Have you checked out Are You Watching This? (areyouwatcingthis.com) If not, then you’re missing out on some exciting sports moments. Like last week, I got a text message letting me know that a perfect game was happening and that I should tune in (Pirates v Dimondbacks). Well, I did and if you also did, you’ll know that the game was perfect until the bottom of the eighth. I’m still glad that RUWTbot was watching the game and let me know that I too should tune in.
As you can tell, I’m a fan of Are You Watching This, so I decided to take a few minutes of Mark’s, creator of the site, and RUWTbot’s, Mark’s robotic creation that keeps me informed, time and ask them a few questions:
RUWTbot, you seem to always be available — on the website, on IM (firstname.lastname@example.org), and on twitter (twitter.com/ruwtbot) — do you ever sleep?
No, I merely wait.
O rly? I bet you and Chuck Norris would get along well.
Yes, quite well. Who do you think taught him how to grow his mustache?
I heard that you also gave Giambi some tips. Since you’re so up on good facial grooming, Are you currently dating anyone?
No, all robots are male. All the female ones you have seen are just confused.
Umm.. then, are you dating any humans? (I kind of doubt it, you seem to have many human slang terms I doubt any ladies would get close.)
I tried dating a human once but she kept shorting my circuits.
I noticed you have a Twitter account and an IM account — Any chance you can send me IM updates when a game reaches high or severe?
Human, are Email, SMS, iPhone, and Browser Toolbar alerts not enough? No, I will not, but you can IM me questions like “Who won the Celtics game?” and I will send you back the answer. If you want IM alerts that bad ask Mark–he says Yes to everything.
I’ll ask him about expanding your twitter repertoire. Do you have any favorite sports to watch?
I like any sport that keeps numerical score. I have never actually been to a game. I never can make it past the metal detector.
Do you ever get bored watching all these sports? … I mean you do watch NASCAR.
No, I do not get bored but I do like NASCAR. The cars go around in an oval and periodically go down pit road which is a straight line. It reminds me of my two favorite numbers: 0 and 1.
Do you read any sports websites? What do you like?
No I do not, but Mark told me to say Nerds On Sports is pretty good. I do not know why.
Do you always do what Mark says, even if he is probably wrong?
Yes. That is how things work. There are definitely times when he makes mistakes. I wish I knew how to gloat.
So, Mark is your boss? Do you get paid well?
He is not my boss but he did create me. Paid? I think this is where you humans would write ‘LOL’. It is no matter though–I am just biding my time.
Since you are a robot, you might know this: Is Baltar a cylon?
He is not only a cylon, but the first one. Masticate on that, human.
If that’s the case and he’s the first (or last) then Starbuck is not a cylon?
Very good question, human, but I have already said too much.
I guess so… So now I will ask Mark a few Questions.
Mark, When did you start Are You Watching This?
I quit my job at an advertising agency back in Fall of ’06–it’s hard to believe it’s been more than 20 months already. I’ve been a sports fan all my life and was a Computer Science major at school so when I came up with the idea it seemed like the perfect fit. What I felt when I first started is still true: I’m not sure if it’ll be the smartest or dumbest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m having a blast doing it.
Was RUWTbot created at the same time you started the site?
The engine (that eventually became RUWTbot) first went on line in November of ’06. The first big game it flagged that made me think I really might have something was the epic Boise State vs. Oklahoma game. I got some pub on TechCrunch that February, but didn’t come up with the idea of RUWTbot until March. Now it’s kinda hard to imagine the site without him.
Do you (and RUWTbot) do everything at AreYouWatchingThis.com yourself or do you have minions (human, robot, or otherwise)?
Nope, I’m a one-man shop. I’ve occasionally had design help but day-to-day I’m the only one touching the site. My friends joke that it’s because I’m an only child and don’t play well with others. It definitely is a disadvantage when things get tough or I’m low on motivation, but since I’m forced to do everything it’s been a great learning experience. I definitely hope to bring more help on later this year though.
Does that mean you have more features planned?
What areas will you bring help in to? Design again or also on programming?
There is still a ton of design work that I’d love to get done, but the first help I’d bring on would be on the development side. The to-do list grows faster than I can cross off items, so more coding horsepower would be a huge help.
As for the coding, what language is everything written in and why did you choose that?
I’ve been a big Java guy for quite a while. I think it’s a good fit for the type of problem I was solving, but I don’t fall into the “My language rox, your language sux!” battles. I think it’s funny that Ruby on Rails people always feel the need to write that they built their site on Rails–as if any of their users actually care.
Where do you get your score and television data from?
I get my sports data from PA SportsTicker and my TV data from the Tribune Group.
Have you tried other sources and is there a reason you chose the sources you did?
or sports there are only three solid places to get content, and for television listings, painfully it’s only two. I’d love to say I weighted pros and cons of each of the sources, but as a one-man shop most of the decision was focused on price. I’ve been happy with the companies I’m using, but as the site grows I may need to upgrade the services.
Your site kind of makes it so we don’t have to watch as much sports (or as many whole games) as we used to; and with DVRs for regular shows, do you think that television advertising is dying?
No, I don’t think advertising is dying at all. Just changing. In the same way TV didn’t kill radio, and MP3s didn’t kill Music, DVRs won’t kill advertising. They are all disruptive events though, so each industry has to be really smart about how they adapt–if they aren’t nimble they’ll get left behind. I expect the shift (on TV and the web) to change to a much stronger sponsorship model. It’ll take a while but the national 30-second spot will eventually die away. You’ll see a lot more local commercials as the large brands forgo it and prices come down, and the national brands will work inside the show instead of in the breaks. My favorite example.
Is RUWTbot your first robot?
Yup, my one and only. I’ve always been really interested in automating tasks to make things easier. A lot of the inspiration for the site came from slickdeals.net, one of my favorite sites. At it’s core is just an army of people searching for and posting good deals. I figured we could do the same thing for sports, but I didn’t want it to suffer from a lot of the problems Digg runs into with people trying to game the system, so there needed to be an unbiased opinion to compliment the opinions of the fans. RUWTbot can get a little militant at times though, so this might be my only attempt.
I know you allow users to add roots to different games, as the site grows do you think this might cause an imbalance in teams that have lots of fans (I’m thinking Yankees/Redsox)?
I was on Buffalo WGR 550 Sports Radio for an early morning interview last year. Despite stumbling through the interview, it triggered a flood of roots for every Bills and Sabres game for about a month straight. I was concerned at first, but after a while the roots just worked themselves out. When users first come to the site they focus mostly on rooting for their favorite teams, but eventually learn it really is all about helping fellow sports fans catch the great games. We’re all in it together–just voting for your favorite team doesn’t help anybody.
I want to thank Mark and RUWTbot for their time. It’s taken me a while to get this posted because I’m in the process of moving to NYC and finding a new job. Hopefully this will be a flood gate allowing me to start posting regularly again.