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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Yearly Archives: 2008
Pop Quiz: what do the sharks loss to the wings, and last night’s victory against the Canucks have in common?
The losing team in both cases had back to back games with travel involved.
Does the fact that the Canucks came out with dead legs and were blown out of the building in the first five minutes mean anything in the long run?
Not really. And really, the same can be said about the Wings game. the media turned it into a big “benchmark” game, because, well, they have to have things to talk about, but in reality, the series between detroit and san jose is 1-1, both losing teams having played back to back with travel the night before. Doesn’t really prove much yet, other than there’s a good chance they’ll meet each other deep in the playoffs, and advantage to the team with home ice advantage (maybe).
Ditto the Canucks last night. The game started with the Sharks grabbing the puck and basically putting on about a four minute cycle exposition where the Canucks were lucky to get the puck out of the zone, much less get it to center ice and change (they really didn’t get it into the Sharks zone, much less control the puck). It ended as it seemed inevitable with a Sharks goal at 4:22.
It was clear from the start the Canucks simply didn’t have skating legs. they looked tired. They tried — and couldn’t. Schneider could have been better, but he got no help.
After the Sharks went up 3-0, they went into lock down mode and backed off, playing that grey area between embarassing a team by scoring a zillion goals and embarassing a team by not pretending to play. Sometimes, the Sharks get in trouble doing this and let teams back in the game, and Vancouver kinda sorta tried, but San Jose was too dominating. The shot count was really misleading — San Jose went into “find the perfect shot” mode early and worried more about killing clock than running the score.
A perfect case in point was one time when the sharks were on penalty kill and the puck turned over. Patrick Marleau pursued, and he clearly shut it down in center ice and timed his arrival to get to the puck right after the Canuck did. With Marleau’s speed, he would have easily gotten to the puck first and created at least havoc and probably a shorthanded chance with a clean show at Sanford — and chose not to, but did it in a way that wouldn’t “show up” the team or be easily noticed unless you’re in arena and watching closely. Rather class act, IMHO.
What you need to know about how unbalanced the game was: Jody Shelley getting power play time, because McLellan started rolling four lines.
How do you coach a game like this? I have this vision of McLellan behind the bench saying “boys, if you cost Nabby this shutout, we’re bag skating tomorrow”. Which sounds silly, but if you’re trying to teach a team not to let up when they’re dominating, that’s the kind of mentality you need. And last night, they did.
Last night’s game was about 10 minutes of Sharks domination, followed by 50 minutes of Vancouver “when does the plane take off?”
Not something you can use to make broad pronouncements about the Canucks or their season. And that says something about the Wings game, also, I think.
To me, the answer is simple:
“We’re not done yet”.
For all the Sharks have been rolling this season, Detroit is still the Cup Champions, and the Sharks are “simply” a team with a great start. They haven’t taken the mantle away from Detroit, and Detroit was clearly not going to hand it over that easily.
you can throw a lot of things in the mix: 2nd game in back to backs on the road, injured players (effectively skating a full line that a month ago was in Worcester), etc, etc. Bottom line: Sharks didn’t play well early, Nabokov gave up a couple of soft goals early, and the team let tired legs take control of the game after that. Oh, and the Wings wanted to make a statement, and did.
All of which says the Sharks have more work to do if they want to get what they’re shooting for this season.
The good news is — losses like this are good, because they keep a team from getting lazy or starting to think it’s going to be easy. It gives them something to get motivated around to improve their game further, and this is the kind of team that will. I’m actually pretty happy that Detroit spanked the team — a close loss or a couple of bad bounces could be explained away, that loss requires some deep thinking and commitment to improve.
Detroit was clearly a much better team. Fortunately, it’s December, when a loss like this is a learning experience and not the end of a season. And once you get past that, you just move on. Both teams have won, at home, on the 2nd game of back to backs for the losing team. There’s a lot of hockey left to play before we really know which team is going to go further in the playoffs.
One of the teams the Sharks have played recently that really impressed me was Columbus. In the first game, which the Sharks stole, I was finding myself wondering how a team playing that well was 14th in the conference (as of tonight, they’re 11th; that’s part of the answer; they’re now playing well and moving up). but when you look at the standings, four wins separates the 15th team (St. Louis) from the 8th playoff spot. Unlike the easy, where you can presume that six or seven of the teams have already settled into the playoffs and you have four teams playing for that eighth spot, in the West, there are maybe four teams that are “safe” for the playoffs, and you have eleven teams playing for the other four spots. The hockey is that good, and the race is still that close — two or three wins or losses can shuffle the standings around in a major way.
Steve Mason has impressed the hell out of me, and as of now, is on my short list for rookie of the year. But the Bluejackets are really playing good, confident hockey right now, and they’re going to make some teams crazy along the way. Right now, they look to be one of the teams making the final eight, and more power to them.
The sun came out, the temperatures moderated, and I just needed to get out of the office for a bit, so I ran down to Redwood Shores for lunch and a birding run. I hit three spots, the front lagoon where a long-tailed duck has been reported hanging out with the scaups, and then on to the Davit lane lagoon, and the radio road ponds.
It took me about 30 minutes, but I found the long-tailed duck, which at first glance, looks somewhat like a young scaup, somewhat like a young scoter, somewhat like a — oh, hell, I don’t know what I find more challenging, young and female ducks, sandpipers, sparrows, or juvenile gulls. Choose one, they all drive
you crazy. (probably sandpipers….)
Of course, once I saw it, it was painfully obvious what it was, A younger bird without the long tail feathers, but with more white on the sides of the head and a different bill than the other birds. Of course, after 30 minutes of scoping the lagoon, I noticed it about 15′ out on the water, preening. Other birds in the area: pied-billed grebes and one western grebe, scaups, buffleheads, common goldeneye, and a few of the other random usual suspects like cormorants, gulls, etc. Nothing too unusual for the time of year.
Davit road was about normal; the redhead that’s been there for years was out with the mallards, hanging. One Barlowe’s Goldeneye in with the Commons, a brown pelican hanging out with the cormorants on the cormorant dock, and the pied-billed grebes were pairing off and vocalizing to each other.
Then on to radio road. Hit it during a rising tide, so lots of shorebirds coming in and hanging out. In the flooded areas behind the dog park, lots of stilts, marbled godwits, willets, and a nice flock of whimbrels. Out on the southern pond, I checked out the long island and saw nothing unusual. Scoping the water and the other islands I found a pair of black turnstones hanging out in a group of willets; not unheard of at this location, but not common. Then a smaller sandpiper scooted through, wandering in and around the sleeping willets and looking really skittish. At first thought I was thinking lesser yellowlegs, but it was smaller than that, more like the size of a spotted sandpiper. There are spotted sandpipers in the area, if not at that location.
Then I noticed the greenish legs. It gave me good, long, clear looks in the scope, and I did a comparison check with the guide. After I was sure I’d seen what I thought I saw, I headed back to work and pulled up flickr to do some more research. After doing that, I was convinced I was right, and I’d happened to run into a solitary sandpiper. Also not unprecedented there, but rather notable. I sent along the report to ebird and pen-birds; with a bit of luck, it’ll stick around and be confirmed. Even if not, for once I’m comfortable with the ID of a bird this unusual.
Update: Ron Thorn thinks this was a red knot. He’s probably right, I need to do some research to make sure I understand how I got the call wrong. Back later.
The long-tailed duck and solitary sandpipers are lifers for me, and (a bit to my surprise) black turnstone is a year bird. That’s a nice, pleasant surprise for a couple of reasons. The two lifers take my life list to 218, and my year list to 197.
When I started 2008, I set myself a couple of goals. First, to hit 200 species on the life list, which I actually hit early in the year, and adjusted it to 225 to keep it a challenge, and to try for 200 species for the year. With everything that’s gone on this year, birding turned into an escape more than an initiative and I really didn’t push on the goals, and missed large parts of both spring and fall migration completely. Last weekend, watching the rain come down, I’d come to terms with not hitting the 225/200 goals this year. Now, suddenly at 197 for the year, there’s a chance I might be able to hit that number again. Just maybe.
The other goal I’ve had for a while was to actually discover (and have confirmed) a notable species. It’s one thing (and I’m not being negative here) having someone find the long-tailed duck and chase it down and say “yup, that’s a long-tailed duck!” — that can, in fact, be a significant challenge (just try it with, say, Northern Waterthrush, like the one in Mountain view that sometimes cooperates and sometimes doesn’t). But to be able to find a rare species, to really add to the knowledge of the local birder community — that’s something I’ve wanted to do (plus, it’s a nice indication of how my ability to ID birds is progressing. In the last year, I’ve progressed to “only kinda suck at it”).
The solitary sandpiper qualifies as that bird, at least it will if someone else confirms the ID. I’ve come close a couple of times before, last spring when we had what we believe was an Orchard Oriole up here in the San Mateo hills during spring migration, but we never refound the bird for confirmation.
So maybe I’ll hit these goals this year, magically. Be nice. If not, there’s always next year…
Hmm. where can I find three more species for the year list? there’s that damn waterthrush, maybe, and…
Location: Redwood Shores
Observation date: 12/17/08
Number of species: 36
Canada Goose 6
Eurasian Wigeon 1
American Wigeon X
Cinnamon Teal 12
Northern Shoveler X
Northern Pintail X
Green-winged Teal 6
Lesser Scaup X
Long-tailed Duck 1 re-found near sofitel hotel among the scaups, continuing bird.
Common Goldeneye X
Barrow’s Goldeneye 1 found on davit road lagoon
Ruddy Duck X
Pied-billed Grebe X
Western Grebe 1
Brown Pelican 1
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Egret 2
Snowy Egret 12
Turkey Vulture X
Red-tailed Hawk X
American Coot X
Black-necked Stilt X
American Avocet X
Solitary Sandpiper 1 Found on the radio road ponds about 12:30 among a flock of willets sleeping on the first round island in the southern pond; greenish legs, smaller than a lesser yellowlegs, greyish coloration. Same rough size as a spotted sandpiper, very skittish and active, darting in and around the sleeping birds. very similar to this bird:
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Black Turnstone 2
Ring-billed Gull X
Black Phoebe 6
Common Raven 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)
Apple drops the bombshell yesterday. Some have questioned the timing, but I think they were at a point where they had to commit to floor space in Macworld 2010, and better they announce it and control the spin than have it leak from IDG and turn into a PR firefight.
I think it’s a good thing, and been coming over the horizon for a while. Trade shows are brutally expensive for a company like Apple, and the push to make a major push in product announcements just AFTER Apple’s core sales period ends is increasingly silly. Apple’s not just (primarily) a computer company any more, but a consumer product company. It’s definitely not a “Mac” company any more, it’s much more, so from a business standpoint, Apple benefits least of pretty much anyone involved @ Macworld. It doesn’t need the keynote to generate press, it can create a keynote on demand with the press now.
The folks that benefit most? All those Apple people who never got christmas week off because they were crunching for MacWorld.
Folks who benefit the least? well, IDG is screwed. But I don’t have huge sympathy there. But the small developers and smaller mac companies where Macworld was a chance to network and get some visibiliity are going to have to figure out something else. WWDC might be an option for some as an alternative, but this leaves a gap for them, especially for the “walk around and figure out who you need to get to know” aspect.
On the other hand, if Apple’s cost outlay for a Macworld is $2-3 million dollars (and when you factor in payroll costs and etc, bet on it), it gets increasingly hard to justify trade shows, even Macworld. So I’m not surprised.
There’s lots of coverage of this “event”, as you might expect. A lot of it boils down to “things are changing, I don’t like change!” which is weird in a way, given Apple’s success is primarily driven by being willing to drive innovation and make changes and not be tied too heavily to the status quo.
A lot of coverage is being aimed at Steve’s health. Without diving into that too deeply myself or trying to say “no, it’s not” as a blanket statement, I seriously doubt it. Steve may well want to back off and reduce his workload, but if the keynotes made sense for Apple, Steve would do them. Take this more as an indication of the belief his time is better spent elsewhere, which leads back to believing that trade shows are expensive, time consuming and increasingly limited in their impact in return. Steve’s situation is a trailing indicator, not a leading edge of the decision here.
Business Week’s Arik Hesseldahl has one of the more thoughtful (read: I agree) views of this beast:
The first thing that’s coming to so many minds in the wake of today’s announcement from Apple that CEO Steve Jobs won’t be making his customary keynote address at the Macworld Expo on Jan. 6, is the condition of Jobs’ health.
I don’t think his health has anything to do with it. Though I think the speculation that has come to surround his appearance in recent years is a minor factor in the decision.
I also really thought Jason had some good thoughts on this at Macworld:
Tuesday’s news that Apple had announced that Steve Jobs wouldn’t be appearing at Macworld Expo and that the company would stop exhibiting at the show after 2009 came as a shock. I’m stunned that Apple has taken a 25-year-old event that has been the single best meeting place for the entire community of users and vendors of Apple-related products and treated it like a piece of garbage stuck to the bottom of its shoe. But I’m not really surprised: Apple has been leading up to this moment for a long time now.
Also worth reading:
Rob Griffiths @ Macworld:
For several years, trade shows—technology trade shows in particular—have been in serious decline. From Comdex to E3, large trade shows have been dying out or drastically changing their focus. Even Macworld Expo hasn’t been immune, as the east coast show was canceled after the 2005 event. (The Expo was moved from New York in 2004, and Apple declined to participate in the Boston show that year; the show lasted only one more year before being canceled.) The annual San Francisco Macworld Expo, however, seemed safe from the troubles. For nearly 20 years, the January event has been the one place to see and be seen in the world of all things Apple.
Michael Gartenberg (as usual):
It’s been floating around all day as a rumor but it seems that not only is Steve Jobs not keynoting Macworld, but this will be Apple’s last year at the show. Given that, it’s hard to see how the conference continues. It’s clearly the passing of an era but I don’t think this is that major in terms of news for Apple. Over the last several years, Apple has downplayed the importance of Macworld as an event (and stopped attending the east coast show some years ago before that event ceased to exist). Apple, unlike many other companies has the ability to draw audience of press and analysts as needed. In addition, the Apple retail experience is a good showcase for consumers who want to see Apple products up close.
As for Steve Jobs as a no-show? I’d expect this to be a pretty tame Macworld in terms of news. If you’re expecting a major announcement in January, you’re going to be disappointed.
although I’m guessing if this really is the start of a transition from “Apple as Steve-center-of-the-universe” there’s no better way to do that than not have steve give the keynote AND come out with something kicker. It seems that there’s this presumption that because Apple chose now to make this change ti doesn’t have much to talk about. Maybe, but I think they chose this time to make this decision for other reasons, and perhaps having a strong product announcement is actually part of the plan here. We’ll see.
My bottom line — everyone’s hypered up about this, because, well, that’s what we do about Apple stuff. but ultimately, this is a big non-issue, and once past it and looking back on it with some time, we’ll wonder why we made such a fuss. Well, no, we won’t. we’ll be too busy making a big fuss about the next major apple non-event event…
John Siracusa at Ars nails it:
There are many words that characterize Apple under the second reign of Steve Jobs: resurgent, exciting, innovative, successful. I’d add one more to that list: fearless.
Most large corporations are afraid of change. Successful product lines, business plans, and especially brands are milked for every penny. And when there’s nothing left, when the thing’s been beaten into the ground until not a single ounce of value remains, only then will corporations reluctantly move on. But wait! Sometimes they quickly moved back, either because they lost their nerve at the last minute, or because the new direction proved even worse than the exhausted husk of the old winner.
I’m doing a little research for a project I’m working on for someone. Part of that project involves getting users up and running with Eclipse, and one of the things I wanted to document were a couple of fairly simple (or so I thought) questions:
“What is Eclipse?”
“What is an IDE?”
So I figured I’d go to the source — the eclipse home page — and see how they answer those questions, then crib off of it.
Well, as far as I can tell, they really don’t.
On the eclipse front page it says:
Eclipse is an open source community whose projects are focused on building an open development platform comprised of extensible frameworks, tools and runtimes for building, deploying and managing software across the lifecycle. (We started with the best Java IDE ever and we’ve grown from there.)
But that really doesn’t say much of anything. It looks like it got run over by a runaway marketing focus group or something… If someone asked me how they could become a more productive programmer, and I said “go check out eclipse” without any real background in eclipse, actually getting started based on this site would be really tough.
And good luck finding ANY place on the site that actually defines IDE (integrated development environment). This site could really use a quick “elevator pitch” and a one page executive summary, as well as some basic definitions for newbies.
To me, it’s a very classic and easy trap to fall into — the people maintaining a site are so familiar with the material they forget that a part of their audience is new to it all and doesn’t have any context. This does NOT mean you need to “dumb down” your site to the lowest common denominator, but you should always design a site to include some kind of launch pad for someone completely new to whatever you’re doing – one of your user profiles should have literally stepped off of a boat after having been marooned on a remote island for a decade. “New to Eclipse? Start here!” page for people who will otherwise find the rest of the site somewhere between opaque and incomprehensible for all of the jargon. We tried to mitigate that with our “get started” page in the rewrite we did of the OpenLaszlo site recently, and it’s been pretty well received (but it can be better, and we’re looking at it).
One other thing the Eclipse site does that bothers me: as you navigate through the site, the “HOME” button in the nav menu changes meaning. It’s always called home, but if you navigate to a wiki page, HOME turns into the home of the wiki site, or if you go to the demo site, it returns you to the home page of that site, not of the eclipse site in general. There’s a second home button on the bottom page nav bar, also called HOME, but that home button takes you back to www.eclipse.org.
Having two buttons named the same but doing different things, with one of them changing based on things that aren’t communicated (there’s no visual change to identify main site pages from wiki pages from whatever pages) just seems like bad navigation. I realize what they’re trying for, but it doesn’t work for me. That, of course, and $5.00 buys you a latte at Starbucks…
The main point here is this: is your site making assumptions that are going to trip up someone new to the site? If so, how is that going to affect them being willing to adopt in or use whatever it is you’re presenting? And how do you plan to fix it?
I guess I picked a bad week to give up sniffing glue…
No, seriously, a combination of having my boss leave at the start of the month, picking up a copy of the office head cold that’s been going around, and realizing OMFGITSDECEMBER sort of distracted me from blogging about stuff for a bit.
The cold is finally receding, so I can think, work is finally setting down with the new boss and an understanding of who’s picking up what pieces, and I no longer feel like I’m going to show up for christmas dinner a week late — although I’ll be two weeks late getting the frigging christmas tree up this year. Part of me almost says “don’t bother”, but I’ll regret it if I do.
But it’s given me some time to watch everyone else talk about (and posture over) Avery and think through this thing a little bit more.
When I spoke last on Avery (damn, less than a week ago. how time flies when you’re having fun), I said:
For those wondering why he was suspended for this comment, you can’t take this in isolation. It’s not THIS comment, it’s that this is just the LATEST of a string of increasingly out of control comments. And that’s the real issue here
And I believe that’s been proven out. The suspension wasn’t really about what he said (sorry, people who want to be over-picky about the appropriateness of his comments) but that he said it. It’s come out that he’s been called to the carpet two previous times (at least) by the league, having had chewing-out sessions with both bettman and colin campbell in separate situations. Bettman told him if he stepped out of line again,he’d be suspended. He stepped out of line. He got suspended.
That’s why just looking at the situation is easy for those looking for an easy reason to complain, but life’s never that simple.
Worse, it’s clear Avery has personal issues he needs to deal with. That’s what “anger managment” is all about; it’s PC code for “you’re going to sit down with a shrink and we’re going to try to get you help”. Anger is only one aspect this could be about, but when you start reading the various things that have been popping up, the larger picture of Avery is really pretty sad (for example, try here and )
That the teamBEFORE this happened is telling. So is that team members went to Jackson in the pre-season to say it wasn’t working and he was ripping up the locker room.
In some ways, I think the league did Avery a favor here. They took the action out of the Stars hands — and it was clear the Stars management was all set for a nuclear wasteland. By suspending Avery and giving him six games, he gives both Avery and the stars a chance to calm down and think it through — which just might give Avery a chance to repair some of the damage and not find himself thrown off the team permanently.
It ALSO avoids a major war with the NHLPA, at least for now. It seems the PA is willing to accept the six game suspension, but from comments made by, any attempt to suspend the contract would start the fight. I don’t blame the NHLPA, either, the suspension of Avery by the league is a precedent that starts a slippery slope the PA doesn’t want players on, but it looks like the PA is willing to accept that. If the stars try to void the cointract, however, all hell will break loose.
Given how obviously pissed everyone in stars management was at this and how Avery played them all for fools, an attempt to void the contract (“damn the contracts and call the lawyers!” by Hicks was almost inevitable. Bettman and the league has stepped in and created a situation that has given all involved some time to get the tempers out of control — and honestly, I think he deserves credit for that. Not that people will give it to him.
In any event, it’s now basically up to Avery. Maybe this was the kick in the pants he needed; maybe he’ll regress. We’ll see.
If I were the Stars, I’d waive him, send him to some place in the AHL, and tell him he has to earn his way back on the team. I doubt a contract voiding would survive the NHLPA and a court fight, and no other NHL team’s going to touch him (Ray Emery has a better chance of hitting the NHL right now) — but if Avery takes his “anger management” seriously and works to prove he’s trying to solve whatever issues cause scenes like this), and he goes to the AHL and shuts his mouth and plays hard and works hard and keeps his life straight — then maybe.
Honestly, though, I doubt he will. I don’t think it’ll be that simple or the ending will be that happy. But it’s really up to Avery to make lemonade or throw the lemons at old ladies…
And ultimately, the person who most deserves an apology from him is Brett hull, who got thrown under a fleet of busses here. Hull has to explain to his owner that they wasted millions of dollars of the owner’s money on — THIS — but he still desrves to be a GM for the Stars. I find that a hard thing to believe Hicks will remember fondly in future years, you know?
And that’s really the bottom line in all of this. WHAT he said really doesn’t matter here. It’s that he DID say it, the context of when and how he said it, and his history of these kind of out of control behaviors that led to this. And honestly, six games is a lot better for him than many of the things that could have happened if the league hadn’t stepped in… The league probably did him a big favor here; one wonders if he’ll take advantage of it…
I’m guessing not.
I have a hard time believing the NBA and NFL are going to have to cut back considerably and the NHL will escape unscathed, but at this point, that’s where we’re at in the commissioner’s eyes.
I don’t for a minute think it’s fair to interpret what they’re saying they’ll escape unscathed. Bill Daly today noted the league’s put in a hiring freeze, and in fact,:
“The sense is that we are doing OK this season, but there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future, particularly next season.”
“Probably a good indication for us will be how playoff ticket sales go. But while there is concern, there is also hopeful optimism.”
In reality, the business cycles for these leagues are all different phases and the leagues aren’t easily compared. In hockey, most of the revenue for the league is in for the year — the next time significant revenues come in will be in the playoffs, and Bettman clearly sees that as a bellwether for things moving forward, but right now, they know roughly what the revenue situation is going to be. They have, in fact, telegraphed their thoughts by indicating they think the cap will be roughly flat this season and they’re more or less guaranteeing it goes down the season after that.
So there’s no pretending going on in the league that they’re going to avoid this. What the reality is, though, is that the major pain won’t come until later, going into next season. There’s no reason to lay off now — and I expect they hope they’ll be able to limit future layoffs through the hiring freeze and the attrition that can be expected between the end of this season and next. But if there are layoffs, and there probably will be, expect them to happen off-season.
What happens if revenues go down next year while the cap stays flat? Less than you might think; remember one aspect of the CBA is the escrow account. In past years, the escrow money’s been sent on to players. If the revenues decline, then some (or all) of that escrow money will be held back by the owners — this scenario being the reason the escrow account was put into the CBA in the first place.
So things may potentially be ugly, but the league’s got things in place to adapt to it, at least to some degree. Players could potentialy find themselves with 10-12% pay cuts if the entire escrow account is returned to the owners next season, even if the cap stays flat. And it’ll be interesting to see how much of the escrow goes to players this season; I wouldn’t expect a 100% payout.
So the thinking has been going on for a while. What the league isn’t doing is panicing; revenues seem sustainable now and they can use other methods than layoffs to handle reduced revenue issues when they finally hit — which they probably won’t for another six months or so. And the CBA was designed to help here, and my guess is, it will.
The NHL’s rapid revnue growth the last few years also helps, because it makes the downturn somewhat easier to handle; most companies don’t hire as quickly as they grow, which reduces the need to layoff when things turn.
So to me, this is more about some journalists crying wolf than the league whistling in the graveyard. What I’m seeing is a league being very aware and proactive, and getting yelled at for things not being as negative as people seem to expect them to be.
Life could be a lot worse. A few days back, James Mirtle posted attendance numbers for the NHL, showing them down about 1%. Even given some teams like the Panthers pushing free and discounted tickets like crazy, paid attendance is likely down no more than 2-3%. Taht’s not all that bad, and from the numbers, only four teams are playing below 80% full (Atlanta, carolina, tampa, columbus), and four more below 85% (Phoenix, NY Island, New Jersey, LA). Eight teams below 85% full may seem bad, but that leaves 22 teams playing above 85% full, and frankly, when you look at the teams suffering attendance, they are also teams suffering from bad play, except for New Jersey, which is having problems filling its new building, but always seems to have fought attendance issues.
To some degree this just reinforces that winning hockey sells tickets, good markets or bad. And losing hockey just encourages fans to sit on the sideline; the bad economy just amplifies those changes.
Some fuss has been made of the cities with significant attendance drops: Tampa and Atlanta around 12% down, Carolina around 11%, Nashville, Los Angeles, Buffalo down 7% or so. Not minimizing that, but do you blame fans in Tampa and Atlanta for staying away after the off-season owner-fun (in Tampa) and the horribly disappointing season last year after finally making the playoffs and convincing fans maybe things were getting better? Or in columbus, still without a playoff series? Bad teams SHOULD suffer in attendance, or what motivation do they have to get better? (snide side glance at the Toronto fans injected here). Lost in the noise of all this are teams like Washington and Chicago, where reinvented ownership (with the hawks) and a really good, up and coming team (in washington) have gotten people excited again, with 25% and 15% increases. So it balances out; teams getting better get fans on board, teams getting worse lose them. It’s easy to focus just on the bad news, but the reality is, it’s not all bad out there.
Compare that to, say, the NBA. 30 team league, and currently, four teams are playing at 70% or below capacity, and a total of 13 teams are playing at 85% or below capacity. No wonder they’re laying off, but where the NHL has been growing since the end of the lockout, the NBA’s been struggling, and it’s showing this year. Last year, they only had 2 teams under 70% and six teams at 85% or below. Compared to those numbers, the NHL is staggeringly successful this season being down only 1-3%.
Or consider Nascar, which only a couple of years ago was being seen as one of those sports taking the NHL out behind the shed and giving it a wedgie (not without some justification, either); the current feeling seems to be that if the automaker bailout doesn’t happen, NASCAR won’t be laying off, it could well simply cease to exist.
Then there’s the KHL, which in the preseason some were thinking was going to hurt the NHL; now, a few months later, teams are missing payrolls (or barely making them) and there seems a good chance the league won’t make it to season two. How things change.
In the ECHL, we’ve seen the first franchise failure.
And over in europe, one of the major soccer leagues has come out and said it needs — well, basically, a salary cap and escrow system just like the NHL built, or it’s likely in deep trouble.
Oh, and it looks like Arena football is going to fold, period. Can’t get financing.
We tend to over-focus on the issues around the league, and some media types seem to get off predicting the worse (and we, as fans, don’t hold their feet to the fire when they prove, time and again, to be woefully inaccurate…). But when you look around the pro sports industry globally — honestly? The NHL is in for some rough times, and some of those times are going to be painful — but in the larger context of other leagues, it seems like it’s done what it can to minimize the pain, before it had to do so in panic mode. So now that those bad times are here, surprise, the league isn’t panicing. And some folks seem to see that as a bad thing…
This isn’t so much an essay on Avery and the suspension as some random thoughts and reactions. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about check out Puck Stops here; it’s one of the more reasoned views of the situation:
I support the idea of trash talk. I think it is a useful way for players to agitate opponents. Avery said something that would likely upset one of the best players on the Calgary Flames (Dion Phaneuf) who he was about to play and he managed to do it by saying something that was clean enough for national TV. That is an accomplishment. He had to hit Phaneuf with something personal to do this. It seemed to me like a rather minor incident. It was something that might be played in the broadcast of the Dallas at Calgary game that night and soon be forgotten (it is possible some larger incident may come during the game which would keep it in the news – but most likely it would be soon forgotten).
The NHL had other plans. They suspended Avery for his comments. A large number of fans applauded – many on the logic that they hat Sean Avery and suspending him for any reason is a good thing. The problem is this reason for his suspension is a weak one. It’s not the worst off ice thing that Avery has done. He has given a camera man in New York the middle finger and had off-color verbal comments about Darcy Tucker and Jason Blake.
Avery was suspended because he is Sean Avery. Had another player been in his position, there would likely have been no suspension. The league is looking to suspend Sean Avery. If this becomes a precedent for further suspensions for pre-game trash talk, that will lead to more suspensions for relatively minor offences. If there are no further suspensions for pre-game comments, then it shows that Avery is being unfairly treated as he is being punished when others in the same situation would not be.
My view on this situation is frankly mixed; Avery definitely stepped over a line and needed to be bitchslapped, especially after it came out that he was told by his team explicitly told him not to speak to the press, and Avery ignored that order and stepped into someone else’s scrum and effectively cherrybombed the press and then ran. That the Stars have come out and said they would have suspended him is a good sign. I personally would have preferred that it be a team suspension to a league one, by having the League step in I think they’re opening up a Pandora’s box they may regret.
On the other hand, that’s classic Avery: agitate until the other side loses its cool and reacts without thinking it through. In some ways, he just did that to the league instead of an opposition player. The league will have to deal with the side effects later. At the Sharks game last night, Laurie and I were talking about this, and I said “I really wish I was on the call between Bettman, Daly and Colin Campbell where Bettman asked them to find a rule that allowed him to kick Avery in the balls” — and basically, that’s what the league did.
I have no sympathy for Avery here. He asked for it. He deserves it. Whether this was the best way to handle it, we’ll see.
For those wondering why he was suspended for this comment, you can’t take this in isolation. It’s not THIS comment, it’s that this is just the LATEST of a string of increasingly out of control comments. And that’s the real issue here:
Avery is out of control. Anyone remember Ray Emery? Well, here’s this year’s model. Except Avery decided, among other things, to directly attack the league and league management as part of his “me first, I’m smarter than all of you” game.
There are some folks upset that the league didn’t allow Avery to play last night and give Phaneuf and the Flames a chance to, well, educate him as to the intelligence of his comments. I sympathize with them. In reality, though, imagine the scenario where Avery declines and turtles (not that Avery ever turtles. nope. not him) and others get involved. the NHL’s worst nightmare here would be someone like Mike Modano out with a torn ACL because the Flames tried to rearrange Avery’s face in a game. No, their worst nightmare would be another Steve Moore episode, and that’s not reaching very far given the heated tempers here, folks. So I don’t for a second blame the league for stepping in, this powderkeg had “disaster” written on it in a number of different ways.
By the way, people should really sit back and ask themselves Who Is the Victim? Another question people should ask themselves is where are the limits set?
Elisha Cuthbert got dragged through the mud here. What about her and her feelings? Shouldn’t the league have some standards here? Shift the scenario a bit: imagine that Sean Avery had said equally derogative things about, oh, Mike Grier. you really think people would be upset about a suspension over a racial slur? (well, some would, but they’d be a lot quieter and circumspect). So why would a racial slur be unacceptable, but a gender slur is? Draw a line in the sand, where do you put it? Blacks? European players? Quebec French? But not women? the league has made it clear, and suspended players, for slurs against the first three, on and off ice.
The guys out there who think it’s amusing that he did this to her, well, stop and think about it a bit. If you can. Or ask someone like Donald Brashear or Mike Grier. I bet that they have an opinion — and a fair bit of sympathy for her.
By the way, if Avery’d done this on ice, during a game, or privately in a hallway, that’s fine. Dirty play and dirty language is part of the game and his schtick, and that’s between him and the players. But jump into a scrum of reporters, grab a mike and put on a show? Hey, at that point, you are a representative of yourself, your team, and the league, and you have responsibilities to all of them to act professionally. Instead, he stood up and played the fool and proved that what was important was him.
And that’s why he’s poison; he threw his team under the bus, he threw the league under the bus, and it’s not the first time he’s done both. And for a game which prides itself on winning and competing as teams, it’s one thing to be an individual (this league is rife with them), but another to start declaring yourself more important than either. It’s been clear from his statements for a while that Avery sees the WWE as the model for how the NHL ought to operate. I think the league needs to suggest to Avery he go join the WWE; where it’s not really about winning, but about individuals and celebrity.
Oh, and speaking of people Avery’s thrown under the bus, how will you all feel when Brett Hull gets fired over this? Because I think there’s a strong chance that’ll happen: Hull championed him onto the team, Hull backed him and supported him. And now this. But then, everyone else is just support staff there to make life better for Avery. Hull’s probably learned a nasty lesson in learning in who he places his trust and loyalty with. Some friend, that Sean Avery.
According to the old cliche, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” There is definitely some truth to this statement. A player makes some public mistake and the media covers every detail of that team and league. It might not be the best publicity, but there is no question that your teams will get a lot of additional media exposure.
There’s good publicity, there’s no publicity, and there’s bad publicity. But not all bad publicity is created equal. Some bad publicity can be used for future benefit. Some is simply destructive. All the Avery thing has done is give people who love to bash the league more stuff to bash the league with. You tell me: how do you take the publicity caused by Avery and use it to convince non-fans the league is something they might want to check out? Banner ads on the WWE websites?
No, sometimes no publicity is much better for you than this kind of publicity. There’s nothing here that you can spin or leverage to get people to become interested in the league. It makes the league look like a bunch of jerks. Avery is doing nobody favors here, not even himself.
I’ll close with what Brett Hull said, because it’s both indicative of what hockey tries to be (and mostly is), and just how unimportant those aspects of the game were to Avery. Ultimately, that’s Avery’s key failure here: in a game where individuals give themselves to the success of the team, Avery merely saw the team and all around him as tools for personal self-gain.
“This goes beyond hockey and beyond the game on the ice, and that’s what bothers me,” Hull said. “We have talked and talked and talked about being on the edge within the game, but not going over the line. We told him from the start that he can not do things that would embarrass the organization. Ever since the start here, this organization has been built on class, and there is a responsibility to the organization, to the owner and his family, and to the city and the fans to maintain that class. Play hard, push the game on the ice, but do not embarrass the organization.”
And yesterday, the league finally told him they were tired of being a tool. And of him.
One wonders if he’ll actually listen. I doubt it. I wonder if he CAN.
Oh, and let’s put this all in perspective. How? Well, perhaps by reading this piece by goaliegirl…..
Behind a brilliant four-point first period from Joe Thornton, San Jose exploded to a 4-0 lead on the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, defeated their old coach, and most importantly, posted their 43rd point in 25 games, tying the 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens for the best start in NHL history. The victory was the Sharks eighth in a row.
Fun game last night. The Sharks basically spanked the Leafs early and put it in autopilot. The two goals came about mostly because the Sharks mentally went and took their showers early. It really was man vs. boy for a lot of the game. At times in the past, the Sharks have struggled with managing leads, last night, they very much played a “red wings” style run out the clock game.
That was kinda my point in my posting last night. The Leafs scored mostly because the Sharks didn’t really care if they did, and the few Leafs fans willing to stick around to the end (most left, the first large chunk in the 2nd period, along with the first wave of Sharks fans) really shouldn’t have seen that as a “YEAH! LEAFS RULE!” moment.
Still, a fun game. Just not really ever close. Toskala had the yips early, and that pretty much set up the show for the night.
Now, having said that…
Lots of fans and media pundits have looked at the Sharks and said “hey, it only matters what they do in the playoffs”. They’re right — and I’ve said that to some degree as well.
If you use that as an excuse to not pay attention to the Sharks during the regular season, you’re missing one hell of a hockey team. This team is rolling. In case people haven’t noticed, Joe Thornton’s on a 2 point a game pace the last 7 or 8 games (and last night? A goal and three assists. yawn. Another night in the office). This team is impressive as hell, and really making notable waves, even for a team who’s the definition of “the regular season doesn’t matter”.
It may not matter, but the Sharks are making it matter by playing this well. If you are waiting for the playoffs to watch them, you’re going to miss a lot of really good hockey….
Now, here’s what we saw: Finger delivers a check to Moller, who was skating with his head down into the offensive zone– if Finger made contact with Moller’s noggin, that’s why. Armstrong can’t exactly check the replay before defending his teammate, so he moved in on Finger based on what he saw transpire. Which is a tad admirable when you consider Armstrong isn’t exactly Craig Berube with the fight card.
That said, the whole “fight after a clean hit” thing is getting really, really annoying.
Greg is dead right here.
Unfortunately, this is a side effect of something that many hockey fans cherish deeply, and is promoted by the Pope, his Cherryness himself: players policing themselves.
Well, it just so happens the players have chosen to self-police actions that happen to be legal in the game. Oops.
So now what?
Now, I’m not anti-fighting, and I’m not against the concept of players keeping each other honest, but this is the other side of that double-edged sword: the players (unlike the refs) aren’t obligated, or necessarily see it in their own and team’s self-interest, to remain within the rules.
How to fix this? I’d like to recommend a couple of rule changes, one minor, one — not so.
First, where I used to be a strong supporter of the instigator rule, I’ve come around to a different view. That view doesn’t involve removing the instigator though, but, well, sort of decriminalizing it.
In my new reality, the instigator penalty becomes 2/10 for the first offense in a game, and 2/10/game for the second by the same player. If a player commits an instigation in the last 10 minutes of a game or in overtime, he is ineligible to play the next game, but it’s not a suspension without pay and doesn’t count as a suspension in terms of other future penallties.
No suspensions, no fines. Sit in the box, unless you do it late, the you sit the next game. No long-term or increasing suspensions for repeat actions. That removes most of the criticisms against the current instigator rule without removing it completely, and to be honest — we still want to discourage people from playing the policeman rule indiscriminately (which is, in reality, the underlying problem of this “legal hit retribution” problem, no?); so the 2/10 penalty puts enough pain into instigation that it’ll cause players to pick their spots and be careful about when and how they do the policing. Which is what we want.
The second rule change directly involves this “after a clean hit” aspect.
Any time a player leaves his position to initiate an altercation with another player, it’s instigation. Period. Think of it as a lesser form of third man in.
If Chris Pronger and Jordan Tootoo go into the corner together and Tootoo checks Pronger into the boards, after which Pronger grabs Tootoo and pounds the living daylights out of him, that’s covered under existing rules (and we’ll all cheer).
If, however, Tootoo puts Selanne into the boards, and Pronger skates over and pounds the living daylights out of Tootoo — that is what this new rule will cover. Doesn’t matter if the hit is legal or not, what matters is that a player LEFT HIS POSITION to initiate with another player. Under the new rule, that’s an instigator, whether or not fighting is involved.
The determination here for me is two items: (1) did a player leave his assignment and (2) is it a hockey play? If the answer to both is no, this new rule applies.
These rules also leave a lot of wiggle room for players to police themselves, but with a strong encouragement towards doing it “in a hockey way” and “picking their spots”. Both attitudes even Don Cherry would probably agree with.
I would also hope that — by removing some of the bad side effects of the current instigator rule — that it would encourage refs to call it more often in situations where it’s warranted. I understand what the league is trying to do with it, but I think it’s biased a little too heavy. Cut back the penalties a bit, but call it strictly when warranted, and I think it would work out better for all.
The San Jose Sharks have been the best team in the NHL so far this year. Their 20-4 record (with one regulation tie point) gives them 41 points and first place in the NHL. However, all is not perfect in San Jose. Their number one goalie Evgeni Nabokov has yet to play particularly well. He is sporting a .896 saves percentage, which has a lot to be desired. His other numbers do not look so bad. He has a 2.57 GAA and a 13-2 record. This is a testament to how well the Sharks have played in front of him. Nevertheless, his goaltending will become an issue if he continues to play at that level. It is impossible to have prolonged success in the NHL without better goaltending.
No, it won’t. Unless, of course, they stop winning. Which is doubtful, the way they’re playing.
I have to say this: it’s rather silly to look at a goalie that’s 13-2 and a goals against of around 2.50 and say “hey, maybe we should play the other guy”. Are we that bored that we have to go create a goalie controversy? No offense, but I just don’t buy it. Sometimes we get too enamoured with stats — pick the one stat that looks bad so we can talk about it, but forget to put it in the larger context.
Here’s the larger context. Well, “Nabokov is 13-2 and the team has only had one game in the last five weeks where it didn’t get at least one point (and Boucher was in net for that loss)”. Nabokov’s last loss was October 24th. Since then, he’s merely 8-0, giving up 17 goals for a GAA of 2.12. His save percentage since coming back from the injury is 917.
To me, that ends any question on this, but let’s dig a bit deeper. One aspect of the Sharks playing style this year is they have a very aggressive defense and a very aggressive offensive style. That means that many fewer EASY shots make it to the net (the sharks have allowed < 20 shots for a game three times, and < 25 shots eleven times) -- but the aggressive play of the defenseman lends towards some turnovers and odd-man rushes. In other words, a goalie's goal's against is likely to suffer, because fewer shots happen, but a higher percentage of good scoring chances. That was especially true early in the season while the team was trying to figure out this new system and mistakes were being made. Lately? Not so.
But also look at it this way. If you take three games out of the stats:
Anaheim 4-0 Loss
Philly 5-4 OT Win
Philly 7-6 SO Win
then Nabby’s numbers change significantly. His save percentage for the other 12 games he’s played becomes .919, good enough for 14th in the league (he’s currently 34th counting all goalies with 1 or more games played) — 9th if you only count goalies with 10 or more games. His GAA would drop to 2.08, good enough for 6th in the league, 3rd if you only count goalies with 10 or more games played.
And those three games were all six weeks ago, at the tail end of a sequence where the team played six games in 10 days and included back to backs twice and three plane trips (LA, Anaheim and Philly). Oh — and the team won 2 of those three games, and it was arguably the worst play for both the team and Nabokov all year.
The solution is obvious. When Nabokov was injured, backup goaltender Brian Boucher played extremely well. Boucher has a .928 saves percentage and a 1.89 GAA. Since Boucher was the temporary number one goalie, his better numbers are not a function of playing against weaker competition.
San Jose would probably benefit by using a two goalie system right now. Boucher is the hot hand and has not played in a little over a week since Nabokov returned from injury. His last game was November 22nd vs. Washington.
If you watch the Sharks every game, it’d be clear that Boucher’s a good goalie, but Nabokov’s a great goalie. it really isn’t close. It isn’t even that Nabokov’s playing badly, or even so-so. Even looking into the stats a little bit ought to make it clear that Nabokov’s “bad stats” were a small abberation early in the season. And despite that, the team took four of the six points.
The solution’s obvious: we really shouldn’t be having this discussion. So why are we? Nabby is 13-2. Have we hit that point where people aren’t happy unless the team is beating everyone 5-0? Is a one game losing streak unacceptable?
San Jose has a very good team this year. They have put up a first place record despite mediocre goaltending from their starter Evgeni Nabokov. When Brian Boucher is playing well, it would make more sense to use a two goalie system in San Jose than to go back to Nabokov exclusively. If Nabokov continues his lackluster play, I expect San Jose will not continue their winning ways. They can be overtaken by other top teams.
Sorry, his play is far from mediocre. His numbers are far from mediocre, too; they’re pretty darn good. Unless you look for something to complain about, and take it out of context. Of the goalie stats, save percentage has to be the plus-minus of goalie stats; so much really depends on team play. Honestly, as long as he’s winning, and when you look at his goals against, that’s all you really need to see to know Nabby’s doing what they team is asking of him.
Case in point, we are talking about taking a family vacation to San Diego early next year (look out Kedrosky!) and decided that renting a minivan and driving down would be cheaper than flying and less hassle to boot. It’s a lot of time behind the wheel but no worse than trudging through an airport pissed off about having to pay $150 to check bags.
Whenever Laurie and I do our driving vacations — which we’ve done since before they made airports so damn painful — friends and co-workers have always wondered if we were insane. Now that airports have become so insane, people are starting to realize that plopping on a plane isn’t the only option, and in many cases, not the best.
We almost always drive vacations (and we never, ever fly to SoCal) for a few reasons: first, we tend to carry a lot of gear, including the computer stuff and cameras and etc. So under most circumstances, flying generates compromises we can avoid by driving. Second, driving is almost invariably cheaper. Third, in many cases, especially these days of three hour waits for connections and flight delays, TSA delays, baggage delays and rental car delays, it’s not significantly slower to drive. And finally, not only does it give us a chance to just sit and talk and be with each other, there’s a whole bunch of stuff between here and there worth seeing and looking at you won’t see at 30,000 feet. The journey CAN be the reward; hell, sometimes the destination is the excuse, not the reason.
When we did our Yellowstone trip this fall, I kept notes on costs and timing. Yellowstone is about the limit of what I’d consider reasonable for a “normal” vacation. Two days driving each way, with rational driving times each way. Silicon Valley is about 16 hours driving from Silicon valley; I prefer to keep each leg about 8-10 hours. That takes you through a lot of territory, though: from silicon valley, it’ll get you to Vancouver, Yellowstone, Salt Lake, Denver, Taos, and all points east. By limiting driving to 8-10 hours, you don’t have to play the “crack of dawn” patrol, you can stop and explore places of interest, eat without a drive-through window, and get into a hotel at a rational hour for a rational sleep. You’re not stressed or harried or exhausted when you get there.
(hint: it’s even MORE interesting to find spots along the way and make the entire journey part of the trip, but we wanted to maximize our time in the park, so we hustled out way each way; I did, however, flag four or five places as future photography locales… But for us, a typical trip to Victoria or Vancouver would involve a day or two in Portland and a couple of stops up and down the Oregon Coast, rather than putting all of our time into one place. Once you get into this “along the way” type of travel, lots of things open up, especially areas you’d have real issues getting to via an airport…)
Here’s a comparison of what it’d take to drive to Yellowstone, versus flying. In many ways, this is the extreme case: Yellowstone is about as far as I’d want to drive on a ten day trip (week off plus two weekends), so you’re spending the maximum amount of time in the car, which you’d think would benefit the airplane. Not necessarily.
For the driving, we left Saturday mid-morning, and arrived in Yellowstone around dinner time on Sunday, stopping overnight in Winnemucca, roughly half way. At the time, gas was headed down but we still paid an average right around $3.70 a gallon. The drive to Yellowstone is almost exactly 1,000 miles.
We drove 1,000 miles getting there, 1,000 miles around the park in the days there, and 1,000 miles coming back, spending a total of $400 for 107 gallons of gas. 2/3 of that gas was used in transit, so the fuel cost for travelling was around $250. Factor in car maintenance to be fair: $70 for the 3,000 mile lube, and some percentage of the 60,000 mile service and tire costs; practically speaking, that’s probably another $70, and I’m probably being generous (my last major service plus 2 new tires ran a grand. factor that cost into 30,000 miles, and you get about $70 for 2,000 miles).
So, the total cost of driving to and from Yellowstone is about $400.
Flying? I did some checks on flight costs at the same time we travelled. For Yellowstone, that’s either West Yellowstone or Bozeman. A typical flight to Bozeman at the same time would have cost you about $500 per person round trip and take 8 hours, flying through Denver or Salt Lake. I just checked, and today it’s about $400ish in December, but next June, we’re back at $450-$500 for a time when a rational person would take that trip. West Yellowstone is slower and more expensive, with only a couple of flights (totalling 90 seats) a day, and it’s seasonal. Then add in a rental car, which when I checked in September was averaging $130/week out of those cities.
So your travel costs end up running you at best about $1,000-$1,100. And if you fly to Yellowstone, you’ll arrive just in time for dinner Saturday — in Bozeman. It’s late enough you won’t actually get into the park until Sunday morning. Leaving? you either get the crack of dawn patrol for a flight out around 7AM, or a late flight out and get home at midnight on Sunday.
Net result? If you fly, you get a Sunday in the park coming in, and a Saturday in the park going out that you don’t get driving. And for the privilege, your cost goes from about $400 to $1,100, over 2X. I’m not counting hotel or food costs here because the same meals get eaten (only in different places) and hotel rooms get used — although most likely, the room on the road while driving will likely be cheaper (ours were about half the cost or more).
As to the hassle factor of driving? you can’t tell me that the joys of the TSA, of flight delays, of 3 hour connecting flight waits, of checking and retrieving luggage and renting cars — and airport food — is any great shakes. It’s all in the attitude; getting into the mindset that the trip is part of the journey and not just a way to the destination opens up many options. And, well, having time to unplug and just talk to the people you’re with? Or heading off a side road and exploring? (well, laurie calls it “getting lost again”, but I prefer to see it as adventuring into the unknown). Massive fun.
Flying options options; I wouldn’t want to drive to chicago or tampa, not unless it was part of a longer, extended trip. OTOH, a two day drive from where you live opens up many places — from silicon valley, pretty much everything west of and into the rockies.
And if you stop and think about it a bit, there is basically no way you can do an airport run from northern california to southern california faster than driving these days, not once you factor in the time getting to and from airports, TSA lines, renting cars, etc. etc. At best, it’s a wash. and driving’s much cheaper. I can’t see why anyone flies back and forth on that shuttle, honestly.
so for me, it’s car first. We’ve done flying trips to Vancouver and Victoria in the past (flying into Victoria directly, into Vancouver, and into Seattle and crossing the border), and you know what? Have fun in the plane (hah). I’ll just hop in the car. You may get there a bit sooner, but I’ll be relaxed and happy when I get there, and I’ll have all of my stuff. What did you decide not to bring to fit into the overhead and checkin restrictions, anyway?
What I don’t understand is why when airlines decided on what business model they were going to follow, they chose “greyhound bus” as what they wanted to be when they grew up….
Update: One of the commenters made an important comment:
It’s hard to argue with most of what you wrote, but flying does allow me to take do a trip like a 4-day weekend in Vancouver from time to time.
And that’s an important thing to keep in mind: the trade-off between time and money. If your time is short, then spending money to minimize travel time, but when you do, it’s knowing that you’re taking a more expensive option for speed. That’s fine; I certainly wouldn’t drive a 4-5 day trip to Vancouver.
Ditto a day trip to SoCal; if I had to go to SoCal and return same day for a meeting (first, I’d try NOT to, but that’s a different issue), then I might fly, because otherwise it’d be a really long day; in that case, sitting in a plane or airport might be preferable to driving. But if I could schedule it to drive down, take in the meeting, overnight, and drive back while stopping at, say, Morro Beach on a Saturday, well, sign me up…
So ultimately, NONE of this is absolute. And if your idea of a perfect vacation is to sit on a beach in Cancun drinking margaritas — that’s great, too. But heck, you could sit on a beach near San Diego and drink for a lot less, I bet, and have pretty darn good weather, too. Or Phoenix, for that matter.
When they announced the Winter Classic was going to Wrigley, I knew I had to give this a shot. Laurie grew up in the Chicago area, is a huge Cubs fan, played goalie (footnote 1) in the boys leagues there before there were girls leagues to play in, and was (and is) a huge Hawks fan. I thought it would be just perfect to get her to Chicago for the Winter Classic if I could swing it.
So I started exploring contacts, and thankfully, I found some folks (who shall remain nameless) who agreed, and we now have a ticket, and Laurie’s headed to Chicago for New Years! She promises to blog and post photos.
Nope, I’m not going. This one’s for her. If they ever do a winter classic in Southern Callifornia and the Kings, I’m right on it (with sunscreen) — and I figured two tickets would be asking for more favors than I felt comfortable asking (in reality, I could have gotten a 2nd ticket, but with the cats and birds and holidays and etc, the logistics are just much easier if I stay home and pet-sit) — fortunately, this is only going to cost me six months of washing cars and mowing lawns.
So we now have the plane ticket settled, and the hotel, and I’m jazzed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Laurie quite so — speechless — as when I told her, since I hadn’t said that I was scheming until I got confirmation it’d actually happened.
And to the nice people (the ones with the really large lawns!) — thanks from both of us. I can’t say just how much this has made us happy; Laurie because she gets to go, me because I was able to send her and work this out without her catching on…
Laurie’s first comment on hearing about this: I am going to freeze my butt off.
My response: and you’ll love ever minute of it.
And she will.
YEAH! I love it when a plan comes together.
(footnote 1: Laurie’s commentary on her growing up: all the girls I grew up with wanted to sleep with Tony Esposito. I wanted to be Tony Esposito — in all honesty, one of the best goalie scouts I’ve seen, I really nag her to start doing her scouting reports again. One of these days I need to tell the Ian Boyce story from our days working with the Spiders…)
In my new role as the Globe’s “communities editor” (you can find more details on that in this post), I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about comments — that is, reader comments on news stories, columns, blog posts, etc. The Globe and Mail was the first major newspaper in North America to allow comments on every news story when it launched the feature in 2005, and judging by the ever-increasing numbers of people who use them, they are hugely popular. On some major news stories, we can sometimes get as many as 500 comments.
Comments aren’t popular with everyone, however. Some readers (and even some Globe and Mail staffers, to be honest) complain that too often our comment threads are filled with what might charitably be called “noise” — everything from bad spelling and grammar all the way up to partisan political in-fighting, ad hominem attacks and all-around rude and boorish behaviour. Some say they don’t really care what most people think about a topic, and don’t see the value in having public comments on stories at all.
The big problem is that comments are currently unfiltered; ultimately it’s still part of the wild-wild-west of the internet, and so the people who get filtered out in other areas of the net still show up in comments. Ultimately, reputations seem to be taming the trolls and the flamers, but haven’t really migrated to comments yet. It’s a reason why I’ve been watching things like Disqus — but I keep wondering if distributed reputations for comments is really a positive. We’ll find out.
Think about a typical comment: a site may require some ID/registration, but in many cases, it’s faux-authentication, where you can more or less make it up as you go along. That kills accountability, so users can play whatever games they want without much worry about policing or future impact to their ability to comment; at best, a post gets deleted. Bans are, well, pretty trivial to circumvent if you’re motivated and don’t mouth-breathe.
So where this is all headed, and to some degree has to go, is reputation.
A while back I started a project (which I ended up abandoning unbuilt) that had a lot of the same feel as what Yelp now does. A big part of the design was how to create a reputation system that is:
- Primarily or completely automated (or it doesn’t scale)
- Limits users ability to “game” the ratings
- Doesn’t turn the reputation system into something to be gamed
- Actually helps someone decide whether or not to read (or trust) a piece of content
Easier said than done. A first approximation are the karma systems of places like Slashdot, but it fails for me on (2) and (3), and is really of limited utility for the key issue, which is (4). It’s more of a chainsaw to help a user hide the worst.
So back to the yelp-like example. You look up a restaurant. There are four reviews of the restaurant, two good, one so-so, one hate. there are a few comments on some of the reviews, mostly people disagreeing with various points.
How the hell is a reader supposed to figure out what this all means? That’s the crux of the comment problem; how to put a COMMENTER in context. First, there has to be a context — and that’s missing in commenting systems today. this kind of harps back to my belief that anonymity on the net is bad, but the net mixes up anonymity with pseudonymity – i.e., I don’t need to know who you are, but I sure need to know that you are you (but I digress; see, if you care, identity proxies, 2004, anonymity destroys transparency, 2007, A group is its own worst enemy, 2008, SezWho, 2007, (who seem to have disappeared behind Disqus), A history lesson from usenet, 2007. That’s a hell of a digression…)
The idea is the basis of reputation systems — that over time, the “real you” comes out, and other users can use that information to judge whether or not to value your contribution — or perhaps tell the system to not even show it to you.
In the Yelp-like system, here’s what I came up with as a first cut. If I’m a J Random User looking at those reviews, what information would be useful for the user to determine what reviews and comments are useful? Try this:
First review: five stars. Best Restaurant Ever. the submitter created his account 2 hours before posting the review, hasn’t posted any content since. Easy guess: it’s the owner, or his spouse, astroturfing. Even if it’s not, you ought to assume it is.
Second Review: 1.5 stars. hate the service. rant. rave. grump. Again, account created an hour before posting, never used since. Obviously someone with an axe to grind. or maybe the waitress broke up with him.
Third Review: 3.5 stars. good food, uneven service, dirty fork. yada. The poster’s been a member for seven months, posted 25 items, average rating 3.8.
Fourth Review: 4 stars. Great food, good service, owner came out and talked. Went back and enjoyed it. Member for 3 months, posted 5 items, average rating 2.8.
Suddenly, with just a few bits of information, things clear up significantly. Astroturfing issues become visible quickly if you simply make it easy to see how active a member is in the larger community — if they’re a hit-and-run commenter, you can bet there’s some ulterior motive (positive or negative). This actually creates a fairly complex web of interactions, it encourages users to contribute to the site to build a reputation, for instance, and that’s good for the community.
Once users have been on the site for a while, they’ll get rated by other users. In my system, I used the rating of the user doing the rating to weight how strongly to count a rating, something I haven’t seen sites try yet, but that is a way to discount the idiots and encourage the strong contributors in a quiet but important way — the less others think of what you say, the less power it’ll have to affect other users on the site. In theory, below a certain number we’d likely just throw your opinion on the trash. Quietly, of course.
Quiet is a big aspect of this; to me, the second you start publishing these “reputation” numbers, it becomes a game of trying to “win” the reputation game. So simply don’t go there. I planned on sticking to the more general five star rating as part of the user profile, but no comparative public stats. Instead, users would be honored with “senior member” type labels based on longevity, activity and rating. Make up half a dozen titles, and allow them to be earned over time as a way to reward your best members. Just make sure that how you determine “best member” actually causes them to contribute and improve the community”. Bad metrics kill.
the final piece, of course, is making this information easy for someone browsing the site to find and use; something like showing the posting account name and rating (chuqui: 1.7 stars), and popping up more detailed info if they mouse over it (3 postings, member for 8 months, this was their 2nd posting and they were a member for a month at the time, last activity a month ago….); for users who want them, you could create slashdot-like filters that would automatically exclude, say, material posted by people with ratings < some number, or with fewer than N postings, or whatever.
The system is still open to gaming — but it’s a lot harder to hide from it, I think. Never got around to implementing it, but maybe one of these days. I’m still mulling bringing it back to life, but not i the original form.
Similar things could be done on a news site, or pretty much any community site. It’s a combination of
- making people create an identity
- tracking that identity’s actions
- allowing other identities to rank those actions
- allowing access to those rankings in rational ways
The combination of an identity, ranking/tracking and weighting things to discourage the one-post wonders can really put a dent into the sock puppets and trolls. sock puppets get marginalized by not building a track record to base a reputation on, trolls get marginalized because, well, as soon as you start building a reputation on a troll, it becomes self-evident. And if all of this encourages more contributions to a site and more community activity as a way to build that reputation, so that people will want to hear what you say, how is that bad for the community?
And done right, it’d be 99% self-policing and automated. I think.
This view isn’t confined to Globe readers, by any means: in a column in the National Post, author George Jonas said that the Web is like “an elegant restaurant with garbage on the menu,” and that “a huge blackboard on which anyone can write anything doesn’t mean much for those with nothing to say, i.e., most people.” Similar feelings have been expressed by various writers about comments on blogs, and some prominent Web writers have turned theirs off completely. Even the director of BBC News said in a recent speech that while she values comments, they are the work of a “vocal minority” and therefore shouldn’t carry too much weight.
It’s not an elegant restaurant with garbage on the menu; it’s a large, vibrant city where you aren’t even noticing that you’ve self-selected into that elegant restaurant. but otherwise, they’re all right. And the way to fix that?
Build accountability into the system. How do you do that? well, what’s worked so far online are reputation systems. Simply requiring a name and email isn’t going to be enough. And yet, that’s basically what we do today in comments. We focus on identifying someone, but forget that it doesn’t matter if we know WHO you are — it matters that we know whether you are worth reading. A simple identify doesn’t do that. A reputation does.
So the future for “fixing” comments has to be a reputation system of some sort. It’s not (just) about better identification systems, or about giving up. This is an area we’ve just started to explore and innovate.