While “Game of Thrones”‘ filesharing rates are probably driven in part by its appeal to the young, geeky male demographic that’s most prone to using torrent sites, HBO hasn’t helped the problem by making the show tough to watch online for the young and cable-less. The show isn’t available through Hulu or Netflix, iTunes offers only Season 1, and using HBO’s own streaming site HBO Go requires a cable subscription. (The situation was captured in thewidely read comic strip The Oatmeal, in which the author attempts the rage-inducing process of trying to watch “Game of Thrones” online before giving up and downloading it from a sleazy porn-ad covered torrent site.)
A frame from the comic strip The Oatmeal, which pointed out how HBO drives ‘Game of Thrones’ viewers to piracy by making the show tough to watch online.
“This is absolutely a reaction to the show’s not being available elsewhere online,” says Big Champagne’s Robinson. “It’s a very tricky game trying to create this kind of scarcity.”
This underscores the larger problem with how so many companies in the entertainment industry think about piracy. Instead of thinking about the ways lack of access to media creates opportunity for piracy, and how increasing the access to products could help stave off illegal downloads, too often people want to take legal measures or implement digital protection on their products. These “fixes” always have easy work-arounds.
Meanwhile, the millions of pirated Game of Thrones episodes show that it’s not difficult at all for non-subscribers to enjoy the show. I’m willing to bet that a stand-alone HBO GO service would largely fix this problem, though nothing will stop piracy altogether.
Game of Thrones in particular appeals to young people — people more prone to be cord cutters. They’ll pay for a standalone HBO product, but aren’t going to get cable just for one network or show.
Professor and entrepreneur Steve Blank thinks that the Golden Age of Silicon Valley is over. VCs are only interested in investing in Web companies that can be sold for billions of dollars and not in investing in companies that produce physical products:
I think it’s the beginning of the end of the valley as we know it. Silicon Valley historically would invest in science, and technology, and, you know, actual silicon. If you were a good VC you could make $100 million. Now there’s a new pattern created by two big ideas. First, for the first time ever, you have computer devices, mobile and tablet especially, in the hands of billions of people. Second is that we are moving all the social needs that we used to do face-to-face, and we’re doing them on a computer…
The golden age of Silicon valley is over and we’re dancing on its grave.
The only way I could watch the latest episodes of Game of Thrones in any respectable manner while I’m traveling is to pirate the episodes and watch them when they are done downloading. Watching Game of Thrones on hotel wifi over the HBO Go app was a bit like watching late 1990s Web video. It was blocky, pixelated and prone to stopping randomly.
The best is when HBO Go drops down to an audio-only stream. Yes, instead of providing offline caching or selling digital episodes via iTunes or Amazon during the season, HBO believes showing a blank screen with audio is a good solution.
This actually happened. And it happened several times while trying to watch one episode.
The 1990s was a crazy time of parachute pants and poor computer backup hygiene.
Toy Story 2 was almost lost to a computer problem and a bad backup. Yes, that Toy Store 2.
We’ve come a long, long way since the 1990s with computer backups. I have several working backups of all of my files. Even when I start a blog post on my iPhone, it is automatically backed up to the cloud.
Today, I’m sure Pixar has many backups of each movie, some onsite, some offsite. With Amazon S3, cheap multi-terabyte drives and modern computers, there really would be no excuse for a company like Pixar to ever lose data.
But in the 1990s? Well, that’s a different story.
The best backup strategy is to have local backups and remote at the same time. I use Time Machine for local backups and Dropbox for remote backups. I have yet to see a failed back up (it’s important to check fairly regularly).
I don’t clone my drive, because I don’t care that much about the applications or the system itself and with the Mac App Store, it’s incredibly easy to restore applications. I can quickly install a new drive drive, install a fresh OS and get my critical applications up.
Today, I think completely cloning a hard drive is only necessary for people who would need to boot from that clone hard drive within minutes. If that describes you, then, yes, check out something like SuperDuper.
Rands in Repose has a post comparing learning how to play the popular game Portal to learning how to use Photoshop.
One of them requires no manual and the other a lifetime to master (or a lifetime of looking up how to do things again):
The plethora of online Photoshop tutorials demonstrate its power and its flexibility, but I believe they also demonstrate its poor design. Think about it like this: what if each time you plunked down in front of World of Warcraft, you had to spend an hour trying to remember, wait, how do I play this?
Great design makes learning frictionless. The brilliance of the iPhone and iPad is how little time you spend learning. Designers’ livelihood is based on how quickly and cleverly they can introduce to and teach a user how a particular tool works in a particular universe. In one universe, you sport a handheld Portal gun that cleverly allows you to interrupt physics. In a slightly different universe, you have this tool called a cloning stamp that empowers you to sample and copy any part of a photo.
Computers and software aren’t new. There should be a certain amount of intuitiveness and discoverability to software. If experienced computer users constantly find themselves frustrated with your software, the issue probably lies with you.
However, sometimes non-discoverable gestures and commands make us more productive. I don’t think the mark of great design is always how little time it takes to learn how to use something. Some things inherently take time to master and learn.
Anyone who knows how to drive a manual transmission can tell you that driving an automatic is certainly easier to do and more discoverable. Any idiot can figure out to put the transmission into the D for drive position.
A manual transmission offers a much higher level of control over a car. It gives the driver more feedback, and is more pleasurable to use. But the learning curve is much steeper.
I would never say, however, that driving an automatic transmission is a superior experience. It’s simply the easier route. The thing is, eventually you figure out how to drive a manual transmission really well and you start to do things that you simply can’t do with an automatic transmission.
Computers aren’t cars, however, and there has to be a balance between being able to pick up a piece of software and quickly use it and being able to do powerful things with it. Simple hotkeys like control-c and control-v aren’t discoverable, but they are invaluable to those of us who work with text for a living.
I could not imagine using a windowing operating system without hotkeys, which make us more productive and faster, while putting less strain on our bodies. The beauty of a modern windowing OS such as Windows 7 or OS X Lion is that there are multiple ways to get tasks done.
Anyone can move a mouse around, click on things and fumble there way through a computer. Others learn the hotkeys and install programs like Alfred that help get even more done with the keyboard.
The iPad has taken ease-of-use and discoverability to a whole new level. An iPad makes using a Mac feel like using an IBM PC from the 1980s. The big challenge for the iPad and other tablets is find ways to mix in power-user features that help make experienced computer users more productive.
The iPad supports gestures like the four-finger swipe to go between apps that is faster than the standard switching model. There is also the hand-close swipe to get back to the homescreen. I would expect to see more of these gestures that help power users move around faster. This video of a proposed way to highlight and select text on an iPad is the perfect example of a feature that shouldn’t replace the default text selection behavior but would really aid power users.
Getting back to the post in question, I find Photoshop too much for my needs. The program has too many features, costs too much money and feels too bloated to me (I can’t stand how long it takes to load compared to newer graphics editing programs). I’m perfectly happy using Pixelmator for my graphic design needs. It’s much cheaper, runs much faster and is easy to use for the tasks that I need to accomplish.
The biggest knock on Pixelmator and similar apps is that they try too much to be like Photoshop. The more they distance themselves from Photoshop and find ways to make graphic design easier, the better. If people want a Photoshop experience, they’ll for the real thing.
The tension between discoverability and powers users is not going away any time soon. With easier to use and more-locked down devices, that tension is only growing.
So to encourage people not to engage in piracy, they’re going to force everyone to watch yet another annoying, time-wasting, gratification-delaying warning screen that can only be avoided by engaging in piracy.
Music piracy started to go downhill once it became easier, faster and safer to download songs legally. Before iTunes, the only way to download music was to do so illegally. People wanted to download music, so what were they supposed to do?
It takes me less than 10 seconds to download a song from iTunes that will automatically sync to my Mac and iPhone and is backed up in the cloud. That’s hard to compete with. Piracy will never match that user experience.
Piracy should never be the more user-friendly option. Going up against easier, faster and free is a losing proposition. It’s incredibly easy to rent and purchase movies and TV shows from Amazon, Apple, Vudu and others. Unfortunately, movie studies are keeping a lot of their content out of digital video stores because they want to push physical media sales — media that comes with two unskippable warnings, outdated trailers and even commercials.
Christened with the new name last month, the four year-old platform is now much more than a CMS. It comes with nearly every tool that’s needed for publishing, all tightly connected. And it’s already powering hundreds of SB Nation sports fan sites around the country, plus our gadget-oriented pseudo-competitors over at The Verge, forthcoming gaming site Polygon, and whatever else Vox decides to launch (I’ve heard there’s one coming about cars, for example).
I’ve used a lot of CMSes in my day. None sound nearly this good. Joshua Topolsky described The Verge’s CMS as a living, breathing Web app that is ongoing continuos development. I’ve never seen a publication talk about their CMS like that before, nor have I seen top editors care so deeply about their CMS.
Top editors should care. The quality of a CMS can greatly impact the quality of a website. What makes Chorus so interesting is not only does it support virtually unheard of features such as layout functionality (look at how The Verge’s posts are unique compared to other news sites and can change from one post to the next), but it also combines story assignment and management with writing.
It’s one Web app that seeks to manage the entire editorial workflow. Nothing else is like this. For an editorial website, this is a huge competitive advantage that should allow them to produce more stories by reducing some of the management overhead needed for managing the story creation and editing process.
WordPress was the only CMS that I have enjoyed and thought was well built. It feels like it was built by people who were trying to make a product that they would actually use. You don’t want a CMS from a bunch consultants who have never worked in your industry or cared about it.
WordPress is very malleable and with its plugin system, companies can create fairly unique installations of it. But if you can have the money and time, developing your own custom platform may give your company a competitive advantage.
Usually, I would reocmmend staying away from a proprietary CMS like Chorus. Open source usually ends up better in the long run because of better support, future development and a larger community of developers around the platform. This advice, however, does not apply if you are actvely developing and interating on your own CMS and willing to invest significant ongoing development resources into it.
What Vox appears to have built is a CMS that fits their needs perfectly, in a way that neither an open source CMS nor a proprietary one from a vender could. When I look at The Verge compared with TechCrunch, Mashable, Engadget and other tech sites, I see a unique site. The Verge stands out with its story streams, advanced commenting controls, unique layouts for stories, advanced ways of navigating stories and other features.
If managing content is a major part of what your company does, and you’re a large enough company, perhaps it does make sense to invest in developing your own platform. When you develop your own platform, your programmers and content creators can work together to create a platform that fits your exact needs:
“We don’t throw things over the fence,” explains Trei Brundrett, the company’s vice president of product and technology. “We map our development plan around the tools that our editorial and advertising teams tell us they need, and then rapidly evolve the product based on data and feedback.”
As odd as this sounds, that’s not how things usually work at journalism organizations.
“Sixteen months ago we received the same number of monthly referrals from search as social. Now 40% of traffic comes from social media,” Scott Havens, senior vice president of finance and digital operations at The Atlantic Media Company, said in a phone conversation ahead of his on-stage interview at our Mashable Connect conference in Orlando, Fla. last weekend. “Truly [our writers] are not really thinking about SEO anymore. Now it’s about how we can spin a story so that it goes viral.”
And the capper:
And what kind of headlines do well? “A great headline is just a great headline,” says Cohn. “It has to be clear; it has to be intelligent. We’re not writing for machines. We’re writing for humans.”
When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.
Part of writing, coding, creating is just getting out there and starting to work on something — anything. One the biggest mistakes you can make as a creator is to assume that everything you work on his to be for a finished project or have a set purpose. That prevents you from getting started.
You’re letting visions of future perfection get in the way of the now. What you need to do is be committed to honing your craft every day. Just get up and start creating.
More from the interview:
But are there times when the inspiration isn’t there at all?
Naturally. But if you stopped when you knew what would happen next, you can go on. As long as you can start, you are all right. The juice will come.
You have to start.
This may mean hacking together some code for a problem that you have always wanted to solve. Your code may not be very good when you’re done, and you may decide that this isn’t worth keeping. And that’s okay.
It’s okay to delete. It’s okay not to publish. The more work that you create that you don’t publish, the more you’ll end up creating good work.
In the end, you’ll be writing more, coding more, drawing more, analyzing more. The point is that you need to hone your craft, and you can’t do that by not doing it.
I have a folder full of drafts for posts for this site. Some of them will be worked over, finished and become posts. Some of them may even become some of the best posts that this site has.
Others will never see the light of day. But they’ll still have a purpose. They will help me hone my craft, put words down and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. Some will even be the genesis of other posts and help me find new leads.
What you don’t publish is just as important as what you do publish.
Hemingway just gets up each morning and writes.
Hemingway also reworks:
I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.
Part of the reason that I have a folder filled with drafts is that many of those posts aren’t just right yet. I’ll edit them, move sections around, delete large portions, make additions, change words, work and rework until I have something that I am satisfied with.