My Advice For Daily Fantasy Sites

 I've been a huge fantasy sports fan since I was a kid.  I say "fan" because fantasy sports are an entertainment vehicle for me.  I love sports and I've traditionally excelled in math - and so yes - I've dreamed of being that data-driven General Manager who's athletic prime had passed way back when I was in 8th grade.  In being more realistic, I very much enjoy having my handful of fantasy sports leagues to quench some competitive desires.
The daily fantasy hype is something I've followed since the beginning.  Between the tens of millions of dollars being spent on advertising by two companies and the PR nightmare of a few weeks back, it got me thinking about the industry and it's future. 
First things first -- I have no idea about the legality of the practice.  I can tell you that it is a game of skill over the long-haul, however, so is poker and so is sports gambling.  The "professionals" in all 3 of these practices have proven track records of not relying on chance.  If "game of skill" is all that's needed to make it legal -- then DFS, Poker, and Sports Gambling should all be legal. 
So let's just assume that DFS passes all if it's legal noise.  The question I have is: How long (or how much) are "Avg. Joe's" going to participate once they realize they are playing an un-winnable game in the long-term?  Their $20 to win $1MM dreams are being crushed by hundreds of professionals with sophisticated algorithms spending over $2000 to win that $1MM.   The large marketing efforts needed to replenish the pools of "Avg Joe's" who are in it for the short ride are just not sustainable.   I play DFS as pure entertainment, yet it's not as enjoyable when I'm being hustled, which is why I'm not a heavy DFS player.  What IS enjoyable is avoiding the sharks and playing amongst my friends...Just like a home poker game.  
So here's my advice.  Diversify from merely trying to be "the casino" into so much more: licensed technology, media company, finance institution, etc.  Stop spending all of your VC money on those annoying ads (that need to think about FREQUENCY limits).  
Here's an idea example:  Either open up your sites for 3rd party development OR create "Private/custom season-long DFS contests" yourself.  By having this approach, you take the place of CBS,ESPN,YHOO as the service provider of choice.  I'm a willing commissioner in general - but the amount of work needed to run a season-long DFS league is unreasonable for anyone.  I love standard fantasy leagues - but the season-long aspect is what I like to call "experienced luck."  It's hard to brag/talk trash in traditional fantasy sports these days because it truly does come down to luck (after a certain amount of baseline skill).  DFS is skill on a season-long basis and it's something I'd be very interested in if the tools existed to do this.  (Here's a free idea:  What about SURVIVOR POOL MEETS DFS - you can only each player once in a season - woah! - right?)
In general - I'm very interested to seeing what happens in the DFS space and I'm rooting for the industry to innovate and just hope the companies leading here aren't satisfied with the status quo.


Miami Heat 14-15 Redux

I was optimistic about this years Miami Heat.  I'm a loyal fan through thick and thin - and this year fits the THICK side ... or is it the THIN side.... I'm not sure.  Either way - it was a frustrating year for Miami Heat fans.  It wasn't like 2008 where the team was the worst in the league.  It was worse because the team should have been above average.  They were not.  Here's my thoughts on the season:

1)  Injuries - When all is said and done - the Heat organization will get a pass this year because they had so many injuries.  While it's valid, they 100% still should have been a top 6 team in the East this year regardless of injuries.
2) Chris Bosh proved he was worth every penny.  He's a max player and this year - he backed it up.  I have confidence he'll get better in the offseason and will come back even more hungry in 2015-2016.
3) Eric Spoelstra: I love Eric's Spoeltra's basketball philosophy, his operational and data-driven approach, and his calm no-excuse demenoer.  This said, in the off season, he needs to hire an in-game manager.  It's clearly not Keith Smart or David Fisdale.  To me, this was the most frustrating controllable aspect of the season (injuries aren't controllable).  Dwayne Wade is my favorite basketball player of all time - BUT - having your 2 minute left in the 4th quarter offense be "D.Wade ISO from top of the key" just isn't going to cut it.  CALL PLAYS!
4) I never thought I'd say this - but - James Jones would have been a huge help on this team.  We had no true 3 point threat consistently.  HUGE need in the offseason.
5) Hassan Whiteside trick or treat.  Dude was such an unreal presence this season.  He makes difference on the floor in so many ways but in particular on the glass on effecting shots on the defensive end.  Oh - and he also has offensive game beyond a dominate offensive put-back sneaky game....  I don't like his body language most of the time and50% FT shooting just isn't going to cut it, BUT... I don't know why the team went away from him in crunch time.  Next year he'll not only be a bargain but will be in a contract year .... so ... should be exciting!!
6) Goran Dragic - He showed me he's got skills - can hit open 3s, yet definitely prefers to take the ball to the hoop - and as a lefty - he's crafty at the rim.  This said, he never really felt comfortable as a needed leader on the team.  He deferred to Wade 95% of the time - but I really liked what I saw with the 5%.  I hope he comes back and I think he wants to stay in Miami - but I'm not sure if the math is gonna work or not.  I'm OK if it does.
7) Pat Riley - this is the first season where I heard him admit that he's mostly a figure-head.  I still like him as the figure-head and I'm OK with that continuing as long as he wants.

That's it.  As a #HeatLifer I have no anger about this season (although I can't say I wasn't angry watching these games down the stretch - it was painful).  I believe in the organization and I'm looking forward to next year! 


NYC School - Governor Cuomo Drama

Disclaimer:  I am not educated on this topic.  I have read two articles and merely have an opinion to share on what I've read.

Top-line issue: Cuomo is pushing a plan that would make student tests and third-party one day evaluators account for a much bigger portion of teacher evaluations. 
This is from PS87 email on the plan (and west side rag article):
  • 50% of a teacher’s rating will be based on state test scores(Currently it is 20%).
  • 35% of a teacher’s rating will be based on the findings of an outside “independent observer” who will conduct a one time visit to the classroom. (This has never been done before. Currently our principal’s and assistant principals’ observations count for 60%.)
  • 15% of a teacher’s rating will be based on observations by the principal or assistant principal. The very people who know our work best will have the least input into our evaluation.
  • 50% + 35% = 85% of our evaluations will be removed from thehands of our community and placed in the hands of the state. And then, using these numbers, any teacher who is rated ineffective two years in a row can be fired. Principals may have no say in this.
Cuomo is pushing for reform because last year only 1% of NYC teachers were deemed ineffective by the scoring standards.

So ... here's my thought:  I agree that the notion that 99% of teachers in ANY school are effective is flawed.  Teaching is so hard - and I think we should truly appreciate every person who decides to get into the profession - but that doesn't mean that almost every teacher who gets into the profession is effective at their job. 

This said - I think that the following is stupid too:
1) Test scores being the most important metric for success. (test scores are one metric - but is more an indication of aggregated intelligence vs. effective broad based teaching).
2) ONE day evaluations having ANY barometer on performance for ANY job -- but especially for teachers. There are 180 school days - so this should count for 0.0056% of someones score (OK - round it up to 1% if you want).

Here's my very easy compromise and solution:
If teachers are satisfied with the current components and weighting of the performance factors -- keep them the same.  HOWEVER - MAKE THE PRINCIPLE/AMINISTRATORS PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS ON A CURVE.  Example: 10% of teachers are exceptional, 50% are good, 32% are average, 8% need improvement (or whatever works/makes sense).  Let these ranges and amounts be debated - but - surely anyone can understand that 1% of ineffective performance ratings is too low.  Perhaps the only way to police this is to force it. Oh - and publish the top 10%.  Give the best teachers a spotlight for their peers to try and emulate.

The adminstrators will have a hard time at first - but in the long-run - it will work. I found this out first-hand in my corporate job.  It works in businesses, in higher education, and it's just common sense.  Not everyone doing a job can be good or great at it.  5%-10% of people is reasonable to expect to get below passing grades.

Again - I don't know all the details - and politics are something I do not have patience for ... but from what I understand - it seems like the solution is being way to extreme vs. my proposed simple modification.