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.

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.

Time Main TV TV 2 TV 3
11 AM Iowa at Pittsburgh
Bowling Green at Wisconsin
Troy at Georgia
2:30 PM Florida at Alabama
North Carolina at East Carolina
Utah at Michigan
(ABC or ESPN2)
6 PM Mississippi St. at LSU
filler1 filler
6:30 PM MSU @ LSU Oklahoma at West Virginia
South Carolina at Vanderbilt
7 PM Clemson at Florida St.
  • 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

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

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 []

2014 NFL Picks and Predictions

Definitely going to be the last non-weekly preview sports post for a while, so everyone can stop the angry notes :).

Team Pick
NFC East Eagles
NFC North Packers
NFC South Falcons
NFC West 49ers
NFC Wildcards Seahawks

Something crazy happens every year. Last year it was probably the Falcons going 4–12. This year, I think some bad luck hits the Saints and they miss the playoffs. It was hard for me to pick the Bears as the 2nd wildcard. I do not think they are that good, but picking the Lions or Bucs just seemed too crazy.

Team Pick
AFC East Pats
AFC North Bengals
AFC South Colts
AFC West Chargers
AFC Wildcards Denver

Here we go, let’s get crazy! Chargers as division winners! I think Manning’s run finally slows down here. Welker is suspended, and Decker is gone so things might be tougher. I continue to think I am the only person outside of Miami who believes Ryan Tannehill will eventually be a top tier QB. Nothing else too crazy here.

Game Result
NFC 49ers over Seahawks
AFC Chargers over Bengals
Super Bowl 49ers over Chargers

Riding that San Diego bandwagon HARD! It’s time for something different in the AFC, and that is what I think it will be.

Eight Stupid Predictions

  1. Drew Brees gets hurt early and the Saints have an abysmal season
  2. Teddy Bridgewater is the starting QB in Minnesota by week 4 and wins offensive rookie of the year
  3. Brian Hoyer starts twice as many games at QB than Manziel
  4. The Cowboys stink and tease out Michael Sam’s debut as much as possible to stay relevant.
  5. Ron Rivera is the first coach fired after the Panthers start 2–8.
  6. Oakland goes 2–14 and lands the first pick in the NFL draft
  7. Jimmy Clausen starts at least one game for the Chicago Bear
  8. The Chip Kelly Hype gets so much momentum that is named is floated as a possible 2016 Presidential Candidate

2014 College Football – Week 2 Preview

Time TV 1 TV 2 TV 3
7 PM Arizona @ USTA (Fox Sports 1)

Normally this game would not get my attention. Especially since it’s opening night in the NFL. But somehow the spread here is Arizona –7. I know that UTSA is gaining steam under Larry Coker. I know that they whalopped Houston last week. But this is a Pac–12 team that just crushed UNLV. Road game or not, this spread is so crazy low, if Vegas is right this has great game written all over it.

Time TV 1 TV 2 TV 3
11 AM Oklahoma at Tulsa
(ABC or ESPN2)
Western Illinois @ Wisconsin
Akron @ Penn St.
(ABC or ESPN2)
2:30 PM USC @ Stanford
Northern Illinois @ Northwestern
Ball St. @ Iowa
3:30 PM USC @ Stanford NIU @ NU Ole Miss @ Vanderbilt
5:30 PM USC @ Stanford Michigan St. @ Oregon
Ole Miss @ Vandy
6:30 PM MSU @ Oregon Michigan @ Notre Dame
Ole Miss @ Vandy
7:00 PM MSU @ Oregon UM @ ND Virginia Tech @ Ohio St.

Week two is usually pretty brutal, and this one is no exception.

  • The morning timeslot is especially tough. At least Oklahoma is playing a road game. Unless you are a fan of one of these teams playing, this would be a good time to skip some football and get something else done.
  • There 2.5 great games this week. Stanford vs. USC is an afternoon treat, as this game kicks off at 12:30 PM local time, which you don’t see too often. USC can really flex their muscles here. The winner of this might be considered the 2nd favorite in the Pac–12 behind Oregon.
  • There is big dropoff after that game. Northwestern is trying to bounce back. If they lose this game somehow, would Pat Fitzgerald start to hover around the hotseat? Or is he immune?
  • Ole Miss is one of the teams I plan to keep an eye on. Vandy looked really bad last week, and this could be a chance for Ole Miss to just crush them.
  • Early evening brings the game of the day, and likely the biggest game of the year for a while. If Michigan St. could somehow go to Eugene and win, they would almost be guaranteed a playoff spot with a Big Ten Championship. It would also be the biggest conference win for the Big Ten in a while. The pressure is fully on Oregon to win a game that everyone assumes they will.
  • Michigan vs. Notre Dame is the 0.5 part of the 2.5 great games of the week. There is the end of an era as these two teams are ending their yearly game for a while. There is the question of how good Michigan really is after thumping App. St. last week. There is the pseudo-top 25 vs. top 25 matchup going on, since Michigan will surely crack the top 25 with a victory. It’s also Michigan’s only tough non-conference game of the year.
  • Last week featured 16+ hours of watchable football. The only hope of extending this night is Virginia Tech vs. Ohio St. OSU looked shaky early on vs. Navy. I don’t expect them to look shaky here.

The Awful Saved By the Bell Movie

Anyone looking for a poster/trailer quote about Unauthorized: The Saved by the Bell Story, this one is for you…

“I’d call it garbage, but that would be unfair to garbage.”

It’s almost impossible to find out where to begin. This made-for-TV movie on Lifetime is based on a book Dustin Diamond (a.k.a. Screech) wrote. It’s two hours long, but with ample commercials, and when it’s over it’s hard to figure out what the heck the point was?

The movie gives some background on the concept of the show, and the original version Good Morning, Miss Bliss, but these scenes are just awful. They play out like a 10-year old wrote them. Essentially, every one of these scenes goes, “we have a problem”…wait 3 seconds…“here is the solution”. There is virtually no drama or suspense or comedy whatsoever. Most Saved by the Bell fans were probably at least hoping for some scandalous content, or at least more insight into some episodes, but alas there was none of that.

It was clear that the Unauthorized part of the title restricted them from even re-creating actual scenes from the show. So even when they showed them filming, there were just made up, with the one exception, sort of. The famous Jessie taking pills scene was re-created in a rehearsal offstage, which is probably the only way they could get around it.

The show didn’t dive much into the personal lives of characters, outside of a few small things here and there. And all of the rumored hooking up and love triangles seemed mostly absent. The closest drama came Screech’s drinking and drug problem, which seemed pretty tame compared to some of the stories that have gone around over the years.

Because this was based on Diamond’s book, it was told mostly from the perspective of the character playing Diamond. These stories were clearly written from the way he remembers them, and he certainly goes out of his way to try and make himself seem like the most sympathetic character. In reality though, he probably makes feel less sorry for him.

Diamond had the least success after Saved by the Bell, and he is pretty much the only one who hasn’t tried to greatly distance himself from the show. Because of that, he can make movies like this because no one else from the cast probably cares anymore.

This movie was poorly written, poorly acted and cheaply made. All of those things are probably true about most Lifetime movies. It’s very likely that most of the people watching this were seeing the first Lifetime movie of their lives1. So it’s likely that this was par for the course. But it is hard to imagine that even the biggest diehard Saved by the Bell fan could find this remotely worth their time.

  1. I am pretty sure I was []