Sunday, November 29, 2009

Netflix Wish List

I love Netflix. I picked up a Gamebox 180º so I can stream content to my TV. There are just a few obvious, simple things Netflix needs to clean up before Blockbuster packs up for good:

Fix social networking.
Netflix has the ugliest friend system in the world. Right now, adding a friend involves either e-mailing them via a form on the site or giving them an unwieldy URL to friend you "anonymously." This is absurd! Sharing queues should be a simple matter of designating yours as public or not. Allow users to hide some titles from friends. Netflix connects with Facebook but seeing ratings in my news feed is making little use of the API.

Send reminders.
Even though Netflix does away with due dates, I know that my rentals have a more subtle expiration date. If I have a movie in my house for a full 7 days and don't get to it, it's just not happening. I've heard tales of people keeping movies for weeks into months. As much as I appreciate Netflix's laissez-faire rental philosophy, optional reminders ("Hey, you've had Pierrot Le Fou out for 10 days") would help users at very little expense.

Fix saved movies.
Right now the Saved DVDs list is a kind of limbo for unreleased movies and previously available streaming films. When my saved movies become available, tell me so! Let me put saved movies into my queue directly, or notify me somehow when movies become available, or both.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"A Callarse," by Pablo Neruda

Keeping Quiet

Now we will all count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fisherman in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,
if we could perhaps do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

A Callarse

Ahora contaremos doce
y nos quedamos todos quietos.

Por una vez sobre la tierra
no hablemos en ningún idioma,
por un segundo detengámonos,
no movamos tanto los brazos.

Sería un minuto fragante,
sin prisa, sin locomotoras,
todos estaríamos juntos
en una inquietud instantánea.

Los pescadores del mar frió
no harían daño a las ballenas
y el trabajador de la sal
miraría sus manos rotas.

Los que preparan guerras verdes,
guerras de gas, guerras de fuego,
victorias sin sobrevivientes,
se pondrían un traje puro
y andarían son sus hermanos
por la sombra, sin hacer nada.

No se confunda lo quiero
con la inacción definitiva:
la vida es solo lo que se hace,
no quiero nada con la muerte.

Si no pudimos ser unánimes
moviendo tanto nuestras vidas
tal vez no hacer nada una vez,
tal vez un gran silencio pueda
interrumpir esta tristeza,
este no entendernos jamás
y amenazarnos con la muerte,
tal vez la tierra nos enseñe
cuando todo parece muerto
y luego todo estaba vivo.

Ahora contare hasta doce
y tú te callas y me voy.

[English translation by Stephen Mitchell]

The Twitter conspiracy.

Two professors and one friend have asked that I start blogging- of course, none of them meant that I ought to maintain a site all my own. I registered this URL ages ago, though. I might as well put it to use.

I'll cut to the chase: Twitter is a conspiracy. I'll be the first to say that it doesn't look like one. In my short stint, Twitter has shown itself to be a weird rippling pool of public spectacles. Lately it's been nothing but a parade of celebrity obituaries, a kind of weird cathartic online funeral. Otherwise it is a mixture of political scandals, reality TV recaps, and running commentary on sporting competitions.

It doesn't take much to see the pattern there- Will saw it, though I suspect he got it just a bit wrong: "The Ayatollah is having celebrities killed to take Iran off Twitter’s ‘Trending Topics.’” Clever, but he's only slightly missed the mark. The truth is even more sinister: Twitter is a conspiracy to make people care about old media.

Think about it: Between Hulu, Netflix, and BitTorrent, owning a TV is kind of quaint and outdated. Sure, you could pay for cable, premium channels, and a DVR- or you could just download a whole season of Lost overnight. Aside from catching up on a friend's favorite show, though, these venues are missing a crucial part of the spectacle: A kibbitzing audience. I remember listening to radio DJs talk about The Sopranos' finale, for example, but just imagine if the Twitterverse were privvy!

Twitter provides the perfect audience for any spectacle. With a 140-character cap and no temporal moorings, any new television show can- and does- build up steam in the Twitiverse. An old-fashioned marketing campaign can help, but Twitter amplifies the impact of even the cheesiest reality program.

That's the dirty secret: As much as Twitter has been heralded for enabling acts of real-world, offline heroism exemplified by Iranian protesters, most Twitter updates come from web users, sedentary between TV and computer screens. We sit, we watch, we say "aw" and "hell naw" and no one listens, but we are legion. This is the most sinister part of all: None of the cogs can see to what foul end they work.

The question then, as with any good conspiracy theory, is "Who does this benefit?" I humbly submit two sets of likely candidates, and trust you to draw your own conclusions.