Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Monthly Archives: October 2011
It’s opening night for the Sharks. I haven’t talked much about hockey leading up to the start of the season, mostly because I’ve had other priorities. Didn’t get to camp, watched some pre-season, but I won’t pretend to have studied the league or am remotely qualified to play pundit right now.
So, surprisingly, I won’t for the most part.
The big question if you’re a sharks fan is whether or not the Sharks are better this season, because last season wasn’t quite good enough. I think so, but the difference between where they were and where they need to go is more attitude and experience and chemistry (as well as luck and whether they stay healthy) that it is about “better players” — and so it’s really hard to judge until we see how the season plays out. In any event, this isn’t a question that’ll be answered in October or December, but in March and April.
But I like the moves Wilson has made. More importantly, I like the fact that he wasn’t afraid to make moves, wasn’t tentative, and didn’t make minor tweaks and hope for major improvements. I really like the Burns acquisition, not just because I really like Burns, but because it’ll help keep Boyle from wearing out.
I think the west is shaping up to be a three and a half team race: I will stand up and say the Sharks should win the west and the sharks should go to the stanley cup final. I think Vancouver will fight them hard for this; I always think Detroit will have to be reckoned with, and the LA Kings worry me. There are another five or six teams a step behind that make the west very competitive, and any one of them can get on a streak and knock off the favorite. It’s going to be lots of good hockey.
In the east, I don’t know the teams as well, but what I’ve seen of Pittsburgh impresses me. Boston is going to have to fight through the Cup Hangover problem, and I’m not sure they can repeat. The Rangers may well be turning into a good team, finally. And Washington has scary talent but hasn’t shown my much yet. I think Philly picking up Bryzgalov solves their big problem, at least this year, and they’ll make some noise. But I’ll pick the Penguins coming out of the east, and it’ll either be Pittsburgh or Philly winning the eastern conference.
A few other non-game notes on hockey this year.
I’m loving what I’m seeing out of Shanahan and the changes in rules and rule enforcement so far. I was a big proponent of “first, double the length of all suspensions” to get the attention of the players. He hasn’t done that, but the new suspensions are a good step in that direction. I see that this new direction has already pissed off Mickey Redmond and Don Cherry, and to me, that means the league is definitely doing the right thing; will it have the willpower to keep at it? I think it has, and I think this means we finally have a generational shift in power among the hockey governors that understand that Don Cherry hockey is not going to drive this sport into the future. Let’s hope the luddites don’t drag it back again.
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Oh, a quick open letter to a man I respect greatly for what he does, when he doesn’t piss me off for what he is:
Dear Don: Please. Retire. It’s time. you’re embarrassing yourself. More importantly, you’re now embarrassing the game and the players you pretend to respect. So let them ride you off into the sunset in glory instead of disgrace, because if you don’t, you’re going to end up saying something that will taint your legacy forever, and I don’t want to see that.
But you won’t, so the circus on hockey night in canada will continue until you finally say the one thing you shouldn’t, and you leave on someone else’s terms with ridicule. Which is a shame.
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With the opening of the season, a few reading suggestions
- Kukla’s Corner is the best place to get a wide view of hockey and the league, with writers on each team and on many subjects around the sport. It’s a great place to get a broad survey of what’s going on without having to track down 93 different news feeds. It’s also where Laurie is writing on goalies this season.
- If you are a Sharks fan, you should be reading Working the Corners, the blog of beat writer David Pollak (and his trusted sidekick backup writer Mark Emmons). David knows and loves the game, knows the Sharks, and has created a nice dialog with the fans here on his blog and gets beyond the 300 words a night summaries we used to live with back in the “old days” of traditional newspapering.
- Tom Benjamin has been writing about hockey online longer than Laurie and I have, which says something. He knows the game very well and reading his blog will make you think about the game and teach you about it. It matters not one bit that I disagree with him on many of his opinions, his views are still something you ought to be paying attention to and then making up your own mind about. It looks like he’s starting the season in good form as he takes apart Cherry’s fighting rant better than I could. Read him, he will teach you.
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A couple of words on the off-season. The hockey world lost some people in tragic ways with Derek Boogard and Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, and before that Tom Cavanagh’s suicide. It’s brought to the surface some issues that have been around for a while but can now no longer ignored or swept back under the carpet the way Don Cherry tried to with his bullshit. The information about the analysis of former player Rick Martin’s brain, which showed clear signs of CTE makes it clear this is not a new problem for the league (and is not a problem specific to hockey, either, since football and boxing also have this issue to deal with, and when baseball takes a close look at catchers, I’ll bet you’ll find some of them, will suffer from it as well).
In the Don Cherry world, hockey players are gladiators and fight the glorious fight for our entertainment — and when they can’t, they go offstage and get replaced by a new gladiator.
In my world, I have real problems enjoying a sport that leaves those entertaining me this damaged; it’s tough enough to see what ex-players deal with in terms or orthopedic challenges later in life, but now we’re talking about damage to the brain; permanent damage that affects their lives and how they interact with life.
I first wrote about concussion issues in the NHL back in 2003 and I’ve talked about it a number of times since. It’s a bit sad that it’s taken the league eight years to get this serious about dealing with head injuries, but I also understand that the medical science of understanding all of this is just catching up to the problem as well.
And it looks like the league really is taking this seriously, and I hope they find some solutions. The changes I see this year are a good start. It’s going to take the players some time to retrain themselves, so I hope the league keeps it up and doesn’t back off under the inevitable whining of the Cherry Cabal.
I struggled during the off-season with the idea of being entertained by people who will end up like Derek Boogard and Wade Belak; whether it was Jay More or Paul Kariya or Sydney Crosby or Nick Kypreos, watching these players struggle simply to have a life while fighting to recover from serious concussions made me wonder whether I wanted to continue as a fan of the sport. I now think the league is on the right track — I won’t pretend we have all of the answers, but we seem to have started, and are helping the players learn and understand. I watched an interview with Matt Cooke on the TV last night, and Cooke has been the poster child of “what we don’t want in the league” for years — and he honestly sounded like he understands and gets that it’s time to change his game. time will tell, but if it got through to him, I think the league will sort this all out.
This isn’t something simplistic “fix it now” solutions is going to solve. It doesn’t help to “fix” the game by screwing it up. Those people are just as wrong as the “leave it alone” crew. I feel like the league now has the right people and the commitment to figure it out, and I think the tragedies of the last year has the players attention. It’s sad that we needed to lose some good people to get this kind of focus on the problem, but in reality, that’s human nature. I do hope the league keeps pushing on this and figures out how to keep the game what it is — while making it as safe as possible for the people who entertain us by playing it.
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One final note; as I’ve mentioned a few times, Laurie and I gave up our season tickets after 20 years; a combination of wanting to back off and go to fewer games and not wanting the hassle of syndicating them. We’ve talked a few times about it to make sure we had no regrets, and we don’t. Going to the arena 35-37 times a year was turning into an obligation, not an entertainment. Tonight we’ll be sitting on the couch watching — the last opening night we missed was season 1, because we didn’t convert to full season until year 2.
A lot of hockey — we’re well over 700 games attended in the last 20 years, when you count in road trips and our jaunts through the WHL and BCJHL and the year with the Spiders where we did 30 Sharks games and 35 Spiders games in one season (THAT was a lot of hockey).
It’s definitely nice that the season is firing up. I’m ready for some hockey. But I also find it nice that I’ll be watching it from the couch and not worrying about the drive and parking and turning 3 hours of hockey into six hours of expedition. We’re talking over what games we want to see this year. Still not decided, but we probably won’t actually get to the arena until January. Or maybe sooner — we’ll see how it goes. But definitely, just because we’re not butts in seats 35 nights a year doesn’t mean we’re not as interested as we were. it’s still the sport that we loveâ€¦
So, shall we drop the puck already?
Since I’ve written about Apple for the Guardian in the past, they reached out and asked if I would again.
It’s now live on their site, and I wanted to point you at it and include a copy of what I wrote here:
Words don’t fail me often. they do now. Here’s what I wrote back in August. Rest in Peace.
Iâ€™ve been buying and reading a number of self published books of late, primarily because of the price point of $.99. Â I find that the $.99 price point overcomes a lot of reservations I might have about a book. Â One thing I did notice, as I was going through my purchases, is that I donâ€™t have a lot of repetitive authors Iâ€™ve purchased at $.99.
I wondered what other readers were doing and what kind of stickiness these self published authors were having for readers. Â The $.99 price point is a â€œtry meâ€ price point and because none of the $.99 self published books Iâ€™ve read, except from established writers, have encouraged me to go back and buy more of their books. Â I find myself more curious about other books at $.99.
Over in my “other life”, I find myself talking to developers about pricing on a regular basis. Â Apps on a device and ebooks share a lot of common aspects, and one of them is that pricing is still very much a black art being guessed at by people more skilled at the craft of creating the product than marketing it. I said about this time last year that app developers and authors have a lot in common and can learn from each other, if only we could figure out how to make the right connections. I still think so, and I’m still looking for those connections. As I’ve been exploring getting back into writing and what it means to self-publish my writing, I really see those similarities with what the app developers I support are going through.
I still have more questions than answers, though.
But one thing I continue to be convinced of is that the $.99 price point is poison. Here are some of the reasons why:
Right off the bat, you remove any opportunity to use pricing for promotion. Since you can’t go below $.99 without going free (if your platform lets you do that at all), you can’t do any kind of reduced price promotion. Even if you price at $1.99, you leave yourself an option do to a temporary price cut and use that in some marketing. If you start priced at the bottom, you lose any opportunity for pricing flexibility or “half price, this weekend only!” promotions.
I think the $.99 price point sets an initial expectation that the value proposition of your product is that it’s cheap. It’s very hard to convince customers to value something you don’t value. Again, even a small price bump to $1.99 is an indication you think it is worth something more than the generic stuff being schlepped out of the bargain bin.
One of the long term promotional keys here is cross promotion; your new works promote your older works and drive fresh sales of your backlist. I’m a believer that the backlist should be priced at some discount to your current work. Look at the video game console market. Hot apps come out at $50, five months later are re-released at $20. It gives you a chance to remarket at the new price point and create new promotions, and attract a new audience with fresh marketing. It also helps differentiate the new work from the older. You can’t do any of this if you start pricing at the discount price.
So my recommendation is to always avoid bottom fishing. Give yourself some flexibility on pricing. It’s effectively impossible to raise prices, so if you start at the lowest possible price, you’ve killed any flexibility. You give birth to it in the bargain bin, you’ll die in it.
That MAY be an effective technique in some cases; if you are, for instance, writing “generic” genre fiction in a field like romance where you’re trying for the “just looking for the next story” crowd, that may be the only way to get noticed. In that case, though, I’d wonder if you could ever create a name recognition or brand that would make any of that audience look for your next book, unless it happens to be the next book when they happen to be looking for something. It might be worth experimenting with a bargain bin piece to see if you can cross promote them onto a more expensive work, but my gut says that’s unlikely.
But I’m not sure I want to play in that mosh pit. If you look at what happened to the photo stock industry when microstock hit it, it seems to me that playing that game is living on the razor edge of the margin waiting for someone to change the game out from under you. Not how I’d want to build my career (and one reason why I’m not interested in the Â microstock market for photos, either).
I have trouble believing that the $.99 price point ever lends itself to being the place where you maximize revenue; unit sales, maybe, but not revenue. and unit sales doesn’t pay the rent.
So that’s what I tell my developers. Start at a higher price point, and work on the marketing to help customers understand the value. it gives you pricing flexibility for promotion, and it gives a perception that you see value in your work. If the primary reason someone buys your work is because it’s cheap, I find it hard to believe you’ll ever find an audience that values your work enough to turn into a repeating customer, or that you’ll ever build enough of a backlist sale to make a revenue stream that’s viable to support your time investment in creating your works.