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Feeling left behind? Access to the internet could be the problem

Robin Gibson scrapes the highlights from racing's digital year

Racegoers in the Royal Ascot village, trumpeted as a great tradition before it had started
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A year of bile and loathing online. Despite an outbreak of joy over the 48-hour festival decs, 2017 was characterised by a lack of ideas, apart from interfering in elections, lying all over the place and generally being a drain on humanity's dwindling store of humanity.

But the overlords are waking up. Facebook has just announced it intends to help confused users avoid fake news by posting links to 'reputable' publishers.

> :B> @5H05B, GB> 70A;C68205B C2065=8O? Sorry, I'll change that from Russian. But who decides what is 'reputable'? There's a whole tribe of who-guards-the-gatekeeper/pot-vs-kettle issues breeding here.

Twitter's unwelcome innovation was to double the size of tweets. Rubbish. Some things – rulers, lightbulbs, jam jars – are the right size. So were tweets. Who do they think they are? Toblerone?

And if 280-character tweets were lame, look at Apple. The best idea they could manage was a phone that cost a grand. Right. And trying to sell us Apple watches again, which is beginning to get a bit Del Boy, although he had a new range of garbage each Christmas.

Still, some things made a dent. So, in a spirit of begrudging generosity, here are the Surf & Turf awards. Note to recipients: awards are purely theoretical, at best metaphysical, and cannot be collected.

The Keith Richards Olay Gift Box for lively demeanour despite suspected death: Channel 4 Racing

People pretty much stopped calling for the return of Channel 4 Racing on January 1 – but right now it has 147,000 followers on Twitter, only 2,000 less than on that fateful day (and amazingly, nearly 100,000 more than ITV Racing). Blimey. Kind of touching that so few have unfollowed. What are they waiting for?

Michael Owen 'How many winners have you ridden?' Silver Saddle for cross-sport promotion: Pegasus World Cup

They got that guy, you know, that one that fought a boxer, you know him, to promote it. Conor McGregor, that's him. Is that interesting? Yes, inasmuch as it shows how well the Yanks do promotion. The Sun, the Mirror and Rolling Stone, for example, all blared the fact that McGregor would ride "stark bollock naked" (his words) in one of the vids, and a race of no consequence to 99.9 per cent of their readers entered the consciousness.


Criminal Minds 'You know the type' Mustard Cords for inventive profiling: YouGov

YouGov's Profiles drew an arresting figure of the racing fan. An arrestable figure, possibly. He's male (obviously), middle-aged, northern and of low social grade. Politically he is quite to the right (Ascot racegoers, weirdly, are even further – practically Mosleyite). He has less than £125 spare cash, reads the Sun, likes Mrs Brown's Boys and Tulisa Contostavlos, and loves asparagus soup. He thinks he's easy-going, good company and trustworthy, but actually he's nervous, impatient and careless. Admit it – it's you!

David 8 Titanium Robot Pen for disservices to journalism: the Kentucky Courier-Journal

Thunder Snow's crazed semi-participation in the Kentucky Derby provided a good example of how screwed we all are. Journalists, that is, not the average male, northern Tulisa fan, drinking asparagus soup.

The Courier-Journal is a venerable publication, founded in 1868. Yet its online report on Thunder Snow was composed of two paragraphs (with a mistake), a quote from the Washington Post attributed with bad English, a tweeted video clip, one more sentence, a tweeted photograph, two more tweets, another tweet and a tweet. Then they managed a quote from Saeed Bin Suroor. And another tweet. God help us all.

Baileys Irish Cream Decanter for invented tradition: Royal Ascot village

The new village enclosure was trumpeted with the line "Every great tradition has its beginning". Clever, and in the tradition of great traditions, even though it hadn't started.

One of the good things about the internet is instant appraisal. In the old world you'd have had to go to the village. Now, you can find out direct from Tyrone B on TripAdvisor. "As for the new village enclosure, if you like seeing no racing and getting pissed up with some music maybe this is the place for you." There you are.

Jeremy Corbyn 'Generation Z' Camp Cap for getting out the young vote: GBR/#StirrUpSummer

Quote of the year was from student Adam Powers who was interviewed in the Post during a day at the races. "What is a furlong?" Powers asked, not unreasonably.

So Great British Racing deserves credit for trying to engage with the youngers via the #StirrUpSummer campaign. It enlisted a spirited crew of DJ Sara Cox, a crazed YouTube vlogger and some jockeys, spent a few bob (not as much as the Pegasus World Cup), and theoretically encouraged families to bring their sprouts to the track for free. It was all great fun. Did it work? Search me.


Nigel Farage 'Old but dangerous' Golden Ray-Bans for vibing up the senile vote: the ROA

Big up the ROA for livestreaming its AGM. It's the new world seeping into the old. And the custodians of the old seem to enjoy it. They'll be doing it for the gram next. Best bit was where someone said about ownership: "The experience must be first class, with a proper lunch."

Sir Mark Prescott 'We run a boutique operation' Bouquet for unlikely website: Mick Easterby

Easterby is 86 but he's totally locked in. He's probably got 1Xtra on his iPhone. The site works a bit like those cute elephant videos. Need cheering up? Look at a picture of Mick inspecting a huge fertiliser store. Here it is.

Mick Easterby inspects his fertiliser storage towers

Mystic Meg 'Told you' Crystal Ball for most prescient remark ever: the RCA

The Racecourse Association set out to assess the impact of technology on pretty much everything, for some reason or other. A wide brief, courageously met. The organisation tackled Generation Z, algorithms, drones, contactless payment, dinosaur robots, street food and 3D printing in a quest that seemed occasionally infinite, before warning in bold type: "Don't get left behind. Very soon it is we who will appear out of date."

Too right. See you next year, if you can keep up.

Twitter: @surfnturfRP

If you enjoyed this, read more Surf & Turf:

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Racecourses, algorithms and Wikipedia – slightly up the junction


YouGov's Profiles drew an arresting figure of the racing fan. He's male (obviously), middle-aged, northern and of low social grade
E.W. Terms
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