It’s Not TV, It’s…Well Now It’s Basically Just TV

HBO’s next year will be ‘like childbirth,’ AT&T media CEO tells employees – The Verge

The bigger picture seems to be that Stankey is talking about turning HBO into more of a direct Netflix competitor — something that doesn’t just focus on prestige content, but also includes a wider variety of shows and movies for people to watch. Stankey said HBO needs to get people watching for “hours a day” instead of “hours a week.”

This is one of those situations where it’s hard to tell if I’m just wanting things to be how they have always been or if I am right to be concerned.

HBO and Netflix are different beasts today, and AT&T seems to want to make them more alike. Not by pressuring Netflix to be more like HBO, mind you, but by making HBO do all the changing. This isn’t bad on the face of it, I love Netflix, but it seems like it would be taking HBO away from one of its core draws: quality.

For over a decade, HBO’s tagline was “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO.” The company was able to create shows that had content the networks simply couldn’t show, but it also rode on a business model that rewarded quality over quantity. If HBO gets to the point where they are creating “hours” of content people will watch every day, then there simply isn’t a way for them to keep up that quality standard.

Here’s an easy way to put it: when I new show hits Netflix, I only even look at it if the title, poster, or actors draw me in. I ignore most shows that Netflix releases. They have so much content that most of it if pretty average. There are plenty of gems in there, but the fact alone that a show is made by Netlix is not an indicator that it is a good show. When a new show comes to HBO I will research it and watch trailers and more than likely at least watch the premiere episode. I do that because the hit rate for their shows is just so damn high. If it’s on HBO, it intrinsically has cleared a certain par in terms of quality and production values. I won’t love them all, but there’s a really good chance I’ll like it.

I hope that HBO continues to create great television and I hope that this time next year I am still a happily paying subscriber. AT&T has me a little on edge right now, though.

The Mental Burden of Voice Interfaces

9to5Toys has a review of the Amazon Fire Cube and this bit stood out to me:

In theory, having complete voice control over your home theater feels like the way of the future. Siri and Apple TV have dabbled lightly in this area when it comes to surfacing content, and eliminating the need to dig through various services to find that episode of Seinfeld. But while voice control sounds like a fun venture, it is decidedly not after evenings of calling out to Alexa.

After a while, I found that I was more comfortable using the included remote than my voice.

I’m a big fan of voice assistants, and I think they’re a big piece of where computing platforms are going in the future.

That said, the hesitance I have around voice as a primary interface for everything is very similar to my concerns with chatbots a few years ago. Chatbots were a cool implementation of technology, but they simply didn’t make sense for everything. The big miss is in regards to browsing for content.

If I know exactly what I want to do, voice interfaces are great! “Turn on the living room lights” and “watch season 3 episode 15 of Superstore” work great, but a visual interface is far better for browsing for things.

Some things we do on our devices is intentional and some of it is passive. I can buy things from Amazon or tweet with my voice today, and that is all very cool. But I also like to scroll through Twitter to see what people are saying, and I like to browse Amazon sometimes even if I’m not shopping for something specific. Voice inputs simply don’t do well for these types of experiences.

For a species that prioritizes visual stimulus in almost everything we do, it’s a little unrealistic for anyone to suggest voice-only is the future. I’m a big fan of voice interfaces, but it’s just a piece of the puzzle.

The Apple Watch Continues to Transform the Watch Industry

Why Men Are Wearing Watches That Don’t Tell Time – WSJ

With smartphones practically glued to our palms at all times and smartwatches muscling in, traditional timepieces are just no longer as vital as they once were in any practical sense. Fears among watch execs that the Apple Watch, introduced in 2015, would snatch up wrist real estate were confirmed in the fourth quarter of 2017 when industry researcher Canalys and IDC reported that Apple sold more watches than the entire Swiss watch industry combined. Ramsey Hidmi, 28, who works in asset management in Boston, said that few people he knows wear a watch at all, “and if they do, it’s an Apple Watch.” An outlier among them, Mr. Hidmi straps on a 12-year-old Rolex that he inherited from his father. Not that he ever bothers to set the time. “It’s an heirloom piece,” said Mr. Hidmi.

I totally get that for some people watches are just a fashion piece and not something used for any practical purpose. As someone who likes to have the time on their wrist, it seems a little crazy to me, but I appreciate it even if I don’t personally empathize with it.

I never found a watch that I thought really looked good on me, and I hated how increasingly impractical watches tended to get as they got more and more expensive. Finding a watch that looked great when I was dressed up was different from the watch I would wear day-to-day, which was different from the watch I would wear while working out. The Apple Watch’s ability to look good in all those situations is a major selling feature for me, and one that I don’t think about that often. It’s water resistant and light so I can wear it when I work out, it’s practical and well made enough to wear through a normal day, and it can be dressed up nicely to look good in my best suit as well. No, it’s not the most stylish watch ever made, but I think it looks good and earns bonus points for working well in many levels of dress and activity.

Maybe one day I’ll convert to wearing a fancy watch (which doesn’t even need to tell the time, apparently) but I really don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Using Apple News to Its Full Potential

Back in the fall I started to have an issue with Apple News. I went from seeing hundreds of readers per day to almost zero. I couldn’t figure it out for a long time, and I had just assumed that I no longer satisfied the desires of the Apple News algorithm. Despite seeing literally zero hits on some days, I still kept auto-posting to Apple News.

Then Eric Young reached out to me on Twitter to let me know that there was a problem with my channel. See, I use a WordPress extension to post my stuff to Apple News and it had been working great for a couple years, but apparently iOS 11 made something not work quite right and my posts weren’t getting assigned “categories” on Apple News.

I tried my best, but the nothing solved my problem until the dev updated the plugin1. Everything seems to be working right now, thank god.

But since none of my posts on Apple News were getting in front of people, I turned off the auto-publish feature of the plugin. Since I was getting essentially zero traffic from Apple News, it didn’t make any difference at all to me, but I was a little bummed by not posting somewhere that I knew at least some people read my work.

Even after the recent update that fixed the issue I was having, I still don’t have auto-publish turned on, though. I was reminded that Apple News is not the same as a blog. A blog in the traditional sense is something people go to on a regular basis. Your understanding of one thing I post is informed by the other things I have written in the past. That’s not generally how Apple News works.

As such, I have kept auto-publish turned off and am now manually determining when an article is worth posting to Apple News. It’s not all the time, it’s more often when I have something I feel is worth sharing with a wider audience. This is not always the case with things I post to this site. Because this is a blog, sometimes I post personal things here or smaller things that I have no intention of “going viral” and those posts just belong on the blog.

I shall do my best to publish things promptly to Apple News for those who follow me there (and for those rare times I “crack the algorithm”), but it’s going to be a conscious choice from now on, not the default. A blog is not an Apple News channel, and I think I finally understand that.

  1. The issue revolved around my posts not having a category assigned to them. Since they didn’t have a category, Apple News didn’t know what to classify them as, so they were never in the trending sections of the service and they’d never be suggested to readers after finishing other articles. 

Sharing Shortcuts with Sharecuts (that makes sense, right?)

Sharecuts is a new site from Guilherme Rambo where people are able to share their custom Shortcuts for the world to use. There are currently only a few shortcuts there, and you currently have to request access to upload your own shortcuts, but it just opened up today and is sure to grow.

Gui was kind enough to let me in and I have thus far shared one of my shortcuts. It’s a photo-a-day text generator that I use to share my daily photos1. I may have overdone it a little with it, but it should be future-proofed and will even account for leap years.

  1. At least I did when I was doing those consistently.