Entries Tagged as 'Entertainment'

What They Teach Kids In School These Days…

Logo of the PlayStation Network First the front story. I was playing a multiplayer game on Playstation. The basic thought was that someone got mad at my play style and decided to call attention to my connection (which I’ll point out, is Time Warner and even though it usually fails me, it was surprisingly good during this story). So this person with the PSN of “KIoey” decided to rag on how I lag, and that’s why I was good and I basically told them that if they stunk at shooting, then quit complaining. Then I decided to tell them that their “ping” probably sucked too.

The response brought on utter shock, and profound laughter.

This person actually wrote back to me that said: “Ping is not a measurement of latency, but your connection to your DNS.”

WOW. We’re talking jaw-dropping wow. If this is what they teach in school for IT/IS, then it’s no wonder college grads can’t get jobs. And in this economy, you better know the basics of networking 101. The first is the definition of “ping”.

Ping is a computer network administration utility used to test the reachability of a host on an Internet Protocol (IP) network and to measure the round-trip time for messages sent from the originating host to a destination computer. The name comes from active sonar terminology.

Another way I taught it when I was a teaching assistant is to think about it as the tracking of delivery of a package. Ping is equivalent to the time it takes from the shipper to send it to the recipient and get a delivery response mailer saying that the package has indeed made it to the destination. To explain it in a little more technical but still in layman’s terms, the idea is to get a single packet from one computer to another, and then get a response where the summation of time of travel is defined by ping. Basics of networking.

Now what Kloey was speaking of on DNS has no validation. DNS means domain name system. This was created long after ping even existed and basically is the renaming of a alphanumeric word choice that is translated to an IP address. So if you type in “google.com”, it actually is translated into an IP address that hosts that data and you’re directed to that place. Ping, has nothing to do with anything here.

So, “KIoey”, I hate to break it to you but if that’s the knowledge you have, it’s going to be tough to get a job during these times. Seriously. And it probably might suffice to actually learn the basics about computer networks next time before throwing out bad knowledge.

What Netflix Needs To Do To Progress Further

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

I have both supported, and spoke highly of Netflix.  I’ve also ripped them to shreds when I found their business decisions to be absolutely horrible, and pulled my money as an investor when it started to do things that was not along this side of visionary.  So with the latest announcement of canning the split business scenario, I thought… maybe they’re finally understanding again.  Regardless, Reed Hastings is on the right track although his means to the end was not exactly the best of methods.   So this is what I propose that he starts doing if he’s indeed still pushing for settling on Netflix being a streaming business.

  1. Re-position internal organizations
    Internally, you’ll start splitting your company into two divisions.  One is DVD, one is streaming.  Both would have online teams that work together, but ultimately your sales, metrics, and growth will be separated out.   Timeline? 1-2 years.  I have yet to participate in a major company-wide re-organization that has never taken at least 12-18 months.
  2. Customer service needs to get back on par
    Netflix as a company took their reputation and basically threw it out the window.  That’s a lot of reputation when you consider that it was chucked in three months and the company has been around since 1997.   Get back to doing what you were doing best, which was handling customer service well and providing for those that bring you revenue.   Don’t forget that while people are just means to end, your company is also in the service business.  So service.
  3. Transparency
    I am still amazed that there are people out there that don’t understand that the best online businesses are the ones that have such deep linked inner-workings that have absolutely no ties to what the customer interacts with and how it’s done.  Amazon is a great example of this.  From a consumer standpoint, their website is a shopping area and 2-days later, a product arrives.  But the amount of logistics that went into making all of that happen behind the scenes?  Vast.  AND really none of the consumer’s business.  The fact is that all of this and expansions is made possible because of transparency.  With the Qwikster model, there was absolutely no transparency, and you took a brand and threw it out the window.  Once a business operates in a transparent function, it makes changing the consumer end very simple.  You could sell the online division, or dvd rental without batting an eye since the buyers can see that it can both operate seamlessly or by itself.  That makes your company all the more attractive.
  4. Improve Online UX
    So far, Netflix keeps changing up their UX, but their applications lag behind sometimes and they don’t really improve.  For example, they took away the DVD queues on the iPad app, but that’s something that I want to have access to when I use your “services”.  Which is what I pay for.   I don’t just pay for half of it so don’t just show me half.   That sort of interfacing is an important aspect of both how the consumer feels about your services and how easy it is to work.
  5. Improve streaming
    With more and more content, the price increase obviously is going back into the system. But, I have still yet to see a way to choose different language tracks in foreign films.  I also have yet to see DVD previews and all sorts of other things that could be on a streaming service.  This needs to improve if you wish people to take your streaming business model seriously.
  6. Quit thinking your customers are complete idiots
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the last three months should be a complete eye-opener.  You treated your customers as complete dolts, and then expected them to understand the business and why it was needed.  Then you followed up the bad scenario with another completely terrible scenario.  What may be a good business decision still has to be sold to the shareholders just like any other political message.  Note that the best politicians are great salesmen.   That’s because they can sell you a dream that in reality is a piece of rock.  In the same manner, you need to sell your business models instead of just throwing it out and letting the pieces land where they may.
Customers of services and products do their talking with their feet.  And at the end of the day, especially in bad economics, realize that your product or service is an entertainment expense, not a necessity.   This in itself is a consideration of how you set up and execute the business.   When you’re finished with understanding that (of which I’m not sure what happened in the last three months that you forgot when you remembered the last decade), you’ll be able to continue down the same road that you’ve been trying to go down.  Only then, will you have all the pieces in place to pull off what you were trying to accomplish here in 2011.
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Open Letter to Netflix: Why I Sold Netflix and Support Them No Longer As a Shareholder

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun... So as of opening bell, I’ll probably no longer be a shareholder of Netflix.   It’s been a good run, but in my opinion, Reed Hastings has finally gone off the deep end when it comes to leading his company.  It’s one thing to make one mistake.  But to follow it up with an entirely different one is complete corporate suicide.

Let’s first preface this with the fact that I’ve been supporting the business since June of 2003. Yes, I have had my hands in this awesome business due to the fact that they just knew what the hell the customer wanted and provided it. And it rocked. Asian films, anime, you name it, they had it. And their customer service was completely and utterly awesome. The first time they had credited me for something that I didn’t even expect to happen. And this continued on for years whenever THEY made a mistake. This is how you run a company.

Then the price hike came. There have been others, but older customers always got grandfathered in under their old plan. Not with this hike though. No, this one had no explanation, no reasoning, just… hey, we’re going to up the price because we feel that streaming is just as good as DVD distribution. I’ll say that using their streaming, it’s as good as 2003 Netflix but not as good as current, especially the new releases. Regardless, the price was the same for streaming as it was for DVDs. Big mistake number one.

So Sunday night, Reed Hastings committed big mistake number two. He wrote all of this apologetic stuff that no one really cares about since their stock price tumbled due to subscriber loss and he stopped short of making amends for the price hike. Everything he said was true, as far as the reasoning for the price hikes, but he didn’t do what every other customer service driven company does. He didn’t appease the customers. Instead, he split the company in two so that Qwikster will be the DVD distribution (owned by Netflix still) and Netflix will concentrate on streaming only.

The key screw up here? CUSTOMER usability. If you’re getting into a streaming only business, that’s fine. But one key thing about user experience in the Internet world is interoperability behind the scenes. Believe me, I deal with it every day with my own accounting software company. The key to everything is always the fact that the customer should NEVER… EVER… have to sign into multiple items, or have to do a two stop shop, just because you think it’s a brilliant move. Everything should be integrated on the forefront and the operations behind the scenes are split into two entities. I don’t care how you do it, via API, or not, but two different billings and sites will kill you if people looked to your integrated area for use before. Operationally, I can understand the split. But what has been reported is that it’s going to be two different sites.

I’m sorry, buddy, but that was the last straw. Currently I’m looking to see if that invested money can be put to good use in Coinstar owned Redbox. Maybe some other internet IPO will come along and we’ll take a look at that. But as a long time customer, and supporter, the moves being made are going to placate your company for months to come. You said that you “slid into arrogance based upon past success” but finally saw the light. I hate to break it to you but the rest of your email reminded me of my mother when I was a child whom told me what I wanted to hear and said that I had a choice in the matter, but at the very end, threw in an argument that completely contradicted the entire hour of time she had spent. So, you’re not really thinking about us, are you? You’re thinking about how you can get us, and Wall Street off your back about all of this. And I’m telling you that customer service and Wall Street go hand in hand. Oh well, maybe you’ll see the light. Maybe you’ll understand finally that there were a number of things at play that propelled Netflix into stardom and kept it there. It wasn’t the streaming idea, nor DVD releases. It was the fact that you guys did it seamlessly and had awesome service. Put those two things in any business, and they’ll still be rock solid. Anyhow, if you ever want to change things up, just look me up.

The “Skills” of Young Gamers and Understanding Ping

A Big Daddy defends a Little Sister from two S...

It’s interesting that I’m an avid fan of online gaming from time to time, and I noticed that younger and younger gamers talked a lot of trash talk, but didn’t understand the basic concepts of how their online infrastructure works.   If you can’t back up your skills then don’t bother trash talking.

So there’s this gal in Japan that loves to talk down on how she’s amazing in Bioshock 2.   And she is.  But it’s only because she can shoot you before your connection processes a kill.  Basically, she would pull the trigger, and in the US, you’d suddenly die without actually seeing the shot pulled.  That’s a ping issue.   For the most part, it goes back to the broadband connections on how they are implemented in each country.

In both Japan and South Korea, it’s pretty common place now to run fiber optics to all housing complexes.   That means that you’re running at least 100-150mbit into the house.  Back in the day, when I was in Ministry of Pain back in the day, we had a sniper that was so good, he could snipe people with a 150+ ping while others were on a 15-30 ping.  That meant that when he got on his school network of 15-30 ping (that’s in ms), he was unstoppable.   He was also part of the [3e] guild (Third eye) which made sense.

These days, these newer gamers don’t understand that cable connections still don’t outweigh fiber.   That extra faster timing for those packets to travel means that you have just a bit more time to pull the trigger.   And that makes a huge difference when it comes to any sort of online game play, especially the ones that have great snipers.   Ever notice that the best snipers seem to all sit on university networks?   There’s a reason for that.

In any case, the moment you realize that ping can play a major part in your gaming, you’ll start designing ways to depend around the timing situation.  Circling around the peripherals and the back, strafing, and other methods.

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Ping? No Thanks

Ping Screen shot 2010-09-01 at 9.32.17 PM
Image by swanksalot via Flickr

Amusing. TechCrunch released an article about how Ping isn’t as social as Apple made it out to be. What’s even more funny is that I don’t see this going anywhere just like Genius didn’t go anywhere.

First, let me throw it out there. When I find new music, I don’t know the name of the song, or what it is. I just hear something while browsing a website, Youtube, or even listening to the radio. You know what Apple needs to do? Buy Shazam. Take that technology and load it in instead of relying on my friends. Truthfully, what my friends like in music could have absolutely no relevance in what I like. I like opera, but I can guarantee you that my wife doesn’t really care for it. But would we be in the same circle of friends? Sure. That’s a failure in itself for recommendations.

Second, I decided to give Ping a shot, even though during the Apple announcement, I was already arguing with people about how Apple could make things nice, but they don’t exactly understand the Internet trends. Let me put it into perspective. Myspace is probably one of the ugliest social networks ever. I said it back when it started, and it still is to date. But yet, the young kids that made it popular is what attracted bands and other musicians to it. That’s also why MySpace still lives… due to those relationships. If Apple wants to attack that head-on, they need to allow every single band lay claim to their pages and have followers able to already follow the band without the claim.

For example, I was testing out Ping, thinking, hey… this might not be half bad. Let me add one of my all-time favorite bands: My Chemical Romance. Now I’ve purchased their albums from iTunes before, so I know they exist on there (unlike some of the jrock/jpop/crock/cpop artists), but lo-and-behold, I can’t follow them. No MCR follow means that Ping fails in my book. I mean, the recommendations based on my genres that I selected gave me Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Coldplay. All artists that are tied to Apple. What about Daft Punk? What about Gorillaz? If you’re building social, you have to think social.

Personally, I think that Ping is a great idea, but the execution was absolutely sloppy on Apple’s part. If you’re going to build a social network for musicians, figure out what the strengths of social networks are and build around that. Don’t tie it directly to your iTunes store. The difference between customers and users might be a credit card number, but the difference between a social network and a store is a world apart.

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Google Will Be Chasing Television Ads

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

People that know me have known that I’ve already been talking about this for the past few months, but it’s time to put it on paper. I’m calling it. Google is going to be chasing the airwaves for ad space in a couple years. Guaranteed.

Why? Pieces of the puzzle are falling into place already. Google Fiber experiment? Pulease. That’s a FiOS pull if I’ve ever saw one. And Verizon already brings television to your home. This would just give Google medium to mine all that invaluable data and run their algorithms on it to find out what you’re watching and how to target the advertisement. And we all know that Google is king when it comes to algorithmic ad targeting.

But this piece that I just found out about…. now this really puts it into perspective. Google is getting into set-top boxes. Forget Internet television. There is a real big money play being driven here, and it’s being done through the eyes of people thinking outside the box but staying within the realm of what the company is just plain good at: mathematics.

Companies like this are few and far between. Even many of the older 1990s companies have not been able to take any of their product lines outside of their general medium scopes. Google is actually buying up real estate in new mediums to try their hand at things that they have stuck with in the Internet world. And believe you me, it’ll work like a charm. Like a friend of mine told me a long time ago: it’s not the fact that you’re inventing a car, or a plane. It’s the thought that you’re building a car that can fly like a plane that is what no one else has grasped. And Google already setting up for take-off before anyone even realizes.

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What’s With the Lame Super Bowl Halftime Acts

The San Francisco 49ers' Super Bowl XXIX troph...
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know about you but when I was a kid, I really enjoyed the Super Bowl half time shows. But as times progressed, it just hasn’t been quite the same. In fact, these days, I don’t even bother watching it and actually go do something else. I’m going to venture the thought that this year will not be any different. I mean, “The Who”? Couldn’t they have got a better act like Daft Punk, or Black Eyed Peas?

If you actually think about it, the last five years have been acts that were in the prime like almost twenty years ago. Maybe more. When was the last time anyone really listened to Prince?

Don’t get me wrong, I like The Who but it’s not what I consider something that grabs the younger crowds. Heck, where are the singers from like the New Year’s Eve bashes? Those are the ones that are recent and the cool acts. It’s also within this decade of music history.

I think whomever schedules this for the NFL really is living in the past. Next thing you know, we’re going to bringing back the Monkees. Nothing wrong with that, but if you ever wonder why your viewership during that time has drastically dropped off? There might be a good reason for it.

Now that I think about it, perhaps the NFL needs to work with Apple’s iTunes marketing team. They find the greatest music that is absolutely catchy and often bands that no one has heard before. And that’s fresh and new, but what do I know. I don’t have billions of dollars hanging in the balance.

Satellite Doesn’t Seem Cheaper Than Cable

twc So recently, there’s been a lot of conversation locally about Time Warner’s service with HD. I totally agree after their entire screw up with Navigator firmware and having slowed down much of any sort of television watching. In fact, it’s annoyed me enough to begin again looking at their competition.

Around here, much of the HD signal would be between satellite or cable. But strangely enough, if it’s not any cheaper to switch, then the hassle isn’t worth it. I’ve been told that it’s cheaper for satellite time and again by those on satellite, but when I go look at the total pricing, I must be missing something. For the same pricing of my cable which runs without fees around the sixty dollar range will cost with the lowest satellite competition as seventy dollars, and the the other provider as over seventy dollars per month.

Now from from a price point perspective, I don’t see what the value is when this is a utility that you use for entertainment sake to pay more regardless of the first year loss leader subscription sign up. If you base it completely on regular price (which you will eventually pay), it’s not worth the switch for the same channels that you watch unless you subscribe to movie packages that might be cost less in the long run. I did this based on the mathematics a year ago and came to the same conclusion that I would be paying more per month just to watch same HD channels.

Granted, I’m still annoyed with Time Warner’s slow as molasses Navigator that makes channel surfing a nightmare, but I’m still waiting for something better. Now if Dish Network or DirectTV had a monthly charge of sixty or less, I’d be there in a heartbeat. Too bad, eh?

Time Warner Cable Cutting Corners on Commercials?

twc Hate to say it, but Time Warner Cable really has annoyed me the for last time tonight. It was such a little thing, but with the really terrible Navigator “upgrade” that slowed down your actual channel surfing to a crawl and seemingly not have tested this in QA since it basically looks pretty but doesn’t actually function like the old firmware, it was amazing for the stupid parts to really become a problem.

Here’s the thing. Almost all commercials are not normalized for sound. In fact, I have a feeling this is done on purpose since all of them are louder and seem to be set on some sort of setting so that you would pay attention to it. But what really bugs me is when you’re actually enjoying a commercial (yes, there are some that are actually decent) and suddenly it cuts to another commercial in the middle. Now, if I were an advertiser and saw that I was spending money with this corporation and they were pulling me out of my costly advertising, I would be throwing up a fit. This happens on every channel, and has been for a long time but the recent Navigator change really has brought it out as even more of an annoyance.

Why can’t I downgrade back to the old firmware for my cable box? Why are commercials being cut short, or some getting cut right in the middle? Sometimes, it almost seems like they’re trying to fit in more than one commercial in the same slot to gain more advertising dollars. I don’t know that for sure, but there isn’t a darn good reason that not a single employee would not have seen this happen and at least tried to report the problem.

Does satellite television do the same? I don’t know, but I doubt it. It’s not that I really despise Time Warner Cable or anything. It’s just that if you’re going to push a quality product, then it should perform as good as the last one when it comes to software. If you’re telling your customers that are buying advertising from you that you’re going to be showing the ad, then don’t skimp on the “display” side. These are pretty basic when it comes to just the provision of goods and services and otherwise you lose the trust of your customers. And the last thing you need is to do that in this type of economy.

iTunes Saturday

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