Sunday, May 22, 2011

How to Build a Winning Baseball Team

I have to take a moment to say something about baseball. It's been a while. I enjoy the game and the team I have followed since 1994 has been the Cleveland Indians. They enjoyed their big years in the 90s, with sellout home games, and then lost many of their best players to big contract free agency (Albert Bell, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome), or to big trades (Bartolo Colon, Roberto Alomar). They went through their "rebuilding" phase (a term teams use when their players are young and mediocre and they don't really expect them to compete). Well, this season, it may finally be paying off.

As of today, the Indians own the best record in all of baseball, have a 7 game lead in the AL central, and are highest in the league with +66 runs scored versus runs allowed.

One of the ways they got to this point was through trades. Trades of big name players, especially Cy Young award-winning pitchers (two years in a row!) is particularly painful to watch. You're giving up a proven and known quantity for "prospects." (Another baseball term that means "we think they're going to be pretty good.")

So looking at key trades over the last five years, we can see how the current team has emerged. Below is a partial list of trades. Who was traded, and who was received in return. I only included players who are on the current big league 25 man roster.


Eduardo Perez

Asdrubal Cabrera

Ben Broussard

Shin-Soo Choo

CC Sabathia

Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley

Casey Blake

Carlos Santana

Franklin Guiterrez

Joe Smith

Mark DeRosa

Chris Perez

Cliff Lee/Ben Francisco

Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson,

Victor Martinez

Justin Masterson

Kelly Shoppach

Mitch Talbot

So in evaluating this chart, one of the questions we must ask ourselves is, knowing what we know now about these young players, would we make the trades in reverse today? In other words, would you exchange Justin Masterson for Victor Martinez today? Probably not.

Monday, May 09, 2011

My iPhone Tracking Data

You've probably heard all about the privacy concerns and conspiracy theories related to why Apple has been tracking your location data--or at least storing it. The news broke in recent weeks, thanks almost entirely to a couple of researchers who created a little app that interpreted the data hidden away and synchronized through iTunes to your computer.

Using the simple little app they created (read all about it here), I decided to show those who are curious how it works by giving you more than just a simple screen shot of the resulting map that you may have seen posted around the internet.

Here it is, complete with my commentary:

I should mention that there is no evidence that this was ever sent back to Apple, and further, knowledge of the existence of this file is not new information!

Fellow iPhone users, do you feel as though your privacy has been violated?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

How has the internet affected the behaviour of music consumers?

My Answer to a Quora question found here.

I once heard someone describe the diminished perception of the value of music this way:

Once upon a time, people used to buy their music recorded on vinyl discs called "LPs" In this medium, you could of course play your music, but you could also almost SEE your music. The music was represented in little tiny grooves pressed into the platter. You could easily damage the music you loved by scratching it with the very device intended to let you enjoy it.

A few years later, the disc became smaller and shinier. The compact disc converted the visible grooves on the LP to invisible pits on a ceramic disc. The pits were read by an invisible beam of light. The disc may (or may not) have been more durable than the LP, and access to the tracks were nearly very fast, the artwork and inserts became smaller, and more information could be placed on these little discs than the larger LP counterparts.

Finally, we have progressed to a place where an individual song has been reduced to a file on a computer. Files have little value. We drag them from place to virtual place, move them from hard drive to hard drive, they can be accessed and played instantly, but they carry no artwork other than a simple icon (maybe) electronically associated with it. The file can have varying degrees of quality that the artist and producer has no control over, and can even be edited by a user with a free software.

So from one generation to the next we move from music that you can hold in your hand and see on the grooves of a disc to music that has very little intrinsic value of a computer file-- even the EXACT music that may have previously existed on an LP. Music from the internet has been reduced to an icon on your screen.

So in one way, the internet has affected the behavior of music consumers by subtly devaluing the product itself, in part because the medium on which it exists has changed so significantly.

This may be one reason why it is so hard to convince younger folks that when they transfer a file from one place to another, they are stealing--but that's a whole other discussion.

Lessons from the job hunt

As I continue my job search I am paradoxically applying for less positions and opportunities, not more. I am also refining my search and being more selective about which jobs I apply for.

This may seem counter-intuitive since I am not in a situation to be picky. I need a job.

My background brings with it a very specific and niche set of skills. Need a quality pianist? I can do that. Need a group rehearsed? I can do that too. Need an arrangement, orchestration, I can plan a worship service, conduct an orchestra rehearsal, make a drum loop. And I can do that stuff pretty well.

The problem is, no one is asking for that. At least not yet.

This time of unemployment has been a time of self-evaluation and self-discovery. I would venture that everyone who has gone through a similar situation has come to a personal assessment like I have. You almost have to.

When I first started looking, I naively applied to positions by answering a question no one was asking: "Could I see myself doing that?" What I have finally realized is that though I could probably learn skills involved in online education, brand marketing, technical writing, or IT support, and probably become really good at that stuff, I don't really have any experience in those areas. It took a while for me to move from imagining myself doing something I've never done, and thinking I could be pretty good at it to realizing I need to reevaluate many of the non-musical components of my previous jobs and ask myself a series of questions to help draw out tasks I have done that are corporate-world transferable. I have discovered that a single piece of paper is all the hiring manager or HR person has to find out what they can about me. They aren't interested in reading between the lines. I need to be specific. The statement: "Helped team communication through web sites and online tools." says very little to an uniformed reader, even though I knew everything that was involved in that task. But in expanding on this statement, I can come up with a couple of bullet points:

  • Created and designed web site functionality and navigation for a members-only web site.
  • Populated web pages with long-form text, photos, embedded scripts, tables, lists, and Twitter feeds, as well as media curation (pdf, mp3, and video uploads) using a content management (CMS) tool.

This kind of content was drawn out of me recently by a hiring manager who asked a couple of follow up questions that answered what probably should have existed on my resume in the first place.

I recently attended a Dick Hart seminar where he laid out several questions to ask yourself. Actually, he suggested to have someone interview you with these questions while you record your answers. He said when you go back and listen, you will pick up pieces that you should include in your resume that you might not have thought of otherwise.

  1. How good was I?
  2. What happened as a result of performing the project or task?
  3. Did I save any money or increase revenue as a result of my effort?
  4. How accurate was I?
  5. Was I ahead of schedule or did I just meet the schedule?
  6. Did I supervise people? How many?
  7. Did I exceed my quota? Show me the numbers.
  8. What was my role on the team?
  9. What impact did I make?
  10. Do results jump out at the reviewer?

I'm sure there are more good questions a mock interviewer could come up with to draw even more out of me.

What have you learned about yourself from your periods of unemployment?