So, Spartan Has an App, Sort Of, I Guess

This is a month and a half old news, and it’s a bit of a weird one. Spartan Race released an app in September.

(It released another one in October related to the world championships, but this post isn’t about that one.)

I delayed writing about it because, well, it’s complete shit.

It’s spectacularly shit, like the diaper of a baby with dysentery who burst. So much so, in fact, that I’m not entirely sure it’s meant to exist. This app is bad in a way that’s completely inconsistent with Spartan—there are plenty of things you could criticize about the company, but doing stuff half-baked is not one of them.

So I think the most likely explanation is that the version in the store is an early alpha version that will continue to be worked on. I don’t think Spartan has really promoted it—it doesn’t appear to be on Spartan’s website or promoted on its social media accounts. Maybe Spartan was hacked and they were supposed to have another six months of development for release.

But even if the release was intentional, I don’t think releasing such an alpha version is necessarily a terrible idea. The fact that the app is in the app store doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t be refined over time. And the very act of producing and publishing the app could catalyze further development. There are times, after all, when you need to make something before you can produce it.

I feel like it’s important to get that rational assessment out of the way. That’s the fair part of this post. The funny part is below, and it won’t be fair. Fair and funny don’t always go together, and this is the internet, where being an asshole is usually rewarded.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, shit.

Let’s go through it component by component:

Spartan App Home PageHome: You start on a list of races, with the obvious implication of “Register here and give us your money now!” I’m okay with that—commerce isn’t fundamentally a bad thing, even if one might wish its excesses could be reined in a bit. But the races are ordered by distance from your location, which isn’t really, you know, good.

The problem with that is, there are really only three distances from you that a race can be. It’s either local, or it requires travel, or it requires international travel. So the app displays Chicago races first, and that’s not bad, but Minnesota vs. Ohio vs. Atlanta vs. Los Angeles—all of those are functionally equidistant. So putting Minnesota next and Los Angeles last is pointless: any of them require a flight or some other major trip, and the length isn’t a particularly important factor in whether or not I decide to make the trip.

Perhaps this distance organization is a bit more useful for people who live in areas that have multiple events. But I have to assume that even they could also get some benefit from a date-ordered list, at least as an option.

One other thing, if Spartan doesn’t want to put races in an obvious order, it might want to use the other information it has. Specifically: Despite being not particularly nearby, I ran the Citi Field sprint in New York this year. My brother lives there, and it takes place at approximately my nephew’s birthday, so it’s a good excuse for me to visit. In other words, its one I’m likely to be interested in for years to come. So why isn’t Spartan making the fairly obvious conclusion that I’m likely to be interested in races I was interested in in the past and moving this one up to that coveted #2 spot.

Anyhow, if you try to register for a race through the app, it takes you to the Spartan website to do it. Which you really don’t need an app to do.

A second tab on the home page will show you photos from your friends. If you have friends who have posted photos to the app. If you don’t have friends, the app will recommend them for you, but the profiles don’t have much in the way of, you know, information. I guess you could just stalk random people, but I have a feeling that would be the least effective stalkery ever.

Spartan App Workouts tabWorkout: This is actually a good idea, but it’s ludicrously badly implemented. This feature allows people to post invitations to public (presumably) workouts that (I think) anyone can come and join in on. I’d actually really like to find some local groups that do OCR-related workouts—not necessarily as my everyday workout, but as a once-a-week kind of thing to mix up training and also have a chance to meet locals in the flesh, rather than through team Facebook pages.

I don’t know if these are ordered by how close they are to you. Many of them I can’t even get a location for. I’ve got an iPhone 5c, which is a bit smaller than the newfangled phones, and it cuts off the location field well before the city and state are fully shown. That’s why I missed the Relays workout in Pisc…

It doesn’t order workouts by date, which is pretty goofy, but even worse: I’m writing this on October 29, and it’s showing me workouts from September 23. I appreciate Spartan’s belief in my abilities, but I am not yet a timelord.

Take a photo: I guess? It’s very possible that this tab was designed by Banksy. It brings up a screen that looks a bit like the iPhone’s camera functionality, only it doesn’t function. I’m pretty sure I can turn the flash on and off, though.

No, seriously. I’m not making this up. This is what the page is.Spartan app photograph tab

Tribes: How many “h”s do I need to convey a sigh lasting fourteen minutes? Because that’s as many as I need to convey how ill-implemented this one is. There are a few public tribes that exist, and if you go to one you get… like, a Bulletin Board from the mid-90s, basically. No threads, just one massive ‘conversation.’

Spartan app tribe chat page

It’s possible to create your own tribe, which can be found by others, if they already know about it. Or if you manage a hit on a blind search. There doesn’t seem to be a directory or anything to actually find new people, though.

More: Which brings up this:

More! From the Spartan AppYou can, apparently, change the volume, even though the app is silent. I wouldn’t mind hearing the conversations that led to that decision (Though hearing those is perhaps what the button is intended to prevent.) Beyond that… oh, just fuck you thrice, Spartan app.

Does the app have a reason to exist? Not in its current state, certainly. If you’ve already got a collection of OCR friends, I can’t imagine you don’t already have better ways to communicate with them.

It might ultimately fill a niche at connecting people who don’t currently know each other but are local to each other and share similar interests. I think there’s a need for that—my experience with Facebook-based teams certainly hasn’t turned up any that function in that way. But in its current form, the app doesn’t do that at all.

I guess I hope it develops into something useful. Will it? I have no clue; I don’t know Spartan’s plans for it. It could just be a thing that happened that they’d like everyone to forget real soon, like the time they ran out of water in Vermont or the time Joe De Sena met the queen of England and farted on her. I also don’t know if the potential value even warrants the kind of development that would be necessary to make it good.

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