Reminder… Don’t Quit a Service You’re Happy With Unless You’re Ready to be Unhappy

A short story about crappy customer service and persistence.
We had Dish for our home TV service. As far as pay TV providers go, Dish is a good company, in my opinion. Helpful/responsive customer service, competitive or even industry-leading feature offering, reliable, etc. But expensive once you get past the new customer discounts.

On a whim, we switched to DirecTV. The new customer rates cut our bill in half. The DVR appeared to have some superior features, features that we actually cared about. We were also sold on a few incorrect statements by the salesman, but so be it.

Around Jan 1, 2016 we were live with DirecTV.

But we had immediate issues…

  1. Were supposed to get a referral discount (and so was my sister-in-law, who referred us). Did not get it and were told we could not get it as we didn’t sign up online.
  2. DVR immediately established a trend of just not recording shit randomly. Not due to conflicts, or new/rerun issues… shit would just not record or show up as being an upcoming recording. Something wrong with their guide database I guess.
  3. We had an equipment protection plan added to our account without any notice (these plans are typical in the satellite world, but it was something we opted out of while signing up. It’s a roughly $8/mo annoyance. Some people swear by those plans, and that’s fine, my contention is I said I didn’t want it).
  4. We were way oversold on the streaming capabilities of the DVR. Dish has Sling built in, and you can watch any channel live or any recording on your DVR from any device that is on the internet. We were told DirecTV is virtually the same. Nope. DirecTV can stream some (seemingly totally random, I’d guess related to content agreements) shows, can’t really stream anything from your DVR and a lot of the streaming features
  5. When we got our next bill, the price increased.

That last point is pretty insane. You sign a 2 year agreement with satellite TV service and you know going in that the first 6-12 months are going to be a great deal to get you to join, with the contract backloaded with price increases (errr… expiring discounts). Plenty of folks live with that. Others will call to renegotiate after the first year. Either way, it’s in the contract and you know it’s coming.

Yes, the contract also says that your rates and service offering can change at any time. It’s a really shitty contract in that sense, as you are stuck for 2 years with explicit penalties for early termination, but the company can do whatever they want. Still, it’s reasonable to assume you’ll make it more than 30-45 days before getting hit with rate increases.

Luckily, in Wisconsin, the law is at least kind of on the side of the consumer. I’m sure at least some other states have this kind of protection, but at least here, you have the right to terminate your service without penalty in the event of a price increase or change in channel offering.

There’s a handy PDF guide about it here:

The language about this situation is laid out in pretty clear terms.

A provider may not make any subscription changes, such as a price increase or change in channel offerings, without providing you a written notice at least 25 days but not more than 90 days in advance. The written notice must state that you may cancel any service offering affected by the change without incurring a cancellation charge or disconnection fee. To cancel your service, you should inform your service provider both orally and in writing.

Maybe it was the timing of me signing up compared to the timing of a global rate increase, but regardless, I received no such notice. Just a bill that showed higher prices. That, combined with the list of annoyances and misleadings, pushed me immediately into being fed up.

Shortly after getting that bill, I called to cancel. I stated that I had a rate increase and wanted to exercise my right to terminate early. The phone rep I spoke to said, without hesitation, that I would be charged no early termination fees.

I got written confirmation of the cancellation, no fees assessed at that time. I sent back my equipment promptly and was ready to go on with life as a cord-cutter (should note that Dish offered plenty of great incentives to go back to them, but since I knew that once those incentives ran out I ultimately didn’t want to keep paying the full price, it wasn’t worth doing that dance again. Also, watching less TV is good).

Then we got a final bill, which had a $400 early termination fee. Ugh.

Accidents happen, I suppose, so I called up and disputed. The rep I spoke to couldn’t find any information about Wisconsin laws on their end (and they aren’t able or allowed to visit any websites). But they passed me to an escalation team, which reversed the fee. I got written confirmation of the fee credit.

The only minor issue was that we were told we had to pay our final bill (including the fee) and on the next billing cycle the reversal would go through and we’d be credited. So be it.

Next billing cycle came, sure enough, fee reversal noted and we now had a credit due.

Since we weren’t DirecTV customers any longer, it’s not like that credit would apply toward future service. So I called in again to make sure they’d cut us a check for that amount. That’s when it got weird. The first rep I talked to could not understand that I had paid the fee AND the fee was reversed – thus my payment needed refunding. So they passed me on to a different department.

At that point, the confusion of the first rep made more sense. As this person said there was no crediting of the fee on my account. I was charged an early termination fee, I paid that fee, had a zero balance. That doesn’t make sense. There was, of course, nothing this rep could do. So I was transferred again.

Third rep/department, same story. Apparently one day after I got the fee reversed, someone reversed the reversal. It was just noted that the fee was valid, and I was liable for it. Thus, the fee had been paid, no credit owed to me. This rep claimed there was nobody further for me to dispute this with. It had been decided. Case closed. Almost as an insult, they said that if I wanted, I could go onto and fill out a billing dispute form.

So I did. And disputed with my credit card company. And complained on social media, etc.

A few days later, another email showing the fee had been reversed. Once again, credit owed to me. This also came with a message from the billing dispute team that they determined the fee SHOULD NOT have been charged, and I was in fact owed a refund.

We’ll see how long this holds up. It’s certainly not an enjoyable situation and I would much rather just have the service I was initially promised at the price I agreed to pay… But for now, victory.

Trunk Club & The Case for Convenience Over Price

Full disclosure: This post is not sponsored/promoted by Trunk Club in any way. However, links to their site do contain a referral code. If you click on these links and sign up, you will be referred to my stylist and I will receive a $50 credit when you spend $50 or more. If you’re interested in signing up but do not want to participate in that referral program, I still recommend you work with my stylist. You can just that by visiting this link.


There are a lot of reviews out there for Trunk Club, along with virtually every clothing subscription service out there. Believe me, I read a lot of them before deciding to sign up. The big trouble I’ve had, which I’m attempting to improve upon here, is two things. One, every review I found involved the reviewer not continuing with the service or even keeping one item. Not out of dissatisfaction necessarily, but because they just wanted to write a review. Two, many are written by fashion bloggers. In my case, I needed help with fashion and happen to be a blogger, but this lengthy post was something I decided to do after signing up, not as the impetus to signing up. Continue reading “Trunk Club & The Case for Convenience Over Price”

Miracle in Motown – Packers Fans: R-E-L-A-X

Yep, I just pulled out the most overused quote in the last 10 years of Packer fandom. Packers fans in Wisconsin and abroad are still overjoyed by the very improbable comeback victory over the Lions last night in Detroit. A game that saw the Packers down 20-0 at one point in the 3rd quarter and looking just as lost on offense as they’ve been for virtually every game this year 1. Traditional rankings have them 28th in total offense (great at running, really really really bad passing) and 9th in total defense (mediocre vs the run, really good vs the pass). Of course, the traditional stats leave out a ton. Their pass defense is likely fairly good, but not great and certainly not top 5 or top 3 as some stats have them. Opponents don’t have to score a lot, because the Vikings offense doesn’t score a lot (21 points/gm, 26th in the league). There’s no garbage time passing in blowouts vs the Vikings either, their average scoring margin is +3.4. And since they run a lot, the Vikings have are top 10 in time of possession, so opponents aren’t getting a ton of changes to move the ball. They have a good third down defense, but that’s hidden by the fact that they don’t get in a ton of third down situations (the Vikings are middle of the league, allowing 0.314 first downs per play – all of these rankings are per, btw). So all that said, the Vikings have definitely been inflated in stature by who they’ve played and how they play. They’re a good team, but I’d guess they have the ability and performance level of a team with a couple more losses than they actually have.

But all that said, it’s still hard for a rational observer to get excited about the Packers. Their offense still rates poorly in every category but points (they are getting a decent rate of points/game and points/play despite being bad in every other category, so essentially they have fair success at big plays). Yes, the defenses they’ve played have been tough,. Denver and Carolina, both who made the Packers offense look pathetic, are two of the best defenses in the league (if not one and two respectively). But the Broncos do not have one of the best defenses in NFL history, and they made the Packers offense look like one of the worst ever. Beyond that, they struggled to put up points in a loss to the Bears, a win against the 49ers and essentially 6.5 out of 8 quarters agains the Lions. Those are not defenses that strike fear into your heart.

The Packers’ defense is in a similar spot to the Vikings. They’re pretty good, not great. They’ve been put in a lot of bad spots by failed drives on the offensive side. They’ve been matched up against some of the better offenses in terms of either scoring, yards or both and done better than expected in many cases (the only real exception being the Broncos game). They aren’t an elite defense, but there are enough stats that put them in the top 10 (and just barely) to simply agree they are definitely above average.

So why have I spent the last 1400 or so words rambling and throwing out numbers about the Packers and their opponents, seemingly drawing no conclusion? It’s about perspective. Last night, the Packers beat a really bad team. In doing so, they’ve done what they’ve largely done all year and beat a team they were favored to beat (the Packers are 8-4 overall and 7-5 vs the spread). They’re still a fairly inconsistant team having lost 3 games they were favored (the 4th loss being that pick’em at MIN, which means GB would have been the favorite on a neutral field). Two of those losses had the Packers favored by eight or more points (at home vs DET and CHI). Prior to last night, they had only two wins where they were favored by less than five points (vs SEA and @ MIN). Their offense shows no trending signs it will be okay, and with what was supposed to be a top running back in Lacy being repeatedly benched for performance and offensive linemen going down for at least periods of multiple games lately, it may get worse. The defense is clearly not good enough to win games on their own.

So sure, the Packers may win the NFC North. Winning in the playoffs against the superior Panthers and Cardinals will not be in their favor, but the division and a single home playoff game is realistic. They have an easier remaining schedule compared to MIN and currently have the tie-breaker (which would obviously be decided in week 17 if a tie were in play). But if they win the division, it will be because they continue to be the same team they’ve been all year. They’ll win because they’re a team that can do enough against inferior teams to win (most of the time). And they’ll win because maybe Minnesota is a little more worse-than-the-record-indicates than the Packers and have a slightly tougher road ahead. The Packers are basically in a favorable spot to win the division without any change in quality of play.

So essentially, last night was not a turning point. It was simply a game where it took incredibly extreme and unlikely circumstances for the Packers to beat a mediocre team that they were favored to beat from the start. Relax, Packers fans. Relax.

  1. side note, Football Outsiders had the Packers ranked 9th in their adjusted offensive DVOA coming into this game. I respect those guys a lot and cherry pick their stats plenty, but I’m missing something here. Their non-adjusted rank is 20. DVOA adjusts for playing from behind in the 4th quarter, where GB has done garbage time damage lately, but it appears mostly that their schedule is far tougher than I’m giving credit.). But then, boom, 14 unanswered points. Hold the Lions to a field goal. Score again on a 3rd down Rodgers run where it looked like we’d have to settle for a 35+ yard field goal.

    And then, the real miracle. After stopping the Lion’s attempt to run out the clock, Rodgers takes over on his own 21 with only 23 seconds left.

    Two incompletions later, they’re still at the same spot but facing 3rd down and 79 yards to go in 6 seconds. Game over, time for Packers fans to start looking forward to baseball season. Here comes the predictable chaos of cross-field laterals in a desperate attempt to make magic happen. According to some random win probability calculator I found, the Packers had a 3% chance of winning in this scenario. says there’s a 10.46% chance of a win here, but has zero plays in its archive where this scenario resulted in a win. Let’s just say the odds are against Green Bay here.

    So like most fans, I’m half watching this little back and forth. The ball goes back to Rodgers (Aaron) and at this point I’m only interested in seeing if the franchise quarterback is going to get hurt on this pointless play.

    And, I guess because it’s the Lions. Because they are one of the most poorly run franchises in league history that has only won one single playoff game over a 75+ year span and forced one of the greatest players in NFL history to retire early out of disdain. Because their coach may have died in 2011. Because their coach is from Wisconsin and may secretly be a Packers fan. Because Detroit keeps getting crapped on or crapping on themselves as a city.

    Or much more likely, because the Lions are a bad team that makes more mistakes than most and the NFL always favors calls that “protect” quarterbacks, there was a flag on the field after the play and time had run out. And of course, it was against the Lions.

    Let’s be clear on this one, it shouldn’t have been a facemask call [2. In previous iterations of the rule, this may have been the often annoying 5 yard incidental facemask penalty, which would’ve allowed a hail mary attempt, but from 10 yards further out (71 yards) and essentially zero chance of the throw even reaching the end zone). You can clearly see in replays that Taylor’s thumb grazed the facemask, maybe latching onto it for a fraction of a second. And the bulk of the grab/pull motion was on Rodgers’ shoulder pads. But Rodgers did some acting when a hand came near his face and the ref saw the head turn. When it’s heat of the moment and the game is potentially going to be decided whether on what the ref does, it makes sense that they go with the seemingly obvious visual and the idea they are protecting player safety. Sure, with zoomed-in slow motion HD replay, we see it’s not a facemask. But from 20 yards away in real time? It sure looked like one. Sorry Lions fans, your player made a really dumb move, his hands should have been nowhere near the helmet.

    Anyway, 15 yard penalty and essentially a free play with no time left from 61 yards away, we all know what happened. Packers win, miracle victory, amazing comeback.

    And suddenly the narrative is that the Packers are back or at least have hope. Why not? They’re 8-4, lead the wildcard in a conference full of mediocre teams, have one more game against the division-leading Vikings which could at least put them in a tiebreaker situation for the North lead. And they have Aaron Rodgers! There’s plenty of reason to think will make the playoffs. There’s a reasonable amount of hope they can win the division, with winnable games against Dallas and Oakland coming up (before playing Arizona and Minnesota). The Vikings might have a slightly harder remaining schedule, also playing the Cardinals but with games against more competitive teams verse Chicago and the NY Giants.

    Minnesota has a bit more at stake too, despite being in the division lead by a game (half game at this point, but 1 game going into Thursday night). Let’s say the Packers go 2-1 in their next 3 games. If Minnesota also goes 2-1, they would have a single game lead over the Packers going into their week 17 matchup at Lambeau Field. Because the Packers beat Minnesota a couple weeks ago, the winner of that game would win the division. Obviously that’s a lot of pressure on both sides, but the Packers would be almost certainly be favored in that game (in their last meeting, the line was a PK w/ Minnesota being at home).

    You could make a good case that Minnesota is also one of the more fraudulent good teams. They have the weakest schedule in the division and one of the weakest ones in the conference. They’ve only beaten two teams that currently have above .500 records (the Raiders & Falcons, who are both 6-5) and have lost to the only other above .500 teams they’ve played (Packers & Broncos). Their offense and defense both near rank middle of the pack per Football Outsiders [3. See, cherry picking

Club W: Oversimplified Recommendation Engines

The secret to advertising a product is to make lives better or easier. Or do the same thing cheaper. So when it comes to selling wine, Club W takes the approach of making it easier to pick out a wine you like. Their concept is pretty simple. They ask you a handful of questions about your food preferences, and match your answers up to types of wine. Of course, there is a timer counting down until your new customer discount expires, just for some extra urgency.


I gave it a shot, as I know enough about wine to know which varietals I like and can generally pick out a good bottle in the store. But there’s far more I don’t know, and would love to explore new regions, grapes, etc.

Here’s some of their suggestions:


By way of comparison, here’s what recommends for me – based on my shopping habits:



If you don’t know anything about wine, that’s okay. Essentially Club W suggested I get fruit punch and suggested bourbon. of course has it more accurate, as their suggestions are simply based on products that other customers viewed after viewing the same products I did. I really like big reds, so they suggested more of the same. I do not like sweet wines, fruity whites or light red blends. But apparently because I enjoy oranges and don’t eat mushrooms (it’s mostly texture), I must like bright and sweet wines.

Sorry Club W, you’ve got it wrong. Maybe the bulk of people will find this system to work to their benefit. But I’d guess not, as I’m already seeing this trend of curating products based on lifestyle or semi-related surveys dying off.

I’d love a compromise and maybe give people questions about basic types of wine to narrow down favorites. Most people know the major characteristics if you give quick definitions (e.g. acidity makes the side of your tongue tingle). Everyone knows red vs white and has a general idea of sweet vs dry. Maybe such a recommendation engine exists. I suspect it involves going back to my local wine shop and talking to the employees.

Finding a Place to Live When You Hate Everything

I’m always interested in the idea of moving somewhere else. Milwaukee has little to offer to even the biggest optimist1, so that is part of it. But I also like the idea of finding a place that really balances fun and comfort. Not too much day-to-day stress but also an abundance of things to do. I’ve considered all sorts of formulas that manipulate population density, thinking that was a key. Average temperature, number of sunny days and amount/types of precipitation matter a bit too. I’ve thought about cost of living, typical education levels, crime rates, and more. But there’s clearly no magic bullet number that indicates the place for you.

And then there are all these lists. Best places to live. Best cities for one occupation or another. Cities with the most beautiful people. Blah blah blah. Most of it is probably 100% made up 2. But it’s also a lot of meaningless data. What constitutes a “best city” for someone at CNN or Buzzfeed likely does not mean the same to you or I.

So I think we need to attack this problem a little more creatively. I’m thinking of a website that allows voting, possibly. And maybe just focus on the top 50 cities by population3. As a voter, you could maybe select where you live and be given a lot of questions/attributes that may apply to your city. You can pick whether something applies or not. People interested in moving can fill out a profile with the things they like or don’t like, and be given a list of cities that fit them. Almost like dating.

The thing is, you don’t want to ask questions about crime or weather or jobs. You can find that data anywhere. You need to ask the types of things that you can’t possibly learn about until you move somewhere. The things that end up really mattering, at least if you’re hateful like me.

Here’s some possible examples (with semi-fictional results):

City with people least likely to talk to you on an airplane

  • New York
  • Cincinnati (nobody wants to admit they live there)
  • Chicago

City with people most likely to talk to you on an airplane

  • New York (this only applies to people who say they’re from NY, are actually from NJ)
  • Wichita
  •  Kansas City

City where you’re most likely to be late to work because a cyclist refused to use the bike lane and held you up

  • Denver
  • San Francisco
  • Portland

City where you’re most likely to be screamed at by a homeless person for no reason

  • Boston
  • Portland
  • Austin

City with the highest population of people with “Coffee Shop Patron” as a career

  • New York (we’re rolling Brooklyn in here)
  • Portland
  • Seattle

City where people drink the wimpiest beer

  • St Louis

City where you’re most likely to be punched at a sporting event

  • Philadelphia
  • Oakland
  • Philadelphia

City where you’ll be most ashamed to tell people where you’re from

  • Detroit
  • Oakland
  • Cleveland

City where you can’t just sit down for a drink without some jackass trying to bother you with their bullshit

  • Nashville
  • Milwaukee
  • San Antonio

I could go on, and on, and on. Someone should make a site that tracks this stuff.

  1. Beyond cold weather and murder
  2. I swear I saw Delaware on a “best cities” list
  3. Sorry Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Delaware, etc

Email Marketing Laziness Rocks

Because the marketing efforts by Musicians Friend & Guitar Center are so lazy, I’m going to follow their lead and not bother writing more than 50 words in this post.

I’ve gotten more than one of these emails… Yes, some high paid manager decided it was worth sending this twice.




Improving Restaurant Reviews with Basic Data Visualization

Like many, I rely on various restaurant review sites before making a decision to try a new eatery.  However, every major site has a huge flaw.  They aggregate ratings throughout the history of the restaurant.


This would be fine if restaurants were run by robots and immune to changes in staff and quality over time.  It also doesn’t take into account that as a culture, our opinions change.  Trends die, better options come to town, what was universally great years ago may be average or worse today.

So the place above, seems like a reasonable choice with an 84% approval rating.  However, if you dig into reviews, there are many people saying the restaurant has gone down hill over the past year or so.

But you can’t gather that quickly, especially from your phone.  So how can we fix this?

With very very basic data visualization.  Here’s an example of what’s possible:

improved review1

This has a lot of implications.

  1. As consumers, we have solved the “restaurant going downhill” problem I outlined above.
  2. Anyone can spot someone trying to cheat the system (ie – getting all your friends to post positive reviews of your business at one time)
  3. Business owners can fairly easily judge the customer feedback on various promotions (the Groupon note pointed out in the screen shot)
  4. Owners have additional external pressure to turn around a struggling business, and their potential customers can actually see when changes have had a positive impact, rather than letting past mistakes continually haunt.

Taking it a tiny step further – I always get annoyed by the list of restaurant details with simply “yes/no” type items.  Seemingly everything outside of the snootiest joints on Yelp say “casual” attire, even if you’re expected to show up with nice pants and a tie.  We could use, again, very simple visualizations to help people.


As you can tell from my examples, data visualization is not a strength of mine.  But a bigger takeaway is that this can be done very simply and provide a lot of value for the consumer.  I’d love to see review sites attempt to go this route.

What If We Just Slowed Down?

In the early days of the internet, it was all about accessibility.  You could find up to date information on all sorts of topics.  You could join newsgroups and constantly learn more about your favorite subjects without waiting for books to be published.

Then things got bigger.  Lots bigger.

And then we had twitter and blogging and everything was about instantaneous information.  You’ve gotta have the latest news and opinions NOW!

Sure, instant has a ton of downside and there’s crazy pressure to put out a story, even when you don’t have all the facts, but it’s still a good deal overall.

But now, we’re beyond instant.

Now we’re at constant.

And constant really sucks.

There’s endless content all the time from everywhere.  It doesn’t matter if it’s anything useful as long as more pages are being created and more pageviews are happening and ad revenue keeps climbing.

So we go from people being excited to share ideas to people feeling pressured to share ideas fast, to people just sharing regardless of whether an idea exists.

2-13-2014 12-48-34 PM
As absurd as sports reporting is… it’s nothing compared to reporting about sports reporting.

The content hurricane is so fierce, we’re even reporting about that.  Yep, we’re making content about making content.  And we’re doing it by the truckload.

2-13-2014 12-58-03 PM

But why?

If you ask anyone that does marketing-ish stuff on the web, they’ll give some gut-reaction claim about how frequent creation/distribution of content leads to engaged and loyal fans who will see and click lots of your ads share your message with friends.

And they know this because they read it somewhere on the internet.

But it’s all simple math.  If we cared about advertising revenue, content should be scarcer and of better quality.  Quite simply, TV (despite the endless array of channels and reality contests) is infinitely scarcer and better quality than the internet at a whole.  Sure, there are great websites out there, but when you aggregate things, it’s not even close.

And engagement on TV is tons better.  I’m only 330 words in and the majority of you have given up on this post by now.  But those same people will have their eyeballs glued to a special one hour episode of Honey Boo-Boo.

And that’s why TV can charge CPMs of $40 and up, while websites are lucky to snag $3.

But let’s forget the whole revenue thing for a bit.  Because there’s a bigger issue than just dollar signs.

The web could actually be really really good if we just eased off the gas a little bit.  By not going for the constant media mentality, we’re unlikely to lose many fans because it’s so easy to get notified when new stuff is posted.  There’s RSS and email subscriptions and social networks and google now and hell, even bookmarks.

The idea that people only come to your site because you have something new to read every 3 minutes is absurd.  That model might work if you’re posting rubbish top 10 lists like the Huffington Post, but it doesn’t matter if you’re actually creating something worth reading (complete and total offense meant for HuffPo there – their site is shit).   So unless you know that nothing you write is worth reading, why get caught up in that game?  (And if you know none of your stuff is worth reading, why are you writing?)

The prevailing problem is we’ve tried this and determined it doesn’t work.  When things first went digital, all the long-form journalists from traditional papers/magazines went to the web and basically repurposed their print pieces online.  There were certainly some disappointing moments when people definitively knew what types of content readers were clicking on – but revenue was the big issue.

Again, ad revenue online is nothing like in traditional media.  And rather than find a way to charge more for ads, the major media outlets just tried to get more ad impressions.  So they focused on SEO-friendly articles, headlines that grab clicks, slideshows, etc.  Essentially they said “screw substance, we need volume.”  And that pushed us to the horrible place we’re in today.

But that doesn’t mean well done long form content doesn’t work online.  It does, just not the way we want it to.  For one, we can’t charge a paywall AND show ads – users will revolt and get their news elsewhere (unless you’re a niche source that helps people make money – like WSJ, MorningStar, etc).

You also can’t just throw ad boxes online and expect to be rich.  Check that, you shouldn’t expect to get rich from anything you do.  There’s a nasty entitlement from online so-called businesses, where they think just having a website grants them the privilege to cash in.  That mindset may have gotten you by for a little while in the late 90’s, but that was a long time ago.

We’re no longer stuck with whatever news can get delivered to our door.  We don’t have to put up with the one decent clothing store in town.  The accountant down the street isn’t the only option for getting our taxes done.  You’ve gotta really give people a reason to come to you.

And it pains me to write all this, because it’s nothing new.  Not a fucking word of it.  Yet, every day I see sites that are seemingly online for no purpose at all, yet expect to make money.

When they have the sad realization hit that nobody cares about them, they usually blame Google for not giving them more free traffic.   Then they go do some shady link buying or write even worse headlines to get more traffic.  And then things get worse and they blame Google again.

All the while, the website owners are the ones cheating the system and ruining the web with their non-stop garbage.

Whoops, I was in the middle of a statement.  Oh yes!  Ad boxes.  So many sites use contextual banner advertising, that tries to match advertisers up with the content on a page.  It’s usually a nightmare because the ad networks don’t really know what a page is about and the people buying the ads are largely morons that expect their advertising to be automated…

If you seriously want to make money, you need that traditional mindset.  You need to actively sell ad space, not just throw a change jar on your front door and hope people donate.  You think the Chicago Tribune gets Macy’s to buy two 6×21 slots in the main section of every paper because they put out an “advertise here” flyer?  Fuck no.  They get it because some salesman spends his entire life making sure the marketing folks at Macy’s are happy.  And even though their rates have certainly been slashed in recent years, the Tribune gets a ton of money out of that deal.

But when you have a website, you expect the advertisers to come to you.  How backwards is that?  You’re the one with space to sell, go out and sell it.

Back to the matter at hand.  We’re quickly approaching more websites than people.  Damn near every one of those websites has a blog.  And probably 99% of them have nothing unique to offer, yet they expect your money.  The only way sites have figured out how to solve this is by attempting to grow rapidly and constantly via new content.  The ad impression race is a dull one, but it’s going to end in a  horrific crash.

Please, jump off before it’s too late.



The JC Penney Fake Twitter Super Bowl Controversy…

It’s not official, but I’m calling it regardless.  Twitter blew up after this happened:


And then this:



Plenty of comments about drunken social media mistakes, and PR disasters and the like.  It was one of those funny moment where we collectively rejoice in someone surely losing their job.

JCP seemingly regrouped nicely enough with this follow-up:



Here’s my problem with it… it’s a professional photo.  How do I know?  Because it’s the same prop they used in a tweet just hree hours earlier.



Could someone see the drunken tweets, get a photographer to drop everything and head to the photo studio, snap/edit the shot and send it to someone with access to the twitter account who was able to craft the idea & hashtag?  Sure…

Could the photo and messages been thought of and prepared all along?  More likely.  The only variable is the minor specifics relating to the game.

I’m just not buying this one.

Is Time Up for Mike McCarthy & Aaron Rodgers?

photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

For the third straight year, the Packers lost in the playoffs.  For most teams, this wouldn’t be so terrible, but the Packers feature one of the two or three best quarterbacks of the past decade.  Someone who is believed to be a sure fire Hall of Famer.  A quarterback who has nine seasons behind him and might be seeing his window of opportunity closing.

The early responses point to a few common themes in the Ted Thompson era.  Many critics are saying there’s a lack of overall toughness, citing repeated losses to very physical Giants and 49ers teams.  Others say the defense is terrible.  And there’s a healthy mix of complaints about a lack of veteren leadership / free agents.

Let’s look at the criticism and see if we can sort out what is going wrong with this team.


This is a rather difficult thing to measure.  But let’s see if we can quantify it a bit.  Looking just at the most recent playoff loss, there are a few possible “toughness” numbers (per

49ers avg yards/carry: 5.6

Packers avg yards/carry: 4.0

49ers sacks allowed: 3

Packers sacks allowed: 4

49ers QB Hits: 6

Packers QB Hits: 2

You might look at some of those numbers and think they indicate San Fran is the tougher team.  They run more, they have a better pass rush, they allow fewer yards against the run.  But there is a lot more to it than that.

Running the ball, San Fran barely did anything in the traditional sense.  Gore carried 20 times for a 3.3 yard average.  His longest run was 10 yards.  The yards/carry average was grossly inflated by Kaepernick’s 98 rushing yards and 14 yard/carry average.  And his long runs did not come as a result of the option, but pass plays where he felt pressure and his first read wasn’t open.  Basically, he scrambled and Green Bay couldn’t catch him.

On the Packers’ side, they were facing the 3rd rated rush defense in the league and performed admirably.  Their running game is the best it’s been in years.  I’m not sure how you can rationally argue this.

The pass rushing stats are a bit more subjective, but Green Bay has been very limited in that department all year.  With the strength of San Fran’s offensive line and all the injuries on the Green Bay defense, it’s not much of a surprise.  The 49ers have allowed 2.4 sacks per game this year, so Green Bay was pretty much right on pace.

The Packers’ pass protection remains a mystery.  They without their projected starting left tackle the entire season.  The fill in was lost during the playoff game.  They also have a first round tackle who has yet to get on the field for any meaningful amount of time (although it’s beginning to look like this is less about injury and more about ability).

There are certainly bigger and faster teams compared to the Packers, but I don’t think you can really prove it’s an issue.


I covered the run defense already.  On the pass defense side, Kaepernick had 227 yards and a 53% completion rate.  Coupled with one touchdown and one interception, this wasn’t a terribly impressive game on paper.  But visually he dominated once again.  Kaepernick still is not an accomplished passer.  You can watch him follow a single receiver on every play, and either force the pass or run if that player isn’t open.  He’s occassionally hitting a second read these days, but it still looks to be rare.

Even with those limitations, he still kept making plays when it counted.  Especially at the end of the game, where the 49ers were 4/4 on 3rd down and 3/3 on the final drive of the game.

Giving the league’s 8th rated offense (according to the ball with 5 minutes left, only needing a field goal to win, is not a good situation for any defense.  The Packers made some critical mistakes (Bush allowing Kaepernick to run past him on 3rd and 8) and had some big missed opportunities (Hyde’s dropped interception), but ultimately just looked outmatched on the final drive.

The rest of the game, they looked really solid.  When the offense was absolutely pathetic in the first quarter, the defense stopped two drives inside their own 10 yard line.  The only touchdown they allowed in the first half was a result of a terrible bit of defense that led to Kaepernick’s 42 yard run.  That play included a lot of people out of position.

But basically the two big Kaepernick runs and the Davis touchdown were the only plays where the defense did not look good.  A good defense wouldn’t allow those plays, but this performance was still much better than what we’ve seen in the past.

Veteren Leadership

There are all sorts of variations of this theme thrown out every year under Thompson.  Let’s look at a few numbers for defensive & offensive starters… Below is name followed by years of experience.


– Aaron Rodgers: 9 years
– TJ Lang: 5 years
– Josh Sitton: 6 years
– James Jones: 7 years
– Jordy Nelson: 6 years


– Tramon Williams: 7 years
– Ryan Pickett: 13 years
– BJ Raji: 5 years
– AJ Hawk: 8 years
– Brad Jones: 5 years
– Clay Matthews: 5 years

11 of 22 starters are 5+ year veterens.  Every one of those 11 players were on the Super Bowl roster, all but Brad Jones as a starter.

So what we’re really talking about here is free agency.

In the last offseason, probably the most prominent free agent to change teams was Elvis Dumervil.  While his 9.5 sacks for the Ravens looks good, he was just a situational pass rusher.  He totaled 31 tackles and 3 passes defended.  While the 3rd down presence would help, it’s hard to imagine $5.2 million per season being worth it for such a limited player.

While plenty of people wanted Greg Jennings to stick around, it’s hard to argue against the results without him.  The biggest struggle the Packers’ offense faced was the loss of Aaron Rodgers.  No receiver group could make Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn look good.

Where the Packers missed in free agency is at the less attractive end.  Glenn Dorsey was a big contributor at the end of the season for the 49ers.  Chris Cante is an ideal 3-4 defensive end that eats blockers all day.  Shaun Phillips was a steal compared to Dumervil, but offered virtually identical production.  And these were all positions of great uncertainty entering the season.


I don’t know if enough data will ever be available to figure this one out.  The Packers players get injured more frequently than the rest of the league.  This has happened historically under Thompson.

I’ve tried to pull data about player growth from high school to the pros, and it looked like a lot of Ted Thompson draft picks showed big increases in BMI (35-30% increase from high school to pros).  The rest of the league, appears to have gains more like 10-15% over the same timeframe.  The theory is that players are bulking up fast, to a size larger than their frame is designed to hold.  so you have someone with the skeleton of a linebacker by the mass of a lineman.  Potentially, if your body isn’t meant to hold that kind of weight, it could break down more often.  There’s no science I know of to support this, it’s just a guess.  Trying to turn correlation into causation.  But data from high schools is not reliable enough.  Too often, it seems players measure bigger than they really are (maybe to appear bigger and get noticed by scouts?).  I’d love to look further into it, but without access to scouting data, I think it’s a dead end for now.

Beyond that, there are plenty of questions out there about the conditioning staff and McCarthy’s training/practice program.  Changes have been made in both departments over the year, with no changes.

Regardless, something desperately needs to change.  The Packers had 15 people on injured reserve this year, and had a lot of missed games by other starters.  You cannot operate a team that way and expect them to be successful through the postseason.


I’m not throwing this entirely on McCarthy, since Rodgers runs the show in the no huddle to a great degree.  But things just don’t seem to make sense year after year.  In 2007, Favre’s last year with the team, McCarthy had a young team and a very shaky offensive line.  He dealt with that by using a fantastic variation of the west coast offense.  The Packers were a late game Favre meltdown away from the Super Bowl that year.

Ever since, we haven’t seen that willingness to adapt to adverse situations.  In Sunday’s game, despite struggles with the 49ers’ pass rush, the Packers kept sending their receivers deep play after play.  In most instances, one receiver would go short on a slant with everyone else 15+ yards deep.  If that short pass wasn’t open, it left Rodgers waiting in the pocket far too long for routes to develop.

And then there’s the Cobb run inside the red zone.  And the wasted timeout at the end of the first half.  Nearly every game includes questionable moves like this.  The team nearly missed the playoffs because McCarthy didn’t go for two later in the Bears game.

The Packers have obviously built their offense around big plays, but they can’t expect them every snap.  There needs to be some adjustment to the playcalling philosophy to allow for adapatation against tough defenses.  Just like the first touchdown drive on Sunday when they went exclusively with runs and short passes

Closing Windows

Next year will be difficult for Ted Thompson to orchestrate.  Two thirds of their starting defensive line will be unrestricted free agents.  Sam Shields, James Jones, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Jermichael Finley, Mike Neal and CJ Wilson will all join them.  The following year will see the same time come for Jordy Nelson, Bryan Bulaga and Randall Cobb.  Tramon Williams is a likely cap casualty in 2014 with $9.5 million in salary and bonuses due.  The team has $107.8 million in spending against the cap (according to for next year, before drafting anyone or even getting a full roster.

The point is, things are going to get a lot harder.  All of this doesn’t take into account teams like the 49ers and Seahawks contuing to develop, along with other powerhouses around the league.  If the Packers hope to not let another hall of fame quarterback career go by with only one title, they are going to have to figure out a lot of issues that don’t have obvious answers.

Unless you believe there is a coach out there that can make an immediate impact given the existing talent, you can’t make a change in that department.  The aging roster and heavy contracts of Matthews & Rodgers won’t allow big splashes in free agency, and history shows there really aren’t big splashes worth making most years.  Thompson will likely need to replace veterens on the team currently with lower priced options (via draft and lower tier free agecy).

But he’ll need to go on a talent evaluation run that ranks up there with the best GM’s of all time, as the window of opportunity for this team appears to be closing.