What I want from Netflix

Netflix If Netflix is going to be the future of television, they need to try harder.

This was originally posted on Medium on the 27th of February 2014. I’ve posted it here, on my primary blog, a week later for posterity.

Josh Lee wrote a post elsewhere on Medium titled What I want from Netflix. He asked for offline viewing, the ability to hide certain genres, movie playlists to subscribe to (and presumably the ability to create these playlists), a ‘binge mode’ that would skip opening titles, the return of The Cosby Show and he doesn’t much care for SNL.

I’m not going to respond to any of those suggestions in particular, but I want to see much, much more from Netflix.

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About these ads

The internet’s plans for that thing you created

Here’s an example of something I will never understand. A Twitter account called @wallstreetwoif posted this (the ‘i’ in woif is styled in uppercase, as you do) shared this:

And @picpedant (who you should go and follow now) pointed out that this is a copy of a Doghouse Diaries original, with the credit cut off and the captions reformatted:

Doghouse Diaries - Plans

It also looks like it’s been photocopied a few times, had some extra outlines put on. The ponytail on the stick figure has also been removed and the second frame now has a border at the end, weakening the point made in the strip somewhat.

The thing I don’t understand is why any of this?

Why take the effort to remove someone’s credit? Why make their work look like shit? Why edit it to change the meaning? Why share it without giving a thought to who created it?

I find it all very strange.

The apps that Apple really does not want you to use

The Telegraph’s Richard Gray has compiled a list of ten apps that Apple does not want you to use. In my view, half of these apps are dumb gimmicks that any curated app store wouldn’t want: A game where you throw your phone as high as you can; titillation apps featuring ‘interactive’ girls in bikinis; an app that did literally nothing except cost $1,000.

However, some of the other rejected apps represent far more serious acts of censorship and monopolistic behaviour on the part of Apple, like the Wikileaks app that let users read the Iraq war logs, or Scratch, an MIT project to help teach children programming. I thought it would be worthwhile to compile a more serious list of apps banned by Apple.

Sweatshop HD

These are the apps that Apple really does not want you to use →

Please stop

Aside

This is one of my pet hates.

It’s sad that marketers have figured out how to get their brand into my timeline, even when I have chosen not to follow them. And even sadder that it works.

Infographic creators have a 5 second attention span

Social Times yesterday posted an infographic (sponsored by AssistedLivingToday – slogan: ‘Information you can trust’). They introduce it by highlighting the most interesting statistic, which will be the focus of this blog post.

According to a fascinating infographic entitled “How Social Media is Ruining Our Minds,” over the course of the last ten years the average attention span has dropped from 12 minutes to a staggeringly short 5 seconds. As a person deeply ensconced in this connected age my experience shows this to be true. These days, we give a YouTube video just a few seconds to determine if it’s worth it. So what else does social media and technology affect within our minds?

This is the relevant section of the infographic:

Five second attention span

Shocking yes? Perhaps a little too shocking to be true?

Yup…

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Bathroom products for guys: an icon system

Imperial Leather SkinKind hydrate cotton extract & oat milk BODY WASH hypoallergenic

Imperial Leather SkinKind hydrate cotton extract & oat milk BODY WASH hypoallergenic

As a non-single guy who has relinquished control over the buying of bathroom products, I am regularly confused when confronted with a new selection of unfamiliar bottles. For example, I was just faced with Imperial Leather’s “SkinKind hydrate cotton extract & oat milk BODY WASH hypoallergenic”. At least here the keywords are capitalised, but I’m pretty sure it’s often the case that marketing jargon entirely replaces the keywords (Shampoo, conditioner and body wash or shower gel) that I’m seeking.

Perhaps the soap companies could spare a little space on the lids for a simple icon that quickly explains the intended use to the uninterested user.

In these quick examples below, the first icon is a shampoo and conditioner, while the second is a body wash.

Please and thank you.

“Linux and the Internet broke everything wide open. It’s taken 20 years to get a lot of it boxed back up again.”

Quote

Matt Haughey interviewing CmdrTaco:

Matt: What’s your biggest disappointment in the tech world these days?

Rob: The internet is simply not as free as it was when Slashdot began. Government is increasingly legislating away our rights and criminalizing actions that are impossible to regulate. I know it’s inevitable, but it’s still disappointing to witness. The joy of logging in to an IRC chat room in the early 90s, to talk to people who were innovating powerful technologies simply for the sake of it was absolutely intoxicating. To be able to talk to the guy who was responsible for some component of your system. We were all pseudo-anonymous strangers brought together by the technology that we loved, and the belief that an open future was spread out before us. The future will be exciting for my children, but I’m afraid that their technology will come in boxes welded shut at the factory. Their software locked down. Linux, and the Internet broke everything wide open. It’s taken 20 years to get a lot of it boxed back up again. I hope there are still air cracks by the time my kids are old enough to jam screwdrivers in there.

Rob “CmdrTaco” Malda – interviewed by Matt Haughey – webstock.org.nz

Low quality advertisements are damaging WordPress.com

A shiny WordPress logo, ruined by obnoxious ads. It’s been nearly two months since I switched halfblog.net from Posterous over to WordPress, and I’ve been generally very positive about the change, with some reservations. The truth is, I don’t think I will be recommending it so strongly to potential new bloggers any longer (as I have done at Social Media Surgeries).

The various reasons probably justify a separate blog post, but one concern is looming particularly large right now…

The low-quality on-site advertising WordPress uses to support free blogs.

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A rising tide raises all boats. Nice, if you can afford a boat.

Chart showing how in The US the average salary rose as production rose, until the 1980's. The charts below are from a September 2011 New York Times article, The Limping Middle Class. I moan a lot about shoddy infographics on this blog, but this isn’t one of those – this takes some complicated information and turns it into a story to make a very powerful point.

An informational graphic. See how it’s supposed to work?

I wonder if a similar presentation of UK data would be equally eye-opening?

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Private spaces are stifling protest

Most of London’s “public” spaces are privately owned, as the Occupy protesters are learning.

At Canary Wharf recently a group of activists wishing to mount a protest were contacted by advertising company JDDecaux, which told them that the space was an “experimental advertising space” for which the daily rate was £4,750. This is a model that looks at space purely as a place for investment rather than as an open democratic forum where people can meet freely and come and go.

[...] As for the area around St Paul’s, it is owned by the church, which traditionally welcomes all members of the public. Today it seems even that is in question.

Private spaces are stifling protest – guardian.co.uk

The situation is much the same on the Internet today, where the ‘digital land’ is owned by big companies like Google and Facebook. You can stage your protests there, only if these corporate giants allow it.

Flighty birds: My free Creative Commons designs that keep getting stolen anyway

I’ve been having some problems with flighty birds recently. Actually one is a penguin and the other is a dragon. Here they are, together for the first time:

Cartoon penguin meets Twitter dragon.

Two variations of Tux

Original Tux on the left

I created the penguin in early 2009, working on a tiny EeePC, running Linux. I was actually taking a stab at improving the look of Tux, but he went in a different direction.

The dragon was created in early 2010, to look like the familiar Twitter bird, but with a unique Welsh dragon spin.

Both images have gone on to be pretty popular on the web, used for avatars in forums, on Twitter and so on. I deliberately licensed both as Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This means that people are welcome to use the images, for free, on condition that they provide a proper credit, and do not seek to profit directly or indirectly from use of my work. Also, they must make any derivative work available under the same terms.

The continuing misadventures of ‘Boggle’

These conditions seem more than reasonable to me, but I’ve spotted examples of people either not knowing or not caring that they are violating this very liberal licence, especially with the cartoon penguin design. There was a guy selling penguin t-shirt prints, and then only last month I found an iPhone game and a Mac software house using him. I ended up giving permission to the latter – they seemed nice enough.

The original Cartoon penguin post had actually become one of my most popular pages, bringing in 100+ hits per day via Google image search… until a few days ago I noticed this had stopped! Compare the following images:

'cartoon penguin' in Google image search - September 2009

This is how the image search for 'cartoon penguin' looked last month (September 2011).

Compare that with the result today:

'cartoon penguin' in Google image search - October 2011

...and this is the same search today (October 2011)

Yup, now Google has removed the link to my original page, and instead sends searchers to this charming Tumblr page:

bowlofcarrots, some random dude on Tumblr

SEO surgery

Clearly the guy is no designer or SEO expert, but he has managed to outrank me for my own image! I’m assuming he’s winning because the image is near the top of the page in the title area (that appears on every page), and he’s renamed the image ‘cartoon-penguin.jpg‘, whereas my original is the less useful ‘penguin_finished_012.png‘.

Last night I optimised my site a little in an attempt to win back favour. I also contacted Mr. Bowlofcarrots via his site and Tumblr support, though I don’t really expect any joy from either of them.

It’s surprised me how annoyed I am by this minor injustice. After all, this is an image I was happy enough to give away for free. It occurred to me that even though this Tumblr user isn’t attempting to ‘steal’ my work in the same way as some previous people have, he has nonetheless taken it from me in a more real sense. Quite innocently, he has robbed me of my sense of ownership of the image itself. It’s very frustrating.

The @thisiswales saga

My other ‘bird’, the Twitter dragon, has been on other adventures. In this saga, I found him being used as part of the branding for an official-looking Twitter account calling itself ‘this is Wales‘.

Twitter page for @thisiswales, 5 July 2011

How @thisiswales looked in July, 2011

Official-looking it may be, but that’s simply because it imitates the look and feel of a BBC design, while appropriating the ‘This is X’ brand owned by Northcliffe Media (see This is South Wales / @thisisswales for examples). Not to mention, my Welsh dragon design.

Twitter repliesI asked people on Twitter if I should be upset about this – after all, this is another of my ‘free’ designs, and @thisiswales didn’t actually seem to be for any kind of profit.

It turned out that most were more outraged on my behalf than I was! (Thanks everyone!)

In the process of complaining, I may have upset the account’s owner, but he did remove my design later that day as he promised he would. Well, kind of. As I write this I notice that the background image still contains my work, but I think I’ll declare victory anyway.

The owner denied any wrongdoing, claiming that he “recently took on @thisiswales with logo already in place.” This may be true, but I have actually been aware of the account since July, and at that time it linked to the same Mr. @uselessdesires. Depends how you define recent I suppose.

So what?

I do realise both of these cases are pretty trivial. It’s not like Paperchase or Urban Outfitters have stolen my work to be used to fuel their profit machine. In the worst case, a blogger has been denied 100 hits a day that weren’t really contributing anything of real value anyway.

Cartoon penguin in life preserver and goldfish bowl helmet. But it’s frustrating to offer something for free, yet still have it taken without permission asked or credit given, especially when the casual theft can have a negative impact on me. It makes me want to use a more traditional full-copyright licence, and go after people who take the piss.

I wonder where they’ll turn up next?

UPDATE 2011.10.18: Tumblr got back to me; they have suspended the blog that was using my penguin image. A bit harsh perhaps, but I’m not going to complain. It will be interesting to see if I regain my ranking (or if Mr. Clipart manages to get his Tumblr blog reinstated).

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook

I just followed a fb.me link to a Guardian story about the Occupy protests going on around the world. Heading over to 15october.net, I zoomed in to find a protest happening in Bristol – which is being organised on Facebook.

It’s disgusting how prevalent Facebook has become. Even among the geeky crowd at Dorkbot last night, many people were using Facebook pages in lieu of having their own website. Dorkbot itself, despite having their own site, uses Facebook to organise events and host videos. At least that’s what I hear – I am effectively denied access to this material.

Perhaps I should just come to terms with the fact that one company is going to own so much of the web, but I wish everybody else would instead.

The Adventures of Boggle, the Creative Commons penguin

If you do a Google search for cartoon penguin, one of the top results will be an old Inkscape design of mine:

He’s pretty popular too, bringing a steady stream of traffic to the site. I licensed him as Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, meaning that it’s fine to use the image for forum avatars and stuff, but not for anything commercial.

Of course, people do. Last year someone pointed out some guy selling t-shirts with a slightly modified version of the penguin.

Today, out of curiosity, I did a reverse image search and found two other clipart criminals…

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The evolution of the web

Here’s another infographic that looks pretty, but fails at conveying information in any useful way: The Evolution of the Web.

[...] To pay homage to the goodness of the web, we’ve put together an interactive infographic, built in HTML5, which details the evolution of major web technologies and browsers:

via Happy third birthday, Chrome! – googleblog.blogspot.com

I understand the timeline aspect, showing major revisions, but what are the coloured lines illustrating? According to the page:

The color bands in this visualization represent the interaction between web technologies and browsers, which brings to life the many powerful web apps that we use daily.

Which sounds a bit hand-wavy to me. Lets look at the interaction of JavaScript with web browsers in more detail, for example:

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The correct use of Instagram?

I have a friend, whom I won’t name, who takes the most amazing Instagram photos. They’re stunning, every bit as good as anything shot with a DSLR. And that’s because they are shot with a DSLR. Which sucks.

[...]

There are a lot of places to showcase great photography online. Flickr, Picassa, Smugmug. I fully expect to see lots of awesome, highly processed shots of Fireworks on those sites on July 5 and July 6 and, Hell, even July 10. But on Instagram if I’m seeing fireworks shots a day or two later it’s a little jarring. Moreover, if everyone starts using it the way my friend does, it’s going to kill it. Instead of a window, it will become an archive.

And to be clear, this has nothing to do with the gamification features on Instagram. Sure, everybody loves to get their own little hearts and stars. But who cares how many likes somebody else’s stuff gets? Ultimately, it’s not about that.

(via Cut It Out Instagram Cheaters! – gizmodo.com)

I agree completely. I have followed even worse offenders, who seemed to think that Instagram was a good place to share other people’s photographs, uncredited.

My Instagram pictures were all generated on my iPhone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that my Instagram pictures are all photographs.

For me, a great Instagram picture is an interesting scene, an unusual perspective or detail of something otherwise mundane (joel_hughes does this brilliantly) or something timely (this morning, bondomatic has been posting pictures from a hot air balloon).

Though my recent Instagram pictures have been particularly dull, I won’t be tempted to spice them up with DSLR shots any time soon.

The correct use of ‘blog’ and ‘blog post’

I’m sure for some this is a point of pure pedantry, but it bugs me nonetheless. Let me clarify:

  • A blog is a particular type of website that contains many blog posts.
  • The verb use ‘I am up updating my blog’ is appropriate, but not ‘I am writing a blog’. (Technically, I appreciate you are writing a blog, but it is more likely you mean to say ‘I am writing a blog post’ or ‘I am blogging’.)
  • A single entry on a blog, like this one, is a blog post (or simply a post, if you prefer).

You are very welcome.

Is human communication to blame for the London riots?

Quote

In its coverage, the Daily Mail quoted one tweeter, AshleysAR as follows: “Ashley AR’ tweeted: ‘I hear Tottenham’s going coco-bananas right now. Watch me roll.”

However, AshleysAR’s full, unedited quote on Twitter reads: “I hear Tottenham’s going coco-bananas right now. Watch me roll up with a spud gun :|”.

Suddenly the tone of the message becomes markedly less sinister. Ashley later threatens to join in with a water pistol.

Despite the claim of Tottenham MP David Lammy that the riots were “organised on Twitter”, there is little evidence of their orchestration on the site’s public feeds.

Looking back through Saturday night’s postings, DanielNothing’s stream offers some promise of substantiating the theory with his comment: “Heading to Tottenham to join the riot! who’s with me? #ANARCHY”.

But it is followed soon after by: “Hang on, that last tweet should’ve read ‘Curling up on the sofa with an Avengers DVD and my missus, who’s with me?’ What a klutz I am!”

(via Is technology to blame for the London riots? – bbc.co.uk)

How long before we have another Twitter joke trial farce?