When we first cooked up the idea for ArmchairGM, the encyclopedia was the major goal. Why? Because at the end of the day, it's where ArmchairGM can succeed where no one else has.
Most sports news and opinion is homogeneous. That's not why ESPN and others have thriving websites. The Associated Press and various newspaper beat writers are the ones who drive the news, not Buster Olney, Stephen A. Smith, or Sean Salisbury. And most big news stories can be boiled down to a sentence or two, e.g. "The FBI is investigating Michael Vick on suspicion of running and illegal dog fighting ring" or "Peyton Manning leads the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears." And as we all know, ESPN et al did not make it big because Stephen A, Woody Paige, et al are smarter than we are. Opinions are like noses -- everyone has one, and most of them smell. So while the "Articles" section of ArmchairGM is great, and for most people, the best part of the site, it's not something that is going to ever make our humble website into the exceptional resource it can become.
Where ESPN thrives, ArmchairGM cannot. That's the live scoring updates; GameTracker and things like that; access to players and front office types, etc. We knew that from day one.
Where we can thrive, though, ESPN cannot touch us: the encyclopedia. ESPN's biggest asset is its brand as the worldwide leader and the "professionalism" that such a brand dictates. Amateurs like ourselves -- and I use that word in the sense that we do it out of passion, not for pay -- have no business writing for ESPN.
Imagine if we were the sports encyclopedia. Imagine if, when someone wanted to know more about a player whose name they heard on the radio or read on Yahoo or saw on ESPN, they said "let me check ArmchairGM." That -- that -- is when we becomes the Buster Olney's of the sports world. And there's really no other way to do it.
And there's no way I can do it alone. In fact, I can't do it with five of you helping, or even 25. It will take hundreds if not thousands of sports fans to help -- but we'll start with the 500-1000 sports fans who visit ArmchairGM's main page every day.
What I need you to do is simple: Cast 100 fewer votes a day. Write one fewer article. And write 20 fewer comments. Instead, take that time to edit one or more of the pages in to help me reach some goals.
What goals? Two big ones:
#1: Create a Really Freaking Incredible 2008 NFL Draft Guide
I am going to spend the week after the Super Bowl contacting anyone and everyone who is going to talk about the NFL Combines and Draft online. If I see a mock draft, the author will get an email from me.
Why? There's no excellent, established guide for all the top prospects out there; no one-stop place for draft information, etc. I want all the bloggers and other small sports sites to link to our draft page; but to do that, we need great player profiles. Right now, we have about 30. We need about 100.
Step 1: Go to the 2008 NFL Draft page and click a few player names. Put up bios, scouting reports, images, video clips, etc. Make them pages that we all should be proud of. Fill in the blanks where others left off.
Even if you're not a college football fan -- even if you have no idea who the player is -- you can help. The information is out there -- it's just scattered amongst dozens of sites. Go out there, gather it together, and write a comprehensive, readable entry. It's easy, really, just takes some legwork.
If you know of a guy that should be on the list but isn't, add him.
Participation: Everyone, honestly. The more player pages that turn out like Darren McFadden's, the better.
Step 2: Help with the Mock Draft Directory. It's at 2008 NFL Draft#Mock Drafts. This is an easy job -- just add to and update the table. This step is also much, much less important. I figure that if we become the clearing house for mock drafts, we'll gain attention for our soon-to-be-great encyclopedic content. But that's just a guess and it's no replacement for encyclopedic content.
What I'd like here is three to five people to volunteer to create the index (I can give you two starting points) and keep it updated from now until the Draft.
Step 3: Make the 2008 NFL Draft page better. I put this low on the list because I'm not sure what else to put on it (other than to update the page as the draft order changes), but like any other page, it is editable and your additions and improvements are welcome.
Step 4: Make pages for the other drafts. If you scroll down the 2008 NFL Draft page, you'll see a menu with a lot of red links. Just for sake of completeness, you know?
#2: Build a Legitimate MLB section
This one requires a bit more explanation.
The current MLB page is awful, as are the team pages. They're a relic of an idea we had back in December of 2005 (wow), where the focus of the league/team pages would be news and opinion with featured encyclopedic information mixed in. But as you've all come to see, the opinion stuff is seen perfectly well on the main page of the site, making these secondary pages redundant and stale.
I want to refocus the pages, making the encyclopedia the main thrust. Here are the steps:
Step 1: Pick a team to work on. Each team is going to need a LOT of people, unless you're insane like me and can research and write about the New York Mets history for hours on end. Feel free to use the comments here to coordinate, and I'm of course glad to help set up the pages. Use me as a resource. That's why I'm here. I can find you sources, help with wiki text, whatever. It's really not an issue.
Step 2: Help improve the MLB page. I'm working on it at UserWiki:DNL/MLB, and you're welcome to help there, but that's not where I need the focus of your time. Instead, there are a lot of sub-topics off that page that are going to need pages of their own, and I need help making them. For example, I created a page for the 1876 National League Constitution and have red links for five things already. Send me a board note pledging your help, and I'll give you a topic.
Step 3: Work on each team-year page; e.g. 1977 New York Mets. You can, and should, add the Video and Image template into those pages (again, ask me for help!, that's why I'm here), as you make really great pages. The 77 Mets page stinks right now, so don't use it as an example.
Step 4: Make pages for minor league teams, like in Step 1. As you can imagine, this is a low priority.
Everyone's Help is Needed
Building a sports encyclopedia is a huge project. It will take all of your help and the help of countless others. But it makes ArmchairGM a better place. We all want to see this site reach its potential, and it is going to take everyone's help to get there.
Oh, and as Pean suggested, we'll make those people who help a lot into ninjas -- really. We have a new user class here called "ninja", and right now, ninjas have no special powers. But they may later, and this is your first chance to join the ranks.