Archive for June, 2008

Update: Netflix Backs Down

I just received the following email:

Netflix saves profiles!

Hooray! Netflix listened to the “small” community of users that finds the Profile feature in Netflix to be essential to their enjoyment of the service. That’s fantastic. It’s nice to know that there’s at least one company out there that listens to and cares about what its customers think, regardless of how small.

Well done, Netflix!

Here’s a link to the official blog, just to confirm.

What a Crock: Netflix Removing Profile Feature

This one just gets my blood boiling.

I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for four years now, and I’ve loved it. My favorite feature quickly became the profile feature, allowing my wife and I to have separate profiles that allow us to have separate queues and rate movies separately. This is important to us, because we don’t have exacly the same taste in movies, but we enjoy using the recommendation system that Netflix has set up. It is pretty accurate in its predictions. We’ve found several excellent movies based on the recommendations. Then, last week, I received this email:

The infamous letter

When I got it, at first I thought it was a phishing scam. “There’s no way that Netflix would get rid of Profiles,” I thought to myself. I didn’t click on any links in the email for fear that it was some sort of scam, but went directly to the Netflix Website. Sure enough, it was all there, albeit buried in the “help” section. Netflix Profiles are going away as of September 1.

What’s more, if you’re a sub-user on an account, then you have to manually record your ratings that you’ve done for other movies, because there is no way to export them. That means that people like my brother-in-law, who has rated literally thousands of movies, has to do everything all over again, either on my sister’s account, or on a separate account of his own. That brings us to the crux of the matter.

Why exacly are they doing this? The email says that the change will help them “continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.” IMPROVE? How is taking away one of the best features of the entire system enabling improvement? I’ve read things all over the internet regarding this, including discussions of the fact that it’s an “advanced feature” that people don’t use enough. I love that line of thinking. Oh, it’s an advanced feature that only a certain set of people use. Let’s dumb down the system so that the ‘idiots’ aren’t confused by it! Give me a break.

My wife called Netflix up to complain about it, and she was told that they were “retiring old code,” and that was the reason that Profiles were going away. She told me this and I just about died laughing. That didn’t fly for her or for me. My wife’s response was, “I’ve worked in information technology my entire career. That answer doesn’t fly with me. You don’t just ‘retire’ code because it’s ‘old.’ ” Which is the truth. Unless you’re doing a platform shift, you don’t just retire old code. What’s more, if you do make a major software upgrade like that, you keep features that were preexisting in the system.

What’s more likely is that the Netflix people realized that they might be able to get a few more subscription dollars out of these people by eliminating profiles and requiring them to either use one account or get a separate account. That’s right, yet another user-friendly, customer-focused feature sacrificed on the alter of the almighty dollar. It’s the only explanation that makes any kind of sense at all. But what’s more, even if you do get a separate account, there’s no way to transfer your sub-Profile to the new account. If you have a lot of ratings on the sub-Profile, there’s nothing you can do but get screwed by Netflix. It’s insulting to me that they think they can explain it away as an “improvement” or “code retirement.” Sure, not everyone has knowledge of software development, but if it’s an “advanced feature” on web-related content, you can bet that at least a decent chunk of the user base that takes advantage of the feature will have an idea of the complete ridiculousness of the statement.

I’m fairly certain, though, that if they do go through with the plan of eliminating the feature, they will lose my business. I won’t get another account and we won’t start from scratch on our movie ratings on one profile. How could we, anyway? We don’t always agree on our movie ratings. What we will end up doing (Blockbuster?) is something that remains to be seen.

Well done, Netflix.

 
Links:
Official Netflix Blog
Indiscriminate Prose
Hacking Netflix
Don’t Touch Me
The Consumerist
Dave Talks Shop (good post from a software development perspective)
Save Netflix Profiles Petition
The Motley Fool

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, I’m a Schizophrenic, and So am I

Apparently my last post’s title (well, the title and first line) were more true than I thought (it was from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, by the way)! Last week and this week have been by far the busiest of the quarter; it has become evident that things are moving at a rapid pace towards finals. What a happy time of year! I don’t have any great overarching theme for this post, but figured I’d better put something up so that folks know I haven’t abandoned the project entirely.

Earlier this week, the Blizzard King posted his Somewhat Weekly Spring Starters Ping Pong Power Rankings in the student lounge at BLS. If you haven’t had the chance to see them, they’re worth a peek. He had me in stitches looking at them the night before. I’d reproduce them here, but I haven’t requested permission. Perhaps I’ll implore him to post them up on his blog or get permission to do so here. One or the other.

Last night, a friend of mine that is a BLS alum came into town and took me out to dinner. He hadn’t seen the new building; he graduated back when the Law School was on campus, in a building that is in no way attractive. It was fun to give him the tour of the school and show him some of the cool perks we have at the school. We really are lucky to have such great facilities, I think. Anyway, we went to the Elite Cafe for dinner. I spent five years here in undergrad, and this was the first time I’ve ever been. It wasn’t bad. Mostly it was great to catch up with my friend, who’s in town for a bench trial today.

About a year ago or so, I was surfing Youtube when I came across a glut of “recut” trailers. Essentially, some enterprising souls had taken clips from various movies and edited them into a trailer that changes the genre of the movie altogether. Ever think there was something a little “off” about Mary Poppins? Something a little “funny” about the guys in Top Gun? Well, other people thought so too, and they put together movie trailers to show what they thought those movies were really about. I’ll leave you with one of my favorites.

So Much Time, So Little to Do!

Hold on a second… Strike that, reverse it.

We’ve hit that portion of the quarter where the work picks up significantly. Memo writing for LARC. Continued case reading for class (or increased, depending on the class). Outlining and review becomes increasingly important on a daily basis. Stress levels start rising. We are officially less than a month away from our first final exam of the Second quarter. It’s all on now.

But I still find myself compelled to watch the U.S. Open playoff (Tiger just won), and still drawn to UEFA Euro 2008 coverage as well, especially after yesterday’s thrilling finale in the Czech Republic vs. Turkey match. Thankfully, they’re moving out of the group rounds after Wednesday, which will mean that the tournament gets more intense, but there are fewer games to keep tabs on.

The rumor has been circulating for a few days that Prof. Torts will finish grading exams today. Today the rumor also began circulating that Prof. CivPro will also complete our grading. Now, does that mean that grading is completed today, or that we should expect to get our grades back today? What’s more, are there any truth to the rumors? Prof. K substantiated them today, saying that we were “24-48 hours” away from getting our grades. That would seem to give credence to the thought that while the grading may be finished today, we won’t get them until tomorrow or Wednesday. There’s nothing to do but wait and focus on the next assignment.

Last post’s quote title was from the quintessential ’80’s flick Better Off Dead, starring John Cusak. If you haven’t seen it (that means you, entire Second Quarter), rent it and watch it. It’s hilarious.

I’ve Been Going to This High School for Seven and a Half Years! I’m No Dummy!

It’s Friday! What does that mean? Well, nothing special, really. It’s just one of those things that we always get excited about. It’s like a magical word that once uttered, leaves you with a sense of excitement, anticipation, and hope. The drudgery of the week is nearly over, replaced by the sweet carefree bliss of the weekend. Ah, if that were only the case. My weekend looks to be one of travel, books, and Shepardization (well, not really, I’ve done most of my Shepardizing).

I have several thoughts rolling around in my head today, none of which are yet complete enough to be worthy of an independent blog post. One may be coming to that, but I might tease you with it anyhow.

The Middle Finger of WacoFirst up: I’ve added a new blog to the links side, Alico Dreams. I’ve been reading it for awhile through my Google Reader setup (I love the Drop-down RSS feeder link button in Firefox), but realized today that I hadn’t yet added it to my links. It’s a great read. At any rate, the reference is to the tallest building in Waco, which, at one time was the tallest building west of the Mississippi. A quote attributed to Waco native Steve Martin (though also to Bob Hope, and possibly a sham altogether) states that the Alico building stands alone, flipping off the rest of Waco. I hadn’t thought of that in years. Regardless, the blog is excellent, check it out.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued its opinion on Boumediene v. Bush, granting habeas corpus rights to detainees designated as “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo bay. Article I § 9 of the Constitution ensures habeas corpus rights: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Some are trumpeting the decision as a victory of habeas corpus, while others are unhappy with the decision (including President Bush, but that’s no shock to anyone). Even the court was sharply divided, with Boumediene being a 5-4 decision. While it has been my assumption that the Constitution secures the rights of U.S. Citizens only, I’m going to have to do more research on the matter. The opinion is rather lengthy at 134 pages (with Chief Justice Roberts writing a 28-page dissent and Scalia serving up a 25-page dissent), but I suppose I will be reading it in my “breaks” over the next couple of days. If you want to read it, you can download it here (thank you SCOTUS Blog).

I know for certain that I disagree with my associate, WK (another blogger I need to come up with a nickname for, since he can’t be Catfish or Paddles any longer), who in this post lists some quotes from elected officials decrying the ruling, calling them “blowhards” for disagreeing. Sure, some of the comments posted are a bit on the extreme (lawyers accompanying Marine rifle teams? Really?), but at least one of them seems fairly rational, at least given my preconception of the situation mentioned above. In his dissent, Justice Scalia references several detainees released by the military from Guantanamo, including this one that participated in a suicide bombing that killed seven Iraqi security forces. At any rate, my thoughts on the topic aren’t fully developed yet, so I’ll refrain from speaking further on the matter for the time being. It’s a topic I hope to be able to pursue with some free time, if I can find some available.

The Left Wall ScrivenerHave you ever looked at the bricks on the way into the law school, or any other place where they have the “dedication bricks?” Yesterday I was walking into the law school and noticed the brick pictured here. I kept walking into the school, then stopped, turned around, and took a snapshot of it with my camera. It made me wonder who “The Left Wall Scrivener” is. Is it a nickname? Some inside joke that a Baylor Lawyer had with his friends back in school? Something that is so patently obvious that I should know about it already (surely not, even a cursory Google check revealed nothing obvious). I’d like to think that it was a nickname held by a Baylor Lawyer, and anyone who knew this person would see the brick and instantly be transported back to their Law School days, smile, and remember with fondness the blood they shed with “The Left Wall Scrivener” in Practice Court. Each one of those bricks has a history, each one a story to tell. From time to time, as I find one that is interesting, I think I will post about it.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this bit. Wednesday’s title quote was from V For Vendetta, a great movie with some excellent dialogue. The introduction speech from it is classic. I found an interesting “typography” video of it, so I’ll leave you with that for today. Happy Friday!

Euro 2008: Synchronized Soccer!

The UEFA Euro 2008 tournament is in full swing, with some teams already having played two games in the group round. Yesterday in Basel, Turkey defeated Switzerland 2-1 in a match highlighted by some of the most intense rain I’ve seen in competition. The pitch was so watered down that it was past the slick phase and into the “enormous puddles that stop every ball” phase. It’s clearly evident on the replay of the first goal, scored by the Swiss. Check it out, they were practically swimming.

Words Will Always Retain Their Power.

(In case you didn’t know, yesterday’s quote/title was from the movie Dave.)

Back in the first quarter, something Prof. CivPro said while getting onto someone for not being as precise with their words stuck with me. “Words matter.” He was a stickler for this, and repeated the phrase several times throughout the quarter. It has become somewhat of a mantra for the early quarters of law school. In Property, even a single word out of place can drastically change the conveyance granted by a deed or a will. In LARC, you’ll have to correct your Research Assignment or you might lose points on your next Memo. Using the wrong words while defining mens rea in CrimLaw nets you a loud buzz noise from Prof. CrimLaw. Or, you’ll just feel silly, like me today.

Today we were talking about the distinction between mistake of fact and mistake of law, and when mistake of law is a defensible position. Ultimately, it came to when ignorance of a law negated the mens rea, mistake of law is a valid defense; though not just because “they didn’t know the law,” but because they lacked the mens rea necessary for there to even be a crime. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse when the government can establish all of the elements of a crime. “I didn’t know that crime existed” isn’t a valid defense. Anyway, Prof. CrimLaw had put two examples up on the board, then asked me why “I didn’t know that was a law” was not a defense. I said something to the effect of, “He did the act, he knew that he was doing it, so the elements are still satisfied.” I wasn’t articulate enough, though, because he wasn’t satisfied. What I was trying to get at, and what I should have said, was “Even if someone says that, they still performed the actus reus and possessed the necessary mens rea for the crime in question.” But, I didn’t.

It’s an illustration of what I was talking about earlier; words do matter, especially in this profession. Precision is important, especially in those situations where one word misplaced can completely change your intended meaning. I appreciate this. While I still need to work on my own precision and preparation, I appreciate the power that precise words have in law school. They definitely affect your grade in LARC, as less precision in memos nets lower grades. They affect classes; the less precise someone is with their words in class, the more time the class spends on the specific topic and the less efficient the class is overall. And, at the very least, you’ll avoid the Prof. CrimLaw buzzer.