Netflix Content Expiring Jan 1st

Yesterday a friend pointed out Netflix is dropping some content on January 1st. This was in relation to the movie of a book we read for a book club earlier this month. So last night, while watching the movie, I noted through the web site all the movies in my list set to expire by the note “Available until <date>” under the thumbnail. They were:

  • Alice in Wonderland (Jan 4th)
  • Battle for Britain
  • Biloxi Blues
  • Stargate Continuum
  • Stargate: The Ark of Truth
  • Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Netflix dropped Stargate SG-1 a while ago, and I am not far enough into the series to warrant watching either of those movies, so that meant just three more movies to watch by the 1st. That seemed doable, so I planned to this weekend watch the other 3.

Only…

The indicator upon which I depended is inaccurate. I use an app on my Bluray player to watch on my television and going through my list to find these, I found more movies are expiring. “Clue” for instance according to the Bluray app expires on the first but lacks such an indication on the web at all. There are another 13 who I was able to identify this way.

So it is more like 16 to watch. Ugh. Guess I will have to prioritize.

UPDATE: I made a spreadsheet with expiration date, title, Netflix’s presumed rating. Then I ordered it by rating descending. I am watching them in that order. Most are under 2, so maybe this will not be so bad?

Accounting Predictions

In my Prediction Accountability, I ranted on how no one really knows whether predictions are accurate and ended with it really does not matter because no one is going to really stop using these services because they are usually wrong. Basically, I thought it futile to even try. In retrospect that is probably the perfect reason to do it.

So I came up with a scoring system:

    • Good Recommendation= 3 points
    • Not interested= -1 points
    • Wishlist/Queue= -2 points
    • Dislike= -3 points

Would you score these differently? Why?

My reasoning goes something like this. Something I agree I should watch should equal the inverse number of points of something I know I will dislike from previous experience. Anything I am not really interested in definitely is not a win, so it should be a negative, but not too close to a dislike. Suggesting something already on that company’s records that I am interested in wastes my time because they already know I am interested in it, so lose two points.

First pass, Amazon sent me an email today saying,

Are you looking for something in our <x> department? If so, you might be interested in these items.

One item I have thought I should watch based on TV ads but not put on my wishlist yet, so I agree with Amazon, I might be interested in it. It gets three points. (3) Five items already were in my wishlist so that is negative two points each. (3 -10= -7) One item is the 6th season of a television series I have only seen part of the first season and not gotten around to completing even that so not interested and negative one point. (-7 -1= -8) Another item is the 3rd season of a TV series I where I have not watched even the first yet. If the recommendation had been the first, then I would count it as a good one so instead I’ll award halfway between good and not interested (-8 + 1 = -7) Out of eight items in the email, the score is a -7. That is just one email. I track this for a couple months and see where it goes. And do the same for Netflix.

I think this exercise points out the possibility that these “predictions” are basically nudges more to buy something.

If your Learning Management System vendor claimed they have a 90% plus correct prediction rate for whether students will fail a class, then how would you assess it? The obvious start would be track the predictions for classes but do not provide the predictions to instructors. Compare the predictions to actual results. Of course, these things are designed around looking at past results. What is the investment company statement they have to put in so they do not get sued for fraud? Oh, right, “Past success does not guarantee future performance.” So I would not rely too much on just historical data. I would want a real world test the system is accurately working.

Prediction Accountability

The technology buzzword standard for prediction appears to be Netflix and Amazon. Everyone wants to get to where they make recommendations customers will buy. But are these predictions any good?

Out of the slew of emails you get from Amazon, how percentage do you actually buy? How many do you sneer at it and hit delete in disgust that they could get it that wrong? For me, the latter is more common than the former. Certainly it is not from a lack of data, I buy more off that site than I do all bricks and mortar stores excepting groceries combined. (And that makes me re-think how I buy groceries.) Maybe Amazon has too much data that confuses it mixed with correct data. I look things I have no interest in buying such as someone mentioned having problems with a product. Though I have to question Amazon recommending I buy the camera I bought from them a couple months prior.

Netflix really is not any better. Their top 10 recommendations change weekly for me. In my current top 10, one was already rated 5 stars. Another four were already in my queue. The remaining five predicted I would like them between about 3.0 and 3.3 stars. That is out of five. There are 27 items in my queue with higher predictions than these.

Before I start tracking these predictions to gauge how effectiveness, do I even really care? Am I going to stop consuming from companies that overstate their claims? Or should I close my ears when clueless people spout the prediction buzzword? Not really. No. Guess that is what I am left doing.

I think the standard comes not from them being any good. Instead decision makers are aware of them, so they understand wanting to emulate them.

Inconsistent Experiences

Lately I have been thinking about getting a new TV. An important vacuum I would like to fill is accessing content on the Internet through it. The want is mostly filled by my Wii, but the device is in a physical location that makes playing games inconvenient because of the limited space. So my idea is to move it to another room on the TV there and get another device just for watching content.

One option is a Roku or equivalent. A friend has a Roku I have used, but I found it cludgy to use compared to my Wii. It required frequent pauses and a reset to correctly behave. Overall, I was underwhelmed by the Roku. Another friend insisted these devices were the way to go, so I bought Netgear’s neoTV. It was cheap and reflects that price. More on it later.

The friend with a Roku Bought a TV with Internet apps. My experience with it has been very positive, so until I was talked ought of it, the way I thought I should go. I may be back to thinking that way.

At Mom’s house for Christmas, I played with her Bluray player which also has Internet apps.

The common app between all five devices (Wii, Roku, neoTV, smart TV, Bluray) and even my tablet Is Netflix. Somewhat surprising is the lack of consistency between these. The user interfaces look like using different services.

For the uninitiated, Netflix has a Watch Instantly feature that allows for the playing of movies and television shows over the Internet. The basic functionality is consistent. A queue of the shows I want to watch are presented to me. Suggestion categories are peer to the queue. Hit play to see the show. Pause, fast forward, rewind.

Each has quirks to their navigation. Like the Bluray goes to the queue and getting to suggestions requires up button to a tab and side arrow to find the category. Others are vertical scroll.

Some group all actions for a show in a list. Others have items off to the side or way above where not intuitive.

The neoTV has a neat feature when a show ends, it automatically plays the next after a 20 second delay. That was exciting and something I hope shows up on other devices. The others at least queue up the next episode. Though, when can be variable. On the Wii, neoTV, smart TV, and tablet I can stop around the credits and the next episode shows up ready to play. With the Bluray, that only happens if the show ends.

It surprises me there is not better user experience design so all of these approach behave the same way. Having two and soon three devices that navigate differently will get quickly very annoying.

Summer Movie Season

The commentary my friends made during the trailers in front of Thor inspired this post. So here are the movies coming soon this summer I want to see. After compiling the list, it is interesting how the ones I most want to see are all based on comics, graphic novels, short stories.

As a kid, I could connive my grandmother to let me see every summer blockbuster in the theater. And I wanted to see them all. Lately, I have not seen that many in the theater. Looks like that is changing for the better.

Matinée or better:

  • June 3: X-Men First Class – When Mom and I went to Jekyll Island back in December, we saw them working on a set next our hotel. There were also lots of palm trees in boxes near our hotel. So I figure JI represents Cuba. Really it is the “Filmed in Georgia” aspect that most compels me. Well, that and I like the X-Men, especially Magneto, despite the butchering it repeatedly.
  • June 10: Super 8 – In general, I guess I like JJ Abrams television and movies. So I’ll go see this one too. 🙂
  • June 17: Green Lantern – I never read the GL or Justice League of America comics. The various JLA Warner Brothers cartoons were pretty good. Prior, Batman was the only JL member I liked. I came to better appreciate others through these shows and movies, especially GL.
  • July 22 Captain America – This is a must see in the build up to the Avengers movie.
  • July 29th Cowboys and Aliens – AW asked if they based this movie on something when we saw this trailer. I told her I thought it a comic. Okay, so it was a graphic novel.
  • August 19: Conan the Barbarian – The Ahnold ones defined much of my vision about sword and sorcery. As a Dungeon Master, when I felt writer’s block, this is a movie I would watch to help me.

Dollar theater or Netflix:

Not So Watch Instantly

Stargate SG-1 season 3 on Netflix watch instantly requires getting the disks for episodes 5, 15, & 20. Why? My best guess is unlicensed for the medium because of an actor.

Netflix needs to work on providing a warning when episodes of a television show require getting the dvd so I can plan ahead. Also only the select another episode shows the dvd only icon. The main screen with play just skipped 5.

Very poor user experience design here.

The Digital Switch

The Long Tail claims consumers, given more options, will reflect their widely varied interests. Physical stores cannot fill all of the demand, so bytes stored on disk are the fastest, cheapest method for getting stuff to consumers. We see a mostly example of this shift in the shift to digital music.

Vinyl records were the first physical music media form I used. Later, cassette tapes (1980s) and compact disc (1990s) achieved dominance. In 2001, I started the transition to digital music. There were some stumbles along the way because of technology changes and trusting vendors saying Digital Rights Management is good for consumers. At present, I only listen to digital music when using my own collection.

Digital video seems more complicated. Web sites streaming and on-demand television have the potential to fit the Long Tail model where consumers have access to insanely varied content when they want it. DVRs neither fix the when (just shift the airing to another time) or the insanely varied content. Movie rental distributors like Blockbuster and Netflix are moving toward distributing digital movies and TV shows in setups similar to on-demand. Nothing has even come close to winning.

Digital books may yet get some traction. Computers screens cause eye strain. Laptops don’t feel like a book. PDAs, Blackberrys, and other handhelds with small screens require a ton of scrolling. A recent solution to this is “epaper” which doesn’t constantly refresh. The Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader are the biggest players. (The Long Tail is not available for the Kindle but is for the Reader. WTH?)

Remaining issues for me:

  1. Ownership is dying.
    • I really like the idea of playing music on my iPod or from CDs. I play DVDs on my computer because I can’t play my DVR stuff in a hotel. So streaming and on-demand only solutions bother me as long-term solutions. If it is easy for distributors to store it because it is just bytes, then it is easy for me to do so as well.
    • I have books from 20 years ago I can still read. Technology changes too much to depend on something I buy today working tomorrow. So maybe “renting” is a way better approach for digital media?
  2. The black markets for music and movies prove consumers want everything any time. Companies must embrace consumer demand and make it easier for consumers or suffer. I think companies changing to accommodate consumer demand is the only reason the music companies have survived. Litigation cannot solve it.
  3. Hardware investment gets expensive every few years.

My solution? Wait and see.

On Oil

Hubbert Peak Theory
Hubbert Peak Theory (image via Wikipedia)

A while ago, George wrote about the new fees for flying. Lacey pointed out how the price of oil affects the cost of running an airline. Thoughts about these have been lurking in my head ever since. Today I have watched a couple times a speech given by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett on how oil production is about to peak. The transcript helped the second time through. (Wikipedia on Hubbert Peak Theory) I also watched A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash on Netflix’s Watch Instantly.

Bartlett quoted Thomas Friedman:

Our problem is so much worse than you think. We have no energy strategy. If you are going to use tax policy to shape energy strategy, then you want to raise taxes on the things that you want to discourage — gasoline consumption and gas-guzzling cars — and you want to lower taxes on the things you want to encourage — new renewable energy technologies. We are doing just the opposite.

(Bolded for emphasis; even though italics is emphasis.)

While this may not be a strategy, Bartlett does not point out keeping our economy in a positive growth direction has been the emphasis for the past 30 years. Cheap oil keeps factories running, keeps transportation moving, and forms the basis of our plastic-based society. Without cheap oil, we could not maintain the wonderful society we have today.

In Europe, they discourage the use of oil by much high taxes on it. The cost of this approach is we would almost certainly also enter into a recession for some time. Would it be the end of the world? No.

I don’t think our leaders completely ignored the problem as Bartlett suggests. They gambled on the choice technology would make alternatives cheaper by now and conservation would bridge the gap. They wanted their party to remain in power, so they would not have Instituted policy which would cause voters short-term pain with long-term benefits (despite the long-term benefits once through the pain).

That may be the kind of leader we need, but I would be surprised for such a person to get elected President of the United States.

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