Blog Posts

Netlfix "Qwik"ley Drops the Ball

A look at some of the recent Netflix policy changes, reversals, and fumbles in this new era of streaming media.
Netlfix "Qwik"ley Drops the Ball

Netflix #Fail

About a year ago I wrote a blog about Cloud TV and praised Netflix for paving the way to the future of television. Today I write to say that the good news is Cloud TV is here to stay but Netflix isn't the reason. Netflix has become their own worst enemy and if they are not careful, will lose everything they worked so hard for. On the bright side, 2011 has been filled with new services that makes cloud entertainment even more exciting. Here is a look at Netflix's pending demise and also some of the exciting new things that have come to life since last year.

Netflix Demise

After seeing over a million subscribers walk away and losing half of it's market share since July, Netflix has decided to not spin out its physical disc business to Qwikster as announced via email about 3-4 weeks back. I do not have a clue who Reed Hastings had helping him with his decision making but whoever it is should have their head examined. In July of 2011, they raised their prices, poorly communicated it, and then apologized. In September of 2011, they announced they are spinning off their physical disc business to Qwikster which would require users to manage their subscriptions from two seperate websites and today they announced they are not going through with it. In addition, the product has not gotten any better and their downtime and support are less then stellar. The only thing that they have to keep them above water at this point is the 20,000 plus titles they offer via their streaming product. I was always of the opinion that if Apple got into this market they could put Netflix to bed but until then, they had nothing in their way except themselves. Well they got in their own way. Now even Blockbuster has a heartbeat.

The Rise of the Departed

The Netflix failures brought great opportunity from the competition. The likes of Amazon, Blockbuster, and Hulu are all making strides to gain marketshare. Blockbuster recently signed a streaming deal with the Dish Network that offers streaming content for $10 a month. Unfortunately this is only for Dish Network clients but Blockbuster promises this will be offered to everyone soon enough. Not great but a step in the right direction. Hulu recently announced that the premium subscription service Hulu Plus will soon amount to over half of the company's revenue which by all indications means people like it and are willing to spend the money. Lastly and maybe most importantly, Amazon released the Kindle Fire and is offering their streaming service with it which has over 11,000 titles. In addition, Amazon announced a deal with 20th Century Fox to stream its content. Netflix still has more titles and deals with Dreamworks and the Discovery Networks but its only a matter of time before these companies or another company offers more for less.

For the time being

As mentioned in my blog last year, the combo of iTunes and Netflix was keeping me happy but now I am starting to re-evaluate the entire situation and where I am going to spend those extra dollars for streaming content. I still think Netflix streaming is the best streaming product out there but I am ready to let go of the physical disc service. I will either rent from iTunes or maybe even go to Redbox. Yes, I said it, get in my car and drive to rent a movie. It only costs $1 and that they are everywhere so it's convienent and cheap and as soon as there is a better product that offers streaming and is on all my devices, I will be done with Netflix entirely.


I am still a firm believer that if Apple starts a streaming service like the above mentioned companies, they will win the marketshare but Netflix had such a good thing going that it blows my mind how they could make bad decisions one right after another and possibly ruin it all. At the end of the day, this is all good for the consumer. More competition drives innovation and costs down which is all we could ever ask for. I still don't have the one stop shop for all my entertainment needs but the future (still) looks promising.

Device Apathy

With the winter season before us and technology manufacturers pumping out new products, what do we want, and how does the cloud make it possible?
Device Apathy

So many options, but does it fundamentally matter?

Decisions... Decisions...

Windows 8. iPhone 4S and iOS5. Android Ice Cream Sandwich. As the holiday season rapidly approaches, the technology industry is pumping out new operating systems and devices for us to mull over. The choices are hard because there is so much riding on the right answer; will Aunt Jeannine get the new iPhone? What about that annoying cousin, will he get a speedy laptop? The fun answer: functionally, it doesn't matter.

With all the development that has happened in the past year with the apps and HTML5, almost any device imaginable is capable of handling the tasks that you complete on a daily basis. This is true of people that work for firms with loose mobile device policies and for everyday consumers. All of this is possible because of the cloud and work from developers.

Cloud Equalizers

Don't believe me? Let's start with email. Every device has the capability to check email, from the "dumb" phone's WAP web browser to a smartphone's email client, and the 10 year old struggling XP desktop to the newest quad-core laptop. Almost every widely-used email service has created a mobile version of their site, or has instructions for configuring a standalone email client.

What's the next requirement? Let's say that it is a tie between composing documents and multimedia. Anyone with a Google, Yahoo, or Hotmail/Windows Live account can create, edit, and collaborate using either Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365 (look back to Episode 50 of the podcast to get our take on Office 365).

As for media, there is Google Music, Spotify, Rhapsody, and Zune to satisfy audiophiles, and Hulu+, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video for movie lovers. I personally use four of these services on multiple devices and I haven't opened iTunes for over three weeks.

Tools Not Toddlers

All of this talk about things working on web browsers and multiple platforms leads me to my long-winded point: it doesn't particularly matter whether you get a PC or Mac, an Android phone or the iPhone. These products are interchangeable for how we use them, and if we pick the right apps or services, they could work on each of these and sync. It is all possible with cloud power, and allows us to be device apathetic.

I know there's at least one reader that's still not convinced, so I'm going to use my Marc Benioff card. At Dreamforce, Benioff demonstrates how Salesforce and Chatter work on every major platform through apps and HTML5. There are tons of options for being cross platform and cloudy for everyday consumers, so if you want to chat more about it or have comments regarding my post, feel free to comment on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ArkusInc or contact me via Twitter @RogerMitchell.

Tick Tock Timeline - Episode #63 of CloudFocus Weekly

Opening up the Weekly Review, what does touch.salesforce.com do to Unlimited, Facebook Timeline, Kindle FIre and do.com as well as our App Picks of the Week.
Tick Tock Timeline - Episode #63 of CloudFocus Weekly

Tick Tock Timeline - Episode #63

A Little Weekly Review Goes a Long Way

An indepth look at my the Getting Things Done weekly review process with some tips to help improve yours.
A Little Weekly Review Goes a Long Way

A Little Weekly Review Goes a Long Way

Two colliding forces shaped my blog post this week as my peers here at Arkus wanted me to share some GTD Weekly Review best practices coupled with answering a question on Quora about why people don't stick to GTD. As a long time GTD practitioner I thought a blog post could wrap up both answers into one as I am always looking to hone my craft.

Weekly Review in a Nutshell

If you are completely unfamiliar with David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) book or productivity principles, here is a little background. The Weekly Review is a core practice in GTD which is a carved out time, once a week, to capture all the outlier items and do a complete top to bottom maintenance check of your productivity system. It involves going over everything from calendars to projects, making sure there are no left over next actions (tasks) that slipped through. The real goal is to review everything that is meaningful in your life and trigger any left over items that than should be captured.

While that does sound like a lot, it is something that is made easier if you have followed some of the other principals in GTD like capturing everything into actionable projects and next actions as well as knowing when to do, defer, delegate, or delete any task during the week. The weekly review is the disk fragmentation of your life.

My Weekly Review

Over the years I have moved my weekly review from Mondays, to the weekend but ultimately landed on Friday morning as the sweet spot. The first tip is to actually schedule it in your calendar from one to two hours, so it is dedicated, locked off time. It might seem like a lot of time but I find it to be the most productive two hours a week.

My weekly review starts as a recurring project in OmniFocus (task management application by OmniGroup) that pops up on Thursday night, allowing for me to start some of the tasks a day early. It is due on Sunday giving my flexibility to push it into the weekend if my Friday gets out of control. While it is best to do it as one dedicated time, I have been known to pick away at it for 48hours before completing.

Below is my actual weekly review with how long it usually takes me to complete that task and some comments on what they mean.

  • Empty wallet (2 min) - Part of my collect phase, just get everything that has been stored in there out. It is usually mostly reciepts but a nice easy task to start it all out.
  • Get desk inbox to zero (20 min) - This is the physical inbox where I have put everything for an entire week from letters, junk mail, etc. I have one both at work and at home and is a GTD pillar.
  • Get OmniFocus inbox to zero (5 min) - If there is anything in there (usually not) I move them into projects or complete them.
  • Get mail inbox to zero (2 min) - I empty out a Mail.app smart folder I created called Inbox Zero that includes all emails I haven't read and make sure I am up to date. This gets done nightly, but I put it in here just to make sure and lead to the next one.
  • Empty flagged email folder (20 min) - This is usually the biggest task in my review, as it is mostly my "Virtual Inbox". I flag messages during the week and make sure this is empty during the weekly review. The idea here is to power through it, doing it, delegating it or adding it to OmniFocus to be done later.
  • Review Non Responded email folders (5 min) - A special Mail.app smart folder that is just every email that is from a human (filtered for automatic emails) that I haven't responded to in 10 days. This is a great way to make sure nothing slips through the other cracks.
  • Clear desktop (10 min) - Just to clear my physical desktop. Any papers or get processed and turned into projects or tasks.
  • Clean up desktop Inbox (2 min) - This is a folder on my computer desktop where I put stuff in while working on during the week. I go through it and make sure everything in there is still being worked on and usable.
  • Clean up desktop Outbox (2 min) - Same as above, but my Outbox on my computer desktop where I put things I email out a lot. Both of these are actually Dropbox alias folders.
  • Clean up Downloads folder (2 min) - Mostly delete things in there but make sure nothing slips through or has a task assigned to it.
  • Clean up Mail Downloads folder (2 min) - You would be amazed at the amount of stuff in there, but since I am pretty good at email this is just another check to make sure something didn't slip by.
  • Review Evernote (10 min) - I generally go over the last 10-15 notes in Evernote, making sure there is nothing in there that is a task or something I need to do. Usually I come up with a bunch of things that turn into tasks. On a longer Weekly Review I will go through all my notes (500+) which really is cleansing.
  • Review past calendar (10 min) - I go back 1-2 weeks usually in weekly view, but sometimes in daily view so I can focus on every item. I look over old meetings to make sure there is nothing I need to do from those meeting, any followups I might have missed. This usually brings up a lots of things to capture and throw into OmniFocus.
  • Review upcoming calendar (10 min) - Same thing as above, but now I am looking for things I need to prepare to do. This will generally get me to trigger new events to schedule, things to add to an agenda or emails off to people to remind them about upcoming tasks.
  • Review on hold projects for review (10 min) - A special Perspective I have in OmniFocus that pops a new window for me to review projects that are on hold. I might delete some or activate others.
  • Review pending projects (10 min) - Same thing as above but now pending projects which are ones that have a start date in the future. I mostly glance over these, but again looking for things that will trigger to dos, other projects, etc. I might see one and add a few things to it while reviewing.
  • Review stalled projects (10 min) - This is an OmniFocus filter of projects with no tasks (action items). Great way to find things that need a next step (remember every project should have a next step, even if that is waiting for something).
  • Review waiting for list (5 min) - A special perspective on things I am waiting for. Mostly find things that I already got and triggers things I need to do. This is a great way to capture tasks that you have asked others to do.
  • Review agendas (5 min) - All my agendas with others such as business partners or my wife. It might spark an immediate conversation or an email if it is more urgent.
  • Review all active projects (25 min) - This is something I am doing day to day, but now looking at them from a "what am I missing" perspective.
  • Run stats & check for less than 100 current projects (3 min) - A special AppleScript that calulates how many projects I have in what categories. I am looking to see if I have too many projects on my plate. I defined Current Projects as the amount projects that are visible and active. Over the years I have found anything over 100 and I am swamped.
  • Review GTD guide (15 min) - This is optional review of David Allen's handout guide with tons of things in it that I do once every other month on one of those deeper weekly reviews.

 

5 Weekly Review Tips & Tricks

  • Don't skip it. If you have no time at all, at least do a shortened version which is to review projects and calendars after clearing out your inbox. A thirty minute weekly review is better than no weekly review.
  • Change your location: I find that if I head to a coffee shop or a park bench to do some of the "deeper" parts of the weekly review, it prompts new ideas and perspectives.
  • Don't do the work: This isn't a time to make 10 phone calls or update a spreadsheet, it is time to review the work, not do it. Use the 2 minute rule ( (If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it, otherwise capture it to do it later) to help keep you on track.
  • Plan it out: Write your own weekly review projects and make sure you can go through it step by step to get it done.
  • Practice makes almost perfection: I have done almost 300 weekly reviews and I am still honing my process.


Whether you are new to GTD or an old pro, I hope my opening up my weekly review process helps. Hit me on on Twitter (@JasonMAtwood) with your own thought so leave comments below.

Winter '12 Release Rapid Reaction

Here is a rapid reaction to the Salesforce.com Winter '12 release.
Winter '12 Release Rapid Reaction

Salesforce.com Winter '12 Logo

Coming off of a jam packed Dreamforce 11 comes a feature packed Winter '12 release of Salesforce.com's service. For the first time in about a year I felt as if I was reading a real release notes document as opposed to the past few releases which have been quite slim to say the least. Lots of new features and even some enhancements to core functionality that all of us Salesforce community members have been clamoring for. Without further adieu here are my five favorite Winter '12 features plus a few things that caught my eye as intriguing and/or confusing.

New Reports Tab - Winter '12 Favorite


The Reports tab gets a much needed facelift in the next release. With the new interface it is much easier to get to all your analytical needs from once place. The most notable difference is that you can both get to and create Reports AND Dashboards from this single tab - a bigtime productivity saver as well as an adoption booster. There are also searches and filters for report folders now and the page is far less intimidating when you first land on it - well done Salesforce. +1 for the core.

Dashboard Filters  - Winter '12 Favorite


Sticking with the analytics changes, the Dashboards tab also got an upgrade. There are now filters within each dashboard so that you can take the data from one dashboard and filter it by another criteria. This can potentially save administrators from having to build multiple dashboards to get to close to the same data. Imagine having to build 30 reports because someone wants 10 reports filtered 3 different ways for visualization on a dashboard - no more. Just add a data filter and away you go.

Permission Sets - Winter '12 Favorite


The Permission Sets feature is near and dear to my heart since I've been involved with it since the very beginning. I've also had the chance to roll it out in it's pilot phase as previewed on this very blog. In addition to that I was able to speak at a break out session called I Heart Permission Sets - A Deep Dive Into Profiles 2.0 at DF11. In short, Permission Sets allow administrators to grant much more granular permissions (Application and System) directly to users as an add-on to their existing profiles. Make sure to check-out the YouTube video of my Dreamforce 11 presentation linked above for a much deeper dive because you are sure to love this feature. Score another win for the core.

Chatter Approvals  - Winter '12 Favorite


If Chatter and Social are going to be the next paradigm in Enterprise systems then we better be able to run our complex business processes from within the same paradigm. With Chatter Approvals we finally get to start to systematically add structure to our use of Chatter. Say you need to get an approval to offer a discount for a certain Opportunity - well throw that request into the approval process and it will get picked up by Chatter then get an approval from a manager right within the Chatter feed.

File Sharing from Chatter Files - Winter '12 Favorite


This is one of those features that I'm not sure everyone will love but to me it's an important step in making Chatter into a real Sharepoint or Intranet killer. In an instant get a short URL to a Chatter File and be able to share that file easily. The less steps I have to take to share something the better and this new feature is sure to make it more efficient to share files with people.

Where Winter Missed the Mark


In my opinion there were two specific areas of question within the Winter '12 release where I just wasn't exactly sure what to make of the announced features (or in one case the omission of an announced feature).

To start, SiteForce seems like an extremely novel idea. Make it really simple for marketing folks to manage the content on their websites and publish their sites out to the web. The interface looks to be extremely slick and the upload feature of assets seems like it will be a real hit with non-technical users. The rub here is that it seemed as if you are going to have to purchase an additional license to use SiteForce. While nowhere in the release notes does it explicitly say that this is going to be a tack on service for a fee, it did make mention of contacting  your Salesforce rep for additional details on licensing which generally means if you want to use this, you are going to have to pay extra for it. Not exactly what I was looking for when I first saw this technology about a year ago at DF10.

The looming omission from the release notes that caught me by surprise was touch.salesforce.com. Where is Salesforce touch? I could have sworn that at DF11 @Benioff stood up on stage and told us that everything we saw was going to be available during Winter '12. Of course there is the big Safe Harbor Statement that warns us that anything we see may not come true but still, I was really expecting to see Touch in the Winter '12 notes. Perhaps it will be a maintenance release type of thing or an off to the side release, nonetheless I was a bit let down by the omission.

Back to Their Roots


As mentioned in my introduction I was getting sick and tired of 70 page release notes and I was extremely happy to see a meaty document that I could sink my teeth into. Salesforce even addressed a lot of long standing issues with the core while continuing to focus on new product innovation and integrating new features. I know I'm looking forward to Winter 12 hitting my production org.

For more info on the release schedule and when it will hit your instance make sure to go over to trust.salesforce.com. If you'd like to chat more with me about Winter '12 feel free to tweet me @justedelstein or hit us up on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arkusinc.