviously, the BCS Championship game victory by Florida over Oklahoma was the biggest high-quality win for the conference, but Georgia beating Michigan State and Ole Miss dominating Texas Tech also showed that the SEC still deserves the the 'best conference' label over the Big 12 and Big 10. Heck, even Vandy and Kentucky won bowl games.
The Big 12 conference was proclaimed to be the best conference in the country by the media for the majority of the year, with 4 teams consistently in the Top 10 and putting up gaudy offensive numbers in the process. The conference gave us some of the best games (Texas-Oklahoma, Texas-Texas Tech, and Oklahoma-Oklahoma St. were all classics) of the season. However, after looking at their results in the bowls, you have to wonder if the pundits got it wrong all year...and we were just watching some decent teams playing in a conference that played WAC-style defense (ie. non-existent). The Big 12's top 4 teams went a 1-3 collectively in the post-season, with only Texas squeaking out a last second win against a mediocre Ohio State. Texas Tech and Oklahoma played great in the first half of their games, but were dominated in the second half of their games against SEC opponents. And Oklahoma State came up short against an underrated Oregon team.
The Big East continues to show that they are deserving of their BCS status, as they had a relatively good bowl season at 4-2. I think this conference will take advantage of the Big 10's perceived downslide, as more recruits will consider the up-and-coming Big East programs over Big 10 ones. Still not at the level of the SEC, Pac-10 and Big 12, the Big East is definitely on the rise in football.
The ACC had the most teams in bowls, but that's more a sign of that conference's mediocre parity this year than anything else. No huge results to distinguish the ACC this season... but the youth on Miami, Va Tech and FSU's teams next year will perhaps put the ACC onto the national stage next year.
And then, there is the Big 10. At 1-6 in the bowl season, only the MAC did worse than the Big 10 this year. I can't pile on here, because it's just no fun anymore. My Big 10 neighbors and co-workers all just tuck their tails and want to start talking about basketball season or, worse, college hockey. The days of my neighbors "borrowing" my Gators flag and replacing it with a Buckeye flag are gone. Their spirit has been broken. The smack talk, which always begins boiling hot in the early part of the season, once again has simmered to tepid tap water by season's end.
The Big 10, with their storied programs and great recruiting base, will always be one of the best conferences in the nation on paper. However, on the field, they are living up to the 'big and slow' tag that folks have been giving them since Florida's trouncing of OSU two years ago. You cannot ignore the fact that their high-profile teams have not had good bowl showings in the last 3 years. Going 1-6 this year (and 0-6 in their last BCS bowl games) is very indicative that this conference just isn't as strong as it was a decade ago. Dare I say that the Big East may be a better conference top to bottom? Yikes?
Leave 'em below...
Friday, January 9, 2009
I write to you pleading for your help in some personal issues I am having at home. Can you please, for the love of God, please STOP WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS!! It is hurting me psychologically, emotionally, and financially. Enough already.
You see, my husband is a Gator alumni, and therefore a huge Gator fan. (Let's call him 'Catorghuckie' to protect his identity). And he does his best to live up to the origin of the word 'fan'... because he is truly a fanatic about the Gators.
It's bad enough that I have to put up with Catorghuckie's annual trek to Las Vegas for the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament (flight, hotel, food, drink, gambling...you can imagine the cost associated with this trip!!),
There's that one weekend every July when Catorghuckie will come home from a routine trip to the grocery store with about 10 pre-season football magazines published by Lindy's, Sporting News, Athlon, and a throng of others. At $5-6 each, that's about $60 he spends annually just on these magazines. And then I lose him as a husband and father for the full weekend as he 'analyzes' each magazine down in his man-cave.
And I'm already sacrificing every Saturday in the fall (well, except for those two lovely BYE dates...woo hoo!) when I don't see Catorghuckie because he goes down into the man-cave to watch college football all day, of which I know I am an enabler because I also allow our annual purchase of the entire Full Season ESPN Gameplan for those one or two games that the Gators play which are not on national tv.
These things I have learned to put up with.
However, whenever the Gators are 'in the running' for a National Championship (which recently seems like it's been every year in every sport), Catorghuckie exudes additional symptoms:
* Catorghuckie will lobby me to allow him to make a trip to the championship games, regardless of cost (of the 2 basketball and 3 football championships, I've successfully fended off 3 of these attempts).
* Catorghuckie does nothing around the house for the days leading up to the championship game (he says he's too nervous to wash dishes, do laundry, or read to the kids before bed).
* Catorghuckie either throws a big party at our house to watch the game (which I have to clean up), or goes to the bar and drinks way too much during the game and is non-functional the next day. Bar tab is usually over $100, and there is nothing worse than sleeping next to a guy who smells like a he's been in a bar all night.
* And then, over the following weeks when he should be spending time with his family, Catorghuckie instead spends hours on-line making non-budgeted purchases of championship clothing and memorabilia to either wear or stash somewhere in his basement man-cave. Let's see, a basketball signed by the entire 2007 Gator basketball team, a winter snow hat in the shape of a Gator football helmet, a piece of the Final Four basketball court from Indianapolis, and a coconut with the Florida Gators logo painted on it is just a small sample of the silly (and expensive) things that he buys.
It's for these additional symptoms that I desperately implore you to help me out by stopping it. Stop winning National Championships, darn it. There was a time when you won a national championship once every 10 years, and were happy just to make it to a Final Four. I can deal with that timing...once a decade was the perfect frequency for me to have deal with his madness. But 4 championships in 3 years??? Come on!!! I can't take any more!
Can you please do something to help me out? Is there any way to bring back Ron Zook or Gary Darnell to coach football? How about bringing back Don DeVoe for basketball? Just anything to keep all of these championships from happening. My psyche (and finances) are in dire need of an intervention here.
Thank you ahead of time for anything you can do to address this issue.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
"And if we don't get it together, Barack Obama is going to be ripping us a new one for eight years." - Gary Emineth, South Dakota head of the GOP when talking about the need for the Republican party to exploit social media.
First, let me start by saying that I'm not loyally aligned with any particular political party (I'm registered Republican, but I often vote across party lines), and that this post is not truly about politics, governmental policy or partisan issues... it's about Marketing. Social Marketing to be more specific, and how some politicians just don't get it. And I'll also preface the rest of this article with the fact that I do not know Ken Blackwell, have not researched him (beyond what I've read in the papers), and have nothing personal against him. (I actually still have a letter signed by him when I created my first LLC in Ohio and he was the Ohio Secretary of State.) He's simply the unfortunate principle figure in the article I just read...
What triggered my need to write this blog is this article about the Republican Party debates on January 5th in Washington D.C. to determine who would head up the Republican National Party as the elected chairman. One of the front-runners is Ohio's own Kenneth Blackwell, who was formerly Ohio's Secretary of State and two years ago was soundly defeated by Ted Strickland in the race to be Ohio's governor.
During the debate for the RNC chariman post, which apparently turned into a middle school-esque argument over who had the most contacts in social network tools, Mr. Blackwell repeatedly mentioned that he has "over 4,000 friends on Facebook" in his debate answers--apparently in an effort to demonstrate that he is tech savvy and can appeal to a new wave of younger Republicans. With his statements in the debate, Mr. Blackwell is truly saying two things by bragging about how many friends and followers he has in Facebook and Twitter:
1) He at least is aware that there is a powerful media outlet out there called 'social media'
2) Unfortunately, if he thinks the number of friends you have is important, then he does not understand how to use it.
A political campaign is, at its core, a marketing campaign all about trying to win over the hearts of voters (consumers). Convince enough voters (consumers) that you and your platform (brand) are the best for them, and they will vote for you (purchase your product) on election day.
Political candidates are realizing, much like brand managers for consumer products, that the wave of social networking and digital media bring tremendous opportunities to reach more voters. However, the real value of social networking tools (and internet marketing) in general is not only in the additional reach, but the fact that internet marketing and social media enable the creation of dialogue with the voter/consumer... the opportunity to have a conversation with the voter/consumer about their needs, expectations, and how the candidate/brand can deliver on these needs and expectations.
Whereas the traditional media (TV, radio, print) reach a ton of folks, this type of advertising is purely 1-directional communication--like someone with a bullhorn talking in one-direction to the masses. No opportunities to get engagement back from the masses, and there's a good chance that a passerby'er may "hear" your monologue, but is actually not "listening".
Social media outlets (like blogs, micro-blogging sites like Twitter, and social networking sites like FaceBook and MySpace) enable a "virtual dialogue" to occur between the candidate/brand and the voter/consumer. A conversation can develop, a relationship can be built into loyalty--and all on the voter/consumer's own time. This "own time" aspect is vitally important, as it actually ensures that the communication is wanted and when the voter/consumer is most receptive to having that discussion, and therefore, the quality of the engagement is much, much stronger. If these tools are used effectively, the candidate/brand is able to quickly develop the consumer's awareness, understanding, and--eventually--trust in what the brand promises to deliver, and you have a consumer for life!
So, this takes me back to Mr. Blackwell. He knows that social networking media is up-and-coming, and potentially very powerful. But by focusing on the virtual reach he has (indicated by his # of friends), he's not demonstrating that he understands the power of these these tools. I think it's great that he's got 4,000+ friends in Facebook--but all that means is that there are 4,000 people who he either asked to be his Friend or that he accepted as a Friend. My co-worker has over 5,000 friends in Facebook--but he doesn't use Facebook to build more relationships or dialogue...he's what I call a "Facebook friend-collector".
When I checked out Mr. Blackwell's profile (we're both members of the Cincinnati network, so I can view his profile), I see a bunch of posts from others writing on his wall--wanting to engage in dialogue with the candidate but not getting responses. The only posts put up by Mr. Blackwell are photo albums of photo-op events he's recently participated in, or his 'plan' for the Republican party--a .pdf download. This screams of old-school, monologue marketing (dare I also mention that he is robo-calling voters--in other words using that annoying automated phone call with his voice recording to get folks to vote for him...say it ain't so Ken!). Not much public engagement with folks who post on his wall, no effort to understand what his 4,000 'friends' want to see in the Republican party's leadership. For all I know, Mr. Blackwell is a "Facebook friend collector" as well.
To show that Mr. Blackwell truly understood the power of social networking technology, he should have responded more to the tune of "I use Facebook and Twitter daily to further nurture relationships with voters and engage folks with my vision of the future of the Republican party. I love that these social media tools have given me yet another effective outlet to create conversations with our citizens.", instead of his 'I have over 4,000 friends in Facebook' answer.
As politicians go, one only has to look at Barack Obama to see how to effectively use social media to market oneself in a campaign. He truly deserves the AdAge's 2008 marketer of the year award he just received, as he leveraged new media to extents not seen in political campaigns in the past. He Twittered, Facebooked, and Blackberry'd his personal message consistently for 12 months, using each medium to create conversations with voters like never seen before. He even had the savvy to get a free iPhone application placed out in the iTunes app store. The iPhone was little more than a way to present his platform while also asking for help in getting him elected by enabling iPhone users to make calls on his behalf to their own contacts living in key swing states. Talk about engaging the voter... I nearly made some phone calls to buddies in Florida on Obama's behalf just because of that iPhone application. Definitely beats robo-calling.
So, while Obama used social media to get to the White House, Blackwell makes robocalls and brags about the his number of Facebook friends... sigh. Now, I will say that I know that Mr. Blackwell Twitters frequently (or someone on his staff does it for him), so I truly believe that Mr. Blackwell understands the power of of these tools and is creating those dialogues with citizens. But he does an injustice to the external perception that Republicans' are slow to understand and use technology when he does nothing more than brag about how many friends and Twitter followers he has in a public forum like this recent debate.
For social networking tools, similar to other "things", the old adage rings true: "it's not the size (of your friend list) that matters, but rather how you use it."
Addendum on 1/8/09: related article from The Daily Beast
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
One day away from the final game of the college football year, I pulled up some data that I stored on Evernote back in July on my iPhone. Below is the beginning of the year betting odds for the college football season.
With Florida and Oklahoma the only possible teams to lay claim to the National Championship on Thursday night, it looks like the line makers were pretty solid...as both teams only got 6-1 odds. Bet on anyone else and you lost money. Also notice how Utah isn't listed, so they only got 25-1 odds. Poor Utah. Too bad we don't have a playoff...
3-1: Southern California
6-1: Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma
25-1: West Virginia
30-1: Michigan, Tennessee, Texas
35-1: Miami, UCLA
40-1: Alabama, Virginia Tech
50-1: Florida State, Illinois, Penn State, Rutgers
55-1: Notre Dame
80-1: Arizona State, California, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Wisconsin
100-1: Boise State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oregon, Oregon State, South Carolina, USF, Texas A&M, Virginia, Washington
125-1: Arizona, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Wake Forest
25-1: Field (any team not listed)
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
SWEET!!! Looks like my occasional run-in with AG in the Central Building elevator may have left a positive impression on him! ;)
So, without further adieu, here's my list:
Living in Cincinnati, the weather changes frequently (70 degrees in the winter?!), so it's important to know what to expect for the day. The native iPhone weather application looks nice, but is pretty much worthless when trying to plan for the day. So, soon after buying my iPhone back in July (yes, I waited like a moron outside the Kenwood Apple Store for 4 hours), I bought MyWeather Mobile, which has very nice features and user interface (landscape mode brings other features like hour by hour charts of temp, wind, precipitation), as well as a motion radar map for your area based on your GPS location. It's by far the best weather app that I've seen. However, I recently replaced it with The Weather Channel's free app, which is also nicely done, updates much faster than MyWeather Mobile, and has most of the same features. Only thing missing is the motion radar map, but this is replaced by a video feed of the actual Weather Channel's 'Local Forecast' -- just as you would see on TV. You obviously need a good data connection for that to work, but pretty cool nonetheless. Weather Bug is free, but the user interface is weak, and doesn't stand up to the Weather Channel application.
I'm a huge fan of sports and competition, so a sports application is critical to me. For sports apps, all I want is real time scores, quick access to schedules of all teams, and links to team stats, game stats and each game's AP post-game story. Unbelieveably, there is not an iPhone app that does all of this. The best app so far that I've seen (hands down) is Sportacular. Access to all the major sports is there (including college--since I'm a huge college sports fan... Go Gators!), and it's a very stable application with a good user interface. My only gripe is that stats and stories are not available for college sports, only professional teams... Given that's my only gripe, I've lived with Sportacular since it came out right after the iPhone release in July. I tried all of Sportacular's competition like AllAccess sports, SportsTap, and ScoreMobile--and they all left me coming back to Sportacular. Note that I am keeping an eye on iSports, an app that just came out recently that seems to have some decent development behind it. Didn't seem ready for primetime, but the dev team seems to provide regular improvement updates...so it's on my watchlist.
Secondary sports apps notes: Previous to the iPhone, I had a Palm Treo--and the Pocket Express application for Palm met all of my sporting needs completely. So, when Pocket Express came out for the iPhone, I was expecting the same thing...however, the sports portion of Pocket Express is very limited and does not carry any college sports, and even omits some professional sports. Booooo!. Also, since I love college football, I was pretty excited about the AP Top 25 application... but alas, it has a clumsy user interface and eventually got the boot from my phone.
The MLB.com At Bat is also a great app for baseball lovers, but I'm a bit disappointed that you have to re-purchase it every year. By far the best feature is the real-time game lookins and pretty quickly updated video highlights of games as they're being played. Very nice app.
NEWS READERS (RSS Readers)
I'm blown away that more folks don't use RSS. It's so quick and easy, and helps me keep up to date on only those topics/news sources that are important to me. Does anyone still read the newspaper? Why? And why don't you subscribe to my blog's RSS feed? :)
There are a TON of RSS reader applications out for the iPhone, and each varies in functionality (some require use of a website reader like Google Reader or Newsgator, some have search capability, some do not allow new feeds to be created directly from the iPhone, etc...). If you're new to RSS, I recommend that you go to this link for some background on what RSS is (if you're interested), and then go to iLounge's review of RSS readers on the iPhone.
Now, first of all, let me say that I do the vast majority of my RSS reading from my iPhone, I use NewsGator and Google Reader as my web-based RSS aggregators, and speed to download feeds to the iPhone along with capability to do bulk deletions from the iPhone is most important to me. Byline and Newsstand are cute applications, but not functional for me in the download speed category. As a result, I've had NetNewsWire on my phone since day one. I keep trying other readers, but keep coming back to NNW. NNW requires use of NewsGator, doesn't allow for new feeds to be added from the application (you have to go the NewsGator website to do this--and without cut and paste on the iPhone, this means you add new feeds from a PC), but is extremely fast for downloading new stories and, well, I just like it the best. It does seem to crash every once in a while--but it's tolerable.
Some friends swear by the web app for Google Reader. It's ok, but does not allow me to view all of my feeds quickly, nor delete articles en masse. Most of these folks do the majority of their RSS viewing from a PC, and the iPhone is just a supplement viewer for them. I do look forward to a Google Reader application to show up in iTunes (will one ever?), since Google Reader is my favorite RSS aggregator, but like I said, I've lived with NewsGator and NetNewsWire thus far.
FILES, NOTES and TO DO management
So, coming from the Palm Treo world, I was used to having Excel and Word files available for viewing/editing. While editing MS Office files is still a problem (ie. non-existent) with the iPhone, there are ways to have these files available for viewing. Prior to the app store's release in July, the only way to do this was to email yourself the file as an attachment and keep it in your email, or make your own webserver available to view from your iPhone through Safari--but most average folks don't know or want to do that. So, the introduction of the app store brought many apps to fill this File Management need. The two best applications for this are Files and AirSharing, and I have settled with AirSharing. What both applications do is essentially create a location on a server (called a WebDAV server) that the application allows secure access to view whatever files are in your personal folders on that server. To get your files onto that WebDAV server, you will need to create a network connection with your PC to that server and then put whatever files you want. I use AirSharing because it has a feature to allow you to store select files to be transferred locally to your iPhone--very nice when either EDGE or 3G are not available.
For Notes, I've tried a ton of apps (like YouNote, WritingPad, MemoPad), and I now only use Evernote. It costs some money, but it is VERY nice and I find myself using it more and more every day. You can capture anything to create a note (either when working on my PC, taking a picture with your iPhone, or just typing from your iPhone), clip it to Evernote, and then it synchs to the Evernote application. Tagging allows for quick search for notes, and even can use the GPS locator to tag notes by location.
Secondarily, I played with ReQall and Jott--both are pretty cool apps (more like a service) for recording a voice note (so you talk into the iPhone) and then it comes back to you in 15-20 minutes in electronic form after a person listens to your note and then retypes it back to you. Works pretty well, but I just never found a need for it ongoing (plus, there were many errors/typos coming back). I've deleted both off the iPhone.
Finally, for To Do lists and task management, I use the iPhone application called Todo. I downloaded a bunch of applications (Tasks, OmniFocus, Things, To Do's, To-Do Lists, etc.), in order to figure out the app that best worked for my own process for organizing tasks. I used to synch tasks directly between Outlook and my Treo, but the iPhone is severely lacking in Outlook-enabled synchronization. Thus, my iPhone got me out of using Outlook Tasks, and I bit the bullet and started using a web-based task management site (like Toodledo or Remember the Milk) that synchs flawlessly with the Todo iPhone app. Complement this with the Firefox browser addin for Toodledo and the recent release of a Toodledo-to-Outlook synchronization 3rd party application for my pc, and I finally found my happy place for task management. Todo is very feature-rich and synchs with Toodledo and RTM. However, given what I know now, I would simply use the free Toodledo iPhone application (which was released a few months after Todo)--since Todo costs moolah. Don't get fooled by the many copycat names... Todo is made by Appigo. I think they may now also provide a free 'Lite' version try out first as well, but I don't know what functionality they have sacrificed to offer it for free.
TV and Movies: When the iPhone first came out, I downloaded What's On as my TV Guide type of application, since it had all of the TV listings for every TV, cable and satellite provider in the area. I also had Now Showing as my application of choice for movie listings since it was fast and had great integration with trailers and fandango. However, both applications were deleted from my iPhone with the introduction of i.TV, by far the best media listing application out there. I.TV brings movie and tv listings into one application, with all of the same great functionalities that the two other applications provided...and it promises integration with NetFlix and other types of media content playback. Even if these promises don't come to fruition, I.TV is a killer app, and is free!!!
Music: Now, I'm not as into music as I was in college, but Pandora is on my iPhone for those times when I want to expand my horizons a bit while chilling out. At one point FStream (a great aggregator of online radio streams), AOL Radio, Shoutcast, and Last.fm were all on my phone, and they are all good. But I just didn't listen to them enough so deleted them. However, I did keep Shazam on the iPhone, since, well, it's just cool. (Note that I found Midomi and Shazam are almost identical, but I went with Shazam for no good reason). Pocket Guitar was on my phone for a while, but it's more gimmicky than truly functional (no way to hit non-bar chords reliably)--so it just got bounced.
Video: Obviously, the native video apps on the iPhone are outstanding. Watching video podcasts or my own movies/tv shows on the iPhone while commuting via mass transit to work are standard to-do's for me. And the native YouTube app is still the best integration out there for streaming YouTube video to a handheld device. However, the iPhone has so much potential for 3rd party applications which stream on-demand video to really separate itself further from its competition (Flash would be oh-so-nice). The introduction of Joost has got me excited to see some of this come to fruition--but Joost's content selection is somewhat lacking (what's with the huge Japanese pop video selection?). I was able to stream a full episode the Hills (does anyone really watch that show though? Ugh), but not able to stream some of the few movies on Joost from the iPhone (so why have them be searchable?). Joost is a must have just to play with, and should serve the folks at Hulu some notice that they need to get onboard the iPhone train. Also, I'm really looking forward to Sling Media's launch of the SlingPlayer for iPhone app. I'll be buying this on day 1 of release!!
Books: For online reading, I use Stanza. I will admit that this gets used very infrequently and is at risk of getting the boot, but not because of any flaw with the application, but rather because I just don't read eBooks very much.
SHOPPING AND EATING
Shopping: The native App Store and iTunes apps are outstanding for making iTunes purchases. The only other shopping application I have is the Amazon.com application, and it is a must have. Quickly search Amazon for items to check prices (great when Christmas shopping) or to just make a purchase it from Amazon. But the icing on the cake is the Amazon applications' 'Remembers' functionality, where if you take a picture of an item, folks at Amazon will identify the item, get the product information for it, and save it in your account. It works incredibly well!! On the eBay and Craigslist front, I abandoned their apps and just use their webapps instead, since I don't spend much time on them anymore.
Eating: Urbanspoon is fun, but more gimmicky for me since I'm not going out to eat alot (I have two small kids). However, we use it occasionally for those babysitter nights. I keep OpenTable on my phone as well, not so much because I use it--but because I HOPE to use it one day. It is integrated to the OpenTable website for allowing online reservations to be made quickly (and the restaurants we go to aren't snazzy enough to require reservations). Yelp and Where are both outstanding for restaurant reviews, but I only kept Where on my phone since it also helps me find the nearest Starbucks! And for cooking at home, I like both the AllRecipes app (think Urbanspoon for making your own meals) as well iFood (another recipe application sponsored by Kraft--guess what ingredients they often propose!).
Since food is somewhat linked with health, I'll also mention here that I now have loaded the FitPhone application to help restart my workout routine--and to replace my archaeic Excel spreadsheet. The jury is still out on whether FitPhone will stay on the iPhone or not, but I've found that it has a pretty good listing of core exercises that I already do (so don't have to do a bunch of manual entry).
Gaming is impressive on the iPhone, and I've wasted many a minute playing games on the iPhone. Of all the games that I've played, I only have a few that have been mainstays.
Game Mainstays: Texas Hold'em (by Apple!) is by far and away my most played game. Great for wasting a few minutes in the doctor's waiting room, it is the best HoldEm game out there. Great interface and gameplay. Took a while to build up enough winnings to play at Dubai, but I'm there now!! Crash Bandicoot NitroKart is still on my iPhone because my girls like to play it, and MotoChaser and RealSoccer 09 are there because they are just great executions that show off the iPhone's gameplay ability (even though I haven't played them in a long time). Sudoku(Free) meets my wife's sudoku fix, and Solebon has stayed on since it brings FreeCell, Solitaire and a couple of other games all together in one app. Burning Monkey Casino is a great (and cheap) game that brings many casino games into one application--and the game execution is excellent. Right before the Christmas holidays, I downloaded Monopoly (to which I'm still addicted) and Centipede (to which my wife is addicted). iLounge gave rave reviews to a game called Rolando, so that's on my iPhone now--but the jury is still out on that one.
Good games, but got tired of them: Now, with that list above, I feel I should still recommend some great games I've played that I have taken off my iPhone--only because I know I can bring it back from iTunes at some point in the future. These games are (in alphabetical order): Ace Tennis Online, Asphalt 4: Elite Racing, Aurora Feint 1 and 2 (wow! I spent hours were spent on these games...talk about addicted!) Brain Challenge (think Brain Age for iPhone), LED Football (think old-school LED light football game with 3 lanes!), Line Rider iRide, Ms. PacMan, The Price is Right (good but a huge memory hog), Spore (I got bored with it), Super Monkey Ball (wore it out), Tap Tap Revenge (think Guitar Hero for iPhone), and Toy Bot 1, 2 and 3 (these are great games with a fun user interface...highly recommended!).
The bad games:
Billy Frontier (fun for 20 minutes, but crashed way too much), Dactyl (felt like a nervous disorder was coming on), Everest (zzz), Fat Free Video Poker (got replaced by Burning Monkey Casino), Shaky Summit (zzz), Stone of Destiny, and Zombie Attack
There are many applications for this generic Social Networking term (hey, isn't making a phone call a form of 'social networking'?) But there are definitely some social networknig applications I use very frequently, if not daily.
Micro-blogging: I used to use Loopt to update my status, which I configured to update my Twitter status, which then updated my Facebook status. I since lost interest in Loopt since knowing where people where was always dependent on them using Loopt frequently, and that just doesn't happen. So, I pretty much use TwitterFon (which just replaced Twitterific on my iPhone since it loads tweets much faster!) and the Facebook application on a daily basis to check in with friends, pics, etc... Yahoo's OneConnect application is another one that I'm keeping an eye on, since I'd like an aggregator of all my social networking sites... but it's still a ways off from that--so it got bounced from the iPhone. Yammer got deleted since a work-only microblog is too depressing, and I no longer religiously follow LinkedIn--so that application got deleted as well.
Instant Messaging: I replaced AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and Palringo with Fring because of Fring's Skype integration. Honestly though, until Apple enables 3rd party application activity threading in the background, IM apps are pretty useless on the iPhone (you only get real time IM's if you have the application open...can't run it in the background--boo!)
For stock quotes/portfolio info, I used to have the Bloomberg application loaded. However, with the economic times I find that I look far less frequently to keep from getting too depressed, and I have taken Bloomberg off. I just use the native Stocks application if I need to check an equity status.
I love using Pageonce's: A Personal Assistant, as it allows you to link in most accounts that you have (like phone bill, banking, brokerages, investment portfolios, credit card balances, frequent flier miles, eBay watchlists, etc...) and bring your current account status at your fingertips. You can also enable alerts for any account based on balance amount threshold (email me when my checking balance dips below $100) or number of transactions (let me know when more than 10 credit card transactions are made in one day).
WEB SEARCH and WEB APPS
When we're talking web search, the Google iPhone application is THE application I use the most. It's great because it searches your contacts (I still can't believe that the native Contacts application on the iPhone doesn't have a permanent 'Search' field--instead of the one that you have to scroll to the very top of your contact list for) as well as the internet. The new voice-search capability on the Google app is outstanding (although I still get some garbled voice recognition back...i've found speaking normally helps--don't try to speak slower and louder). Plus, there's a VERY COOL easter egg called 'Bells and Whistles' found on the Google app settings screen that opens up animal sounds and color control for the google app. The easter egg functionality isn't cool, but the fact that they put it in is what's snazzy. Another application on my phone (granted, it's on the 7th application page on my phone) that is nifty but not completely usable is Searchme--a search engine that returns images of the website along with your search matches. Pretty cool, but not the fastest--and therefore not ideal since speed is king when it comes to search. It's more something cool to show your friends.
As for web apps, I have many bookmarked, but not many that I have linked in my main menu screens. Actually, the only two I have are the ESPN web app (especially cool since ESPN has started to load iPhone-enabled video content there), and the Delta Airlines web app (which has strangely stopped working on Christmas Day... it may be getting deleted soon).
PASSWORD / INFO MANAGEMENT
Another application type where I invested many hours testing out apps to see what fits best for me. SplashID was awesome on the Palm, but with the iPhone version has issues with firewalls, and I would like to have some of this data on my work pc where I cannot mess with the firewall settings. There's a bunch of other applications, but I didn't feel comfortable with any of them except for Memengo Wallet, which is a web-based synchronization site for keeping your important info stored. There's an encrypted password that you create for your folders--but not sure what that ultimately means for the security of my data from the DBA's that run the website. Regardless, I've been using Memengo since July and find it very easy to use.
APPS FOR KIDS
For those times when I'm with the kids and need to distract them for a while, I'll give them my iPhone and say "Here, play with Daddy's phone!" So, they will usually go to the iPod application to watch one of the many episodes of Dora, Imagination Movers, Backyardigans, or Save 'Ums that I have on my phone (sometimes I'll load a movie like KungFu Panda or WallE for them as well). However, eventually they will want to play a game as well, so the following "kid distractors" are loaded on my phone: ABC Flashcards (great app for learning letter sounds and how to write letters!), Alphabet Sound Machine, any Jirbo game (Bounce, Jive, Memory Match), Disney Fairies Fly (girls still love to play this one, even after unlocking the final fairie), Dizzy Bee, FlashGram, FlashMath, Lemonade Stand (exactly like the old Apple II game), Lightsaber Unleashed, and Pre-School Adventure (my 3 year old loves this!). I must say that the girls playing with my phone to meet my own need for peace and quiet is happening more and more, but I justify it with a spattering of some semi-educational games as well--see, I'm not such a bad parent--they're LEARNING something!!)
OTHER MISCELLANEOUS APPS
This section is for those applications that don't really fall into a category, but are must haves for me. Easy Wi-Fi for AT&T (makes connecting to AT&T wifi hotspots super simple), Epicentral (for those earthquake hunters out there...I actually just deleted this one from my phone, but it's still pretty cool), Facecall (well, this one didn't work that well--the calling process takes too darn long, so I'm going to delete it right now!), Geocaching (THE premier geocaching iPhone app...sorry iGeocacher, but you've been bumped!), Google Earth (just too cool to not mention... it bumped Earthscape off my phone when it finally came out), iFart Mobile (I know, how crass and gross...but nothing beats watching my parents giggle like school kids for 15 minutes straight while playing through all the different...uh...'songs'. Obviously the kids love this one--a bit too much. It may need to go soon!). Night Stand (amazing how a boring app like this has managed to stay on my phone... boring but functional). Slate (election tracker) is about to get deleted, but was awesome to check up on real time polling leading up to the election in November. And I still have the Obama '08 application on my phone because, well, I just love the fact that a presidential candidate had the savvy to create an iPhone application.
Even though I'm half Japanese, I'm not that big into taking pictures (gasp!). However, I do have Sketches, Photgene and SteadyCam on my phone for those times when I do take pictures. Sketches is for doing silly things to my pictures (usually of my girls). Photogene is a more 'professional' editing software for cropping, labeling, etc..., while SteadyCam helps me take better quality pictures in lower light by signaling me when the iPhone is perfectly still and ideal for taking a picture.
Note that, since I'm not that into photography, the apps I have on my iPhone for photos are probably not the best apps out there. Consider yourself warned! :)
Well, that's my application list. I'll continue to edit this as I come across other new apps that I can't live without. Please leave me some comments (apps I missed, apps I use that you hate, etc...)
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[Posted with iBlogger from my iPhone]