Marine Corps Marathon technology report

runner accessing race results

All the runners were tracked in real-time:

Get split times and finish information instantly on a pager, text messaging number or e-mail. This free service is a great way for spectators to cheer for their runner (or runners) and be there to meet them for the celebration at the finish line. Live split locations will be at the 5mile, 10 mile, 13.1 mile, 15 mile, 20 mile, 23.5 mile and the finish points.

Tents with notebook computers offered race spectators access to the service. The laptop interface presented not just split times, places, and pace, but also a graphical course map with a symbol indicating the runners estimated current position. I would guess that this was a must-have service for many fans who vigorously cheered their special runners.

After the race, RunPix generated runner-specific data graphs off the underlying runner-times database.

att bird

AT&T at&t offered free phone call to anywhere in the world on about 10 portable phones. Spectators didn’t seem to be using the phones much, but runners who had finished the marathon later crowded the phones. I would guess that a lot of persons didn’t want to carry a cell phone while running the marathon. They probably used the at&t phones to contact friends and family lost in the huge crowd at the event.

runners calling

Free photos were offered in surprising ways. Tylenol (pain reliever) would take your picture and print out a small copy for you on a Tylenol ad card. The ad card included instructions for accessing a larger copy of the photo on the web (try batch # TYVA 11, photo # 0115). You could access the photo after filling out a short (six question) survey about your use of pain relievers. Saturn (car company) was also doing free photos. The Saturn photographers handed out a small plastic bar-coded card with a code for accessing your picture online (try photo id# A9HA4 4PRT3). Saturn offered no immediate print-out of the photo. Both the Tylenol and Saturn service asked for name and email address to access the photos on the web. The Tylenol service allowed browsing of other persons’ photos, while the Saturn service did not.

message boards

CNN featured some retro-tech in its CNN=Politics display. They erected a paper-based graffiti board as well as a refrigerator-magnet board. They also provide round paper button templates where you could fill in “I’m Pro (blank)” or “I’m Anti (blank).” You could stick these on the refrigerator board. CNN also had a machine that could make a button for you on the spot. My sense is that the CNN approach was unsuccessful. Perhaps the crowd at “the people’s marathon” was too parochial and lacked the political sophistication that CNN offers.

anti pro

cross-species evidence on presence

Primate neural systems process gaze relatively well. Infant chimpanzees aged 10-32 weeks prefer photographs of human faces with eyes open compared to photographs with eyes shut, and with direct gaze compared to averted gaze. By four months of age, human infants can discriminate between faces with direct and averted gaze. In adult humans, direct gaze enhances the memorability of faces and the speed of person categorization. Moreover, direct gaze seems to be the best explanation for sensational reception of Byzantine icons in an artistically rich sixteenth-century Indo-Muslim culture.

Gaze has considerable value in making sense of presence. According to a recent study, mother-infant chimpanzees pairs gaze into each other’s eyes on average about 17 times per hour. Mutual gazing covaried similarly in chimps and humans:

maternal cradling was found to be inversely related to mutual gazing in chimpanzees, such that when mother and young infant are in constant physical contact, there is little mutual gaze. Reduced face-to-face interactions, including reduced amounts of mutual gaze, are found in human cultures that have increased physical contact with infants compared with Western norms. … We purpose that mutual engagement in primates is supported via an interchangeability of tactile and visual modalities [Bard et. al., 2005, pp. 621, 623].

The value of the visual mode, however, depends on its circumstances. If the features of a face are scrambled, infant chimpanzees are indifferent between eyes with direct and averted gaze. Direct gaze from a painting or photograph of a face may create value of the same type as mutual gaze and physical contact, but perhaps not as efficiently.

web servers don’t fill up: the Great Russian Novel (unfinished)

As a young child, I remember pondering with my brothers the idea of digging a hole to China. We considered this to be possible. After all, we understood that the earth was round like a ball. But we figured that digging a hole to China would be too much work. We settled on digging a swimming pool. We dug a small hole that filled with muddy water after a rain.

In 1994, concerned about economic reforms in Russia, I decided to write a Russian novel. Russian popular culture, it seemed to me, lacked hugely popular literary masterpieces like Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, and Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I imagined writing something like Ilf and Petrov’s The Twelve Chairs, but updated to reflect subsequent insights from economic history.

You can’t swim in that hole we dug. But, if you can read Russian, you can now read the chapters that I wrote of my Russian novel. These chapters won’t contribute much to Russian economic success. But perhaps some Russian schoolchildren might find them amusing. Here’s the English translation of the title and the first paragraph:

The Way to Wealth

Chapter 1

Several years ago in Saint Petersburg I met an American. A lot of those foreigners are running around now, talking with everyone, and no one follows them. I met this American in that new restaurant Pizza Hut. He was sitting next to me, and I noticed that he had on his pizza green peppers, onions, and broccoli. On my pizza was sausage. [more in Russian]

Technical notes: Because I wanted this work to be culturally authentic, I chose to type it using the KOI8-R character encoding. I’m grateful to Petko Yotov’s Universal Cyrillic decoder for converting it to CP 1251, an encoding easier to use with MS Windows computers. Babelfish offers Russian-to-English machine translation, but the results in this case are quite bad. So if you don’t read Russian, you’ll probably have to wait for machine translation technology to improve in order to appreciate this unfinished literary masterpiece.

YouTube's success

How has YouTube succeeded? YouTube makes uploading and sharing videos free and easy. It has hosted some popular high-quality clips and stimulated calls for a copyright-brawl-of-the-millennium. These are well-recognized aspects of YouTube. But consider the outpouring of sympathy for Martin. YouTube has also succeeded as an innovative communications service.

Social networks and communications services are closely related. Robert Young, an insightful industry analyst, recently noted:

communications ultimately serves as the anchor feature and the driver of retention and growth. …when dealing with an online community, that one lasting activity is almost always communications. … Social networks, which are rapidly becoming the portals of the next generation, must place high strategic priority on their communications functionality if they wish to continue their pace of traffic growth, usage, and retention.

Mirroring this remark, Norman Lewis of Orange, a mobile communications service provider, suggested at the Telco2.0 Industry Brainstorm:

Any future applications which do not have a social networking aspect to them will be irrelevant. If we don’t understand that, we won’t have a business in the future.

YouTube shows communication service providers that video can be important driver of communication. On the other hand, sharing video, like providing VoIP, is a service that many providers potentially could offer. If YouTube doesn’t link itself closer to enduring real-world social networks, it may not have a business in the future.

Taxman triumphs on stationary bike

Taxman left the field far behind to declare victory in the JDRF 2006 Spin to Win Thursday in the heart of Washington, DC. The Lanterne Rouge rider has been embroiled in controversy after finishing atop the General Category (GC) in the Tour de Frolorado. He entered the Spin to Win hoping to resolve any lingering questions about his ranking among elite cyclists.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Capitol Chapter, sponsored this inaugural event. The field was enthusiastic and determined. Conditions were ideal. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and U.S. Congressman Tom Davis pedaled briefly at the front of the field and urged the riders on. The event helped to raise money for diabetes research. Given its importance and the quality of its field, this event is sure to become a fixture on the U.S. cycling scene.

Emphasizing the growing importance of citizen journalism, we bring you exciting video coverage of this newsworthy event.