Why trying to create your own Netflix makes strategic sense – if you can afford it

For a while now, several networks have been making waves for their plans to create their own Netflix. Disney has been the latest and more significant addition to the list.

It certainly can look like the beginning of an arms race. Which would by definition be stupid. Millions about to be buried in re-inventing the wheel a couple dozen times, only to see the market fall down to only a handful of viable streaming services, all in a few years timeframe.

I’ve read different takes on this. Why it can be bad for users, why it can be not as bad for Netflix as people may think now (I agree). But, what about the other companies trying to become streaming giants now? I think they may have a point.

With this multi-million-dollar stakes, you can never rule out a dumb move by ill-informed executives or some big shot trying to impress somebody. It happens. A lot.

But I refuse to look at it this way. Not this time. There have been a lot of talented people thinking about this. It could really be the best move for any company that can afford it. Even knowing that chances to be viable long-term are very limited.

Although I could be wrong, here are two ways it could end up, and both would be worth the hassle:

  1. Only 1-3 big players survive – all in industry bury millions for the chance of being one of those few surviving marketplaces. 

    Why would it make sense? Because whoever owns the marketplace (that’s the keyword) controls fees and gets a bite of every transaction. Ask Apple if it’s worth it. And, of course, the chance to actually see new marketplaces arise decreases with a market’s maturity. So the time would be now.

  2. We end up with 100 streaming services but all are pay per view apps in your smart tv, no fixed fees.

    My money is on option 1 and it makes strategical sense at least for Disney, maybe not so much the other networks. But simplification of micro payments may well establish a scenario like this number 2 in which the user would ultimately win, as anyone would get unlimited access to all catalogs with no upfront payment.

As this article in TechCrunch noted, simplicity of offering will help curb piracy so I really think either one of these two options will be the eventual outcome. Because the alternative would be a rise in piracy and/or pure user churn out. So, in the end, the two scenarios I’m describing are the two most likely because it makes financial sense for all the players involved. The question is just when and how.

Let’s talk about this again in 5 years, shall we.

Advertisements
Why trying to create your own Netflix makes strategic sense – if you can afford it

Automating your GTD flow… If you’re on a Mac

I recently switched computers again and now any working environment is 100% Apple iPhone 6 and MacBook Air).

Also I was assigned a new Coca-Cola corporate e-mail that means working with Exchange so I’m tied to Outlook for Mac to make the most of it (like being able to share my availability and check the availability of others before setting up meetings). I love Office in general: nothing comes close to it if you need to be completely compatible with everyone else’s docs and honestly Excel and Word are both great products. Keynote vs PowerPoint could be more tied but then again ppt is widespread so converting back and forth will always eventually lead to trouble and PowerPoint is very good product on its own. All of them fairly powerful in their latest Mac incarnation too, except for Outlook. I miss folder rules and macros so my solution to automate workflows as much as I can has been to rely on Keyboard Maestro macros. KM is a great value for money on a Mac, and you can use it with other tools such as Automator and AppleScript to get real automation power. I have KM macros plus Outlook general account rules to earmark messages or make sure they are in the right folders / with the right tags.
Evernote for Mac is great and still my main note-taking and info warehouse solution. And  being on a Mac opens the temptation to switch to Things or Omnifocus as GTD apps. I’m sticking with Nirvana for now because of best pricing and because I hope the promised Mac desktop app will add offline working support and AppleScript. All this would counter the most obvious advantages than native Mac programs such as Things or Omnifocus offer. But if you are on a Mac, make no mistake, those two should be on your shortlist: a breeze to use, good design, solid features for your flow.
But for now I’m on Evernote plus Outlook plus Nirvana. And both the lack of macros for Outlook and the excess of to-dos in Evernote made me explore options for automation with AppleScript.
Enter AppleScript
If you don’t know what it is, AppleScript is a native OS scripting language. It’s main advantage is that it’s pretty simple to learn and read — it’s a pseudo-code-like language, think python… and it’s pretty powerful to automate pretty much everything on your Mac applications. This pretty much depends on the extent of Applescript support that each app wants to include, but many include at least a ‘good enough’ one so you can effectively control your programs through coding. Which is great in combination with other Mac programs such as Automator (free with OS) and the excellent Keyboard Maestro — a program that would automate most interface and menu selections in any program, and it can also run an Applescript as part of a flow, or through a hotkey combination or at a given time.
All in all, Applescript can give you extra firepower for automation of processes and avoiding manual work.
Problems I solved with Applescript (sometimes in combination with Keyboard Maestro and IFTTT):
  • I want to send all Evernote unchecked to-dos to my task manager as tasks.
  • I want to auto see my personal Google Calendar a part of my Outlook calendar, so at least anything added to my personal Google Calendar shows as a private appointment in my Outlook calendar.
  • I want to send all my Outlook e-mails that are actions to my task manager as tasks.
  • I want to share my calendar availability with 3rd parties without manually spotting “empty slots” and collecting them in an e-mail.

For real freaks out there I’ll cover some of that in next posts.

But to finish this post, let me recommend one last automation software for Mac that pays for itself: Text Expander. There are Windows alternatives (such as Phrase Express) so a text expansion software should be part of your life anyway. Transform basically most repetitive words and even sentences into short abbreviations and save time and keystrokes every day. Good for your productivity and for the health of your wrists. You’ll also notice you get work done faster whenever you need to type. One of the great things about Text Expander is that it coaches you: it will suggest you to add a new abbreviation when it detects you’re typing the same thing over and over again. And if you did create an abbreviation and are not using it, it will remind you of it so you make the most effective use of the tool.

So next steps if you find yourself on a Mac: get Keyboard Maestro and Text Expander… And get some time to learn the basis of AppleScript in pages such as this one. It will pay off.

Automating your GTD flow… If you’re on a Mac

¿Fallo estratégico?

Mmm aquí no suelo hablar de política pero sí de estrategia y de cómo algunas decisiones pueden pesar en el largo plazo si no están ponderadas. Así que no me resisto.
Mi apuestilla de diez euros sobre Ferraz tras un fin de semana que ha sido de todo menos aburrido:
 
1) Sí, al PP le interesaría ir a terceras elecciones para pillar a un PSOE ‘débil’. No lo hará. Habrá mucho ‘ooooh’ y ‘aaaaah’ y al final claro que habrá investidura sin terceras elecciones porque todo esto estaba hablado antes de empezar.
 
2) Sí, algunos del PSOE dicen ahora que ellos no son muy pro abstención. Y habrá mucho ‘ooooh’ y ‘aaaaah’ y al final encontrarán alguna maravillosa pirueta dialéctica o supuesta concesión para abstenerse.
 
3) Compadezco al pobre tipo que tenga que hacer la próxima campaña del PSOE… Yo digo que en dos legistaturas están en Grupo Mixto, a lo PASOC en Grecia. Pero no se ponga nadie triste, todos los que han salido en plano este finde tienen la casa pagada, faltaba más.
Es difícil que las cosas salgan bien cuando el interés de la organización a largo plazo y el de sus líderes a corto no coinciden… Y nadie se atreve a decirlo claramente.
¿Fallo estratégico?

Yahoo y el barranco de no tener estrategia

Verizon va a comprar Yahoo, y los análisis parecen considerarlo el canto del cisne de la que fuera una de las primeras grandes empresas de Internet.

El mejor análisis que he leído es una pequeña pieza de The Economist que recomiendo, como siempre con esta cabecera. Y de donde saco la frase que para mí tiene la clave de todo:

Yahoo’s executives have always struggled to decide what it really was.

(‘A los directivos siempre les ha costado decidir qué era Yahoo’).

Yahoo llevaba al menos 15 años sin ser relevante. No era innovador, no era líder, no era una de las empresas clave para el futuro de Internet, aunque lo había sido para el pasado. El resultado no ha sido una bancarrota fulminante, no: se van a pagar casi 5.000 millones de dólares por la compañía. Pero hablamos de una empresa que desde 2006 ha perdido el 90% de sus ingresos por publicidad online, que pasó por varios tres CEO en cuatro años antes de decidirse por Marissa Mayer. En definitiva, una empresa que mostraba signos de que no sabía ni qué era ni qué quería ser. Quedaba meridianamente claro con su política de adquisiciones: Yahoo compraba cosas prometedoras para, en general, echarlas a perder o quitarles cualquier atractivo.

Y el problema no era de recursos financieros ni de oportunidad ni, estoy seguro, de talento. Era un problema de estrategia. O de carecer de ella.

Me parece un ejemplo notable porque la estrategia de alto nivel, la visión a años vista, es muchas veces percibida como algo académico, para lo que no hay demasiado tiempo en el día a día ‘real’, sobre todo en ámbitos como la pyme.

No cometas el mismo error. Si necesitas un ejemplo de cómo ese tipo de cojera puede dejar tullido hasta a un grande, vuelve a leer el artículo de The Economist sobre Yahoo. Recuérdalo siempre: la estrategia puede no ser suficiente pero sin estrategia no tienes futuro.

Yahoo y el barranco de no tener estrategia

How to Power Up Your Google Apps Email

Google Apps is a terrific alternative to Outlook and I just switched for a few months (corporate environment provided Google Apps as a new standard, no more Exchange accounts). I never settled for a desktop client, as I first wanted to make the most of Gmail webmail itself. The results were quite good.

These are the things I missed from Outlook and how to fix them I you find yourself in a similar situation:

  • Evernote add-in. The one add-in I found useful in Outlook. Luckily you can install Powerbot in Chrome and get a nice replacement. A whole thread, with attachments, saved for reference in Evernote. Good.
  • Custom shortcuts to execute common tasks such as sending an email to the folder of “immediate action required”. Gmail uses filters for that, so it kind of works, but I’m yet to find how to use that with my own keyboard shortcuts – I thought about giving AutoHotKey a try but at first glance it seemed too complicated and time-consuming to configure. No time for learning curves so I had to park this mini-project.
  • Snooze email for later is a must for me. I do have a GTD system outside email but why spend time creating follow-up reminders when I can tell that thread to come back to my inbox in a certain moment of the future. It’s faster, easier and convenient. Streak does this (and more) for free in Gmail. I didn’t have this in Outlook although shortcuts let me send mails to a follow up folder to ruthlessly chase them. Snooze feature is so much better.

Mobile productivity is a challenge though. I absolutely need snooze on the go. Evernote saving can be an email ‘left for later’ or snoozed, although not ideal. But if I’m working with snooze on desktop as part of my flow for to-dos, then I need it on mobile as well. I tried CloudMagic but my favorite (with its flaws) was Mailbox, which I used for a while but then shut down. Maybe Inbox by Gmail would be the best contender along with CloudMagic as a replacement for Mailbox.

All in all, I still missed my little macros but Google Apps proved a very pleasant working environment with all the basics you need, and some very interesting third parties extensions. What’s your personal favorite?

How to Power Up Your Google Apps Email

Todoist review after five months of use

I’ve been using Todoist for almost five months now.

First impressions were very good. Paying was easy and in a few minutes I was up and running in all operating systems plus Outlook, Gmail, browsers… I had my Todoist with me everywhere. A little tweaking of Outlook actions, IFTTT and Zapier helped with whatever little inter-app communication I needed that was not built-in. Todoist delivered on any front as expected.

Since then, the system has been reliable and that is a very good thing to say. But I miss a few things that didn’t seem that important before.

-Next Actions. Yes you can have the discipline to mark one task per project as priority 2 and filter. These would be your next actions per project. But any time you complete a task you have to manually change the priority of the next one that will become a ‘next one’. One more layer of maintenance for your system, one more chance to derail.
-Tags by category. If there are only tags, marking a task as exceptionally long or related with Mr. Smith falls in the same list of tags. The list is soon bigger than what is comfortable to keep controlled and tidy. Nirvana gives you that by the way: contacts are one kind of data associated with tasks, energy is another, etc. So you can review you contacts-related tasks more easily.
-Better management of non-English characters. A very probable problem with encodings makes import feature useless if you didn’t write your tasks in English. Any special character such as “á” will be ignored and, worse, switched for a line break, which means each task affected will be imported as several tasks, each with incomplete text.
-Some kind of note associated with the project itself. To link to general reference or to describe the final deliverable of the project in more detail than just a project name.

Oddly enough, Nirvana provides all of what I lack now. Sure Todoist is prettier and has more native integrations, but like a said a little use of IFTTT or Zapier can solve most of that. Sure Nirvana is priced at around twice as much but still within reason at 39 USD per year.

And there are bells and whistles I don

So I’m not exactly unhappy or disappointed with Todoist but I may be close to switching again and claim Nirvanahq is after all the best GTD app for 2015, or at least the most balanced for my personal workflow (i.e. not seeking  collaboration feature, etc).

I will miss color-coding my projects and having sub-projects though, two things I expect from Nirvanahq roadmap as no-brainers. But ultimately I can live without it.

I have to say there is one feature that was indeed promising but I won’t need: Outlook integration. It seemed like a big deal for me… before trying it. First, any third-party add-in makes your Outlook slower, specially on startup, so it has to add value. Well, Todoist didn’t really converted emails into tasks in a way that made it easier than copy-pasting the subject to my Todoist window and adding desired tags. For instance, attachments were not respected. Compare that with the excellent Evernote add-in and you know its the only Outlook integration you’ll need. I switched off Todoist add-in and instead saved critical emails to Evernote and linked to that note from my related Todoist task. I can even use an Evernote public link to share that email – with its original attachments. Easiest and fastest way to collect/share that I’ve found when forwarding the email is not an optimal solution.

In both cases Evernote is and will remain my app of choice for taking notes and archiving anything from Outlook emails to screenshots. But as task/project management goes, I needed something else and Nirvanahq may well be the perfect match.

Todoist review after five months of use

Facile Things vs Todoist vs Nirvanahq: Comparing Three Great GTD apps

After extensive research and testing, I was stuck between the three best GTD apps I found out there: Facile Things, Todoist and Nirvanahq. They all have pros and cons but are very solid products. They all include my ‘must haves’ and nice features like being able to create tasks by e-mail. I needed to look feature by feature to choose one. So this is how I did it.

Questions for Tiebreak Facile Things Todoist Nirvana hq
Is data export allowed? Yes – xml No (shortcut via templates to export project by project – in plain text) Yes – xml, json, csv
How easily can you filter by contexts AND projects? Tagging (tags and number of items in each tag is sorted by view, you can see only the count for Next Actions lists) Pretty Good – Filters and labels combined should do (premium feature, not able to test it at this stage) Easiest of all three
How easy is it to create new projects? Mouse required, 3 clicks mininum Mouse required, 2 clicks minimum One click
Sub-projects allowed? No Yes No
Beauty of design? Fine Highest Good
‘Joy factor’ of marking tasks as completed? Medium High High
Is it easy to check some tasks i.e. as the three most important for the day? Yes – starred tasks Yes – priority 1, 2, etc. would allow that Yes – starred tasks
How easy is it to re-order tasks inside a project, i.e. by drag-and-drop? Medium Easy, drag-and-drop Easiest and most flexible of all three
Can you show only next steps, i.e. next actions for all of your projects? Yes No Yes
Integration with other apps and services? Evernote, Google Calendar, Twitter, and email. Outlook, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Dropbox, IFTTT, Zapier No
Automatic Backups (personal)? No – Manual export No – Manual, but automatic backups available online and downloadable No – Manual
Good keyboard shortcuts? 50% 50% (quick add, not fully controlable with keyboard) 50% (Quick add, some navigation, not full control with keyboard)

 

Interface beauty and simplicity of use are what make me drop FacileThings despite its many strengths. You need to feel comfortable as this GTD app is going to be the screen you’ll look at most of your day.

Non-export feature in Todoist should be a deal-breaker. But, like I said, beauty is a must. Nirvana wins the race if you think about it rationally, but Todoist at this price deserves a longer try. Ultimately it will be Todoist or Nirvana. But I decided to try Todoist premium for some months.

So here you have it. Todoist is my choice for 2015. I paid for the yearly suscription last January. I’ll soon be ready for a verdict on how it actually works and if it’s worth the time and money. But I hope this little list can help you make your own decision. I really think you can’t go wrong with any of these three.

Facile Things vs Todoist vs Nirvanahq: Comparing Three Great GTD apps