Netflix public profiles

I finally got around to looking at the new community features on Netflix this morning. There’s some interesting stuff they’re trying to do here that I can’t help but think would work better with a more open model for social graphs. It was only a month or so ago that I found that a couple of friends had Netflix accounts and managed to get they added to my friend’s list. More interoperability would make that sort of oversight very difficult, though there is the obvious (to me) caveat that these systems should also make it relatively easy to partition how some of that information travels.

Anyway, some items in particular with the Netflix Community features that I found interesting where the difference between “public” and “private” information and the “Reviewer Rank”. I am, unsurprisingly, pretty low on the ranking coming in somewhere just shy of 65,000th.

But you can see some of that by going directly to my profile.

Chicken or Egg?

So I am just about done with Star Trek: Next Generation Season 4 through Netflix, and my understanding is that there is some overlap between that Star Trek: Deep Space 9. So my question is: Is there a particular combination that I should watch them in so that they make the most sense in the shared continuity, or does it not matter?

For example, should I setup my queue so that I get ST:TNG S5 D1 at the same time that I get ST:DS9 S1 D1, or should I watch all of ST:TNG S5 and then watch all of ST:DS9 S1, or the other way around.

Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, and while I’m on the topic: I find it very interesting finally getting to a season where I have seen absolutely none of the episodes. Since I have seen some of the later episodes, finding answers to things like “Who is the little Klingon hanging around Worf?” and “Cardassians? Who are they?” is really a pretty big relief. While I understood that Alexander was Worf’s son, I never really knew how that had happened and, in fact, had never seen the episode where Worf got together with the mother until I finally saw that in June or July.

Though honestly I find it a bit hard to take that there had been a major bloddy war going on with the Cardassians during the entire first two years of the show and they never quite bothered to mention it. I smell RetCon!

Update: I did check around a bit more and I think I’m going to watch DS9 S1 after I finish TNG S6.

Shared Viewing

There isn’t any word on when/if it will be deployed but there is some very interesting information about the direction that Netflix is heading with their Watch Now feature. Of particular interest to several people I know at about 7min into the presentation they show a shared movie viewing interface that allows you to sync up movie viewing with people that are, presumably, on your Netflix Friends list. There is also a built in IM client for chat.

A few of the other things that they show off are Firefox and Macintosh compatibility as well as support for Chapters and Subtitles which are all extremely welcome additions.

Something else that is not stated, but I think is at least somewhat implicit is that since the new player is built on Microsoft’s Silverlight (formerly WPF/e) technology it should be relatively easy to create a Media Center plug-in that can run the player. I’m hoping that is part of their design plans but I’m not quite holding my breath just yet.

All that said I have to say that I actually think that the existing implementation is an excellent start. There have been a couple of occasions when I was between movie shipments and wanted to watch something that I was able to use Watch Now to see a few things, including all of Red Dwarf Series 2 and 3. While it is not nearly as comfortable to watch things at my desk as it is from my couch, the convenience was still nice.

Intermitent immediate gratification

For those who have not been keeping up with the news, Netflix has recently started the rollout of their long anticipated electronic service, called “Watch Now” to complement their existing DVD-by-Mail service. The rollout is being staged to their various million subscribers and I am lucky enough to be one of the relatively early accounts to have the feature activated. As has been covered elsewhere pretty thoroughly, the selection is not huge yet but there is definately stuff worth watching and I am most interested to see if I can get it working through any part of Windows Media Center Edition. I haven’t seen anything that says it’s not possible since it does seem to be using some variation of streaming WMV, so hopefully when I have time to really take a look tomorrow I’ll be able to find out for certain.

Never quite Lost it

I finished watching Lost Season 2 on DVD (out from Netflix) last night, or all of the episodes anyway. (I didn’t realize disc 7 was just extras until I watched the last episode on disc 6 last night which was very obviously a cliffhanger.)

I had talked with a friend about it just as the first disc was arriving and she had mentioned that she wasn’t interested in seeing Season 2 because she was apparantly tired of the neverending slow reveal of mysteries paired with just a bit too much posing. I just wanted to know what was in the hatch.

Honestly, I almost agreed with her when I had finished the first of six discs of episodes. Specifically episodes 1-3 where, I think, possibly the most grotesquely painful replaying of the same 10 minutes of footage that I have ever seen on television. Yes, the hatch opening was a big deal for the series but you don’t spend three entire episodes without moving on to something, ANYTHING, else.

The good news? As soon as they got over themselves and got on with the rest of the season things took off very nicely and I really think there was enough balance of interesting new mysteries along with answers for the old mysteries even if not complete, and usually leading to new mysteries. The last episode of Season 2 alone was a great payoff for answering quite a few issues and I was reasonably happy with most, thought not all, of the answers.

Was there still maybe a whole lot of posing? Hell yes, but I think there may have been slightly less than in Season 1. I also had some small issues with the overly melodramatic continuing epic saga of the stunning and dramatic love triangle supreme of all time, space, and eternity that is Sawyer, Kate, and Jack’s story of love, unrequited and not, spurned and returned, and flowing through the, well, you get the idea. It runs on even worse than that last sentence. Possibly the most irritating thing about it though is that I think I might know people just like that.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for neverending plot lines, my 85% complete run of the Avengers comic from Marvel not being another indication, but I thought it was fun and it succeeded just as well as Season 1 at making me nervous to be alone in the dark after the TV had been turned off.

Update: Intelliflix

Just an update about how Intelliflix is doing. I decided back in July that it wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to cancel my prepaid 1 year membership, so I’m just keeping track of how it’s performing at this point.

A couple of interesting tidbits:

  • The inventory of Xbox 360 titles displayed on their site has not changed since I joined on April 8, 2006, even though 24 titles have been released since then.
  • I have received exactly 2 game discs from Intelliflix, both of them Xbox games. (I joined because they advertised that they rented Xbox 360 games.)
  • I have received a total of 25 discs from Intelliflix in the time that I have received 69 discs from Netflix.
  • It takes an average of 6 days for a movie to report as “shipped” before I see it in my mailbox. (Fastest: 3 days. Longest: 10)
  • It takes an average of 4 days for a movie to be reported as “returned” after I ship it back. (Fastest: 3 days. Longest: 5 days)
  • Longest time between shipments in a queue: 52 days. (At the suggestion of their customer support department, I have my account split into 3 queues. The “game” queue has shipped 2 discs to me in the time that it has existed, I have received one of those. The queue was created on July 5, 2006.)
  • The most notable feature added to their website is that now they tell you which of the items in your queue they apparently do not have in their inventory.

As you can see I’m still not particularly happy with the service, but I think it would be far more trouble to cancel my 1 year prepaid membership than to continue to track how well they are doing and maybe satisfy my curiosity about whether they actually have any Xbox 360 games at all or not.

It wasn’t meant to be funny. Probably.

Michael J. Nelson from the now gone MST3K has a new gig, but doing the same old thing. RiffTrax are audio commentaries that you play on your portable media player while watching a particular movie.

It’s not _quite_ an original idea, since it is basically like the commentary podcast that is put up for Battlestar Galactica episodes. The differences are two-fold: These won’t end up on the movie DVD, and in theory they’re funny.

Still, it’s a good enough reason to put “Road House”, the only track available right now, in my Netflix queue. Given the way the poll on their site is going however, it looks like “The Matrix” may just be next.

(Found on Paul Thurrott’s personal blog)

A Tale of Two DVD Rental Services

Back in April I procured an Xbox 360, and decided that instead of paying the exorbitant amount of money for single games that I would sign up for a rental service that would, in the end, be cheaper. I’ve been a member of Netflix for several years and find that it works really very good, except that they do not have games.

I looked around and finally decided on Intelliflix for 2 reasons: They were cheaper than everyone else by a few dollars, and they also had movies including an entire class of videos that Netflix doesn’t carry.

Before I get to my experience with Intelliflix, you should know how Netflix has been working for me. I’ve been on the 3-out plan for several years. When I finish with a movie and put it in a mailbox, they receive it the next day and ship the replacement movie, and I receive the new movie in the mail the second day. On very rare occasions (probably 4 or 5 times a year) it will take up to 5 days to receive a replacement, and even then only 3 or 4 instead of 5. I’ve probably sent back 6 movies that were unplayable for various reasons and only ever had 1 that was broken on arrival. In short, it has been well worth the monthly subscription and I heartily recommend it to anyone. It’s great.

I think the best thing that I can say about Intelliflix so far, is that it does not cost quite as much as Netflix. It takes a minimum of 9 days turn around after putting an envelope into the mail to get something new, and in the 2 months since I started my membership I have received exactly 1 game title and that wasn’t even an Xbox 360 title. The opportunity to view so much, ahem, alternative cinema has been nice but it is not the primary reason that I signed up for their service and I’m starting to get annoyed.

Their website is slow, poorly designed, exceedingly buggy, and really likes IE best. The ratings system is a chore and barely functional. The queue display and interaction is infuriating. They do have one nice feature in that I can mark one of my movies as “in the mail” so they can send out a new item early, but even then it takes up to 3 days (not including weekends) for the next item to be shipped! If they had a decent distribution system in place they would not even need that feature in order to make their system at least somewhat tolerable.

It is possible that if you live within 1 day mail turn around of Framingham, MA you will have a better experience with their service, since as far as I can tell that’s where they keep most of their movie stock. The closest distribution center I have seen so far is in Michigan. Anyone living outside of the Eastern Time Zone, as far as I can tell, is completely out of luck for reasonable service.

At this point I’ve decided to give them another month to see if things improve, and somewhat purely out of curiosity to see if I _ever_ receive an Xbox 360 game, but I am reasonably confident I’ll be cancelling at that point. If you are looking for a service, I would suggest looking elsewhere first.

If anyone has had better service from GameFly or any of the other services that rent games, I’d be glad to hear about it.

I finally saw AI last night. I have recently decid…

I finally saw AI last night. I have recently decided to give Netflix a try, and figured this would be the best way to see a few movies I just haven’t gotten around to. Sure enough, I had it 2 weeks before I got around to watching it, but I think it was worth the wait.

Overall, I did enjoy the movie though I think that I have to agree with just about everyone else that I’ve heard espouse an opinion about it in that I think the last 15 minutes could be just left off and it would be a far better movie. The featurette that was on the DVD kept on insisting that Spielberg didn’t really do much to the script, except change everything, and I do have to wonder if that entire sequence wasn’t his work.

But it was good. Overall, very good.