/r/NFL has quickly become the best sports discussion forum on the web

With another NFL season coming to a close, I have to say, this was one of the best.

No, not because of the Ravens winning; a team that I’m relatively impartial toward.

No, not because the Hawks look like they’ve really formed a complete Superb Owl contending team for at least the next season or two, especially with the reincarnation of Christ as their QB.

courtesy of Grantland

And certainly nothing to do with my fantasy football performance, as I ended up at or near the cellar in every league I was in this year. Thanks a lot to a complete cluster of unpredictable run games.

So what made this season the best?

It was actually mostly due to my joining /r/NFL on reddit at the recommendation of another friend after I had complained how absolutely terrible the comments section was on most major sport sites.

At first glance it looks like your average subreddit, with minimal design and customization. However, if you spend a few minutes poking through comment threads and weekly scheduled posts, you’ll quickly realize that this is one of the best moderated and “fan-owned” forums on the web. With everyone allowed to select their team’s “flair,” it’s easy to see the flow of conversation and understand the reasoning behind what is being said.

I feel that a successful subreddit must meet a few requirements:

  • Good moderation that isn’t overbearing
  • Dedicated membership
  • A self-policing audience

/r/NFL meets all of these things and more.

A few examples:

  • Weekly trash-talk threads allow people to let it all hang out to dry. These threads are dedicated to all the comments one might harbor in a room full of family and friends while watching Sunday’s best. Eventually, they need to be dumped somewhere, and these threads allow for that to happen.
  • Weekly betting threads that are more just for shits and giggles. People bet all sorts of crazy stuff, sometimes resulting in embarrassing photos, donations to charities or renouncing your favorite team for a week. I wouldn’t risk not following through either, as it’s likely you’ll get called out in the following week.
  • Each game has it’s own thread where the conversation is focused to avoid hundreds of threads starting surrounding the same topic.
  • There is relatively little flaming between members. While little squabbles break out from time to time, they’re very rarely the focal point of any major discussions in the forum.

If you’re anywhere near as big of a football fan as me, I highly suggest you subscribe.

So until next year…. here’s a 35 minute highlight reel of the 2012 season:

Posted in Raves | Leave a comment

The Worst Advantages

“You don’t really climb, you just reach.”

I hear this a lot at my local climbing gym. I’m a pretty tall guy at 6’4″ with a massive reach, so one might assume that it’s pretty easy for me just to reach up past any terrible holds to the good stuff. And when I was first starting out, this was a considerable advantage. But as route difficulty increases, it quickly proves to be more of a hindrance having to carry so much extra weight and length up a wall.

Advancing in the various “grades” of the sport, it becomes ridiculously clear that my height is now less optimal, as once the holds on a route are all defined as “crimpy” or “slopey,” being a good climber is more about finesse, core strength and balance; with height noticeably absent from that list.

In other words, there is a reason there are very few professional climbers above the 6 foot mark.

But on a more serious note, this expected advantage/disadvantage contradiction comes in many forms: The adolescent realized to be of above average intelligence having the most pressure to succeed. The socialite who is required by their friends to schedule and manage more than they can perhaps reasonably handle. The independently wealthy person who has needy family and friends appearing out of the woodwork. The guy with an amazing heart who overwhelms himself while trying to improve the world.

What easily seems like an advantage to some can quickly become an overwhelming burden of expectation to others.

Posted in Rants | 1 Response

The Worst Product Placements on TV

This week’s episode of NBC’s The Office had the most blatant product placement for an unnamed espresso machine company. With lines like “These things make perfect espresso every time!” and “I want to try all the flavors!” it was impossible for me to watch the rest of the episode without wondering what else was being sold to me.

And while I appreciate the occasional self-deprecating approach of shows like 30 Rock and Arrested Development, sometimes the random insertion of products into show scripts is just so cringe-worthy that it earns itself a place on this list.

Got any you think should be included? Shoot me a tweet @stentontoledo and if I agree, I’ll add it

Shark Tank

This one hurts because I absolutely love Shark Tank. I think it’s a great show. So when the same cell phone company that has those terrible commercials of some lady riding around on a motorcycle (yeah, that has a lot to do with cell phone service) started advertising on the tank of sharks, I cringed. At least during an online Q&A, Mark Cuban directly said that everyone on the show hates them as much as the audience surely does (source).

Suburgotary

I don’t watch this show, but when I searched for other examples of terrible product placement, this one came up preeeetty high on the list. These guys are one of the worst offenders as of late when it comes to shoving their products awkwardly into b-list television scripts, and I can assure you this will not be the last time they show up on this list.

The Office

I really wish I could find a clip of this week’s episode as it was just so awkwardly embarrassing to see all the actors struggling through lines promoting a product. This one will have to do, as Michael Scott happened to prefer one chain restaurant perhaps a bit more than the average regional manager (and perhaps Marshawn Lynch)

The Big Bang Theory

I hate this show and all it stands for — it does not surprise me that it would be stuffed with subliminal branding, as it fits the low-brow quality of the show as a whole.

Cougar Town

Guy starts worrying about all the world problems. It affects his golf game. He cracks into a delicious can of unnamed soda and *voila* all his problems are erased!

Hawaii 5-0

Another great one from the crew at the second largest search engine. Whispering two words that no human has ever uttered seriously in the history of the internet.

Fringe

The funny thing about this example is that normally a brand or service would want to associate their product with a good thing occurring on the screen. At worst, perhaps just be a small part of a neutral scene. However, here we have our product being featured about 15 seconds before the man using it keels over and dies. With no explanation in the clip, I think it’s safe to say that the product he used caused his death.

Smallville

Hat tip to Dr. Pete for this one. You gotta appreciate a show that can specifically call into action the direct marketing plan of a brand. “Don’t mind me, I’m going to use almost the exact tagline of this product during our normal conversation!”

Hawaii 5-0

As someone who believes their wife is paid by a certain sandwich shop known for their five dollar foot longs, this below advertisement… rather “scene from an impartial tv show” hits particularly close to home. Someone sent this to me and I honestly believed it was an actual commercial.

NCIS

Another blatant tablet placement! Hat tip to Brian Russell


Got any you’d like you see added? Shoot me a tweet or leave yours in the comments below:

Posted in Rants | 1 Response

The Infinite Loop

Two things:

First…

About two months ago I committed to learn JavaScript as my first OOP language. Despite dozens of frustrating moments where I felt like this effort was futile (I have felt like this on numerous occasions), I am still on course and learning something new every day. Tangible progress and understanding have both been motivating. That, and an amazingly helpful JavaScript community (special shout out to @zumpiez for his continual availability on GChat when I have stupid questions).

Second…

I recently watched (and highly recommend) the documentary “Indie Game.” I felt I could relate with Phil Fish’s attention to detail (and perhaps his OCD). The part that really resonated with my recent programming hobby was when he started talking about pixel art. Fish discusses that when he started making his eternally-delayed yet masterfully designed game Fez, he really had not worked much with pixel art. About half way through the creation of the game, he realizes that his pixel art skills had improved and discovered a clear gradient between his first few levels and later progress.

So what does Fish do? He scrapes all the earlier art and starts over to ensure consistency across the board. If I’m understanding his personality at all, I think it is safe to assume that it’s likely this happened on numerous occasions.

With that in mind, I have noticed some things about my own progress while learning to program. Through the tutorials I am using (a good mix of Code Academy, Mozilla’s JavaScript resources, and Stack Overflow), I have several little projects running alongside each other. But because of the rapid and steep learning curve I find myself on, I am very rarely advancing forward on any of my projects, but rather spending countless hours perfecting the code at hand (I believe I will develop into a mix of the perfectionist programmer and the theoretical programmer from Steven Benner’s 5 Types of Programmers when this training period is over).

I’m not directly concerned with this yet; and in fact find it to be a great way to learn. Re-writing and cleaning up my own code seems to be the best way to improve my skill set, right? But if programming is all about efficiency, at what point is the most beautiful code worthless because it took so long to perfect?

I’m sure I have plenty of room for learning and growth before I need to worry about wasting time debating the X/Y graph of efficiency and perfection, but I am curious how others have dealt with this. I know for Phil Fish, it was a major problem that resulted in a handful of delays and a fan base that essentially turned rabid against him (ignoring for a moment his sometimes abrasive personality). Another example being Valve; that has become the butt of countless jokes for delayed releases due to their perfectionist mentality (but one that I still greatly appreciate).

Any suggestions or thoughts from seasoned code-perfectionists? Would love to get your input below in the comments or directly on Twitter — @stentontoledo

Posted in Ramblings | 1 Response

The Patent Patent Troll

My best ideas always come late at night. But this one surely takes the cake.

For the good of the land, I am going to patent the process of an NPE (non-practicing entity) threatening to sue. If this all goes to plan, the next time you or your startup get that threatening letter from some random law firm in Texas saying your use of “selling something online” or having an “interactive website” is in violation of their vague patent: Jokes on them! Because soon, they’ll be in violation of MY patent; those thieving bastards!

But seriously, this article on patent trolls made my blood boil; I would really like to see a solution to this problem, but I am concerned our own legislature is too far behind to sort it out properly anytime soon.

Posted in Rants | Leave a comment

Guide to Riding King County Metro Buses with Fresh Reggie

Let’s all take a quick pause and let “Fresh Reggie” break it down for us on how all you cool county cats are supposed to ride the bus. No internet? No sweat, baby!

I’d love to say this is King County’s attempt to drown out my guide to riding the bus, but I’m pretty certain Fresh Reggie was already blasting you with tips circa 2011. He’s a tough man to top.

Posted in Ramblings | Leave a comment

My First Week on Code Academy

With Code Academy down right now, I thought, “What a perfect time to write a quick recap of my first week putting my head down each night and using it to learn Javascript!”

I heard of Code Academy about a year ago and knew at some point I’d get the motivation to hop on board and learn how to program. I have always dinked around in the web design space, and have gotten somewhat familiar hacking with jQuery (I mean this in the much more literal sense of chopping up other people’s open source code into my own projects; nothing to do with the trend of calling any programming “hacking” /snark).

I had run through the first couple lessons a handful of times, mostly just being unable to find time in a relatively busy schedule to stick with it. This past week though, a project I was working on hit a roadblock because of my own “code-ignorance.” It made me realize how beneficial knowing how to program would be, I talked to my wife and expressed my deep-seeded interest in actually treating this like a class, and dedicating a few hours each day to achieving my goal, which she fully supports.

After week one, so far so good. I’m noticing a snowball effect in my own interest to learn more and more as well. Truthfully, it has been a while since I have done much math, so a lot of my pitfalls have been just forgetting how to calculate something, or perhaps a bit of logic on how to get certain results. For example, during the FizzBuzz lesson, it took me far too long to realize that (n%15 === 0) was the quickest way to return “FizzBuzz” when a number was divisible by both three  and five.

Here are a few things that have been noticeable this first week:

  • I really, really, really like looking at clean code. I love intricately arranging my code with perfectly placed brackets that cascade intricately down the function. I assume this will be to my own benefit, but I’ll probably have to learn how to handle messy code if I ever work with other people on the same projects.
  • I feel like my critical / logical thinking has already improved. It took a few days to realize all code I write will do exactly what I tell it to do. Therefore, if something is not working, reverse engineering it will quickly(at least at this point) give me the answer as to what is wrong.
  • After I started piecing a few of the lessons together, I started spending hours on the scratch pad fiddling with all sorts of fun concepts. This has immediately motivated me to keep going.

I think the next steps will be a few more weeks of lessons to get more experience with JS, but I think in order to stay motivated my goal will now be finding a fun web app to design that can act as an “overall” lesson of what I have learned so far.

If you’ve got any ideas of your own on learning how to program, I’d love to hear them!

Posted in Raves | 8 Responses

Wedding Footage

We recently got our wedding video footage back from my very talented cousin, Stephan Gray of Gray Matter Productions. To say we were happy with it would be a gross understatement.

See for yourself:

Posted in Ramblings, Raves | Leave a comment

I Have a Great Idea, But It’s Already Been Done

“Most things still remain to be done — a glorious future!” – Ingvar Kamprad

Very rarely am I not fixated on a new idea.

My wife often catches me staring off into space, but I swear my mind is racing a mile a minute.

“What if we could do X with Y? How much more efficient could Z be? If we combined A and B, could we get a C?”

I have a notebook of “Things that Annoy Me” that I keep in my bag for anytime I come across anything in my daily routine that gets on my nerves (credit to Drew Houston @ Dropbox for the idea).

I sit on my bus after work and just think about ways in which I could change a system or procedure and make people’s lives (read: my life) easier.

Not being a particularly good programmer, I try and think of ways that I could break down a problem that is integrated into daily life without much technical requirement for correction. For example, in my walk from bus stop to office (and vice versa), I have algorithmically plotted the stoplights to ensure the least amount of waiting at crosswalks (I really hope I’m not alone in this, because typing it out makes me question my own sanity).

I’ve always got a handful of projects on the side, some are profitable, some are more for fun and personal education (read: not profitable). None of them have made it big time and I don’t expect many of them to be my MVP anytime soon.

But just recently, I thought I had come up with a brilliant idea that I thought could be “the one.” However I’m not sure if I should pursue it.

First, a quick note — I learned pretty quickly years ago that the first thing to do when believing I have “revolutionized a concept” is to poke around and determine if a solution to the problem already exists. For example, a few months after Instagram had come out, I thought “Hey, an app that would let you directly send these photos to friends in a physical manner would be pretty cool!” And to my dismay, after about five minutes of research, realized several of these services already existed and were serving the demand quite well.

And same with this new idea, albeit there is far less competition and it is a bit harder to find, I still quickly learned that there were several people already managing the concept quite well, and for the most part in the same way that I would have pursued the idea myself (perhaps with some room for improving their marketing). In other words, I don’t feel like I would be improving the concept at all. I would just merely be competition. To the outsider, it would really just look like I ripped off their idea.

So with that in mind, do I push forward and compete or keep looking for something more original? At what point am I supposed to throw my hat into the ring versus surrendering to the pursuit of another idea.

My question: how am I supposed to know if an idea is worth the fight? Do I just go for it and see if it pans out?

Posted in Ramblings | 3 Responses

Movember is Here

I have never tried to grow a mustache before.

Because first and foremost, if I go more than two weeks without shaving (yes, I can do that without anything on my face resembling even the slightest beard), I start getting worried looks from mothers and suspicious stares from local law enforcement.

But for a good cause (and to just give it a shot), I’m participating in Movember.

To whomever donates the most money to my cause, I will award you the shavings of my “mustache” at the end of the month in a little plastic baggie.

Donate here: My Movember Page

Posted in Ramblings | Leave a comment