Pygmy Reviews #45 – iOS Apps

Speedtest (Free)

One Line Description: Test the speed of a cellular or Wi-Fi internet connection.

Nothing too special here. The companion app to the Speedtest website, it doesn’t offer much beyond testing the speed of an internet connection. It can use over Wi-Fi or cellular and provides the pin, download and upload speed based on a single test. Different servers can be selected and tested against, or it can just select a server automatically. There is an option to switch between displaying data in Mbps or Kbps, but that is about the only option besides server location. It is ad-supported, but they can be removed for a fee. It’s unclear how much data this app consumes per test, but it appears that it is probably around 15 MB or so. This app does what it’s supposed to and can be a nice diagnostic tool for slow connections.

CanIStream.It (Free)

One Line Description: An app to quickly check across multiple services to see if a movie/TV show is available for streaming.

CanIStream.It is a useful website for checking the availability of a movie or a TV show across different streaming services. It will also show whether or not it’s available for purchase from a few places. The app accomplishes exactly what the website does, just from an app instead of a browser. The results seem relatively quick, but the matter in which the results are displayed on the app (pretty much the same form as the website) require unneeded side scrolling. It’s clear that this “app” is just a port of their website modified slightly to fit better on a small screen. Any time side scrolling is required on something that absolutely doesn’t need to have it, someone did something wrong. The problem is that there is no mobile version of the website. Just a splash page to download the app or search the desktop site. So the reality is this is the best option by default. And while it is clunky, it gets the job done in quick fashion. Hard to argue with that when it’s free.

Breaking News (Free)

One Line Description: A news app that focuses on up-to-the-minute stories aggregated from around the web and social media.

The generically named Breaking News app has a lot to offer. Putting people’s political agendas aside, it seems to provide a solid look at extremely current stories by aggregating headlines and links from around the web, including pictures. The app itself looks like a Twitter feed, full of short blurbs/headlines with a relative time, some sort of category, and sometimes a link. These categories are like “tags” in a sense that they allow a user to filter news stories by them1 but are not like tags in the sense the stories tend to have just one directly associated, and then a bunch of them listed under “related topics”. The push notifications are good, but whether or not they do/don’t include truly important things is up to the opinion of the user. Twitter is an excellent place to be made aware of something that is going on, the Breaking News app offers a great place to find out more details. It’s hard not to see this app being useful to anyone who is interested in current events since it’s high level of filtering means it’s easy to remove unwanted topics.

Groceries ($0.99)

One Line Description: A list manager focused on shopping, specifically groceries.

IMPORTANT: It should be noted that there is currently a bug under iOS8 where the QuickType suggestions overlay the entry point for items to a list, making this app almost unusable. This app hasn’t been updated since February, but, per the developer a fix is coming.

There is no shortage of grocery list apps in the App Store, and every one offers something different. Even Apple’s own Reminders can be (and is) used for keeping track of what to buy at the store. It’s difficult to determine if Groceries adds a whole lot that other similar apps don’t, but it gets the job done. It comes with a built-in database of foods, which can be modified, so that it can autocomplete items as they are being added to the list. Different shopping lists can be created, so if a user wanted to shop at multiple stores they could easily keep track of the lists separately. When the user is adding a new item they must first start typing, and then a list of suggestions appears. After fully typing (or tapping) an item, Groceries then requires a quantity, leaving it blank seems to assume “1”. The app has smart filters that appear as tabs on the side that allow the items entered to be filtered based on their category in the database. In other words, it’s easy to just see all the fruits and vegetables with one click.

Sliding one way on an item marks it green, swiping another way swipes it red. Presumable the red color is meant to be used for things that are no longer needed. One of the things Groceries does by default is essentially make all lists re-usable. So marking something as read seems to indicate it is not needed at this time. Anything marked one color or the other automatically moves it to the bottom of the list, making it easier to see what items remain. Individual items can be added or removed, or the entire list can be reset so all items are marked as needed again. The entire list can also be quickly deleted. For someone who buys the same things every week, this is a nice feature, but deleting and re-adding a new list each week for people who are more random is a bit of an inconvenience.

The app also offers some sharing features (which I have not used) to easily share a list with people, but this doesn’t seem to include any sort of syncing, just sharing of a list. Overall it’s a good app2, but not so great that it’s worth switching to if another app is satisfying needs.

  1. Either to see more of the same topic, or less []
  2. Minus the deal breaking iOS 8 bug []

2014 College Football Week 5 Preview (sort of)

Normally this is the time for the college football preview for the week. But after news came down last night that ESPN had suspended Bill Simmons for three weeks for his criticism of Roger Goodell, it didn’t seem like a good time to be giving ESPN any sort of free publicity. The fact that Simmons has been suspended longer than the original suspensions of Ray Rice and Greg Hardy combined, just makes it even harder to swallow. Far be it from the “worldwide leader” to show any kind of journalism or integrity. Absolutely disgusting.

On that note, I am personally boycotting ESPN (except Grantland, Simmons’ website) until The Sports Guy is back on the air. With that in mind, I have turned to the wonderful LSU fansite LSUFootball.net to present the complete TV schedule of every game not on an ESPN network this week. If you have never checked out this football schedule, it is the ultimate source for what channel every single game is on. And since I scraped it directly from their site, make sure you check it out for all future weeks.

Game Time CT Network
Thursday, September 25th
DII: Missouri Western at Lindenwood 7:00 p.m. CBSSN
UCLA at Arizona State 9:00 p.m. FS1 / FOX Sports GO
Friday, September 26th
Middle Tennessee at Old Dominion 7:00 p.m. FS1 / FOX Sports GO
Saturday, September 27th
Army at Yale 11:00 a.m. DTV: 608 / FCSA (cable)
Georgetown at Colgate 11:00 a.m. (NESN+ / CSNC) *5 / ASN (.pdf affiliates) / PLN Video
Iowa at Purdue 11:00 a.m. BTN / BTN2GO Video
Northwestern at Penn State 11:00 a.m. BTN / BTN2GO Video
TCU at SMU 11:00 a.m. CBSSN
UTEP at Kansas State 11:00 a.m. FSN Affiliates / FOX Sports GO
Colorado State at Boston College 11:30 a.m. FSN Affiliates / (ESPN-GP / espn3) *2 / FOX Sports GO / RSN
Maryland at Indiana 12:30 p.m. BTN / BTN2GO Video
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington) 2:30 p.m. CBS / CBS Video
Florida International at UAB 2:30 p.m. CSCA *5 / ASN (affiliates)
Northern Colorado at Montana 2:30 p.m. RSNW / DTV: 101 / RSRM (jip at 3)
Western Kentucky at Navy 2:30 p.m. CBSSN
Colorado at California 3:00 p.m. PAC-12 Network (HD) / Pac-12 Video
Delaware at James Madison 3:00 p.m. CSMA *5 / CSN (.pdf cable) / CAA Video1 or CAA Video2
Texas at Kansas 3:00 p.m. FS1 / FOX Sports GO
Stanford at Washington 3:00 p.m. FOX / FOX Sports GO
Tennessee Tech at Northern Iowa 4:00 p.m. CSNCa / Panther Sports Network (cable)
Cincinnati at Ohio State 5:00 p.m. BTN / BTN2GO Video
Boise State at Air Force 6:00 p.m. CBSSN
Cal Poly at Northern Arizona 6:00 p.m. FSAZ+ / FCSP (cable) / NAU-TV Video / Big Sky Video
Maine at Towson 6:00 p.m. CSNE / CSMA / TCN-P (cable) / CAA Video
Rice at Southern Miss 6:00 p.m. DTV: 608 / FCSA (cable) / FOX Sports GO
Samford at Chattanooga 6:00 p.m. ALT2 / ASN (affiliates)
Memphis at Ole Miss 6:30 p.m. FSN Affiliates / (ESPN-GP / espn3) *2 / FOX Sports GO
Baylor at Iowa State 7:00 p.m. FOX / FOX Sports GO
Washington State at Utah 7:00 p.m. PAC-12 Network (HD) / Pac-12 Video
Illinois at Nebraska 8:00 p.m. BTN / BTN2GO Video
Nevada at San Jose State 9:30 p.m. CBSSN

A miserable week for college football gets no help from the ESPN boycott.

  • Thursday night’s Pac–12 game between UCLA and Arizona St. looked a lot better a month ago, but still features two top 15 (AP) teams. So much so, that this might be the game of the week. It has the unfortunate problem of starting at 10 eastern, but it might be worth it to sacrifice sleep on Thursday because it’s all downhill from here.
  • The 11 AM timeslot is left with just Big Ten Network games. Penn St. is knocking on the door of the top 25 (currently 27th), and hosts Northwestern, who is in a mighty downward spiral at the moment. A convincing win here almost surely lifts the recently sanctionless Nittany Lions into the top 25.
  • Arkansas vs. Texas A&M on a neutral field is the only afternoon game worth acknowledging. The spread is only 9.5, which seems very low. Is this where Texas A&M gets exposed as not being a top 10 team, or where they vault into the top 5?
  • The best way to stick it to ESPN is to turn into Western Kentucky vs. Navy at 2:30. Might be a fun game actually.
  • Fox has a decent game at 3 PM when Stanford goes to Washington. Stanford has struggled a bit coming out of the chute, but they are coming off a bye with a chance to get back on the wagon. Washington has quietly gone 4–0 since they haven’t played anyone and snuck by Hawaii and Eastern Washington in the first two weeks. They are just outside the top 25 and could use this win to make a jump.
  • Baylor at Iowa St. is a chance to potentially watch Iowa St. get undressed in their home stadium. Baylor is a quiet 3–0. Quiet because they haven’t beaten anyone. But they have also scored over 170 points in three games. 170!!! This is a chance for them to get some attention.
  • Utah beat a bad Michigan team in Ann Arbor last week. A win against the mediocre Cougars could get them closer to the Top 25. They are a real sleeper in the Pac–12 south.

Hawk is Cutting Back, Hopefully

Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune on Hawk Harrelson cutting back on games:

The White Sox announcer told Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM 670 that he is considering cutting back on doing road games next year. During the season, Harrelson, who will be 73 next week, does a four-hour commute from Granger, Ind. for home games.

Harrelson has already been missing games here and there for the last few years, so this move is a natural progression. The more important question is, who will fill in? The last couple of years Steve Stone has moved into the play-by-play role with either Tom Paciorek or Mike Huff. The question is whether or not the White Sox would try to use this time to groom the next guy. Stone is 67, and maybe he plans to do this for 10 more years. If so, then it makes sense to give him the gig and let him run with it. It’s been nice having Paciorek back in the sidekick role, and he has been great there. Paciorek is also 67, and probably not the play by play guy the Sox would want to bring in at this point.

Huff is certainly an option. He is only 51, and his experience with the team already gives him a nice leg up. Dan Plesac, former Major League pitcher is from Gary, IN and has long show an interest in being a part of the White Sox. He is currently an analyst for MLB Network. A.J. Pierzynski has made some appearances as a studio analyst, and the odds are good that he is done playing baseball. He seems more fit for the broadcasting booth than the manager’s seat. Frank Thomas has also been doing studio work, and certainly seems to much more involved with the club again over the last few years.

No matter what, this is a good thing. Hawk is falling out of favor with many, and is not well liked by other teams/fans around the league. He is out of touch with today’s game, and completely against any sort of new age statistics. It’s time to move on. So making that move slowly is a perfectly sane idea.

Why Single Use Apps From Big Companies?

Tom Reding on the trend of single feature apps:

I’m sure the answer comes down to monetization and bloatedness, but I still don’t see the point in all of these social apps breaking out key features into individual apps. Maybe I’m in the minority here, maybe people like having a folder on their phone solely dedicated to “Facebook” and all it’s different apps (don’t forget Paper). I’ll admit, I do have a social media folder for those networks that I may not use that often, but I don’t want it totally filled up with Facebook apps…

It’s a good question. But Tom answered his own question in the first sentence. It’s it probably not so much about monetization, but marketing is definitely a part of it. Tom’s piece was triggered by the release of Instagram’s Hyperlapse app. By creating a separate app, rather than just adding a new feature, Instagram created buzz. People had to go seek out the app, which meant if they were curious they had to go find it. If it was just a feature in the Instagram app, it would be easy for people to miss, or forget about. Plus social media buzz is always higher with a new app vs. a feature.

The technical side of it also has to come into play. Keeping the code completely separate probably makes it easier to manage for Instagram, but in this day in age it is probably easier to just have more, smaller apps. This way a new feature like this won’t risk breaking the official Instagram app.

But this trend also seems to indicate a “pivot”, or at least an attempt at one. Tom referenced Foursquare’s Swarm app, which at this point has essentially replaced the original Foursquare app. The original Foursquare app is really more like a Yelp clone at this point. That would have just been an example of Foursquare realizing how most people were using their app, and decided to spin off the original idea for those that still cared. Facebook spinning off a standalone Messenger client seemed like a move to try and take away marketshare from iMessages and WhatApp?1.

The single Instagram app seems a little different. But it’s not crazy to think that this could be part of a plan to made a separate video-focused arm in the future. Videos can be posted via the existing Instagram app, but perhaps their longterm plan is to separate that out and make some sort of separate video piece.

It’s fair to call it annoying though. Separating features is annoying to users, but often that doesn’t stop companies from doing things.

  1. Of course until they bought it []

2014 College Football Week 4 Preview

As always, all times are central.

Thursday
Time Main
6:30 PM Auburn @ Kansas St.

Rarely do you get two top 20 programs playing on a Thursday night, but this one could be good. Weeknight road games are never gimmes. Plus this 2–0 Auburn team hasn’t played anyone yet. Both teams are coming off byes. Don’t sleep on the Wildcats.

Saturday
Time Main TV TV 2 TV 3
11 AM Iowa at Pittsburgh
(ESPNU)
Bowling Green at Wisconsin
(ESPN2)
Troy at Georgia
(SEC)
2:30 PM Florida at Alabama
(CBS)
North Carolina at East Carolina
(ESPNU)
Utah at Michigan
(ABC or ESPN2)
6 PM Mississippi St. at LSU
(ESPN)
filler1 filler
6:30 PM MSU @ LSU Oklahoma at West Virginia
(FOX)
South Carolina at Vanderbilt
(SEC)
7 PM Clemson at Florida St.
ABC)
MSU @ LSU OU @ WVU
  • After last week’s debacle Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is probably getting closer to the hot seat than ever before. Pitt is a quiet 3–0 with a win at Boston College that suddenly looks a lot better.
  • Wisconsin was last seen needing a 2nd half rally to blowout lowly Western Illinois, and really needs an Ohio St.-esqu rout to get back in most people’s good graces.
  • Florida vs. Alabama was one of those games preseason that had potential. Florida has looked shaky though, and even though Bama has as well, this one might not be close.
  • East Carolina might be the favorite from the non-power conferences to have a spot in one of the main bowls after upsetting Virginia Tech on the road, and hanging with South Carolina for a while in Columbia. Now they get a home game against a beatable North Carolina team. This would be a huge win for this program.
  • Michigan continues their Jekyll and Hyde impersonation after dispatching Miami (OH) last week. Utah is somewhere in between them and Notre Dame. If Brady Hoke loses this one it’s likely that only withs against both Michigan St. and Ohio St. can save him.
  • Mississippi St. is 3–0 but hasn’t played anyone. LSU is 3–0, and at home at night. Shouldn’t be close.
  • Oklahoma didn’t dispatch Tennessee as easy as many thought they would, so they are do for just a blow the doors off them road win against West Virginia.
  • South Carolina knocked off Georgia and made a lot of people forget that opening night loss to Texas A&M for now. They need a convincing win to keep that momentum.
  • The game of the night, maybe. Clemson got dismantled by Georgia in week 1. And a better Clemson team got destroyed at home by Florida St. last year. If that wasn’t enough, the spread is FSU –20 (!!!!!). FSU doesn’t have a ton of chances to make statements, so that explains the theory that they will go for the blowout.
  1. Whatever games going are close []

Jose Quintana: Underrated Marvel

David Schoenfield of ESPN writes about how unsung Jose Quintana is:

Anyway, it’s hard for Quintana to get much attention pitching in the same rotation as Chris Sale. It doesn’t help that the White Sox haven’t exactly been in the spotlight these past two years.

This article is a month old, and it doesn’t even matter. Quintana has been just as good since. His 8–10 record hurts his reputation, but dig deeper and he is one of the 10 best starters in the league. He is 8th in fWAR, which is Fangraph’s version of Wins Above Replacement. This means from a pure value standpoint, he has been the 8th best starter in the AL this year. He is 6th in FIP (fielding independent pitching). This stat is designed to take all factors of fielding out of the picture, so that bad fielding, bad positioning, bad whatever behind him, is taken out. It’s basically composed of walks, strikeouts and home runs, and is based on the ERA scale to make it easy for people to understand the number. Quintana’s is 2.78. So why is his ERA 3.30? Another nerdy stat, BABIP (batting average on balls in play) which is a measure of how many times a ball was hit in play that the hitter reached base. It is basically the batting average stat but with home runs and strikeouts removed from the equation. The league average is generally around .290, Quintana’s is .311. That means that he has been “unlucky” in that more of the balls hit against him have dropped in for hits.

Quintana’s walk and strikeout rates are not as high as a lot of the other guys near the top in fWAR. Of the top 10 guys, he has the 9th best strikeout rate, and 8th best walk rate. His minuscule home run rate is what makes him so useful. At 0.39 he has the 2nd best in the entire American League behind Garrett Richards (0.27) and he is well ahead of the third place guy (Dallas Keuchel, 0.52) so far. The problem with this stat longterm is that it is probably unsustainable (his career number is 0.78, and it was 1.04 in 2013).

Despite all of that, Quintana has still easily been one of the top 10 starters in the AL this season. Even if he regresses a bit, he could still be in the top 15, and the sad part is that almost no one has noticed.

Time Zones Are Actually Useful

Matthew Yglesias of Vox talks about eliminating time zones:

It is genuinely annoying to schedule meetings, calls, and other arrangements across time zones. The need to constantly specify which time zone you’re talking about is a drag. Commuting across time zones would be more annoying still, which is why the suburbs of Chicago that are located in Indiana use Illinois’ Central Time rather than Indianapolis’ Eastern Time.

Time zones are confusing at times, and when scheduling meetings across them, it can be very frustrating. But it seems unlikely that more than 5% of the U.S. population has to do this on a regular basis. And there are so many websites and apps that make is so simple nowadays. On a personal note, as someone who has lived in Chicago their entire life, I never put together the reason why northwest Indiana was on the same time zone as Chicago instead of the rest of the state.

If the whole world used a single GMT-based time, schedules would still vary. In general most people would sleep when it’s dark out and work when it’s light out. So at 23:00, most of London would be at home or in bed and most of Los Angeles would be at the office. But of course London’s bartenders would probably be at work while some shift workers in LA would be grabbing a nap. The difference from today is that if you were putting together a London-LA conference call at 21:00 there’d be only one possible interpretation of the proposal. A flight that leaves New York at 14:00 and lands in Paris at 20:00 is a six-hour flight, with no need to keep track of time zones. If your appointment is in El Paso at 11:30 you don’t need to remember that it’s in a different time zone than the rest of Texas.

To steal something from Kevin Wildes and Bill Simmons, this is what’s called a “half baked idea”. This makes complete sense in a few specific instances. Someone who is constantly interacting with people across time zones, which again is probably a small percentage of people. It also applies to calculating flight times across time zones, but most people book flights online these days and flight times are listed. It also benefits people who live near time zone borders, which isn’t likely a high percentage of people.

It does not talk about the major pitfalls that go along with this though, and that is travel. More people travel across time zones on a daily basis than have non-regularly scheduled calls/meetings across them. Someone that lives in London would pretty much keep everything the same in this new system. Up around 07:00, lunch around 12:00, bed around 22:30 or whatever. Los Angeles is GMT –7:00, which means that wake up time for them would be 14:00 GMT, lunch around 19:00 GMT and bed around 5:30 GMT.

What happens when someone from LA travels to London (or even New York). A benefit of time zones is that time still makes sense other places. It’s true that a person has to adjust their timekeeper to local time (something that almost all cellphones do on their own), but this takes seconds. Once this takes place, it is easy to figure out what time things happen, because it’s pretty much the same as wherever the person is from (i.e., lunch is around noon, bed is around 10, etc.). Under this new system, a person would totally have to relearn what time things take place. Lunch was at 19:00 in LA, but it’s at 15:00 in New York. That is far more confusing for the average person.

Time zones might have been a strange decision at one point, but they are more practical now than most people consider. And the small use cases where not having them would be an improvement do not outweigh the more common situations where they are necessary.

2014 Week 3 College Football Preview

Saturday
Time Main TV TV 2 TV 3
11 AM UCF at Missouri
(SEC)
East Carolina at Virginia Tech
(ESPN)
Kent St. at Ohio St.
(ABC/ESPN2)
2:30 PM Georgia at South Carolina
(CBS)
Miami (OH) at Michigan
(BTN)
Arkansas at Texas Tech
(ABC)
5 PM UGA at SC MIA at UM Southern Miss at Alabama
(ESPN2)
7 PM UCLA vs. Texas
(Fox)
USC at Boston College
(ESPN)
Penn St. at Rutgers
(BTN)

Week 2 was bad, week 3 is worse. At least week 2 offered two high profile games, this week features just one it seems.

  • The 11 AM timeslot is brutal, even by 11 AM standards. The Big Ten needs to start playing earlier conference games so that weeks like this don’t happen
  • The game of the day is clearly Georgia vs. South Carolina. Both teams have something to prove. Georgia could make a statement that they are the best team in the SEC so far if they win, and also give themselves a nice lead in the SEC East. Meanwhile South Carolina is trying to right the ship after getting blown out by Texas A&M. If they drop to 0–2 in the SEC, their hopes are dead.
  • Arkansas vs. Texas Tech is one of those games that would have been good a few years ago. Now Arkansas is one of the worst teams in the SEC and Texas Tech has looked really bad so far.
  • Alabama could really use a statement blow out game to try and flex their muscles a bit. It’s hard to see Saban’s team getting caught in a look ahead to Florida, but anything is possible.
  • UCLA vs. Texas had a lot of potential at some point. That might have been five years ago though.UCLA has looked very iffy so far, and definitely not like the Pac –12 championship team people thought they might be. Texas has been lousy, but this is a night road game two timezones away for the Bruins.
  • USC beat Stanford last week and has solidified themselves as a real team. This is a classic letdown spot though. Flying across the country to play a Boston College team that is not very good. If nothing else, take the points.
  • Rutgers is one of the few Big Ten teams who is undefeated. This is their first Big Ten conference game, and it’s at home. They will be fired up. This game will be much better than advertised.

HBO Go and WWE Network Are Apples and Oranges

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox tries to compare the WWE Network’s struggles with why there is no HBO Go:

HBO is basically in the same boat. Though it’s taking steps into making more of its programming available to more people more of the time, it still makes almost all of its money off of subscription fees that are factored into subscribers’ cable bills. HBO, in essence, needs cable companies to offer it to their subscribers for almost all of its business model to work. HBO Go is a great add-on in this situation, but as the WWE Network shows, it’s very, very hard to find enough subscribers to such a specifically tailored streaming service to make it at all profitable, to say nothing of the levels of profit HBO needs to make a show like Game of Thrones or even a smaller-budget show like Girls or John Oliver’s talk show.

This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. First HBO is a full (collection of) television channel(s) that air 24 hours of content each day. The WWE is a sports organization that airs about 5–10 hours of programming a week. HBO already operates under a subscription model. It just uses television providers as the middle man. The WWE gets money from TV networks that air their programming. HBO content is rampantly pirated, whether it’s new or old content. A great deal of WWE content is more readily available, and because of the live nature of Pay-per-view events, the value in pirating said content is not as useful.

And that doesn’t even take into account the type of content each provides. HBO Go provides access (when it’s working) to new content every week. Something in the neighborhood of 1–2 hours of new episodic content each week. The WWE network does offer replays of their weekly shows, but these shows air on USA, which is a much cheaper network to acquire than HBO. And the “best value” content, the inclusion of all PPV events, only comes to fruition 12 times per year.

Trying to compare these two scenarios is like claiming a silent movie-only streaming service would thrive because Netflix does. The WWE is very popular, but most newer (read: younger) fans have no desire to go back and watch content from the ’90s (or earlier). With HBO, there are many people who did not experience The Wire or The Sopranos who would love to go back and enjoy it.

It is a little surprising the WWE Network has struggled like it has, but it is not proof that an HBO Go-only subscription would fail.

The Future of Ridesharing Services

There is a nice article from Steve Dent of Engadget from a while about explaining ridesharing services like Lyft, Uber and Sidecar:

It’s hard to see the downside of ridesharing for passengers. The increased supply of cars makes it easier to find a ride, for one thing – even if you prefer taxis. It also avoids the normal calling or wandering around to hail a cab, and gives you a status of your ride from the moment you request it. It’s often cheaper than a cab, and there’s rarely a dispute about unwanted fees or questionable route decisions. And the rating systems help keep drivers (and passengers) honest.

Meanwhile Jeramey Jannene discusses the legalization in Milwaukee:

But the Milwaukee discussion comes in the context of a nationwide push by Uber and Lyft to oppose any local regulations. The firms want to conduct their own background checks to approve drivers, as well as having no licensing permits or costs to their drivers. In effect, they want a completely unregulated market.

Bauman compared this to McDonald’s or Burger King being able to conduct their own health inspections. “That’s just not how protecting the public’s health, safety and well-being works,” he said.

This is where things get tricky. All is well and good right now because these ridesharing services are somewhat niche businesses. The comparison to McDonald’s isn’t that off base really. It sounds a like crazier than it is, but these ridesharing services are relatively new territory. And most people wouldn’t want to get into a cab without knowing that it’s safe.

Many people almost exclusively use Uber (or Lyft) in place of cabs nowadays. The ability to request it with an app, know when it will be there and pay without having to do anything are the selling points. The potential cleanliness (and other minor things) are just bonuses. Most cab companies could have stomped this kindling fire out by just creating better on-demand services before these ridesharing services took off. Instead the situation is a bit more interesting.

But fear not, the race to the bottom is just around the corner. Sidecar’s prices have increased pretty dramatically in the last year, and all the companies likely will have to do things to keep their drivers interested. At some point some company will swoop in offering the cheapest prices, and if things like airlines and mobile applications are any indication, low cost is #1 for most consumers. That is when things will get interesting. Will the existing companies be able to survive?

The motivation for most driver’s is obviously to make money. There are certain situations that will always be “free money”. If a person is headed to the airport to pick up a friend and can take a “fare” of someone headed to the airport, it’s win-win. But a lot of these drivers seem to do this as at least partial income supplementation. If they are going to sit around waiting for fares they have to know that they are coming and will be worth their time financially. If the prices drop to complete, the quality of these drivers/vehicles will drop as well.

That is why big picture, this ridesharing thing is a fad. One that could be killed by Taxi companies investing heavily into an easy system of ordering and paying1. In the meantime, most people will continue to enjoy the convenience.

  1. In Chicago, many cab drivers are still annoyed when a person wants to pay with a credit card []