So I just read the apology email from Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO), turns out it was a bait and switch. He wasn’t apologizing, he was doing more of the same, focusing on his needs at the expense of his customers.

He started out apologizing, but ended up slapping me in the face. Awesome. For those of you who didn’t get it, or haven’t read it, Reed does apologize, but then he announces that they will be splitting out the DVD and Streaming services into two companies. Here’s a recap on Wall Street Journal: Netflix Separates DVD and Streaming Services.

Focusing on their needs

This reeks of someone changing things to make their life easier. Netflix has a lot of confusion internally, and this helps them to remove that and focus better. That’s fine, I get that.

However, any good company will figure out how to eliminate internal problems without disrupting their customers. As a product manager, I’ve had to fight many battles where an internal team wanted to simplify their process at the expense of the customer’s experience.

All business changes need to be run through this filter: Does this improve the customer experience?

The pricing and company rodeo they’ve been running us through fails that test miserably.

People want more, not less

Look at Apple, they are offering more services in more areas (streaming media, better integrated products, etc), and people are eating it up. By removing the integration between streaming and dvds they are adding complication to customers’ lives and eroding their value.

Netflix should be looking at ways to provide further integration with other services and offerings that can leverage the data sets and customer base they have. This move embodies the “do one thing and do it well” mindset, which is admirable, but isn’t what is generally needed in the media world today.

I’m sure, as Netflix claims, the products will move faster now that they are becoming disentangled. But I don’t think that product problems have been their stumbling block, it’s been media and availability. This change seems to be more of a distraction for customers for than anything else.

What now?

Well, I’m not canceling my account now, but the bar to disrupt Netflix has just gotten lower. The biggest hurdle in this space is still content, getting the right amount of media available is key. But pure digital players no longer have a huge hurdle of physical media to overcome, and other players like RedBox, could consider getting into the streaming side with a huge advantage.

Will Netflix disappear because of this? probably not. Will they look back and rue the day they made the switch? Maybe. Will I end up on another service? I’m not sure, but the likelihood is higher now than ever.

Yea, I love analogies. They are a great way to get your point across. I started using them heavily when I managed a small team of developers and had to settle a number of disputes between particularly stubborn developers.

Analogy - Resemblence of relations; agreement between things in some circumstances but not others. Websters Dictionary (c) 1913

Ever since then I’ve employed them quite often, when I can really. In terms of conversations, especially with complex ideas they are a must, here are a few reasons why:

  1. Analogies simplify the problem
    In stead of worry about every little detail we can get down to the real nitty gritty of the problem. We are allowing for a distilling of the issue.
  2. Analogies provide an alternative viewpoint
    An analogy allows you to present a different story, often from a different point of view, this can allow people to see another side more easily.
  3. Analogies remove emotional investment
    Along the same lines as #2, when we are talking about something else entirely we remove the emotional investment some one may have in the original discussion point.
  4. Analogies are a point of reference
    Often times the biggest reason to use an analogy is to show that this problem has already been argued or solved in a slightly different case.
  5. Analogies often times provide new insights
    I’m often surprised by conclusions I draw from an analogy I created when I push the boundaries of the comparison.
  6. They’re fun!
    I love a good analogy. They’re just fun to talk about, and you’ll be surprised how far you can push one if you try.

Analogies aren’t just powerhouses in conversations, they have a lot of value when trying to explain concepts in software as well. So whether I want to get some one on board to a new pricing paradigm, or I want to show a user how to use a new widget, I’m always trucking these bad boys out.

How do you use analogies?

Google has just launched SearchWiki within their search results. This toolset allows users to alter the results that they receive from google. They can move results up or down, add new results, or even remove them from the results. You can also add comments to search results.

A screenshot of Google SearchWiki

Now, I should make it clear that this does not affect page rank, or even the results that other people see when doing searches. However, other people who are logged into google can see, via the SearchWiki icons, what users are doing with results. This allows the SearchWiki community to function much like reddit or Digg.

We’ve always said that the best search engine is the one that understands what the individual user wants … SearchWiki really puts that in action: this is an even deeper level of customisation than we’ve offered before, because people know best what search results they are looking for.

Juergen Galler, director of product management at Google

This is a great step forward for google. Rather than entirely trying to mathematically determine optimal search results they are actually able to incorporate opinions from people who are doing the searches. So while this won’t have an affect on most googlers, it does allow them to start to harness the massive community of people out there who want to work together to find better results.

Adding a Result to Google SearchWiki

I can only hope that this is a start of something that will provide more power to the social networks of users who are depending on google every day. Moving google a bit more towards the digg/reddit model could help to make results more relevant and also drive more involvement. Of course reddit and digg are also gameable, often times political or underhanded forces take advantage of this to bias results on the front pages of these site. Google is no where near prepared to give their rankings or results over to the mob. This method does seem like a safe way to allow those crowds to have their say without jeopardizing Google’s standing as the best way to search. Learn more about Google SearchWiki:

Good products serve a need and serve it well. A crucial piece of solving problems is good workflow. And to truly have good workflow you need to understand the entire environment people are experiencing during and around the time of the problem you are addressing.

Lately I’ve been spending a good bit of time trying to think through the workflow for idek.net as well as twitwit.us. These two sites integrate with other services, and as such, I need to consider where people will be and what they’ll be doing when the use these apps.

Why do you care? Well, you always need to remember to attack every problem from multiple angles, because your users aren’t just coming at it from one place. They may have different goals and different needs that you may not have considered.

Once you’ve gotten all the variables better understood you can try to devise a workflow and solution that will efficient and enjoyable for your users.

I’ve been somewhat meandering around with this blog. I had aspirations of taking SEO head-on. Really stepping it up and laying out for everyone. But I realized that I don’t have time for that. I think SEO is very interesting, but I don’t have the spare cycles to dig into it.

So I figured to focus on what I do well and have the most passion for: Product Management. But what does that mean on a daily basis, well, I think it means I can get back to reviewing websites and products from a useability, functionality, and strategic point of view. Do they have a purpose and goal that is clear to everyone? Are they just plane cool?

I’ve done this a bit here before, and I had a lot of fun doing it. My new Flip Video camera will definitely help out as well. So let’s make this one stick.