A single serving site story

Monday, July 18th, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Several years ago Jason Kottke coined the phrase ‘single serving site‘ to describe websites that have a single purpose: often to provide a simple answer to a question. The web has had a long history of these sites, ranging from whether Kayne West is still a douche bag or not (apparently he still is) through to whether former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks has been arrested yet (yes, thankfully).

In fact the controversy over Rebekah Brooks and NOTW spawned many of these sites: starting with hasrebekahbrooksbeensackedyet.com and now hasjamesmurdochbeenarrestedyet.com. This year it seems the single serving site has become quite a feature within British online culture — starting off with football-themed sites such as hasfernandotorresscoredforchelsea.com back in January and then sincearsenallastwonatrophy.co.uk which popped up in May.

In late June, Chelsea FC appointed André Villas-Boas as their new manager. Chelsea managers are often the victims of fickle owner Roman Abromovich’s thirst for success; since he took over the club in 2003, there have been eight managers in total (including Villas-Boas). A few days after the announcement I wondered if anyone had setup a site about whether he was still manager or not. It appeared not, so I thought I’d grab the domain and contribute to the meme, and also try to put a nice visual layer on top for some fun.

Has André Villas-Boas Been Sacked Yet

On Sunday, June 26 hasandrevillasboasbeensackedyet.com went live.

Apart from having some fun on a Saturday afternoon in Photoshop and baiting a few friends of mine who are Chelsea fans, I had no grand plans for the site. That made the next few days even more incredible as I watched huge numbers of page views roll in.

A colleague of mine (Matt), who I had earlier told about the site, put it out on Twitter through a few blogs he works with: specifically the Football Ramble blog tweeted it late that afternoon, and that really started the traffic coming in: it was great to see the Facebook ‘Likes’ slowly climbing from below 10 to into the 100s. By the end of the day it had raked up over 8,000 visitors and someone was even nice enough to put in on Reddit.

But the next two days were even bigger: over 30,000 visitors on the Monday and 40,000 on the Tuesday. While Facebook drove a lot of traffic through the ‘Like’ button (possibly the most powerful button on the web today!), the bulk of traffic came from a really unusual place: Portugal. The site had hit a chord with many Portuguese football fans, who were still quite bitter about Villas-Boas leaving FC Porto for Chelsea.

Abola

Abola.pt article (one of Portugal’s largest football sites). Translation: “Site has hours until the dismissal of Villas Boas. Andre Villas Boas is already the target of satire in England. A web page was created with a time counter that the Portuguese coach is in charge of Chelsea. At the top question: ‘Has Been Andre Villas Boas sacked yet? “or” Andre Villas Boas already fired? ” Check here.”

Along with Abola.pt, other large Portuguese sites such as Mais Futebol, Record, Sapo and Jornal de Notícias also featured the site — making many references to it being ‘British humour’.

Then later in the week the news portal Sol ran this article:

Sol

The title reads: ”The Portuguese Government has fallen? ” … Not yet.’ I had obviously inspired someone in Portugal to give the same treatment I’d given Villas-Boas to their own Government. The site itself was a straight copy of my original source code. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; usually stealing source code is not a pleasant thing to have happen but in this situation I found it just plain hilarious.

Watching the site pop up in different countries was fascinating; later it would appear on a few Greek news sites and also Russian and Ukrainian news sites.

The Premier League season hasn’t even started yet, and I’m going to be interested to see what happens with the site as Villas-Boas starts his career at Chelsea. Knowing my luck he’ll be there for five years. But that at least saves me the stress of the moment when he is sacked and I have to rush to update the site.

I really love this meme and look forward to hopefully a lot more popping up. The NOTW scandal certainly produced several, so I think there’ll definitely be more to come. While the simplicity of hasfernandotorresscoredforchelsea.com is great, I hope that more people take the opportunity to put some more design work into it and make the joke a bit bigger than just the domain name.

Update: Matt nicely asked me to have a chat about the site on his Webgun podcast. There’s also lots of other interesting things on there too, have a listen!

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