s3e32: Random Walk; Black Design 

by danhon

0.0 Station Ident

1:11pm on Wednesday, October 26, 2016. Listening to Johnny Cash’s Hurt thanks to a) that episode of Person of Interest and b) that trailer for LOGAN and I’m perfectly fine with admitting that it’s taken me this long to get around to getting into Cash.

A random walk today of things that have caught my attention…

1.0 Random Walk

The Apple thing (sorry, we’ll have to reset the Days Since I’ve Written About Apple Counter to zero again) that caught my eye today in terms of provoking an opinion was this piece in Six Colors; a rumour that there’s a “discovery feature” coming soon for the Apple TV[0]. My facetious reaction of course is that, wow! Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to “bookmark” television shows that you were interested in! And then you could see when there were new episodes! Almost like a sort of “guide”! And what if you could “collect” television shows together and create, I don’t know “playlists” or… well, what would be a good word for this… maybe a “channel”?

So, some out-loud reckons. Why hasn’t this happened yet? In the same way that the unit-of-media for music was broken down to the song by iTunes and out of the album, what happened with tv shows? My suspicion [citation needed etc] is along these lines: a) television shows are (mostly) pretty expensive to make compared to music (duh), b) when things are expensive, the people who paid for making them protect them more, c) jesus christ have you seen the IP licensing terms around things like television shows?

When you break tv shows down to the episode (and then aggregate by the series) then you’re breaking up the relationship between the producer and the broadcaster. That relationship has been pretty opaque [citatino needed] – when we watch TV I bet most people don’t pay attention to who *made* it (grrr, arg / bad robot!) and the organization that’s doing the work is more like NBC or the BBC to try to get you pay attention to their attention platform so that you’ll look at the thing they’re bringing you.

So! How much would a tv program disintermediation watchlist break the current landscape for tv media? If I’m organizing around *program* and not *network* then if I’m looking for, say, Great British Bakeoff then the current rights situation is: *new* episodes of GBBO are via *this network over here*, *some* old episodes are over here and some other episodes are over there. Suddenly the network relationship has changed! I no longer go to one place for GBBO! This is, of course, what they broadcasters are terrified of.

These UI/discovery problems *aren’t new* and I wonder what a sort of legislative/regulatory unbundling requirement around content might look like. Like: what does the media landscape look like if your options are a) first-run, b) re-run rights for everything. That is, of course, horrible for the market and doesn’t let us come up with innovative mechanisms for funding expensive content that turn out to be horrible for users in a networked age (e.g. release windowing by time, geography and, I dunno, prime-influencer rating)

The linked article about “discovery” seems to be more about *advertising* shows and *potentially* about making it easier to access those shows that you get advertised. There’s not (I don’t think?) user-interactive “ads” on Apple TV yet, and you could see how one use-case might be if I *do* have to see an ad on Hulu about a tv show then, I could click-to-add to my favorites/bookmarks/search. But hey, Apple are too busy revolutionising the tv experience for that.

The second thing is this absolutely godawful blog post from Alphabet Access titled Advancing Our Amazing Bet[1] which *from a user’s point of view* is a) not advancing a bet at all because what it’s really about is *stopping* the roll-out of Google Fiber in a whole bunch of cities (selfishly, one of those being Portland). This blog post is a fantastic example of making the author look stupid by trying to spin something as more or less the exact opposite. Google gets two black marks for shitty writing (uh, content design) by also having published this piece about Jamboard, their new collaboration product, because it includes words like “reimagined” which I would like to declare a moratorium on in terms of use, “redefining meetings” (ditto), and phrases like “collaborate in real-time and create without boundaries”. Just don’t.

If you’re a newer subscriber, here are two older episodes that you might like reading:

– s3e27: It’s Difficult which is in part about Facebook and how it’s hard to do content moderation but really about how Silicon Valley needs to just try harder if it’s to (regain?) our trust
– Episode One Hundred and Eighty Three: The Thing About Brand Advertising – if you work in advertising and digital, apparently this is a good read
– Episode One Hundred and Eighty Two: The Starship Enterprise; How Do You Solve A Problem Like Digital? because a) Star Trek and b) horrible digital campaigns
– Episode One Hundred and Eighty One: It’s Too Hot; Monitor This – mainly because of a horrible digital campaign

and, one of my favorites, because it’s a Thing I Made Up, Kind Of, and because a bunch of people I really, really, really respect (ie: ratings of 4.9!) took the time to write and tell me how much they appreciated it, which, you know, is a super nice thing to do:

– s2e33: Black Design

2.0 Black Design

With that, a segue in to the thing that enough people are talking about: season 3 of Black Mirrror (to the extent that when I got takeout the other night for dinner, the woman who was putting everything together was telling me about how excited she was about binging on it over the weekend). I’ve watched the first two episodes: Nosedive and Playtest, and I *think* I have a vague idea for, I don’t know, Extended Editions, of the ideas in the Black Mirror universe.

The premise behind Nosedive is basically Rating People (ie remember when that Peeple rating app made noise around this time last year? Yeah? At the time, I said “The Peeple “app” is merely the transmedia campaign for Netflix’s new Black Mirror series season opener, What If Rating Things, But Too Much”, so I give myself a hearty pat on the back for my predictive power). I’m not really spoiling anything, I think, because the main Black Mirror premise is:

– what if this thing portended by Technology happens
– what if we extend that to its logical conclusion
– oh my god people are monsters

But! Black Mirror only has one hour! Nosedive tells the story of someone who feels like she *needs* to have a high rating to be successful in life, the story of someone who lives for external validation. (Side note: of course, I do not relate in any way whatsoever). Everything she does, because of the context and system she’s in, she does to get a higher rating.

We don’t see what, for example, other communities do in the Nosedive universe. Our protagonist lives in a Martha Stewart-esque bubble where the kind of people she gets ratings from are the kind of people who value a camera-ready life and making olive tapenade and doing yoga all the time. We *don’t* see what the alt-right looks like in that universe. We don’t see what social justice warriors look like in that universe. We don’t see what volunteers or Catholics or startup brogrammers do in that universe.

I guess what I’m saying is: hey, here’s a pitch for Black Mirror licensed short stories/novels, please get in touch…

[0] Report: Apple TV discovery feature in the offing – Six Colors
[1] Google Fiber Blog: Advancing our amazing bet
[2] Jamboard — the whiteboard, reimagined for collaboration in the cloud
[3] Dan Hon on Twitter: “The Peeple “app” is merely the transmedia campaign for Netflix’s new Black Mirror series season opener “What If Rating Things, But Too Much””

1:43pm. 1350ish words. I love notes and feedback, as ever. Hopefully I’ll be back again tomorrow.