Random ruminations as I figure out and deal with life, grad school, being an engineer and a product manger; learn more about technology, marketing, economics, news, writing short stories and other stuff that distracts me from doing whatever I'm supposed to be doing....
Netflix takes more of my money... with help from Jackie Chan!
I'm a big fan of Netflix: both the product and the company. So I wasn't too surprised that they managed to make me give them more money in two ways.
Way 1: 2 subscriptions! Because they invested in a great recommendation engine.
My wife got her own Netflix subscription earlier this year. This isn't particularly surprising since she's in school in Boston and I'm working in NYC, but the reason she got one wasn't just because of the DVD mailings. It was because she wants recommendations based on what she's watched and my movie/TV tastes (I like almost everything) and compulsive rating of things, were making it impossible for her to get good recommendations.
Fast forward to a few months from now when she's done with school and we're living together again: I have a feeling that we'll still need 2 subscriptions; though there's a chance that I might just cancel mine since even though I love rating and discovering content, Netflix's discovery mechanism actually ends up only slightly influencing what I finally watch.
Way 2: I opted into the DVD plan for myself.
There's an art to pricing (in addition to the science that we were taught in school.)
I really like the way they re-priced their 1-DVD plan, and introduced the online-only plan. Here the actual cost and price is less relevant, since most consumers will compare it with the existing plans.
There's a 2 dollar difference, between the online and 1-DVD plan, but I found myself thinking "Oh, its just a dollar more to keep the plan I'm already on...I should just keep it."
Logically, given that the last DVD that I got (an arty Hindi flick) has been in my bag for 3 months, I shouldn't. After all, Netflix lets me
upgrade to the DVD plan anytime I want a DVD (also awesome!)
I've been really enjoying the Freakonomics podcast of late. This episode and the lesson we should take a away from it, was a stark reminder of one of the most important things we should be doing - but often don't - in building products or making any decisions: measuring the impact of absolutely everything we do, including the things that seem obviously good.
I recommend listening to the podcast if you have the time, but here's the summary. Stephen Dubner describes the Cambridge Sommerville Youth Study. The impact of social intervention programs in general is hard to measure and so they seldom are. This was the first attempt at measuring the impact over a long period of time.
It's a great story and there are a few good take-aways, but here's the main one: troubled or at-risk youth that received mentoring (good mentoring!) had worse life outcomes across every dimension than the kids that were left alone. Despite the recipients saying that the mentoring was incredibl…
Every once in a while, I'm reminded that humans can be completely lacking in humanity.
My wife had the following experience yesterday on her ride back home. She got on the train and found a seat. The train was unusually crowded and it looked a lot of people had to stand for a long ride. An elderly Asian gentleman carrying a few things in both hands, was looking for spot, started to complain smilingly about the train being so full and stood in the aisle at the back of the carriage some seats away from her.
She expected someone closer to gentleman in the aisle (lots of younger people on the train) to give him their seat.
No one did.
The train started, and it was clear the man was having a lot of trouble standing up. Then at the next stop there was actually an announcement saying the train was full so please give up your seats to people who needed them.
Still nobody moved.
My wife got up walked to the end of the train and asked the gentleman to go over to her seat. She still couldn…
One of the things I've really enjoyed doing over the last year is teaching and presenting on the work I do more. I do it mostly because I enjoy doing it, but once in a while you hear back about the impact it had and feel better about the fact that you're taking the time to do it.
Last year, I conducted a workshop on Product Management (write up about it here). Within the last week, 2 people got in touch to tell me how that workshop actually helped them - one who used it to have a better summer internship and the other on how it helped him interview better and get a job offer because of it. 3 others also got in touch over the last month to ask about the materials since they're conducting trainings of their own.
The materials themselves aren't perfect (my slides are really meant for presenting and not great reading material in themselves), but I figured if it might actually still help some folks - either to prep themselves or conduct these kinds of workshops.