Olympic PoolCam Reveals Strange Creatures Via Twitter

Creature in the Olympic swimming pool?

Amid various athletes taking verbal swipes at each other and the paranoia of network PR types overreacting to 140-character opinions is the beauty of Twitter, photography and swimming at the Summer Olympics — direct from a submerged camera.

Specifically, throughout the swimming competition, the Twitter feed L2012 (@L2012PoolCam) has posted 17 tweets — all stunning images from the bottom of the pool at the Aquatic Centre in London.

The image to the left is captioned: “Aargh, what creature is this that’s upon me?”

The Twitter’s description, without human identification, reads: “I match the world’s best swimmers, stroke for stroke. They speed along on top. I race along the bottom, always looking up – and always wet.”

Here’s another sample:

The feed has attracted a wide following of more than 17,000 since the Summer Olympics began. And although the swimming competition largely concludes Aug. 4, two events will remain, the women’s 10km on Aug. 9 and swimming’s concluding event, the men’s 10km, Aug. 10.

James Raia is an editor and publisher in Sacramento, California. Visit his site: www.tourdefrancelife.com

Brandon Phillips Says Twitter Helps his Game

Baseball managers from Little League to the major leagues often warn their players about the dangers of distractions and how it will impact their performance on the field-the only thing that matters to a manager.

Well the Cincinnati Reds’ All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips claims that Twitter (@DatDudeBP) is not only not a distraction, but that his heavy use of it has helped his game last season. For the record last year he hit .300, scored 94 runs and had 82 runs batted in and won a Silver Slugger award..

Phillips said on the Jim Rome show that the technology helped him both personally with all of the positive feedback and with an effort by himself to only say positive things on his feed. But he even found that the haters, ones who said that he would not accomplish anything helped to motivate him to remain focused on the field.

From the sound clip that is linked it is obvious that he enjoys the interaction with fans and that it has helped him open up to fans, and it has led to him providing his own giveaways at the ballpark.

On the flip side there is always Tim McCarver, the Fox Sports baseball announcer who does not like any form of social media at all. In a recent interview he went so far as to say that nothing is as disturbing as social media. When not making these remarks he is presumably outside telling people to get off his lawn.

Hopefully this will be a trend that more athletes follow. A lot have engaging personalities but remain distant from fans for a huge variety of reasons, including ‘haters’ as Phillips said. This allows them to reach out and really develop new bonds for fans and athletes both on and off teams that they root for.

Cisco Scoring Big in Europe with Stadium Wi-Fi, Infrastructure Deals

Warsaw's new National Stadium, soon to be powered with Cisco networking technology.

With a couple new deals for stadium-network infrastructure, U.S. networking giant Cisco Systems is at the start of what could be a big string of wins for its new focus on “connected stadiums.”

A Nov. 15 announcement of plans for soccer powerhouse Real Madrid to partner with Cisco to bring fan-accessible Wi-Fi and other improvements to its home stadium in Madrid was followed by an announcement on Nov. 21 of a deal for Cisco to bring a wide range of technology to the new National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland, where next year’s Euro 2012 soccer tourney will kick off.

Cisco Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group SVP and GM David Holland

Though Cisco is no stranger to sports stadium deals — it helped AT&T build wireless networks inside stadiums like AT&T Park in San Francisco and Stanford Stadium, and is behind wireless efforts at facilities like Kansas City’s Livestrong Park soccer arena — the next year should see Cisco kick into full gear on its “connected sports solutions” group, headed by senior VP and GM David Holland. While free Wi-Fi is of top interest to most fans these days, Cisco’s breadth of networking smarts brings even more to the table for venue owners — including the ability to integrate voice, public safety and other data streams like ticketing and concessions into a tight, secure, single IT infrastructure.

For fans, the benefits of a connected stadium are clear: Personal access to instant video replays, the ability to order food from your seat, and the fun of connecting with fans and friends either in the venue or out on the Internet. For teams and stadium owners, a fully connected stadium not only helps make fans happier, it can also increase advertising and other revenue streams while reducing administration and cost of IT ownership.

Where Cisco has an edge over other technology providers is in its depth of offerings — not only is it the world leader in back-end routing and switching gear, but it is also among the market leaders in wireless access gear, through the expertise of its Linksys division. Unknown to most observers is Cisco’s strength in digital-display technology, which it uses in stadium situations to improve or enhance video display on screens both big and small.

Sports is something Cisco understands

And unlike other consumer-based offerings — such as its failed efforts to crack into the personal video market by buying handheld videocam maker Flip — Cisco clearly “gets” the sports fan’s desire to have better access to technology. Just read this snippet from a Cisco blog about stadium technology, which reads like something we might write here at MSR:

Picture a fan sitting in a football stadium full of tens of thousands of people getting ready for the game to begin. The stadium is roaring with noise, the team takes the pitch, and the fan uses his or her mobile device to snap a picture, capturing an iconic moment.

Like most football fans, and sports fans in general, he or she is a vibrant digital and social media consumer, and therefore tries to share that photo via a social media channel like Facebook.

However, with so many fans in the stadium desiring to do that same thing, or engage with their mobile device in another way, the strain on the existing mobile network at the game is intense. The fan finds the device has a low level of or no connectivity, and is unable to share that moment with friends, family and other fans…an inability to interact – something this fan and scores of others desire.

And going to Europe makes plenty of sense for a global powerhouse like Cisco, mainly because of the more-advanced cellular culture there. In some research we are conducting now at MSR we are finding out that most big stadiums in this country have little or no Wi-Fi access — except maybe in the luxury suites. In Europe the revolution toward fully wired fans is already in full swing, and Cisco is smart to get out in front early. It will be interesting to see how quickly these stadium deals contribute to the networking giant’s bottom line.

Will MLB’s New Deal Kill or Enhance Players’ Access to Social Media?

Just catching up on Major League Baseball’s off-season news prior to the hot stove league heating up with the arrival of the Winter Meetings and I came upon an interesting piece in Baseball Nation about a change in social media usage in baseball.

It pointed out that there is a single line in the new collective bargaining agreement that says “All players will be subject to a policy governing the use of Social Media.” That is it, no details and no policy.

I have no issue with baseball, or any sport, having a set of guidelines for the athletes to follow in regards to social media. For instance you probably do not want people Tweeting shower scenes, which has already happened in basketball. Or sending images of their junk, which has (purportedly) happened in the NFL.

The question is will MLB simply move its rules for team employees to now also cover players or will it create a new set of guidelines, one that might be designed to always put MLB in a good light?

The new players’ policy is so short it is hard to give it the title of policy, but the open-ended nature of it does give you reason to pause. Currently baseball, and for that matter most pro sports, are pretty open about the use of Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media as a tool that its players can more directly with the fans. Outside of outlawing tweets from the free-throw line or the line of scrimmage, it’s pretty much an open game.

And rightly so. Curt Schilling has had the blog 38 Pitches for years where he posts his opinions and people can chime in. That seems almost old school (yes I know he also Tweets and uses the two for different purposes) now with the ability to follow players’ feelings and opinions in almost real time. A quick look at the web site tweeting-athletes shows the huge number of players from around the globe and around sports that are active at some level in tweeting.

Fans enjoy hearing directly from players. It may not be the most insightful sometimes, but it is often colorful and much more interesting than the canned quotes that players tend to give to live broadcasters.
I see the need for rules and a cooling off period, so that in the heat of the moment a player does not post something that he and possible his team, will regret, but I worry about leagues taking it too far.

The NFL feels no qualms about fining coaches for criticizing refs even when everybody in America has seen the replay that shows how wrong the ref was on a play. Let’s not even talk about fining people for wearing the wrong color cleats. It really is earning its title as the No Fun League. The NBA has been increasingly worried about its image over the last decade and has dictated how players will dress. However they both do seem to have an open mind on the topic of social media.

The existing rules for MLB employees and contractors can be found here– and it is pretty much what you would expect it to be: don’t pretend you are speaking for MLB, no confidential information, no using logos and property of the league and so on.

I think baseball, and all sports, need to embrace social media as an adjunct to marketing and advertising efforts. What could be better than players directly accessing fans? I guess if the players are unhappy and the team is poorly run bad things can happen, but on the whole I think the net results will be positive.

Friday Grab Bag: No More MRIs on Twitter for Arian Foster

Just a quick roundup of some Mobile Sports-related topics today, including Arian Foster telling Jim Rome that he probably isn’t going to put any more MRI photos on Twitter anytime soon.

AT&T Adds Wi-Fi to Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota:

While we will have a longer feature coming up soon about AT&T’s push to bring Wi-Fi to more stadiums we didn’t want to pass up the news of Ma Bell adding enhanced Wi-Fi access to the Xcel Energy Center, home of hockey’s Minnesota Wild. Among the features added by AT&T are on-site access to video replays and the ability to order food from your seat. What more does a fan want? Like we said, stay tuned for a longer feature on AT&T’s Wi-Fi stadium strategy.

Is Twitter Video the Next Big Thing?

Twitter pros already know how to put photos on the web for instant sharing, but what about video clips? According to GigaOM a company called Keek has just raised $5.5 million to help build out its short-video messaging service. Get ready for a lot of “Dude, we’re here at the game!” posts soon.

The Ongoing Search: What’s the Best Mobile Play-by-Play Service for Football?

NFL 2011 mobile app, showing play by play. Good clear screen, detailed info.

There’s a whole lot of folks telling you that you can keep up on football games by using your mobile phone — but how well do the services actually work? In an ongoing search that will probably last all season long, your MSR crew (meaning me) will perform random acts of mobility, following NFL and college games via mobile to see if these services deliver, or if they fall incomplete.

Monday night my dinner-making grill-master duties coincided with the Monday night tilt between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins, giving me a perfect chance to test out some of the mobile play-by-play services, like ESPN’s Gamecast, the NFL.com NFL 2011 app, and Sprint (my cell phone provider’s) Sprint Football app. The early verdict says: go with NFL 2011 as your starter, ESPN as your backup, and leave Sprint Football on the bench.

Though the NFL 2011 app has a little annoying banner ad at the bottom of the screen (the ESPN and Sprint services also have banner ads), its play-by-play updates are generally more informative than ESPN’s, giving it the edge in a basically even competition. Both services suffered from an annoying lag time between play posts — which, if your screen is set to go dark to save power like mine is, means you may occasionally have to hard refresh the device to keep the app alive. I’d buy a beer for the first service to add a simple “status” banner that could tell you something like “play under review” or “game in TV timeout” so that you aren’t stupidly staring at the screen waiting for an update.

The Sprint Football app. Basically unreadable, so bench this one in favor of other services.

I ruled out the Sprint app after less than a minute — though it might be informative it suffers from a too-cute design that uses a screen shot of a football field as a backdrop, making its white type illegible when you are looking at a post that blurs into the lines of the field on the drawing. Seriously, Sprint folks — does anyone there look at these things? You can’t read it. Change it, please.

Both the ESPN and the NFL app, which have sensible, clear backgrounds, both suffered mightily to keep up with a fast, complex play — like the interception thrown by Dallas QB Tony Romo in the first quarter that ended with a fumble out-of-bounds call that needed replay review. The play by play apps were no help, basically stalling and never getting around to explaining what happened — they just both picked up with Washington running plays in Dallas territory.

ESPN's Gamecast app, not live but even this wrapup shows the clear black-on-white format that works well.

Having access to a TV set just a few steps away from the barbecue gave me the ability to see how well the online apps were keeping up — and the answer was, not well at all. Both the ESPN and the NFL apps were at least three plays behind the live action; if you watch the Internet version of Gamecast on your PC you can even see that the Twitter stream embedded in the app usually has info that is ahead of the Gamecast info. If I ran either one of these operations I would strip them back down to make sure that the play by play is as close to live as possible. Remember, fans may be using this service as a replacement for the TV announcers who annoy us all. So you’ve got to be faster than they are now.

The bottom line — neither of the top two services is satisfying if you are doing nothing but concentrating on the screen, since they don’t stay “live” enough to hold your attention or keep your phone’s screen lit. I will keep looking to see if there are other services that concentrate solely on play by play, as well as trying to cobble together a Twitter stream to approximate play by play because Twitter is fast. We should have a Verizon phone in hand soon to test out the NFL Mobile app, and we have also heard that Yahoo has a pretty good service so we will look for that as well.

Anyone else out there figure this out? Chime in below in the comments.

(all photos credit: MSR.)