Morgan Watches Steven Universe: Season 1

I won’t have too much to say about the season as a whole, because I have a lot of character analysis to get to (this post is nearly seven thousand words as it is), and a few other things besides, and I already gave some of my thoughts on the season in my post about the finale.

The early part of this (half-)season, as already chronicled, frustrated me because of its refusal to address the unanswered questions Mirror Gem and Ocean Gem left behind, and even without that seven of the first eight episodes were rather milquetoast one-offs (though that’s not to say that episodes like Island Adventure, Garnet’s Universe, or Watermelon Steven were complete wastes). As the season picked up steam, though, it picked up a level of quality and complexity unseen in the first half of the season, hitting long strings of high-quality episodes that built up the plot, delivered emotional moments, developed and rounded out characters, or some combination of the above. Even Horror Club, the episode in this stretch that delivered on these things the least, gave us insight into Ronaldo and Lars. Episodes like Rose’s Scabbard, On the Run, Lion 3: Straight to Video, and Alone Together managed to transcend the limitations of being merely a “kids’ show” and addressed complex topics while giving Pearl and Amethyst emotional depth and fleshing out the background of the characters. Meanwhile, the moment of solemnity at the end of Ocean Gem was compounded in Warp Tour with the prospect of Homeworld discovering the Gems on Earth, built up further with every episode filling out the past of the Gems and their history with Homeworld, and eventually built to a crescendo with Marble Madness and the string of season-ending episodes starting with The Message.

It really is a shame that Jailbreak was such a disappointing ending that failed to live up to the build-up. While I might disagree with the message of The Test, if you accept that message there’s no doubt that the way it delivers it is well-done, but Jailbreak is so structurally deficient that I’m honestly amazed it seems to be so universally beloved. Maybe I’d feel differently if I hadn’t been spoiled about Garnet’s nature, or if I were LGBT and was just celebrating the show’s first clear depiction of an intra-gem romance that wasn’t depicted as dysfunctional and unhealthy. But as I said, Jailbreak is not a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination; if it weren’t being asked to serve so many masters and let its role as season finale take second fiddle to focusing on Garnet and fusion, or conversely if it were able to focus on Garnet without worrying about also living up to the build-up, it’d be perfectly fine, even great.

Even with that, Steven Universe has built up enough of a mythology around itself that it can remain engaging on its own momentum. There’s no single pressing question hanging over the heads of Steven Universe the show or Steven Universe the character; even if the two-parter did leave some open-ended dangling threads here and there for the show to answer later, most notably Peridot’s escape and Jasper and Lapis’ mutual imprisonment, none of them really stand out to the degree Lapis’ “don’t trust them” did. The bigger issue is that there’s no reason to expect Homeworld’s interest in our heroes to end with Peridot and Jasper, and every reason to expect even tougher forces to come. The world the show has built and the conflict it’s set up can survive most any bump in the road, and the development our characters have received and continue to receive can carry the show in the meantime. All it needs to do is keep doing what served it so well this season: keep developing the characters while fleshing out the mythology and overarching plot.

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Morgan Watches Steven Universe In-Depth: The Return/Jailbreak

2018-06-15 (2)Or: Well, that was a bit of a letdown.

(Note: Although I’ve been spoiled about most of the plot to the series right up to the most recent episodes, this post attempts to approximate, as best as I can, the perspective of someone watching on March 12, 2015, the day these episodes aired. To aid in maintaining this perspective in future posts any discussion of this post in places I would be privy to should avoid any events depicted or things revealed past this point. You can also read my original tweets while watching The Return and Jailbreak. Also, apologies in advance for going back and forth with Jasper’s pronouns.)

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Site Migration Alert

After ten years, I am leaving HostMonster.

The quality of HostMonster’s hosting and support seems to have declined over the years and while things have been mostly fine for me, I still decided I wasn’t satisfied with how things were going with them and wanted to find a cheaper option for hosting, given my problems with getting anywhere with the site and the resulting financial problems (I’ve been renewing my HostMonster hosting on a monthly basis for the past year, which explains some of the periods of downtime the site has had in that time). I found it much more difficult to find a suitable host than I remember it being ten years ago (especially since part of the problem with HostMonster is that it and several other of the biggest and best hosts from back then have apparently been bought out by a faceless mega-corporation), but A2 Hosting seems to be good enough for my purposes. HostMonster served this site fairly well for the past ten years, and it is my hope that A2 can continue to serve it well going forward.

Unfortunately, I procrastinated a little too long to sign up for A2 Hosting, and as a result I’m not comfortable with using their migration service (which has a lead time of 3-5 business days when my HostMonster account expires Monday or Tuesday), so as a result I’m going to be migrating the site over manually. There may be some downtime later today, possibly as long as a few hours, as I transfer everything over, and there may be more than a few hiccups along the way. (This will likely coincide with tonight’s Steven Universe-watching session.)

Somewhat relatedly, Project Wonderful is shutting down. I always liked the fact that I could count on Project Wonderful ads to be static images that didn’t bog down the browser like so many ads on so many other websites, but it sounds like the direction the Internet has taken in the past decade has taken its toll on the ability of non-intrusive (or even non-Google/Facebook) advertising to survive, and I seem to recall the amount of money I was getting from Project Wonderful ads, never particularly strong to begin with, plummeting even before my semi-recent decline in productivity. At some point over the weekend I’ll be replacing Project Wonderful ads with Google ads, and I’ll be trying my hardest to keep them as non-intrusive as the Project Wonderful ads were, but I don’t know how much I can do about that. This also means the Advertising FAQ is now a deprecated page; I’ll keep it online for historical interest but it will not be linked to from anywhere.

Morgan Watches Steven Universe In-Depth: The Test

2018-06-11 (7)Or: Why I’m not impressed with how the Crystal Gems or Steven treat each other.

(Note: Although I’ve been spoiled about most of the plot to the series right up to the most recent episodes, this post attempts to approximate, as best as I can, the perspective of someone watching on January 22, 2015, the day this episode aired. To aid in maintaining this perspective in future posts any discussion of this post in places I would be privy to should avoid any events depicted or things revealed past this point. You can also read my original tweets while watching this episode.)

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Morgan Watches Steven Universe In-Depth: Mirror Gem/Ocean Gem

2018-06-07 (9)Or: Suspecting the Crystal Gems.

(Note: This post was excised from the season wrap-up post I did over the weekend, and thus won’t be as consistent at maintaining the unspoiled perspective as future in-depth posts will be. This also means it was written when the episodes in question were the most recent ones I’d seen, and has been left unedited even though I’ve watched several subsequent episodes since then. It picks up from the sentence that was left in the season wrap-up. You can also read my original tweets while watching Mirror Gem and Ocean Gem.)

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Morgan Watches Steven Universe: Season 0

As I said way back when I started Da Blog eleven and a half years ago (!), I’ve always fancied myself as someone who doesn’t jump on the hot new fad all the time, and despite spending way too much time on TV Tropes and spending plenty of time in contact with various fandoms, I’ve usually found it pretty easy to resist jumping on whatever show or other thing is the hot new thing on the Internet, with my usual reaction being an eyeroll, shaking my head, and at best observing it from a distance. Homestuck was the main exception, because at the time it was taking over cons across the nation I fancied myself a webcomic reviewer, specifically one of “popular” webcomics, and I sure as hell couldn’t let Homestuck go unreviewed (and as much of a reason as any that I kept reading Homestuck was that no one else in the “webcomic blogosphere” was covering it on a regular basis, leaving it up to me to give it the kind of deep analysis other story-based webcomics got, which now seems kind of laughable in retrospect considering the directions Homestuck fandom started going in after I started reading it). But somehow, someway, my involvement with Homestuck has gotten me to start watching Steven Universe.

Near as I can tell, this is how it happened: As I obliquely referred to in my post on Homestuck‘s ending, I’ve found myself following numerous “liveblogs” of Homestuck that allow me to relive it vicariously through people reading it for the first time. The sizable audience crossover between Homestuck and SU and general monolithic presence of SU on Tumblr meant that there were of course several SU references to be found that I wouldn’t get, and on occasion, the Tumblr dashboard I only set up to send messages to liveblogs would recommend SU liveblogs to me, which I only looked at for just long enough to determine that they weren’t HS liveblogs. But then I started following one liveblog in particular that was particularly heavy on the SU references and in fact was created by someone who served as screener for the Loreweaver Universe liveblog (which actually has its own TV Tropes page). At some point they started liveblogging new episodes of SU as they came out as well, which meant interrupting the HS liveblog, and while at first I just stayed away during SU liveblogs and only took enough interest to know when things would be getting back to HS, eventually I ended up reading enough of it to become engrossed enough in what was going on to read and follow along, even if only by proxy. Then earlier this month the show aired two episodes that culminated in a major revelation that took several days to fully digest, and around the same time I discovered Loreweaver’s episode rating list that tied right into my weakness for order and lists, one thing led to another, and pretty soon I’d read Loreweaver’s liveblogs of his top 60 episodes and numerous others besides (not to mention most of the show’s TV Tropes pages), leaving me with enough detailed knowledge of the show that I figured I might as well be able to say I’ve actually watched the darn thing.

Honestly, this keeps happening. “Blogs” still felt as much of a buzzword as anything else when I started one, my more general disdain for social media didn’t stop me from jumping on Twitter, I’ve already talked about Homestuck, and there’s probably others besides where I witnessed their popularity from afar, considered myself “too cool” for them, and ended up jumping on board anyway. And so often when I jump on a new work of fiction with an established fanbase I always end up regretting not jumping on board earlier and been part of it through what I would consider its peak, as was the case with just about every webcomic I kept reading after I reviewed them – even Homestuck, for which I was around when it broke the Internet, I still felt like I jumped on board while it was in the later stages of its peak. One of these days I want to be the hipster that can say I was into it before it was cool. I don’t know if that’ll ever actually happen – normally TV shows aren’t the sort of thing I can easily commit to watching (not least of the reasons why being that that’s time I’d rather spend working on more productive blog posts) and I don’t review webcomics anymore – but if the opportunity presents itself I’m not going to hesitate to jump on board. I’m tired of considering myself “too cool” for anything anymore. If something’s all the rage on the Internet for smart reasons (not because it’s a stupid meme), I’m not going to be caught joining the party late again.

As alluded to earlier, because the whole reason I’m doing this is because I already know just about everything, I’m not exactly coming into this blind. People looking for unadulterated reactions are probably going to be disappointed, but I have tried (and probably failed) to clear my head enough before starting that at least some reactions are going to be genuine and I can at least get a sense of what it would be like watching without knowing what’s to come (after all, my original read-through of Order of the Stick was wildly out of order). To try and get through the first four seasons over the course of the one-month free trial Hulu offers, I planned to watch four or five episodes a night, though at this point things may become more free-form as watching episodes has proven to take substantially longer than I originally expected. I originally wanted to use a hashtag to denote my live thoughts as I’m watching on Twitter, but I ended up starting a separate account, @MorganWatchesSU, which you can follow for my thoughts as I watch each episode. This summary post was originally intended to be a compilation of my tweets as I was watching, but I quickly proved to have so much to say that any such post, even if limited to the “highlights” and using the ability to display parent tweets in embedded tweets to cut down on size, would be too long for comfort. Instead these summary posts will be more for broader analysis of each season. As we go along and the show goes further into Cerebus Syndrome, I may feel moved to write detailed analysis posts after selected episodes (the first of which may come after my very next episode as soon as Monday), not dissimilar to what I used to write for webcomics, and for those I’ll try to write from the perspective of someone who’s only up to that episode. I also have a few more ideas for projects adjacent to the show that I may end up instituting as well. All posts on these topics, as well as links to my tweet chains for each episode (that I don’t do a deeper analysis post for), will be available on this page.

The first season is twice the length of the other seasons with a midseason finale that serves as the starting point for the overarching plot and which, apparently, the creators have called the “true” start to the show. When split, they seem to usually be called season 1a and 1b, but given the first half’s status as a prelude to the “true” show, I’m referring to that half as season 0.

And unfortunately, that prelude status also means I don’t really feel like I can fairly assess it.

(Note: I’m not going to bother introducing the premise of the series or a lot of the background knowledge of what happens in the first 22 episodes or so, something I wouldn’t do for a webcomic review. If you don’t know any of that yourself, click the read-more at your own risk. If you feel the need to, read the character analysis at the bottom first.)

Read moreMorgan Watches Steven Universe: Season 0

Does Cartoon Network Hold the Key to the Distribution Paradigm of the Future?

Since Netflix started putting out its original series by releasing every episode of each season of each show all at once, a move inspired by the phenomenon of people “binge-watching” numerous non-original series on the service they hadn’t originally watched as they came out, there has been debate over what the best strategy is for releasing serialized scripted content in the Internet age. Certainly it would seem that, freed from having to meet the needs of a linear television schedule, there’s no reason not to release content on any schedule you want; most online video series on places like YouTube, both before and after Netflix came along, have been released on a TV-like weekly schedule (or less), but they tend to be made by individuals with low budgets and without the backing of a large company like Netflix, and so need to release episodes pretty much as they’re made in order to maintain revenue to make the next episode. Whether or not Netflix’s strategy is the best strategy, with or without the constraints of a linear network, is another matter entirely.

Certainly, if the series themselves aren’t that important to your business model other than as content to fill out the service, and the main goal is simply to maintain engagement with your product, the binge-release method makes sense; it ensures that you have a large batch of content, presented as a single unit, that people can then consume over an extended period and eventually finish the season without needing to be reminded to come back. On the other hand, Netflix’s main source of revenue comes from its subscription fees, and so what would seem to be best for Netflix’s bottom line would be to keep people subscribed to its service for as long as possible, especially since, like most streaming services, Netflix offers a one-month free trial, thus opening the possibility of people binging an entire season of a given show in a single month and then quitting without paying one cent. (And that’s a very viable proposition; Stranger Things has only eight or nine hour-long episodes in a season, meaning you only need to watch two episodes a week to catch up within a month. It’s entirely viable to catch up in just two nights, or even one day if you can spare the time.) And while Netflix shows are often subject to a burst of intense buzz right around when each season comes out, it quickly dies down as people finish the season and move on to other things, meaning Netflix shows don’t get the same sort of sustained buzz over a period of months as week-by-week shows like Game of Thrones do.

From a creative standpoint, the Netflix model probably does better justice to intricately-plotted shows that in the past might have been deemed better on DVD, where individual episodes don’t necessarily hold up all that well on their own, except in terms of their contribution to the larger narrative of the show, and so their momentum and the immersion in their world is better maintained by watching them in larger chunks. Indeed, since the length of each episode isn’t fixed by the needs of a linear television schedule either, the only criterion for where to place episode breaks at all is to identify good stopping places for people to break at in the likely scenario that they can’t consume the whole season as one really long movie. But this can be a double-edged sword: for truly compelling shows, especially those with lots of plot twists and mysteries inviting speculation as long as they remain unsolved, the week-by-week wait for each episode only strengthens the anticipation. There’s a reason the cliffhanger and other devices borne of the serialized format have such a long and time-honored history. For particularly complex, multilayered shows, the lack of answers drives fans into endless speculation, poring over scenes for clues, rewatching the series in lieu of any new episodes, and generally gaining a deeper appreciation of the series than would be apparent in a one-time surface-level viewing. With a binge-release model where everyone is watching at their own pace, discussion of the show on online forums becomes nearly impossible, with the need to accommodate people at every level of progress through the season. As good as Netflix’s shows may be, they can never truly amount to “water-cooler talk” if not everyone is at the same point.

Of course, the sort of show that creates this sort of constant, edge-of-your-seat anticipation for each episode is also the exact same sort of show that is best suited to a slot on linear television in the Internet age. A show that doesn’t have people feeling they have to watch it the instant it comes out, lest they be left behind in or spoiled by the discussion, is probably also a show that doesn’t lose much by being released all at once and may be better consumed that way, so it’s not clear that there’s a situation where Netflix gets a show that’s better consumed in a serialized format. Still, what this suggests is that the best strategy will ultimately depend on the show. Some shows may work better with a week-to-week release schedule to heighten the anticipation for each episode, others may work better released all at once so they can be consumed as a unit right away, and that’s not even getting into purely episodic shows that would be fine in either format. (I talked about some of the factors going into either strategy, in another context, nearly a decade ago.) It’s not even like you’re bound to one release strategy or the other. You could release episodes in batches, breaking at a point you feel is a good place to leave off and leave the fans wondering, or at any frequency you like that best balances anticipation, attention, and the momentum of regular releases.

Which brings me to, of all entities, Cartoon Network.

Read moreDoes Cartoon Network Hold the Key to the Distribution Paradigm of the Future?

What to Make of the NFL’s Experiment with Putting the Draft on Broadcast

The NFL Draft this past weekend aired on broadcast television for the first time ever. The first two nights of the draft saw NFL Network’s coverage simulcast on Fox, which will be NFLN’s Thursday Night Football partner next season. ESPN, which had long resisted the league’s calls to put its draft coverage on ABC, acquiesced to simulcasting its coverage of the third day on ABC.

For the league, the hope was that this would just be the beginning. The league made noise about the draft potentially being treated as an event on par with the presidential election, with coverage on every network, earning widespread mockery and being held up as more evidence of the league’s hubris. Even at its most popular, the draft has but a fraction of the popularity of election coverage, or even of most regular season games. Simulcasting the Super Bowl across several networks might theoretically make sense, though that would potentially cause it to lose its status as the premier advertising showcase if several different networks were running their own ads, as well as diluting its status as the biggest lead-in of the season. But most networks bail out of putting on anything people might actually want to watch against the Super Bowl; no one ran scared from the NFL Draft, except possibly Fox itself. Besides, splitting the draft across every network is a terrible idea in its own right. The league is highly concerned about tipping picks and pressures reporters not to do so on social media, but the best way to minimize the impact of tipping picks is minimizing the time between when the pick comes in and when it’s announced. That’s already a challenge with two draft productions that need to synchronize their ad breaks and need to have each of their reporters interview draft picks after they come out of the green room. Can you imagine how bad it could be with four or five?

The result of this year’s experiment might give the league pause about its “presidential election” ambitions. The league boasted the most-watched draft ever, but that was mostly attributable to the move to broadcast, and given that the boost in ratings was fairly modest (especially given how top-heavy the first round was with quarterbacks from name schools and the presence of both New York teams picking in the top three). Fox failed to win the night either on Thursday or Friday, which makes any “presidential election” talk seem downright ludicrous, at least for now. Given that, what’s the best path for how the league should handle the draft going forward? The way I see it, there are three broad options, which can be arranged on a scale:

  • The “presidential election” approach with every network broadcasting the draft.
  • Something like the status quo, with ESPN, NFLN, and a broadcast network showing the draft, with the latter either simulcasting an existing feed or providing its own production.
  • Giving the draft exclusively to a single network, like how ESPN handled the draft on its own before NFLN started muscling in.

Let’s look at the ratings for each day of the draft and see what it tells us about what the best approach is for the league going forward.

Day 1: For the night, Fox’s coverage of the NFL Draft drew a 1.1 rating in the lucrative adults 18-49 demo, good for second place for the night behind CBS and barely edging out ABC. If you’re Fox and the league, you point to the fact that, despite one’s expectation that numbers would erode as the night wore on and you got away from the early, star picks, numbers not only remained mostly steady throughout the night but actually rose as the night went on, from a 1.1 at 8 PM to a 1.3 at 10 PM before crashing back down to a 1.0 at 10:30, suggesting more people discovered the draft was on broadcast at all as the night wore on and the numbers earlier on would be higher in future years. Certainly that’s what you say if you want to convince ABC to give up its Thursday night for the draft, including Grey’s Anatomy, which earned a 1.5 in the demo at 8 PM. But it’s hard to imagine CBS giving up its Thursday night, including the wildly popular Big Bang Theory (2.0 in the demo), for the draft without exclusivity. CBS was willing to move BBT to Mondays during Thursday Night Football season, but that was an actual game taking up multiple weeks; pre-empting BBT a single week for something drawing noticeably lower ratings is a nonstarter. If you gave CBS a captive audience for the draft, and the entire 4.04 demo rating the draft drew on all three networks (and possibly also the .04 ESPN2’s college-centric coverage drew), it might be a different story.

The previous week, Fox’s lineup of Gotham and Showtime at the Apollo drew .6 demo ratings, last place among the Big Four, so Fox would seem to be on board with doing it again next year under the status quo.

Day 2: Fridays typically draw a smaller audience than Thursdays, so the inevitable decline in ratings for the second night of the draft wouldn’t necessarily kick it off a broadcast network. Unfortunately, Fox’s .6 demo rating tied it with NBC for second behind CBS, and NBC was propelled by Dateline‘s .7 from 9 to 11 more than Blindspot‘s .5 at 8. NBC would be crazy to air the third round of the draft instead of that, at least not without exclusivity. All three of CBS’ shows outpaced the draft at the same time – MacGyver at 8 only drew a .7, but Fox drew consistent .6’s all night until 10:30 when it slipped to a .5. Even Fox itself might not be happy with these numbers; the previous week, MasterChef Junior actually won the night with a .8. It might make sense for Fox’s proposed refocusing of its network towards sports and news programming once its deal with Disney to sell its studio goes through, but who knows if that would actually herald the departure of a reality show like MasterChef. (It’s worth noting that the numbers are more forgiving in 18-34, where a .4 rating tied for the highest-rated show of the night.)

ABC would seem to be the only network willing to give up its Friday primetime for coverage of the second night of the draft, which raises an interesting prospect. Suppose ESPN tells the NFL it’s willing to put its entire draft coverage on ABC if the league doesn’t simulcast NFLN’s coverage on another network again, or in general gives another broadcast network an in. That could mean putting ESPN’s coverage of the second night of the draft on ABC… and only ABC, leaving ESPN to cover the NBA Playoffs and allowing a third or fourth playoff game that night to air on ESPN2 without getting bumped to ESPNEWS. Of course that’s likely to give ABC marks significantly higher than .6, and the temptation on ABC’s side would be to do the same thing with the first night and make it easier to swallow pre-empting Grey’s Anatomy. By my reckoning, coverage of the second night on ESPN and ESPN2 averaged a .59 for the night, though it’s doubtful all of that would devolve to ABC if NFL Network still had its own coverage, especially with an NBA Playoff game on ESPN2 drawing higher numbers than on ESPNEWS. It does show that giving exclusivity would again be enough to convince any network to show the second night; a 1.2 would be the highest-rated show of the night by a significant margin even before adding NFLN’s .39.

Day 3: The third day of the draft appeals mostly to hardcore NFL nerds who are actually willing to do a deep dive into the remaining players and who’s likely to actually make an impact in the league. It doesn’t have the sort of broad popularity the earlier days do; while ESPN and NFL Network have gotten better at treating the fourth round close to on par with the third, NFLN especially tends to devolve into regurgitating the earlier rounds, presenting offbeat and human-interest stories, engaging in frivolous games with the personalities on set, and generally just killing time until Mr. Irrelevant. ESPN is better, but honestly the best coverage of the third day for those who actually care about who’s still getting drafted might be the live stream NFL Now does on NFL.com; it covers the later rounds almost to a fault, delaying and re-airing the pick announcements if they come during a break rather than simply getting caught up like ESPN would.

There’s a case to be made for airing the first three hours on a broadcast network to take care of the fourth round, but while ABC didn’t have anything else to do the rest of the day and could show the entire final day, CBS or NBC would need to air golf coverage starting at 3 PM ET, and Fox might want to show NASCAR racing as they did this weekend. On this occasion there were actually conflicts earlier, as NBC was showing a Premier League game and Fox was showing Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying from Talladega.

On this front the verdicts are not good. For the entire day, ABC drew 1.008 million total viewers and just 314,000 demo viewers, less than what ESPN drew for its half of the simulcast. The good news is those numbers are still better across the board than the early competition, except total viewers for the NASCAR qualifying. It’s not as friendly to the later competition, where it lost in both measures to the Xfinity Series race on Fox and the Stanley Cup Playoffs on NBC, and in total viewers to golf on CBS.

Combined, coverage of the third day on all three networks drew 2.914 million total viewers and 1.197 million demo viewers. That would make it the second-most-watched non-NBA sports-related event of the weekend behind the actual NASCAR race on Sunday, and only the NBA would top it in the demo. That doesn’t necessarily mean the other networks would fall over themselves to air the whole day with exclusivity, but it might if the networks could get around existing contractual commitments. Of the late afternoon sporting events, the NHL game did best in the demo with 644,000 viewers, just over half of the draft’s audience, while the Xfinity Series race did best in total viewers with 1.899 million. That suggests the decline as the third day wears on would have to be pretty precipitous for bailing out of exclusive coverage to be the best approach from a pure ratings standpoint, at least in the demo. But it’s hard to see the other networks taking that bargain without using it as a lead-in for an actual sporting event.

Where does the NFL go from here? The notion of treating the draft like the presidential election is probably dead for the foreseeable future, with CBS in particular laughing the prospect out of the room. If the draft ever does become popular enough for all four networks to drop out of their Thursday primetime lineups to simulcast just the first day, it’ll probably be more because of the decline of scripted programming on broadcast than the increased popularity of the draft itself.

The NFL and Fox would probably want to perform the same experiment again next year to establish how popular the draft could be on broadcast if more people are used to it, but depending on where Fox is a year or two from now, they would probably be fine if ESPN and ABC decided to go ahead and put their entire draft broadcast on their broadcast network, with the league preferring the simplicity of not switching networks mid-draft and Fox preferring higher-rated programming on Friday nights. ESPN would lose most if not all of the benefit the draft would provide to its subscriber fees, but those benefits have been neutered anyway with NFLN carrying the draft and now showing it on broadcast without them. But given how much this draft had going for it from a ratings standpoint, I could see them wanting to see at least another year’s worth of numbers before deciding to pre-empt Grey’s for the draft.

The real question comes when the current rights agreements come up for renewal in a few years, when the league will have to consider how best to maximize the popularity of the draft. Ideally, that would involve simulcasting it on as many networks as possible, which would mean maintaining some variant of the status quo. But the days when the league could give the draft to an upstart cable outlet that doesn’t air games because they don’t see how it would make good television are over, so if ESPN decides not to re-up for Monday Night Football, I could see the league taking away the ESPN and NFLN broadcasts of the draft and offering to rotate exclusive draft rights between the three remaining broadcast partners, perhaps going to the network that’s between Super Bowls, so this past draft would still go to Fox since the last Super Bowl was on NBC and the next one will be on CBS, but then next year’s draft would be on NBC, and the one after that would go to CBS. At minimum, the network that gets the draft would have to air the first two nights, but the league could be open to at least allowing the network to show only the first three hours of the third day, with the rest airing on NFL Network (as long as all three networks do the same thing). CBS would take the most convincing to dump BBT (if it’s still on) for its own production, trotting out Jim Nantz, James Brown, Tony Romo, Bill Cowher, Gary Danielson, Tracy Wolfson, and whoever they got to be their equivalent of Mel Kiper Jr., all for something that would get barely double the demo ratings, and the league could just end up handing every draft to Fox or NBC, but given where the state of television is likely to be in a few years it still shouldn’t take much. If the league is honest with itself, that’s a far more honest assessment of the future of the NFL Draft than its ludicrous “presidential election” dreams.

Some thoughts on the state of web design

Over the years, especially in recent years, I’ve gotten a number of criticisms of how my website looks, including most times when I’ve attempted to link it on other platforms, calling it outdated or just plain ugly, or even people I know asking me if I’m going to refresh my website layout.

To understand my attachment to it, understand that I conceived of the basic concept in my head well before I actually started implementing it on an actual site, and became enamored by its simplicity and modularity. It seemed to me the distillation of the web design trends of the time, with a header image and a sidebar with important links and sections of the site (though when I moved Da Blog to MorganWick.com, ultimately the 128 pixels I gave the main sidebar necessitated the creation of a second sidebar for elements that wouldn’t neatly fit there). That was over a decade ago.

Two things have changed the internet landscape in the interim: social media and mobile devices. Social media has made individual web sites less important and individual blogs like mine a relic of a bygone age, and mobile devices have introduced a new paradigm for web design to take into account. The need to develop for a variety of screen sizes, and the decreased emphasis on the individual web site, has resulted in a web design landscape that’s less easy to characterize than it was ten years ago. No longer can it be assumed that most people will experience your site the same way; almost always designing for mobile is assumed to be a different thing from designing for traditional computers. Most websites I come across are optimized for the needs of professional outlets (which in many cases means neglecting the actual web site and focusing more on an app instead) and don’t necessarily have lessons that can be easily ported to my own context. In what could be considered the “Revenge of the LiveJournalists”, what individual blogs remain seems to have seen Tumblr eclipse Blogger and WordPress as the platform of choice.

What I have seen increasingly disappoints me. Most sites that are actively trying to make money are increasingly bloated with ads, videos, and complex scripting for their basic interfaces. Normally these things are toned down on mobile devices (although there definitely are sites, which shall remain nameless, which are a chore to browse on mobile), but on traditional computers the result is that many sites end up chewing up enormous amounts of memory. At the same time, the traditional-computer market has increasingly bifurcated, especially with the reimagining of Windows impelled by Windows 8, and these days if you’re not looking to use your computer for graphics-intensive gaming, you’re expected to get a low-end machine with the Internet expected to bear the brunt of your activity through the cloud. But if all but the most minimalist web sites chew up huge amounts of memory and ask a lot of the processor to load all their heavy-duty video ads, the result is an inevitable degradation of the experience, and it’s hard for me to keep certain sites open for very long, in some cases even long enough to actually read the article. This, I suspect, is a major reason for Google Chrome’s continued dominance; there’s only so much a browser can do to curb a site’s resource consumption, and no matter how many reasons there may be to switch to, say, Firefox, if it doesn’t have Chrome’s multi-process gimmick, meaning I can’t just shut down one or a handful of particularly resource-hogging tabs when I’m done with it (at least not without outright closing the tab, which doesn’t completely remove its resource footprint), I can only use it for so long before the cumulative effect of all the sites I use renders it unusable.

Anyway, the end result is that if I were to redesign my website today, I wouldn’t be led as easily to a simple, unifying concept I could design it around, mostly because of mobile devices; the “burger menu” so prominent on mobile designs adds an annoying extra click when applied to desktop. Personally I don’t have a problem with browsing my site on mobile even though it usually requires zooming in, but for all I know that may be depressing my mobile audience just by knocking down its status on Google. Most sites seem to be heading in the direction of being dominated by a header image, with sidebars becoming less prominent or important (unsurprisingly, given how little space there is for them on mobile devices), but hardly disappearing entirely.

My own priorities may also have changed since the mid-2000s. I originally conceived of the site’s design as something that could have a unifying effect across the various different uses I conceived for it, many of which now seem to be doubtful they would ever come to fruition, or that they would use the current layout if they did. I never particularly intended Da Blog to be as cramped as it is with no real margins, but I didn’t want to come up with arbitrary margins for everything and I figured it looked fine enough as it is. I’ll also admit to being less enamored of the fonts I use than I was then, though I’m not sure what alternative fonts I’d gravitate towards if I had to come up with new ones today. But I also like the current layout as an expression of myself, and my shortcomings with coding already affects the current site in ways that would become more acute with a refresh; if I would want to ditch the sidebar as a major design element of the site I would want to replace it with a top bar for navigation, but that seems to be much harder to customize what links to put there in WordPress than a sidebar is.

Anyway, maybe my thoughts on the matter will evolve as I continue to think about it and continue toying with ideas for not only what I want the site to look like but what I want it to be and what I want to do with it and with my life. For now, this is just what I came up with over the course of an hour at night in order to continue having at least one post a month. Maybe others will have their own ideas of what I should change and how.

The evolution of what I would post this month

A week or two ago, I thought I would FINALLY get back to writing about the problems with our politics that gave rise to Donald Trump and the changes that would need to be made to fix them.

That ended up getting sidetracked in favor of another project that I considered making my post for the month, involving dipping back into the world of sports TV graphics from a hypothetical perspective.

But that ended up getting sidetracked for long enough that I considered just writing a post expounding on that hypothetical perspective, even writing two paragraphs of it tonight, but then I realized that post would be best written after another post that I would want to post if and when the Fox-Disney semi-merger got further along.

I will say this: I’ve been tasked with finding another avenue for my writing that might actually pay something before my birthday, and while I haven’t actually put any work into doing so, hopefully by this time next month I’ll have actually found something, and more to the point, something I can write about for such a forum that would actually engage me, because heaven knows I’ve been kind of lacking for such a topic that would engage me in writing for this site (which has arguably been part of the reason I’ve been so absent outside football season).