Automation is spreading its wings throughout the land. In marketing, many brands use marketing automation to manage their email outreach. This form of digital disruption has reared its head in education, medicine and many other fields, including media.
According to Poynter, Associated Press will begin using an automated writing service to cover more than 10,000 minor league baseball games annually.
AP has been using automated writing in some form since July 2014, when it began using technology from Automated Insights to produce earnings report stories. The AP now uses automation to produce more than 3,500 earnings reports stories about U.S. companies every quarter.
No one can deny the value of data for journalism enterprises. It’s vital, like water for crops. But can a machine spit out compelling copy? Of course not. What the machine can do is assemble the data. This happened, then that happened and so on…
Facts assembled on a page is not writing. And an earnings report is not a baseball game. A baseball game is an event with dozens of players and thousands of spectators. There’s a lot going on at a minor league game that a machine isn’t going to register.
Was the sun in the right fielder’s eyes?
Which players are the fan’s favorites?
Did the umpire make the right call?
Is the mascot okay after that backflip off the dugout?
One might argue that any coverage of minor league baseball is better than no coverage at all. Okay, but what’s wrong with hiring reporters to write these pieces? Could it be that reporters are too expensive to employ? Perhaps, but people with talent and training produce higher quality writing, so it’s a matter of perspective. Facts versus stories. Robots versus real writers.
Many writers who work for online content mills are getting paltry pay for their efforts. I’m confident that newspapers can help elevate the profession, despite the industry’s ongoing struggles. Whatever bottom line a newsroom is facing, there’s also the need to face facts. Data informs the story. Data is not the story.
Earlier this month Nike announced the start of a succession planning process that will conclude in the appointment of the company’s next Chairman.
Enigmatic Phil Knight, Oregon’s only billionaire, will relinquish his powerful Chairman role. At the same time, his son Travis ascends to a seat on the company’s board of directors.
The Oregonian’s editorial board came out in favor of these moves, and in favor of success in general. “Oregon is known as hip, innovative, tolerant and an overall cool place to be. Unlike Nike, it’s not necessarily known for success,” the board argued.
According to the state’s largest newspaper, success is attained by building a great brand, going beyond your natural strengths and not letting mistakes cripple you. All lessons that we can glean from Nike’s path from Blue Ribbon Sports to the global sports powerhouse it is today. Provided we’re willing to overcome any reservations we may have about Nike and Knight.
Despite all his success, Phil Knight was never hugely popular in Oregon, except among fans of Oregon Ducks sports teams. Some of that probably is a product of his personality and some of it because Oregon does not easily embrace financial success. And maybe that’s the biggest difference of all between Nike and Oregon. It’s hard to be successful without fully embracing success.
When you strip out these words and lay them bare: “Oregon does not easily embrace financial success,” they seem absurd. What do Oregonians embrace? Bottomless bowls of granola? Nature, and a more humane approach to work? I think yes, Oregonians do follow their own rules and the rules are relaxed. At the same time, the people of Oregon are complex and can’t be summed up that easily. For instance, the state has a rich industrial history, and we continue to lean heavily on manufacturing today. Locally, “Made in the U.S.A.” means “Made in Oregon.” Nike, of course, manufactures its shoes in overseas plants. That’s at odds with the Oregon way, and you might say the American way. Making shoes in Oregon would reduce profits, but it would win a lot of hearts and minds.
Back to the idea of not embracing financial success. It sounds like a Sunday School lesson from the New England Puritans who came West, not for gold but for a virgin land upon which to imprint their indelible and chaste stamp. Of course, none of that squares with the history of bar owners, loggers, ship builders, fishermen, cowboys, and various other rogues who also made Oregon what it is today. I don’t know if Phil Knight identifies with the Puritans or the rogues. What matters is resolving in some way these conflicting views of ourselves as Oregonians. To truly reject the creation of wealth makes us outcasts in the American experiment. It seems to me what we want is the creation of sustainable wealth through more conscious means.
For too long being pro-business has meant being anti-environment. Here again we find tension between the poles, when what we need is agreement to meet in the middle. We can achieve controlled growth, but it is growth, nonetheless. Ideas about Californians going home are stale. Statistically speaking, no one’s going home. Now, let’s meet the reality of population growth with economic growth, so the great majority can afford to benefit from the world-class schools, healthcare, transportation, food and beverage, architecture, arts and sports that help define Portland and Oregon. The magical beauty and mild weather are gifts. The rest we must work to perfect.
The experience of watching college football is altered considerably when using a double-screen setup to watch the game on one hand, and talk about it on the other.
It used to be one would simply jump up from the couch and yell affirmations or hurl curses. Today, we express our emotions as fans on Twitter, the closest thing we have to a real-time coversational platform on the web.
Sports writers take part in it:
Nebraska came ready to play today. But #Huskers didn't come ready to respond when adversity hit. Horrible response.
I think it is fair to ask, does the Tweeting make for a richer college football viewing experience, or is it a digital distraction that we’d be better off without?
During today’s game, Nebraska came out running the I-formation, slashing and gashing for ground yards. I was happy and I was stunned. I hadn’t seen this team–our team, the real Nebraska–for many years. Sadly, the vision did not last. It slipped away in what seemed like an instant and the madness on Twitter got loud fast. I decided to put the second screen away and watch the game.
Of course, there’s also the post-game commentary to consider and take part in.
I'm done with this. I tried to stay positive. I've defended the staff. But I have to say the "Bo has to go" camp is pulling on me.
I wonder how many college programs are using social listening software to judge fan/consumer sentiment about the players, coaches and program. We don’t need to guess at the sentiment of fans or customers. Their support, love for the program and alternatively, their disbelief and disgust with it, is all neatly cataloged in the database for data scientists and marketers to mine.
Another thing worth noting about these game day “conversations” on Twitter: Good luck trying to engage with Bo Pelini, the NU athletic department or even the journalists on the Huskers beat. All of the above clearly approach Twitter as a broadcast channel, and they don’t want to get entangled in the complexities of managing fan anger or opinion of any kind. As a result, they ignore 99% of all @replies, which makes no sense within the context of Twitter itself, but plenty of sense when you realize how access in college sports is a privilege—one that Bo Pelini has been keen on revoking. His team’s practices are closed to the press, for instance.
You vacation in a foreign country to stretch and make new discoveries. Which is exactly what happened last week in British Columbia, Canada.
Once we got settled in our vacation rental, I looked up local disc golf courses in the Okanagan Valley and found two — a short, unsatisfying municipal nine-hole course in Kelowna, plus Fallow Ridge, a 28-hole private pay-to-play course outside of Vernon.
Fallow Ridge is unlike anything I’ve ever seen or played before. The course is laid out in Ken Fallow’s steep upward sloping backyard. There are lots of trees and if you miss a putt you better hope your disc lands flat, because if it rolls, you’re going for a big hike.
We paid our dues upon arrival, plus another $6 to play and Ken gave us a scorecard and several pointers about the course ahead. With hanging baskets, tonals, hanging propane tanks, and robot targets, a bit of explanation was welcome. For one, I wasn’t sure what a tonal was but upon encountering this piece of old-school ingenuity in the woods behind Ken Fallow’s home, I’m now a fan of copper pipes hanging from trees. When you hit a tonal with your putter, it makes a resounding GONG! Hence, the name.
Now that we’re back in the USA, I’m excited to go into production on some Oregon-made tonals. I know just the wooded acreage near Corvallis that will soon benefit from this improvisational (and affordable) twist on disc golf targets.
ALBANY, OR—Bryant Park Disc Golf Course is a difficult course to play well. The layout is long and confusing with no directional signs whatsoever, and the wooded holes are densely packed with trees and brush. Keeping your disc in play on this course is essential, or the pleasant round you imagined may rapidly descend into a battle for disc golf survival.
Such was my state on Friday. My first toss of the day sailed hard to the left, directly into the woods by the river and it took us a good 15 minutes of crawling through thickets to locate my Gazelle.
For me, it was that kind of day on the course. I ended up losing my Gazelle later in the round, and I hate the feelings of being deprived and unsettled that come from it. But, it’s either leave the disc or scratch the hell out of yourself and drive yourself crazy digging through the thick growth on the forest floor for undeterminded stretches of time.
Disc Golf Course Review gives Bryant Park a 3.53 rating. “Half the course is long open holes under large deciduous trees in a city park setting; the other half is narrow holes (some short, some long) carved out of a nasty blackberry/ivy jungle.” Emphasis, on nasty.
One reviewer on the site, “mthill” says:
I like to call Bryant Park the Darkhorse of the Willamette Valley courses. What it lacks in aesthetic features, it makes up for in challenging play. This is one of the hardest courses around (in a good way) and will make you play better at your local course guaranteed.
Another player, “steezejenkins” notes, “It can be retarded hard if your having an off day.” He said that right. I had one gorgeous putt and a beautiful drive that led to a birdie. The remainder of my 91 tosses (on this par 60 course) banged off of thin little trees in the middle of the fairways, (that could be cleared from the park), or sailed wide. Many of the pin placements are blind from the tee, and placed in intentionally difficult places to reach. If you’re a beginner or an intermediate player on an off-day, Bryant Park isn’t the course you want to play.
Disc golfers in Oregon are fortunate in that there are courses for every level of player and every situation. If you want to get schooled by a particularly tough outing, by all means seek out “the destroyer course” near you. On the other hand, if you want to keep your discs in play, focus on your motion and complete a quick nine before happy hour, you’ll need to locate a municipal groomer that, by comparison, is literally a walk in the park.
Personally, I most enjoy a course that’s somewhere in the middle, not too easy and not too hard. Until I learn to throw consistently straight and long, a course like Bryant Park is tough to play. I recognize that you want a course to push you to be better, and a course like this will do that. All I’m saying is know what you’re getting in to and bring plenty of water, replacement discs and a ton of humility and patience.
Gratefully, Albany is also home to Calapooia Brewing, one of Oregon’s finest craft-brewers. A visit to this ideal 19th hole certainly helps smooth things out after a round, no matter how pitiful, or brilliant, your score on the course.
Yamhill County in the Willamette Valley is the very heart of Oregon’s most famous wine region. Yamhill County, and the town of Newberg in particular, is also home to some great disc golf courses.
In downtown Newberg, you can play the nine-hole course located in Herbert Hoover Park, or find Ewing Young’s 12-hole nature course on the outskirts of town. Both courses are well worth the time spent in the car from Portland or Salem, and both courses are within spittin’ distance of dozens of outstanding wineries.
After playing Ewing Young last weekend, I started wondering if any Oregon wineries had a disc golf course on premise. Given how valuable Oregon’s wine-growing land is, it might not be the most economically feasible idea.
I think we will see more of this and more opportunities to combine adventure travel, food and wine, natural history and disc sports. In fact, I can definitely imagine a successful tour company operating Pacific Northwest eco-tourism packages, where disc golf plays prominently in the daytime activities.
Disc golf is a game where you find your rhythm and maintain it over 9-to-18 holes, or suffer the consequences. Of course, rhythm is a mental construct, but one that plays out physically. So, if anything disrupts your mental outlook on the course, it’s a potential rhythm buster.
Let’s look at some of the things that commonly disrupt one’s game:
2) Searching for a lost disc, a.k.a. fishing for plastic
3) Losing a disc
4) Three or four putting
5) Slow play ahead
6) Wind gusts
7) Rain delay/Lightning
8) Keeping your dog on a leash throughout
9) A poor throw
10) A series of poor throws
Con Cen Tray Shun, baby. All golfers need it just to survive out there.
I don’t know about you, but my game suffers when I spend 10, 15 or 20 minutes looking for a disc in the rough. I’m always relieved to find the disc (if I find it); regardless, the effort it takes to beat through thickets, searching up and down and all around completely throws me off my game.
Just this morning on the Greenway Disc Golf Course in Beaverton, I scored a birdie 2 on Hole #4, but threw into the woods off the 5th tee, and by the time I finally found my trusty Shark, I was sweaty and mentally fatigued from talking to myself, and convincing myself to not give up on the hunt. Needless to say, I ended up four-putting for a 7. Then I double-boogied the next hole.