Nabby! Nabby! — Teal Sunglasses, February 12, 2015

Teal Sunglasses is an occasional collection of things and opinions about hockey, the San Jose Sharks and sports in general. Stay tuned for fascinating opinions and pithy commentary. Also keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more interesting stuff.

Nabby Retires

As I write this it’s a couple of hours after Evgeni Nabokov officially ended his 14 year career. Much of that was spent as a Shark, which was the team that drafted him — and in many ways, Nabby (as he was fondly known) defined an era of Sharks hockey.

The history of the Sharks can to some degree be defined around two goaltenders — in the early years, it was Arturs “Like Wall” Irbe who stepped between the pipes and stabilized goaltending for an honestly not very good team for almost 200 games, the team’s first playoffs and a lot of memorable firsts. Irbe is still second on the Sharks in total games played in goal, although Antti Niemi is on pace to pass him later this season.

After Irbe, the Sharks spent a lot of time finding their next “real” goalie, with Mike Vernon and his 111 games over two season coming closest to being fan favorite. Steve Shields (125 games total) played more games during that period but I never felt that the fans ever fell in love with him and he was just inconsistent enough that you couldn’t quite trust that he’d be there in the clutch. In retrospect, I think we as fans didn’t give him as much credit as he deserved.

But the team and the fans were clearly looking for a goalie to fall in love with and along came Evgeni “on second thought, don’t call me John” Nabokov. Drafted sight unseen by the Sharks who were given his name by a contact, his is the kind of storybook backstory that seems made up. Not speaking English he came to North America, struggled, and then started to put it together, married a girl he met while playing for the Sharks minor league team, and finally was brought up to the Sharks.

563 games later Nabby owned just about every Sharks goaltending record — and Sharks fans loved him. A big part of that is that in some ways he’s very much like Arturs Irbe was: He’s an acrobatic goalie and a scrambler, his attitude on the ice was that he would find a way to make a save or win a game, and you could tell he hated giving up goals and losing — and he did it with a smile, a smirk and a wink.

If you ask most Sharks fans to name goalies who played for the team, they’ll all name Nabokov, and probably name Irbe. You’ll probably get Ed Belfour (and then a laugh, probably a hollow one), and because of their high visibility in hockey broadcasting, Kelly Hrudey and Brian Hayward. Most of the others are lost to history and mostly rightly so except to the old farts like me who worry about such things (Jeff Hackett deserves much credit for holding things together as well as he did during those early ugly years, too).

But Sharks hockey can broadly be defined by two eras — the early Arturs Irbe era where he backstopped a team of mostly scrapheap recoveries and helped turn them into a legitimate playoff contending team; and then the era in which Nabokov stepped in and helped make this team a realiably elite team that was going deep into the playoffs and considered a contender through much of his time in teal.

The one thing Nabokov never did was win the Stanley Cup. That ultimately led to the Sharks moving on to Niemi, and to be honest, Laurie and I have argued a lot about whether that made the Sharks better or not. I think that first season, maybe two, it did — a little, but clearly it still wasn’t enough to get over the hump to win that last hockey game. In retrospect, the Sharks probably would have been better off sticking with Nabokov and looking at other places in the roster for improvement (the flip argument, that this weakened the Hawks, is provably false by counting the number of Cup Rings owned by each team in the last few years).

One sad thing is that this era will never ben known as the Nabokov era because it’s also the time the Sharks had Joe Thornton, and Thornton is a definite Hall of Famer once he retires.

Nabokov was always clearly a student of the game. In the press conference he noted he hadn’t considered the next phase and possibly getting into coaching, but I hope at some point he does, and I hope the Sharks give him that opportunity if he wants it. He’s the kind of person that should continue in the game and instill their knowledge and values on the younger players.

The one thing Nabokov didn’t do? Win a Cup. With his numbers, that missing piece will keep him out of the Hall of Fame discussion, I think.  He did everything he possibly could to make that happen, though.

Laurie and I sat three rows off the glass on the goal line the Sharks patrol twice for 18 seasons in the Shark Tank, and for one year in the Cow Palace (year one we were up in the bowl), so we’ve seen a lot of Shark goaltending up close and personal. There’s a reason Irbe and Nabokov are so well-remembered, and I think the Sharks did a great and appropriate thing honoring Nabokov this week by bringing him home to retire. Watching the press conference today, I saw what showed up in San Jose as a young, enthusiastic, driven kid has turned into a mature man with a lot more perspective on himself and what he’s accomplished in this phase of his life.

I’m thrilled to see the Sharks recognize him for what he did for the franchise and the fans — and as a fan who spent many nights watching him ply his trade, I wanted to recognize him as well and thank him for making those seats in 127 a place we looked forward to being. Also, we’ll be publishing some of Laurie’s favorite images of Nabby from her collection soon.

San Jose Will Appeal MLB Antitrust Case to Supreme Court

San Jose Will Appeal MLB Antitrust Case to Supreme Court

Shifting to baseball for a bit, I’ve been following the ongoing legal maneuvers around the proposed Downtown San Jose stadium for the A’s for the last few years. The position of Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB was clearly “you and the Giants work out a deal and until then, I’m sitting on this”, but the problem is that if you factor in the cost of paying the Giants for the territorial rights to the total cost of the stadium (my estimate: $100 million when you look at, say, the money that moved around to get the Nationals back into D.C.) I can’t see a way to make the stadium deal make financial sense.

So we have a stalemate. The Giants have no incentive to give the A’s a bargain here. Wolff and San Jose really want the rights transfer to be free, or at a bargain price. The Commissioner clearly understands that setting a precedent that allows the league to arbitrarily reduce or throw out the value of those territorial rights would not go well with the owners any team not housed in Oakland, so they buried the request in a committee (not blaming Selig: that’s what I’d do here).

And there’s very little recourse to break this stalemate or recourse through the courts for either Wolff or San Jose — until the lawsuit hits the Supreme Court, and after wandering through the various levels for years, that’s what it’s finally doing, so it’s time to start taking this lawsuit a bit more seriously.

Why? Baseball’s anti-trust clause (some nice background on this here). It was set up by a supreme court ruling in 1922 that effectively decided that what major league baseball did wasn’t subject to the Sherman anti-trust act because it wasn’t conducting interstate commerce. The rationalization for this is rather bizarre, and most legal scholars can’t believe it’d hold up to scrutiny by a modern court — and that’s where Major League Baseball runs into a risk that might get its attention.

If this appeal is taken up by the Supreme Court (and that’s still fa fairly big IF; it’s far from a given they will) and if the case goes to the court and is argued, there’s a good chance the court will be asked to throw out this anti-trust exemption. If that happens (and baseball is the only pro sport with this exemption, and it’s widely believed the court would rule that way) lots of things go seriously bad for major league baseball very fast.

So the only way the City of San Jose has ever had to make this deal happen has been to get this case before the Supreme Court and then see if MLB would cut a deal to avoid it being heard. All of the wrangling that’s gone on to date has been grinding the processes to get to this point. Will the court bite? I dunno. Politically, I can see them wanting to duck the issue, but the exemption is also unpopular with many groups, so I could also see them be willing to take it on.

If the Supreme Court doesn’t, them IMHO any chance to get the A’s to San Jose is dead. If they do, it’ll be interesting to see if MLB takes action to get the situation settled — that might not be granting the rights transfer, there are other options that might have, including buying the team off Wolff to move or fold it. It’d be interesting whether at this point after years of losses and frustration at trying to get a new building whether Wolff would cut his losses and sell out.

I still think the chances San Jose ever gets the ability to build a stadium for the A’s is only about 10% — but it’s higher now than it has been since the process has started. And now the real fight, or the backroom deal to avoid it, is gearing up to begin. Time to start watching the show and pop some popcorn.

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Posted in Hockey and Other Sports

Working Notes — starting on Phase II

Phase II of this project begins. You can poke at the work in progress at dev.chuqui.com.

2015-02-08_11-26-26

What’s happened to get to this point:

  • Built up a server on the VPS and installed WordPress.
  • Installed my normal set of plug-ins (which I need to document)
  • Load in my wordpress theme (Simple Press by Elegant Themes)
  • set up back ups (you DO this, right?)
  • Export all of my content from my this production site and import it into the dev site.
  • Spend four hours wondering what the @#$@##@ the import broke.
  • Delete the wordpress database and build a new one.
  • Re-install WordPress and wire up everything on the backend again.
  • Export the content form this production site in little bits and import it a piece at a time.
  • Wonder why that worked when doing the same data in one big gulp failed. Get a beer instead.
  • Start working with the theme and your data. Decide it’s not working for you.
  • Go off exploring for new themes.
  • Decide on Chameleon by Elegant Themes instead. Install it. (This is, by the way, one of the advantages of working with a site like Elegant Themes instead of Envato; instead of paying per theme, you’re paying for access to their entire portfolio for  a period of time, which lets you explore, and not only do so by looking at demos, but by pulling them down and trying them against your own data. Sometimes, what looks right on a demo site doesn’t match your own content as well…)

Basically, that’s what you see on the site as it looks right now and in the screen shot above: a generic install of the theme against my content. I added some temporary featured images to the posts that are showing up in the front page slider so it renders properly, and I’ve played with the fonts and background color a bit, just to get a sense of things.

This took me three evenings, on and off.

Because this site is replacing a production site and not being released as a new one, I have to plan for how I’m going to do that replacement. You can do that a couple of ways. One way is to build out all of the changes and track what needs to be migrated out to the production site. The other is to spawn off a new site, move all of the content there, get everything cleaned up, and then move the DNS around to point to it. That’s (in general) my preferred tactic because I can migrate all of the content I need to the new site, and anything not migrated disappears into the bit bucket when I delete the old server; that only matters if you are someone who tries to keep things clean and tidy — which I do, because it’s less to sift through when something goes sideways… I still need to make sure I migrate any new content over to the dev site along the way, and when I do the shift, it’ll reinitialize everyone’s RSS feeds, but I find it a lower risk way to handle this than copying back, because it’s easy to miss a piece in your migration list. If this was a bigger site (like a Drupal site) I’d probably migrate the upgrade back to the main server, and if it was a huge site, it’d probably come back to this style of upgrade because of sheer logistics — and in the days of virtual renta-datacenter, it’s a lot easier to do that.

Next Steps

There are three parallel tasks that need to be done now:

Style and Customization: make it look pretty. More importantly, make it look mine. A good wordpress theme can save you a huge amount of time (and I’m quite impressed with the Elegant Theme portfolio overall) but if you simply stick a logo on a theme, it’ll look like a generic theme with your logo on it. Some tweaking can make a huge difference.

Cleaning up the content: A quick look at the content shows that some of the styling I did on the current site doesn’t work well on the new one; I’m going to have to go in and edit things to clean that up. I also am going to need to review all the content and retire (a nicer word than delete) things I no longer think ought to be on the site.

Load the images — this will be my replacement for my flickr site. There are only about 3,000 images to load. How hard could that be?

The first one will be the most fun and take the least time. The second one will be an incredible slog through the mud, and probably be the last to finish. The important thing there is to NOT CUT CORNERS or convince myself the stuff that isn’t done I can do after the site ships, because in the long tradition of web sites, things you leave to patch up after shipping are things you find need fixing when you go off to build the next generation in a few years.

A few things I know I need to deal with:

  • If I want to feature a blog post I’m going to have to attach a featured image. For now, I’ve just added a few of my images. I’m not sure if I’m going to try to customize images for every posting (unlikely), or build a library of image sized for the slider, or come up with image that act as topic definitions that I can add in to flag what type of posting this is. Maybe some mix of all three. Something to figure out, though. Looking at the existing images, I definitely have to crop for that format to make sure they display well.
  • In doing the planning to split out the FYC site, which I rolled back into this site again, I came to the realization that doing that well ought to be at least a half-time job, and that’s not where I want to spend my time. So one task I need to do on this revamp is to take all of that custom work I built last year, and destroy it, and shift that content back into the mainstream of the blog. The customization aspect has no traction and won’t unless I turn it into my equivalent of the Wirecutter, and that’s a big enough project that it’d impact the other things I want to do, like take pictures. Interesting idea, but not something I’m willing to invest in that far.
  • The theme doesn’t display tags on postings, and my new setup is to use very few categories and get serious about tagging stuff well, so I need to tweak the theme to support that. Also add tags to pages (which the photography site needs, too. It’s a plug-in). oh, and all existing content needs to be looked at and tagged. (whee!). And I probably ought to write an entire piece on why I’m doing this…
  • That said, those experiments were useful, because it showed me the way to building out the affiliate advertising that I now use on the site, and built the revenue from that from, um, zero, to something close to $100 a month, just by presenting it well. that I can leverage without building out my own reference site, so that’s the plan moving forward.
  • That said, I have no idea what that means yet. I’ll have to figure it out.
  • Still some content to pull over — the longer bits haven’t migrated yet, just the blog posts.

And so I have my marching orders..

 

 

 

 

Posted in Redesign 2015: Upgrading chuqui.com in public

Working notes… My first “Wait a minute…” moment.

I ran into my first “Wait a minute… ” moment with the new photography site — that moment where things aren’t working the way you planned or expected. In this case, however, the tools are working the way they were designed (not a bug) but not the way I had thought they would.

NextGen Gallery allows me to publish a gallery of photos, and to add photos to it later. Both are really good and convenient. For my Refuge Run postings I’ve been doing, I created a single gallery of images, and I’ve been adding to it as I do my edits and publishing of images.

The postings I’ve been doing showing a few images have been by publishing that gallery and using the “Exclude images” function to only display a few images. That works fine — until you add more images. The way NextGen works, if I haven’t explicitly excluded an image, it’s displayed, but I can’t exclude an image that is added after I’ve published that gallery.

Now that I know this, I can manage things the way I want. It was a bit of surprise to see five images in a posting I hadn’t put there, until I realized they were all added after publication.

My wish: That NextGen gallery either define “exclude” so that images added after publication are automatically excluded, or (my preference) to add an “include” option, which is the inverse of exclude, which is to let me select the images I want to show, and not show ANY unless I include them. That’d probably be easiest to implement, and make this kind of sub-set posting easy and reliable, and no break any existing uses of the gallery tool…

(it’s actually rather amazing I’ve gotten this far and this is my first “wait a minute…” moment… I’m rather impressed overall).

 

 

Posted in Redesign 2015: Upgrading chuqui.com in public

Working notes — shipping photography.chuqui.com

It’s been three weeks since my last set of working notes, and I announced that photography.chuqui.com has gone live a couple of days ago. If that seems like it happened a lot sooner than I implied it would, you’d be right.

As it turned out, the content migration and editing went a lot faster than expected. I identified about 80 blog posts that belonged on the new site and about 8-10 longer articles. When I reviewed the blog posts, I decided about 35 of them weren’t worth migrating and deleted them. The rest got exported out of the old site, imported into the new one, and edited.

Editing is a long, slow slog in mud. Any images hosted on the old site needed to be pulled up, copied over and the links changed. Links and references needed to be checked. About half needed some kind of editing and most needed at least some updating, and a couple needed significant reformatting. But once I got a feel for what needed to be done on each, that went surprisingly quickly.

Two of the longer articles could use some updating, but I decided to flag those and not slow down the migration. Nothing there that was badly out of date, but a few things I want to improve.

Overall, that was about 10 hours of work, much less than I feared. Along the way I added tags to each piece because I’ve decided to shift from using categories to using tags to define the content; I believe that’s a more flexible way to do this now.

After that, it was finishing up the details — writing the about page, finishing the footer, setting up the interface to mailchimp for the email subscriptions.

Overall? 40-50 hours of work. About $300 to purchase themes and plug-ins. Much of the site leverages my existing hosting infrastructure.

And now it’s live.

On to Phase II

So, on to Phase II. That’s replacing this site with an updated on. For various technical reasons that’s going to be complicated, and I’m starting to work through the logistics. There are a couple of approaches, both with advantages and disadvantages. One would be to build out the site on a new server and then swap the DNS to point to it; the other would be to do the design and integration on a new server, but then migrate that work back onto the existing server. I’m not sure which one makes more sense yet, so I need to figure out that plan before I get too far into other work.

I’ve got a server up to do some tests on, but I’ll likely install a fresh one once I decide on the approach. Until that point, it makes no sense to publish a URL, but like the first site, I’ll do this one in public.

I’m definitely going with a new theme and not rebuilding around Photocrati, because I just think that no matter how I tried, using Photocrati would make this site look photo-centric, which is what that theme is supposed to do (duh) and not what this site is about. And that means there’s a good chance this site’s gonna look like crap for a couple of weeks mid-update, depending on how I do this…

And after that?

Phase III will be rebuilding and relaunching the Before and After series, and starting it up as a podcast. I’ve got this pretty well mapped out, and I may work on it in parallel with Phase II to some degree, but for now, it’s still in the future.

 Timelines?

So, how long is this going to take? Depends on a number of factors, like my real job, but I’m going to shoot for mid-March for the redo of this site, and end of April for the launch of the podcasts. plus or minus a month. We’ll see.

 

Posted in Redesign 2015: Upgrading chuqui.com in public

Three Dot Lounge for February 4, 2015

Three dot lounge is a recurring collection of things that deserve more than a retweet. Stay tuned for fascinating opinions and pithy commentary. Also keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more interesting stuff.

BLOGGING’S BRIGHT FUTURE<

BLOGGING’S BRIGHT FUTURE

Andrew Sullivan is retiring from blogging, and so the net is having the very expected round of “blogging is dead” posts, as well as the rebuttal “don’t want to go on the cart!” posts.

Blogging is just as dead as email it: it’s something that occasionally makes for a pageview-generating article but has little substance or fact behind it. Ben Thompson nicely tears apart the idea and shows why all of these “.. is dead” pieces are generally wrong. As are “Apple killer”, “Killer app” and “I buried Paul” articles.

My view on this is that not only is blogging not dead, but Andrew Sullivan proved a financial model and made it work quite nicely. If he failed at anything — and that’s a big if — it was a lack of understanding of the grind of doing a writing endeavour on a daily basis as his setup required.

That’s a tough deal. While blogs work great as single-author publications when they’re small and informal, when you try to build them out and set formal deliverables, you need to be aware of just how much work you’re setting yourself up for, and organize the publication structure to make that manageable.

I never would have considered doing what Sullivan did solo. That he did it for so long says a lot and I don’t think he’s getting much credit for that. Publications — and authors — also go stale over time, and need to take a break, or reinvent themselves and take on new challenges. Sullivan could have done either, but I think at the core he felt he’d said what he wanted to say (for now), and it was a good time to find a reason to gracefully wind it down.

If I were to try to build something like Sullivan did (god help me), I wouldn’t have done it solo; two, maybe three similarly-viewed but not identical people sharing the load makes it a lot easier on everyone and makes it possible to cover for vacations, illnesses, childbirths, and that occasional day where everything that comes out of the keyboard is unmitigated drivel and crap.

Sullivan’s did something that many of us look up to as a goal and an model, and for that, I had to say “thanks”. Here’s hoping his retirement is invigorating, and shorter than he currently expects it to be…

Marco Arment on not answering email

Marco Arment on not answering email

Marco is not a platform — I listened to Marco talk about not answering support emails on ATP 102, and he gave a great explanation why answering those emails individually is a lousy use of his time. He’s absolutely right, and if you’ve ever wondered about the realities of being a small operation where lots of people want small amounts of your time, this is a good podcast to try.

That said, as I listened to it, as someone who’s designed support systems in the past, I think there are some things he can do to better set expectations for his users — without falling down the rabbit hole of infinite email syndrome.

He noted that he tries to set expectations in the app about contacting him in the first place, and he does, but the problem is that most of the users contacting him are already motivated to send him an email and my expectation is they gloss right over all of that and get right to the email. They aren’t really reading that stuff, or they wouldn’t email him. So my suggestion would be to put an auto-responder on the email that reinforces what the app is saying. That does two things: (1) it reinforces that expectation that the email will be read but not responded, but also (2) it sends confirmation that the email was actually received. Black holes create stress because you aren’t sure, and email itself is just unreliable enough that you can’t assume it was received but not responded to. An auto-responder closes that loop, and they might not LIKE the expectation being set, but it will help set it and get closure. Leaving the email unresponded in any way leaves the sender with the nagging “did he get it? will I ever get an answer?” and that’s a little bit of stress neither side needs. An auto-responder gives that closure.

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(Looking for the photography content? It’s now over on my Photography site.)

Posted in Three Dot Lounge