Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Support Me As I Cycle For Life!

I'm asking you to support me as I Cycle For Life on 06/16/2012 to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis research by either joining me on the rid or donating.

Yes, we just finished the Great Strides Walk, but I wanted to also take part in this. Why?
For one, a big part of Meagan maintaining her health will be maintaining physical activity, and I want to be a good role model for her in that.

Two, this is a very exciting time for Cystic Fibrosis research, with promising medications in trials with promising results (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/business/vertexs-cystic-fibrosis-therapy-is-called-game-changing.xml).

So, as I challenge myself physically to take part in this ride, I challenge you to join me or contribute to the Aptalis CF Cycle For Life® on 06/16/2012
Thank you,
John McGuinness
Be the first one! Click Here to donate.

The Human Cost of Victory..

On Twitter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Cardinals beat writer Joe Strauss has aired suspicions that the Cardinals heavy use of Fernando Salas in their drive to the World Series (and to a lesser extent jerking Kyle McClellan from the starting rotation to the bullpen) has contributed to their problems this year.

I'll say what the Cardinals management can'ts ay:  If we assume this is true, it was worth it.

From the Cardinals perspective, only one out of the thirty teams each year wins the World Series, and a handful have a legitimate shot of doing so.  The Cardinals last year:

  • Overcame an 8 1/2 game deficit in the final month of the season to claim the NL's final playoff spot on the last day of the season by a single game.
  • Won the divisional series over the Phillies in 5 games (the maximum), with the fifth game being a 1-0 victory.
  • Won the LCS over the Brewers in a relatively comfortable six games.
  • Won the World Series over the Rangers in seven games, including an improbable come from behind win in 11 innings in Game 6.

Obviously, the Cardinals had little margin for error, or conserving their use of some players to ensure their future success.  It's possible that if Salas pitched even one fewer inning in 2011, there'd be one fewer banner hanging at Busch Stadium.

But so what?  I'm not one who believes that championships are everything.  What if the Cardinals ruined Salas's career?  Just for one measly championship?

Well, it seems that the pitcher who enjoys a long, injury-free career is a freak among freaks.  It seems that every pitcher, no matter how carefully he is used, or how strong he is, eventually succumbs to an arm injury.  Throwing a baseball with the speed and movement major league baseball pitchers do seems to be something most humans can only do so many times.  Most pitchers will ultimately break down, and nobody's figured out how to prevent it yet, or what to do to stop it.

Plus, this isn't Stephen Strasburg we're talking about.  Salas bounced between various roles in the Cardinals' bullpen last year, eventually landing in a middle relief /setup man role, and that's probably where his future lies.  Try to name five pitchers who have sustained success in that role over several years.  If pitchers are volatile and tend to break down, relief pitchers are even more volatile.   Teams spend millions to construct a bullpen, only to see them break down.  Others construct their bullpens from cast-offs and career minor leaguers, and see great success.  

So from the Cardinals perspective, it certainly seems worthwhile to risk the possible future career of a middle reliever to make a successful run at a World Championship.

But what about Salas's perspective?

Well, reading things like Bob Ojeda's reflections on his career, and reflecting on my own experience, my suspicion is he would say it's worth it as well.

There's only so many chances a player may have to win a World Championship. Would Salas be happier if the Cardinals finished a game or two out of the Wild Card last year, and he was enjoying similar individual success this year?  Maybe, but I suspect not.  

I think the same is true for all of us.  We will have a finite number of opportunities to be part of something truly extraordinary, and it will require some sacrifice for us.  We can pass, in order to preserve the opportunity to continue to produce mediocrity, or we can "go all in" and commit ourselves to making this extraordinary thing happen, and worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

The Cardinals and Fernando Salas chose to pursue a championship in 2011, even at a possible cost to his future production.  I think they made the right call, and it challenges me to do the same.

Why Stack Overflow Is Doomed

Stack Overflow / Stack Exchange has two goals, which can sometimes be in tension.

  1. Cultivate a pool community of contributors, and motivate them to produce high quality questions and answers.
  2. Be an authoritative source of questions and answers.
The problem is that sometimes the contributors recruited in Goal #1 want to post content that is not strictly a factual question or answer. Sometimes we want to do polls; sometimes we want to post jokes; sometimes we want to discuss questions that do not have a definitive answer.

The way SO/SE has elected to address this is through aggressive moderation, and when people complain, to lecture us about how this aggressive editing is what makes SO/SE great and prevents it from devolving as other sites have in the past, and that these other contributions are "making the internet worse."  (Joel gets extra points here by posting his lecture outside the SO / SE network, so as to model that this is the type of content that does not belong in SO / SE.

There are a couple problems with this.

First, people are attracted to SO / SE by the content that is there rather than the content that isn't.  Does it help that users don't have to wade through a bunch of garbage to get to the pearls of wisdom?  Sure.  Would it matter if there wasn't worthwhile content there in the first place? No.

Second, what SO / SE is saying to its "community" is that we don't want all of you.  We just want the part of you that attracts hits from Google and makes us look good.

This is fine in some contexts.  It may be reasonable for an employer to request that employees leave various aspects of their personalities at the door (though it may be advantageous not to).

But for a voluntary community?  One in which you are asking people to volunteer to provide content? (even unsolicited) Why would I want to contribute to a community that only accepts the marketable aspects of me?  Don't I already have a job?

The other response is that more whimsical discussions are welcome in "chat."  As the name suggests, this is essentially a ghetto for content SO / SE doesn't want to stand behind, but in recognition that some people need an outlet.  It has not taken off.

Essentially, what SO / SE is implementing is a social solution.  Delete / marginalize / stigmatize content that is undesirable.  This result is considerable collateral damage, as many contributors decide that if the community doesn't want their more whimsical content, it can do without their more technical content as well.

It seems to me that there's a technical solution out there that would allow contributors to post what they want, and the site to present a filtered picture to the outside world, without forcing contributors into a "chat"-type ghetto.

If a site figures out how to do this, and execute on the other points that make SO great, it can pass it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

St. Louis's Terrible Choices for the Rams

As far as the Rams requests for renovation of the Edward Jones Dome, it seems the St. Louis region faces these unappealing options:

  1. Spend money we don't have to help a billionaire construct a facility that will print money for himself for a team that has provided precious few positive memories over the past few years, and only plays 8 home games a year.
  2. Essentially declare that we are not a big-time city anymore.
I despise the idea of handing Stan Kroenke, a man who has spent most of his time owning the Rams acting like someone who's not that into us, a single dime to help him build a new stadium.  He's made quite a bit of money off of us.  If some other city want to empty its coffers to show him how much it wants the Rams, they can go right ahead.  As a reminder of how these ballpark deals typically work out for the cities, the Cardinals just announced plans for Ballpark Village, which was supposed to open with the stadium in 2006, though I was always skeptical.

If the Rams move, it's lights out for St. Louis as an NFL city. We'll forever be known as a two-time loser that couldn't keep a spot in the nation's most popular sports league.

This isn't just about football, either. When the city, St. Louis county and state cooperated to fund the original stadium deal, it was part of a wider project — the expansion of the downtown convention center to improve the slumping convention and trade-show business.
Saying no to Korenke would essentially be withdrawing our membership from the club of NFL cities.

So what? Well, name a prominent American city without and NFL city.  Ok, Los Angeles, the once and perhaps future home of the Rams.  And a city that has a few other things going for it, inluding 2 BCS college football programs.  Las Vegas.  Again, with a few other things going for it, and some other reasons for not having a team.  Then what? Portland? Salt Lake City? Columbus? Austin? San Antonio?  Does St. Louis really want to join this club, and drop a tier below cities like Kansas City, Indianapolis, and the Twin Cities?  Might we want to be a city that draws events like big bowl games, the Final Four, maybe even this new SEC-Big 12 bowl game?

Like it or not (and I'm firmly in the "not" camp), making an NFL owner happy is part of the price of being a top American city.  

But that doesn't necessarily mean it's a price St. Louis should be willing to pay.  Just that by not paying it, we'll be admitting that we've slipped to the second or third tier of American cities.  And that's a hard thing to admit.