ditching physical media

information resources, librarianship, ramblings

A couple of weeks ago, I started utilizing two unrelated online resources that have since mingled with one another in my brain to profoundly changed the way I operate. The first is a blog called The Minimalists. It’s run by a couple of guys who try not to be driven by desire for material possessions, find solace in themselves and their experiences instead of in stuff, and try to pare down their shit to the bare bones. Reading their posts is easy, as they are short and quick to the point.

At first, I was put off by The Minimalists’ inspirational tone. But as the days have passed, it’s all starting to sink in. These guys are not productivity gurus. They’re not life coaches. They’ve stumbled across this thing that’s made them happier and they’re sharing it. I can get behind that.

hack designThe second resource is a website called Hack Design. Hack Design is a free, informal online course that attempts to teach software programmers the elements of good design. Now, I’m no software developer, but I do my share of dabbling in tech-related projects. I signed up for it, fully expecting to ditch it after the first lesson.

But I didn’t. And you’ll probably be hearing more about it from me in the future.

The first lesson of Hack Design attempts to give a basic overview of why design is important. It cites many examples that I won’t go into here (just sign up yourself, why don’t you). But most importantly, it stresses that design is a layered concept. Something that is well-designed should be attractive, easy to use, and should make you feel good about using it.

Since the lesson gets a bit philosophical, I started considering the things I use with regularity that are well-designed (my bike, my running shoes, the tie bar I lost several months ago) and the things that aren’t so well designed (my work area, my computer operating systems, the glass I most often drink out of). I started critiquing all of my things.

The day after completing that lesson, I was using something very poorly-designed (my smartphone) to read The Minimalists. The post I read, which I cannot locate right now due to design flaws in their blog format, talked about ditching physical media in order to get away from the expense and clutter of accumulating CDs, DVDs, and books.minimalists

My book situation is pretty good. I stopped buying them quite a while ago, because I’m a librarian. It’s difficult to take a chance on buying a book when I can just as easily check it out for free from the library. At home, I have two lovely hand-built bookcases. They are not full. I do not miss the piles of books and ugly shelving solutions of my past. I’m almost there with my CDs, too. I stopped buying physical CDs quite some time ago. I took my existing collection and digitized it, then uploaded it all to Google Play Music, where I can access it online wherever I have an Internet connection and either stream or download all of my tracks at will. The service is free for up to 20,000 songs, with no size constraints (though I’m sure it does sacrifice some quality when it streams). But I rarely ever access my own music library, because I’ve also got Spotify just about everywhere I go, which is way better than my music library. And if I really need an mp3 download of a song I don’t have, my library offers Freegal, which gives access to Sony’s entire music catalog. For free. For keeps.

Books, like I said, are easy. I just get them from the library. I also have a Kindle, which I fill with ebooks from Overdrive. Because I also have an iPad, I can get ebooks from Freading. Recently, we got a new service called Zinio, which gives full access to magazines on the iPad or online (like The New York Review of Books, Mental Floss, and VegNews). These are things that my library provides to its customers for free. I’d be very surprised if yours doesn’t offer some similar services.

The only thing that was left for me to really improve upon was the DVD situation. I haven’t bought any in some time, on account of Netflix and the public library. Between those two sources, it’s not very often that I can’t find a movie I want to see. And when the library gets a video streaming service, which I’m sure will happen in the near future, I’ll drop Netflix in a second.

But what about those DVDs I already had? Well, the simple answer was to get rid of them. I went through and threw away anything that was recorded on a DVD-R. Then I sorted through and pulled out anything I had no desire to watch again. Then I went through and pulled out anything I hadn’t watched more than once. And, voila, I was left a fifth of what I’d started with. I digitized that small amount and put the physical discs in storage, and I just sold the rest. A nice clean break.

For me, physical media is a design flaw. I like to have complete access to everything I need on a single device (in the case of movies, our Wii). DVDs are expensive and they take up space. The only thing they did for me was to encourage my drive to collect. But collecting any kind of physical media is a losing battle. Anyone have a cassette tape collection? How about a massive VHS library? Your stuff is always going to be outdated, which means you’re always going to be buying more.

But not me. I’m out of the game. And I think I’m better for it.


Netflix Ate My Baby; Or, The Great DVD-By-Mail Swindle


Sometimes I wonder if the fine folks at Netflix have fully functioning brains. Will their PR people never stop and ask themselves “What Will Caris Do (W.W.C.D. – best goddamn meme I’ve ever seen, feel free to make wide use of it)?”

Actual Netflix conversation:

Jeb: Okay, we’ve got to pass on another huge disappointment to the public.
Mac: We can’t do that! That Caris asshole will have a fucking field day with this!
Jeb: Listen, I’ve got it covered. We’ll frame it as an apology.
Mac: An apology?
Jeb: Yeah. Everyone listens to apologies.
Mac: They do?
Jeb: Of course. Remember how I banged your prom date that time?
Mac: I loved her…
Jeb: Right, right. But I apologized. And you forgave me.
Mac: So what you’re saying…
Jeb: Is we frame this services split as an apology. Those dumb fucks won’t know what the hell is going on!
Mac: Wait. Which dumb fucks?
Jeb: The American public, of course!
Mac: Oh! Those dumb fucks.

Those dumb fucks, indeed, Mac. Those dumb fucks, indeed.

Netflix made big news this morning when they publicly “apologized” for all of the shitty things they’ve done to their subscribers in recent weeks. When I first saw the note show up in my email, I thought Mr. CEO was going to take it all back, that he’d heard the public outcry and he was sorry.

The truth, however, was a bit less satisfying. Netflix is sorry for being a douche. But not so sorry that it’s planning on doing anything to make things better. I don’t doubt that they’re very sorry. Very sorry that their stock sank like the fucking Titanic. Very sorry, indeed, that they’re losing 2,000,000 paying customers.

What are they doing now, you ask? What could possibly be worse than the price hikes and device limits? I’m glad you asked.

One magically becomes two!

Netflix is dividing! In the very near future, Netflix will run two companies: Netflix (streaming) and Qwikster (DVDs). Subscribers will receive two separate bills and maneuver two separate interfaces! Netflix has taken what used to be easy and made it hard! Like a high school math teacher!

“Who gives a shit?” you ask, growing impatient. “I already downgraded to the streaming-only option anyway.”

You give a shit. You, dear reader, are in the midst of the great DVD-By-Mail Swindle! Here’s a handy timeline of what Netflix has done in the past year:

1. Netflix adds streaming-only option. DVD price plans increase in cost. (November 2010)
2. Netflix increases prices by 60%. (July 2011)
3. Netflix begins to enforce a streaming limit. (September 2011)
4. Netflix separates streaming and DVD-by-mail services. (September 2011)

Here’s what they did:

They started out with a cool service: DVDs by mail. This cool service put all of your local video stores out of business. Neat, eh? Once that was done, they introduced an economical alternative to DVDs-by-mail: streaming media. It costs them pennies, but you still pay the same thing you were paying before! Great, isn’t it! Fair, right? Wait, wait. It gets better.

This past July (can you remember way back then?), they jacked prices up by 60%. Remember that streaming business model? It only gets better! Netflix is a genius! And then, earlier this month, you start getting this error message that prevents you from using multiple devices for streaming. The fewer devices you use, the more Netflix saves!! Think of all those pennies they’re amassing. Enough to fill a tube sock to hit you in the scrotum with, isn’t it? Ouch. That smarts!

“Dude,” you say. “How could this possibly get any worse?”

You and your questions! Quite the inquisitive lass you are! Let me give you a little history lesson. Once upon a time there was a tax-funded entity called the United States Postal Service. In the 1980s, the USPS was doing so well that it became an independent, self-funded agency! It took to the streets on its wobbly legs and gave ’em hell! Unfortunately, the USPS got leg cancer. And now it’s going to die.

Million dollar question: How do DVDs-by-mail get delivered?

If you answered “by mail,” you’re absolutely correct!! Good job!

Way to go!!

See, Netflix saw this on the horizon. They realized that cheap postage (what their company is based upon) wouldn’t last forever. So they separated out their services so that it would be Qwikster that would die the ugly death, not Netflix. Even when the USPS collapses and Qwikster is history, Netflix will still be there, charging customers the same price they’ve always paid for a service that’s half as convenient and 10,000 times as cheap for them to execute!

Bottom line: This is why they can lose so many customers and remain unscathed. When your product doesn’t cost jack shit to deliver, you don’t need as many suckers to buy into it. They fucked you. They fucked me. And they’re laughing about it with their friends.

Fuck Netflix with a Jagged, Rusty Pole

ramblings, Uncategorized

Netflix sucks.

Apparently, Netflix doesn’t think it’s enough to raise its prices by 60%. To add insult to injury, now they’re enforcing a rule that prevents subscribers from streaming content to more than one device at a time (unless you pay for one of their higher-tier plans- which makes no goddamned sense at all). So, if I am in a hospital being treated for burns resulting from a heroic act (such as rescuing orphans from a burning church or single-handedly battling some kind of fire monster), I cannot watch the content I AM FUCKING PAYING FOR if my kid happens to be home watching Sesame Street.

Fuck you, Netflix. Fuck you with a jagged, rusty pole.

All of you assholes take heed- we did this to ourselves. We let this monopoly take over the world and now we’re slowly being sodomized by our own bad decisions. Netflix is slowly showing its true colors, placing it right up there in the same league as George Bush, Wal*Mart, Troy Gentry, and Rupert Murdoch.

An Open Letter to Netflix; Or, Why Netflix is a Giant Asshole


Dear Netflix,

As you might guess, I, like many others, am dismayed at your recent decision to increase the cost of my Netflix subscription by sixty fucking percent. I have been a loyal customer for several years and have stayed the course through many of your other douchebag moves, but this one has me eyeing the lifeboat. Before I go, I want to give you the opportunity to reverse your decision.

Why should you do that, you ask?

I’m so glad you asked. I’ve got ten reasons.

10. There’s a DVD that’s been sitting on my table for three weeks. Before that, there was one that had been sitting there for two months. You’re seriously going to charge me $7.99 a month for the privilege to have your crap clutter my coffee table?

9. I am the sole reason why you didn’t waste your money buying all of those SyFy Channel original movies. I don’t watch your highly coveted new releases. I only watch the shit no one else does. If you’re going to offer tiered plans, shouldn’t you factor that in? Without me, those discs are going to grow pot bellies and start using recreational drugs just to stave off the boredom that comes from continual disuse.

8. Half of your fucking discs are scratched. And you have yet to compensate me monetarily for any movie I didn’t get to watch the whole way through. I’ve let that slide for years, but you’re willing to sodomize me with your silver spoon?

7. Is the extra money you’re bringing in going to compensate those other gauging, whiny bastards we affectionately call cable companies? Cox has been bitching that you’re eating up all the bandwidth and, as such, has proposed charging me more. Is this some effort to protect me from them? Am I simply investing this money in my own entertainment future? Will this move make them finally shut the fuck up? Or are you just contributing to an ever-growing initiative intended to steal every last cent I’ve got to spend?

6. Your recommendation engine has let me down many times. Because of this, I have been often unhappy with your product. That seems like a reason to lower prices to me, not increase them.

5. Just a couple of months ago, you raised your prices. Exactly whose business model are you following here? The United States Government’s?

4. Your selection is full of filler. If I’m paying more, why is that list of indefinitely unavailable titles at the bottom of my queue growing larger every day. If I’m going to be paying you 60% more, I’d like at least 60% of those titles to actually be available.

3. Because of your poor efforts at software development, I am unable to download the app necessary to watch movies on my microwave.

2. The lack of effort you put toward subtitling/captioning your streaming films is appalling.

1. Because you’re being greedy fucking bastards. It costs you pennies to provide me with the movies I stream. I would need to watch something like 400-600 movies each month for my habit to cut into your profits. By pennies. Do you know how many movies I watch each month, Netflix? Two or three. If I’m lucky. You are already reaping an enormous profit from my patronage. The fact that you are able to keep putting video stores out of business is a testament to this fact. You should really take a hard look at yourselves and decide if this is really where you want to go (I’m looking at you, Reed Hastings, you philanthropist fuck.). I’ve been told that shitty moves like this have an impact on the afterlife. Your call.

I hope you’ll consider my thoughts and use them constructively. But, more importantly, I hope you will all go fuck yourselves while I figure out how to steal cable from my neighbor.

Sincerely yours,