Highest attended soccer matches in the USA

This started as a reply to a reddit poster claiming a USA-Turkey match in 2010 was “the highest attended soccer match ever”

According to this the attendance was 55,407. Nice, but not the highest ever for soccer.
http://www.ussoccer.com/news/mens-national-team/2010/05/turkey-game-report.aspx

But not the larget for soccer that I can find. Portugal played the USA at RFK during the 1996 olympics, attendance was 58,012. 
http://www.dcconvention.com/Venues/RFKStadium/UniqueSpaces.aspx

Also MLS Cup 1997 at RFK featuring home side D.C. United was attended by 57,431 people.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MLS_Cup_’97

Also, the LA Coliseum would sell out for soccer matches, albeit ones not featuring the USA. Capacity is 92k
http://articles.latimes.com/1999/apr/29/news/mn-32450

Turns out the USSF has a page with attendance records, and the USA-Turkey game, or the others mentioned by me above, would not make it, as the minimum cutoff is around 78,000. Maybe the US turkey game was the best attended USMNT during the previous world cup cycle?
http://www.ussoccer.com/teams/us-men/records/attendance-records/largest-crowds-in-us.aspx

Building CandiData

This past weekend, my colleague and friend Sandy Smith participated in Election Hackathon 2012 (read his take of the hackathon). We built our first public Musketeers.me product, Candidata.me. This was my first hackathon, and it was exciting and exhausting to bring something to life in little more than 24 hours. Our idea combined a number of APIs to produce a profile for every candidate running for President or Congress in the United States. The seed of the idea was good enough that we were chosen among 10 projects to present it to the group at large on Sunday afternoon.

Under the Hood and Hooking Up with APIs

We used our own PHP framework, Treb, as our foundation. It provides routing by convention, controllers, db acccess, caching, and a view layer. Along the way, we discovered a small bug in our db helper function that failed because of the nuances of autoloading.

I quickly wrote up a base class for making HTTP Get requests to REST APIs. The client uses PHPs native stream functions for making the HTTP requests, which I’ve found easier to work with than the cURL extension. The latter is a cubmersome wrapper to the cURL fucntionality.  

To be good API clients, we cached the request responses in Memcached between an hour to a month, depending on how often we anticipated the API response to change.

Sandy also took on the tedious – but not thankless – task of creating a list of all the candidates that we imported into a simpl Mysql table. For each candidate, we could then pull in information such as

  • Polling data from Huffington Post’s Pollster API, which we then plotted using jqplot. Polls weren’t available for every race, so we had to manually match available polls to candidates.
  • Basic Biographical information from govtrack.us
  • Campaign Finance and Fact Checked statements from Washington Post’s APIs.
  • Latest News courtesy of search queries to NPR’s Story Api.
  • A simple GeoIP lookup on the homepage to populate the Congressional candidates when a user loads the page

Bootstrap for UI goodness.

I used this opportunity to check out Twitter’s Bootstrap framework. It let us get a clean design from the start, and we were able to use its classes and responsive grid to make the site look really nice on tablets and smartphones too. I found it a lot more feature filled than Skeleton, which is just a responsive CSS framework and lacks the advanced UI elements like navigation, drop downs, modals found in Bootstrap.

Improvements that we could make

We’ve already talked about a number of features we could add or rework to make the site better. Of course, given the shelf life this app will have after November 6th, we may not get to some of these.

  • Re-work the state navigation on the homepage so that it plays nice with the browser’s history. We did a simple ajax query on load, but a better way to do it would be to change the hash to contain the state “http://candidata.us/#VA”, and then pull in the list of candidates. This would also only initiate the geoip lookup if the hash is missing.
  • Add a simple way to navigate to opponents from a candidate’s page.
  • Allow users to navigate to other state races from a candidate’s page.
  • Get more candidate information, ideally something that can provide us Photos of each candidate. Other apps at the hackathon had this, but we didn’t find the API in time. Sunlight provides photos for Members of Congress.
  • Pull in statements made by a candidate via WaPo’s Issue API, maybe running it through the Trove API to pull out categories, people, and places mentioned in the statement.
  • Use the Trove API to organize or at least tag latest news stories and fact checks by Category.

Overall, I’m very happy with what we were able to build in 24 hours. The hackathon also exposed me to some cool ideas and approaches, particularly the visualizations done by some teams. I wish I’d had spent a little more time meeting other people, but my energy was really focused on coding most of the time.

Please check out CandiData.me and let me know what you think either via email or in the comments below.

Start ups are for everybody

I came across Dan Crow’s insights into startups and older workers this morning, and I couldn’t stop myself from nodding in agreement through out the article. Part of it, surely, is that I am now closer to 40 than 30. But everything he says about the value of spending time with family, the pointlessness of working grueling hours, and the skills that come from experience had an air of “I’ve been there”.

Many startups, especially in Silicon Valley, have a macho culture of working extremely long hours. I vividly recall a long stretch of consecutive 100+ hour weeks at Apple early in my career — which came on top of a 3 hour commute to San Francisco. The quality of my work noticeably declined, and it took me months to get my focus and energy back afterwards.

It seems that both corporate america and silicon valley startups, while vastly different cultures in almost every regard, still see people as expendable resources that can be used up and replaced. Sure, if you’re working non stop for a startup, you can tell yourself that there’s a huge payoff at the end, or the chance of it. But the risk is that you spend your 20s and early 30s working forever without much to show for it. That was never something I wanted to do, and I’m lucky that I didn’t have to, either.

Why startups shouldn’t just be for the young

More programmers != more productivity

Carl Erickson observes that a small, boutique team of developers can be massively more productive than a larger team.

To complete projects of 100,000 equivalent source lines of code (a measure of the size of the project) they found the large teams took 8.92 months, and the small teams took 9.12 months. In other words, the large teams just barely (by a week or so) beat the small teams in finishing the project!

Its immediately reassuring to see those numbers, since I’ve been on enough projects that, once they start falling behind, the temptation to throw more programmers at it grows. Project managers see it as a resource scarcity problem (not enough programmers) and don’t realize that coordination and communication burden that they adding by bringing more people on to a project. Now you have a new group of programmers that need to be brought up to speed, learn the codebase, and accept design decisions that have already been made. You’re lead programmers won’t have as much time to actually program, since they’ll be helping bring everyone else up to speed. Developers have known about this for years, Fred Brooks wrote the book in it – The Mythical Man-Month.

But while the study’s conclusion is reassuring, I wonder if there are other factors at work. Theres an obvious selection bias in the type of people who go to work at a large IT programming department/shop versus those who choose to work solo or in smaller teams. Are large teams filled with junior 9-5 programmers who just want a steady job but punch out in the evening? Do smaller teams attract more experienced and productive people who prefer to work smarter rather than harder? From the study summary, it doesn’t look like they considered this aspect.

What’s going on at Occupy Wall Street

Anyone who can work in two in-context Monty Python references deserves to be read.

By the way, while Wall Street may be responsible for bad things, it is Wall Street who financed putting a million miles of fiber optic cables crisscrossing continents and under oceans. It is Wall Street that financed the thousands of cell towers. It is Wall Street from which venture capital comes to finance startups like Twitter. Thus, tweeting “Down with capitalism” from your iPhone for those around the word to read seems to be the most ironic thing a person can do. The live stream from the protest site, shared with 12,000 (at this moment) people across the Internet is a testament to Wall Street’s allocation of capital that these protesters fight against. [Obligatory Monty Python reference]

That the protest is dominated by Internet savvy youths exploiting social media is frequently mentioned. But what is not mentioned is the fact that the protesters are overwhelmingly college students, or recent graduates who still haven’t found jobs. They aren’t just any college students, but the stereotypical sort that you might expect to be involved in campus activism, such as graduate students in “Gender Studies.” I found nobody with engineering or science degrees, but many from arts and acting colleges. After talking with one guy for a while about unemployment and his difficult in finding a job after college, I found out that he was a “poet.” I’m not sure he understood that employers aren’t looking to hire poets. The only person I met that had a political science degree was one of the police officers “keeping the peace.”

Errata Security: Independent reporting of #OccupyWallStreet

Startups are getting smaller

Startups today are almost half the size than they were a decade ago. It seems that a lot of the collaborative tools that have emerged over the last year help productivity so you can do more work with less employees. And I don’t think its just true for startups, I know at work we’re doing a lot of work with just 3 people in the Digital Media department. Do you think this study accounts for the start ups and open source projects that pioneered the services that make this possible?

Start-ups are now being launched with an average of 4.9 employees, down from 7.5 in the 1990s, according to a recent Kauffman Foundation study. In 2009, new independent businesses created a total of 2.3 million jobs, more than 700,000 fewer jobs than the annual average through 2008, the study found.

HT: With New Technology, Start-Ups Go Lean

DC United season assesment and thoughts on Jaime Moreno

The MASR today ltalks to Coach Nowak, Eskandarian, and Bryan Namoff about United’s season so far. As a fan, you have to be happy with the best start ever, and being in 2nd place this early should pay off later in the season, barring a devastating losing streak.

They also discuss Moreno’s form, which after a promising start has slumped.  I’m a bit confused about what to make of some statements made by Nowak who says of the Bolivian international “I think sometimes he needs to play the ball a
little faster and simple.  He needs to use the options around him and
create space for other people, like our second line players, such as Christian [Gomez] and Freddy”, and later says the biggest weakness on the team is the coaching “That’s mainly me”.

So, he’s asking Moreno to sort of play against his nature.  Moreno has always been prone to dribble a bit much and pass up what look like decent shots on goals.  So Peter’s critique that he needs to play faster and use the options around him are valid. But then he goes on to say he should play more like Gomez and Freddy, who are midfield players, not forwards.  Talk about confusing – maybe that’s one of the coaching weaknesses?  Is Moreno being asked to play a game much different than what he’s used to? 

A better writer than me would go back and recollect on Moreno’s stellar 2004 season to see what he was doing right.  Definitely toward the end of that season, it seemed Gomez, Eskandarian, and Moreno had a near perfect understanding of how each of them could be dangerous.  They may need to sort that out again.