Tipping Pitches: November 2009

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sports: Halladay open to joining the Dark Side

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So word is that coveted Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay is willing to waive his no-trade clause for a deal to the Yankees.

Bring it on.

Wait. This from a small market fan? Sick of the Yankees making it rain with 100 dollar bills to the tune of a $200 Million payroll?

Yeah, you heard me. Bring it on.

The system is broken. It's been broken for a long time. Some could say it's been broken for a century. But it's difficult to fix a broken system when the Yankees aren't winning World Series after World Series.

The past decade has only added to the argument that money can't buy championships. That small market teams can compete. That there's parity in baseball.

It's all B.S. The Yankees can buy championships. They've simply made some horrendous moves during the past decade covered up by some good ones. But that's a luxury you can afford when you seemingly have no budget.

Want to prove to the world that the system needs fixing? Trade for Roy Halladay.

The Yankees are the perfect suitor, to be honest. They can pay the $15+ Million salary. They don't care about the money. They can send only prospects and young underachieving players in return, players they have no use for anyway.

And let's be real, this is more than trading for a star pitcher in the final year of his contract. Halladay would essentially be signing his 2010 free agent deal by approving such a trade. If he succeeds with the Yankees, do you really think they'd let him leave the Bronx? Of course not. They'll spend whatever it takes.

So trade for Halladay. Sign Lackey. Sign and trade for every other big money, big name star that other teams know they can't afford now or won't be able to afford soon. Take advantage of all of those poor saps.

Create a $250 Million payroll. Win 125 games. Sweep through the playoffs.

You laugh. Think it can't happen. But it can. With the new revenue generating stadium in New York, it certainly can. The Yankees have no limits. While many of the top tier teams are trimming payroll, the Yankees can eat up the debris.

Then? Then can we admit there's a problem? Then can we do something about it?

I'm willing to suffer through a couple of years of Yankee super dominance to get something done. Until now, they've stumbled and bumbled through Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon, Kei Igawa, Gary Sheffield, Carl Pavano and other similar bad signings only to remain competitive by signing players like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia and others.

Stop screwing up, Yankees. Make some good signings. Sign the best players. Trade for the stars that the poor small market teams can't afford.

Dominate. Dominate hard. Dominate like no team has ever dominated before. Make the other teams scream for mercy.

And change.

Sports: MLB Network helps relive memories, open wounds

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I applaud the person or people who put together MLB Network. Greatest channel ever created.

A "Greatest Games" marathon of All-Star games is ending tomorrow. I have watched several from the 1980s and 90s and will be recording several shorter "highlight" shows of All-Star games from those two decades as well as the 1970s tomorrow.

It's heaven, man. Games you thought you'd never see again. Names you'd never hear. Faces you'd never see. All relived.

I saw Jack Armstrong start the 1990 All-Star Game. Jack Armstrong! Man, I haven't heard that name in forever. One of many rookie cards I collected, hoping he'd continue his studliness and lead to my eventual wealth.

But being able to sit through a decade makes the Steroid Era seem all the more obvious. And painful.

Watching the games in progressive was interesting. You know why. Players started getting bigger. Then a lot bigger. Numbers and physiques were cartoonish. And early it was comical listening to announcers talk about new training methods, stronger players, bigger numbers. But unable to connect the dots.

I was watching the 1999 show, playing the "Juicer or Not Juicer" game when I suddenly became saddened. It happened right around the time I decided I couldn't be sure about guys like BJ Surhoff or Jay Bell.

This sucks. It sucks for the fans. It sucks for the players who were clean.

BJ Surhoff had 20 homers at the break. I know, that seems crazy. But it's no typo. He had 20. He would eclipse 20 in a season three times in his career, failing to reach double digits in 12 of 19 seasons.

But in 1999, the heart of steroid use, he had 20 home runs midway through the season. Guilty? I hope not. But it sucks for him if he's innocent to put up numbers like that at a time like that.

I don't know if he took steroids, but I can certainly see why he might. At 34, his career was winding down. He was a solid hitter, but an endangered species. He was a hard worker, a utility guy, someone who wasn't great at anything. And he didn't hit home runs in bunches.

He also had never before participated in an All-Star game.

Would you do it? I like to say I wouldn't. But it was a strange era. Everyone was doing it. If you didn't, you may lose your job to someone who was. Especially a guy like Surhoff.

I remember meeting the guy as a rookie in 1987 at a card show. I was a 12-year-old Brewers fan decked out in my team's gear, eager to get his attention. I idolized guys like Surhoff.

There is no real reason to dirty his name in this conversation. But it's the type of discussion that happens as a result of an era of lies and deception.

Jay Bell? I don't know how I missed this guy. He didn't look huge, I guess. Maybe just because he was surrounded by body building goons like Mark McGwire. He wore glasses. He could be your high school science teacher.

The year 1999 was Bell's 14th season. Until then, he had hit single digit home runs eight times. Eclipsed 20 twice (20 and 21 the prior two seasons).

But in 1999, Jay Bell set a career high for home runs in a season with 24. By the All-Star break. He finished with 38.

Bell and Surhoff are two of the many examples we don't usually hear when people start throwing around names. But it's the crappy game we end up playing when the league and its players have done everything they can to bury this era.

It sucks that we can't be confident about these guys. Instead of doing all we can to separate the cheaters from those who did it the right way, we're told to lump everyone together in the era.

It's not just Bell and Surfhoff. It's also the others like Cal Ripken, Nolan Ryan, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor and Barry Larkin. It's also those who never became stars.

It's easy to separate Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. But it's near blasphemy to mention some of the others. Others that have clean images. Others who have never been accused of anything. Others we want to believe.

But there will always be that question. Did he? Maybe just once? Maybe just one season? Or was it several seasons?

We'll never know for sure. And we may even be understanding if we did.

Sports: Selig's departure could spark needed change

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It was recently revealed that Bud Selig has declined an option to renew his contract that currently ends in 2012 and will step down as Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Here is where you expect me to rag on Selig for ruining the league, causing the steroid issues, and failing to institute a salary cap.

Eh.

It's easy to hate on Selig. He's a weaselly guy. He has a crooked smile. Drools and spits when he talks. Was in charge when baseball endured the strike of 1994, the Steroid Era and growing divide between the haves and have-nots.

But I don't lay it all on Selig. He truly does care about baseball. But I don't think it would have been any different under just about any other of the league's prior commissioners.

Selig wasn't the cause of this stuff. He was simply in charge when it happened.

Could he have done something about it? Maybe. But he was a weak leader. He was diplomatic and Democratic. He deferred to management and yielded to the Player's Association in an effort to keep everyone happy.

The ability to get two sides to work together is often seen as a sign of a good leader. But it's not the type of leader the game needed during the past 15 years. And it's not the type of leader it needs now.

He was also a progressive Commissioner, being the center of inter-league play and the Wild Card playoff system.

Are those things good for baseball? Debatable. But the league is thriving, more or less, and he deserves some credit.

Baseball now needs a strong leader. One who isn't afraid of ruffling feathers. One who is willing to institute the "Good of the Game" clause that Selig was all too scared to touch.

In many ways, baseball needs its Roger Goodell. The new NFL commissioner jumped in and made immediate changes to the league's image. He is brash. He is confident. He does what he knows is best, regardless of what others think.

Baseball needs a commissioner who is not afraid of the MLBPA. One who is willing to do what is best for the league, no matter what the players and owners think. One who takes the power away from the players and Yankees and returns it to the game.

The steroids issue needs to be put to rest. It can't be until the league is completely transparent about the past and willing to go above and beyond to make sure that performance enhancing drugs stay out. And those who use need to be punished severely.

Selig has been weak here. He played dumb. No matter what the testing system in place, he'd claim it was working. He publicly trusted the players. He didn't want to punish those who broke the rules.

Instead of a public leader, he was a PR head. Cheerleader. Nothing to see here. All is well. Best league in the world.

Test more often. Off-season, preseason, during the season. Keep tests. Allow them to be public. Retest when codes are broken.

Do something about the financial disparity in the game. Get your head out of the sand. We all know that it is a problem. Admit to it. Don't allow the Yankees to guide your decisions.

Is a salary cap the answer? I don't know. But do something. Do more than a tax that does nothing but encourage the have-nots to collect year after year.

I don't fault Selig for the flaws in today's game. I wish he would have been a stronger leader. But he wasn't.

Knowing that his reign is ending gives me hope. It gives baseball hope. It gives fans of small market teams hope.

The next guy may or may not be any better. But new leadership provides hope that things can change. Under Selig, they won't.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sports: Time to Throw out the Voters

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Now... What I'm about to say is going to be controversial. That's how you write a blog that gets attention. So, everyone...

Controversy Alert! About to say something that many will think is stupid, thus guaranteeing comments and traffic!

It's time to get rid of Major League Baseball award voters.

There, I said it.

Crazy, right? Insanity. Stupid. Look at where the BCS system got us. Reason number one why this is a dumb idea.

Wrong.

What reasons do people give for why a player deserves an MVP?

Stats.

What reasons do people give when they complain about a dumb vote?

Stats.

How often do voters misuse their power by, say, voting for Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP? Or for giving Jeremy Affeldt a 10th place vote for NL MVP?

Far too often.

You can question a voter's intentions. You can question a voter's loyalty. You can question a voter's intelligence.

Far too often, a voter leans towards the players he covers. A voter omits a player based on grudges. A voter penalizes a player he rarely got to watch. A voter is swayed by media attention and public perception

But stats have no bias.

Granted, stats don't measure if a player was a cancer in the clubhouse. They don't measure if a player was a leader. They don't measure whether the player was involved in a pennant race (well, they probably could).

But subjectivity is part of the problem. Jeremy Affeldt? Jeremy freaking Affeldt? What reason do you have for giving that guy a vote?

I'd take the statistical alternative -- the hard evidence and substantiated selection -- over the status quo. The current system has room for error. Room for impropriety. Room for corruption.

What's that? Corruption? Yeah, corruption. Players get paid based on their awards.

Guess what? That first place Cabrera vote earned him a bonus he otherwise would not have received. Not saying there's a connection. Just saying the opportunity is there.

I'm also tired of the "he was involved in a pennant race" argument. So? So that makes him more valuable? A player surrounded by no talent performing like Superman is less valuable than, say, Ryan Howard on the Phillies?

Purely hypothetical. One player does not carry a team in baseball. He just doesn't. He can't. He helps. But he helps, mainly, by putting up good stats.

And these days, throwing out the "involved in a pennant race" criteria makes more sense than ever. It wasn't too long ago that franchises had largely similar resources to work with.

More parity existed. One player could make all the difference in the world. Including that factor made some sense, at least when separating two players with similar numbers.

Now? Now you can't fault a player for having the greatest statistical season on the worst team. You can't automatically anoint the MVP only from a group of teams that participated in the playoffs.

For many reasons.  If a player was on a team that made the playoffs with 83 wins, was he more valuable than an equal player on a team in a difficult division that missed the playoffs with 85 wins?  Of course not.  But many will argue it to be the case.

It's not right. You are bound to ignore great seasons and favor the big markets. The markets that can buy a World Series. Can buy a playoff appearance. And then, can buy an MVP.

Isn't this, then, all the more reason for a player to sign with a big market team? Not only will they get the most money, but they'll have the best chance to play in the World Series and win an MVP award.

Why play for a small market team? What is left? The folksy people?

I understand continuing to involve fans in All-Star voting, even if it leads to flawed results. I get that. But why do we need to involve writers?

Screw writers.

So throw out the voters. Base it on the stats. Leave it to a computer. People will still find ways to argue, don't get me wrong. But the deserving player, more often than not, will get properly recognized. Not only the winner, but second, third place on down.

I'm not going to try too hard to create the formula to be used for this. I'll just get myself into trouble by developing a flawed formula.  Smarter people need to do that (Bill James?).

But many formulas have already been created to measure performance. I'd prefer to go with any number of formulas over a voter who is likely to use stats (often incorrectly) and bias to make their decision.

Bonus money depends on it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sports: Fourth Down Decision Strangely Sensitive

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I've spent two articles trying to make the case for why Bill Belichick went for it on fourth and two from his own 28 yard line with a six point lead and just over two minutes to go. That's not what this blog entry is all about.

I'm done. No more. It's pointless.

I've read countless articles bashing the decision. They all basically say the same thing. Stupid move. Dumbest coaching decision of the year. If any other coach does that, they'd get fired. You don't give Peyton Manning a short field. Arrogant. Not showing confidence in the defense.

There's nothing new out there. It's all a regurgitation.

The radio is no better. Since last Monday's game, I've listened to ESPN Radio all day every day. For the most part, these meat heads say the same thing. Dumb move. No excuse. No stats can make it a good move.

I don't even want these people to admit it was the right decision. Just acknowledge it had some merit. But they don't, which is the most frustrating part. And it's why this debate is going nowhere.

For whatever reason, it took Bill Simmons nearly a week to respond to the game and Belichick's move. The article is titled Belichick's fourth-and-reckless.

Yeah, we know where he stands on the issue.

As a regular Simmons reader, the article was disappointing, to say the least, but I wasn't surprised. Partly because I don't think a fan of the Patriots can view that decision clearly. You either hate it or you defend whatever Belichick does.

Still, it was a painful article to read. I typically thoroughly enjoy every word he writes. But this. This was trash.

After reading that article, I was going to respond with a blog entry of my own, dissecting his every misguided word. Nearly two days passed.

I can't do it.

Not that I can't make the arguments, but I've made them before. Others have as well. But those who want to believe that it was a stupid move will continue to believe that way.

It's like religion. Or politics.

Stat heads believe in the stats. Meat heads believe in unwritten football laws, no matter what the stats say.

You tell a stat head that the move made no sense, no matter what the stats say, we think you're stupid.

A stat head tells a meat head that the move had merit, no matter what is typically done in football, and the meat head laughs hysterically.

Heels are dug in. People aren't changing their minds. Let's just move on.

In the end, there's a very good reason why this issue is so difficult to debate. There is no precedence. Coaches don't do this. I don't care if you have other fourth down stats. This fourth down was different in every way imaginable.

We need more coaches who are willing to do things that aren't typically done. Now, don't do completely irrational things. But if you at least have the stats saying to do it, do it.

Until then, we're just debating about something that has no clear right or wrong answer. We're arguing about something that has only happened once.

So, coaches, buck up. The best candidates for this experiment are those who are going to lose their jobs anyway. They have nothing to lose.

Worst case, they look stupid and get fired. They were going to get fired anyway.

Best case, they are "the next Belichick." Assuming the meat heads don't ruin his reputation with this one decision, that's a good thing.

Technology: Not bashing Retweets, but what's up with...

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Alright, so I've been one of the apparent six percent of the Twitter population who supports the new Twitter Retweet button. It's not that I think it's the greatest thing ever. But I understand why they did it, the weaknesses they were trying to fix, and that it isn't a finished product.

When sites are as big as Twitter and Facebook, any change is going to be confronted with irrational anger and confusion, no matter how big or small. So no surprise that this thing has become quite a mess.

I'm not going to complain about the inability to comment. That complaint is well documented, and word is that it is functionality that will soon be available.

I also won't complain about "strangers appearing in my feed." Come on, people. Your brain will figure it out. You know that if someone appears you do not recognize that it is someone who has been retweeted by someone you do recognize. If this is too tricky, your brain is easily tricked or you're following too many people.

Knowing that this is only phase one of the Retweet project, I don't expect it to be perfect. But what's up with...

1) New log of Retweets doesn't appear to be updating. Maybe no one has retweeted me since the 19th. I'll buy that. But the most recent Retweet by Others is the 19th? Not possible.

2) Can't retweet from my lists. I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I have created a list that I typically use for my default view. For whatever reason, there is no retweet link when viewing a list. I then click on the profile to view that message to retweet, which is a pain.

3) Actually, retweets don't even show up when viewing lists. In other words, why use a list? Becoming a problem.

4) Retweets not recognized by third party apps. This is to be expected, so I won't hold it against Twitter. Third parties will need to catch up on any changes made to the API. That said, if people using third party apps (close to one half) don't see that I've retweeted something, the value is dropping quickly.

5) When you reply to a retweet, you reply to the original author. It would be nice to have some control over this. Maybe I don't care about the original author. Maybe I want to thank the person I know who retweeted it. I guess I could just @ them. But whatever. It's a little confusing.

6) Notifications would be nice. Ok, now I'm just getting picky. Maybe this is something that will come eventually. But considering I'm not on Twitter.com 24 hours per day and I do use third party apps quite a bit, I may completely miss when someone retweets me. It would be great if I could get an e-mail notification when this happens. Actually, it would be great if I could get such a notification for my @ messages, too. I'm not that popular. I want to know when it happens.

That's really all.

Again, I get it. It's not going to be perfect yet. I see the vision. I know where they're going.

But the product right now is semi-useless. You can't comment. The person you're retweeting may never even see you've retweeted them. The people in your network may never see the retweet if they are using third party apps or focus only on lists.

Lots of hiccups. Twitter will fix them, but these are some weaknesses I hadn't seen others complain about. So here I am. Complaining.

Anything else I missed?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fatherhood: Father and Sons Stuck in 1982

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One of the most fulfilling of the many fulfilling aspects of fatherhood is enjoying something you are passionate about with your children.

Tonight, I had bath duties since my wife was having her lady friends over to do crazy lady stuff.  Books, complain about men, play with GI Joe's.  Not real sure what they did.

But we "men" (Michael, Pee Wee, JJ and me) were upstairs doing man stuff.  Unplugged the PS2 from downstairs and hooked it up to our bedroom TV.

To play some games?  Nope.

To watch "Harvey's Wallbangers."  That's right, the story of the 1982 Brewers.

And before you say it, think again.  This was not my idea.  While at the dinner table last night, we let the boys know of the ensuing Lady Liason and let them know they could watch a movie of their choice during that time.

"Harvey's Wallbangers!"  Michael shouted.

"Harvey's Wallbangers!"  Pee Wee joins in.

"Hi!"  Ok, JJ's still figuring it out.  He thinks baseballs are something you eat.

Proud moment as a dad.  Properly brainwashed.  And don't think that brainwashing is easy, particularly when you have a wife who is of no help in this situation.  She somehow convinced them to root for the Broncos over the Packers.

It's difficult for me to admit that.  Although, lately it's seemed that they are coming around.  Instead of hating the Packers, they have joined me in my Brett Favre hate.  And Michael's even proclaimed that the Packers are his second favorite team.

Baby steps.  I'll take it.

But my boys LOVE the Brewers.  Love them like I do.  Love them the way I did when I was their age, if not even more.  And that's saying something.

It was a great scene.  Bob Uecker (the voice of summer) narrating the greatest moments of our beloved Brewers' 1982 season.  Michael asking me questions every 30 seconds.  Pee Wee acting out everything he sees.

"What's that racket?!  All we're hearing is a bunch of thumping downstairs."

Pee Wee, the ladies have spoken.  Have a seat.

I was a year younger than Michael (who is now eight) the year this Harvey's Wallbangers business took place.  To share the memories with them now is special.

It's bittersweet, for lack of a better word to describe the feeling of something that feels great and somehow depressing at the same time (I'm like a walking thesaurus, I know).  I am still holding onto something that happened 27 years ago.

And the Brewers didn't even win the World Series.

And all of those dudes are old now.  And they were my age now (and younger) when this stuff happened.

I want to tell the boys that the Brewers will make some new memories that they'll create a video about.  I want to tell them that they will one day have a similar moment with their kids, watching and reminiscing about the 2012 Brewers.

But I don't have the heart to tell them.  They may want to hold onto Harvey's Wallbangers.  It may be the movie they watch with their kids.

It's such a different game now.  The Brewers could compete with anyone, and they did.  During the offseason before the 1981 season, they went out and traded for two All-Stars and one future Hall of Famer: catcher Ted Simmons, starting pitcher Pete Vuckovich, and closer Rollie Fingers.

In fact, between Fingers and Vuckovich, the trade would bring the Brewers two Cy Young awards and one MVP during the next two seasons.

If that weren't enough, they added future Hall of Famer Don Sutton at the tail end of the 1982 season. It seemed they could do what ever they wanted as a franchise.

Was it because these players were unknowns?  Nope.

Was it because they were washed up?  Nope.

They may have been reaching the other side of their prime, but they were valuable players.  Players the Brewers could never acquire now.

Not to mention, think about that roster.  Paul Molitor.  Robin Yount.  Cecil Cooper.  Ben Oglivie.  Gorman Thomas.  Sal Bando.  Don Money.  Jim Gantner.  Don Sutton.  Mike Caldwell.  The trio of Fingers, Simmons and Vuckovich.

Four future Hall of Famers.  Four.

It was the perfect combination of youth, players in their prime, and savvy veterans.  Many grew up through the Brewers' system.  Some were acquired for the stretch drive.

But the Brewers kept that team in tact, for the most part.  The year 1982 was their pinnacle, but it wasn't because they needed to disband the team.

They could still afford it.  They could still compete.  It was simply that the combination of injuries and age hit them hard.

But they were able to assemble that dream team, and it wasn't assembled entirely through the farm system.  It wasn't a one year spending spree prior to a fire sale.

The Brewers did what any team could have done at that time.  They just did it better.

Sorry, sons.  Not like that any more.  After six years, they would no longer have a Robin Yount or Paul Molitor.  In all likelihood, they'd have to trade one of those guys away while they still had them under control.

Couldn't acquire guys like Simmons, Fingers and Vuckovich at the same time.  Then Sutton.  Too much money.  Gotta build from within.  Fill in with young guys and cheap veterans.

No chance they could hold onto players like Cecil Cooper and Ben Oglivie. Cooper was the best at his position and in the league for 10 years. Oglivie had hit over 40 homers in a year and was also a veteran.

Those guys would be raking in $15 Million now.

Hate coming off like the old guy, but it's a shame.  It's not that I want 1982 back.  It's not that I want the players to play like they did in those days.  It's not that the brand of baseball was necessarily better back then.

I just want to have faith in baseball.  I want to feel good about my team.  I want to experience another 1982.

I want that for me, but I also want that for my sons.  I just don't have the courage to tell them it may never happen.

So we hold on.  We hold on to a second place finish.  And we hold on like 27 championship seasons wrapped into one.

Technology: How to Improve Your Twitter Network

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I read a great post today called Strategies for Gaining Influence on Twitter by Ian Stewart (no, not the Ian Stewart of the Colorado Rockies -- at least, I don't think so).

While I feel pretty comfortable with Twitter these days, it's always good to read what others are doing to enhance their experience. I admit I've hit a bit of a plateau lately in the value I am getting out of it.

I have two issues: 1) Lack of productive followers, and 2) lack of productive follow...ees.  It's, as I like to describe it, my Twitter Network which could be improved.

The first is a common problem. You can have 2,000,000 followers, but who knows how many of those people are spammers, inactive accounts, or people who couldn't care less about what you have to say.  The number isn't important.

Ultimately, you want people who will retweet your stuff. That's money. Not only does it mean that you aren't talking to yourself, but these people help spread your message and grow your audience.

Because of these people, you are having interactions.  Fostering relationships.  Many of you have experienced this, but Twitter is a very frustrating thing when you feel like you are talking to myself.

Hello?  Anyone out there?

The second is only a problem if your unproductive "followees" make up a large percentage of your feed. For me, I follow a lot of people who don't follow me back. This is fine for the most part. Most are high profile people who are great resources. I don't expect them to follow me back.

But it also means that most people whom I follow won't return the favor when I retweet them. And again, it's not required that they do. But if I want to grow my audience, I need to also follow people who care about what I have to say.

So that's the challenge. My network needs to include a healthy mixture of:

1) Powerful and influential people in my niche who may not ever interact with me but provide very useful information; and
2) Others in my niche who are like me and with whom I can engage and interact.

I want to find people who provide interesting information who may also be down for what I have to say. A productive relationship of sorts.

So that's why I found Stewart's entry interesting. It provided a way to do that -- quickly.

Stewart's Strategy
You can read it yourself, but it's pretty simple.  His strategy goes beyond the things I am going to mention, but found the following most interesting.

1) Decide who the most influential people are in your niche. It may be someone you're already following, or you can find them on a service like WeFollow.com.

2) Run a Twitter search to find the people who retweet that influential person. So, you'd search "RT @[influential person]". Why do you care about these people? Pretty simple. They are people who share an interest in your niche but also in a specific influential person you also follow. Just as importantly, they are willing to retweet, which is the type of follower you're looking for.

3) Follow 200 of these people per week. Now, I think this is a bit nuts. You may do this if you are wanting to grow fast or are only focused on more followers. Me, I don't like following more people than I can physically follow. Until now, I have tried to keep the number of people I follow under 150. Anyway, the thought here is that 25% of the people you follow will follow you back.

4) Every week, determine which of those 200 people you should continue to follow and adjust. In other words, they suggest you use something like FriendorFollow.com to determine who hasn't followed you back and unfollow them. Again, I'm not a fan of this. It says you only care about getting more followers and it was your only motivation for following them.

5) Repeat this process every week. Stewart claims it significantly improves your number of followers, but more importantly your productive followers.

My Adjusted Strategy

I'm not comfortable with following people for the sole purpose of getting them to follow back. You can't dispute that's the motivation if you are unfollowing these people if they don't follow you back. It's numbers padding. May be productive numbers padding, but still think it's dirty.

That doesn't mean I'll never unfollow you. But if I use a similar strategy, I'll unfollow you if you provide no perceived value to me. You don't have to follow me back (as is evident by the large number of people I follow who don't currently return the favor).

So this is what I'm going to start doing going forward on a weekly basis:

1) Run a Twitter search to find people who retweet influential people in my niche, as Stewart explains.

2) Follow some of those people, but not a designated number. My latest exercise brought me up to 200 people I'm following. I don't want to follow more than that. We'll see if I want to trim that back down again, but I don't want to be overwhelmed by the information flowing through.  But it's likely I won't be adding many people when I run this exercise going forward.

3) Make a weekly evaluation on whom I should unfollow, which can open more slots. If you @ me, I'm going to keep you. If you retweet me, I'm going to keep you. If you provide interesting information that I care about, I'm going to keep you. It's not as easy as basing it only on whether you are interacting with me. It helps, but if you at least provide me with good info, it makes me more interesting in the long run.

So that's it. Pretty simple. I started it today, and we'll see how it goes.

What are your strategies for improving your Twitter network? Always interested in hearing what others are doing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Technology: Why am I Following You on Twitter?

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Update: I may have figured out why this is happening. I checked my connections and noticed "TopFollowed.com" among my applications. Must have been something I added as an ignorant newbie. Guessing this is the source, but will have a better idea in the coming days since I revoked access.

I've recently begun to pay close attention to one of my stats on Twitter, and it's not my number of followers. No, once I reached 150 people I was following, I've done everything in my power to maintain that number.

In many cases, that's meant trimming the number down when I add new people. From what I've heard, there's actually some sort of social media law that supports what I'm doing. But I really can't -- and have no desire to -- follow more than 150 people at once.

Since I pay close attention to the number of people I'm following and who I'm following, anything that doesn't seem right is immediately obvious to me. Lately, I've spotted a trend.

Beginning at about midnight Central time, people will follow me. This somehow triggers an auto follow back.

Let me be clear. I do not auto-follow anyone. I have not set this up on any service. And when someone follows me during the day, it's never a problem.

But for whatever reason, I always end up following more people when I wake up in the morning than I had the night before. And it's always because there are some new followers that I now happen to be following.

People I never followed.

What is going on? I've asked the question before. I've run searches for this phenomenon. But I've never been able to figure out why it's happening.

Is there something I can do to block this activity? Is it an app that I previously used that makes me vulnerable? Or is it a weakness in Twitter that everyone is experiencing?

All I know is that it's stuff like this that makes Twitter more like Myspace than Facebook. The spam. The porn. The dirty practices.

If Twitter doesn't clean it up, people like me will eventually get fed up and leave. Just like we did with Myspace.

I've started a list of some of the people who have forced a follow. Now, I'd be surprised if it's not something dirty that they are personally doing, but at this point I have no clue what is happening. So, for now, they aren't guilty of anything. But maybe some of these names look familiar to you.

I'll continue to maintain this list going forward. Until, of course, this is fixed and the list no longer grows.

vivipineda
ExecJobSrchSltn
servicebazaar
davidligtenberg
drrobertoyoung
piblogger1
mattucee
ThomSilcox
inviteswelcome
hamlesh
tundraace
KIPL
JJJehengir
JimEverett
rpatwebb
TechboyToronto

Sports: Why the Stat Heads Win

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Bill Belichick's controversial 4th down call against the Colts made for a fun time to be a sports fan, particularly for one who is a bit of a stat nerd.  As I wrote following the Indianapolis Colts' comeback win over the New England Patriots, I support Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth and two from his own 28 with a six point lead and about two minutes remaining in the game.

I know!  It's crazy.  While I understand the risks involved, I think it was the right move.  There is some subjectivity involved.  But objectively speaking, there is plenty of data to support this decision.

Of course, I expected to have very little support.  That, as apparent on ESPN.com, ESPN and ESPN Radio, seems to be the case.

Fans are separated into two groups: 1) the stat heads and 2) meat heads who don't care what the stats say.

The stat heads, I admit, are prone to see football in a vacuum.  Use league-wide stats, ignore who is home or away, ignore momentum.

On the flip side, meat heads are impossible to argue with.  You punt there.  It's just what you do.  Conventional wisdom wins.  No other coach goes for it.  Flawed arguments, omitting important factors, and completely ignoring stats.

Mainstream sports media was largely dominated by the meat heads.  But the stat heads were able to gain some steam.

A couple of the more prominent pieces in support of going for it on fourth down were written by Brian Burke for the New York Times Blog and Joe Posnanski for his own blog.  Many of the same arguments in both.

The core argument for Bill Belichick is that the odds of successfully converting fourth down and two was 60%.  The odds that the Colts would score a touchdown from their own 29 was 53%.  And the odds that the Colts would score a touchdown following a punt was 30%.

The meat heads would counter this by saying that the Patriots had a 70% chance of stopping the Colts after a punt compared to a 60% chance of succeeding on fourth down.  You have to punt!

Uh, that's not how it works.  If you understand statistics, the result is that the probability of winning if the Patriots go for it on fourth down was 79% versus 70% if they punt.

I applaud the work, but think it's dangerous to use stats as absolutes.  It isn't black and white.  Those odds apply to all teams in similar situations.  You need to account for these two offensively superior teams and the situation.

The likelihood of the Colts scoring from the Patriots' 29 has to be higher than the norm.  Similarly, the likelihood they score after a punt must also be higher.

Additionally, I feel the 60% number for successfully converting on fourth down may be a little generous.  Even for the Patriots, who have been successful going for it on fourth down with a pass 70% of the time dating back to 2004.

However, keep in mind that most fourth down plays do not decide a game.  In this case, the Colts could focus entirely on stopping the short play.  Not the case in a typical fourth down play that must account for stopping the long pass.

What is the correct probability of each event occurring?  There isn't one.  But we can look at ranges.

So when using stats in this case, I wanted to consider a range for each event.  Probability of success would be determined by ranges in the following scenarios:
  • Probability of converting on fourth down between 40 and 65%
  • Probability of Colts scoring from the Patriots' 30 between 55 and 80%
  • Probability of Colts scoring after a punt between 30 and 55%
I think these are unbiased and reasonable.  In fact, I'd expect them to favor the likelihood of supporting a punt.  Or it will at least be difficult for someone to make the claim that I left out a likely scenario.

Then I applied Brian Burke's formula to every possible scenario at multiples of five (for example, probability of converting on fourth down at 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 and 65%).  Total of 216 scenarios.

I know, I'm nuts.  And a nerd.

This is what I found:
  • Of the 216 scenarios, 177 indicate odds of victory when going for it on fourth down were equal to or greater than odds of victory when punting.
  • 39 of the 216 scenarios indicate that punting was the better decision.
  • In order for punting to be the best option, the most common factor was probability to convert on fourth down.  In 15 of those 39 scenarios, the chance of successfully converting on fourth down was 40% - a number unlikely to be supported by many.
  • In 32 of the 39 pro-punt scenarios, the assumption is made that the Colts would have had only a 30 or 35% chance of scoring after a punt.
I provided ranges to cover any reasonable odds.  If you  believe that the Patriots had a 60% chance of succeeding on fourth down, there is no reasonable reason to punt.  If you believe the Colts had greater than a 35% chance of scoring a touchdown with under two minutes from their side of the field (as they had already done twice in the quarter), there are few reasonable explanations to prefer the punt.

Reasonable football fans will grant the Patriots had at least a 50% chance of converting on that fourth down.  Reasonable fans would acknowledge the Colts had a 40% or better chance of scoring on a drive after a punt.

If you grant those things, you acknowledge -- intentionally or not -- that going for it on fourth down was the right move.

So why, then, would someone prefer to go against the odds?

This is the problem I have with people who say you can't use stats and probability when judging this move: Then on what do you base your decision?

Aren't all moves based on probability, even if they aren't based on absolutes?  For example, what should Belichick be thinking as he is making his decision?  Should he do what gives him the highest probability of winning, or should he do what seems obvious?

I'd argue that everyone is basing their strategy on some sort of probability, even if it's faulty logic or missing valuable information.  An example is the argument I've heard repeatedly that you don't give Peyton Manning a short field.  You make him drive 70 yards.

Of course that's the preference!  But that is missing a very important factor.  The Patriots didn't just hand the ball to the Colts at the 29 and say they prefer to give the Colts the ball with a short field.  There was a decision before that to go for it on fourth down.  The exact odds are up for debate, but it's reasonable to say that there was a 50/50 chance that Peyton Manning even gets the ball in the first place.

You can't omit the odds of converting on fourth down from the equation.  That, unfortunately, is what many are doing.  Or they are assuming that the Patriots were never going to convert, which is clearly bad logic.

Not to mention, many are assuming that it's an automatic that the Colts win if they take over at the 29.  Not only do they first have to score a touchdown, but if not for some poor strategy by the Patriots defense, New England may have gotten the ball back one more time to go for a winning field goal.

And to be honest, considering the possibility of getting the ball back also needs to be considered in the odds when deciding whether or not to go for it.  Guess what?  Including that factor would only improve the probability of winning when going for it on fourth down.

In other words, I'm doing everything I can to help the meat heads.  I'm allowing for the possibility that the odds the Patriots convert is below 50% (no matter how irrational that may seem).  I am allowing for the possibility that the Colts had below a 40% chance of scoring a touchdown if the Patriots punted.  And I also omit a scenario which only would have helped the pro-go for it argument.

I'm generous in that way.  But the meat heads are wrong.

And let me be clear, I am not saying that this means going for it is absolutely the right move.  As I've said before, I hate absolutes.  I like the move.  Depending on how you view the different probabilities, it may be the right move.

But many are behaving as if making such a move was stupid.  It wasn't.  It was well thought out.  It was logical.  And it had merit.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sports: Belichick Roasted for Unpopular Call

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Early in the day, I sat on my couch dumbfounded by a coach's ultra-conservative play calling.

The Philadelphia Eagles trailed the San Diego Chargers by a score of 14-0 with a few minutes remaining in the first half.  Philadelphia put their first big drive together.

First and goal from the one.

Second and goal.

Third and goal.

Fourth and goal from the one.

Field goal.

Seemed incredibly illogical to me.  But a largely supported move.

The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts faced off for yet another historic clash of the decade's two greatest teams later in the day. The Colts overcame a 17-point deficit to win 35-34 in the waning seconds.

Yet, this game will be remembered for one thing: New England head coach Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth and two from his own 28 with just over two minutes remaining.

With a six point lead.

Running back Kevin Falk bobbled and then secured the fourth down pass near the first down marker, but was called inches short. Replays were inconclusive.

A challenge was not a possibility since the Patriots foolishly squandered their timeouts. A call from the booth was not possible since the play occurred just outside of the two minute warning.

But even had the play been reviewed, it never would have been reversed. Not because it was clearly correctly called on the field, but because there would not have been any irrefutable evidence either way.

In other words, had it been called a first down on the field, it's unlikely such a call would have been reversed either. It was a very subjective call. One of many in football.

Analysts were quick to lambaste Belichick afterwords. He may deserve it. He's not the warmest guy. He's incredibly ballsy.

And this was the ballsiest of ballsy calls.

Thing is, Belichick is the only coach who makes this call. That's a compliment. No other coach has the balls or support from ownership to make it. Any other coach would be fired for such a move.

"The obvious call."

I hate absolutes in football. Immediately we hear...

"You punt the ball in that situation."

"Every time."

"Worst call he has ever made."

Incredibly surprising is the best way I'd describe the call. But mainly because it is never done. Doesn't mean it is completely irrational.

Of course, I thought he was just faking such a move before calling a time out. But when he brought his offense back onto the field to run that play?

Shocked.

Belichick had supreme confidence in his offense.  But he had no confidence in his defense. He was facing Peyton Manning who was moving the ball at will. If the Patriots punt there, Manning has two minutes to drive 60 or 70 yards to win.

Granted, that's a much better alternative to driving 30 yards. But Belichick expected to pick up the first down and end the game there. He wasn't going for it on fourth and 15. It was fourth and two. And I'm still not convinced they didn't pick up the first down.

Look, I can't stand the Patriots. Granted, not a fan of the Colts either. But I enjoy seeing unconventional moves in football. I appreciate a coach who understands there isn't only one way to do things.

Because I'm not a Patriots fan, I feel like I can look at this with an unbiased eye.  Because if I were a Patriots fan, I'd probably be pretty pissed right now.

Belichick's balls may have gotten in the way here. Would have been much safer to punt. But punting guaranteed nothing, too. Getting that extra inch would have guaranteed him a win.

But let's think about this with an open mind, completely unaffected by football's "absolutes." He had two pretty clear options:

1) Go for it on fourth down.
2) Punt the ball.

If he goes for it on fourth down and converts, the game's over. Patriots win. An absolute.

If he goes for it on fourth down and fails, the Colts still need to drive 30 yards for a touchdown. Not an absolute.

If he punts the ball, the Colts still need to drive 60 or 70 yards (or less, who knows?) for a touchdown. Not an absolute.

Either way, if you hand the ball over to the Colts the momentum is on their side.  And the control.

Bill Belichick is a control freak. He didn't want to sit there and watch Peyton Manning pick apart his defense again. He wanted to end the game right there.

But football fans will have plenty of fun ripping Belichick for making the most unconventional, aggressive call, possibly in the history of the game -- or at least the modern game.

In reality, coaches who make the ultra conservative call, the "absolute" call, the "job saving" call that results in a loss are those who should be ripped.

It's funny the polar opposites I witnessed today. On one hand, I saw Andy Reid and the Eagles refuse to go for it on fourth and goal from the one when they were down 14-0 to the San Diego Chargers near the end of the first half.

On the other, I saw Belichick make the most aggressive fourth down call I have ever witnessed.

The majority -- or at least a strong minority -- likely supported Reid's decision. At least those talking in front of a TV camera.

Just put some points on the board. Have to give your team some confidence going into halftime with a field goal.

Worst decision of the day.

He gets that yard, it's 14-7. He fails, his defense still is set up to force a safety or at least get very good field position before the half ends to score again.

But this blog entry is likely to be the only evidence you will read in support of Belichick. Not so much that it was the right call, but I don't fault his aggressiveness.

Belichick was playing to win. Reid was playing to keep his job.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sports: Small Market Baseball Fans Need an Education

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Small market baseball fans are cute and all. They expect so much. They love their team.

But they're stupid.

Yes, I'm a small market fan. But I get it.

I get that I shouldn't expect the Brewers to make the playoffs every season. I shouldn't expect them to make it any season. If they do, it's an enormous success.

If you're a smart small market fan, you don't expect more than a .500 season. I use the word "expect," but most fans "demand" it.

That's foolish. When your team thrives on the success of its farm system and low cost/high risk free agents, you need to adjust your expectations accordingly.

So it's free agent season. What are we hearing out of Brewers fans?

Sign John Lackey! Sign another ace! Trade for an ace! Sign Prince Fielder to a long-term contract! The pitching staff sucks! Open your wallet!

Idiots.

John Lackey is not signing with the Brewers. Prince Fielder is as good as gone (two years left, max). The Brewers will bring in some new pitchers, but they will be mid level, once again.

[Note: They signed Randy Wolf and Doug Davis. As much as any fan could have expected.]

It's how it works in Milwaukee. It's how it works in most baseball towns. We're set up for disappointment. Those who get that have reasonable expectations. Those who don't, ask for the general manager's head.

During the past five years, only one team with a payroll in the bottom half has a record in the top nine.

During the past five years, only two teams with a payroll in the bottom half have a record in the top 14.

Only four of those teams have a combined record of .500 or better.

The Brewers, last year, had a payroll that was 16th overall. It's freaking Milwaukee, people. You can't expect more than that. In fact, that's the absolute most a rational person should expect.

They won 80 games last season. Some were disappointed. To be honest, they've done pretty well the past five seasons. They are one of those teams with a combined record over .500.

But if GM Doug Melvin doesn't spend big money, fans will be asking for his head. Because he's an idiot.

Apparently.

Spoiled. Spoiled because Melvin brought Milwaukee CC Sabathia in a deadline deal in 2008 that propelled the Brewers to the playoffs. Spoiled because now these fans expect a similar trade, signing and outcome every season.

Forget it. If you want to enjoy your team, first see baseball through the eyes of your team's general manager.

The Brewers still have a solid nucleus of talent. Young talent. Few teams can boast a better pre-free agency group of Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo. And Rickie Weeks, Casey McGehee, Alcides Escobar and Corey Hart ain't too bad either.

But filling the holes is a major problem. You can't fill every hole from within. And you can't fill those holes with proven veterans through free agency -- it will be too expensive.

So there's an awful lot of gambling going on. You roll the dice. You spend a little. You hope.

You hope for .500.

Or you can hope for John Lackey. Or whatever other ace is out there who will inevitably sign with the Yankees or a similar team [eh hem -- Red Sox].

You can hope that. But don't demand it. It's irrational. It's stupid.

Even a little cute.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fatherhood: Six Years a Celebration

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Social media is a funny thing. It wasn't until I read my wife's Facebook status that I was reminded of today's significance.

It's probably because it's something we don't like to talk about. Easier to "status" about.



Michael, now eight, with his brother Pee Wee at a local Relay for Life
Six years ago today, I was sitting in my cubicle as an underwriter for an insurance company.

Six years ago today, our son Michael was two and a half years old and my wife Lisa was in an early pregnancy with our second.

Six years ago today, we received the news: Michael had a mass in his chest.

Michael had cancer.

It's the type of news that every parent fears getting. Not our boy. He doesn't deserve this. He's so smart, so good.

Are we going to lose him?

It was because of this day, six years ago, that Lisa and I are an emotional wreck whenever we stumble upon another similar story.

It was because of this day, six years ago, that I now work for the American Cancer Society.

It was because of this day, six years ago, that Michael dreams of being a "doctor for kids" one day.

Michael was lucky. Today, he is a happy, healthy, cancer-free third grade boy. His concerns today have little to do with his health. He loves baseball. Loves to read. Loves pancakes. Loves his brothers.

But it's because of that day, six years ago, that we all continue to fight that fight for parents like us. For kids like Michael.

For those who aren't so lucky.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Technology: RT @You: What's the Big Deal?

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Alright, so yesterday I wrote a blog entry in response to the many complaints about the new Twitter web retweet system, providing a proposed solution.

On second thought, what's the big deal?

While initially I saw the complaints having much more merit than the lame Facebook users' complaints for the sake of complaining, I have since changed my mind.

This is partly due to Twitter CEO Evan Williams' recent blog entry, Why Retweet works the way it does.

The truth is, though, that I didn't really need Evan's blog entry to tell me why it works the way it does. I already understand the many benefits. It's a great tool.

The new Retweet will ensure proper attribution. It will ensure the original message stays in tact. It will ensure that authors of particularly popular tweets are recognized.

It provides structure. And Twitter users hate structure.

But I did get why some wanted to continue to provide comments along with the retweet. That's fine. That's why I made a recommendation to make a slight tweak. And Twitter has left the door open to making such a change.

In the meantime, who cares? If you don't like it, continue to retweet the old fashioned way.

The bulk of complaints have to do with not being able to provide your own comments. It seems to have very little to do with being able to read others' comments.

So if your comments are really that important -- or if you think that others will freak if you don't provide any -- continue to retweet the way you always have.

Is it that difficult? Does this lack of change really require a Twitter revolt?

In all likelihood, this change is only Phase 1 of several enhancements to the tool. This is the bare bones version. They'll add on cool things down the road that people are screaming for.

So let the record show that I like this new change (even if I haven't yet been granted access to it). And whenever I feel that the message I'm going to retweet requires my incredibly insightful 20 character intro, I'll retweet the way I've always done it.

Done and done.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Technology: My Solution to the New Twitter RT "Problem"

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First of all, I have yet to receive access to the new built in Retweet Twitter web feature. Luckily, there have been some great blogs written about it.

Check out @Kegil's great entry called New Twitter RT Link: Use Caution.  She not only explains some of the potential pitfalls of the tool, but provides many very useful screen shots to help those of us who don't have access see how it is currently being used.

The problem pointed out by Kegil's blog entry is that messages retweeted from the web interface are not being displayed in third party applications. That is presumably something that will be fixed and not the purpose of my entry.

The issue I am addressing is one presented by Lance Ulanoff of PCMag.com in his blog Twitter Retweets: Thanks but No Thanks.

Lance's concern is that Twitter takes away the user's ability to edit the original message and add in their two cents at the front (or back) of the retweeted words. Instead, you now click the Retweet icon and the original message shows up in your followers' feeds with a message that you retweeted it.

Below is an example of how it looks (thanks again to Kegil for the screen shot):
So the first message is the one that was retweeted (as indicated by the new Retweet icon in front of it).  Below the message is a list of the people retweeting the message (in this case, it's only you).

First, I see why Twitter is doing this.  It has the potential to be a very good change.  People won't be able to massacre the original intention of a tweet, which ultimately happens (intentionally or not) due to the fact that users often need to shorten the message to include at least the "RT @user" characters.

So those who write pretty brilliant stuff can rest assured that those brilliant words will survive the new retweet function.

By also replacing "RT" with a graphic, Twitter is also validating that the original user did tweet this. Until now, users could maliciously retweet something in someone else's name, requiring the Twitter community to police such activity.

Twitter also goes a step further to give attribution to the originator of said tweet by putting their profile photo in front of the message instead of the retweeter.  This may also help users gain more followers.

It's also pretty cool to now be able to track how many people are retweeting a specific message.  We couldn't do that before.  Now we know just how powerful or popular a message was. 

These are good changes.

But people, like Lance, are upset that they can no longer provide their two cents about the original message.  Can't explain why they are retweeting it.  Can't add value.

I see that.  It's become part of the Twitter conversation.  By removing that, you are essentially voting for the best tweets.

It's not really what Twitter is.  I'm not a big Twitter dork yet, but I can understand why people want to provide a few words in some cases explaining why -- sometimes positively, sometimes negatively -- they are retweeting something.

The Solution
So let's solve this problem.

After selecting to retweet a message, Twitter should prompt the user to provide up to 25 characters (Twitter can make it more if they want, I'm just making a suggestion) that would accompany the retweet.  The user can choose to retweet without those characters if they choose.

Then, below the retweet, it will indicate the last user to retweet -- or the user who you are following who retweeted this message.  Next to that user's name is their quick description.

Here you go, see for yourself:
Below the retweeter's description is a link to view all people who have retweeted it -- just like in the current beta.  Now, I haven't seen this, but I believe they then provide a collage of profile photos of people who have retweeted.

I'm just going on gut here, but I'm guessing if you hover over one of these photos that it displays the user's name.  Why not also display that user's description (if applicable)?

Now I'm no programmer, but I'd like to think that this tweak would be doable. While I think that the change would otherwise be an improvement, this is a pretty big hiccup. Unlike the complaints about Facebook changes, this one actually has merit.

But it can be fixed. Just saying. I think this would go a long way to solving the perceived problem.

What do you think? Would this do the trick?

Technology: Follow the Growth of a Twitter Account II

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Please follow ACS_UT and be a part of its growth!

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced the strategy behind the Twitter account @ACS_UT. We committed to the account on October 21, so the strategy is now about three weeks old.

Related Articles
So how are we doing? Take a look at the stats during the past week to get a better idea.

Progress
I think we're doing pretty well. I was not expecting an overnight success. Twitter is a commitment. It takes time. Slow and steady wins the race.

While the numbers may be completely arbitrary (or not, I simply don't know what they mean), Twitter Grader provides support for our perceived progress. They gave the account a 65 as of 10/2 and 74 through today.

We've been up and down, according to Twitalyzer. Our influence initially jumped from 0.6 to 0.9 before dropping back down to 0.6; our clout also rose from 0.4 to 0.9 before dropping back to 0.4.

Again, I don't really know what that means, other than measuring how much we're getting retweeted and by powerful people.

Challenges
If you look at the chart it's pretty clear that part of the issue is losing momentum on the weekends. I don't expect Linda to manage the account on the weekends, and won't for now. We may need to create a new plan to cover this time in the future.

We're averaging about six or seven tweets per day right now while gaining about three new followers (net) daily.  We'll eventually want to get that number up, but much of that will be natural as we find more people to interact with.

I don't want to push information for the sake of getting our tweet count up.  We want all interactions to provide value.

We may also expand our geographical target, which is currently limited to Utah.  While we want to focus on helping people in that state, it may limit our interactions and ultimately the good we can do.

So overall, not bad. Lots to be excited about.  It's a battle early on. Want to see the continued progress, which we are. I expect to see a plateau very soon that we'll need to fight through. I've experienced it myself with my personal account.

The Tools
As discussed in the first entry, we're going to be trying out a little bit of everything to determine which tools best fit our needs.

We've found TweetDeck to be very helpful. While it doesn't provide the advanced search we're looking for, Linda can still create a column for specific search terms alongside the other feeds she follows.

We're also using bit.ly for link shortening and analytics. Twitter Grader and Twitalyzer to measure our success.

We've tried dozens of other tools, but these are what we're sticking with for now. Ultimately, we haven't yet found that one tool that does it all.

What do you think?  Anything we should be doing at this stage that we aren't?

Please follow ACS_UT and be a part of its growth!

Sports: Money Doesn't Guarantee Success in NBA, NFL

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As soon as I published Money Doesn't Guarantee Success, But... about the direct correlation between spending money and success in Major League Baseball, I knew there would be a follow-up.

Well, here it is.

Such an article is incomplete without doing a similar study in the other two major sports leagues, the NBA and NFL. We've already proven that there is more parity in those leagues, both financially and results based.

That said, how much does the amount of money a franchise spends in those leagues determine success?

Whereas I used data from both the past five and 10 years for baseball, I'll focus only on the five year window for the NFL and NBA. The reason for this is that I used USAToday for the baseball data and want to do the same for the other two leagues. They do not provide information back far enough for a 10 year study.

Major League Baseball
You've already seen it, but let's show the chart again...

Team
5 yr %
$ Avg
W/L Rank
$ Rank
Diff
NY Yankees
.590
$200,627,941
1
1
0
LA Angels
.586
$108,674,798
2
4
2
Boston
.577
$128,353,439
3
2
-1
Philadelphia
.552
$96,899,494
4
10
6
St. Louis
.541
$89,702,917
5
13
8
Minnesota
.533
$62,650,708
6
22
16
Chicago Sox
.529
$100,771,666
7
7
0
NY Mets
.527
$120,957,962
8
3
-5
LA Dodgers
.519
$101,788,768
9
6
-3
Cleveland
.510
$63,951,300
10
20
10
Detroit
.510
$99,931,115
10
8
-2
Chicago Cubs
.507
$106,856,519
12
5
-7
Atlanta
.507
$92,599,372
13
11
-2
Toronto
.507
$75,581,900
13
15
2
Milwaukee
.505
$65,921,933
15
18
3
Oakland
.503
$61,462,581
16
24
8
Houston
.499
$89,803,266
17
12
-5
Florida
.498
$32,911,967
18
30
12
Texas
.494
$65,657,492
19
19
0
Colorado
.492
$57,533,700
20
25
5
San Diego
.490
$61,741,871
21
23
2
Arizona
.488
$62,760,063
22
21
-1
San Francisco
.472
$85,937,185
23
14
-9
Seattle
.470
$99,749,130
24
9
-15
Cincinnati
.465
$67,876,655
25
17
-8
Tampa Bay
.463
$39,270,833
26
29
3
Baltimore
.426
$74,870,527
27
16
-11
Washington
.424
$52,872,200
28
27
-1
Pittsburgh
.409
$44,154,273
29
28
-1
Kansas City
.404
$56,011,267
30
26
-4

The measure for a success vs. money spent correlation here is having a small number of teams fall outside of the +/- nine range when comparing win/loss rank and payroll rank.

For baseball, there were five teams that fell outside of this range: Three teams found ways to succeed without spending large sums of money and two spent a lot of money without success.

Every other team fell within a reasonably expected range of success based on the amount of money they shelled out on payroll.

National Basketball Association

While there is a soft cap in the NBA, that certainly doesn't prevent some teams from spending more than others. In fact, these teams can still spend large sums of money, but face the dollar for dollar tax after a certain threshold.

Following is the chart for the NBA:

Team
5 yr %
$ Avg
W/L Rank
$ Rank
Diff
San Antonio
.707
$55,742,851
1
27
26
Dallas
.698
$80,426,300
2
2
0
Phoenix
.678
$65,738,866
3
7
4
Detroit
.656
$65,273,290
4
8
4
Cleveland
.617
$67,605,767
5
3
-2
Houston
.598
$63,833,037
6
11
5
LA Lakers
.593
$66,723,331
7
5
-2
Denver
.590
$62,561,401
8
12
4
Boston
.561
$62,442,082
9
13
4
Orlando
.544
$60,110,569
10
18
8
Utah
.537
$56,509,465
11
24
13
Miami
.520
$64,423,567
12
10
-2
Chicago
.515
$53,725,606
13
28
15
Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets
.488
$56,124,018
14
25
11
New Jersey
.488
$58,791,823
14
20
6
Philadelphia
.480
$64,611,477
16
9
-7
Indiana
.468
$66,184,370
17
6
-11
Washington
.463
$58,517,432
18
21
3
Golden State
.456
$60,801,041
19
16
-3
Sacramento
.444
$67,338,662
20
4
-16
Toronto
.441
$58,872,956
21
19
-2
Portland
.427
$57,782,460
22
23
1
LA Clippers
.405
$56,074,913
23
26
3
Vancouver/Memphis
.395
$60,208,536
24
17
-7
Seattle/Oklahoma City
.393
$60,987,577
25
15
-10
Milwaukee
.385
$58,008,366
26
22
-4
Minnesota
.378
$61,154,474
27
14
-13
Atlanta
.373
$50,360,051
28
29
1
Charlotte Bobcats
.351
$43,020,428
29
30
1
New York
.351
$91,709,481
29
1
-28

So, there were five teams that fell out of a reasonable win/loss vs. payroll disparity in baseball and nine in the NBA. Without looking at any more data, we can already make the statement that money is less likely to buy you success in the NBA than in Major League Baseball.

But let's not stop only with the nine vs. five numbers. Let's look at the "quality" of those nine vs. five.

In baseball, no team exceeded their expected range by more than 16. An example would be having the 28th highest payroll and finishing with the 12th best record (or vice versa).

In the NBA, three teams exceeded their expected range by more than 16. In fact, one of the best and one of the worst teams can be used as prime examples of how money does not directly correlate to success in the NBA.

The New York Knicks are a famous example of a team that spends exorbitant amounts of money without success. They have the highest payroll during the past five years, but with only the 28th best record to show for it.

On the other hand, the San Antonio Spurs are an example of winning without spending large sums of money. They have the league's best record during the past five years, but only the 27th highest payroll.

Also important to point out that it is the Spurs' choice to spend less, giving them payroll flexibility. They are not at a disadvantage as a result of spending less. They still have stars (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker) on their team. They simply spend more intelligently than the Knicks.

National Football League
If you thought the NBA was a nice example of money not guaranteeing success, you're in for a treat with the NFL. There is no correlation between payroll and success in the NFL. None.

Let's take a look:

Team
5 yr %
$ Avg
W/L Rank
$ Rank
Diff
Indianapolis
.788
$99,396,969
1
6
5
New England
.788
$97,443,207
1
13
12
Pittsburgh
.700
$98,265,425
3
9
6
San Diego
.675
$93,807,798
4
22
18
Denver
.588
$92,023,896
5
28
23
NY Giants
.588
$92,769,657
5
27
22
Philadelphia
.581
$98,581,955
7
8
1
Dallas
.575
$103,003,482
8
3
-5
Carolina
.563
$98,125,795
9
11
2
Chicago
.563
$96,428,079
9
15
6
Jacksonville
.563
$93,845,641
9
21
12
Seattle
.563
$100,922,646
9
4
-5
Baltimore
.550
$97,697,184
13
12
-1
Atlanta
.513
$93,361,478
14
23
9
Green Bay
.513
$87,071,459
14
32
18
Minnesota
.513
$105,671,155
14
2
-12
Tennessee
.500
$90,651,175
17
29
12
Cincinnati
.481
$92,982,068
18
25
7
Tampa Bay
.475
$87,394,887
19
31
12
Washington
.475
$105,956,632
19
1
-18
NY Jets
.463
$95,248,006
21
19
-2
New Orleans
.450
$100,464,296
22
5
-17
Buffalo
.438
$92,854,574
23
26
3
Arizona
.413
$96,398,273
24
16
-8
Kansas City
.400
$88,372,411
25
30
5
Houston
.388
$98,898,660
26
7
-19
Miami
.388
$93,952,520
26
20
-6
Cleveland
.350
$96,948,225
28
14
-14
St. Louis
.338
$95,400,482
29
18
-11
San Francisco
.313
$93,327,309
30
24
-6
Detroit
.263
$95,737,560
31
17
-14
Oakland
.250
$98,130,065
32
10
-22

So let's recap. In Major League Baseball, there are five teams during the past five seasons who's win/loss rank vs. payroll rank is +/-10 or greater. In the NBA, there were nine such teams.

In the NFL, there are 16 teams that fit this description. Half. Eight that exceed MLB's largest range buster of 16.

Arguably the most successful team during the past five years (or decade, for that matter), the New England Patriots have the 13th highest payroll covering the past five seasons.

The Washington Redskins spend the most. Yes, those Redskins.

The team that spends the least is the Green Bay Packers, who have the 14th best record.

In Conclusion
These results shouldn't be particularly surprising, but it's good to get confirmation. In baseball, money often wins championships. At the very least, having money provides a significant advantage, and not spending is a disadvantage.

The NBA and NFL have salary cap systems in place for the purpose of preventing such a situation. In fact, one might even say that in a hard cap scenario that spending too much money can be a major hindrance.

In these two leagues, it is the teams that best manage the cap -- not spend the most money -- that are typically most successful. It's the strategy of having the best players, the most productive players, for as long as possible while staying within their financial restrictions.

Imagine that? Strategy, sound decisions, and fiscal restraint result in success. In baseball, those who spend the most will most often win.

There is something inherently wrong with this.

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