Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Social Apps for a Running Store

Building our running store site convinced me to join some others to start Ringside Networks. I figured if a little running store web site could use social applications, then almost any web site could use social.

But what are some examples of social applications for a running store?

Well, of course there is the ability for runners to keep profiles of themselves and to make friends. Kind of a different set of information than a typical Facebook profile - like how many miles per week do you run, what pace, what are your PR's, what are your favorite runs, etc. These all potentially allow runners to hook up for runs with compatible runners. I'm not talking eHarmony here - just someone to run with.

One of the other things that runners like to do is keep track of their mileage in logs. I've started keeping mine on Facebook with Runlicious. If I could run this Facebook application on the running store web site, that would be pretty cool. We have thousands of runners in South Jersey who regularly visit our site, and many of them are middle-age like me and don't have Facebook accounts. Plus runners like to share their achievements. There are also extended social applications where a coach could potentially look at each of their athletes running logs, but not have access to their full Facebook profile. This is something I know the Moorestown High School runners that I coach would like to make sure never happens!

As a final example, how about modifying the basic Event in Facebook and target it specifically for road races and triathlons? Maybe have information like distance, awards, how many participated last year, etc. And then give people a wall to post comments about the race, and a mechanism to upload photos and videos after the race. And of course I would love to make it easy to cross-post races into Facebook. Last fall we were doing a Turkey Trot in Moorestown. My college daughter posted it as a Facebook event and invited Moorestown friends. Within 30 minutes there were over 50 responses, and the viral networking had begun. Every race should be able to take advantage of this.

The common thread is that these are all social applications, but just a bit different than the "off the shelf" social applications that you typically see. It is when I began to wish there was something that let me build and deploy social applications easily. Hmmm, maybe it is a good idea for a company...


sourceview said...

Hi! This is Michael Dean of Lafayette, California, proud father of a dedicated runner and jumper - Johnleigh Dean. I think this blog social network idea is great! I think there is a genuine need for this. It could touch on things of importance to us: how to get a long distance high school track coach to lay off from taking a midrunner/jumper talent and pushing him into longer distances; comments on training on decathlon events; where to go to get gear not normally sold at local shops, lots of stuff! Hang in There!!

fishface said...

Hi Bob,

Have you considered adding a reputation system and recommendation engine for coaches? Assigning a reputation value to shoes is simple, not so much with people. I'd be interested in hearing what your thoughts might be on that tricky subject.

Would you allow a coach to self-identify her/his specialties and personality/preferred interaction model or would you use feedback as the primary data?

Tim Julien said...

Being able to deploy facebook-style widgets on different sites would definitely be a big deal. Seems like it's inevitable that people are going to want to break out of social-for-the-masses kind of sites like facebook, myspace, etc, in favor of more intimate and themed communities.

I have a social network blog post of my own from yesterday. Its focused on something a bit different than what you guys are doing at Ringside, but I think you'll find it relevant:

Instant Messaging 2.0

brianrobinson said...

My cousin is a running coach at a local high school, and has been kind enough to coach me a bit for a run coming up in may. I too use Runlicious, and so I told him to join up on facebook so he could see my run information. He declined, saying that if he had a profile, he would probably get friend requests from students and that he didn't want to have to deal with that.

I totally understand his hesitation, so I would love to see a more controlled environment made available for this coach/athlete type of relationship. In the more general sense, more fine grained control of application access rights would be a huge improvement over what facebook offers today.