Offline viewing: How Netflix’s hand was forced

Last month, Netflix hinted at (finally!) reversing its position on users downloading videos from its content library. It must’ve been a difficult decision to make, especially as back in 2014 the streaming giant went as far as saying that offline viewing was “never going to happen.”

It was a peculiar choice at the time, and looking back at it two years later it still seems odd. Lots of other big players, including Amazon Prime, have given subscribers the ability to store films and TV shows locally on their devices for a while now.

It’s become a well received approach for working around restrictive data usage caps or a lack of mobile internet connectivity and is especially useful during air travel or with devices that rely on Wi-Fi exclusively. Yet, until recently, Netflix remained steadfast on its decision not to do this – a strange choice indeed.

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BBC Three: An example of how not to approach social media

BBC Three is in an interesting place right now. Its recent shift to online-only has attracted a lot of criticism from big players in the industry and it’s not yet clear whether the broadcaster’s gamble has paid off.

Personally, I think it’s a good move. But regardless of whether it’s a success in the age of YouTube and Facebook Video, it’s certainly one of the more interesting moves from a traditional broadcaster at a time when others in the industry are still struggling to adapt to today’s on-demand world. This is particularly important given BBC Three’s target audience, which is highly relevant to the story I’m about to tell you.

BBC Three has always attracted younger viewers. It’s home to 16-34 year-olds – undoubtedly a large driver behind the decision to take BBC Three off the air and move it online.

Viewers in this age bracket tend to lean towards bite-sized and on-demand content. It’s the Netflix generation; a section of society discovering new things to watch through YouTube and VoD services rather than linear broadcast schedules, which BBC Three’s new approach delivers.

So, to try and push its new online-only identity, and to get that 16-34 year-old audience on board with the move, BBC Three’s social media accounts have been given a new lease of life. BBC Three’s Twitter profile, in particular, seems to be run by a set of people who are trying to be “down with the kids.”

That’s all well and good, and I understand why the BBC is doing this. It’s looking to cement the value in its online-only decision and help rally support by pushing harder than usual to engage its target viewer base over social media.

Still, that’s no excuse for this (tweet, right):BBC Three's UFC social media mistake

Whoever’s running the BBC Three Twitter account has since deleted the post. Judging by the lack of uproar, I assume it was taken down rather quickly before too many people saw it.

But I did, and because 1. it’s horrendous (and flies in the face of the BBC’s values), and 2. is a great example of the importance all brands should place on how they choose to communicate publicly, I’ve taken the decision to preserve it on this blog.

There’s a lesson for all of us here; be careful what you post on social media – particularly if you’re the BBC working hard to drive engagement during a crucial transitional period for a key part of your brand.

Getting serious about online security

Apple’s iCloud service suffered a high-profile hack in August last year, pushing online privacy and data security to the forefront of people’s minds. Since then we’ve seen lots of big names hit the headlines, including cheating website Ashley Madison and the holy trinity of press release distribution services – Marketwired, PR Newswire, and Business Wire.

While Ashley Madison’s users are still waiting (nervously, no doubt) to see if their personal data will crop up online, information from the three press release wires was used over a period of several months to help corrupt traders make millions of dollars by acting on information from listed companies before it became public. Hacking is evidently big business.

But it’s not just the big boys being targeted. There’s been a lot of smaller scale hacks in the past 18 months, too. Kickstarter was breached in February 2014 and, somewhat ironically, security software firm BitDefender admitted having user data stolen in July of this year. More recently, the literary community Wattpad was targeted.

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August’s Kickstarter pledge – SunPort

This month’s Kickstarter pledge is SunPort. It’s raised $50,000 from 700 backers, needs another $25k to succeed, and has 18 days to do it. Seems feasible, unless you consider data collected by investment company Elephants&Ventures to be accurate.

Elephants&Ventures has a lot of experience in supporting and advising start ups taking the crowd sourcing route. Last year, co-founders Alexis Houssou and Barbara Belvisi gave a rundown on launching a Kickstarter campaign, and number six on their 10-point checklist is relevant to most of the pledges I’ve made to date.

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June’s Kickstarter pledge – Crowdfunding the Greek bailout

“Let’s just get Greece sorted.”

Thom Feeney came up with the idea of crowdfunding the Greek bailout towards the end of June. He reckoned if every EU resident donated €3 – or the price of a pint  – Greece could pay back its debt. And, amazingly, it seems to be working.

At the time of writing, over 72,000 backers from 167 different countries have pledged almost €1.3 million between them. According to stats from IndieGoGo, the Greek bailout campaign is attracting donations at a rate of $23,000 an hour with the UK, Germany, and France leading the way when it comes to the highest number of contributors.

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May’s Kickstarter pledge – Giving Apple the middle finger with Hub+

I’m conflicted about Apple’s new Macbook. One the one hand, I love the design. The new keyboard looks great and so does the screen. The form factor is exactly what I’m looking for in a laptop. In fact, if we’re judging this from a purely aesthetic point of view, I could quite happily replace my existing Macbook Air with a new Macbook tomorrow.

But on the other hand, Apple has once again rubbed me up the wrong way by making things unnecessarily complicated, this time by introducing a new port.

Yes, I’m talking about USB-C. And, yes, I know it’s a universal standard and not another firewire fiasco (Apple users really have been burned in the past). But no matter how you slice it, the decision to only include one USB port on a premium laptop, USB-C or otherwise, is inexcusable. What makes this worse is that Apple’s answer to the problem – a range of expensive adapters – is nothing short of laughable.

That’s why this month’s Kickstarter pledge (Hub+) is an essential purchase for all new Macbook owners.

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Texting: stop and think about what you’re saying

I’ve been getting into TED talks a lot recently. Today, this presentation from John McWhorter caught my eye. It’s about the modern use of words and how texting isn’t, contrary to popular belief, killing the English language because it’s more representative of speech than writing.

At 5:01, John says: “texting is very loose in its structure. No one thinks about capital letters or punctuation when one texts.” He then goes on to describe texting as “fingered speech,” exploring the idea of writing in the way we talk.

But John’s wrong. I think about capital letters when texting. I also consider full stops, sentence structure, and avoiding repeated words. In fact, when it comes to texting, I go the distance, and I can’t be the only one.

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April’s Kickstarter pledge – Unlock your front door with “Open Sesame”

Considering my love for the latest gadgets and the amount of money I spend on them, my home is stuck in the technological dark ages. Although it may be hard to believe, especially coming from me, I’m not convinced everything needs an internet connection. Which is why you won’t find a bluetooth-enabled kettle or an intelligent lighting system in my house.

My fridge works just fine without Wi-Fi and, somehow, I remember to empty the washing machine after it’s run without a text message reminder. It’s inevitable that at some point all household appliances will be controllable via my smartphone, and, yes, I’ll probably be grateful for it in the distant future when tech has become incomprehensibly complicated. But until that day comes I’m more than happy going without.

Where smart technology could help, however, is for actually getting into my house. There’s something to be said about the idea of a smart lock, being able to forego keys and use my phone instead – like Sesame, which is April’s Kickstarter pledge of choice.

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Whose live stream is it anyway?

Whose live stream is it anyway?

About eight years ago, while still at secondary school, I was hooked on the idea of creating YouTube content for a living. I set up a gaming channel where I’d include live audio commentary (in the sense that I would talk at the same time as capturing the game footage, it wasn’t recorded afterwards) or post-edit my face, via webcam, into the corner of the video to add that human aspect. It’s quite common now, less so back then.

My YouTube channel did pretty well. In less than six months I’d gathered up 2,000 subscribers and around 400,000 views. I’d started to see value in monetising videos through AdSense and had clocked up about 50 quid as a result of my efforts.

But then I packed it all in.

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