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Fake Teams interviews Jason Gurney

Last week I exchanged emails with Jason Gurney, the mastermind behind the invaluable lowpost.net and the spankin' new striketwo.net. If your a fan of those two sites like I am, the following will give you insight on the man behind the curtain. And if you're not yet familiar with those two sites? Well, it's time to welcome the way you monitor the sports world into the 21st century.

Matt Watson: When you first introduced lowpost.net back in November, you compared it to the technology behind the memeorandum.com sites. I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to following all of the latest and greatest Web 2.0 ventures out there, so that immediately caught my eye. But for those not familiar with memeorandum.com, how would you explain what it is exactly that lowpost.net and striketwo.net do?

Jason Gurney: The core functionality of lowpost.net involves monitoring NBA-themed blogs and summarizing the top stories that appear.  The application identifies common stories by grouping similar posts together.  For a story to appear, it must have at least two different bloggers writing about it.  The biggest stories can include dozens of posts.

The site also enables visitors to search NBA blog posts, track when certain players or teams are referenced, and find new blogs to read.

striketwo.net works the same way, but for blogs about Major League Baseball.

MW: How do you decide which blogs are included?

JG: I've added almost any blog I can find that's focused on the NBA or MLB.  So far, I've noticed that tracking more content leads to more interesting stories.

MW: What determines which stories make it on the front page and what order they appear?

JG: The ranking algorithm currently incorporates three criteria:

  1.       How many posts are written about a story
  2.       How recently the posts were published, and
  3.       The aggregate "influence" of the participating blogs
Influence is a function of links from other blogs, similar to Technorati's authority metric.  It's the basis for the blog rankings that were added to the sites last month.

MW: What inspired you to create lowpost.net? Were you a big sports fan growing up? If so, what were your favorites teams or players?

JG: Yes, I've always been a big sports fan.  In the 80's, I followed the Lakers and Dodgers.  In the 90's, it was the Sonics and Mariners.  These days, I root for the local teams (Warriors and A's), but also follow whichever teams happen to be the most fun to watch--like the Suns over the past couple of seasons.

The idea for lowpost.net came out of personal frustration.  As the regular season began, I found that I just didn't have the time to keep up with all of the quality NBA blogs that I wanted to read.  Using an RSS reader helped, but it wasn't enough.  It was originally built only for my own personal use; I decided to publish it externally after the results looked promising enough.

MW: Once you set about creating lowpost.net, how long did it take you to come up with a fully-functional version?

JG: From the time that I began working on it, it took about three weeks to complete the initial version.  Most of the work took place during a couple of long weekends, though.

MW: I started a Detroit Pistons blog before the start of the season, but before then I wasn't really exposed to or aware of the "basketball blogosphere." That's why I immediately became a fan of lowpost.net --it helped expose me to so many other great sites that I probably would have taken months to stumble upon on my own. But the "baseball blogosphere" is even bigger -- striketwo.net monitors almost four times as many blogs as lowpost.net. Did that pose any difficulties for you from a development standpoint? How long did it take you to adapt the lowpost.net technology to create striketwo.net?

JG: Thankfully, I didn't have to change much of the application to handle the increased baseball volume.  It's higher, but still just a drop in the bucket compared to other topics (like technology) or the overall blog population.  Most of the work involved setting up the baseball database of blogs, players, coaches, hall of famers, etc.

MW: What do you do when you're not creating cutting-edge sports sites? What's your "day job?"

JG: My day job actually keeps me very busy most evenings as well--I head up the engineering team at a small market intelligence company called Biz360.

MW: In addition to doing all of the programming, you also write some pretty insightful and innovative posts about the NBA on your own blog at lowpost.net/blog. Is there a striketwo.net/blog in the works?

JG: Thanks.  I barely have time to keep up with one blog, so a striketwo.net blog seems unlikely.

MW: Now that you have sites for basketball and baseball, are there any plans to create additional sites for other sports?

JG: Yes, I'm tentatively planning to add an NFL-themed version later this year.  Beyond that, I'm not so sure.  College basketball and football are possibilities, but they may be a bit too fragmented.

MW: Just to put you on the spot, who do you like coming out of the East and West in the NBA, and who's your pick to win the title? And do you have any World Series favorites yet?

JG: In the West, I'd like to see the Sun or Mavericks, but I'm afraid it's going to be the Spurs again.  In the East, it's hard to bet against the Pistons.  Shaq's teammates are arguably better this year in Miami than they were two years ago in L.A., but his game has slipped, and Detroit has improved.  In the Finals, I like the Pistons.

In baseball, I'd love to see another Bay Bridge Series, but a Subway Series seems more likely this year.