Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

I peed in the Olympic pool“.

Feel Good Video of the Day

What’s more pleasurable than stringing up a politician? Too bad the public was unprepared and left the tomatoes at home.

Olympic Badminton Players Game the System

It’s easy to view the games in London as an exhibit of what the human body can do when put to the test. Unfortunately, in many cases that same human body is being fed artificial substances that make it do un-natural things. Doping in sports is legend, and it finds its way into every training room. But this isn’t a treaty on the issue of drugs in the veins of athletes. It is something more far reaching than the modern phenomenon of human growth hormones. It’s called…

Gaming the system.

Badminton officials took the extraordinary step of tossing out four pairs of women — two from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia — for deliberately trying to lose their preliminary matches Tuesday night, the latest judging controversy to sweep through the Olympics.

The federation determined at a disciplinary hearing that the players in two separate matches tried to serve into the net and hit shots out of bounds. Their play led to hoots and catcalls from the packed house at Wembley Arena, with some fans yelling, “Off, off, off.” In one match, a Danish umpire warned the players that they could be thrown out by flashing a black card, a rare action in the sport.

Why would anyone who has trained for years to get to the Olympic Games in the hopes of winning a medal do something as stupid as this? Throwing a game? Really? The explanation is rather simple.

Even before the disqualifications, the matches Tuesday triggered hand-wringing throughout the sport. This is the first Olympics to include preliminary rounds in which four teams play one another once to determine who will advance to the knockout stage. The extra preliminary round was designed to give all teams — including those from weaker countries that might have been knocked out after one match under the old rules — a chance to play at least three times.

All four pairs who played Tuesday had secured spots in the quarterfinals, so jockeying for an opponent — not winning or losing — was the imperative.

Because the Chinese so dominate the sport and are so numerous in the tournament, they have an incentive not to play one another when possible. And because they are so good, teams from other countries do their best to avoid the Chinese until they have no choice.

Throwing matches has been a persistent problem, and some players and officials have accused the Chinese of being the worst offenders.

Bottom line? Officials inserted the extra preliminary round to give weaker teams another shot at winning, even after they proved themselves unworthy of championship play.

Kind of like giving everyone a trophy.

Better yet, call it, T-Ball.

I don’t get it. If your country doesn’t have a Badminton team it can field that can survive with the toughest (in this case, the Chinese), then why enter the championship at all? Are Olympic officials hoping for a rare moment where the Chinese completely choke and the team from the Cook Islands wins gold? What’s the likelihood of that? A million to one?

Or is it merely that the fix is in? Are the Olympics so tainted by money and political prowess that they’ve become the modern day Twenty-One?

Where is the crack unbiased investigative reporter when you need one? Oh wait, I already know that answer. There are none.

In the 24/7 wired world we live in, hi-jinks like this will be easier to expose. I think it is more widespread than most people realize, and I’m worried now that the games have been tainted for decades. We’re due an Olympic sized overhaul of athletic competition. Does the will exist to bring the games back to their original intention?

Olympic Fail — Right Hand Still Hasn't Met Left Hand

U.S. viewers are forced to wait until 8 PM to view Olympic games that ended 9 hours earlier. Meanwhile, the web knows no time delay, and results are available instantly. NBC television is stuck in the 1980’s, as if no one gets any current information but from them. People are getting kicked off of Twitter for criticizing the network. And now…

parents can’t even watch their athlete sons and daughters at the venue.

London had years to prepare for this. Why have they fumbled?

NBC Television must have plenty of twenty and thirty something’s employed by the company. Didn’t anyone ask them about the wisdom of sequestering live game action? Sure, NBC has an iPad app for folks who want to watch in real time, but have you seen the app ratings? It barely garners one star in the app store. Users hate it. Not because you have to have a cable subscription to MSNBC or CNBC through your local provider. They hate it because it just plain sucks.

Oh well. Maybe Brazil will get it right.

A Few Reasons Why I’m Not Attending the London Book Fair

For the first time in 8 years, I’m not at the London Book Fair. While it is strange not walking the aisles at Earl’s Court, it is also a relief. At this point, I just can’t do another LBF, or any book publishing convention. There are a few things I’m just flat out tired of experiencing.

  • Companies that don’t know how to exhibit. There is nothing more annoying that walking up to a booth (or “stand” as they like to call them in Europe) and not being noticed. You feign interest as you browse the books they have on the shelf, waiting for someone, one of them, to come over and ask if you have questions or if you are there to see anyone. Nope. Standard procedure is to pretend you are not there.
  • Guards at the “Big” publishing companies. You know them. They are the publishing house employees whose job it is to filter you from publishing executives. No way are you going to just walk up to a booth and meet with someone. Nope, you have to face the person whose job it is to keep the riff raff away as they look at you and say, “do you have an appointment?”. When you say you don’t, but that you were hoping to just speak with someone for 15 minutes about what you’ve traveled thousands of miles to communicate, they look at you like you’ve just thrown up in public. They glance at the (ahem) paper diary book in front of them flipping the pages furiously while sighing and mentioning that everyone is completely booked up. Meanwhile, you can see that the person you want to talk to is just shootin’ the breeze with their fellow employees a few feet from where you stand.
  • The high cost of convention food/drink. You’ve got 10 minutes between appointments, and your mouth feels like the Sahara Desert. There’s no time to run outside to find a corner store. You have to go to one of the approved food vendors on the show floor where you find that the 8 ounce box of water you so desire is 4 Pounds British Sterling (almost $8 US). No choice. You do it, and regret every gulp.
  • Aisle walkers who are oblivious to anyone else around them. These are the people who are walking the hall with the luggage on wheels. They’re walking right down the middle of the aisle about 3 steps slower than anyone else. You always find these people just when you are 5 minutes late to your appointment, and they just won’t get out of your way. So, you walk behind them, going just as slow as they do, waiting for an opportunity to pass to their left or right so you can get to your meeting. If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter no less than 5 of these people on your way.
  • No shows. You’ve spent weeks making appointments. A flurry of emails have confirmed every last detail. Date, time, booth number, and contact person. You show up, not only on time, but a couple of minutes early, and all you find is an empty booth. No one is there. Oh, they’ve been there alright. You can see that morning’s used coffee cup. Business cards from the meetings they bothered to show up to. Maybe even an appointment book with your appointment etched so neatly inside. But your contact is a no show, and you’ve just wasted 30 minutes, not to mention all the money it took to get you there.
  • The permanently distracted. These are the folks who you’ve come to meet, but they aren’t interested in what you are saying, or anything else about you. They’re watching everyone else pass by. They waive at their friends that stroll past the booth. They do their “shout outs” to old colleagues. They stop you in mind sentence and say, “oh, sorry, just a moment” and they dash over to slap a guy on the back and let out a big guffaw about something completely uninteresting. 2 minutes, and they run back to you apologizing. Meanwhile, you are in mid-product pitch, and they’ve heard nothing of it.

I could go on and on.

So, instead of sitting in an over-priced hotel with bad Wi-Fi right now, I’m at home, enjoying the fact that I’m no where near Earl’s Court.

Farewell London Book Fair.

And yes, I’m taking appointments for Frankfurt. Winking smile

London Book Fair Observations

Day number one of the London Book Fair is complete. Even though the business climate is difficult for most publishers, the show floor was busy and one could almost sense a bit of optimism amongst the exhibitors. Attendee traffic was brisk for most of the day and I didn’t notice many empty stall spaces. The aisles seem a bit wider than in years past, and that is usually an indication of fewer exhibiting publishers. All in all though, it was hardly noticeable.

Like last year, everyone is talking about digital this and digital that. This year a “Digital Zone” is set up in hall 2. The zone is actually a pad of 8 stands melded together to make an island of small kiosk’s and a theater for product and service demonstrations. I sat in on a couple of the demos, and for the most part they were informative. One must remember though that this is a publishing show, and as such, those who demonstrate need to know their audience. The term “.epub” was thrown around with abandon, and it could have easily been misunderstood by the majority. The XML standard is being heavily pushed by most everyone, so much so that the term is freely used both as a noun and as a verb.

Of the things publishers are struggling with, monetization is tops. While everyone agrees that digital is no longer a futuristic dream, it is a reality of the day, the debate over pricing and channel ownership has just begun. There is still so much for a publisher to learn. Most acknowledged that the key to addressing digital today is the length at which a publishing house is willing to take risks. Experimentation is key, yet in these difficult economic times, it isn’t easy for anyone to play with capital.

The complex discussions are being tempered by the extraordinarily nice spring weather here in the UK. If things get too stuffy inside, one only needs to walk a few hundred feet to bask in the warm 70 degree sunshine.

Greetings from Gloucester Road

I’m in London for the book fair, which officially starts on Monday. I’m looking forward to attending a digital seminar tomorrow. It will give me something additional to do on Sunday, which is traditionally my “get acclimated to the time zone” day. This year I brought along my Dell Mini 9 instead of the full fledged Thinkpad. So far, I’m mostly concerned with getting on the the net, and that’s what these things are best at. If I have to remote in to my work machine, that’s when the rubber will meet the road. We’ll see how well the Mini does. If things get interesting at the seminar tomorrow, I’ll blog about it here. I’ll be twittering as well, so if you want, you can follow me.

MORE: Well, I would have blogged about the seminar I attended today, and I probably would have twitter’d a bit too IF THERE WAS WIFI! That’s right, there was no internet in the room. A conference about digital books, digital publishing models and all sort of other digital talk, but with no internet available to the attendees. In fact, Neelan Choksi, COO of Lexcycle (the folks who make Stanza) commented that this was the first conference he spoke at where he wouldn’t be able to get on Twitter and see what the crowd said about his presentation. In 2009, not having an internet connection during a conference like this is unheard of. A major mis-step by the organizers. Other than that, the room was packed with jetlagged people who probably would have rather been outside in the London sunshine than inside a poorly lit room on a Sunday afternoon. While some of the speakers made good points, all in all, it was not a very memorable event.

Next Week – London

I’m heading to London on Friday for my annual trek to the London Book Fair. Besides the normal business meeting schedule, I’ve got plans to attend the following seminars:

  • Strategies for digital publishing in a time of uncertainty (4/19 – Cromwell Room)
  • Getting the best out of your digital deal: Commercial and legal issues (4/20 – Thames Room)
  • Introducing the dedicated digital reading device to the UK consumer (4/20 – Cromwell Room)
  • “Where’s the Money” Digital Keynote (4/21 – Cromwell Room)

I’m also looking forward to watching demos from LibreDigital and Code Mantra.

LBF is a more managable event than, say, the monster Frankfurt Book Fair. Rather than being spread across 8 buildings, LBF fits comfortably inside Earl’s Court. This years fair runs from 4/20 through 4/22.