Here’s Why People Against The Ice Bucket Challenge Need To Shut Up

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The ice bucket challenge (or #icebucketchallenge, for those who are hashtag-inclined) has been sweeping our nation’s News Feeds. In case you live under a rock, don’t have a Facebook, or have been asleep for a few weeks, the ice bucket challenge is something that was created to raise awareness and money for ALS.

Here’s a pretty good explanation from NBCNews:

The challenge started in Massachusetts with former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2012. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to muscle weakness, loss of the use of arms and legs and difficulty speaking, breathing and swallowing.

After posting their ice bucket videos to social media, participants nominate others to take the plunge and keep the cycle going. If those challenged don’t accept within 24 hours, they’re asked to donate to ALS research or to the charity of their choice.

Everybody is doing it. Bill Bellichick. Ethel Kennedy. Justin Timberlake. Your mom.

Here’s what happen when ANYTHING takes off - whether it’s a movie, a song, an app, or, yes - a charitable cause: there’s pushback. People who like to go against the grain for the sake of it start talking loudly about how dumb everyone else is for participating. It’s easy and cool to criticize something that everyone else likes.

I was challenged to do it a week ago. I have to be honest - my first reaction was sort of a groan. I had seen people doing it and wasn’t particularly excited about participating. A big part of that is probably the fact that I don’t like being pressured into doing anything, and that’s what being “nominated” is.

When I thought about it for a couple minutes, though, I quickly came around. This is a good cause that is raising awareness and money, isn’t putting me out, and is actually sort of fun.

Then came the negative reactions. I noticed a couple of my Facebook friends arguing against it. The Huffington Post ran an anti-ice bucket challenge piece. Slate posted something today. Suddenly, there was some backlash. To a charitable phenomena. 

As far as I can tell, here are the only three reasons that someone could possibly dislike something like the ice bucket challenge:

  • They don’t want to participate
  • They like to go against trends
  • They fundamentally don’t understand the good that’s happening because of it

Now, they’ll tell you it’s something else. They’ll rail against the cost of ice, “slacktivism,” how dumping ice water on your head has nothing to do with ALS (and that’s true - but what does walking have to do with cancer?), and how it’s a pointless event, because not everyone is donating to the cause.

Here’s a snippet of that sort of mindset from the Huffington Post article:

The whole thinking is that instead of actually donating money, you’re attributing your time and a social post in place of that donation. Basically, instead of donating $10 to Charity XYZ, slacktivism would have you create a Facebook Post about how much you care about Charity XYZ- generating immediate and heightened awareness but lacking any actual donations and long term impact. 

"Instead of donating $10 to Charity XYZ…" Huh? Who had their wallet out, ready to donate, only deciding at the last minute to post something on social media instead? This is a false dichotomy

Here’s the truth about the #icebucketchallenge: Not everyone who has participated cares about the cause. It’s true. In addition, not everyone has donated. I’m sure that some people still don’t even know a thing about ALS but posted a video because it’s trendy.

And you know what? That’s fine. Because if 100 people did the challenge, and out of that group only 70 people know what ALS is, and out of that group, only 25 people donated…that’s okay. Those 25 donations wouldn’t have happened without the ice bucket challenge.

Zoom out and look at the good that has happened because of the ice bucket challenge (and inversely, that wouldn’t have happened without the ice bucket challenge.) We don’t need a 100% donation rate for this to be a success.

And what’s the cost? That some people who made videos for the wrong reasons felt good about themselves and they shouldn’t have? Who cares?

"But what if everyone donated $100?? Wouldn’t that be way better than dumping ice on your head??"

Shut up. Of course it would. It’s not an either-or thing, though. The world would also be a better place if nobody littered, everyone was kind to one another, and the Red Sox won the World Series every year. For now, though, I’ll settle for fewer people littering, more people being kind to one another, and the Sox winning every few seasons (I can dream.)

Then there are these people:

"I’m not going to do the ice bucket challenge because it’s dumb, but I donated $100."

Oh, so you felt the need to broadcast how charitable you are AND simultaneously knock the cause that prompted you to donate in the first place? Cool.

The aforementioned Huffington Post article slipped this in [emphasis mine]:

And although the ALS Assocation has seen as much as four times as many donations during this time period than last year…

This line alone invalidates every other word that the author wasted his time writing.

Finally, if after reading this, you’re still spending any energy arguing why the ice bucket challenge is a poor use of time, effort, and/or attention, you’re living life wrong. Please go away.

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If you liked this post, follow me on Twitter. I’m @adamokane.

Brilliant Content Marketing…From 1995

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It’s become really difficult to compete in content marketing because, well, everyone is doing it.

Let’s back up for a second. What exactly is content marketing? One example that quickly comes to mind in the software world is Basecamp's blog Signal Versus Noise. They write about running a business in hopes that they can help aspiring entrepreneurs, who will in turn decide to use their product. It’s a great blog (and an awesome marketing channel for Basecamp) and has been imitated by tons of software companies in the last few years.

"Signal Versus Noise" is becoming an increasingly appropriate name for Basecamp’s blog, because it’s become so tough to get people’s attention. What passed as good content in 2010 won’t fly in 2014. It’s not that businesses aren’t trying - if anything, the problem is that everyone is trying. Everyone has read five "Ten Ways To Get More Facebook Likes" sort of posts. They’re getting old. People want stories. There’s even a company - Contently - that is focusing on “telling great stories” for brands, and they’re hiring journalists to do it.

I was going through some old files the other day and stumbled upon something my dad did that I wanted to share here. Quick back story: my grandfather (my dad’s father-in-law) ran a family company, Lawrence Plate Glass, that had been around since 1918. They had a product called ClearVue that they used in-house to clean the glass and sell in the shop. My grandfather hired my dad, who soon took notice of ClearVue, a glass cleaner that had a small but passionate fan base (they literally got fan mail from customers.) He spun ClearVue off into its own company, and the product was soon on the shelves in Walmart, K-Mart, Target, etc. (If you want to read more about ClearVue’s story, here’s a piece that Inc. did on the company years ago.)

Anyway, my dad knew how tough it’d be to compete with the Windexes of the world, so he had to come up with some interesting, offbeat ideas to win marketshare. People generally grab the same glass cleaner over and over, so earning loyalty was important. One thing he did was publish “The ClearVue Sun,” a short, (mostly satirical) quarterly newsletter about the business and product. Now, if ClearVue were around today, it’d be incredibly easy and free to digitally publish something like this. Back then, though, you had to hire a printer, organize the addresses, mail out the newsletters, etc. They had thousands of subscribers. Seriously, think about that - how weird is it that this glass cleaner product/company inspired enough of a positive feeling within people that they subscribed to a mailed newsletter? It kind of blows my mind.

I’ve included a few photos of one edition. It’s pretty funny. If you click the photo, you should be able to read the text. (I wrote a little more below, too.)

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In 1995, this newsletter really stood out. As far as I know, there were no other glass cleaners - in fact, there were probably no other household products - doing anything like this. Today, every company has a blog. Business blog posts like the aforementioned, “Ten Ways To Get More Likes On Facebook” are the new direct mailers that go straight into people’s trash. If businesses want their content to be seen and cared about, they should focus on quality content that fits their talents, their business, and their customer base. “The ClearVue Sun” is proof that no matter what sort of product you sell (seriously…glass cleaner!) there are ways to tell stories that your customers will love and share.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, please follow me on Twitter @adamokane.

Ranking 30 Options: Where Should LeBron Go?

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Whoa, two LeBron-centric posts in a row. Never thought that’d happen.

After Sunday’s loss to the Spurs (I’m still smiling) the Heat will be forced to re-tool this summer. James, Wade, and Bosh can all opt out. For the first time four years, there’s a lot of uncertainty about who will open the season on the Heat’s roster.

We thought this run would go on forever, but it may already be over. I admit that I find it hilarious that LeBron basically hand-picked this roster and yet the predominant national NBA conversation is, “where can LeBron go so he can get some help?”

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In fairness, that question has some merit, which would surprise the 2010 versions of ourselves. At the end of Game 1 when LeBron left with cramps, Bosh and Wade completely shrunk in the moment. These are supposedly two all-pro caliber players, and they disappeared when it was necessary for them to step up. I imagine that LeBron wants to start doing a little less so he can be fresh deep into the playoffs every year and avoid burning out prematurely. I’m not sure he’ll achieve that in Miami.

Check out these stats from the last four Finals that I dropped into a spreadsheet:

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The Finals are small sample sizes - but over four years, they begin to tell a story. LeBron is the anchor. Wade is declining. Bosh is inconsistent. The numbers echo what our eyes see.

James is easily the best player in the NBA and would make just about any team in the league an instant contender. Just pour and add water…and by water I mean shooters and a couple rim protectors.

He’s at a pivotal moment in his career, though: he’s coming off a modestly successful run with Miami (all things considered, I’d probably give them a B- if this is it) and could be thinking about the third act of his career. He’s not close to being done, but he’ll turn 30 next season, an important milestone that reminds NBA players of their own mortality. 

With that in mind, I started thinking about what teams LeBron should seriously consider this offseason. This isn’t a prediction list - although I’ll make a prediction at the end of the post - it’s where he should go. I took into account the teams’ front office situations (how much flexibility and how many assets they have), how LeBron fits with their current roster, nightlife (also known as The JR Smith Rating), reputation of the organization, and how it would influence his image, an aspect that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Anyway, here it is - Simmons-style:

These teams have a better chance at luring Michael Jordan out of retirement…especially Charlotte:

30. Sacramento (The only thing they have going for them is the “Kings” name)

29. Utah

28. Milwaukee

27. Minnesota 

26. Detroit

25. Charlotte

24. Atlanta (I can’t believe I ranked Atlanta ahead of six teams)

23. Denver

22. Washington

21. Toronto

It’d take a miracle, but crazier things have happened:

20. Brooklyn (I feel like the “Brooklyn! Big market! Free agents will come here!” thing has faded quite a bit over the last 18 months)

19. New Orleans (LeBron will never be a Pelican, but can you imagine the defense? And playing out his career with Anthony Davis?)

18. Dallas (The Mavericks: linked to every marquee free agent since Cuban took over)

17. Philadelphia (Their future draft picks are more popular than their current players)

16. Orlando (It’d be a short move - I don’t know if that makes the Magic more or less likely)

15. Boston (Won’t happen for a number of reasons, but well-regarded organization, greatest NBA franchise, cap flexibility, assets to use)

14. Phoenix (Young talent locked in, tons of assets, world-class medical staff)

These teams are interesting, but ultimately, he shouldn’t seriously consider either of them:

13. Indiana (The Pacers were a mess during the last few months of the season…but Paul George would be a pretty awesome Pippen for LeBron. They have a well-respected ownership group and front office. Bird would have to get creative and create some cap space, probably by moving Hibbert. Not much stability here at the moment, though.)

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12. Houston (This option bores me to tears, but it’s not tough to see the appeal. Harden is a legit #2, Howard is the post presence LeBron has never had, and Parsons can shoot lights out. They have a good front office and play in a vibrant city. Still, something about Houston as an option for LeBron feels hollow. I tend to think Harden is overrated - maybe because he refuses to defend - and Howard is a clown, as Kevin Garnett once so aptly put it. I’d be bummed out to see him go to Houston, but it won’t surprise me to hear them talked about as a second-tier option.)

He’d make any of these awesome Western Conference teams that don’t have much cap flexibility favorites for 2014-2015:

11. Memphis (They’d be the greatest defensive team of all time with LeBron, although they’d need more depth. It’d be suffocating for teams to face a Conley/Allen/LeBron/Randolph/Gasol unit. They’d have to dump Prince and Lee to create cap space. Another downside to becoming a Grizzly: their weirdo owner.)

10. Golden State (The thought of LeBron drawing attention and kicking it out to Thompson and Curry makes me dizzy. I could see LeBron playing PF in Oakland, with the Warriors moving Lee to create cap space and to pick up a bench piece and a draft pick. Bogut’s health is worrisome, but he wouldn’t be hard to move.)

9. Portland (This would involve one of Matthews or Batum being moved for bench depth, but from a roster standpoint, it’d be pretty awesome playing with two younger players capable of shouldering the load in Aldridge and Lillard.)

Intriguing but imperfect options that LeBron should take a long look at:

8. Oklahoma City (LeBron and Durant. Wow. Keeping in mind OKC’s reluctance to pay the luxury tax, what if they dealt Westbrook and Perkins to Philadelphia for the #3 - if Wiggins drops - and Thaddeus Young? Or to the Kings for #8 and Isiah Thomas, and a future pick? Jackson/Sefolosha/Durant/James/Ibaka with Lamb/Wiggins/Young/Adams off the bench? That’d be a historically deep team, poised to contend now and for the next six or seven years. The downside to becoming a Thunder is ownership’s cheapness and because, well, it’s Oklahoma City. Still, Durant seems to like it there, and from a talent perspective, there’d be no better landing spot. He’d get killed from a PR perspective, though. He ditched Cleveland and now he’s going to bail on his best friend in Miami because he’s no longer good enough, in order to jump ship to the second best player in the league’s franchise? It wouldn’t play well at all.) 

7. Chicago (Noah and Rose are great core pieces - if Rose can recover, which I’m not sure he can - and Butler and Gibson are nice complementary young vets. Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the NBA. Chicago is a big market. This would push the Bulls over the top. They’d have to move or amnesty Boozer, but it’s doable. Still, Chicago is synonymous with Michael Jordan. There’s literally a statue of him outside of the arena. He could never be the Bull that Jordan was, which would doom his tenure there before it began. LeBron claims that he doesn’t care what critics say, and if that’s so, he’ll consider Chicago because they’re in the weak Eastern Conference, their roster fits, and they have a top tier coach. We’ll see.)

6. New York (I can’t believe I’m putting New York here…but I think the Knicks are a classic high-risk, high-reward option. LeBron goes to the center of the basketball universe to take a down-on-its-luck but historic franchise to the promised land. He would have to take the MLE for a year - and the union would throw a fit, as unions are prone to do - but winning there would mean more than winning anywhere else. New York is a year away from cap flexibility, and they wouldn’t be the favorite this year. If LeBron committed to the Knicks and won - he’d become the King of New York, the media capital of the world. Another point for the Knicks is Phil Jackson (can you imagine how mad that’d make Riley?) but I have to subtract a point for owner James Dolan. We’ll call it a wash. He also would get to play with his old friend Carmelo Anthony, and would probably enjoy not playing for “the favorite” for a year. I think it’d be a refreshing change of pace for him.)

At least he’ll be familiar with these teams’ rosters:

5. San Antonio (Can you imagine? I can just picture the cliche headlines in newspapers, er, blog posts everywhere: “IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM.” It’d be ugly. What we witnessed in the Finals, though, was just about basketball perfection - and I’m sure LeBron appreciated it, even if he was on the receiving end. San Antonio has it all: the best front office and coach in the league, a winning pedigree, cap flexibility, some young talent - particularly Kawhi Leonard - and a commitment to playing beautiful offensive and defensive basketball. For a basketball genius like LeBron James, you would think it’d have to be a tantalizing, if not unrealistic destination. The spin on this could be more like LeBron taking the reigns from Duncan as opposed to jumping on someone’s coattails - like Durant - to win.)

4. Miami

I don’t think Wade will opt out - or take a big paycut - which could fatally cripple them in two of LeBron’s prime years. Still, Pat Riley has shown that he can build winners. People say LeBron is a loyal guy, which is funny to me on a couple levels, but I get it. The Heat like to think of themselves as a “family” so I suppose it could be tough for LeBron to leave a situation like that. I imagine he loves living in South Beach. He likes - and knows - the organization from the top to bottom. The Heat are the best in every factor for LeBron but legacy (his could be greater if he goes elsewhere) and roster (they can’t offer him the best teammates.)

These teams should take notes and get their pitches ready:

3. Los Angeles Lakers

Being a Laker has always sort of been LeBron’s destiny. His game seems like it was meant for Hollywood, and his off-court aspirations match up perfectly with the options available in LA. There are so many greats that went to LA to win, and if the country woke up one day and heard LeBron was a Laker, the reaction would basically be, “Yeah, that figures.” Despite the mess that the franchise is in right now - Jim Buss’s ineptitude, Kobe’s giant contract, getting nothing for Dwight Howard - I believe that they could put a winner around LeBron fairly quickly. A Kobe-LeBron Laker team would be a wild commercial success. I’m pretty sure they’d be the first team to play all 82 of their games on national TV. They also theoretically have space to fit in two stars after Bryant, if they each took big but not insane pay cuts - but wouldn’t have much flexibility to fill out the rest of the roster. LA also has the #7 pick to use on a guy who can play right away. There is a chance, though, that neither Kobe or LeBron would make it out of this relationship alive. Actually, Kobe would. Kobe will always survive.

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2. Los Angeles Clippers

LeBron was vocal about the Sterling situation and drew praise from around the league. He likes Doc Rivers. It’s Los Angeles. The franchise is going to be rebranded, which means that there’ll be tons of commercial opportunities. They have no cap space, and would have to move DeAndre Jordan and another contract to make room for James. A Paul-James-Griffin trio would be ferocious. Surround that trio with shooting and a shotblocker or two and there’s no reason why they couldn’t win for the next three or four years. The Clippers are in LA, coached by Doc Rivers, and led by Chris Paul. Check, check, check. I will say that their roster could be a little talent-light if they head to deal Griffin to get James, though…leaving him in the same spot that he’s in with Miami.

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1. Cleveland Cavaliers

The one thing that is holding this back from being an absolute slam dunk is that its the Cavaliers. They’re one of the worst-run organizations in pro sports. Gilbert still wrote the Comic Sans email. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the assets they have: a franchise PG in Irving, the #1 pick in an excellent draft, cap space, and a handful of young vets who can contribute or be easily moved. It’d do wonders for his image. I think the country would be much more likely to cheer for this guy if he went back to Cleveland to do what he couldn’t do the first time. If LeBron wants it, he could go home, play with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love (that deal is just waiting to be made, if Cleveland wants it), get the country back on his side, and stay in the pathetic Eastern Conference. It makes sense in almost every way. 

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So, that’s where I think he should go. Where do I think he will go? 75% chance he returns to Miami, 20% chance he goes to Cleveland, and a 5% chance he goes somewhere else.

Wherever he ends up, I hope its on a team that maximizes his talents. Again - and I know I’ve said this before - I’m not a fan of LeBron James…but he is a basketball genius. Who knows how long it’ll be before we see another player as transcendent as him. I also hope that its on a roster that maximizes his teammates’ talents, too - I don’t find the LeBron Show fun to watch. Teams like the Spurs are fun to watch. They’re greater than the sum of their parts. Chris Bosh, in particular, has been minimized on the Heat, to the point that I think his skills may have atrophied a bit, and he may struggle being more than a third option elsewhere.

The 2014 NBA offseason will be wild. LeBron’s choice, in many ways, will shape the league for years to come. I hope he makes a good one - for him, and for us.

I Hate You Guys For Forcing Me To Defend LeBron

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I am not a fan of LeBron James. As a Celtics fan, I know that he’s been the best player in the NBA for years, but I find his game aesthetically ugly. I thought The Decision was obnoxious. The subsequent “Welcome Party" was worse. He’s a flopper. I was turned off by reports of his behavior leading up to the Olympics. I think the idea of ditching your hometown franchise to team up with two other all-pro players when you’re 25 is ridiculous. He basically begged to be vilified. And his commercial “Look, I’m a good guy” blitz over the past few years hasn’t worked on me, either.

With all that said, people are so far off base criticizing him for his cramps in Game 1 that I felt forced to write about it.

For those few who aren’t familiar, LeBron James, the biggest superstar and most polarizing player in the NBA, left Thursday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals with severe cramps in the left side of his body. The AC was broken in the arena and temperatures ranged between 90 and 100 degrees. I’ve had several people talk to me about it excitedly over the past few days. When I dug a little deeper, it turned out that in almost every case, they weren’t watching the game - they just heard about it on ESPN or saw friends discussing it on Facebook, and decided to jump in the fray with an uninformed thought. I get it. It’s fun to pile on - especially when it comes to a pop culture lightning rod like LeBron James.

Basketball is an incredibly physically exerting game. Sprinting, jumping, cutting, bodies colliding - this stuff happens in every game…and it’s only intensified in the NBA Finals. Playing in that heat was difficult for every player on the floor. Reports have indicated that LeBron wasn’t hydrated enough - and that’s on him - but if that’s the case, the cramps would indeed be painful and enough to keep anyone off the court. And despite all of this, LeBron asked his coach, Eric Spoelstra, to put him back in the game. The coach refused. I haven’t heard much about that, though.

Facebook has been littered with memes like this:

I’ve long thought that memes are the lowest form of communication. They make huge statements with basically no context. Memes simplify and make people believe that they understand something. It’s stupidity disguised as wit. Nobody is disputing that hockey players are insanely tough. Memes like this one always float around Facebook come NBA/NHL playoff season. It’s like hockey fans have this complex about following the smallest major pro sports league in America, and constantly have to dump on the “flashiest” league in the NBA. 

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This one is even more absurd. It popped up in my News Feed this morning. (This photo isn’t even from this season, let alone Game 1.) The caption is “Just think about it guys. LeBron is a hero to millions of kids out there.” Huh? He’s a basketball player. As far as I know, he’s never asked to be favorably compared to soldiers who put their lives on the line. He’s been the most durable player in the NBA for over a decade, in terms of minutes and games played. He had severe cramps in an NBA Finals game in which the temperature soared past 90 degrees. That’s it. He’s not an American hero in the same vein that a soldier is, and nobody is saying that he is. It’s a straw man argument.

"LeBroning" is a flash in the pan, and it’ll go the way of planking by 11 PM ET tonight. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect we’ll see a monster game from him. I have no doubt that he’s heard all the talk about his performance on Thursday night and is ready to have a huge game with the country’s eyes upon him.

Come on, guys. I love hating LeBron. It makes the NBA more fun. I just spent 45 minutes writing a post to defend him. Please don’t make me do that again.

Twitter Is A Newspaper, They Just Don’t Know It Yet

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Twitter’s stock is crashing. Their biggest challenge right now is user growth. They need to teach “normal people” how valuable Twitter can be to them. They’ve had a hard time shaking the “I don’t care what people are having for lunch” perception that people have about the product.

I think the newspaper is the perfect analog comparison to help Twitter better market and develop their product. The next 500m Twitter users won’t be primarily using Twitter to write, but to read.

Here’s my proposal: Twitter would let users create sections, instead of having a single timeline. I think mine would probably break down into sections like “business,” “sports,” “friends,” and “celebrities.” The people you follow would be sorted into these sections. Users could name the sections. There could be a “favorites” section that would act like the front page of a newspaper, filled with your closest friends and favorite people. On mobile, users would swipe to get the different sections. On the web, Twitter would have to be a little more creative with their interface.

Organizing people you follow on social media isn’t a revolutionary thing. Twitter has lists, although I think their execution has been poor. Google+ has circles. Facebook has lists, too. Setting those up feels like work, though. I see Twitter sections succeeding by making it suggested/automatic. So, if I follow @bijan, Twitter will be able to tell that he probably belongs in my “business” section, based on how similar he is to other people I have in there. Of course, you’d be able to manually edit the sections, too. Also, Twitter’s Discover feature would be baked into each individual section, helping you keep them filled with new, interesting people.

Twitter-as-a-newspaper would help it “click” with normal folks. If I want to see what’s happening in the NBA, I don’t want to scroll through an entire timeline of tweets. I want to swipe to my NBA section. If the morning newspaper came in 1995 and you wanted to read about the Sox, you would flip right to the sports page. You wouldn’t read the entire paper front-to-back.

Onboarding would be so much easier. Twitter could ask, “which of these are you interested in?” and have topics like the NFL, movies, politics, etc. You’d click them, and it’d suggest users right away to help you populate those sections.

Twitter has a forward-thinking product team. It wouldn’t surprise me if they thought of something like this and decided against it or tabled it for now. I have no doubt that they’ve considered of all sorts of possibilities. Still, I think it’s worth discussing.

Fred Wilson’s 90/9/1 rule states:

Out of 100 people, 1% will create the content, 10% will curate the content, and the other 90% will simply consume it.

The Twitter product team needs to focus on the “read” side rather than the “write” side. As users, we spend way more time consuming than creating on Twitter, and that’ll be even truer for the next 500m users. Twitter sections would go a long way in helping non-users understand how awesome Twitter is.

P.S. Twitter should change the “favorite” button to “like.” People understand “like.” The “favorite” button is so undefined…there’s no telling what it’s supposed to be used for. That was fine for Twitter in 2008, but not in 2014. In addition to the change to “like”, I propose that Twitter buy Pocket, one of my favorite products on the web. There would be a “pocket” button on each tweet, and clicking it would save the tweet for later reading - perfect for tweets with links that you don’t have time to click. Pocket would remain a separate app and continue to function as a link-saving service for the rest of the web, too, which would give Twitter a strong foothold in real-time content and longer form pieces.

This Is What The NBA Should Look Like In 2024

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As much as I enjoy the NBA, I think there are steps that could be taken to dramatically grow the league domestically and internationally. I saw this piece by Howard Beck discussing NBA insiders’ ideas on the future of the league and I was blown away. Some of it is in line with thoughts I’ve had, and other bits (that I’ve included in my list and expanded on) were totally new to me. You should give it a read.

Anyway, if I were in charge of the NBA…

  • The basketball season would be split. There would be 52 regular season NBA games. Playoff series would be best of 5. Players would be more rested. There would be fewer injuries. The season wouldn’t drag on - every game would matter. Then, after the season is over, there would be a European extension of the NBA - 20 or 30 teams playing a 30 game schedule. The European NBA season would end with a single-elimination tournament. It’d be an NBA venture owned by NBA team owners. Players could opt to play one or both seasons. A player like Kevin Garnett could retire from the NBA but then play the shorter European schedule for a few months. It’d be incredibly compelling entertainment and provide more options for players.
  • There wouldn’t be any guaranteed contracts or a maximum salary. There are horrible contracts weighing down a bunch of teams in the league. The reason these teams are “tanking” isn’t only so they can get a good draft pick - it’s because there isn’t any other viable option. There’s too much dead weight on their payroll. Eliminating guaranteed contracts would make players less complacent and give more teams a chance to compete. Removing the maximum salary would actually distribute the talent more evenly - you wouldn’t find LeBron, Bosh, and Wade playing on the same team, because those guys could be making huge money separately. In that sense, it’d be good for smaller market teams.
  • The NBA season would start the Wednesday after the Superbowl. The country is focused on football from September-early February. That’s just the way it is. The NBA could capture the nation’s attention in February, have the All-Star break in April, start the playoffs at the end of May, and begin the Finals on the night of July 4th. The European extension would start in August and go through October. Training camp starts just after the new year.
  • Players in the NBA Draft would need to be at least two years removed from high school. The NCAA is generally a good environment for players to improve their fundamentals, which is important in today’s AAU-centric basketball world. Maybe there would even be some rivalries hatched in the college game that would translate to the pros.
  • Another step that I would take to prevent tanking is to include teams that lose in the first round of the playoffs in the draft lottery. The worst team in the league will get 22 ping pong balls, and the team with the best record that lost in the first round of the playoffs will get 1. Teams that advanced to the second round of the playoffs will get picks 23-30. If this happened, you’d see teams in the 9-12 seed range fighting harder for a playoff spot. I firmly believe that for the league to be healthy, teams need to be fighting for a playoff spot as hard as NFL teams do. That’s not happening in today’s NBA. This plan helps fix that. I attached an image below to illustrate how it could shake out.

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The NBA is a unique league. It’s more star-driven than the NFL, MLB, and NHL. Fans are closer to the action than in any other sport. Silver and his team need to focus on making the game more competitive, compelling, and relevant in America, and then bring it to the rest of the world. 

Let’s fix what’s broken with the NBA, improve other areas, then take the game in earnest to the rest of the world. David Falk had an awesome quote in Beck’s article:

"I think to make the game truly global, you have to do more than show it on TV. You need to what they say in the military—you need to have boots on the ground." 

The long-term model for the NBA isn’t the NFL. It’s a rockstar, like Bruce Springsteen. He can sell out Madison Square Garden and a week later be in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans in Europe. He attracts worldwide attention because he’s a world-class entertainer. There are monetizing opportunities at every corner. That’s what the NBA can be.

It’s a huge, huge opportunity, and luckily, I think Adam Silver realizes it.

Hey Vine: I Don’t Want “Celebrities,” I Want My Friends

I’ve noticed a big shift in the videos I see when I open up Vine and it worries me.

Let me back up for a minute and say that I’m a huge fan of the Vine app. I think it’s elegant, fast, and easy to use. I signed up the first day Vine was released and have been watching it pretty closely.

In the early days of the app, I thought that its biggest competitor was Instagram. Obviously Vine doesn’t let you take photos. They weren’t similar in that sense. Where they were similar is the occasions that people would use them. For the last few years, Instagram has been the go-to app for when you’re having a good time and want to document the moment. That’s proven to be hugely valuable for them (and Facebook.) For a minute, it looked like Vine was going to be an even better app for those fun times in our lives.

Friends trickled into the service (it was tough to find them at times, due to the lack of Facebook integration) and we saw people post random, fun clips. They weren’t professional quality, but they weren’t supposed to be. Some of us tried to intentionally set up clips to be funny, which was another way to use the service. It was a lot of fun.

I don’t know about you, but these days, that’s not what Vine looks like. I scroll through my feed and it’s a mess of about thirty accounts revining each other. They’re posting choreographed, preconceived clips that often aren’t even filmed with a mobile device. NONE of my friends post Vines anymore.

I’m a big believer in letting users dictate how a service matures. Twitter didn’t anticipate (or even like) people using hashtags, and now they’re deeply incorporated into their product. Maybe this is what people want for Vine.

With that said, the service now seems entirely self-promotional instead of self-expressive. Every other video is someone telling us to follow another account, probably doing their friend a favor. I’m sick of it. It’s boring.

Maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe this was an intentional strategy from Vine. They may see Vine as a mini YouTube - a sort of entertainment destination rather than a social service. Another place where 5% of the users create 90% of the content. And hey, who could knock anything that resembles YouTube?

I wanted to bring this up because nobody is talking about it. Maybe I’ll change my mind…but right now, I’m disappointed to see a service that used to feature fun, random glimpses into people’s lives turn into a contrived, glossy entertainment app.

***PS - there are a lot of talented Vine “celebrities” (including Marcus Johns, pictured above) with awesome videos…I just think Vine should be more than that.

Hey LeBron, Shut Up: Why Ray’s Boston Departure Was Way Different

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LeBron James (who else?) made some comments yesterday comparing the departure of Ray Allen from the Celtics in 2012 to those of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Doc Rivers this past summer. Here’s what he said:

"I think the first thing I thought was, ‘Wow, Ray got killed for leaving Boston, and now these guys are leaving Boston. I think it’s OK; I didn’t mind it. But there were a couple guys who basically [expletive] on Ray for leaving, and now they’re leaving.

"That’s the nature of our business, man. I don’t know what Boston was going through at the end of the day. I know Ray had to make the best decision for him and his family and his career. Doc [Rivers, former Celtics coach], KG and Paul did that as well. You can’t criticize someone who does something that’s best for their family."

Well, LeBron knows about defecting better than anyone…but I don’t blame him for his comments. He’s defending his teammate, and for all we know, a reporter asked him a question directly about the situation. It’s tough to tell sometimes with these quotes.

However, the notion that Pierce and Garnett left under the same - or even similar - circumstances as Allen is totally wrong.

The Celtics had an emotional seven game battle with the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. Despite injuries, they came close to knocking Miami out. Those teams hated eachother - there’s no other way to explain it. There has never been any love lost between Pierce/Garnett/Rondo and James/Wade (Example 1, example 2, example 3), and that series definitely reflected it.

The moment the buzzer sounded, however, Allen beelined for LeBron and Wade to shake their hands, as if he was trying out for the team.

That offseason, Allen accepted a deal to go to the Heat for half the money the Celtics were offering him…to come off the bench for Miami.

Here’s what I think upset Allen about his time in Boston, in no particular order:

  • Being mentioned in trade rumors (this happens to most players, by the way)
  • Being replaced by Avery Bradley in the starting lineup (which is when the season was turned around)
  • Rajon Rondo (okay, I kind of get this one)

Now, Allen had every right in the world to leave the Celtics for the Heat. He is completely free to do what he believes is best for him and his family.

With that said, as fans, we’re also free to critique those decisions.

It’s not like Ray didn’t have a ring. He could’ve signed with 28 other teams and the Celtics and their fans would’ve been cool. The Heat, though? The Celtics were preparing to make another run at them. KG said that “[he doesn’t] have Ray’s number anymore,” when asked about Allen in Miami. Pierce and Doc Rivers made similar comments.

Those guys hated Allen’s decision, and didn’t seem to respect it very much. Was there anyone closer to the situation than Pierce and Garnett? They were good friends with Ray, were fellow all-stars, played with him for five years, and knew each other as teenagers. They would have every reason to be empathetic, unless they really felt wronged.

Fast forward a year. The Celtics had an injury-plagued season in which they lost Rajon Rondo midway through the year. Pierce and Garnett shouldered the load valiantly, but didn’t have much left in the tank in the playoffs after logging heavy regular season minutes.

After the season ended, Doc Rivers left for the Clippers. I believe Garnett and Pierce wanted a few things:

  • To finish as Celtics
  • To compete for a championship
  • To play together
  • To feel wanted
  • To play for Doc Rivers

When Ainge approached them about the Brooklyn trade, they realized it satisfied a few of their desires. They could play together for a team that really wanted them and compete for a championship. So, they begrudgingly signed off on the trade.

I believe at this point, on October 18th, now that they’ve had some time to let it sink in, Pierce and KG are relatively happy to be Brooklyn Nets. When the trade happened though, they (particularly Pierce) didn’t look too happy about being there. Compare that with when Allen and Garnett arrived in Boston.

To put this simply, Pierce and Garnett were traded after a relatively unsuccessful, down season. It wasn’t entirely against their will (Garnett had to waive his no-trade clause), but as far as I can tell, they still would’ve liked to stay Celtics. Ray Allen, on the other hand, left after a season in which the Celtics were a quarter away from advancing to the NBA Finals, only to go to their biggest rivals - who they had just lost to - for half the money the Celtics were offering him.

Can you see the difference?

Paul Pierce can. As he said last night, “I left Boston?”

I think Garnett’s very KG-like response to LeBron’s critcism was even better, though:

"Tell LeBron to worry about Miami. It has nothing to do with Celtic business."

One Sunday In October

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What a day. I wasn’t planning on my next blog post being about sports, but I can’t not talk about yesterday.

Ten years ago, I was 13, and the same two guys who were leading comebacks by hitting game-winning homeruns and throwing game-winning touchdowns for my favorite teams are still doing that today. That’s pretty cool. As a side note, the same guy who was hitting game-winning shots in 2003 was still doing it in 2013, but not anymore. I’ll miss you, Paul Pierce…anyway…

(By the way…as much as I’m singing Brady’s praises in this post, the defense needs a ton of credit for getting consecutive stops on two straight possessions to get the ball back in Brady’s hands. The same goes for the Sox supporting cast, too.)

What a pass, what a catch, what a drive, what a moment. Tom Brady was due for a Tom Brady moment and the 5-0 Saints happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Game over. Brady’s back.

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Almost four hours later, just as Brady was due, the Red Sox were bound to get a break or two. When Dustin Pedroia singled to right and the third base coach held Ellsbury at third, we all knew it was because David Ortiz was stepping to the plate. There was a tension in the air. We all considered it…it was impossible not to. What if Ortiz hit one? After Brady’s magic earlier in the night? It was greedy to suggest out loud. It was asking for too much. Not that we had more than a couple minutes to think about it — Ortiz hit it out on the first pitch, despite Tori Hunter’s best efforts.

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In sports, one minute you can be dead, and the next minute you’re on top of the world. It happens so fast…and I love it. I had an exchange with a BleacherReport writer named Fred Katz - who, to be fair, was talking about the media rather than the fans’ emotional swing. Still, my point to him stands. The sports media try to reflect the feelings of fans…and the feeling last night was exuberant.

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I’m not ready to say Boston sports fans are spoiled. Sure, some of us may be too used to the success that we’ve had the privilege of enjoying. But for most of us, the joy from last night was so pure, it’s tough to label it as behavior from spoiled fans. If anything, the reaction proves that we’re not spoiled.

When the Sox won, our Facebooks and Twitters lit up. Our phones buzzed with texts and emails. It was Sunday night, a time when we’re usually winding down and moaning about Monday. Instead, we had reason to cheer with our friends and family.

The Sox may lose this series. Detroit is really, really good. The Patriots have plenty to be concerned about right now too, not least of which is injuries. The excitement from yesterday will slowly fade as the weekend floats away and life goes on.

For one Monday in October, though, everything is perfect. The Patriots won, and we’ll bask in the afterglow of that until next weekend when we’ll do it all over again. The Red Sox are off until tomorrow afternoon. It’s a day that many of us (not me, actually) have off from work or school. It’s a beautiful fall day outside. Let’s enjoy this one, and worry about what comes next later.

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I Love Fantasy Football. I Hate Fantasy Football.

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The 2013 NFL season kicks off on Thursday. For many of us, that’s exciting not because we’re fans of the Broncos or Ravens, but because we have Ray Rice or Peyton Manning on our fantasy football team.

I’m in two leagues. That seems like a good number, right? With one, you’re almost too focused on it and too upset if you have a bad week. When you have two teams, you sort of hedge your bet and can enjoy the competition with another group of friends. Three seems like a bit too much to keep track of effectively. Plus, your interest in each team gets diluted when you have that many. 

The Patriots are my football team. I watch every week and would consider myself a pretty good fan. I was absolutely crushed when we lost in 2008 and felt even worse in 2012. (People are always surprised when I tell them 2012 was worse for me than 2008.)

On one hand, fantasy football is awesome, and supplements my football-watching experience.

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It’s a great outlet for competitiveness. You’re (usually) playing with people that you know, and even if you’re not, the thrill of winning is always fun. There are so many ways to approach roster building. Maybe you draft a player because he’s progressed well over the last couple years. Maybe he had a great camp. Maybe the guy starting in front of him went down with injury. Maybe you “just have a feeling.” For most of us, it’s a combination of all these strategies. Oh, and when they pay off, you feel like a genius.

It also gives Sunday football more importance beyond just rooting for our favorite team. Suddenly, we have interest in that random JAX-CLE game because we have Maurice Jones-Drew on our team, and every yard counts. We’re more familiar with the players around the league. Sundays can be hectic (in the best way) because we’re channel switching, looking at our iPads, and getting alerts about what our players are doing. It’s fun.

It’s also a nice social thing. When you’re in a league with someone, you can talk about how your teams are doing, potential trades, waiver wire moves, etc. Even if you’re not in the same league as someone, you’re still in the fantasy football universe. You speak the same language. You can tell them who you have on your team, and rant about injuries and rave about your breakout players.

With all that said, fantasy football can kinda suck, too.

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It takes away from our favorite teams. Instead of being totally invested in whether our teams are going to win, we’re worried about what individual players in other games are doing. It’s annoying when something big is happening in the game you “should” be watching but your friends don’t really care because they’re so invested in how their fantasy team is doing.

We’re not watching the actual game anymore. We’re watching the statistics. We may know basic things like the score and what quarter it is, but we’re not paying attention to the flow and nuances of the game. The bottom line with the scrolling scores and stats is more important than what’s happening on the field. We shouldn’t care if Issac Redman gets 99 or 100 yards.

The worst scenario is when someone from your fantasy team is playing your favorite team. That’s not a fun way to watch a game. “Well, I hope CJ Spiller gets 250 yards and two touchdowns…but I want the Patriots to win.” Or what about when an opponent has a player from your favorite team? You can’t be torn like that and enjoy a game how it’s meant to be enjoyed.

I like fantasy football. I had my first draft about a month ago and my second one on Monday. They were a blast, and it’ll be fun to follow my players and go for another championship. I’ll just have to remember to pay most of my attention to the Patriots. And not just because I have Tom Brady on one of my teams.

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Thanks for reading…find me on twitter @adamokane. Good luck this season!