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Magazines > Searcher > June 2007
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Vol. 15 No. 6 — June 2007
Sports Wikis: Who's on First?
by Lark Birdsong, Birdsong Research

Viewing wikis from a mountain climber’s perspective, you see a lot of names — mapkis, swikis, twikis, et al. But whatever the name, the concepts all have a common characteristic: online collaboration, going on by multiple parties anytime, without a lot of censorship or restrictions. This collaboration currently involves mostly text entries, but many photos, RSS feeds, podcasts, and videos are finding their way into wikis. This article will focus on the wide and varied uses of wikis for communicating information on sports.

Wikis in sports currently discuss members of a team, share ideas, educate the world about the game, soft sell a product or team, and serve as a soapbox for contributors to the wiki. In this article the term “sport” refers to the broader context, including activities that require physical ability, fitness, skill, and some type of physical movement that usually, but not always, involves some competition between two or more people. In addition, the term incorporates people or events that revolve around or happen because of sports, such as fans, parents, alumni, equipment, weather, sports behaviors, big business, etc.

As defined by Wikipedia, a wiki is “a type of web site that allows the visitors themselves to easily add, remove, and otherwise edit and change some available content, sometimes without the need for registration.” The creators of sports wikis encompass teams, businesses, clubs, colleges, and individuals.

By design, a wiki’s content changes rapidly, no matter what its purpose. My research looked for information on sports wikis in general, with specific searches for wikis in football, soccer, and two sports that don’t receive as much attention: lacrosse and volleyball. The goal was to gain some information on how wikis are used with both major and minor sports teams by colleges, fans, and people who participate actively. I also wanted to ferret out some of the more obscure uses of sports wikis.

Sharing Ideas or Education

The nature of wikis and sports allows for a wide berth of opportunities for sharing ideas and for learning. Wikis formatted as indexes (e.g., Wikia) have sports as part of the index; encyclopedic wikis (e.g., Wikipedia) define terms and give historical context to sports; and directory wikis (e.g., websbiggest.com) provide a table of contents on sports.

Some college Web sites have segments dedicated to athletics (e.g., Clemson) or sports pages (e.g., Stanford) for students to edit or enhance, or libraries (e.g., North Texas Regional Library) suggesting sports and movie nights as a programming idea from a patron on the library’s wiki.

With the use of mashups (“a Web site or Web application that combines content from more than one source,” Wikipedia), wikis come online everyday that allow users to partially contribute some type of sports knowledge based on an experience they had. Is this a wiki? Since individuals can easily use or edit some of the content and it represents a collaboration of many individuals, it fits the definition. For example, I bicycle a lot, and if I find a great ride in Colorado, I can add this ride to http://www.activetrails.com/. I can also look for trails for hiking and running in places where I live, looking for paths others have found interesting.

On GolfBonk.com [http://www.golfbonk.com], you can collaborate partially by inputting hazards, tee boxes, pin yardage, or pertinent information on a course. This site also has weather and pricing information that you can not edit for courses available.

Serious Commentary with a Specific Focus

Some wikis narrow the focus to a specific topic or area. Some, such as the wiki for the UEFA (European Cup Football), ask for only “facts instead of opinions” and add not to “use the wiki for commercial purposes” [http://www.kassiesa.com/uefaWiki/index.php?title=Main_Page].

Others have unique niches, such as freakysports, which collects “strange, freaky and absolutely crazy sports” [http://freakysports.Wiki.com/Home]. Anyone interested in the World Snail Racing Championship, please click on this link, register, and report back the results. (I think the race might still be on!)

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world, similar to The Sims Virtual community, and built entirely by its residents. The Game, Slave Wiki, provides players with a wiki that helps players find “fun things” to do in their Second Life [http://www.gameslaveWiki.com/tiki-index.php?page=Sports].

People interested in writing for sports or contributing to sports information should try Wikinews Sport, a sports-oriented section of the overall news wiki [http://en.Wikinews.org/Wiki/Sports].

E-Democracy.Org’s wiki is built by the citizens of St. Paul, Minn. There are links to information about youth soccer and recreation and area attractions in the St. Paul, Minn., area [http://e-democracy.org/Wiki/Recreation_/_Sports].

Soft Product Sell

Some wikis are designed to soft sell a product. These wikis are informative, providing some product details and enough information for someone to go to a commercial site to buy the product. I have included a software games wiki as a sports wiki with commercial relevance. The Xboxic wiki reviews games and gives gamers a chance to add their achievements to the content. Many video games are built around a simulated sport [http://Wiki.xboxic.com/College_Hoops_2K6].

With eBay such a large part of business today, one should note that it has a wiki that could help with the sale of products. For example, one link takes the reader to an article that discusses some hockey action figures produced by McFarlane Toys. When I look at the impact of putting a lot of detailed information on sports products being sold on eBay into an eBay wiki, I can see value for the buyer and seller if the seller can link or refer to the wiki with the information during the course of an auction [http://www.ebayWiki.com/Articles/1000000000000788].

Members of a Team

Some wikis that have come into existence are designed solely for members of a specific team. For example, at http://www.chrisstorms.com/Wiki/index.php/Main_Page, you can find comments for a high school volleyball team:

Chris (The Coach) created the Wiki and let some of his players know about it. Before long, several players and coaches were checking the Wiki for scores on a daily basis. The great thing about Wikis is that anyone can make changes to them. This enabled any player or coach from any school to get on the Wiki and post updated scores, information about up coming games and even scouting reports on teams, whenever they wanted to…. Unlike discussion boards that provide fun social internet locations for debate, information, and trash talking, these Wiki pages are designed for facts….Chris decided to begin working to add some additional sports to the Wiki - sports that traditionally are also hard to track such as cross country, lacrosse, swimming, softball, etc.

This wiki eventually expanded beyond the state of Florida. It now carries links to all 50 states for other high schools reporting on their sports.

In the U.K., the Warwick Robot football team has a password-coded wiki, so only members of the team can get into content intended for the team “rather than the public or sponsors.” The main Web site [http://www.robotfootball.warwick.ac.uk] talks about a project developed by a group of final year master’s of engineering students at the University of Warwick. The wiki will ask for your username and password if you pull it up [http://www.robotfootball.warwick.ac.uk/Wiki].

The Cranfield Colts (in a “rural village in Bedfordshire in the heart of England”) [http://www.stuartriches.f2s.com/colts/index.html] have a well-developed wiki that is informative and useful for players, coaches, parents, and spectators. They encourage interested parties to use the wiki to save time. The wiki has a budget, manager’s discussion on games, photos, schedules, and more. Anyone can add a page, but you need a password to edit the page. This is one of the more-developed sites for youth sports. Although anyone can add content, I think inaccurate content would not remain here for long, as it appears to receive regular attention [http://cranfieldcolts.Wikispaces.com].

Contributor Soapboxes

Finally, some sport wikis let you contribute any content. As Wikifish.org states: Soapbox. got something to say? then say it loud!” These unedited, uncensored sites let people add whatever they please. For example, this wiki is a textual free-for-all that lives up to its name as a soapbox [http://www.seedWiki.com/Wiki/Wikifish/sports_page?wpid=131121].

Using Sports Wikis

As with most wikis, it requires some tolerance, inquisitiveness, and openness to use sports wikis productively. Content can be chaotic, and any authority needs to be reviewed depending on your goals for using a sport wiki. The wikis I reviewed that made it to first base did so by having some common features. These wikis had some control of content through registration, guidelines, monitoring, and purpose. They carried current information with frequent content additions. They were easy to follow with layouts that easily allowed users to get to the information they wanted.

Sports, per the definition at the beginning of this article, are a big industry with wide impact. Sports can affect the economics of a city or an institution with a sports team and events (professional, college, club, youth, championships, masters, seniors, etc.). Many health issues spin off of sports participation for individuals and companies. Personal satisfaction, image, self-esteem, and other life lessons happen to people through their participation in sports. Wikis with a sports emphasis reflect this wide role in educational, commercial, and personal opportunities.

So what can a business (including government agencies in cities and municipalities) do with the user-generated content in a sports wiki? How can librarians tap that content for their clients? How can individuals use them in a personal context?

The wikis I have placed in the Stadium Box are headed toward or already in advanced development because of the common features discussed above. The one standout feature is that all these wikis have a strong purpose. This seems to reinforce the flow of useable, current content. Also, these wikis are easy to navigate; organization is important. Businesses could use the wikis to help with branding if the demographics fit their business plans. For example, Scott Sports is placing some of its syndicated video on Ridertech (listed in The Corporate Suitessection). Could a sports team or club gain an advantage with their fans by having a wiki that allows fans to input video, comment about their experience at the games, add photos, or host podcasts and RSS feeds? Or how about a company that trains athletes allowing the athletes to input pictures and videos they take at events and discuss them on the company’s wiki? The team or company could monitor the wiki. If done thoughtfully, teams and companies that want to generate a loyal following could, in time, gain an advantage that enhanced their brand and revenue.

A lot of business involves connecting with customers. Wikis are a good way for this to occur. A search on wikis and the NFL showed that fans are very interested in expressing themselves. Rochester, N.Y., has a wiki for its professional sports teams. People from that area contribute to the wiki, which reflects strong interest by the people of the community. This interest encourages teams or colleges that want to mine this group into a competitive advantage for their business or school [http://www.rocWiki.org/Professional_Sports_Teams].

Colleges never stop seeking ways to solicit funds from their alumni. Carlton Football Club, discussed in The Corporate Suites section below, shows how to use a wiki to involve alumni on many levels for a long period of time. A sports team could use this approach to involve their fans for many generations by providing an avenue for these fans to share their stories, photos, and videos of all the players that have ever played on that professional team.

Librarians could send patrons to sports wikis such as the Google Mapki or Active Trails (cited above) to gain experiential data from other people who have participated in sports. Patrons who want business knowledge should review more of the sophisticated wikis for demographic data, product data and ideas, international information (e.g., Ridertech provides information in several languages and countries). By evaluating a wiki’s content, a user could find information almost at the level of primary research and at a very low cost.

These are a few of the ways wikis are being used in sports. Wikis change daily and can become part of an individual’s search or a company’s branding. Today institutions need to connect deeply with patrons, users, or customers. Wikis are one avenue that can help provide this connection.

A Home Run

The best sports wiki imaginable would be one with a user-generated Web page with videos, pictures, blogs, RSS/XML feeds, forums, podcasts, a mobile platform option, and live updates at games and events provided by all kinds of users — fans, players, coaches, and participants. Certainly parts of this exist now. The United States Soccer Federation (3) is testing having youth athletes input their experience on a monitored blog at the 2006 Nike Friendlies event [http://www.ussoccer.com/teams/youth/u-17mnt/nike.jsp.html]. Converse had users create 24-second shorts featuring their brand and put some of them online (4). My.Sportal.Com [http://my.sportal.com] is a Web site done in partnership with Coull (UK) and TEAMtalk.com; it is the “first sports video sharing community” that pays fans to upload videos (5).

Out of services such as the blog from the U.S. Soccer Federation, videos from Converse, and fans uploading their videos to a Web site, one could build a home-run quality, user-generated page that could become interactive for competitors, fans, parents, and other athletes in real time. It would be tied to the official home Web page and monitored by the team or company. It would encourage ticket or merchandise sales and support a company’s business goals.

Long-term brand loyalty by a customer, alumni, patron, or individual requires that the company, college, or library keeps them involved and connected daily. This is the age and era of participation. The tools are available and many of the consumers are ready.



Corporate Suites

These Wikis stood out, due to the integration of content, organization, purpose, and/or how they were developed beyond free text, user-generated content.

Wikimedia Commons
http://commons.Wikimedia.org/Wiki/Category:Sports
This wiki carries a database of 1,003,176 (and counting) media files to which anyone can contribute. It serves the sports or activity-interested person with at least 82 subcategories in sports, from animal sports to world championship maps. Bookmark this site if you ever need education on a variety of sports. Don’t know what Pétanque is? Go ahead and
indulge. The site also has pictures.

WikiHow
http://www.Wikihow.com/Category:Sports-and-Fitness
This wiki provides a collaborative writing project to build a how-to manual. Currently, it contains 14,617 articles (and counting) on many topics, has a sports and fitness category, and answers many how-to questions. Very easy to follow, it is a free resource that offers clear, concise solutions to the problems of everyday life with some great tips. For example, I read how to “Deal with a Mean Coach” and found it to have sound advice for a mother with a daughter interested in sports.

Google Mapki!
http://mapki.com/Wiki/Map_Projects:Sports
Find sports information on mashups using Google Maps. For example, if you wanted to look at all the arena football franchises or velodromes (bicycle racing tracks) on an easily accessible and readable map, you can find them on this wiki. The maps are updated regularly. A good bookmark if you want quick geographic information on sports.

Ridertech Wiki
http://ridertech.com
Registered riders (no charge to register) can add content on action sports such as skiing, snow boarding, skate boarding, biking, and surfing. There is a forum for textual commentary, the ability to have one’s own blog, and to add and view photos and videos with comments on specific locations. It has links to YouTube, Google Video, and Quicktime. You can receive RSS feeds, podcasts, and use it from your mobile platform. This site has moved beyond the text-oriented wiki, using many user-generated content tools with visual appeal. In a conversation with Matt Savarino, developer for Ridertech (1), he indicated that a lot of the technology features have reached a point where he will see “how people use it.” A “build it and they will come” concept is being tested. This is a good bookmark to view several Web 2.0 applications on one site.

Blueseum
http://www.blueseum.org/cfc/tiki-index.php
Built around the Carlton Football Club (Carlton North is an inner-city suburb of Melbourne, Australia), this wiki’s wants to be the “premier online source of information on the history of the Carlton Football Club.” It works in conjunction with the official club site, asking the public to add their knowledge to player profiles. I like this site and could see teams using it as a model for designing a wiki that can help develop and collaborate with alumni, fans, and other interested parties — in other words, as another way to raise money. It is a good bookmark for businesses, teams, and colleges looking to grow their fan or alumni base.

ArmchairGM
http://www.armchairgm.com/mWiki/index.php?title=Main_Page
This wiki adds content daily to serve the active sports fan. You can use its information as an educational tool and to understand the fan demographics in certain niches. If I wanted to gain some insight on what men thought about women’s professional basketball on TV, I would use this wiki. A good bookmark for virtual primary research on fans.

 


A Sports Wiki Model

I contacted Blueseum (2), an excellent Australian sports wiki, to ask two questions on the growth and future of this wiki. The developer, Jamie Sanderson, provides a foundation for how a wiki can be productive and beneficial to teams, alumni, and fans alike. The collaboration between a user-generated content tool (their wiki) and a long-standing sports organization is significant and can have implications for organizations willing to explore technology as part of a business or organizational model.

Where do you want to take the wiki for the Carlton Football Club?

 In terms of content we want the wiki to become as detailed as possible (while of course staying easily readable). In terms of the CFC eventually the wiki will be handed over to the club as a gift from the volunteers that created it. It is envisaged that the same admin team and a select group of trusted contributors will be kept on to further update the wiki and that it will be cut off from public access in terms of who can change content. Obviously once it becomes owned by the club they have a vested interest that the content of the Web site does not interfere with their sponsors, members, etc.

 There have been ongoing discussions with the club for over a year now. The handover would need board approval from the club. Already though, the Blueseum and the official CFC site at www.carltonfc.com.au have links to each other and the CFC site already utilizes the Blueseum for content for various needs. Before I created the Blueseum, I was a volunteer writer for the official club site, so already had an established relationship of trust with the club.

Do you have ideas for new technology, sponsors, or revenue-producing activities?

 Once the club itself owns the site, then a far wider range of opportunities will be available for the site. For example, the club has formal content agreements with many of the largest media organizations in Australia, so access to written, photo, and video content will be greatly enhanced. Also, once the club owns the site, it is also envisaged that the site will be used directly for revenue opportunities. Currently it benefits the club indirectly through expanding the brand of the CFC across search engines etc. and channeling traffic to the official site, which in turn would benefit selling merchandise and memberships.

Thank you for your kind words on the site. It has been quite an experience for me. I started it really only expecting it to be a one man show, but the work that dozens of volunteers have put in over just a year and a half is staggering.

 


Endnotes

1. Email correspondence with Jamie Sanderson, Creator of Blueseum, Dec. 7, 2006.

2. Conversation with Matt Savarino, developer Ridertech.com, Dec. 7, 2006.

3. Conversation with the Communications Department, US Soccer Federation, Dec. 1, 2006.

4. “What do you do with user-generated content?” (trends in marketing), Entertainment Marketing Letter, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 4, Feb. 15, 2006.

5. M2 Presswire, p. NA, July 20, 2006.


Lark Birdsong is a seasoned professional with industry experience in the financial, sports, retail, education, and nonprofit industries. She has managed a professional sports team, coached in the Big Ten, and competed at the national level in triathlons and cycling. She couples her industry experience with an M.B.A. in finance and accounting, a master’s in education, and is currently pursuing a master’s in library and information science at the University of Washington. She can be reached at lark@larkbirdsong.com; her Web site is www.larkbirdsong.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter.
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