Thursday, June 5, 2003

Golf The Way We Really Play It

At Cloudjammer, we slip out for nine holes every now and again after work or during lunch. We run on up to our local course, RiverPines, and hack a round or hit the range. Despite all the work, training aids, and friendly advice, one immutable fact holds true about our golf games.

We suck.

We're not terrible, per se – just not good. This complicates things when we run down to Golfsmith to buy some balls or a new club. The Salesmanship is all about how good you are. How good I am is not a factor in my game.

This is where Bogey Pro comes into play. Bogey Pro is a product line designed specifically for the inferior golfer. Instead of concentrating on how good your golf game is, Bogey Pro focuses more on the aspect of the game most of us bad golfers often forget about – having fun.

Their tongue-in-cheek product line includes poor performance golf balls – in zero distance, poor spin, and no control varieties – t-shirts and cozies bearing helpful golf tips – such as "Keep your head down...while ogling the beer cart girl" – a hilarious covert beer cooler disguised as a shoe bag, golf lessons in a box, underachievement awards, and a stylish "+1" cap., the official site, is well worth the visit. Their 19th hole features unique lessons – how to break your club, use your foot wedge, and throw your bag – and interactive features allow bad golfers nationwide to submit stories, pictures, and report lost balls. There's even a very scientific golf skills test and a score adjustment card which takes into account different weather phenomena and levels of sobriety.

From a design perspective, too, the site is compelling. Select almost any product in the Bogey Pro shop and you can view, in a well designed and functional interface, close details of the packaging. The site also has a refreshing overall design – not the same tour series photographs and classic feel you find at Titleist or Callaway's sites. is just plain fun.

So while our golf games show little sign of improving in the near future (though that foot wedge lesson has saved us a lot of strokes) Bogey Pro has given us a reason to keep playing. And if, God willing, any of us ever do break 100, then we'll know just where to get their underachievement accolade. fb

Chambers Don't Work

Chambers of commerce don’t help your business.

Have you ever joined a chamber of commerce with the hope and dream of business networking success? Sure you have. We all do it. We join networking groups and chambers in the hope of getting more business for our company. Most of the time it fails. But it isn't necessarily your fault.

The main reason chambers of commerce fail to produce new business for most of us is the philosophy of the chambers themselves – they're not interested in helping small business succeed. Here is a story that sums it all up:

I was contacted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to become a member. I asked the sales person, “How do I get more business from my membership?” He stated, “You go to networking events and make contacts.” I have been to at least 100 networking events and I know how they work. You get to stand up and introduce yourself to hundreds of other people all looking for business, not interested in help from you. How does this get you business? It doesn’t. The members of the chamber that spend five thousand dollars on an executive membership get to meet the real business people and network with companies that can actually buy your services, not the standard members with basic memberships just trying to survive.

I decided I would try to help other chamber members by creating an online tool that would allow the free exchange of business on the Atlanta chamber’s website. They agreed (with reluctance) to put it online and send out a letter. They sent out only one letter...with the wrong password! The letter never went into the details of what the system was supposed to do… get the members projects, make them money, and grow their businesses (the very raison d'être of the chamber in the first place). I offered to come in and give presentations and talk about how the exchange was supposed to be used and how it would benefit the members. They never let me. They weren't interested.

Consider your local metro chamber. They make their money by getting small business owners to join for a year. Once you leave, disgruntled and $500 poorer, there will be other small business owners to take your place – hopeful business men and women who have no idea there is no “real” exchange of business in the chamber that can grow their business.

- Matt Francis, Interscape Inc. fb

What the Webbys Want

On March 7, 1997, the Webbys were born. Eleven awards were handed out in the first of what has become the annual Oscars ceremony for the Internet.

The Webby Awards honor sites that Internet users visit daily for information, entertainment, community, products and services. This year's 7th annual Webby's ceremony rewarded winners in thirty categories a range of accolades – Webbys, people's choice awards, business Webbys, and, for the second year in a row, the internet's "Rising Star" (based on a site's traffic as established by Nielsen/NetRatings). Webbys are awarded by Members of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, based on creative and technical criteria, and people's choice awards are awarded based on democratic online voting – in each case, balloting is tabulated by PricewaterhouseCoopers to insure fairness and accuracy.

But what are they looking for?

The Webby Award nominees and winners are chosen from the best sites entered through an annual Call for Entries and sites encountered in the judges' experience. Each site is judged against six criteria. According to, they are:

The information provided on the site – not just text, but anything that communicates a site's body of knowledge. Good content should be engaging, relevant, appropriate for the audience and the medium. Good content takes a stand, is informative, useful, or funny, and always leaves you wanting more.

Structure and Navigation
The framework of a site, the organization of content, the prioritization of information, and the method in which you move through the site. Sites with good structure and navigation are consistent, intuitive, and transparent. Good navigation gets you where you want to go quickly and offers easy access to the breadth of the site's content.

Visual Design
The appearance of the site. It's more than just a pretty homepage and it doesn't have to be cutting edge or trendy. Good visual design is high quality, appropriate, and relevant for the audience and the message it is supporting. It communicates a visual experience and may even take your breath away.

The use of technology on the site. Good functionality means the site works well, loads quickly, has live links, work cross-platform and cross-browser, and any new technology used is functional and relevant for the intended audience. Highly functional sites anticipate the diversity of user requirements from file size to file format and download speed. The most functional sites also take into consideration those with special access needs. Good functionality makes the experience center stage and the technology invisible.

The way a site allows you to do something. Good interactivity is more than a rollover or choosing what to click on next; it's input/output, as in searches, chat rooms, e-commerce and gaming or notification agents, peer-to-peer applications, and real-time feedback. Interactive elements are what separates the Web from other media.

Overall Experience
Demonstrating that sites are frequently more – or less than the sum of their parts, the overall experience encompasses content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, and interactivity, but it also includes the intangibles that make one stay or leave, place a bookmark, sign up for a newsletter, participate, email the site to a friend, or stay for a while, intrigued.

Candidate sites also undergo a rigorous six-month, three-tiered process to win the coveted Webby Award.

First is the review of sites entered in the Call For Entries. Thousands of sites are submitted each year and Academy reviewers – Internet professionals who work with and on the Internet – independently inspect each site, rate them based on the six judging criteria described above, and compile those ratings to compare all of the sites entered in each category. The resultant "short list" is then presented for consideration by the nominating judges in each category.

Second, judges establish nominee sites for The Webby Awards.
Beginning with the list of sites distilled from the Call for Entries, the five nominating judges in each category contribute some of their own recommended sites and deliberate online directly for up to six weeks. At the end of this period each nominating judge rates their top five sites according to the judging criteria and casts a vote for each of them. The resultant list comprise Webby nominees.

Lastly, winner are chosen. Each member of The Academy casts one vote for the best of the five nominees in any given category. Sites with the most votes win. In the case of people's choice awards, the sites with the greatest number of votes win. In many cases, Webby and people's choice award winner are the same.

What value do the Webbys really have? From an Interactive communications perspective, the Webbys monitor trends, reward thoughtful and well-executed web activity, and publicize (and in some regards, legitimize) good online practices. In a world where the kid down the street can build you a website for $100 and poorly-conceived institutional website abound, the Webbys do much to remind us of what can be done well online.

And what good does it do us to know what the Webby's are looking for? Simple. The Webby's look for the same thing your website's audience look for: engaging content, clear navigation, clean design, functionality, interactivity, and a quality visitor experience. It isn't too much to ask. fb