Lessons Learned in 2018

1.  Cord cutting step 1 – Replace DirectTV with streaming service(s) – As one of millions who decided to ditch cable and/or satellite TV providers, our move to YouTube TV (w/ local channels, 6 accounts and unlimited DVR) was one of the best decisions of the year. While a plethora of options exist for your replacement, be prepared for the shyster-y tactics of the behemoth providers to keep you hooked on their overpriced offerings.

2. Cord cutting step 2 – Replace landline with VoIP – A major benefit of converting our landline number to Google Voice (using ObiTalk) was NO MORE SPAM CALLS! We retained our home number of almost 20 years and now have phones (along with 911 service) in almost every room of the house. As a bonus, our voicemail is always transcribed into an email, and our “landline” can now send/receive texts.

3.  Cord cutting step 3 – Replace security system with Nest – While I shouldn’t be documenting this on the Internet, the Nest experience (Secure w/ Hello) is well worth the extra $$. The camera and alarm combo is quite useful for deliveries and visitors, and the built-in cellular option with battery backup allows operation even if the power and/or Internet are out.

4.  Hanging pictures with ease – The hands-down easiest way to hang something on the wall is with the Beehive picture hangers (available via Amazon). Two tiny screws attach the hanging bracket, and leveling is accomplished by making tiny adjustments of the picture frame. Long gone are the days of tape measures, stud finders and sheet rock anchors as hanging becomes a hassle-free 5 minute task.

5.  Curtailing identity theft – Over the past few years, we’ve had our credit card number hijacked more than a dozen times along with a falsified tax return filed in our name. With a few simple tweaks, we’ve minimized our risk and the associated headaches.

a.  Have you been hacked? Look yourself up and fix your identity on the dark web.

b.  Freeze your credit report at all three credit bureaus. Yes, you can temporarily unfreeze it as needed, and no, it won’t affect your credit score.

c.  Get a separate travel credit card. Use it exclusively when out of the country (or w/ small vendors in the states). First, you’ll have a backup while traveling, and second, there’s no need to re-establish all of those recurring charges on your main card, if/when your travel card gets jacked.

2018 Second Half Publications

My latest postings elsewhere on the Internet from the second half of 2018…

Zenoss Blog

Industry Articles

Notable Mentions / Contributions

2018 First Half Publications

As previously promised, here’s sample of my latest postings elsewhere on the Internet during the first half of 2018.

Zenoss blog

Industry articles

Part IV – Advanced Strategy – Words With Friends

First and foremost, following these techniques is an acknowledgement that WWF is not a word game; it’s a strategy game. If you want to play for laid-back fun, skip this part, but if having a higher score than your opponent is what drives your enjoyment, keep reading.

Target Audience

  • Competitive (but not psycho) player with 10+ simultaneous games, a smaller set of serious games, or interested in playing tournaments
  • Acknowledges WWF is not a word game; it’s a strategy game
  • Winning games drives the enjoyment more than making words
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part I – Basic Tactics
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part II – Intermediate Play
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part III – Intermediate Play (cont)


  • Memorize the 3 letter words, starting with the words that involve J, Q, X and Z.
    Sure, this is tough ask, but even the smallest effort in reviewing these combinations will speed the process of finding words that allow you to improve your rack and/or avoid having to swap tiles.
  • The all-consonant and all-vowel words are especially useful when your rack is less than ideal. NOTE: Using the listing while playing is cheating, IMO, so find a time to review it when not in the game. Plus, when playing 5-10 games per day, there really isn’t time to look at a listing.
  • Play your opponent and become disciplined in defensive tactics.
  • Determine whether your opponent is a big word player, highly defensive, or a balance.
  • Sacrifice points to prevent your opponent from playing TW or two DW’s.
  • After each turn, research the meaning of any words you or your opponent played which were not previously known. This not only helps increase your vocabulary, but it helps you remember the word for future games.

Time Awareness

Gain awareness of what is often referred to as ‘time’ in chess, which means using various techniques at different phases of the game. Continuing with the chess analogies, there’s an opening, middle and end game, and having this sense of time will allow a player to mentally jump from game to game with minimal brain power used for context switching.

Opening (40-60 letters remain)

  • Always swap letters on your first move to attempt a bingo or a better rack.
  • Avoid playing a first play with a vowel on the DL as an early 30-40 point lead by your competitor is hard to close.
  • Work on creating bingos in these first few plays as this is where the board is most friendly (i.e. open). Bingos often require working your rack while maintaining decent early scores (20+ points).
  • NOTE: WWF-2 now has the ability to swap without taking a turn. This feature is borderline invalidation of the competitiveness of the game, but if someone is willing to pay Zynga to beat you, that’s their prerogative.

Middle game (15-39 letters remain)

  • When playing a defensive player, focus on beating their score by 5-10 each round. While this might sound like obvious advice, a purely defensive game is more about preventing a big play than it is playing a bingo in the middle of the board.
  • A hard-core defensive player will destroy you if you start playing big words out into the middle of the board. Playing a bingo next to a TW or TL needs to be carefully considered.
  • When playing a big score player, defense is still important, but the focus should be on the highest score possible every play.
  • At this point, you might be thinking that getting the highest score every round is a much simpler and effective method, and this is a tough mental paradigm to break. Ultimately, finding the appropriate balance of score and defense will give you the edge in the final score.

End game (0-15 letters remain)

  • If ahead by 30-50 points, don’t make any risky moves that could allow your opponent to even the match.
  • Instead, focus on moderate, defensive moves aimed at possibly preventing your opponent from making a big move on a TL or DL next to a vowel.
  • It’s absolutely key that you get rid of the Z, Q, J, and X immediately since these count against your score times 2 (effectively) if your opponent goes out.

Side note: I recently mentioned to a friend that I was still playing WWF, and he was surprised the game was still in vogue. At the time of this writing, there are 60-65 million games happening at any point in time, which makes it still amazingly popular.

Other Posts

Part I – Basic Tactics
Part II – Intermediate Play 
Part III – Intermediate Play (cont)
Part IV – Advanced Strategy
Part V – Hard Core Tactics

2017 Publications

Over the past year or so, I spent more time writing in various forums, and I wanted to find a way to capture these musings in a common place. First, some family and friends have asked to see some of these articles, and second, I wanted to be able to reference this material in a common way. Consequently, I created this follow-up post to provide links to some of last year’s material and plan to make periodic summary posts to capture future writings (possibly quarterly).

Zenoss blog

Industry articles



Part III – Intermediate Play (cont) – Words With Friends


Target audience:

  • Semi-competitive player with 10 or fewer simultaneous games
  • Enjoys winning slightly more than making clever words
  • Wants to limit playing time but still win 60% or more of the games
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part I – Basic Tactics
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part II – Intermediate Play


Learn word creation via tile mapping.

      1. Find the most valuable tiles on the board.
        • Access to a DW or TW.
        • DL, TL, DW, TW with a vowel next to it where two words can be made with same tile.
        • Extending an existing word with J, Q, X, or Z.

        Find valuable tiles. (1) Key starting points - 1 Key starting points - 1

      2. Match most valuable letters to those locations.  Add any other letters from your rack which appear to form common syllables or letter combinations.

        High value tile on high value square. (1) High value tile on high value square. (2)

      3. Use this as the starting point for creating words.

        High value tile on high value square with word. (1) High value tile on high value square with word. (2)

Know and use the vowel and consonant only words.

  • These are very valuable when your rack is full of either vowels or consonants.
  • If nothing can be created, see tile swapping section below.

Master the tile swap.

  • Use this tactic sparingly, but consider using in these situations:
    • Rack contains 3-5 of the same letters.
    • Rack contains all vowels or all consonants.  (See all vowel and consonant only section above.)
    • Opponent is really far ahead, and you need a Hail Mary to even have a chance.
  • Keep these letters when swapping:  A, D, E, R, S, T
  • Swapping 4 or fewer letters is preferred to avoid consecutive bad racks.

Other Posts

Part I – Basic Tactics
Part II – Intermediate Play 
Part III – Intermediate Play (cont)
Part IV – Advanced Strategy
Part V – Hard Core Tactics


Part II – Intermediate Play – Words With Friends

Target audience:

  • Semi-competitive player with 10 or fewer simultaneous games
  • Enjoys winning slightly more than making clever words
  • Wants to limit playing time but still win 60% or more of the games
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part I – Basic Tactics


20 point minimum.  Strive for this minimum score in all cases.

  • Use this as a guideline to get your score above 350.
  • This rule-of-thumb helps balance time management with a decent score. (i.e. Find a 20 point word with decent defensive stance and move to next game.)

 30+ point word.  Play whenever and wherever.

  • With this many points, it’s OK to let down your defensive stance.
  • Often, the worst case is your opponent will respond with a similar score, but it’s worth the gamble and keeps you in control of the board.

2-letter words.  You must know these to be speedy and see the pairings naturally.

  • For Blackjack players, this is no different than memorizing simple strategy.
  • This is big time booster and prevents unnecessary trial-and-error.
  • See the following table for a list of these:

Defensive letters:  V, C & K (to some extent)

  • Use these letters to play words to prevent your opponent from connecting to your word.
  • These letters can be used to render a TW or DW unusable for the rest of the game.

Using the V to block Using the C to block Using the V to block - 2

Other Posts

Part I – Basic Tactics
Part II – Intermediate Play 
Part III – Intermediate Play (cont)
Part IV – Advanced Strategy
Part V – Hard Core Tactics

Part I – Basic Tactics – Words With Friends

Target audience:

  • Casual player with 5 or fewer simultaneous games
  • Enjoys making words and chatting with friends
  • Wants a decent score but isn’t highly focused on having the highest score
  • Has played few games and understands the basic mechanics of the game


Avoid placing a vowel beside or below a DL, TL, DW, or TW (as much as possible).

Avoid Vowels under TL Avoid Vowels over TW Avoid Vowels next to DL

Know the big scoring letters, and use them well:  J, Q, X and Z

  • Don’t hold these for long as they take up space on your rack.
  • It’s imperative to know the two letter combinations for these letters because it’s a likely placement.

Word placement is often more important than the word itself.

  • Rookie mistake:  A big word isn’t always a big scorer, especially if it allows the competition to take advantage of a DW or TW.

Tile Misplacement - 1

Know the math.

  • Making two words from a DL or TL doubles the DL/TL.

Poor use of math Good use of math

Know the specialty rules!

  • Bingo – 35 point bonus for using all 7 of your tiles in one play
    • In almost all cases, it pays to play a bingo regardless of the resulting defensive stance.
    • Bingos are much more common in the first half of the game due to the amount of open tiles.
  • End of game scoring
    • Most close games are determined by who empties their rack first.
    • The player to go out first receives points equal to the opposing player’s remaining rack, while the opposing player loses the same amount of point. (i.e. The opposing player’s tiles are worth 2X to you.)
    • Get rid of any J, Q, X, or Z when 15 or fewer letters remain.

Other Posts

Part I – Basic Tactics
Part II – Intermediate Play 
Part III – Intermediate Play (cont)
Part IV – Advanced Strategy
Part V – Hard Core Tactics

Introduction – Words With Friends

Using the V

Words with Friends (WWF) is an exceptional game, allowing just about any age to play, and while a good vocabulary will help any player, there’s much more to the game than just words. After playing for a couple years and encountering a wide variety of skill levels, I began to look for some tips on improving my game. What seemed to be missing is a process allowing any player to slowly build from a beginner level and/or improve their game from an intermediate level. This WWF series of blog entries intends to do exactly that. Admittedly, this set of suggestions isn’t likely to advance your average to 450 per game, but 400+ isn’t out of the question. On the other hand, the information is setup in a way to allow a more casual player to improve in a stepwise manner, picking up new tips after mastering others.

Before jumping into the deeper content, it seems appropriate to address other semi-controversial points which often arise when discussing WWF: (a) the differences between Scrabble (the board game) and WWF, (b) expert levels of play, and (c) the use of outside help. While admitting some personal bias, I’ll briefly address each of these topics so readers can determine whether our value systems are in alignment and the suggestions worthy of continued reading.

Scrabble versus WWF

It seems hard to debate playing either game will help the vast majority of people improve in both games; however, these really are quite different games. The most notable difference is a player’s ability in WWF to try and fail without penalty, and hardcore Scrabble players often scoff at WWF because of this. On the other hand, Scrabble players are not typically playing 5-20 games simultaneously, yet they have the luxury of continuous brain power directed towards one game in one setting. Playing multiple WWF games and maximizing context switching is one of the key goals of the strategies listed in this blog. By the way, while players often have a couple of weeks to make one WWF play before being auto-forfeited, a reasonable protocol amongst players appears to be one play (or more) per board every 24 hours, which means a player should decrease play duration or number of games to strike a reasonable balance.

Expert levels of play

A keen eye will notice these strategies suggest the potential to elevate a WWF player to an “advanced” level. For those wanting to become real experts, you’ll need to start practicing what the pro Scrabble players do: memorize the entire word list (~170,000 words), analyze previous games, work with a game coach, etc. But, who has the time for all of that nonsense?! As in chess, which I’ll reference often, naturals at WWF are those with above average pattern matching and discipline, and these strategies attempt to improve your WWF skills in a steady, progressive manner regardless of your inherent natural abilities.

Use of outside help

It seems opinions vary widely on this topic, ranging from what constitutes outside help to whether outside help actually aids against an experienced player. In my opinion, using outside help is real downer, and doing so only strengthens your opponent’s skill set while the cheater gets really good at using a word finder! (OK, I said it.) We all know how easy it is to Google a word or use one of the many WWF cheat sites and/or apps, but the game’s best outcomes are a friendly result of you versus your opponent. BTW, there are few ways to determine if someone is flagrantly using outside help, but assuming your opponent is honest is the wisest route due to a lot of sharp players with a sizeable word set. Sufficed to say, avoiding cheaters provides a much more enjoyable playing experience, but you should know the really good players are regularly scoring 400-450+ per game, so don’t be too quick to accuse!

Live, Learn, Improve, Repeat…

Having built this compilation of strategies and tactics over the course of several months, I decided to publish even though the entire series was not fleshed out; however, providing content earlier and receiving feedback sooner is a much better approach in almost all situations. (hat tip for my Agile friends) In other words, once the skeleton series is published, improvements will be made to the existing entries without notice.

Other Posts

Part I – Basic Tactics
Part II – Intermediate Play 
Part III – Intermediate Play (cont)
Part IV – Advanced Strategy
Part V – Hard Core Tactics