“Even in catalogues of some of the best modern silver, handles are much less likely than blades or bowls or tines to be obscured or omitted from an illustration. In an exhaustive catalogue of silver-plate patterns intended for collectors, nothing but handles are shown, as if to stress that even to the practiced eye there is little to distinguish knives, spoons, and forks of one individual pattern from another.”
— Henry Petroski, The Evolution of Useful Things
A Needless Header, but Nonetheless a Header
I’ve been working my way through Petroski’s Evolution of Useful Things for over a month. It’s provided inspiration for a couple of Labyrinthians on invention and failure, and it’s a good book overall — but I can’t wait to be done with it. If I read one more paragraph on the history of eating utensils I might cut someone’s heart out with a spoon.
Guy of Gisborne: Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe?
Sheriff of Nottingham: Because it’s dull, you twit. It’ll hurt more.
Pseudo-plagiarism: It’s what we do.
In his chapter entitled “Domestic Fashion and Industrial Design,” Petroski talks about function vs. fashion. I think the distinction between the two has daily fantasy sports resonance.
By the way, as I write this it’s early in the morning on a Saturday. I’m in Orlando, surrounded by 15 FantasyLabs bros in various states of hungover-ness, and pounding this out as quickly as possible so I can maximize my time at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, a.ka. the mecca.
I’m officially in DGAF mode.
Function vs. Fashion
Petroski examines the way that dining utensils and tools are talked about and presented in order to explore the distinction between fashionability and functionality. Per Petroski:
It appears that, early in [the 20th century], as opposed to the gadget-prone Victorian era, eating implements had clearly become objects more of fashion than of function.
Where fashion does not monopolize form, it is the business end of a tool that gets the most attention. Thus, in a collectors’ handbook of hammers, handles are consistently cropped from the photos of at least a thousand unique tools. And in a book on country craft tools, one illustration of a wide variety of hammers shows several with their handles cut off, and among those handles that are drawn complete there is very little variation compared with that of the heads. Indeed, the illustration raises the question why the handles have not become as specialized as the heads; the answer may be that craftsmen are more interested in how their tools affect the work than in how suited they are to the hand.
The greatest variation in hammer handles appears to be in their length, a feature related more to the magnitude of the hammer’s blow than to its grip. . . . Besides, the craftsman’s hand will soon adapt to the handle it works with as surely as we adapt to the handles of the silverware set before us. There is little room for style on the workbench itself.
My sense is that far too many people focus on fashion and not function when it comes to DFS. They focus on the handles of their eating utensils and not the head of their hammers.
Here’s what I mean:
- Many DFS players view Tools as aesthetic gadgets, not robust instruments. When they look at Player Models, they see them more as ornate forks and spoons than blunt implements. It’s not a surprise that the Trends tool — perhaps the most functional in our suite but also the least stylish — is drastically underused by too many of our subscribers.
- Many DFS players view themselves as consumers, not as artisans. Metaphorically, they see themselves as homebuyers, not homebuilders. They wish to eat even though they neither farm nor hunt. For instance, during the NFL season too many people would look at our various Player Models and ask, “Which one’s the best?” Instead, they should’ve experimented with the tool for themselves and attempted to make as many superior models as possible.
Basically, too many people treat DFS as if it’s a piece of dead fish ready to be stabbed with a fork and eaten. Not enough people think of it as a piece of metal that needs to be hammered repeatedly until it finally takes the desired shape.
Too many people focus on the shiny splendor of the handle — the point where they interact with and touch the tool. Ultimately, most handles are irrelevant. What matters most with any tool is how well it works, and that rarely has anything to do with the handle unless the handle is sh*tty. How a person ‘interfaces’ with a DFS tool is relevant only to the extent that it enhances or hinders the ability of a person to do well at DFS.
At FantasyLabs, we — and by “we” I mean the programmers and development guys behind the scene — work hard to make our tools attractive and friendly for users. We want our tools to look impressive, because we understand that first impressions are important. But, more pragmatically, we want are tools to be impressive. We want you to use them not because they look cool but because they can help you become better at DFS. That’s why we continue to expand our suite of Tools. For instance, we just recently added our DFS Ownership Dashboard. On the one hand, it looks good and is great for sweating contests. On the other hand, the tool has real functionality, and you should learn how to use it.
My belief is that people who get the most out of DFS and also their Labs experience — and probably even life — tend to approach everything as if they are craftspeople.
Ultimately, we are the metal we fashion.
The Labyrinthian: 2017.15, 110
This is the 110th installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge in order to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation. Previous installments of The Labyrinthian can be accessed via my author page.