30-Second Rewind Button Update: Hulu Redesign

Apparently, media/technology industry higher-ups read my blog. Yay.

Last week, Hulu released a major redesign. I quite enjoy it. The redesign is slick and relatively easy to navigate.

However, I want to quickly point out a major addition to their core product, Hulu’s video player. Hulu has added a 10-second rewind button!!

I love the small, set-quantity rewind button. It makes viewing much easier, as in a slow or dull moment I can open Twitter, ESPN, or Gmail quickly, check for any urgent notifications, and switch back to the video. Then, I simply hit the rewind button if desired, and I haven’t missed a step! No more clicking blindly along the unmarked video timeline.

Thoughts going forward:

1) What other intelligent viewing features will be introduced? Maybe ones pertaining to advertisements?

Spotify is intelligent enough that if an advertisement is playing, and I (the user) mute my computer, the ad pauses. I am FORCED into listening. Annoying? Yes. Consumer experience sensitive? No. Smart business decision? Perhaps. I wonder if video players like Hulu will eventually be “intelligent” enough that it will sense when I switch tabs, pausing the commercial and forcing me to watch in entirety. Interesting possibility….

2) YouTube

Will YouTube introduce a similar product? I like what they’ve done recently with their transcription tool. It’s rough but very usable. Maybe we will see a set quantity rewind button in YouTube soon? I hope so. The feature seems especially fitting for a short form video platform like YouTube, where distraction is rampant and occurs often.

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User Interface Criticism: Xfinity (Comcast’s Online Streaming Service)

First off, Xfinity is an outstanding service. I love it. Xfinity, which I access through my friend’s Comcast account, allows me to view any and all television (sports, shows, movies packages, channels, HBO, etc) that my friend receives at his house. Think HBOGO but with non-HBOGO content. The site works great except for one thing, scrolling up and down is a COMPLETE pain.

No one under the age of 30 actually clicks the blue scroll bar on the right hand of a screen and pulls it downward. It takes too long, and is too much work. Personally, when I need to scroll, I employ the two-finger technique native to all Mac touchpads. Even people who still use mice use the scroll wheel between the left and right-click buttons.

On Xfinity’s site, I am forced to use the scroll bar on the right, simply because my cursor gets caught in all the content when I use the two-finger technique.

It’s too easy for my cursor to get “stuck” scrolling the rows sideways

Similar to Netflix’s website, Xfinity has horizontal rows of clickable thumbnails that will take me to view content. Whenever I try to scroll up or down to explore my viewing options, I get stuck in those rows. It’s content overload!

If I move to the gap on the left side of the screen, my dock pops up and gets in the way!

Damn dock! Get out of here!

I realize this flaw in Xfinity’s design is far from the end of the world. But, as an avid TV fan, it is a flaw I am constantly fighting.

Hey Comcast, you’ve shockingly built a content library I enjoy more than Netflix/Hulu/HBOGO (HBO’s content is included in Xfinity). Shocking as that is, get your act together! Stop creating work for me, the user, through your design. Reams of content are only valuable if the user can successfully navigate them!

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The 30-Second Rewind Button: A Story Of Love

I love multitasking online. Who doesn’t? Constantly distracted, I am always chasing links down virtual rabbit holes, only to resurface 20 minutes later possessing a surprising amount of knowledge about Vladimir Putin (substitute random interest).

It does not matter when something comes to mind, I will open a new tab to explore it. I could be watching a movie, reading an article, or scanning tweets. Once something pings my interest, I am off and running, exploring the depths of information available online. Slowly but surely I work my way back to the starting point.

I am part of a generation of multitaskers! We text in class. We Facebook while watching tv. We listen to music while doing anything and everything. Any tool that makes this multitasking easier is of great interest to me. That is why I LOVE the 30-second rewind button.

The 30-Second Rewind Button

The 30 Second Rewind Button

This button makes it incredibly easy to go back when I get distracted and miss a few seconds of action!…Which happens constantly.

Lately I have been watching videos through a friend’s Xfinity account, Comcast’s online tv system (which works great). I use the hell out of the 30-second button, as I am constantly opening up new tabs. On these fresh tabs I do anything from checking facebook/email/twitter/espn to researching the historical context for something I am watching. Heck, if I’m watching a comic book movie I might go read the Wikipedia page about the guy who first thought up Batman.

If this button is so convenient it does beg the question, why doesn’t YouTube have it? An excellent question, to which I have an inclination. As the most widely used viewing platform online, I am sure YouTube’s product teams has explored it, but found it to not be relevant. Also, I think it is more useful for a long-form content viewing platform like Xfinity (where I watch tv shows and movies) rather than a short-form platform like YouTube (where I watch mostly clips). YouTube has also gone through many iterations, perhaps the 30-second rewind button existed in a previous one.

SIDENOTE: I also wanted to comment on a new feature that YouTube is testing now. On some of their videos, a new button will appear. Just below the video is a transcription button. It displays an interactive script of the clip.

The Transcription button is under his hand next to the flag. Btw, watch the clip, actually quite hilarious “Louis CK – Single People”

I love the feature, despite the moderate level of mistakes in the transcription. However, fine tuning to perfection a blanket speech software for a content library as large and diverse as YouTube’s would be a near impossible feat.

I am reaching out to people from YouTube to see if I can get a comment about the 30-second rewind and if they ever considered including it in their product. Will update if I hear.
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Our Generation: An Apathetic One, Yet Proud

This past weekend I went to Las Vegas. The trip commemorated a friend’s 21st birthday. I normally hate Vegas (drinking, gambling, clubs all disagree with me). This trip however, was extremely fun! I realized the success of this adventure was because of my crew of friends. They are all intelligent, low maintenance, fun people. But, they are ALL conservative.

I am a fervent liberal, and proud. I can understand (though I disagree with) fiscal conservatives. Personally, I think trickle-down economic theories are a joke, but hey, whatever floats your boat. What I can’t stand however, are social conservatives. Especially ones my age. Get a clue.

However, I rarely encounter young social conservatives. During the car ride back from Las Vegas we entered into a fairly animated political discussion. It was intelligent and respectful. We surprisingly had a lot in common.

Don’t get me wrong, they HATE Obama. They HATE Obamacare. Sure, they give Obama some credit for increasing our international standing, but after the Bush years…

GWB or a Baby? You decide…

a toddler could have enhanced the perception of America on the world stage. But, these young men aren’t against Gay Marriage. They aren’t anti-abortion either. If anything, they wish their party would let go of its antiquated social views. However, my friends vote along with their fiscal beliefs.

After the argument peaked and calmed, we began to discover our common ground. The common ground lay in apathy. None of us have any faith in either party. Sure, I’ll vote for Obama, and they for Romney, but we do not have faith in either (or congress for that matter) to positively influence our domestic society in drastic ways.

Same Joke, Different Party

As we began to digress into a religious discussion, we began to find even more common ground. My friends (who strongly identify as Christian) and I, a proud cultural Jew… don’t really care. We agree that religion does good for society by setting a high moral standard. We also agree that after thousands of religions have come and gone, it takes an extremely conceited opinion to think yours is the “one true faith,” with the “one true god.”

2000 years ago, the Greeks and Romans were “sure” of their polytheistic faith. Now, we laugh at them…. 2000 years from now Humans may be laughing at Christianity and Judaism… why would we be any different?

Finding such a large common ground with my different ideologically-minded contemporaries was comforting. We’re apathetic. We have lost faith in the magic of American society. Despite our different backgrounds we had such similar opinions. Politics? Joke. Religion? Joke. The beautiful part came at the end: we all share a huge amount of pride in both America and Humanity. We believe in human beings, flaws and all.

It is common for the youthful generation to be rebellious. It is common for them to embrace counterculture. BUT, with the connective fiber that now runs though society in the form of the Internet, this embrace of counterculture is different than ever before. Society is becoming participatory AND transparent simultaneously. We the people have access to instantaneous truths and information, while we can also create and share with communities in ways never before possible. Physical geography is becoming irrelevant. Are many of the other mainstays of society becoming outdated and irrelevant as well? Perhaps religion in its current form? Perhaps government in its current form? I believe so.

I am incredibly excited for my generation to continue assuming more power in society. Hopefully, with it will come great change. Being surrounded by such intelligent and forward thinking individuals is a blessing. The future holds many great things.

That is what I left Vegas thinking. And that is why it was a great weekend.

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Olympic Sponsorships: Taking Advantage of Users (When Will They Learn?)

When Will They Learn?

The most basic fact of the Internet Age: everyone has a voice. Hence, when you screw someone over, they publicize about it.

One such occurrence happened quite recently at the Olympics. One of the major sponsors of the Olympic games is Visa. Evidently, the sponsorship agreement included an exclusivity clause for all olympic venues.

You could only use a visa card at Olympic Venues.

When Will They Learn?

The world is transparent now. EVERYONE has instant access to information. The way to get attain good publicity for your company/brand is not to limit your patrons (or force them into acquiring your service, like those attending the games w/out a visa card). The route to more users of your service is to EMPOWER THEM. Create a service so great that you don’t have to force it on anyone. Create a product so great that users sing its praises and brag about it to their friends.

All this exclusivity move did was embitter people towards Visa, especially those who beforehand did not have a Visa card. What convenience did the exclusivity add for patrons? What problem did it solve?

Don’t force consumers to use your service. Make it so great that they want to use it. That’s the future. Especially in the hyper-competitive world of payments.

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App.net Fundraising = Success

Just wanted to quickly share how thrilled and enthused I am by APP.net’s funding!!! I truly believe this is just the beginning. Premium consumer internet services should not be ad-supported. Simply put, having an ad-supported product misaligns the motivations of the company and the desires of their users. The reason? Because the company’s clients become advertisers, NOT USERS. When users are the client, NOT THE PRODUCT, user experience becomes the top priority. And in consumer Internet, that’s the way it should be. 


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Product vs. Platform… App.net

I leave tomorrow for 3 Days in Las Vegas (woohooo I hate las vegas!!!….Seriously. Scroll past the article, I’ll explain) but I wanted to churn out this post before I left. By the time I return, App.net‘s funding campaign will have concluded. At that point, we will know whether or not Dalton Caldwell’s brilliant proposal will have succeeded or failed. I have personally supported the project and believe in its values. I also believe in Dalton (without personally knowing him) as he spent many years trying to bring innovation into the music business (which I care deeply about) in the form of Imeem. Twitter’s Platform decisions have been written about all over the web, by people more intelligent than me. Still, I wanted to chime in with my own opinions before the funding deadline is reached.

The Twitter Phenomena… A Live Social Stream Is So Important

Here’s the backstory: Many prominent social platforms (twitter, facebook, etc) deliver tremendous value to their user’s through 3rd party access to their APIs. Essentially, external developers can build on top of these platforms in the form of games (think farmville), applications (spotify), and other constructs. What this does for the user is create a much richer online experience. An open API also brings value to the actual platform developers, as so much more content is delivered to their users without additional expense. Innovation can happen at a much greater rate when the platform is open. Everybody wins.

Once attaining a critical mass, these Social Platforms naturally begin to think about money and profitability. So, they turn towards the only established model of income for such ventures: an ad-based revenue model. Now, in an ad-based revenue model, success is predicated on the # of page-views. This directly conflicts with having an open API and platform, as many of the 3rd party applications built upon these social platforms direct views away the platform to the outside sources. So, instead of having 3rd party developers built on the social network’s platform, keeping development in-house keeps page views on the platform. Then, the shutdowns begin. Facebook’s API became more restricted. As did Twitter’s. These restrictions threaten the entire 3rd party development ecosystems that the platforms support.

Dalton Caldwell has proposed a whole different system for funding social platforms. Instead of using an ad-based revenue model. He proposed straight charging users for entry, as well as charging developers to build application on the platform. This kind of premium live social stream has its pluses and minuses. The downside (and what many credit with what will be a failed fundraising period) is that users have to pay to gain access/membership. The upside (and the part I STRONGLY agree with) is that charging users and developers will allow the platform to retain its integrity! It will not shut out 3rd party developers who threaten page views and it will not become an ad-riden experience as Facebook has.

Yes, it will cost us users money. But what fantastic experience doesn’t?!?!?! I enjoy paying for Spotify Premium. I like having an ad-free experience.

The consumer internet is still relatively young, and it is definitely still evolving. I believe the initial push-back from consumers against online services that required membership fees was because they weren’t receiving enough value in exchange. Also, many of the physical services were overpriced before the Internet (CD’s and Music). So when the option for free digital versions arose, consumers leapt at the opportunity.

Free, ad driven models have become the norm. But, people will pay for greatness. People will pay for great services. Hell, look at HBO. Sure, Youtube offers free video content. And, HBO is disrupting the hell out of mediocre television. But, people are more than willing to pay for HBO’s additional content. The free option of Youtube entertainment hasn’t touched HBO. Thus is the power of premium experiences.

App.net is striving to create a premium experience of a social streaming platform. One with integrity. One that will not go back on its promises once it attains critical mass. The business plan allows for this. So take a leap of faith. Donate.

Screenshot of my App.net

They’re so close. Be a part of the future, for even though free is the present model, it delivers shitty products. Instead, lets move toward the future. Where premium costs deliver premium content.
Vegas Post Script Haiku:

I Hate Las Vegas
Gambling, Stress. Drinking, Stress.
Free Trip, So I Go. 🙂

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Playlists Are(n’t) The New Album

Sean Parker is very fond of saying, “Playlists are the New Album.” He’s a tremendous salesman and one of his products, Spotify is in the business of playlists. However, as much as I love Spotify as a tool for music discovery and consumption, I do not love it as a tool for music curation. The reason? Playlists are too much work.

The renowned Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson is a believer in the power of curation. He states, “I’ve got a few simple frameworks for thinking about things. In social media, one of my main ones is the tenet that 1% of the users will create content, 10% will curate it, and the rest will consume it.” In the above linked article, he is making the case that the inclusion of the simple “like” button in Foursquare’s newly redesigned mobile application will allow users to better curate social content, which is vital to the success of the platform. Ease of curation for the user is incredibly important for any content-based platform.

Spotify is inherently different from Foursqaure. It is not a social media platform. It is most fundamentally a music listening service. However, there is a major disconnect in Spotify’s interface between all the content (millions and millions of songs) and the listener. The disconnect, simply put, is that it is hard to discover from and organize all that music into a format I want to listen to.

I am lazy with music. I do not like to take the time to build or curate playlists. Sure, I subscribe to some playlists which are good for music discovery, but the makeup of these playlists is not foolproof. Instead, I am forced to haphazardly toss music randomly into playlists in a disorganized format just to hold onto artists/albums/songs I like. There is not even a basic Itunesesque library function to hold all the music I want to remember from Spotify’s vast libraries.

This disconnect creates a tremendous amount of work for me, the user. It makes curation of my “library” extremely difficult. In addition, it is difficult to navigate within playlists. There is no easy search/sort feature that spans all playlists like in Itunes. I am instead forced to scroll for days. Searching for music is too much work.

The Search Bar Doesn’t Even Function Within Playlists

Sean Parker states that the Playlist is the new Album. He wants to believe it. But in Spotify’s current form, playlists are too difficult. They create too much work. They are difficult to curate, and they cause me, the user (a premium user, at that!) stress and anger. If I, the user, am going to pay for the ability to consume a service’s content, I want the curation to be straightforward and easy.

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