Inside TSL: Short Takes
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
TSL Extra, Issue #8

Inside TSL: Short Takes

Instead of a long article focusing on one topic, this month I thought I would cover a variety of TSL topics. Let's get started.

Rome Talk

Last month's "Inside TSL" detailed, among other things, a conversation between radio host Jim Rome and former (I still hate using that word) Tech QB Michael Vick. You'll recall that at one point in the conversation Rome asked Vick about the work Vick is doing with the Tech Licensing department to sell Vick-related products to raise scholarship money. Rome mentioned the name of the TechSideline.com web site several times, providing some great free publicity for the site.

After recounting the conversation between Rome and Vick, I slammed Rome fairly hard:

Rome is a punk. He's respectful to his guests, but among his listeners and callers, he encourages endless smack-talk and drivel that anyone with a brain has no interest in listening to. Whereas most radio talk shows consist of back-and-forth dialogue between the host and callers, Rome's callers instead get on the air and then go on rambling, smack-filled monologues for as long as Rome decides to leave them on the air, or until they say, "I am out" and hang up. I don't remember the last time I heard Rome actually talk to one of his callers. If you've heard one of these calls, you've heard them all.

In general, the attitude of disrespect that Rome encourages and cultivates is just pathetic. Like I always say, "If you don't have the time or talent to speak or write correctly, then just talk smack." It's much easier and takes no talent. Kind of like rap music.

But I have to admit that now that Rome mentioned TechSideline.com on the air three times, I no longer think he's just a punk. Now he's a punk who has mentioned the name of my web site on a national radio broadcast.

That's pretty harsh, and I wondered if it would bring any Jim Rome fans out of the woodwork for a rebuttal. It did. Randy Ferguson, a TSLX subscriber who is a Rome fan, dropped me the following email:

Will-

Sorry, but as a devout listener of the Rome show, I must (as in the words of Rome) "smack" my own...that's you! I enjoy your TSL Extra column, but your blatant "smacking" of JR was totally unnecessary. Sure Rome's not for everyone and I can agree with that, but calling him a punk after he totally gave your site some major run is weak. So he said it was MV's site, so what? The guy went out of his way to pimp your site, give him a break.

Rome is absolutely one of the most hilarious, insightful, and fair members of the sports media. This is why so many of the top athletes are comfortable on his show, he tells it like it is...I know you don't like it every year when VT denies you press credentials, because the VT athletic administration stereotypes people who do their business on the Internet...therefore you of all people shouldn't be so quick to judge others and what is legitimate or not...I thought you were a more objective writer than that.. and oh yeah, take your butt down into any VT locker room and tell all the athletes rap music is for idiots...yeah right...I'm ouuttttttttt!

Chuckle. That, my friends, is the type of discourse that is very common to Rome fans, meaning that it's very honest, straightforward, doesn't pull any punches, and ends with, "I'm ouuuuuuttttt!" It was like getting a Jim Rome telephone call delivered to my email In-box.

I thought about what Randy had said, and he had some good points. I reviewed the comments I had made about Rome in TSLX #7, and I decided that they didn't really accurately relay how I feel about Rome himself, or his show. So I replied to Randy and attempted to clarify myself.

One of the good things about devotees of the Rome show who like his style is that you can talk to them openly and honestly -- heck, they demand it. So I was a little more outspoken in my reply to Randy than I normally am with complaint letters. Here's my response:

Randy:

All right, here's my "take" on Rome: calling him a punk was not accurate, because that's not what I think about him. I USED to think he was a punk (still don't like the Chris Everett thing -- I don't believe in disrespecting people, and that's what Rome did; he deserved to get smacked out of his chair). Having listened to his show, here is what I think of Rome: he is very knowledgeable about his subject matter, and he's a good interviewer. And yes, he's funny -- his Monday show after the XFL's debut weekend was hilarious.

However, I cannot stand the format of his show. If all he did was interviews and commentary, I would love his show. But when he turns it over to his callers, it dumbs down to a third-grade level. I'd like to hear some intelligent discourse and to learn some things -- what I DON'T want is to listen to "Jim in Chi-Town's" idiotic "take" on A-Rod, Charles Barkley, Deion Sanders, and the price of luxury boxes in the Jacksonville Jaguar's stadium. This thing of having half-drunk high school dropouts call in and ramble on a negative diatribe for 30 seconds to a minute without any give and take between the caller and the host is just not something that appeals to me. Rome is funny and intelligent -- 99% of his callers are not, and that's wasted air time that just contributes to bringing down the lowest common denominator of what's acceptable in society.

You ought to know from watching my behavior on the board that I'm pretty conservative. I believe in respecting people, exchanging ideas, and agreeing to disagree. I think people ought to always try to act with class and dignity (I don't always do that, but I TRY). I'm not part of the new generation that thinks trash talk, self-promotion, and insulting and demeaning other people is okay. Therefore, I don't like the format of Rome's show, because outside of his interview segments, it's built on trash talk. Again, if you've heard one of his callers, you've heard them all.

Rome says, "If you've never heard the show, just give it a few weeks, and I promise, you'll warm up to it." Well, I've warmed up to his portion of it, but I'll never warm up to the constant stream of callers who ought to keep their ideas to themselves and shouldn't be allowed to demonstrate their lack of brain power to the entire country.

And he was not "pimping" my site -- he was repeating the only thing he could remember from a press release he had skimmed during the last commercial break. No problem there, that's his job, but he definitely was not "pimping" it.

And I'm not even touching the rap music comment.

Rack me, Randy -- I'm oooooouuuuuutttt!!

-- Will in R-Town (Radford)

Those of you who are familiar with Rome's show might get a little kick out of the "rack me" reference (on Rome's show, getting "racked" is a good thing -- I think -- not a painful blow delivered to a sensitive area of the body) and my R-Town signature. That's done very much in the Rome style.

Randy's response was very brief, something along the lines of, "I can deal with your response. Thanks for the explanation." So we had both said our piece and were content to go our separate ways.

Why do I share this particular exchange with you? After all, I get tons of email every day, some of it more interesting than this, most of it less so. I suppose I passed it along because I wanted to clarify my thoughts on Rome and his show, in case I wasn't clear last issue.

One thing's for sure, by the time we were done, Randy and I understood each other. Maybe there is something to the way Rome does things … nah.

Thanks for agreeing to let me print the letter, Randy.

Traffic Statistics

There seems to be no end to the growth of traffic on TechSideline.com. Every year, just when you think the number of Hokies posting on TSL and reading the articles can't get any bigger, it does. Since most TSLX readers seem to enjoy the occasional discussions of traffic statistics, here are some more facts and figures for you.

We are currently smack-dab in the middle of the off-season, with absolutely nothing going on -- school is in summer session, recruiting is quiet, and no Hokie sports teams are currently active. And yet we're pulling just over 80,000 page views a day, and have been for the last three months.

To give you some perspective, the undefeated 1999 football season and the run to the national championship game produced an average of 90,000 page views a day in the months of November and December of 1999. That was the height of Hokie hysteria, and yet, less than two years later, we're almost doing that much traffic in the quietest months of the year.

Before giving you some statistics, let me define what a "page view" is: a page view is logged whenever someone reads a message board post or an article on TechSideline.com. For example, if you hit the home page, the Football page, or the future schedules page, or read an article or a message board post, it will register as a single page view.

"Hits" are a different measure of traffic that is usually much higher than "page views." A hit is registered every time an image or a block of text is downloaded, meaning that there are multiple hits per page view. TSL, for example, registers about 3 or 4 hits per page view, which is indicative of a web site that is efficiently designed and doesn't overuse graphics. Poorly designed web sites with a lot of embedded graphics will produce 5-10 hits or more per page view.

So when you hear someone say "My site got a million hits last week," don't get too excited about that. If it's a poorly designed site with lots of images that is hard to navigate, it's going to generate a lot of "hit" traffic without necessarily generating a lot of "page views."

Here are TSL's average daily page view stats for the last year and a half. Our stats package only goes back for a year, and I didn't record the stats in late 1999/early 2000, so the figures given for October 1999 through January 2000 are estimates done from memory.


Month

Page Views
Per Day

Oct-99 (est.)

80,000

Nov-99 (est.)

90,000

Dec-99 (est.)

90,000

Jan-00 (est.)

70,000

Feb-00

56,198

Mar-00

43,490

Apr-00

49,852

May-00

48,890

Jun-00

52,364

Jul-00

61,589

Aug-00

93,416

Sep-00

109,759

Oct-00

118,476

Nov-00

143,000

Dec-00

116,565

Jan-01

177,893

Feb-01

131,936

Mar-01

72,083

Apr-01

80,945

May-01

83,413

Jun-01

86,593

To boil it down to its essence, here's what the figures show:

Time Period

Page Views Per Day

1999 football season

90,000

2000 recruiting period

70,000

2000 summer

50,000

2000 football season

115,000 *

2001 recruiting period

175,000 **

2001 summer

83,000

*I say just 115,000 page views a day during the 2000 football season because the Beamer-to-UNC saga in November of 2000 created an artificial spike in page views (143,000 per day for Nov. 2000) that wasn't related to the football season.

** The huge traffic increase between the 2000 and 2001 recruiting seasons is the result of the addition of a recruiting database and a recruiting message board from 2000 to 2001.

The big question here, and this is why I printed the figures, is, "What is the traffic going to be during the 2001 football season?"

There are three ways I can see to predict it:

1.) The traffic during the 2000 football season was 2.3 times the traffic of the 2000 summer. Since the 2001 summer traffic is hovering around 83,000 page views a day, the 2001 football season traffic could be 83,000 x 2.3 = 190,900 page views a day. Gulp.

2.) Traffic increased by a factor of 1.66 from summer of 2000 to the summer of 2001 (83k/50k = 1.66), or from year to year for comparable time periods. Multiplying the 115,000 page views of the 2000 football season by a factor of 1.66 would equate to -- get this -- 190,900 page views a day during the 2001 football season. Gulp again.

3.) The traffic during the 1999 football season was 90k pages per day. It jumped to 115k pages per day during the 2000 football season, a factor of 115/90 = 1.27. If you multiply the 115k page views per day by that same factor of 1.27 to estimate the traffic during the 2001 football season, you get 147,000 page views per day for 2001.

So, traffic during the upcoming football season will average somewhere between 147,000 page views per day and 190,900 page views a day, with signs pointing towards the higher range.. Wow, I can, uh, hardly wait.

Now if only TechLocker.com sales, TSLX subscription sales, and banner ad revenue would take a comparable jump, I could get off this macaroni-and-cheese and mayonnaise sandwich diet.

New TSL Logo Vote Coming Soon

One lingering "to-do" task has been a redesign of the web site logo. We have wanted to do a new logo ever since we changed the name from HokieCentral.com to TechSideline.com back in November of 2000, but we were just too pressed for time until spring of 2001.

The problem since then has been agreeing on a new logo. A logo has to serve many varied functions: it has to fit into a page header in reasonable fashion, like the current logo does. Page headers are 600x100 pixel images, so that's a challenge.

A logo also has to fit well on T-shirts, hats, and other merchandise, whether embroidered or screen printed. It has to be easily identifiable and has to look good in any combination of maroon, orange, and white.

That's not too much to ask.

At one point, we were growing so frustrated (or, as my two-year-old likes to say, "fuss-er-ated" -- sorry, using what children say to get a laugh is a VERY weak literary device, but there you have it) that I put out the call to the TSL faithful to see if they could come up with some good ideas. I got some interesting concepts from the readers, including one or two that would work well on page headers, but not really on T-shirts, hats, etc.

Back to square one. The problem here is that you've got two people working on logo designs: me and our company president, who manages our business affairs, our store, and has a strong background in graphic design. So he considers working on TSL logo concepts to be a welcome break from the business- and store-related tasks he deals with every day.

Unlike him, I have no background whatsoever in graphic design, so my creative brain is not cluttered like his with all these extra thoughts about what is and isn't appropriate in graphic design.

That disparity has led to him disliking my unpolished, unprofessional designs, while I am unmoved by his designs, which are well-executed from a graphic design standpoint but just don't "move" me in any way. So I pass my designs his way, only to hear "No," while he passes his designs my way, just to see me shrug my shoulders and go, "Eh…nah."

So we're going to settle this the best way possible, by chaining ourselves together at the wrist and battling it out to the death in a cage match … uh, never mind, I forgot that this is the TSL Extra and not the WWF Extra.

What we're really going to do is take my two favorite designs and his two favorite designs and put them up for a vote on the web site. This will occur in late June/early July, and once the fans pick a favorite design, there's no looking back. We'll update the site graphics and move into production on T-shirts, hats, etc.

Of course, I'm not going to tell you who is responsible for what design, and my esteemed opponent may throw in a fifth design for you to vote upon. However it works out, I'll be glad to get this thing behind us and move forward with a new logo.

So look for that poll soon, in about two weeks. Due to its nature, it will be embedded into a News and Notes update, not on the home page.

See you next month.

 

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