Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Day is it Again? Wednesday? Sunday? And What Month is It?

Adjusting to Life After Day Job has been a little strange. I don't at all miss the commute (which sucked up about two hours each day in total driving time) but it is odd to suddenly have no set schedule. If I'd won many millions of American dollars in Powerball, that'd be one thing, but I'm still on the clock as far as all my freelancing work basically boiling down to getting paid by the hour/word/however you want to slice it.

It's not so much that it's hard for me to turn off the Xbox and get to work, but moreso the opposite, as far as shutting off the part of my brain that keeps nudging me to get this or that done. When the freelancing was all extra work on top of the day job, it was easier, as I'd bang away at it for a few hours after work, then power down the work side of my brain and play some Angry Birds, watch TV, etc. But at the moment it's surprisingly difficult to shut off that small anxious part of me that resents having to "waste" time by going grocery shopping or yard work or whatever, as at any point in time I could, in theory, be making money.

As far as more specifics of Life During Day Job, that's weird too, as I expected to triumphantly post that I'd left and spend much time reveling in how terrible the place was, how happy I was to be free of the shackles, yada yada yada. Except I don't really feel that way. If anything I almost feel somehow disappointed, as far as letting the Evil Day Job win in some fashion.

I originally started working at Hoover's Inc. in 2000, which at the time was a smallish company that had recently gone public, so they had some cash but I started at pretty much the same time as when the dot com implosion really started revving up, so I missed the truly fun times. It still was a cool place to work, with kegs of beer on Fridays, a casual work environment, and a place that actually hired real writers and editors and, you know, did things and valued the work of people who wrote stuff and tried out new things as far as content, since content was the main thing that paid the bills for the company.

Things got a little less cool when we got mercenary about being profitable, but it was still a pretty decent place to work. Plus we actually started making money around 2002-2003, so we had a pretty good thing going. And then Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) bought us.

It'd be fun to bash D&B and, sweet Jebus, there's plenty to bash, but at a certain point there's just no point in it. Imagine a company with a monopoly on a fairly profitable business niche that produces billions in revenue each and every year, and a tidy net profit in the hundreds of millions. A business that, no matter how badly it is mismanaged, will still be profitable. And one that's just discovering e-mail and the Internet and is absolutely in love with words like "leveraging" and "winning" and "platforming".

Our little company fought the good fight for awhile but eventually the Borg assimilated us, and we went from a company that rolled out new products on a weekly/monthly basis to one that it would literally take years for even the simplest of ideas to get approved and implemented. Which meant that all the smart people left to go work somewhere where things actually happened, so the workplace became quickly populated with the walking dead, who were just killing time until they got promoted or retired.

But not really a unique story, as plenty of people have been through similar situations. And in the end it was my own damn fault for doing the Zombie Shuffle for so long myself, shrugging off .5-1% raises every year and the fact that my job had devolved into data entry and mashing a few different buttons in a slightly different order each day.

I guess it's that last bit that leaves me less than thrilled about what I'd imagined in the past would be a orgy of D&B bashing. It's fun to gripe about jobs at times but not so much when millions of people are unemployed, and especially not so much when you have options to do something else, even if it's a bit risky and uncertain. I really can't blame anyone other than myself for the years of zombitude I put in there, when the writing was plainly on the wall, so it's hard to revel too much when there's more regret there than anything for all that wasted time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just Don't Look, Just Don't Look

I suppose Drizz gets a pass, but for the rest of the world that's not been a longtime dedicated Vikings fan, I have a simple proposal: let's all agree to simply stop paying attention to Brett Favre.

My theory is that he'll simply turn to old man dust and blow away. Poof. No more penis pics. No more annual waffling on retirement. Just simply gone. Like the advertising slogan monsters on the Simpsons Halloween special. Just don't look.

Not that game announcers have anything better to be doing, but how many more stupid in-game trivia teasers are we going to be subjected to? Favre just threw for over 40 miles worth of passing yardage? Okay... And the 40 mile mark is important why? Why didn't you celebrate when he cracked the 39 mile mark? I mean, come on, 39 MILES! That's a marathon and a half!

But, seriously, the one thing that gets me more excited than a Packers-Vikings matchup at Lambeau Field is the prospect that, one day in the not too distant future, I can watch ESPN again without being reminded every 15 minutes that Brett Favre might (or might not be) possibly doing something at that point in time. I have seen a Favre-less future and, lemme tell you, it's going to be awesome...

Monday, October 25, 2010

iPod Touch, FTW

The timing of the escape from the day job was both fortunate and depressing; I quit about two weeks after I'd officially worked there a decade. I'd vowed that no matter what I'd get out of there before the ten year mark, so I didn't quite make that deadline, but I did get to collect the ten year service award, which is a clear block of Lucite and $200 in gift certificates.

To give you a little taste for how the company I worked for rolled, the clear Lucite block was so that you could go on the intranet, find the page with images of various service award certificates, print the appropriate one, then cut it out and insert it in the Lucite block, and proudly display it on your desk. Seriously. I'm not making that up.

The gift certificates, though, were cool enough (if you ignored the annoying exchange rate that intentionally bends you over, as if you chose to trade them in for Amazon gift certificates the $200 in money you're awarded comes up just shy of being worth a $200 Amazon gift certificate, so it effectively was only $175 in Amazon gift certificates as you had to get one $100 gift certificate and three $25 ones), and mostly paid for a new 4th generation iPod Touch.

It's the first touch-screen new-fangled gadget I've owned, having sat out iPhone and other assorted smartphone mania. Truth be told, the main reason I bought it was to amuse myself with Angry Birds on cross-Atlantic flights, but I've found myself using it way more than I expected in general, especially for checking email and Facebook around the house.

It's also pretty crazy just how good the camera/video quality is as well, especially for something that's, you know, not primarily a camera of a video recorder. It just blows me away as far as what you can get these days to snap photos and take videos, as opposed to what you'd have gotten (much crappier) even just five years ago for 10x the amount of money.

Plus you can play Angry Birds on it. I mean, sweet Jebus...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Affiliate Fail

Bill Rini has touched on this in the past, but it still amazes me that so many online gambling operators STILL have absolutely no fucking clue when it comes to efficiently managing an affiliate channel.

Case in point: yesterday I signed up for a handful of poker and casino affiliate programs, including one that manages the affiliate operations for a group of four reasonably well-known online casinos. Not a major name but also not some shady operation.

The signup process was easy enough, and they auto-approve new accounts, so as soon as you sign up you can log in and start grabbing link codes and marketing material. It was getting late so I shut things down for the evening and, the next morning, had the following email in my inbox:

"Hi, my name is Jimbob Schwartz and I'm your affiliate contact here at Midsized Affiliate Program That's Been Around for Five Years or So and Should Know Better. Please advise as to why you haven't yet added our links to your website.

Best regards,
Jimbob Schwartz"

I mean, sure, personal point of contact, quick response, yada yada yada, kudos kudos kudos, but in what strange universe is that a positive experience for a new affiliate who has been a member of your program for a grand total of 12 hours? Maybe I'm not the best example, but that's enough in and of itself to convince me to NEVER advertise your program, especially when there are literally dozens of similar casinos and programs that I can instead add a link to.

And, sadly, that's just a minor fail in the larger scheme of things, when you have major operators like bwin trying to roll out cataclysmically bad changes for affiliates that impact past players acquired under very different terms.

I get that many online sites have a love-hate relationship with affiliates (or more accurately hate-hate for most), and that's understandable, as the majority of affiliates don't necessarily "deserve" the revenue they're ultimately paid out (in the sense that they're not always doing any filtering or winnowing out of low-value referred players). But there's also an obvious reliance and need, as it'd be the easiest thing in the world for sites to wind down their affiliate programs over time if there truly was no value there.

If you're resigned to offering an affiliate program, is it really that hard to do it competently? I mean, for the majority of affiliates (who advertise a lot of programs and have a lot of experience), just get the hell out of the way. Give me a quick and dirty page with basic text links and the most popular ad formats. It shouldn't take eight clicks just to get a simple text link. Don't send me email; if I have a question or need something I'll contact you. If I need hand-holding and emails and prompts, well, odds are I'm going to be a pretty sucky affiliate for you, as it's not hard to add text links and banners (unless you make it needlessly hard, that is.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Returning to the Old Homestead


Yes, indeed, this is an actual posts of sorts, and not just an excuse to post for a paid review or to get entered into some sort of blogger freeroll or another that I'll inevitably go down in flames after outlasting about 80% of the field.

The archived post total over there on the right tells a pretty sad little tale:

▼ 2010 (5)
► 2009 (6)
► 2008 (43)
► 2007 (102)
► 2006 (290)
► 2005 (295)
► 2004 (123)

On the bright side, I actually have some things to post about. And they're about poker! And they might just lead to more regular posting in the future!

(Yeah, we'll see about that last one.)

But as of October 1st, 2010 I actually followed through on the threat of quitting my day job, threats I'd been making for so many years that they had about as much potency as a wrinkly, withered old man penis.

It was a combination of a lot of factors but I just finally reached the point where I couldn't do it any more, common sense be damned. I'd just gotten back from Cannes from working for the bwin poker blog at the Partouche Poker Tour Final, with a pile of TPS reports awaiting me and reminders about the necessity of wearing the proper lanyard around our neck to be compliant with the employee badge policy, and, you know, snap. Just. could. not. do. it. anymore.

It also helped that I'd been offered the chance to work three more poker tournaments in the near future (GSOP Live Riga, WPT Amneville, and GSOP Live Malta), plus finally (finally!) finishing the rehab of the last house I bought during the Great House Buying Spree of Aught Nine. I've also been freelancing a good bit for Pokerlistings and a few other clients in the poker world, with all the irons in the fire basically adding up to as much as I was making at the cube farm.

The travel side of it is still cool and new, but we'll see how long that lasts, as the flights to Europe and back for shorter events are kind of a drag. But there's a lot to be said for getting paid to see places like Riga and Cannes, and bit by bit the corporate stupor is slipping away. The big unknown is if I can keep scaring up enough work to make this a viable long-term option; even if the answer is no it'll be a good break at least from the grind for awhile.

Cannes was pretty amazing, but, as the joke goes, too bad it's in France. Riga I liked more, but that's just the perverse side of me that daydreams of being some sort of shady importer of rubies and Soviet military surplus and amassing mountains of money and everyone leaving you the hell alone as long as you paid off the right people. Not exactly stoked about WPT Amneville in northern France but we'll be staying in Luxembourg, which should be fun.

Other than a brief three day stretch after the Cannes trip when I got raped at the poker tables in every way imaginable, I haven't actually played much poker at all since the 2010 WSOP. I've been tempted of late but I really want to buckle down on the work side, and I never have time on the poker trips to do much other than work and sleep.