Some time ago, I signed up for Nike Plus. This means I walk with a chip in my shoe and this records my distance, time, speed and calories consumed. Every week or so, I download these numbers to the Nike Plus website, and a tally is kept. So far I have recorded 1150 miles over 365 trips. You can see the 2008 total above.
I like Nike Plus for lots of reasons. I would guess that roughly 20% of the miles recorded for 2008 should be attributed to Nike Plus. This to say, I would not have walked them were it not for that chip in my shoe or that website on line.
But here’s where Nike Plus seems to me to have failed spectacularly. Nike Plus is among other things a social network. It gives the walker/runner the opportunity to interact with other walker/runners. And here Nike Plus proves to be clueless… at the very moment, mark you, that the social networking opportunity is blossoming in the most spectacular way in other venues. (Can you say “the Obama run for the White House”?)
Nike Plus allows me to interact with other walkers in only one way. It helps me compete agains them. It does not allow me to treat my miles like a social capital and make them fungible for various purposes in various markets. It does not allow me to find them or walk with them. Walk with Nike Plus, and, sorry, but your walk alone.
For instance, I would love to pool my miles with other walkers who live on the Connecticut side of Long Island sound. We could compete against those bastards across the water, the ones who live on the Long Island side of the sound. Now when I go for my walk each day I can imagine my competitors walking on Long Island, and who knows this might be good for another mile. (Yes, I’m that juvenile). There are plenty of ways to slice this, plenty of ways to see to the interesting, amusing, perhaps imaginative disposition of my new social capital called miles. Nike has managed to think of a single one, direct competition.
One of the really interesting things we have seen happen in the last few years is the redisposition of sports events. This is the thing that makes rotesserie and fantasy baseball leagues work. One sporting world is driven by the “event fragments” of another sporting world. So it’s not as if this “capital transfer” model should be very hard to think in the athletic world.
There is a second opportunity, and that is using the network to find other interesting walkers in my neighborhood. I have a great little walk here in my home town. It takes about an hour. I can do a running commentary on architecture, history and the anthropological present of my little community.
I would love to trade this walk with other walkers. I would love to go up to Westport and spend an hour walking and talking with someone there. Perhaps Nike thinks its protecting my privacy. Please. There are ways of finessing this issue. And let’s leave it to the consumer to work this out. Spare me the Big Brother routine.
It’s unfathomable why Nike Plus should have created this much value opportunity and then let it just sit there. Especially when everyone else in the world is getting so good at networks. I can’t help wondering whether this is the famously competitive Nike culture at work. This is a corporation filled with intensely competitive people and social capitals used collaboratively just doesn’t “scan” in Beaverton.