Friday, August 27, 2010

A Re-Primer on the Dubs Game

Peter Briggs got in touch and was pleased that some of his squash doubles wisdom was disseminated via the blogosphere. But he thought that a few changes would optimize his primer on the game. I have made those changes in red, and are available for viewing here.

On another matter, it does indeed appear that SquashZAG has unfortunately folded. It is a very tough job to do a full-time website largely by oneself, and it can prove expensive as well. The pressure eventually became too much. Too bad!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ZAG Down

Don't know why, but SquashZAG is down again. I hope it's nothing permanent. We need good squash sites on the web!

Friday, August 6, 2010

You Go, Datuk!

As an unabashed fan of Nicol David I was obviously happy to see her win the CIMB Singapore Squash Masters title again, which makes it four times straight. Is Nicol tough or what?

She beat back a very strong Alison Waters, and though the game score was 3-0, observers saw a tight contest whose first game went 18-16. I think Ms. Waters is peaking and I suspect she will be playing career-best ball in upcoming tournaments. She will be very tough to beat in the months ahead.

You occasionally read squash journalists who suggest that Nicol David has been so dominant over the past few years because, compared to Sarah Fitz-Gerald, she has faced a less talented crop of opponents.

I don't buy that for a second. That demeans the toughness of the Grinhams, Natalie Grainger, Vanessa Atkinson, a determined bunch of hungry Egyptians, and a score of up-and-comers like Ms. Waters. 

Nicol David is the best women's squash player in a very long time. Period. Sarah Fitz-Gerald ranks a very respectable second place, but Nicol is the best.

You go, girl! You go, Datuk!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On Mediocrity

I just got back from a conference on custom content, a term that encompasses a lot but implies editorial or other 'content' that is created specifically for a sponsoring company. An example would be a magazine paid for by a pharmaceutical company that has a series of (hopefully informative) articles and, oh by the way, some of those articles refer to the company's products. It's a type of marketing that seeks to engage the consumer more enthusiastically than a simple ad could ever do. 

There are a variety of custom media nowadays, and many of the speakers spent considerable time opining on the benefits of using social media like Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere as part of a custom media marketing plan. The point was also made over and over again that we are living in a world where the sheer volume of information about everything under the sun has multiplied algorithmically, and will continue to do so. 

In fact, one opinion leader sagely decreed that nowadays 'everybody is a publisher,' with the profusion of blogs and tweets and chats and ramblings threatening to clog up the internet. Someone in the audience wisely asked, 'If that's so, what is the effect of all this 'content' -- some of it is not going to be any good, so how do we know the difference?' The speaker's answer surprised and pissed me off. He said that although the content on the web varies in ability, it is by definition 'just good enough', and maintained that big media companies aren't looking nowadays so much for quality writing (he cited The New Yorker) as they are looking for opportunities for engagement. It doesn't so much matter if the writer's grammar is dodgy so much as it is lively and engaging.

This conversation reminded me of my war against the word 'content,' which I have most emphatically lost. Early on in the advent of the internet people started calling the editorial that was to be found on their site 'content.' The word 'content' is such a nondescriptive, throwaway word for what should hopefully be editorial that is thoughtful, well-crafted, and artfully presented. 'Content', for me, an editor, was a disgraceful put-down. It sought to make the medium—the internet itself—more important than the message to be found in the words themselves. 

So now I go to a meeting and listen to a thought leader who admits, yeah, 'content' can be pretty bad, but big media doesn't care that much. Here's an example from the squash world of lousy content—editorial that deserves the damning sobriquet 'content.'

What does this have to do with squash? Well, not much, but the internet's insatiable thirst for whatever it can get to fill its trillion pages is a recipe for mediocrity. I'm happy to say I haven't met too many squash players who are mediocre people, I've always found something special about the people who play this game. We are all editorial people, not 'content' people. Thank heaven for that!  

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nike, Sports' Leviathan, Is Listening!

Not too long ago I decided to send a link of my blog's comments on Nike, about the opportunity that they are missing by ignoring squash, to their corporate office. Just for kicks.

So I experienced a little flutter of excitement when, a week or so later, I received a note in my in-box from Nike itself. Whoopee, I thought, this is great, finally I can start a conversation with the many-headed hydra of sports marketing!

But it turns out the email was from their 'Outside Idea Submissions Team,' and was a computer-generated response to my original email.

You are receiving this automatically-generated message because you have requested a copy of Nike's Outside Idea Submission Guidelines and Agreement. If you have already received the Idea Submission documents and have a question that is not answered by the Idea Submission Guidelines, or if you have a question about a pending submission, please reply to this message, type the word "Question" in the subject line, and type your question in the body of the message. You will receive a reply within ten business days.

The email then goes on to warn me that ideas submitted to them should have a utility patent or one pending. Uh, thanks for the advice, Nike.