March 5

Hacking the Netflix

I wonder how many people remember Netflix’s blue logo?

When we first got that flyer (packed in with our first DVD player), it seemed like an interesting idea. The DVD rental wars were still on then: Blockbuster on every fourth corner, Hollywood Video, home brew rental shops that had made movie madness what it is back in the days of $89.95 VHS movies.

Eventually we signed up, but didn’t keep it for more than a year. It took too long to get the DVDs across the country to us, and the selection was rather limited.

Now we stream Netflix every day. And this hack people have come up with seems pretty interesting, and a way to go with reactive technology. You wear a pedometer / accelerometer to track your walking and resting; when you drop into sleep mode, Netflix pauses your show. Pick it up later.

I’d like it to go further; if I wake enough to be “almost up”, I’d like to program the hack to perform a specific task, such as rewinding 10 minutes and starting it back up again. I like to drift to sleep to some sort of media. On nights I sleep to a book or podcast, my apps shut it off after a pre-set time, making it easier for me to sleepily start it up again for another 20 minute stint so I can drop off again and not drift too far off the path of the story.

But Netflix is doing  a lot of things right, even with their Beacon (yes, Facebook and Blockbuster did it too) and Qwickster hiccups. Aside from their originalish programming (House of Cards is a bit of a remake, Orange is the New Black and Arrested Development are more originalish), they’ve constantly tweaked and adjusted their UI we can see, and their algorithms behind the scenes.

Nook developers, you listening? There’s a lot of what they’re doing that can give you a few ideas to improve your service.

Category: Data Architecture, Netflix | Comments Off on Hacking the Netflix
March 4

Hooked on a Nook, where did I put that book?

Armed with my kid-friendly Nook library, I’ve loaded the Nook app on my iPhone again, so I can read my own books.

The screen may be small, but it’s somewhat readable until my vision goes. And it’s searchable, much like the Nook app.

What’s the deal with NOOK for the web?

What drives me crazy about NOOK for the web is that it’s not searchable. The books show up, in “recent” order (by date of purchase, newest to oldest), 12 to a page. With 300+ books in my library, it’s quite a number of pages.

So to find a book, I have to play “guess”. If I know the book, what page is it likely to be on in recent order? Okay, resort by title name, 60 entries to the page. Wait for it to refresh. Hit Ctrl + F and search on the title. Nope. Page 2, repeat. Page 3, repeat. Or resort by author name.

Or scroll scroll scroll, looking for something to read.

It’s not that fun.

What about the great archiving effort I went through the other day? Every time I clicked the Archive link online, I had to wait for the page to redraw itself. And sometimes it would reset to 12 items per page in recent order. Difficult and annoying.

How can they fix NOOK for the web?

We have to sign in to view our library, so I’d start by suggesting they allow users to set preferences. I prefer 60 items per page; sorting by author (last) name. Allow me to set those preferences, and keep them.

Have “recent” mean more than what you just purchased. Alternatively, rename it “sort by newest purchase” and add “recently read” as an option, too.

Sorting by author name is okay in a web page that has precious little ability to do anything. There’s no option to sort by first name, or to turn up a secondary or tertiary author. Nor is there a reverse sort (Z-A). Those are simple niceties to add; the information is there, after all.

Honestly, searching is the thing I miss the most when moving from Nook or Nook app to the web.

Getting around the lack of search on NOOK for web. 

Another broken item is using the web page to search the Nook available books. If a user searches the bn.com web site for a specific Nook book, they can find it. Yay. But it never tells the user that they already own it (assume the user is logged in). It’s not until they click the purchase link are they told that they own it.

Is it hard to start reading it right away? Amazon (sometimes) manages it.

The Nook stuff is just a bolt-on.

The lack of integration, after all this time, is really starting to annoy me. I bought a first generation Nook and books with the express purpose of supporting an alternative publishing garden to Amazon and iTunes.

If Nook wants to move into a more flexible sphere instead of simply raking in money for renting text books, the integration needs to be much tighter with the web page. The underlying architecture of the two systems (NOOK for the web and bn.com) have to work with each other, and the users need to have more control over their environment.

Make Library management a priority.

In addition to user preference options and searchability, the library management is pretty limited. You can archive something (hide it from your library ecosystem temporarily), you can delete items (I thought it was sci fi, not sci fi soft core porn), and you and unarchive items.

And you can do it one item at a time. Only.

Add in a check box option next to each book. Allow the books to be selected, and have an action apply to all of those books, such as archive and unarchive.

Adding check boxes and bulk actions should not be a huge change, and it allows us people who were dumb enough to buy books to “share” and not share within the family a lot less hassle in setting up person-specific friendly libraries.

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March 2

Hooked on a Nook and what a pain in my ascii.

I have 302 books in my Nook Library.

For better or for worse, I am wedded to the Nook architecture, unless I decide to trot down the path so many others have of un-DRMing their books and putting them on any device they so please.

But what drives me nuts is that with all the competition out there, there is no incentive for them to improve their system.

Trying to read online or on a phone.

If you’re reading a book online in your web browser (NOOK for Web), you get bonked out every few hours. You aren’t told that you’re logged out – you just can’t read the next chapter. So you’ve got to go to the main page, log in, find your book, and start reading again. If you’re lucky, the system has remembered where you are, and you can pick up at the next chapter.

If you’re unlucky, it took you three or four tries to get in because the Nook system insists you only have a sample and it’s time to pony up to buy the book. So you play along, click “buy” and it says you already own it. You can’t read it, because web page A says you don’t own it, and you can’t open it because web page B sends you to web page A.

No worries, open it on your phone app! Oh, but your phone is out of memory. And it’s a large technical book, so your phone app screen isn’t very useful. Grab an iPad! ($400 later …) and set it up with wireless or a cell service … urgh.

And I can’t read my three Calvin and Hobbes books I’ve bought using this format of viewing.

Trying to read on a Nook.

I’ve only got the smallest, cheapest Nook (why did I ever give up the one with free cellular download!) and it does not have a lot of memory. No worries, just download books when I’m at a friendly wifi link. If I remember. If I have my charger. If the kids don’t want to read it instead of me.

I could remedy this if I bought a second Nook, I guess.

And I can’t read my three Calvin and Hobbes books I’ve bought using this format of viewing.

Trying to find a book.

I have 302 books. I can’t group them. I can reorganize them, slightly, in alpha order. Sometimes my Nook/Nook App remembers what I was reading last. But I find it difficult to page through books (302) in random order to find something I may or may not have bought or may or may not have archived.

And if I’ve been logged out while reading online, it’s another pain and a half.

Am I the only person on the planet with this many books? Did Nook designers (hardware and software) expect this was just a novelty?

I can’t read my three Calvin and Hobbes books I’ve bought using these formats of viewing.

I have access to a Windows computer. An Apple computer. I have access to an iPad, iPad Mini, and an iPhone. (I have several patient friends who let me experiment on their hardware.)

I can’t read my three Calvin and Hobbes books because I don’t own a Nook HD. Argh. I don’t want one, I’ve maintained that forever. I like my simple little Nook. I can deign to read on the computer. I want to read my Calvin books. Are they that hard to convert to read on the web?

It’s increasingly difficult to share my books with the kids.

You’d think I would have prevented my own stupidity. But, alas, no. I bought my books and the kids books on the same account. I can’t just throw a Nook at them and let them read a book; I have to pre-prep it by archiving all my books, syncing it, turning off wifi, then unarchiving my books online.

I just want a divorce! Divorce my kid books from my adult books. Dumb of me to not keep them separate at the outset. Makes me wonder if divorce decrees now spell out “who gets the apps and digital video library”.

However, Netflix has figured it out, with different login profiles. Each profile has things appropriate or set up as needed. Even if I had to add books to the kid login myself in my Nook account, I’d do it! I just “culled” my books online to show only the kid books, and left 5 “adult” books they might find interesting.

Total count of books to sync with the kids? 149. 144 if you don’t count the 5 adult books I left for them.

Come on Nook, make it happen. Alternatively, someone buy Nook and fix it!

Category: Data Architecture, Nook | Comments Off on Hooked on a Nook and what a pain in my ascii.
January 21

Well, this seems a bit more useful

Or I’m getting better at typing on an iPhone. Last time  I attempted to blog on an idevice, I lost work.

Then again, it was a year and several updates ago.

I like the new WordPress bar and dash; though it’s still not 100% awesome for mobile bloggers. Someday, I guess, as we grow in number.

And we’re off!

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