LOVEFiLM, how much it sucks, and what to do better

2006-12-15 at 23:43 (article, dvd, lovefilm, rant, rental)

LOVEFiLM sucks. It’s dishonest: you pay per month with no guarantee on how many DVDs you can rent that month, and no information on the maximum number of rentals per month, or anything like that. It takes seven screens to cancel your account. Cheekily, the bastards even ask you if you want to upgrade your account in the process of leaving. They annoyed me. Lots.

So. Here’s a better model for rental firms’ customers, which is who they should be out to serve.

The model
Each rental costs some small amount. Over here, that might be £1.50. Call one rental credit “R”. It’s gotta cover the cost of the rental, deal with the cost of the original DVD and any replacements, and have profit left over.

You have an account with the rental people, which must always have at least 5R in it. When you rent a DVD, you get have 1R deducted. If this takes you to 5R then you’d need to top up your account before being allowed to take out another movie.

When you leave, the remaining credits in your account simply get refunded.

Why is this better?
With pay-per-month schemes, when you cancel, you lose the rest of your credit for that month. Either that, or their system is unpredictable as to when it will send new DVDs, and you cancel a little too late — when they’ve already sent out a DVD — and end up having next month charged too. This is blatant ripoff territory here.

This way is more honest. No more “secret delays”: you pay per DVD, but it still has the convenience that LOVEFiLM gives, assuming you have a big enough collection of DVDs. It’s more transparent, open, and I’ll sign up to the first company who does it.

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amount vs. number

2006-09-29 at 23:06 (article)

I’m a pedant, which means I get really annoyed really quickly when people make little mistakes. The one I’m going to elaborate on today is the misuse of “amount” and “number”.

You don’t have an amount of people. You have a number of people. (Say them both; see which one feels more natural.) You don’t have a number of flour. You have an amount of flour, e.g. 3oz, or whatever other measuring system you prefer. And here is the difference: an amount deals with a pile, and number deals with a distinct, well, number.

So get it right! (Also feel free to find esoteric examples to prove me incorrect in some cases. :)

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integrity in the moment

2006-09-28 at 00:46 (article, musings)

Does the past actually exist? Can you touch it? STOP TIME NOW!

Pretend you that everything up to the last sentence was actually just “planted” in your head — never had any real substance or reality. Reality starts from that moment. Would you act differently to how you act now? Would you change things in your life? If so, why?

We must act with thoughtfulness and intent in each moment: we must do what we feel is “the right thing” to be doing. Else, we act without integrity. If one’s true beliefs and actions take no notice of each other, unhappiness must follow — you’re unbalanced, unaligned, and have no hope of true internal freedom and happiness. Even if there is more immediate unhappiness in taking action rooted in your beliefs, when you get to that blissful state of balance, it is easy to maintain. Your personal universe will resonate with the single, unifed tune that you produce in every moment.

Only when your actions are in line with your beliefs do you get a sense of personal integrity, and from that, freedom. If not everything you do is in tune with who you feel yourself to be, there’s something wrong.

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Going Away

2006-09-06 at 12:23 (article, diary)

Old gateway near the Bala Lake hotel

I recently went on holiday to Wales with my family. There were four reasons why I wanted to go away:

  1. to walk; feel closer to the world; simple pleasure
  2. to be away from high-tech and computers
  3. to clear my mind and think about the idea of “now”
  4. to accept the world and its inhabitants as they are, more than I did previously

The hotel itself was run by six Christian partners, and was a lovely listed building. I had a view onto Lake Bala from my room, which was the second most brilliant thing to wake up to in the morning (the other are the mountains surrounding Lake Louise, in Canada). The hotel was in the middle of nowhere, which was nice, as it was naturally away from high-tech. No Internet in rooms and poor TV reception (though I unplugged that anyway).

The rest of this entry is a disconnected set of anecdotes.

We didn’t do as much walking as I’d have liked, but we did do plenty. This seemed to naturally empty my mind somewhat, along with writing down everything that needed doing on a piece of paper as soon as I thought of it.

Boundary stone on the ground; old and worn

There was a problem with the restaurant, but I think it was only a problem for me: like many restaurants, it played music at us at dinner. I never like music entirely there for background purposes. It gets in the way and you tend to have tunes going round and round in your head all evening… so after spending time walking next to a river or in fields, it felt like an attack on my clear mind.

After dinner one day, I sat in the lounge (reading Ian Banks’ Espedair Street, if you care; a good read) and there were people there complaining about vegetarians. They were at crosspurposes to me, apparently; I went there to understand and accept what I found, and they were complaining about others’ dietary habits. (There’ll be a post coming up for the reasons that I’m vegetarian; and soon, I hope.)

Since coming back, I can’t help but feel somewhat claustrophobic when inside. I need to get out every day and find myself some open space or I start feeling trapped. I also find that I hate total silence, so I now open my window just a little at night, every night, so I can hear the beautiful sound of the rain pattering or the wind blowing. I find hearing these things much more comforting; they remove any feeling of being alone, which I find greatly beneficial.

My conclusion from this trip is that there should be more of them, for everyone. Being able to see the stars at night, and being able to have no agenda other than simple pleasure, is a return to how we were naturally designed. This is good.

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why people take photos

2006-09-03 at 16:51 (article, musings, photos)

  1. art
  2. memory
  3. amusement

I’m certainly an art person, not a memory person. It’s nice to have shots of places you’ve been; but taking them all the time, with you in front of the sea just to show you’ve been there — that seems like a waste of time and effort. Unless a picture is beautiful in and of itself, I don’t feel the need to make it exist.

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olga.net is down

2006-08-13 at 15:33 (article, commentry)

Olga.net is down, and the lawyers sending the shutdown request say:

In so enforcing the rights of the creators and publishers of music [by requesting removal of all tabs of copyright music from your site], it is our intent to ensure that composers and songwriters will continue to have incentive to create new music for generations to come.

This is brainless. Composers and bands don’t need incentive to be creative, or if they do, then their intent is in the wrong place. Music is about the music, not about control. That argument is flawed.

I wonder if the music publishing industry would want to stop any guitar teachers teaching students copyright songs without first applying for permission and paying royalties. I’m pretty sure they would, and this is why the way things work now is broken.

(One of the songs mentioned in the letter is “Beautiful Day”, by Clayton/Evans/Mullen/Hewson. I wonder if The Edge has to go and ask his bandmates if he wanted to show someone else the chords he uses?)

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ghost stories

2006-07-22 at 21:32 (article, stories)

I heard a ghost story recently. It went something like this:

There was a little boy, called Tim, who was 12 years old. His parents got an emergency call at 10pm one night, and had to go to sort things out.

They put him to bed before they went, and told him that the dog was under his bed, so if he woke up in the night and they weren’t around, he could put his hand under the bed and the dog would lick it, so he’d know that he was safe.

He woke up around 2am, feeling scared, and put his hand under the bed. He felt a tongue licking it, so he went back to sleep, feeling reassured.

He woke up again not long after, and the same happened. He fell asleep pretty easily the second time.

Then he woke at 5am. His parents weren’t in yet and it was stormy outside, and the lightning was flashing in through a gap in the curtains. He put his hand under the bed, felt the lick, and then felt brave enough to get up and close the curtains fully. When he got there, he took a quick peek outside, and saw his dog strung up on the washing line, with writing on the outside of his window saying “Not only dogs have tongues.”

Obviously, there’s a lot in the delivery (which is why this story has no effect whatsoever when written down). However, deconstructing it gives some insights into what makes a ghost story good.

First, there needs to be some inventiveness on the part of the storyteller to provide enough detail to conjure up some emotion towards the characters. My two sentences set the scene, but was it spoken, you’d expect it to be more informal and take a little more time over it.

Secondly, there’s the setting up and foiling of the expectation/suspense. When I heard this story, after the first mention of “hand under bed”, a friend assumed (outspokenly) that the dog was going to bite his hand off. The listener knows, from the outset, that with two characters and one bed, not much can happen. Thus, to make a good story, you have to counter the expectation by doing the unexpected.

Thirdly, there’s the rule of three. Things happen in threes in a lot of stories, but in most of the ghost stories I’ve been told, there are two non-events linking to the final event. Ideally the two non-events bear some relation to the final event, but not enough to give it away.

Fourthly, there’s the element of horror. Something dramatic needs to be depicted to make a final impact, hopefully something graphic, involving blood, or veins, or something.

The final rule is to leave the listener with uncertainty as to what happens. This attacks one’s sense of security. In this story, the final event leaves us unsure as to what is underneath the bed, and it even makes us unsure of what had happened earlier in the story. It’s pulling the rug from under us, and is the clever bit.

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