Football is just business

Written on 1 March 2019, 05:08pm

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I recently wrote a post on a Romanian sports site about trying to apply an IT process to find the root cause of a football problem. I will try to make a summary here since the post that I wrote is in Romanian.

It’s about Liverpool FC and it essentially starts from 4 facts about Premier League (PL) football:

  1. Modern football is a business. There are revenue streams (media, commercial, match-day), expenses (squad, facilities, etc), assets (the players and the staff) and risk management governing the entire process. In order to survive, a business needs to turn a profit.
  2. For the Top 6 PL teams, the main source of revenue is the participation in Champions League (CL). The difference between finishing 1st and 6th in PL is few million pounds (basically peanuts), while missing out the Top 4 (ensuring CL participation) could have significant financial impact. Example – Liverpool reaching the CL final last season meant that their profits tripled compared to the previous year.
  3. Every business has a vision, and a strategy for implementing the vision. The vision means the desired future position, while the strategy is a long-term plan to implement the vision. To implement the overall strategic plan, a shorter-term, tactical plan might be needed – easier to monitor and coordinate.
  4. Higher ambitions means higher risks. It all depends on the risk appetite of the business.

With these facts in mind, I try to make a root cause analysis of the reasons why Liverpool seems to lose pace in the recent period. Many supporters see the recent transfer window as a missed opportunity. Despite several injuries, in January 2019 the club was still on the 1st place with several points advantage. You would expect a club to strengthen from a position of strength. It didn’t, and the takeaway is that the vision of the club is different from the vision of the supporter. While the supporters would aim to win the PL, the club vision is to maintain a sustainable growth and sound financial management. This can be done by remaining in the Top 4 (virtually achieved at this stage of the season) and staying in CL for as long as possible. Aiming for the first place would involve bringing in new players, which introduce additional costs and risks. Higher ambitions means higher risks, which are not necessarily accepted by the business.

In these conditions, winning the PL would be simply a happy side-effect.

In the end, I touch on two more things. First, having the realization above made have a more relaxed approach in supporting Liverpool FC. I understand that my expectations are not necessarily aligned with the club priorities, and therefore I have to manage these expectations. For the first time in the last few years, last weekend I decided to skip watching a Liverpool game and enjoy some time with the family:

Time to chill

The second point is that I am getting a little bit annoyed with the extremists-optimists supporters on social media. This tweet is spot on:

Nobody is denying the progress Liverpool made since Klopp took over. I fully support him and I think he’s a perfect match for the club. In any other season, having 66 points after 27 games would virtually guarantee you winning the league.
But that doesn’t mean that we can pretend things are going great: Liverpool won a single game from the last 5, it’s definitely not the right time to celebrate being first of the league with a mere point ahead of the second place, when all the bookmakers and predictive models predict that Liverpool will finish second. Hypothetical statements such as ‘if you would have known this at the beginning of the season…‘ don’t go anywhere and tend to focus more on the past rather than the future.
This is the political correctness applied to football.

Conclusion: doing a root cause analysis using the 5 whys to find why Liverpool is no longer favorite to win the PL leads to the following results:

  1. Why? Because the squad is not good enough to fight the financial giant currently on the 2nd place
  2. Why? Because there are big differences between the starting XI and the bench
  3. Why? Because the club did not bring in enough players during the last 2 transfer windows
  4. Why? Because it was not needed; finishing in Top 4 is virtually guaranteed
  5. Why? Because football is a business and trophies are just a caprice of the supporters

Refactoring UI book – my notes

Written on 19 February 2019, 11:49am

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For some reason, I still prefer the paper version…

Here are some notes relevant to me after reading the Refactoring UI book:

  • border radius: large=playful, no radius=formal. Just be consistent, not like Dropbox
  • you can highlight an element by de-emphasizing the others
  • sometimes the labels are not needed… but some other times they are mandatory. Just use your common sense. Also, make sure there is no confusion about which label belongs to which value
  • differentiate between primary vs secondary (or tertiary) actions
  • stick to 45-75 characters per line if you want to play it safe
  • line height and font size are inversely proportional
  • if some paragraph is longer than 2-3 lines, it will look better left-aligned
  • always right-align numbers
  • don’t rely on color alone: use the contrast, or even better, add patterns
  • try to emulate a light source when working with non-flat interfaces
  • don’t scale up small icons, just re-draw them completely to add more details. Conversely, don’t scale down big icons, just re-draw them (ex. draw a separate logo and scale it down to obtain the favicon)
  • don’t simply copy/paste screenshots: either paste screenshot from phone/tablet mode, zoom-in to the relevant section, or use a generic UI
  • lists don’t necessarily mean bullet points: can be check-marks or locks
  • re-think drop-downs, tables and radio buttons

I was surprised by the amount of useful information I learned in what felt like a couple of hours read. This is more than a simple book that you close and put away after you’re done reading it; it’s something that you might come back to from time to time for inspiration when you work on your next design project.

Notes made with workflowy

Still don’t buy a Tesla!

Written on 17 February 2019, 07:51pm

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Remember how a few months ago I was not recommending buying a Tesla because of the bad customer support? Well… I still don’t. Despite some positive signs (which I will detail below), the overall customer experience remains sub-optimal. And on top of that, I just stumbled upon two additional frustrating issues.

The good

There were some improvements since my post in December 2018. First, the mirror problem was finally addressed. A Tesla Ranger came to my house and replaced the faulty piece in less than half an hour. Definitely a positive experience, but the fact that I had to wait more than two months to have it fixed is still a big issue.
The second positive issue: the Tesla Service managed to reply one of my emails in 14 hours during a weekend period.

The bad

Let’s say you drive with your Model S to location X. Then, a few hours later, you come back to the place you parked your car, and can’t find it anymore. You open the Tesla iOS app, it updates, and it still shows that your Model S is in the location X (which is not). Your Model S was towed away to location Y, but you will never see the location Y from the app.
Here is what Tesla says about this:

I can confirm that this is indeed normal behavior.
The GPS location of the vehicle only updates when the car is actually being driven.
You will experience the same if the car is being transported on a ferry.
When the vehicle starts driving again, the GPS location will refresh. In some cases it will takes a couple of drives for it to refresh afterwards, but in most cases it will pick up at the first drive.

Tesla EMEA Customer Support responding to the scenario described above
The Tesla iOS app does not show the real-time location of your car

I am absolutely stunned by this behavior. Not only it violates the principle of least surprise, but it also means that you can never trust the location shown in your app (unless you have your car in sight). Not being able to see the real-time location of your car despite having the technical means to do it is simply astonishing. I am authenticated as the owner of this car, I am asking you to show me the location, you have the means to do it – so just show me where it is!
I asked Tesla if they plan to update this behavior and I will update this post if I receive an answer.

The ugly

I just found out that the Tesla dashcam only stores one hour of video recordings on the USB drive. At the moment you cannot change this setting, it is not documented anywhere (I found the information on reddit) and it doesn’t make any difference if your USB drive would be able to store more than that. It’s such an arbitrary and artificial limit and the fact that it’s not documented anywhere makes it even more frustrating (principle of least surprise again).
There are workarounds: the expensive way (have several USB drives and rotate them periodically), or the nerd way (use a Raspberry Pi to sync the contents of the USB drive with your file server when you get home). None of them are ideal, the right thing to do is to allow me (the owner of the car) to decide about the matter (1, 2, 100 or 0 hours of video storage).
Again, I asked Tesla if they plan any change related to this behavior.

Update 18 February: Tesla confirmed the 1-hour recording limit and logged my request to make this limit user-configurable. “As for expanding this time, we are hoping so we get a lot of requests for it.

Update 20 February: On 16 February I asked Tesla if they plan to change the current set up, where the real-time location of the car is not shown unless you drive car. On 20 February they replied: “I have submitted this as a feature request for the development team to review.