The poor state of Formula 1 team websites
14 February 2006 - 17:27
Robert Scoble is famous for saying that if your marketing website doesn't have an RSS feed you should be fired. He's taken a lot of criticism for that stance and when I first read it I wasn't convinced it was that big a deal. However, I was recently compiling a list of Formula 1 team websites and was disappointed to find that only one of them had an RSS feed for it's news page. So I guess I'm now a believer.
For those not familiar with Formula 1 racing, there are currently 11 teams. All teams are required to design and manufacture their own cars (the engine may be bought in) to very high standards of both performance and safety. There are 18 races this year in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Oceania. Annual budgets range from $40M to $300M and staff levels from around 100 to over 1000. 6 of the 11 teams are owned by or closely allied to major motor car manufacturers. So this is a big global business - a long way from the likes of Champcar or IRL - and only the best will do for even the smallest of F1 operations. Even the manufacturer owned teams depend on external sponsorship and sponsors require maximum exposure in order to justify the money they hand over. That makes every chance to expose and promote their sponsors very important to the teams. So you'd think they would put a lot of effort into their web presence....
Well in a way they do. Almost all the sites are slickly produced by experienced web design agencies. Unfortunately these design agencies seem most intent on fulfilling a brief that was penned by someone who knows nothing about web usability or even good web marketing - as long as it looks pretty on this person's screen, they are happy.
The following is a table of woe. As you can see, only Renault have an RSS feed for the news section of their website. Many of the websites are all-flash affairs. Now I don't object to the use of flash on a website, but if the entire site is one big flash file it makes it impossible to bookmark pages, navigate using the standard back and forward buttons, or copy/paste from press releases etc. And that's without going into many of the accessability issues that web-standards fanatics like to go on about. Those sites that avoid the all-flash fate then have a chance to fail by using Frames is such a way as to make the bookmarking of individual pages almost impossible.
|Team Name (link)||RSS Feed||All Flash||Bookmarkable pages|
|Midland F1||-||-||X |
|Scuderia Toro Rosso||-||X||-|
|Toyota F1||-||-||X |
|Super Aguri F1||-||?||?|
Renault F1 is the only team to come out with full marks - fittingly for the 2005 world champions! Williams, Midland F1, Toyota F1 and Honda are almost as good, they just need to add an RSS feed so fans can keep up with their news more easily. The rest should hang their heads in shame, sack their current web partners and start again.
[Note: Super Aguri F1 haven't really got a website yet - they're got their work cut out getting a car ready for the start of the season being the new boys for 2006 - so I'm not rating them yet.]
Prepare for Cell Processor hype onslaught
08 February 2006 - 08:44
Just watching the US CNBC Squawkbox over here in England and they're going on about how amazingly powerful and revolutionary the new IBM Cell Processor is going to be. And if a product that isn't available yet and for which there is no new news available to get appearances on CNBC means that the PR engine has swung into full-on hype mode. Expect floods of blog postings about the chip and stories in all the news websites.
It's all PR hype though. We know the Cell is going to be the core of the Sony Playstaion 3 and there are possibly other applications for it in workstation accelerators. But don't expect to see it as widely used as IBM would like it to be. Firstly the Cell is not a cheap chip to manufacture. Some of the early hype made claims that by putting lots of simple processors together on one die they could make a very powerful chip at low cost compared to traditional solutions. This is just not the case though. The primary determiner in the manufacturing cost of chip is the die space it takes up and the Cell is as big as any high performance design. Even though the individual units of the Cell (SPE or Synergistic Processing Elements in IBM speak) are small and simple, when you jam 8 of them together (and add another true PowerPC processor to co-ordinate them) you end up with a big chip.
The other concern over the Cell is the ease of programming. Writing highly multi-threaded code is difficult anyway unless you have an easily seperable algorithm as your main computation task. But if you then take into account that the SPEs don't have access to main memory - only the 512KB they are bundled with - the whole business of co-ordinating data transfers to and from the SPEs adds an extra layer of complexity that any programmer would rather do without.
There is plenty of debate among game programmers over whether the PS3 offers as much useable processing power as the more conventional three-core PowerPC CPU in the Xbox 360 because the potention of the Cell will be so hard to realise. Being able to decode 48 MPEG2 streams simultaneously isn't that useful in most applications.