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TEDx Boulder 2011

Be there

Last year I had the privilege of getting to stand up and say a few words on Minimalism in front of the first-ever TEDx Boulder crowd. It was a lot of fun, but this year I’m looking forward to be able to attend without the pressure of speaking. I like speaking and take these opportunites very seriously, so it wasn’t until after my talk—about halfway through the event that I got to really pay attention to the other speakers’ presentations.

The speaker list is great this year. I’m particularly interested in hearing what Kimbal Musk and Ann Cooper have to say about how and what we eat. And I’m of course looking forward to my friend Jake Nickell’s talk, Never Stop Making. It should be a great evening.

If you live in the Denver/Boulder area and didn’t have plans for Saturday night, you do now. Even if you did, you should probably change them and join us. I’ll see you there.

ps – you might want to grab a ticket; they’re going fast.

(image courtesy of my friends at Good Apples who did last year’s and now this year’s identity and branding)

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Double the Fun?

Netflix splits into two

If you’re a Netflix subscriber, or a member of the internet at large, you’ve probably heard the news already: Netflix is spinning off its DVD rental service into a separate company named Qwikster. You can read the letter from CEO Reed Hastings that was mailed to subscribers on the Netflix Blog

Unlike their recent price changes, this new move not only caught me by surprise, but doesn’t initially make sense.

As a consumer (and subscriber) this doubles my effort for what used to be a seamless, integrated service.

As a consumer (and subscriber) this doubles my effort for what used to be a seamless, integrated service. I now get billed separately, have to deal with two customer service departments, and two sets of policies that may, in time, conflict. Not only that, but when actually searching for movie I now have to search two websites, separately. I’ve always maintained two queues on Netflix, but it was very convenient to search for a movie, notice it was available for streaming and add it to that queue instead of the DVD queue.

I pride myself on having a bit of business savvy and it’s not often that a company I greatly respect leaves me scratching my head, so I’m trying to guess why Netflix would be willing to make such a bold move. I’ve got two theories:

#1 Sell while you’ve got something to sell

I think it’s no secret that Netflix doesn’t see a future in DVD rentals. They haven’t exactly made a secret of it. Just look at which part of their offerings is retaining the company name and brand. Hint: it’s not the DVD service. Hastings, in his letter today went so far as to say it this way:

“Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business.”

The rational is that they need to split off DVD service so that they can focus on streaming service. I think there’s validity to this, but I wonder why the split needed to be so public? The services were already essentially split internally, so why split them formally? Why put your customers in some temporary pain? Other companies have made major transitions (Apple, for example) without formally splitting their business offerings into separate companies.

I wonder if the split is actually their exit strategy.

I wonder if the split is actually their exit strategy. Yes, companies that can’t shift focus don’t move into the future well, but Netflix has already demonstrated that it is focused on streaming and the future. Nobody questioned that, even before the price/plan restructuring, let alone this split. But what usually happens to companies that go through a large transition is that their old offerings become a drag on the company. They often can’t exit the business fast enough and go through a period where they lose money before shutting it down for good. What if Netflix, with this move into Qwikster is not only trying to avoid that scenario, but they’re trying to build a separate, currently-profitable company to make it attractive to potential acquirers? It would actually be a brilliant move, if they could pull it off. They sell off their DVD service, while it’s still successful, at for a financial windfall and use the revenue to fund continued development of their streaming offerings. Qwikster becomes a success story for them and, when the day comes in the next few years that the DVD service isn’t tenable, they don’t have it to anchor them down or distract them.

#2 Divide and conquer (Hollywood)

My other theory has to do with rights—the agreements Netflix makes with studios and production companies in order to rent DVDs and stream media. This is a grey are for me, I don’t know exactly how this works, so I’m making some top-level assumptions.

They make more money off of DVD rental agreements and they’re afraid of the scenario the music industry faces with streaming…

On the whole, Hollywood has been reluctant to embrace streaming rentals. They make more money off of DVD rental agreements and they’re afraid of the scenario the music industry faces with streaming: getting paid a paltry few cents for the streaming of an entire album. They’re happy with the status quo (always were and probably always will be) and have little incentive to change. I wonder if that hurts Netflix in negotiations?

It’s possible that now, in rights negotiations, Netflix can wipe the slate clean. Anytime a movie industry executive brings up DVD agreements as a reference point for streaming licensing Netflix can say: “that’s not relevant,” and actually, literally mean it.

It’s all business

I think my second theory, while it doesn’t hurt, still doesn’t seem to require such a drastic change. I also can’t see an angle where this is better for the consumer in the short-run (the short-run being as long as someone needs to rent a physical DVD because something isn’t available for streaming). So my money (literally, I have a very, very, small investment in Netflix stock) is in theory one.

Today, as a subscriber of Netflix, I’m unhappy. As a stockholder, I think I understand it and I’m guardedly-hopeful that it’ll work out the way they intend.

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Zara Picken

I’ve been meaning to post a link to Zara Galpin’s site for quite some time. The Bristol, England based illustrator has a gorgeous body of work and an impressive client list to match. She describes her style as, “retro-tinted with textured blocks of colour,” which fits—I’d add whimsical character development and beautiful patterns to the list.

Take a few moments and peruse her site.

(via @tylergalpin)

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Teach your clients about the mysteries of the web

Paddy Donnelly & Jack Osborne have curated a fascinating (and already growing) repository of articles centered around issues that clients of web design and development services often have: things like the mythical fold, use of whitespace, spec work, and the importance of content.

It’s a great resource. I wouldn’t send a client directly to it—that just seems a little cheap—but if you’ve got a client that has some of these questions and is willing to learn, these are good educational starting points.

(via swissmiss)

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Pave Culture Cycliste

This bike shop in Barcelona is more of a gallery—or, maybe it’s the Apple Store of bike shops. It’s gorgeous as an interior space and gives the bikes, helmets, shoes, and clothes artwork-like prominence.

One of the things I love most about it are the wide, open floors. I don’t think I’ve ever walked into a bike shop who’s floor wasn’t filled with bikes. The pave stones at the entrance and in the sunken lounge are also a nice touch.

Be sure to click through to their gallery with a bunch of large, detailed photos.

(via @cypher13 | @BenStot)

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Before I Die

What is important to you?

Candy Chang took it upon herself to transform and abandoned home in her New Orleans neighborhood into an interactive wall with a simple statement: “Before I die I want to _____”

Over time, neighborhood residents began to fill it in with their hopes and dreams.

New property owners will have to tear it down soon, but Chang has said the project will resurface again, somewhere else in the city.

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Will Bryant

Will Bryant is one of those names that seems to keep popping up everywhere for me. He’s with the venerable Public School in Austin, working on everything from design to illustration and even painting the occasional mural for the likes of Nike, Gowalla, K2 and others.

Update: Not sure how I missed this, but he has an Etsy Shop with things that you will want to throw money at.

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