I <3 Hypem


I've been using this music streaming service called Hype Machine for a little over 5 years now and my account and all the songs I've hearted ("liked") over the years is easily one of my top 5 online possessions.  It's become a daily part of my life; the process discovering new music throughout the week is enhanced by always having one place where everything can be found.  This is going to make me sound dated to any other hypem users (cue the old grandpa voice) but I remember when top songs on their popular page only had a couple hundred likes, now their #1 songs (such as the Odesza remix of Zhu's "Faded" mentioned below) routinely have 5,000+ likes.


It's free to join and they're not very obtrusive.  You "pay" by having ads pop up all the time when you open your page as well as some tricky border ads; annoying but again, it's totally free, so it's worth it to me.  I'm sure they also get some revenue from referring people to buy concert tickets on songkick.com (which I've done many times over the years).


Soon they'll have an official Android app and it'll only increase my use of the site I'm sure.  They are pretty aware of their product niche but are always rolling out new features with an eye towards the future.  One reason why I originally liked them is because their popular page had a shelf life of 3 days so it always kept recent hot songs coming through.  Recently they rolled out the ability to create "lists" of different styles/energies of music, they are "Up", "Down" and "Weird".  I'm still figuring out the feel of each but this is brilliant on both the customer's and the company's ends; I get to have a quick way to play a similarly styled playlist and Hype Machine gets users to crowdsource genre-definition of all their songs.  Once again the wisdom of the crowds will prove to be very useful.


Check it out particularly if you enjoy electronic/techno/EDM/whatever you call it and indie, as those are primarily the genres I see represented.  I suggest when you begin to regularly use it that you curate a followed list of some blogs that you see playing the specific type of music you enjoy at the moment.  If the blog's new song isn't exactly your flavor, a lot of times there will be another song in the post that you will like.  

Suga Suga

I've heard a lot of good music recently but this one really stands out.  Partly due to timing as it's the beginning of summer, it's mostly good because it retains just enough of the original to bring back memories of summers long ago.  That and everything it adds is perfectly placed.  Would make a great song choice if you happen to be cruising down A1A in the bright Miami sun, just saying.


Baby Bash - Suga Suga (Royal Refix)


Dan Ariely Speaks the Truth

I was introduced to Dan Ariely when I picked up his book "Predictably Irrational" a couple years back.  I know it wasn't anytime recently because: A.) It's a physical book, not a wireless download & B.) The sticker on the back says it's from Borders.  Anyways, it was one of my first behavioral psychology reads and really sparked by fascination with the subject.  


It's always an exciting discovery when you find something that you quickly become obsessed with.  Learning how and more importantly why we (or at least Westerners that participate in most of the studies) think and act quickly became addictive.  I still find myself buying some of the intriguing and popular new releases even though most of them just recycle the same knowledge, and cite the same studies, but applied to a different scenario.  This isn't rational but it's still something I continue to do.


Back to Dan, he has a great blog that he frequently updates with real world examples of these behavioral psychology principles by taking reader's questions and trying to explain their thinking.  A recent post of his included this wonderful response:


Dear Dan,

Early in my career, I wrote a massive Excel macro for the large bank where I worked. The macro (a set of automated commands) would take a data dump and turn it into a beautiful report. It took about two minutes to run, with an hourglass showing that it was working away. The output was very useful, but everyone complained that it was too slow.

One way to speed up a macro is to make it run in the background, invisibly, with just the hourglass left on-screen. I had done this from the start, but just for fun, I flipped the setting so that people using the macro could see it do its thing. It was like watching a video on fast forward: The macro sliced the data, changed colors, made headers and so on. The only problem: It took about three times as long to finish.

Once I made this change, however, everyone was dazzled by how fast and wonderful the algorithm was. Do you have a rational explanation for this reversal?

—Mike

I’m not sure I have a rational explanation, but I have a logical one. What you describe so nicely is a combination of two forces. First, when we are just waiting aimlessly, we feel that time is being wasted, and we feel worse about its passage. Second, when we feel that someone is working for us, particularly if they are working hard, we feel much better about waiting (and about paying them for their effort). Interestingly, this joy at having someone work hard for us holds true not just of people but of computer algorithms, too.

The life lesson should be clear: Work extra hard at describing how hard you work to those around you.


I love it, so logical and true.  The bold part at the end is my emphasis on the underlying principle; it's partly sad that this is the main point of his answer but it's 100% true.  Many people and services should take his advice if they wish to increase their customer satisfaction levels.

"Coaching $$$ in Black & White"

I was scrolling through the Miami Herald's Sports page and a blog on FIU football by David J. Neal caught my eye.  Initially I noticed it because the second half of the title of the post said "Coaching $$$ in Black & White".  I didn't know if Neal was using "Black & White" metaphorically or literally; whether he was talking about the blatant nepotism on FIU's staff or if there was a pay disparity between black and white head coaches.  I assumed he meant literally because he capitalized Black and White, likely referring to the skin colors.  So I decided to look up their bios and compare them.


Here is the table of coaches I compared, it's most of the main assistants for the 2013 and 2014 seasons:


I couldn't find public salary info on their special teams coach from 2013 on the Florida Has a Right to Know Mr. Neal mentioned in his post so he was omitted.  I also left the head coach Ron Turner off the list because his salary would've skewed the averages.  The salaries were average for what info I could find over the last 2 seasons.  The disclaimer with this quick analysis is that the sample size is pretty small so we can't know any conclusions for sure.  But from the numbers we do have sure show an inflated salary if you are either white and/or related to the head coach or one of the coordinators, particularly if you fulfill both categories.


Here is the table of salary info by skin color.  The higher numbers in each column are considered "better" so they're highlighted in green (BTW how many promotions has Excel's "Conditional Formatting" gotten people over the years?  Has to be in the thousands):


It's pretty clear that while the black assistant coaches have 25% more years coaching experience (15.3 vs. 12.2), they are paid 13% less ($101,250 vs. $116,916) in salary.  Also white assistant coaches get more than DOUBLE ($20,046 vs. $9,076) the salary per year of coaching experience and make 1.7 times ($29,537 vs. $17,444) in salary per year of college coaching experience.  Those facts are pretty hard to ignore.  So what I assumed Mr. Neal was referring to, that white assistant coaches at FIU under Ron Turner make more than black assistant coaches, does indeed look to be true.


Here are some really fancy pictures in case you prefer that medium:


Ron Turner's brief but rocky tenure as FIU head football coach has also been controversial in that some people accuse them of favoring hiring direct relatives for assistant jobs and paying them more than people that aren't related to the top coaches.  Both Ron Turner and his offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler have sons that are prominent assistant coaches.  And both of these sons share something in common when you break down their salaries as well.


Here is a table showing the same numbers as before, but broken down by if when you were a direct relative (in this case a son) hired as an assistant coach at FIU:


Again, it's pretty clear that there is some favoritism going on here.  If you were hired on as an assistant coach and you were NOT a direct relative, even though you had 3 times the coaching experience (12 vs. 4), you were expected to make only 8% more than if you were a relative ($107,722 vs. $99,500).  Even worse, if you were a direct relative, you make 2.7 times the salary per year of coaching experience ($34,166 vs. $12,595)  and make 3.7 times the salary per year of college coaching experience ($62,100 vs. $16,779).  Insane!  How is this allowed to happen?


Again, here are those numbers in graphical form:


Something is fishy at FIU, that's for sure.


//Edited to fix wording

Spotify Doesn't Care

In case the professional artwork above isn't clear, I turned the Spotify logo into a sad face with three frowns.  I'm so original.


I'm not one to usually whine and bitch publicly but a recent customer service process I had to deal with was particularly horrendous so I think it deserves to be known.  Ideally, someone at Spotify can review the case as a whole, rather than separate support staff members viewing it individually.  Hopefully it's viewed as constructive criticism and they improve their current processes towards the goal of providing a much better customer service experience.  Spotify likely concentrates on supporting current customers, but also helping people that aren't active customers who could potentially even be prospective customers should also be high on their priority list.


I noticed that someone had used my credit card number to open two Spotify accounts about a month ago.  After disputing the charges with the bank (which was extremely easy to do by comparison), I went to contact Spotify to let them know about these fraudulent charges so someone wasn't continuing to get free music and bandwidth that they could use on a rightful paying customer.  You'd think this would be something that they would care about and want to fix immediately.


So I did what any person in the 21st century would do, I went to their website to find a customer service phone number or email address I could contact to speak with someone and get this handled in 10-15 minutes.



Only problem is there isn't a number or email address clearly listed.  Keep in mind that Spotify wants to be a world class corporation, some recent numbers I've heard are that they're currently valued around $5 billion and have 40 million customers, of which 10 million and paying customers.  Pretty impressive growth for a company that fills the a role once dominated by free services (replacing empty silence with music, as in the radio) and now which has many different competitors offering up similar services for similar prices.  You'd think that one way they would want to stand out from the different options would be excellent customer service.



Once again, no clear answer as to how I'm supposed to talk to someone about this.  There is a reference to their customer support Twitter handle though, @SpotifyCares, hence the title of this post.  It just sucks that instead of having a private conversation with somebody about my problem, I have to broadcast it across the entire internet (since the entire internet is my 56 followers).  Plus what I don't get is that you'd think a company would want to keep this private as well but, once again, you're wrong.



Don't be fooled by highlighted link for a contact form, you have to be an existing Spotify customer or sign up for an account to contact them.  I guess this is going public and that is how we're forced to handle things.  My apologies to the 56 people who quickly scrolled past my tweets during this whole ordeal.



Here we learn that there is indeed no phone number to call to talk to a human being.  Think about that for a second, a company supposedly worth $5 billion and has 10 million people that pay them every month does not currently offer telephone support.  I mean I get running lean and optimizing your resource's time is important, but sometimes the most efficient way is talking.  For both parties involved, the customer and the provider.  


Even worse, the link they sent me to use to contact them instead of by phone was the same one that REQUIRES you to have a Spotify account.  And if you're not a current customer, well damn, you're shit out of luck, you have to sign up.  I think it was at this point in the "What the fuck?!?" stage of the the whole process that I reached peak frustration levels.  



Out of principle and because it's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of, signing up to hopefully quickly solve this problem was out of the question for me.  They have my email, they can contact me to fix this.  I think I still had a sliver of hope they would do the right thing and make this as easy as possible for the customer at this point.


Nope.



It was at this point that a friend chimed in, equally confused and surprised that a company that wants to portray themselves as a world class organization is failing at the basic of customer support.  See, one other person knows about this shitty scenario, this is going viral! [Insert internet sarcasm emoticon] Only after tagging their Twitter handle again and making up the completely unoriginal hashtag #spotifydoesntcare did they reach out again.  Unfortunately, it was via Twitter again and they followed me and wanted me to send them a DM to give them my email address to have someone contact me.  Meaning they didn't even read my earlier tweet giving my email address.


Again as a reminder in this point of the bitching to remind everyone that this could've been solved in 5-10 minutes of talking.  I just like pointing that out.



Following this is another Twitter exchange in public view instead of privately.



Finally a fucking link to a contact form! Maybe that is their plan all along, to make a prospective customer so frustrated that after 3 days from initiating communication you're provided with a way to accomplish a really simple goal and you're very happy.  They make you hate them before answering your first question. 



I don't know if "V" and "Z" ever talk to each other, but I'm going to do all of their jobs for them by posting the link to this hidden contact form that for some unknown reason wasn't clearly marked on their website.


https://www.spotify.com/us/about-us/contact/contact-spotify-account/


So they email me back, meaning finally I can have a "private" (Hi CIA!) conversation.  Ahhhhh, only thing is the email just says that they received my contact form.  Well hopefully they get their shit in order and figure this all out.  I mean, there's no way that this will continue to drag on, right? 


Yep.



Two more days go by with no answer, so my politeness is wearing thin but I reach out via Twitter again to get their attention.  "T" tells me she just assigned my case to someone, something "V" or "Z" should've done 5 days ago.  What the "F"!



Finally it looks like someone is giving me actionable items to get the ball rolling.  "J" is by far my favorite customer support rep thus far in the process.  Another problem arises as getting this BAC number from the bank isn't very easy either, but is handled in 15-20 minutes.



I guess "C" isn't too bad of a support rep either, he probably would be number 1 in my book but it took him 6 days to get back to me. So I'll put him in a tie for first.  Again I want to point out that this could've been solved in 5-10 minutes of talking.  At this point in the story we're 12 days into the process.



What the fuck "C" I thought we were boys??? My name is in every email, just look at it when you're referencing a prospective customer.  Fine, you're definitely not tied for first anymore in the "Spotify Customer Support Staff" rankings.  But finally this horrible, horrible customer service experience is resolved.  


I don't think I need to remind anyone of how long it should've taken to fix this problem in my eyes, but in the end it took over 14 days.  I hope someone at Spotify reads this and sees how bad they look and fixes their support system.  I mean I was never really considering signing up for a Spotify account but I for sure will never consider it in the future.  And maybe the 3-4 people that read this post will second guess it themselves.

Cover Me Gently

One thing I also will post a bunch, besides talk about football or solar, is music.  Particularly electronic music.  I used to post over at loudmusicallday.com with some friends but that kind of died off and I discover too much good music to not share.


Below are some good covers I've found recently:


Thief - Cry Me a River


Cassie Steele - Sex and Candy


Animal-Music - Mr. Brightside

Reviewing the Top 5 Mocked Picks

Digging a little deeper into aggregated mock drafts, the great resource Walter Football has a very comprehensive mock draft database.  They have gone through the trouble of tabulating the top 5 picks of each mock in one big table.  That table looked something like this:



So I quickly tabulated the top 5 results from the mock draft database, only looked at mocks in 2014 and graphed their evolution over the last 4 months of the 2014 NFL Draft process.  This ended up being 428 mocks for each pick in the top 5 from what is likely the largest mock draft database on the web.  The graph is "Month" on the X axis, January through May and "Average pick" on the Y axis for some of the top prospects.  So Jadeveon Clowney having an average close to 1 in May means, wait for it, that the "consensus" pick he would be selected was #1.



With this graph it is easy to visualize the consensus order of each prospect over time.  Some interesting insights I'd love to know more about:

  • Did mock drafters become more comfortable with Clowney to the Texans over time or is that a reflection of just what they were hearing?
  • What is responsible for the separation between Blake Bortles and Clowney starting in March?  They're pretty close and then Clowney clearly separates himself from Bortles and the pack to be the clear #1 pick.  Combine or pro day?
  • Did the Jake Matthews get worse in March or did people only realize then that Glen Robinson was a better OT?
  • Who was ultimately responsible for leading the Johnny Manziel hype train? The media, the fans or was it all smokescreens from teams?


Thoughts on the Solar Ambassador program by SolarCity

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" - Seneca



Cliche, I know.  But even behind overused, corny phrases lies some truth.  What might look like luck after the fact was likely only made possible because of many hours spent trying to better yourself in the past.  It's good to keep that in perspective because only by taking advantage of those opportunities can you create your own luck.

Full disclosure: I've worked for a solar energy provider called SolarCity for the past 4 years.  I've seen it grow from a small Silicon Valley startup to what is now a publicly traded behemoth.  I love the company and it has been a great ride so far.  I recognize this opportunity to be a part of a potentially special company from its roots is a once in a lifetime event and I don't want to take it for granted.  It has been great for me professionally too as I've had the chance to work with a lot of truly great people and feel like I have more impact than I would at a different company.

Anyways I have spent a lot of time at work and outside of it thinking about ways to help spread solar adoption, for SolarCity's benefit as well as the environment's benefit too.  One of the themes that consistently stuck out to me was enabling solar adoption to spread virally by giving more power to the public in the process.  Our old referral process involved a referrer giving someone's name and contact information for one of our salespeople to follow up with.  This was beneficial because it allowed just about anyone to get paid for recommending solar energy systems for others but I felt it didn't go far enough  to really become a monster and spread by itself without additional SolarCity resources spent on it.  

About a year ago I presented an idea to a lunchtime gathering of coworkers that was intended to be a forum to share thoughts.  This idea was to make the referral process itself more viral by making the act of sharing quicker by cutting out the salesperson from the process and allow anybody to create very basic sales proposals for anyone else themselves.  I believed that this would encourage sharing because the referrer would assume personal responsibility over spreading the message, and that our current process was too passive.  My thoughts as to the medium to use to spread it was a social media or mobile game that would simplify sharing by making the referral process more fun.  People could set up networks of additional referrers and be rewarded when they referred others.  Who wouldn't want to kill a couple minutes in line or waiting on something as well as potentially make a couple hundred bucks by promoting the spread of clean energy?

Slide explains why a distributed network of referrers is better

Slide that explains why decreasing the amount of time through the viral loop (time to share a proposal) is important

After vetting the idea with Operations leaders, I then met with the heads of our Marketing and Sales departments and presented it to them.  By this time I had done some more prep and had found viral coefficient metrics for our referral program that previously weren't known.  Basically we would improve on the virality of the program by really encouraging not only people to refer others to get a solar energy system installed but also to get those who you refer to   get more people to refer.  We would ride the inherent viral aspects of multi-level marketing to help grow the program.  They were initially intrigued but my communication with them fell off when I moved away from our HQ to work regionally.  

Slide that explains why the referral process in the early market of solar adoption doesn't work in the mainstream market of adoption

Slide that explains how we could "cross the chasm" to become an adopted technology

Recently though we rolled out a program called "Solar Ambassadors" that will allow anyone to build a referral network of up to three levels (someone you tell, someone that person tells and then someone else that THAT person tells) and be compensated if any of those referrers lead to solar energy customers.  I'm happy to see that principles of the idea are still alive and well and that it will be given a chance to prove its worth.  Some very smart people have been working on this for a long time it looks like and I think it has the makings of being a successful way to grow and acquire customers.  Even if it's not exactly the way I would've done it, I think the basic tenants of improving the viral coefficient of the referral program are still there.  This program allows for you to help promote the adoption of a technology that will change the world for the better while saving people money immediately. 

I'm sharing this story because I am proud to see something I worked hard on actually fleshed out and live, if it does turn out to be a big success I'll be able to take some small bit of credit for doing my part in the beginning, whether directly or indirectly.  

: )

//Edit, I guess employees aren't eligible for the Ambassadors program, but I encourage everyone else to join

Reviewing the Draft Order Prediction

So I quickly compared how my simple prediction fared against the 2014 mocks I collected and I will add the comparison numbers and rankings onto this post later today.  But I think it turned out pretty well, I believe by comparing the predicted and mocked picks to the actual selection order, I had an R-square value of 0.57 and the highest mock I looked at was Mayock's who had a R-square of 0.55.

What I find particularly impressive about this prediction is how simple it was -- all it looked at was a Top 100 composite ranking, height, weight, arm length and average mock draft position.  It  outperformed all the expert's mock accuracy and I didn't spend months working on it and I had no inside knowledge, I just aggregated what others were hearing and thought.


To review, my selection prediction for the 2013 Draft had a R-square value of 0.61 and the next highest was Todd McShay at 0.5.  My selection prediction for the 2014 Draft had a R-square value of 0.57 and the next highest of the ones I looked at was Mike Mayock at 0.55.  I could have looked at more mocks to be more comprehensive, some mocks might have performed higher than those that were looked at but if they were included in the dataset, the prediction would have improved as well.

Predicted 2014 Draft selection order

Below is the predicted order based off of the following variables:


Top 100 consensus ranking
Height
Weight
Arm Length
Avg Mock Draft Points


Order Player Pos Top100 Height Weight Arms Avg Mock Draft points Pred Mock Draft Points
1 Jadeveon Clowney DE 1 77 266 35 2911.111111 2656.180654
2 Greg Robinson OT 3 77 332 35 2600 2414.823449
3 Khalil Mack OLB 2 75 251 33 2188.888889 1990.70493
4 Sammy Watkins WR 4 73 211 32 1833.333333 1646.896388
5 Taylor Lewan OT 10 79 309 34 1494.444444 1581.072755
6 Mike Evans WR 6 77 231 35 1450 1566.586301
7 Jake Matthews OT 5 77 308 33 1572.222222 1558.98738
8 Johnny Manziel QB 11 72 207 31 1572.222222 1386.016481
9 Anthony Barr OLB 13 77 255 34 1094.444444 1250.329576
10 Eric Ebron TE 12 76 250 33 1175 1247.941459
11 Aaron Donald DT 8 73 285 33 1215.555556 1219.553732
12 Zack Martin OT 15 76 308 33 1144.444444 1216.86755
13 Justin Gilbert CB 16 72 202 33 1188.888889 1188.137736
14 Blake Bortles QB 14 77 232 33 1044.444444 1170.458139
15 Cyrus Kouandjio OT 34 79 322 36 797 1139.066329
16 C.J. Mosley ILB 9 74 234 33 1058.333333 1126.560729
17 Odell Beckham Jr. WR 18 71 198 33 1022.222222 1044.672079
18 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix FS 18 73 208 32 990 1011.699527
19 Kyle Fuller CB 27 72 190 33 950 1006.921183
20 Morgan Moses OT 36 78 314 35 695.8333333 1000.100097
21 Timmy Jernigan DT 30 74 299 32 925 966.0854087
22 Ja'Wuan James OT 57 78 311 35 660 965.7691372
23 Ra'Shede Hageman DT 24 78 310 34 640 918.4423979
24 Jimmie Ward SS 35 71 193 31 950 895.0107152
25 Calvin Pryor FS 22 71 207 31 927.7777778 881.5884295
26 Jace Amaro TE 39 77 265 34 606.6666667 874.7488037
27 Darqueze Dennard CB 19 71 199 30 975.5555556 874.4638941
28 Kony Ealy DE 26 76 273 34 620 869.9957469
29 Joel Bitonio OT 46 76 302 34 597.5 842.0860553
30 Ryan Shazier OLB 21 73 237 32 766.1111111 839.6863546
31 Derek Carr QB 33 74 214 32 743.3333333 839.5957556
32 Dee Ford DE 31 74 252 33 680 833.3038955

This was published at 1:30 am MST on 5/8/14