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Help a (bobsledding) brother out?

Joe Clark, who did us the honour of speaking at the very first conference we ever produced, Web Essentials (way back in 2004), got in touch the other month with a project he’s hoping to get a bit of help for. It’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill affair, but it’s something we don’t get to do every day of the week as people who work on the web: “helping our country”.

I think Joe puts things a lot more eloquently than I ever will, so I asked him to turn it into a guest blog post. If you’ve got time and inclination to help out, there’s details for who to contact at the bottom of the post. Read on . . .

Preposterous Australian sport needs credible new Web site

If you’re an Aussie standardista, two things are probably true: You like to do the right thing and a lot of people try to shake you down for freebies. I will be guilty of the latter in this posting. But the project is so preposterous you’ll find it irresistible:

Create a brand new Web site for an Australian bobsleigh team.

Yes, the country that hosts tennis tournaments in 42° C weather has a bobsleigh team. Several sleds, in fact. Now, you may think sports-mad Australia would stop at nothing to win medals. You may believe yours is one of those countries where sport funding flows like water. Not for bobsleigh, where athletes’ stipend of $18,000 a year hasn’t budged. In fact, athletes are on the verge of leaving the program because it’s so underfunded, and one already defected to Canada.

The Aussie sport establishment seems officially uninterested in a sport in which you push a sled down an ice track. For a hot country, this makes sense on the surface. Bobsleigh really is the most preposterous Australian sport.

All the better reason to help it out.

Meet the Spence Bob Squad

Ladies and gentlemen, meet one of your Australian Olympians, Mr. Heath Spence.

Heath Spence in tank top (‘vest’)

Yeah, he’s a ginger. This may or may not be a value-adding feature. I have my own opinion there.

Heath and his new brakeman in the two-man event, Alex Zborowski (whom Heath picked up in a bar in Calgary – have him tell you that story sometime), are just barely getting by in New York State, Alberta, Utah, and the other world capitals where bobsledders train. They’re more or less eating, but their equipment is lousy – they’re using third-rate hand-me-down sleds. (Even really good teams compete in used sleds, but there are better and worse models. Heath’s are worse.)

Still, Heath managed to finish fifth in two heats at the America’s Cup in Lake Placid in mid-January ’011. Even in a sport where luck plays a large part, that’s an amazing result. Cool Runnings this isn’t; Heath could actually take home a medal at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. (“In Soviet Russia, Australia bobsleds you!”)

For that, he needs help. Let’s start with a new Web site.

Carte blanche

Heath’s team, the Spence Bob Squad, runs a site that is more or less a blog with a photo gallery attached. This is hardly good enough for the 21st century, is it?

With Heath’s blessing (and Maxine’s help in posting this item), this is an invitation for the very best Australian standardistas to volunteer for a small pro bono job: Update the Spence Bob Squad site.

Our minimum requirements are the same as any modern site’s:

  • Valid, semantic HTML5
  • Works very well in good browsers, OK in crappy ones
  • Responsive design for mobile browsers and wide screens; definite attention paid to iPhone and iPad experience
  • Viable print stylesheet
  • RSS, Twitter, Facebook
  • Meets WCAG 2 Level A at a minimum
  • Contains a blog, preferably WordPress

Don’t be afraid to throw out what’s already there and start over. Beyond the list above, the big issue is graphic design. This thing has to look smashing. For that, we also invite responses from Australia’s best designers. (Or, if you’re the new breed of designer/developer, you can do both.)

We also need some kind of donation or E-commerce angle, which could be as simple as PayPal and Kickstarter integration. (These kids have to raise about $25K for new equipment, but that isn’t part of this project.)

Why do it? Because Australian bobsledders are underdogs – 6′2″, 210-pound underdogs who can run like the wind, but underdogs nonetheless. A new site is the first step in getting Heath Spence (and, eventually, the entire bobsleigh team) to the place they need to be: The medal podium.

Interested? Drop me a line at joeclark at fawny dot org, and/or hit up Heath on Facebook.

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