I challenge you to name a sport that meets each of the following conditions.

  1. It has a scoring system involving points.
  2. Points are good: they help you win. So strokes in golf are not points in this sense. You win golf with fewer of them, rather than with more of them.
  3. It is possible to lose while scoring more points than the other player (or other team).

I used an example of such a sport in a writing project. I’ll identify the sport, and say a little more about the project, in a paragraph or two. So, if you want to accept the challenge, stop reading now. If you’ve arrived via the Facebook discussion I started with a rather looser version of the challenge, welcome!

In this post, I will:

  • Identify the sport I had in mind.
  • Identify a few rather similar sports that also meet conditions 1-3 above.
  • Explain how one of these similar sports meets the conditions.
  • Identify a few sports that meet the conditions, but which I regard as edge cases rather than as good answers.
  • Tell you what my favorite answer is, explain why it’s wrong, and explain how it fits in to the writing project.

OK, you had fair warning: you should have stopped reading a while ago if you accepted the challenge. The sport I had in mind is: tennis. Several other racquet sports meet the conditions in much the same way. I’ll explain in terms of badminton, since it has a simpler scoring system than tennis. I could also have used squash or table tennis or…

Two people, Ackroyd and Belushi, agreed to play badminton. Per the scoring rules of badminton, their match consisted of the best of three games, each game being to 21 points (with some exceptions, none of which arose for A and B).

B won the first game easily, 21-8. But A was better built for the long haul, and won the second game 21-19. He won the third and deciding game by the same score.

So A won the three-game match: he won two of the three games. But B scored more points: 59 to 50.

Here are some edge cases. One is freestyle wrestling (currently an Olympic sport, as are all the sports mentioned in this post). Craig Massey pointed out (on Facebook) that it meets the conditions. My explanation differs a little from his…

Belushi, smarting from his defeat on the badminton court, challenged Ackroyd to a freestyle wresting match. A accepted. B was quickly ahead, taking A down with a throw of grand amplitude, thus scoring 5 points. B then hit A with a steel chair. B was immediately disqualified–much to his surprise, since he’d seen several wrestling matches involving unpunished chair shots. Thus A was declared the winner, even though B scored more points. Several other combat sports, including boxing, are similar edge cases.

Limited overs cricket meets the conditions, due to the Duckworth-Lewis method But I’m not going to explain it here. This is a post, not a book, and it’s already rather long.

My favorite answer to the challenge is: the Electoral College process by which the President of the USA is elected. It’s not a correct answer, since it doesn’t meet “condition zero”: it’s not a sport. Well, I don’t think it is, but feel free to argue otherwise.

But my favorite answer does meet conditions 1-3, as the 2016 election illustrates. Hilary Clinton scored more points (won the popular vote) but lost the match (the Presidential election).

That brings us to the writing project referred to above. The premise is that American politics is actually a show, spread across multiple media: TV, Twitter, etc. It has distinct episodes. Here’s a quote from the current draft.

In recent episodes, the Democrats have done little more than bleat about the Electoral College system. It is as if they are neighbors and tennis opponents of the Republican protagonists. The Democrats just lost a match, because the Republicans won more sets. The Democrats remark that they won most of the points, and thus the Republicans didn’t really beat them.

That paragraph doesn’t work well. I thought that a different sports analogy might improve it. That gave me the idea of issuing the challenge, first on Facebook, then here.

The challenge turned out to be interesting in its own right. Even if it doesn’t end up affecting the quoted description of the Democrats, it’ll have been worth it, for me at least. I hope that this has been interesting for you, too, since you made it to the end of this post–which is open for comments, by the way!

Facebook’s music plans involve Spotify, others, revealed Om Malik, thus setting the tone for this week’s conversation about online music.

Last week’s conversation was more about Spotify itself, with $100M in new funding giving a bump to the long-running rumor that the US launch really is near. A deal with Facebook was often mentioned (although sometimes with a note that Facebook was probably not interested in teaming up).

I have more curiosity than enthusiasm about Spotify’s arrival, music on Facebook, and the intersection of the two. I miss Lala, which was acquired by Apple back in 2009, and haven’t enjoyed any other service nearly as much since. Amazon, Apple, and Google have of course each launched a music locker, each with different features above and beyond the basic locker. None of them gives me the control that Lala did.

I’ll try Spotify when it launches, but I fear that its US launch will come too late, and in the shadow of Facebook.

So, Facebook “hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy.” I am rather late to the party in using that quote from Dan Lyons at the Daily Beast.

But I can’t resist jumping on this rather lovely insight into how low Facebook will stoop. And I can’t resist adding further quotes, this time from Michael Arrington’s account of the story:

  • “it’s not an exaggeration to say they’re changing the world’s notions on what privacy is.” They are Facebook. I hope that they are not changing the world’s notion of privacy. But they are certainly demonstrating how much of it people are willing to trade for being part of a large online herd.
  • “secretly paying a PR firm to pitch bloggers on stories going after Google, even offering to help write those stories and then get them published elsewhere, is not just offensive, dishonest and cowardly. It’s also really, really dumb.” Yes, and that’s the feel-good aspect of the story: the stupidity of Facebook.
  • “Google is probably engaging in some somewhat borderline behavior by scraping Facebook content… But many people argue… that the key data, the social graph, really should belong to the users, not Facebook.” Yes it should. But Facebook users should by now understand that they are the product, not the customer.
  • “Does anyone not see the irony of having to sign in via Facebook to leave a comment on this Techcrunch article?” That’s the first comment on Michael’s article (as of right now), and several other comments make a similar point. If TechCrunch knows Facebook to be dishonest, cowardly, and dumb, why is it inflicting Facebook’s comment system on the TC community?

Three years ago, I was pretty enthusiastic about OpenID.

Those of us who use (or at least try) too many web services tend to regard OpenID as good news: it means that each of us can sign in to one service in order to access multiple services… Now we get to the bad news. Most of the services I use don’t accept OpenID.

The bad news never went away, and is in some ways getting worse. 37signals will cease to support OpenID on May 1.

There are at least three other strikes against OpenID, besides the fact that many sites don’t accept it. Your ID is a URI, which might seem a little weird unless you are actually a web page. That URI can seem like one more thing to keep track of, bookmark, etc: the OpenID as well as the sites you use it to access. And what do you do when your OpenID provider is down?

So, more and more, we see web services inviting us to sign in using our credentials from one of the big sites, often Facebook. This may seem a little like using the one ring forged in, and always owned by, Mordor.

But we do have our choice of lords of the login. Mike at RWW recently noted that LinkedIn is growing as the login of choice for business-to-business (B2B) sites. He deduces from this that “users prefer certain identities for certain online activities.” So maybe Jekyll and Hyde is a better literary reference than Lord of the Rings when it comes to logins.

Mashable Ben’s recent op-ed on Facebook, Twitter and The Two Branches of Social Media prompted me to ask two of my favorite questions. How does this fit in with what I’ve posted? How does WordPress fit in?

Ben’s two branches are social networks and information networks. They correspond respectively to connection and content. The correspondence isn’t exact: for example, I see connection and content as two elements of that mix in different ways in different social media tools, rather than as separate branches. I agree with Ben that the distinction between social networks (which emphasize connection) and information networks (which emphasize content) illustrates a fundamental difference between Facebook and Twitter.

WordPress is more about content than about connection in that it’s more for building information networks than for building social networks. But of course, WordPress is a platform on which you can build pretty much what you want, and social networking has already been built on top of it, in the form of BuddyPress.

Books are sadly limited things once they are wrapped in DRM (see previous). Now even the word book may be limited.

Facebook has filed suit against Teachbook.com, an online community for teachers. The lawsuit accuses Teachbook of “misappropriating the distinctive BOOK portion of Facebook’s trademark.”

I don’t think that’s satire. I think that Jennifer Van Grove wrote it for Mashable with a straight keyboard.

The hounds of “intellectual property” have made enough toothmarks on enough books. Now their foul fangs slaver for the word book itself.