Mainstream Web Watch:

Last week we started a new series called Mainstream Web Watch, in which we’ll be exploring how the Social Web is infiltrating mainstream culture. We started out with last week, to celebrate the end of the basketball season and the crowning of a new champion (Boston Celtics). In this post we look at another mainstream basketball site, but this time a small niche site created by someone with a passion for the sport – has a very simple purpose: to enable people to find and schedule pick-up games of basketball. It’s a very small social network, with 3663 members as at time of writing. But it shows how the social web can be used in the real world. Indeed one of the things I liked immediately about this social network is that it encourages and enables physical activity, something that most of us geeks don’t do enough of 🙂

InfiniteHoops was founded by Tosh Meston from Seattle (and yes he’s ex-Microsoft). Meston told us by email why he created InfiniteHoops:

“To find a pick-up game in the pre-web days, one had to do a lot of footwork, go down to the local park or gym hope to find a group of players. Finding a recurring 5 on 5 basketball game could be challenging, especially if you are new to an area. These days people turn to the web to find games just like they turn to it to find anything else.”

Granted it’s a relatively tiny network and I would guess it’s attracted a fairly middle class user base so far. But you have to admire the efficiency of using the Web to find a local pick-up game – there is plenty of potential for this to take off.

How it works is that players get notified by email when a group they’re part of has enough players for a game. Game and group pages integrate Google maps to display court locations. Game pages also have rosters, so that you know the number of players showing up.

Facebook app? Oh yes it has one of those – designed “to push game events into the news feeds of people in your social graph in the hope of attracting additional players to your game.”

Other features include a javascript Pick-Up Game Search widget for basketball bloggers, user profile pages, a news feed of events generated by people and your groups, RSS feeds of group messages, iCal feeds of game times, and many more goodies.

A potential killer feature, not yet present, would be a mobile version of InfiniteHoops and/or some integration with some of the popular and growing mobile social networks.

Meston has a nice network building up too, with InfiniteSoccer, InfiniteSoftball, InfiniteFootball and InfiniteHockey also on his roster of sites.

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