Saturday, January 05, 2013

Supporting sports teams - what I do now

Over the past ten years I've been the manager for a variety of hockey and baseball teams. Along the way I've tried a variety of technologies to try and support the teams, including blogs, wikis, traditional web sites and the like.

I've gradually settled on a handful of overlapping technologies that seem to work well for a diverse audience using Facebook and Google services.

Here's what I use now:

Communication - Gmail and Facebook both


I prefer Gmail because of ease of access at work, home and on my phone.

I manually build a group of correspondents; this typically takes a few weeks to get right but then changes little over the course of a season.

I have one structured email for each team I support; I use the last email sent as template for the next. I use a large font and ample white space - not least because I'm 50+ myself. I use a consistent footer with links to a Google Docs team page, Photo album (if any), Team Calendar, and Facebook Page.

The primary limit to email is personal/work access issues and the global problems many people have with email in 2013. Many subscribers do not use email at home, and some do not have work access.

Facebook Team Page

I use Facebook because that's where our people are -- both athletes and families. They don't do blogs, they may have limited email access, but most use Facebook in one way or another [1]. Facebook Pages are always Public, and so web accessible for non-members -- albeit with an obnoxious popup pushing Facebook. Many athletes get SMS notices with Page activity, so it can be a quick way to notify of weather cancellations and the like.

I create a Facebook Page for each team. The UI for managing these pages is awkward and confusing, but by now I'm familiar with it. It takes me about ten minutes to setup a Page.

I copy paste emails into Page status updates, it takes only a minute or so to do that.

It's awkward to associate persistent links with a Facebook Page, but if you play around a bit you can make them show in the Page header; that's where I put links to our Team Page and Calendar.

Reference Page - Google Docs

I've recently started using a Google Doc "Team Page" with basic reference information including a simplified roster (no private information). There's no authentication, I share it using the "secret" URL but typically these pages get indexed one way or another.

Google Docs is easy to update and produces documents suitable for print or web access. It is the current version of the "personal web page".

Roster - Google Spreadsheet

I maintain the team roster in Google's Spreadsheet. Access requires authentication as this can contain private information including email and phone numbers.

Calendar - Google Calendar

I setup a Google Calendar for each team. I don't know of any alternatives. My family subscribes to the team calendar on our phones and devices, but most simply view it online.

Photo sharing - Picasa vs. Facebook

Historically I've shared using Google Picasa web albums and emailing the "secret" URL. I don't think these albums get a lot of access however, which is disappointing since the photos are not trivial to prepare. I liked the idea of full resolution downloads but in ten years I doubt more than twenty images have been downloaded.

I've recently started experimenting with Facebook's improved Albums and these seem to get much more team traffic.

I don't put any namers or other identifying information into shared albums -- just the images.

[1] They don't do G+ either, but then nobody does.

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