Guest Post from Lamar Hull on the Benefits of Practice


Lamar Hull is a former NCAA college basketball player from Davidson College in North Carolina, who also played on the European professional circuit. He now writes for Direct2tv. He poses an interesting question about the 10,000 hours of practice theory.

As a former basketball player with two NCAA tournaments and a professional tour in Europe behind me, I can confirm that Dr. K. Anders Ericsson’s theory about the quantity of practice required for success is true. Continually setting small goals works, and mental commitment is key. But the more you practice, the further you will go.

Pete Maravich, an NBA Hall of Famer, was a childhood idol of mine. Not just because of his raw talent for basketball, but because of his attitude and his tireless work ethic. He has a desire to be better than the last day, every day.

I decided to model my discipline after his. I started with dribbling drills in the driveway. I practiced shots for hours alone. His homework basketball drills is what molded my game in to what it is now. His drills challenged you to be uncomfortable so that you could become a better player by mastering unique drills.

The discipline continued through middle school, and eventually high school. While other kids were planning sleepovers and frequenting the mall, I dedicated myself to hours of practice. When I wasn’t playing for my middle school team, I was playing pickup games in the neighborhood. It was my practice regimen and perseverance that got me recognition from the varsity team coaches as a freshman.

I played varsity basketball all four years of high school and carried a reputation as a hard worker both on and off the court. I am short so I envisioned my game like former Celtics’ point guard and Hall of Famer, Nate Archibald. His nickname was ‘Tiny’ so I had something to relate too. But there was nothing tiny about Archibald’s game.

I decided I wanted to play college ball, and eventually go pro. I would stop at nothing to achieve those goals, and I would use practice as an avenue to get there.

But I went to a small high school in a small town. College scouts didn’t visit our high school games. I imagine for a lot of young athletes, this is where the road would end.

Mine didn’t.

Even after my senior season ended, I kept practicing. I knew if I kept my skill level constant and took matters into my own hands, I would reach my goal of playing professional basketball.

I wrote to colleges and universities, and sent packages documenting my basketball skills. I ended up earning a walk-on role at Davidson College, a Division I-AA school. I was able to play with Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry. We went to the NCAA tournament twice. Afterwards, I was offered a contract to play professional basketball for the Kings Lynn Fury in England.

It wasn’t the NBA, but it was still professional basketball. I set a goal a long time ago and I made it.

How did I get there?

It wasn’t my height (I’m 5’9″). I didn’t get “discovered” by a scout. I didn’t play for the top high school team in the nation. I didn’t play for the NCAA championship team. I didn’t have any outrageous high scoring records. It wasn’t for any of the reasons we typically see the top athletes in team sports excel.

It was practice, practice, practice, and more practice. Practice brought me to the goal I set for myself so many years ago.

According to the Ericsson’s theory, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve incredible success. I don’t know if I hit that threshold, or if I’d be deemed as a success like Michael Jordan. But I achieved my own version of success, I accomplished my goal.

I can tell you with full confidence that practice IS without a doubt the key to success. Whether you are playing an individual sport, or a team sport, practice determines your destiny.

Photo was supplied from Hull and can be found on his website


Finding Good Food at the Topsfield Fair is No Problem

I haven’t been going to the Topsfield Fair for a long time. In fact, last year was the first year I went probably since I was real little. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the setup and the types of food they sell.

I went after work to take pictures, and that day wasn’t a good “picture” day. It was cloudy, sprinkling and extremely crowded, which is expected for a Saturday night. I forgot that the fair was going to have their main concert with Hot Chelle Rae that night too.

Anyways, finding a theme turned out to be pretty easy. What do people like to do at fairs besides look at all the attractions? They like to eat, so I highlighted many different foods and snacks that are popular with people.

For starters, I had to photograph the World’s Largest Pumpkin, because it’s the world’s largest pumpkin. Then I took photos of food that people would eat at anytime such as sausages and pizza. To finish it off, I took photos of sweets and desserts. I mean if you’re eating food, than you’re going to eat dessert last. That’s my assumption anyways.

The main problem I had was getting quotes from people. I had a few rude customers who didn’t seem interested, which was understandable as they were with their families. I was able to get quotes from some of the venders though. An issue I had with them was they all wanted me to get some food if they were going to give me a quote. That was quite aggravating. I kind of figured that would run into this situation when I went in. The crowds didn’t help either. You could barely move around comfortably without being shoulder to shoulder with someone.

Once I got home I cropped some of the photos where i found some unnecessary space. When I took the photos, I tried to go for angles or take pictures from the side. I just like the way a photo looks when it comes from a perspective like that.

Photos are something I’m a perfection with. If I don’t like a photo, I’ll just delete it. I’m just picky. I’m also not big on color photos so I did mine in black and white. Journalism or not journalism, black and white photographs give an interesting take on a picture, especially when it comes to photojournalism. Depending on the perspective of the photo, black and white can keep a viewer guessing when the picture was taken.

Overall, I like the fair, but was unhappy that I wasn’t able to go out and conquer the plan that I had in mind.

Photos are from author of this blog’s media library. Some rights reserved.

Northeastern Multimedia Guru Speaks About the Importance of Good Photography

Taking good pictures might seem like an easy assignment as all someone has to do is press a button and boom a picture is taken. However, it isn’t as simple as it looks.

For me personally, I understand a little bit about photography because I took a photography class last semester while I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree.

So listening to Mary Knox Merrill speak about photography was not only enlightening, but somewhat of a refresher for me. The way she was describing her techniques in taking a picture, or using words such as “depth of field” or “iso sensitivity” wasn’t foreign to me.

The veteran photographer and current director of multimedia at Northeastern University has an impressive resume. Her work has appeared in many publications around the world including Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe.

What stood out the most from her lecture was her passion for photography. In other words, she’ll do anything, even if it means work 18 hours a day, to get the right photo for a project.

Her grasp on the subject matter was strong too. The experience she has speaks volumes and she shared some of her knowledge too.

She stressed the importance of taking many photos all from different angles. Doing that gives the viewer a different perspective of what is going on in a photo. For example, she said if you take a portrait photo of someone’s face, you don’t know what is really going on in the photo other than him or her smiling. It really doesn’t have a story.

Merrill stressed the importance of getting the background or environment in the photo. If you back up, stand on something and have the subject fold their arms and look into the camera, than the picture that’s taken will have more of a story to it. Like in class, she used our instructor as her example. Someone seeing a picture of him in the above mentioned pose will probably figure out that he’s a teacher, because of all the students in the background.

Little things like that can change the whole dynamics of a picture.

Merrill also stressed the importance of not being shy. She said if you’re shy, then you’re in the wrong business. Talking and engaging in people is part of the job and best way to get quality photographs.

When she was working as a photojournalist for the Christian Science Monitor in Congo and Rwanda, she said how you carry yourself is important when reporting a story. Merrill is a very sociable person, so she had no trouble engaging with locals in both countries. In fact, if she didn’t do it, she wouldn’t be doing her job.

All in all, the passion she has for photography is what has made her successful. If she didn’t have passion for it, she probably wouldn’t have told us why it’s important to take good pictures. In fact, she probably wouldn’t be working either.

What I do know is that I’ll keep her advice in the back of my head when I take pictures.

Storifying the NFL Referee Fiasco

Well putting together my Storify wasn’t too difficult at all. I enjoyed putting together all the relevant pieces to make an interesting and shortened down story about the NFL referee and NFL owner labor situation.

This topic was so recent that the internet was abundant with all sorts of articles, pictures, videos and tweets about the whole labor situation. Therefore all I had to do was place the right pieces into the right slots. Kind of like a puzzle.

To recap real quick, the NFL owners and the NFL Referee Association (NFLRA) couldn’t come to an agreement with a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), so the referees decided to go on strike.

The strike began in June and ended on Sep 26. A total of three weeks of regular season games were officiated by replacement referees.

For about a month, they had control of games and were indecisive about a lot of things, which led to botched calls.  Overall, the missed calls, the indecisiveness, and their inexperience would cost one team a game.

The result was players, fans and the media basically asking for these referees head’s on a silver plate. Twitter also became the place where fans and players vented their frustrations.

My Storify is exactly what I just said, except I tried to put it in the best chronological order I could. I gathered tweets, pictures, videos and news articles from across the internet and wrote some accompanying text for everything I posted.

Basically, if someone wanted to know what happened during the entire labor dispute and how the replacement referees fared, than all he or she would have to do is read my Storify. They wouldn’t have to search the internet for hours at a time to find examples of them screwing up. Everything is broken down on my Storify.

What made this fun was some of the videos and tweets I posted were pretty comical. If someone has a good sense of humor they’ll chuckle at what a farce this whole situation was.

The most challenging task was finding angry tweets from NFL players that took place two or three weeks ago. Luckily, I was following Twitter and was able to gather several very memorable, expletive-laden angry tweets that basically summed up how NFL players as a whole felt about the situation.

An issue I did have with Storify was that when I was trying to find information on Twitter or even on YouTube, I would get an error message saying “Twitter is not responding, request timed out.”

That happened numerous times while I was looking up Twitter handles. When it came to YouTube, sometimes a search for a video couldn’t be found, yet I was watching it directly through YouTube. That was the most frustrating part of using Storify.

Overall, that explains my Storify. The topic was straight-forward and news worthy. It was also fun to create. If I knew about this earlier, I would’ve created one about the Red Sox, which probably would’ve ended up as the longest Storify in history.

Photo (cc) by Ed Yourdon and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Analysis of SB Nation

SB Nation is probably one of the top sports blogging websites that allows fans to engage in and give their opinion on what they feel about their favorite teams.

To show they want to be one of the top blogs, they’ve literally, in the last week and a half completely overhauled their website to make it more visual and fan-friendly.

One of the reasons I like this blog is because the writers post interesting stories, game analysis and links on a regular basis. Meaning if I check every hour or so, I’ll see a new story or added links about my favorite team.

The best part of the site is that each sports hotbed region in the country has their own SB: Nation.

I visit SB Nation: Boston on a regular basis, and they have links to blogs for the Patriots (Pats Pulpit), the Celtics (CelticsBlog), the Bruins (Stanley Cup of Chowder), and the Red Sox (Over the Monster).

The way the blog is set up makes it simple to navigate. Even the old style of the website was simple. Dragging the cursor over a league such as the “NFL” will result in a drop down list popping up, highlighting all the teams in the league. That’s probably the best feature.

If you’re a visual person, you’ll like the new set up. On the main page, pictures highlight each new story and if you understand your team and players, then you’ll generally know what each article will be about when you see it.

The fan/author interaction is good too. Fans who sign up can comment on articles and the author of the article will usually reply back.

The downside of SB Nation is some of the simple features are gone. For example, when you visited CelticsBlog, all you had to do was scroll down to see all the stories. There was no highlighted story before. Just the story, the link and analysis of what was written.

Even the fan forums have changed. When you visited the site, fan posts were on the right hand side, but now you have to scroll down and highlight Community. In this section, there are three options Fan Shots, Fan Posts and Forums. I don’t know what the difference is between Fan Posts and Forums are as they both serve the same purpose. They need to eliminate one.

SB Nation was also mobile phone compatible before, but now it isn’t, or at least I don’t think so anymore. It’s picture-heavy so it takes a while to load, even on a smart phone.

In general, I don’t like the new design. It’s way too visual and the developers seem to have forgot about the blog part of the site. Like I said before, all you had to do was scroll down to see stories and a few pictures. Blogs are still the main point of everything, but it seems they’ve focused a lot more on the visual aspect.

Compared to other blogs such as Bleacher Report, this is the best fan blog site around.

Bleacher Report is similar, but doesn’t have a fan forum. It’s the fans who write. There aren’t any main writers that can be found on SB Nation. Instead, each team features the top writers as the ones who write and get the most page views. Each article that’s posted doesn’t have to be an article. It can just be a slideshow. In fact, many articles are just that.

Outside of SB Nation and Bleacher Report, there aren’t any other blogs that are similar to what they offer fans. There are blogs such as Ball Don’t Lie and Celtics Hub but most fall under major media networks and have writers with sources, credentials and who get paid a weekly salary.

Now if you want to read interesting blogs that are updated regularly and written by the same writers who have a good grasp on what they’re writing about, than look no further than SB Nation.

Storify: The Future of Social Media and Journalism

Social media has taken off like a rocket over the last six years or so. It all started with MySpace, then Facebook came around and made the process of being friends with someone ridiculously easy. After that, photo and networking sites such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr started popping up. All these networks made connecting with the world unbelievably easy. Now the future of social media is upon us and it’s a fun website called Storify.

Mostly everyone, at least in the western world, loves social media.

They love the ease of connection, the feedback and the interesting debates about the news that’s currently taking place. Now imagine taking all the interesting parts and making them into a blog post, a story or even an article for a news network. That’s exactly what Storify does.

After listening to Josh Stearns, of the Free Press, talk about Storify and his 2011 Storify of the Year, I was thoroughly impressed at the potential Storify has in creating a new type of journalism.

Listening to him speak and through my own judgements, this type of “new media” can allow a user to take all sorts of tidbits of information from across the internet, such as tweets, quotes from news articles, videos from YouTube, pictures, and feedback from the public etc. to go and make a very interesting and interactive news article, similar to what Stearns did with his Storify of the Year project.

In his Storify, he was able to narrow down the journalist arrests at the Occupy movements all across the U.S., and make it into an interesting story by capturing quotes and tweets from the journalists on the ground who were getting arrested. He learned of these journalists by tracking them on Twitter, and then captured their direct tweets.

By doing this, he was able to show his viewers a visual of what was actually going on was for real and that the tweets backed up his claims as legitimate sources. This helped make his Storify more concrete and relevant as a news story.

As I mentioned earlier, I believe Storify is the future of social media and journalism.

Old-school journalism where a reporter goes to an event, covers it, and writes a 900-word story on it at his desk, or gets information from the AP wire, will one day become a thing of the past. Social media has connected the world and everyone has tapped into it to connect with each other.

Even the media networks and reporters are connected. Using those sites have enabled them to share information with the world at a much quicker rate. Storify will allow a social media geek to put stories together as soon as news happens by the second. News happens quick, but it takes a network a little bit of time to get on the air to report something and it takes journalists at least an hour or so to write a good story or blog post. Storify will decrease time.

Imagine if Storify and social media was around during 9/11. A second-by-second log could be recorded. Videos of the chaos and the scene in NYC could be uploaded. Tweets from people inside the Twin Towers or at the scene could be pooled together. Since everyone is connected, someone could’ve made a Storify to track this devastating event to show everyone what was going on without having them search all over the internet for news.

Plus, Storify allows a story to grow.

In other words, a journalist can keep adding to it where it’ll eventually become a chronological journal of the event. Traditional articles can’t technically grow, as a writer would have to pen another article to keep things relevant.

Another thing Storify does is it allows anyone to be a journalist.

The pros are it allows people who understand social media well and who understand journalism ethics to quickly make an interesting story that can clarify things for readers and viewers. Journalists will find this tool to be extremely helpful with their job.

The cons are anyone can do it. Someone who uses a computer all day and doesn’t have many responsibilities can put together something as relevant as a journalist and take full credit for “reporting” it without having the credentials, or having done the tough work. All people have to do is take the relevant social media tidbits they find and put it together as a story and call it their own. Like Stearns said, Storify attributes sources so no one can really claim plagiarism or that they weren’t cited correctly.

In the future, I expect many, if not all, news groups to have Storify as an integral part of their corporation. Just the site allowing someone to bring all sorts of information together is such an amazing tool to have. It’s reasonably easy to use so the learning curve wouldn’t be too hard, especially for anyone who has knows how to use Facebook or a computer.

In an age where everyone is online, many news organizations might find it easier to utilize than using old-fashioned reporting techniques. Combination reporting could be a new way to report events. Having journalists out on the ground tweeting and taking videos then having them send them to a social media reporter to put together a Storify could be a new wave of revolutionizing reporting that takes covering news to a whole new level.

Using Twitter Is Quite Fun

Well my plans to cover to the 13th Annual Beer Summit sponsored by my favorite beer Sam Adams were dashed by unforeseen circumstances, which include tickets being sold out.

Oh well.

Like my time in the Army, we learn to improvise and adapt to the situation and the hand we’re dealt, so I took it upon myself to cover the Red Sox and Orioles on Friday night at Fenway Park.

Fenway Park from my seat

Now before I talk about my experience, this is the first year in my entire life that the Red Sox have become a blip on the radar. I have never seen a team so dysfunctional, distracted and detestable since maybe 2001 to an extent. Losing stinks, but when someone or a team chooses to make up excuses for bad play or to blame others such as the media, than they’re quite unlikeable. I could go on about this forever and make some good points as I’m passionate about my teams in Boston, but this isn’t the time nor place to do it for the moment.

Anyways, back to using Twitter to cover this game. The main thing I was hoping while covering this game was getting all the relevant information tweeted. That means tweeting about key moments in the game such as when either team scored a run, or when there was a pitching change. Things like that.

I mean if you’re going to cover a game, than you might as well get down all the relevant information. That was my goal and I accomplished it. I was able to tweet about Jon Lester’s performance easily as well as how runs were scored, such as Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters driving in three runs during the Orioles’ 4-2 win. I even tweeted about interesting people, including Jim Roosevelt, grandson of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who threw out a ceremonial first pitch. That was nice.

It also didn’t hurt to have some of the best seats in the house up in the Pavillion Box above the State Street Pavillion Club on the first base side. That helped a lot when it came to my vantage point.

Here are my tweets:

6:39 p.m.6:41 p.m7:04 p.m.7:11 p.m7:19 p.m.7:32 p.m.7:36 p.m.7:48 p.m.8:09 p.m.8:13 p.m.8:18 p.m.8:47 p.m.8:49 p.m.8:57 p.m.8:59 p.m.9:06 p.m.9:11 p.m.9:23 p.m.9:27 p.m.9:31 p.m.9:43 p.m.9:48 p.m.9:58 p.m.9:59 p.m., 10:01 p.m., 10:04 p.m., 10:12 p.m.

Now here are my positives and negatives about using Twitter to cover an event.

Positives first. I found it fun. I liked it and would like to do it again, especially if it’s sports related event. I don’t know why, but maybe because baseball is slowed paced that I had an easy time tweeting things about the game. Like I mentioned earlier, I was able to tweet about ALL the relevant information from the game, so if someone’s following me, they’ll get all the relevant information about the game and what’s going on at the park. It was also easy to take a picture and post it to Twitter using their mobile app. When you do that, it makes you a link and it gives you a chance to write a relevant tweet to accompany your picture. Pretty neat. I felt like I was reporting, well I was, and getting information out to the masses. All I needed was a computer to type on and I would’ve been a full-fledged sportswriter.

Some of the negatives were it isn’t easy to type on my phone. I don’t like touch screen keyboards at ALL. I made a few mistakes with spelling and had to delete some tweets. I could’ve made links to other websites using my phone, but it’s a process and for some reason I can’t copy and paste with the Twitter app. I usually can copy/paste on my phone, but I couldn’t with Twitter. Another downside was repeated use of my phone drained my battery. By the seventh inning, I was down to about 25 percent power. By then I couldn’t tweet a lot, and if I did; I wouldn’t have had a phone to use until I got home to charge it. That was a bad negative. I also wasn’t paying attention to the game as much when I was tweeting, because I was obviously forming a tweet. I didn’t want to miss anything, so I kept digressing from tweeting to watching the game, but I want my tweets to be relevant so I did my best to get a tweet out. Outside of a drained battery, these negatives are just minor and me nitpicking.

Overall, this was a fun experience. Twitter is an excellent tool for the media and for reporting news and even rumors. It’s also an excellent tool to get out information, by the second, to the world and your followers. The positives outweighed the negatives in my opinion. I’d like to try this with other sports too, especially fast-paced ones to see how that experience goes.

Photo is from author of this blog’s media library. Some rights reserved.