Nate Silver on expanding the college football playoff to six teams:
One-loss major conference champions will just about always make it. One-loss non-champions from major conferences will make it about 80 percent of the time. Undefeated teams from minor conferences still struggle a bit, but overall this seems to strike a good balance. As a major conference team with just one loss, you’ll make the playoff unless there’s a lot working against you. With two losses, you’ll won’t make it unless you have a lot working for you. There are still some tough decisions to be made, but the committee won’t have to cleave the second tier in half, as it often will under a four-team playoff.
Silver’s breakdown of expansion options is great, and as usual incorporates some actual statistical analysis. He explains why it is not as cut and dry as it seems as well.
Six teams has always seemed like the perfect sweet spot. It will keep any of the Power 5 conferences from feeling slighted like the Big 2 this year. It will give non-Power 5 teams a fighting chance to make it in, so teams like Boise St. would actually have a shot1. By giving the top two seeds a bye it would provide a much larger incentive to finish one or two rather than just win the conference. It would also help those teams who get nudged out with one loss but never get to play for their conference championship.
Really a six-team playoff solves most of the issues people have with the current system. There is the logistical piece to sort out, including finding a way to fit an extra playoff game in somewhere2, but college football will find a way. Letting the 3 and 4 seeds host these games means a guaranteed full stadium and no concerns about finding a neutral field.
A six-team playoff probably never happens though. The ability to include two extra games in an 8-team playoff just adds more money to the pot, and that will ultimately be the driving force. Once the jump is made from four to six most would argue going to eight is not a big deal. Most would argue that this won’t cheapen things, but it will just a bit. Even if one of the eight spots is guaranteed to a non-Power 5 team, there is always the chance that this spot is filled by like a 2-loss Marshall team.
If the NCAA decided to move to six-teams it would be a huge success, and they likely would not bump it to eight anytime soon. Unfortunately it seems unlikely that it will have that chance, and an 8-team playoff is likely before 2025.
- Don’t let anyone fool you, they have basically no shot in the current system [↩]
- If you were betting I would bet that the season gets extended. In other words, first round New Years Day, second round about a week later, championship a week after that. As opposed to trying to find a way to fit another game in before Christmas [↩]
Dan Moren on Six Colors on the iOS Music app:
If the conversations I’ve had are any indication, the Music app on iOS isn’t particularly beloved. I don’t dislike it as much as many seem to, but nor do I find it particularly compelling—I use it because it’s what’s provided. Despite being part of the core functionality of the iPhone and the iPod before it, it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in recent versions, outside of a graphical refresh for iOS 7/8.
The main point of his piece was discussing the need to add the “Up Next” functionality found in the Mac version of iTunes that allows for on-the-fly playlist building. Instead the iOS music app essentially has no sort of of queueing system, and is particularly crappy for listening to music that isn’t part of an existing playlist, or on shuffle mode.
It is crazy that this functionality is missing from the iPhone/iPod Touch. At this point most people have given up their iPod for an iPhone and to not have this functionality on iOS when it’s there on OS X is just bizarre. Third party app Ecoute claims to have this functionality, but it doesn’t seem to work at all like it should and it’s terribly unreliable.
It does not stop there though. The Music app is somewhat crappy in general. The only way to see all songs by a particular artist is to have them grouped by album. This looks dumb when a person has a few random songs from an artist. And for an artist like The Beatles, with many, many albums this method of finding a song is a pain.
The Music app hasn’t gotten much of an upgrade–other than a fresh coat of paint with iOS 7–since the beginning. It feels log in the tooth in an unnecessary way. But the pressure to release a new version of iOS every year makes it difficult to spend a lot of time on something like the Music app. But now that the big redesign is in the rearview mirror, and the first post-redesign release is too maybe something like a redesigned Music app would make sense.
Transparent – Season 1 (Amazon)
Winner of some Golden Globes, and a big win for Amazon’s future as a content creator, Transparent’s first season was wonderful. After Netflix paved the way, Amazon has taken it to new places by basically crowdsourcing the evaluation of pilots to the masses instead of focus groups. That led to a great show like this being created. Jeffery Tambor is know for playing oddball characters, probably most famously as the patriarch of Arrested Development. In this show he is a man in his sixties (?) who has decided to fully transition into becoming a woman. He is divorced and has three grown children all with their own personal and professional issues.
Tambor is really spectacular. His brand of humor is definitely not for everyone and in the past just hasn’t felt all that great, but this is an absolute home run and he deserves the accolades he has already won. His oldest daughter is married with a couple of kids before running into her ex-lover from college, a woman, causing her to question everything. The middle child is the only son, and is music executive with major relationship issues as well as a dark secret. His youngest daughter is played by Gaby Hoffman, in a pretty standard “2010s Gaby Hoffman Character” archetype. She is single, unemployed, and pretty much a mess in every way.
Although the beginning of the season focuses on Tambor coming out to his children, it becomes just as much about the kids using this revelation to learn things about themselves, and reevaluate their whole upbringing. There are nice flashbacks mixed in to show how Tambor’s character got to where he is now.
The show isn’t without it’s flaws. The ending to season one felt very abrupt and some of the story lines seemed to take some odd jumps along the way. But it was still good, and Amazon has definitely planted their flag.
Kingdom – Season 1 (DirecTV Audience)
DirecTV has made some original programming over the last few years, and most of it has flown under the radar. Kingdom appears to be no exception. There seemed to be very little buzz or discussion about the drama, which takes place in an MMA gym. The show focuses on the gym’s owner Alvey, a former MMA champion who trains fighters now, including his two sons Nate (Nick Jonas of The Jonas Brothers) and Jay (Bob Little, mayor of Parenthood). Nate is younger, but has tons of potential. Jay is the older brother, the guy who wasted his potential and seems to be in trouble a lot, pretty classic family dynamic. Ryan (Matt Lauria of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood) is a former protege of Alvey who is released from prison, and trying to get back into society without slipping back into his bad habits.
Surely because of the subject matter (but not just because of it), this show feels a bit like the failed FX drama Lights Out, but it is far more interesting. It definitely provides a peek into the MMA world that the average person has never seen, and the family dynamic amongst the group is very interesting, especially with the inclusion of Lisa, Ryan’s ex and Alvey’s current love interest, and Alvey’s ex, the mother of Nate and Jay.
The show suffers from a few lulls since it is mostly building up to a fight that isn’t coming until the end of the season, but there are so many random things that happen (including a parole office with a bizarre fetish) that it manages to keep moving along. It’s not a great show, and not on the same level of Transparent, but it’s a show about a different subject matter that seems to do a good job with it. Worth checking out if the MMA world is mildly interesting to the viewer.
Benched – Season 1 (USA)
USA continues to churn out new dramas and comedies each year. They all seem to have a bit of a similar feel to them, and Benched is no different. Unfortunately this show has already been cancelled, so this will probably be short.
The premise is that an attorney at a big firm has a nervous breakdown followed by a destructive freakout and is fired. And the only job she can get is as a public defender. The show then follows the familiar tropes of a “fish out of water” struggling to understand how her new world works before not only eventually fitting in, but enjoying it. Like every sitcom before it this show insists on trying to inject a romance component in the good ol’ “will they or won’t they” trope. Eliza Coupe is funny at times, but doesn’t seem capable of carrying the load thrust upon her as the lead character.
It is not terribly surprising the show won’t be back. It was just OK from day one, and didn’t get a whole lot better.
Whale Wars – Season 7 (Animal Planet)
Whale Wars is a show about the Sea Shepherd Conservation group and their efforts to stop Japanese whalers in the Antartic Ocean. The last couple of years the show has shifted from a full blown 10 (or so) episode season to just a few hour special. This year’s edition was technically three episodes, but they were all shown together on the same night.
This reality show is probably not terribly expensive to make since it just requires a few extra bodies on the ship to film content, and it’s instead more likely that limited run of episodes is more due to lack of interesting content. The last couple of “seasons” had only been a couple of hours each and haven’t been all that exciting, so that has likely influenced the decision to not show more.
Paul Watson, the head of Sea Shepherd is not captaining any of the ships because he is facing charges for the groups actions in previous years. That takes a way a bit from the show. And the new man in charge is a familiar face to anyone who watches this show. There seemed to be some manufactured descent against Captain Peter that magically vanished by the end of the show.
Unfortunately for Whale Wars the show has gotten pretty stale. It feels like every season is just a repeat of the last one and it’s hard to see how long they can keep making it while keeping people’s attention.
Richard Mitchell discusses why Joystiq isn’t scoring reviews anymore:
A score can’t answer these questions. A score can’t tell you what a critic liked or disliked about a game, or why. It can’t tell you what qualities are most valued by the review’s author. Without the full context of a review to explain it, about the only thing a score is good for is deciding whether you want to take the time to read the review in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with that impulse (goodness knows I’ve done it) but it serves to identify a problem. If a score is meaningless without context – context that can easily be ignored – then there’s no reason to have a score at all.
This is such a great point, and the decision to ditch scores is also a good one. Reviews in general are somewhat broken, mostly because what one person values might not be what someone else does, and even if two people agree on an aspect being important, there are varying degrees.
The conversation about Android vs. iPhone comes up frequently. Which is better? Which should a person buy? But the answer isn’t the same for every one. It will vary from person to person based on what is important. Prior to the iPhone 6/6+ people who wanted a much larger phone went to Android because that was the only option, and having a bigger screen was an important enough feature.
As Mitchell also points out, the numbers mean different things to different people. Reviews in the iOS App Store are perfect at depicting this issue. One-star reviews for silly, petty reasons pepper many of the app pages. These types of people might look at a 3-star review, buy a product and be disappointed because of something minor that was not important to the reviewer.
Rolling up review scores on something like Metacritic, or using a composite average of customers reviews like many sites (ex: Amazon) do helps some, but at the end of the day it still lacks context.
There has long been a gap with review websites that is dying to be filled. A website that is clear about what is important, and what isn’t to the particular reviewer. Individual blogs, like Brooks Review can gain a reputation over time that allows the reader to know what toe expect. But a site like Joystiq with a rotating and ever-changing review team makes it more difficult to figure out what reviewer shares interests with the reader. The Sweet Setup and The Wirecutter come closest to this by picking the best from a particular category and then explaining their rationale behind determining the best. That doesn’t work with something like video games where one is different than the next and having a review on day one is too important.
Joystiq’s new strategy of quickly summarizing thoughts on the game, and awarding a “seal of approval” on the very best games is a subtle step in the right direction, but it’s not revolutionary. And for games that do not receive the seal it still leaves a gap for people trying to determine if the game is any good.
Someone could try to solve this problem, but the answer is probably to complicated at the moment.
David Sparks, a.k.a. MacSparky on the rumored 12 inch MacBook Air
I think a higher resolution MacBook Air is a swell idea but if Mark Gurman is right and the new machine has just one USB port to cover power, external display, and external devices, I’m going to go on record as saying that is a little bit crazy. Can you image having to unplug your external drive so you can print or unplugging your power so you can connect a scanner?
MacSparky is a smart guy. He has lots of good thoughts, and the Mac Power Users Podcast he hosts is great. But printers? Scanners? Someone using a Mac for work could potentially run into this problem with printers (are scanners used commonly that often?), but even with printers many are wireless or network printers anyway.
That doesn’t completely invalidate the point, only one USB/power port is potentially issue. It is more an issue though if there isn’t a way to charge the device and use a USB device at the same time (there might be some sort of adapter that would support this). The 13-inch MacBook Airs only have two USB ports, and anyone that would need to use them would almost certainly be at a desk of some sort that could easily house a USB hub as well.
The way this machine is being theorized it doesn’t seem like it is designed for someone who is often somewhere with a scanner, printer or multiple USB devices to plug in. It seems geared more towards someone who doesn’t need lots of power, just loads of portability and more than an iPad offers.
Of course all of this is just speculation on rumors anyway.
One Line Description: Speed reading app.
Velocity is not the first speed reading app I have tried1, but it might be the best. These apps are designed to show just one word at a time, and because it just keeps firing words, articles can (theoretically) be read faster. There are downsides to this method since it doesn’t include formatting or images, and it also doesn’t allow a person to skip around2. Velocity offers some nice customization options. There are dark and light themes, and different fonts (something ReadQuick did not offer). Of course the speed is adjustable. It can pull articles from different services like Pocket and Instapaper as well as have articles manually added. Anytime the “playback” is paused, a display shows how much reading time is left, allows the speed to be adjusted, and most importantly provides a scrubber to easily move forward and backward3. Overall it seems like a solid app, but it really comes down to whether speed reading makes sense or not. Some people will not find it all that comfortable.
Diptic PDQ ($0.99)
One Line Description: A simple photo collage maker
There is absolutely not shortage of photo collage making apps out there. In fact, Diptic PDQ itself is just a slimmed down version of the regular version of Diptic which just seems to have more features4. The PDQ version gets the job done though. It is indeed fast and super easy to use. Without a basis for comparison, it’s hard to say whether this app is better or worse than other options. And most people will certainly balk at paying even $1 for something so many free alternatives, but Diptic PDQ is a great ad-free option for quickly making the photo collages that are all the rage.
One Line Description: Public transportation finder/tracker.
This review is written after using the app for a couple days in Chicago.
Public transportation app experiences will vary greatly depending on whether a person is a full-time public transportation user, a visitor to a city or just an occasional rider. But Transit seems to be incredibly solid. It can find nearby busses and trains5, and supports train tracking so that the actual trains show up on the map. The app has a very pretty map overlay, and is easy enough to use once a person figures out what the buttons w/o text labels mean and where swiping is used to navigate.
The app is so heavily driven by the map that it is almost a perfect application for occasional riders, or visitors to a city who need an easy way to get from one place to another. The ability to move the map around and find the nearest lines is great for planning ahead as well. The only real downside to the app is the swipe heavy navigation that might be hard to figure out for some people. Also, many of the buttons don’t have text labels, just symbols, so figuring out exactly what those do requires just some trial and error. It’s hard to imagine a transit app being better than Transit, so if nothing else this is probably in line with the best public transportation apps out there.
My NBA 2K15 (Free)
One Line Description: Companion app for NBA 2K15 that also provides opportunities to earn extra VC points.
Anyone that plays MyTeam or MyPlayer in NBA 2K15 knows that VC points are needed for upgrades. The are earned by playing the game or paying for them, but it turns out there is a third way to earn them, and it doesn’t take much time. The My NBA 2K15 app offers a couple of different ways to earn VC points, and they are somewhat effortless. First is the Daily VC Bonus which is just a draw of three cards from the board. Six cards can be held at once and any three cards can be combined for a reward of VC points (and other stuff). Matching three cards results in double the bonus. Three cards can be drawn every 24 hours and this activity takes about 1 minute once the app is open. There is also the opportunity to pick the winner of each NBA game every game. Each correct pick nets 50 VC points. Knowing much about the current NBA is not that big of a deal since each game only has two games to pick from. Even with zero knowledge a person could earn points a little at a time.
Last is the card game itself, which is the point of the app. It’s very similar to MyTeam in the sense that a player picks cards and randomly gets players, then puts those players in a line up and plays games against other people’s teams. The game’s aren’t live, it’s just a game against someone else’s active team. The game isn’t complicated, but that doesn’t matter. For each “quick game” played in a day, 50 VC points are added up to 500 total, regardless of winning or losing the card game matchup.
When it is all said and done, on most days a person could earn about 1,000 VC points with about 10 minutes of effort. On a great day it could be 1,500–2000. Either way, it’s worth 10 minutes for people playing MyTeam or MyPlayer.
- I thought I had reviewed ReadQuick at some point but now I can’t find the review [↩]
- Some might argue those are upsides I suppose [↩]
- Something that was annoying to figure out in ReadQuick [↩]
- I have no recollection of why I bought the slimmed down version vs. the full one. I am positive that this was recommended by someone somewhere [↩]
- Including Metra in Chicago [↩]
Alan Sepinwall talks about Amazon’s new show Mozart in the Jungle and the benefits of binging:
But plenty of series improve greatly when watched in rapid succession, whether they were made with this new model in mind or not. In some cases, like “The Wire,” it’s incredibly useful to see a lot of episodes in a row just to figure out who the hell everybody is and what they’re doing. In other cases, like “Parks and Recreation” or Amazon’s new “Mozart in the Jungle,” the binge is helpful because it allows the viewer to zip through early growing pains and get to the good stuff before they lose interest.
This is an interesting point to be made. There have been so many shows over the years that have lost viewers because of slow starts. The aforementioned Parks and Recreation is one of the more well-known examples, but Sepinwall’s point about The Wire makes tons of sense. Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones are even better more recent examples. Shows with lots of characters or story lines that take weeks off are much easier to follow without weeks in between episodes.
It even begs the question if Netflix’s House of Cards would have been as successful without the ability to be viewed all at once. The second season was pretty rough, and got a little ridiculous as time wore on. If it had been viewed, reviewed and recapped weekly it might have been compared more to Homeland, which is a struggle to watch one episode at a time because the lows are so low. When consumed all at once though the highs are more enjoyable and the lows are less noticeable.
As the model shifts more and more towards frequent TV bingeing and original shows from places like Amazon and Netflix this will become more relevant. The networks that release all of the episodes at once will actually benefit from this mindset as more people just get going on a show and see it through because they can at will rather than having to wait until weeks later. It would be interesting to see some data on this. Does Netflix or Amazon see more consistent ratings across episodes for the first season of a show compared to something like CBS or NBC? Netflix and Amazon don’t pull shows “mid-season” but that is obviously a result of them releasing all the episodes at once.
Marco Arment on making good podcasts:
Many podcasters still refuse to do basic editing, audio adjustments, and room treatment. Someone with a basic $50 microphone who puts even a bit of effort into these will sound much better than someone with a high-end microphone who’s doing none of them.
If you “don’t have time” (which really means “don’t want to spend the time”) to make your podcast minimally listenable, or you’re not willing to buy even the most basic, inexpensive equipment to record it acceptably, you’re not taking it seriously. You’re half-assing it. You don’t really want to be making a podcast. You probably don’t even like podcasts. Why bother? Why should listeners respect you if you don’t respect them?
Marco nails all of this. Podcasts with crappy audio quality are extremely frustrating. It get’s worse when these podcasts come from big companies like ESPN. When a podcast get’s lost in their feed, or someone has to use a hotel phone because of “technical difficulties” it shows that they aren’t really trying. Audio quality should never be an issue. It is far too easy to find a decent internet connection, and since the most basic USB headset provides better quality than a phone there is really no excuse.
Editing a podcast doesn’t have to be a meticulous process either. As Marco talks about, cutting out a few parts here or there shows that a level of caring and effort. Pausing to look up something up on the internet, or restarting a sentence so it flows better is perfectly OK, but the five minute of effort required to take it out of the final version.
Arment has lots of great tips, but there are plenty of websites out there with loads of tips as well. The amount of effort required to make a podcast sound halfway decent is pretty minimal. It’s a real shame more people don’t do it.
Libby Nelson of Vox on the “ugly sweater” craze:
The “ugly sweater” trend lets us have it both ways. We can indulge in the whimsy of a fun holiday sweater, while emphasizing that of course we are not the kind of people who would genuinely purchase and enjoy such a thing. Those people wear holiday sweaters to church or to Wal-Mart because they don’t know any better; we wear them to ugly sweater parties serving hand-crafted cocktails because we do.
The idea of wearing “ugly” sweaters has always been a bit of a head scratcher. 363 days a year (minus Halloween) people go out of their way to not wear anything that people would consider ugly. It’s bizarre that this is somehow cool. It is even more bizarre that people are running out and purchasing these things to wear. The concept started by people getting them out of their relatives’ closets, now people are intentionally purchasing something hideous. The whole thing is strange and bizarre.
It almost seems like people are making fun of people who truly like to wear these type of sweaters. It would be like if some hipster-mockers started “tweed jacket with elbow patches” parties. At what point should these just be called “parties” where people wear a Christmas sweater instead of “ugly sweater parties”? If someone wears one of these to a “regular” Christmas party, what happens? Are they ridiculed? Is it still “cool” in the same way? If so, does that mean that these sweaters are no longer considered ugly?
It’s time to retire the phase “ugly Christmas sweater”. It has become a part of Christmas again, and it’s no different than rocking a Santa hat or some other holiday-themed attire.
Nothing in life is guaranteed. Nothing in sports is a sure thing. This seems obvious. Yet many non-Michigan fans have been repeatedly pointing this out regarding the Jim Harbaugh hire by the University of Michigan. It is unclear if these are just bitter, angry people, or if it’s in response to some overzealous Michigan fans. Hiring Harbaugh most definitely is not a guarantee of championships. Not by a long shot. But it was unquestionably the best hire Michigan could have possibly made.
Jim Harbaugh rolled offed back-to-back 11–1 seasons at San Diego before taking the Stanford job in 2007, one year before Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez. One would assume that he would have jumped at the Michigan job even then, but Rodriguez seemed like a major coup for a Michigan program that was not in great shape. Michigan hired Brady Hoke in 2011 four days after Jim Harbaugh accepted the head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers. It is unclear whether Harbaugh was ever offered the Michigan job at the time, but it seems unlikely that he would taken it.
But now he has, and it would be crazy for Michigan fans not to be excited about it. Harbaugh’s aforementioned consecutive 11–1 seasons at San Diego are impressive. But more impressively he went 29–21 at Stanford and finished his tenure there with a #4 ranking and an Orange Bowl win. The team had great success in the first couple of years after he left, mostly based on the groundwork he laid.
He then went to a struggling 49ers team, went 13–3 with a QB (Alex Smith) who had been a major bust up to that point. He went to three straight conference championship games, and one Super Bowl in his first three seasons, and finished his last season with a “disappointing” 8–8 finish, which still left him 44–19 in three seasons. How many coaches start their NFL coaching career 44–19? Better yet, Harbaugh’s career head coaching record now stands at 102–46–1 between college and the pros. That makes his career winning percentage an astounding .684! Adding Michigan to his previous head coaching stops and then ranking them from easiest to hardest places to win, Michigan would be #1 by a longshot.
Sure there are reasons for pause. He has been away from the college game for four years. He has more pressure to win at Michigan, where he starred at QB and where his father was an assistant. The Big Ten isn’t the powerhouse it once was and the Big Ten East is no cakewalk. The team he inherits did not look great this year and it’s unclear if any of the QBs on scholarship are the right fit. But there is not another coach Michigan could have chosen, who was actually available, who was even close to a better option.
Florida just hired Jim McElwain. Nebraska hired Mike Reilly. Wisconsin hired Paul Chryst. Are those teams’ fans happy with those decisions? Probably. But Michigan just got a guy with 11 years of head coaching experience. A guy who has won 68% of the games he has ever coached. A guy that took Stanford and turned them into the #2 team in the Pac 12. A guy who won three NFL conference championships in four seasons. Does this guarantee national championships? Of course not. But all things considered he is the best coach to get hired into a new job this offseason by far.
Seven years ago Michigan thought they got the right guy with Rich Rodriguez. Based on his success before and after it’s clear he’s a damn good football coach. But he didn’t have the support, the personality, the whatever, to succeed in Ann Arbor. So the next time out it was Brady Hoke, the “Michigan Man”. Hoke’s record prior to Michigan? 47–50. That was including a flukey 12–1 season at Ball St. and two shaky seasons at San Diego St. Hoke wasn’t a candidate anywhere then (or now; notice how he is still a free agent right now?) and without the Michigan ties made no sense. He criminally misused Denard Robinson and did nothing to develop talent. History showed that prior to Michigan outside of the flukey 12–1 season.
Harbaugh is a winner, at multiple levels. He is fiery and energized. He has tasted success all over the place. Is he the X’s and O’s machine that Rich Rodriguez is? Of course not. But he will get the support Rodriguez never got. Hoke had that support (at least early on), but didn’t have the rest of it. An impartial evaluation against Brady Hoke would lead almost anyone to laugh uncontrollably. People citing “no guaranteed success” like to cite Charlie Weis as an example. But Weis had zero head coaching experience and hadn’t coached college in nearly 20 years when he took the Notre Dame job.
Until Brady Hoke went 11–1 no one was excited about that hire. There are plenty of reasons to be excited here. Only time will tell. Anyone thinking Michigan just landed Bear Bryant will be greatly disappointed. But after nearly a decade of misery Michigan fans finally have a reason to be excited. They got a “Michigan Man”. They got a great head coach. And for the first time in a while, it’s the same guy.