Once upon a time there was a thing known as Nike Challenges. It was a nice motivational tool, but then an odd thing happened. Nike happened (read it like “sh!t happens”. Nike had a good thing going with Challenges, then scrapped it for a less than creative phone app.
First off, Nike makes a lot of stuff to get people excited to exercise, then somewhere in their conference rooms a few people look at spreadsheets, and plot marketing campaigns, and make decisions that ultimately shit on their customers without any consideration outside of the meeting room.
When I first started running with Nike+ gear, their website was flashed based, and looked like something from Cartoon Network. But it worked, most of the time, the gps maps were clear, and they had the Nike+ Challenges. With the challenges you could join a group to compete against one another or you could join groups and those groups numbers would be aggregated to compete against other groups. For example I like the American football team the Pittsburgh Steelers, I could join a group of other Steeler fans, and our miles would add up against other teams… like the Ravens. Or you could join a group challenge representing a city or state, and aggregate miles that way. You could also join challenges as an individual and your miles would compete against others.
It was simple, you performed a search for a challenge that was interesting, and you simply clicked the join challenge button, and you were on your way. You never had to “friend” anybody. You could join a challenge, and the only info you gave away was the amount you allowed to be viewed on your profile. There wasn’t really any reason to ever need to look at anybody else’s profile. You were only competing against a name.
Then came 2012 when Nike decided to redesign their website. It still looks cartoonish, think Nickelodeon. It no longer suffers from all the flash bloat. The gps maps are grayed-out mess. (seriously Nike, I understand why someone else shouldn’t have a clear view of my map, but why does it have to look like garbage to me?) With the redesign Nike decided to simply let challenges die-on-the-vine.
The chuckleheads in the Nike conference room, you remember the guys with the spreadsheet and the 4 year degree in jockstrap marketing, decided that this can all be replaced with a telephone app. So if you are stupid like me, and bought the Nike GPS sportwatch, you can throw that thing away. Just run around with your telephone from now on. Want to join a challenge? First make yourself some Nike “friends,” then run for a predetermined distance. That’s it. Enjoy.
Want to join a group, and compete against other teams? Nope. Search for challenges? Nope. You will need to make Nike Friends, and then make a challenge with them. What if they don’t want to join your challenge? It doesn’t matter because Nike automatically aggregates your run totals each month and compares them to your Nike Friends.
Nike+ has a website. You don’t even need a telephone to look at it. You could sit down at your computer once in a while and see how you were doing in your challenges, and if need be, you could motivate yourself to run a little more to maybe have a better placing in a challenge. But the chuckleheads in the conference room probably don’t want you to visit the website (why should you, you have a telephone in your pocket), the chuckleheads have probably long since forgotten that their website also sells other Nike stuff, shoes, clothing, workout techno gear. But you won’t see that stuff on your telephone. Nike is saving you from the burden of looking at their other stuff. (this paragraph of sarcasm is going to be lost on you)
Nike Challenges was a nice motivational tool that was fun. You could compete, and not have to be on the “friend” basis, the groupings were fun, the challenges were fun. Strava.com is slowly lurching towards incorporating stuff that would behave like challenges (segments). Maybe one day Smashrun.com will recreate something along the lines of challenges (right now Smashrun has a badge collection tool), and if they do, you’ll hear me praise Smashrun, and not read about me yammering about Nike.