Why I Can’t Quit My DIRECTV or Why Internet TV Is Useless

I so wanted to quit my DIRECTV.

I wanted to quit not because I disliked the service.  In fact, I love it, and perhaps that’s why I’m finding it so hard to leave.

Here’s what I like:

Channel selection.  It’s great.  At the basic level, I get all the channels that I would ever want to watch including NESN, ESPN, BBC America, The Travel Channel, The Discovery Channel, The Food Network and The Cooking Channel.

Our current favorite shows: Downton Abbey, any of Anthony Bourdain’s shows, my wife watches anything on the Cooking Channel and Food Network.

The picture is clear and sharp.  I had cable previous to my DIRECTV and it was crap.  DIRECTV’s picture is ten times better.

Their customer service is top notch.  No confusing mazes when you call their 800 number, bright, upbeat, and extremely helpful people when you call, the few issues I’ve ever had have been fixed almost immediately.  Their Twitter support is useless, but otherwise it’s overall great customer service.

Their interface.  It’s intuitive, bright and aesthetically pleasing.  I’ve used cable interfaces, and I can’t figure it out.  The channel order doesn’t make any sense and it’s ugly.  Plus I can easily record shows from my iPhone.

So why would I leave?

The one negative?  The price.  It costs me something like $95 a month.

So I bought a Roku hoping to save some cash and jump into the new hot thing.  Perhaps given my love of my current service, it’s not surprising that I’m disappointed with the Roku.

Here was my original idea:

Buy a Roku box – initial investment of $65
Subscribe to: MLB, NFL, & NBA (Sorry NHL) – $125,  $299, for a total of $593
I already have Netflix – $8.99
And I’m an Amazon Prime Member – $45 (student discount don’t ask me why?)

This would save me $300 in the first year and more thereafter especially given the Celtics season and hopes for the future.

Unfortunately, there were a few hitches in this pan.  One is that local teams are blacked out on these season subscription packages.  For MLB it’s 90 minutes after the end of the game.  On nights that Josh Beckett’s pitching, that literally means tomorrow. *Update* This is further proof that the west coast is the best place to live if you’re an east coast sports fan.  Football starts at 10 a.m. and even when Beckett pitches, Sox games wrap up before 9 p.m. Plus, you have a couple of decent teams to root for as you ‘B’ teams in the 49er’s and the Giants.

The other issue is the content.  Both the streaming on Netflix and the content available for free on Amazon Prime is, frankly, 97% crap.  It just stinks.  The same goes for all of the Internet TV channels on Roku.  They are all crap.  I’m all for choice and diversity, but when it’s all crap, then it’s not choice and it’s not diversity.  It’s just crap.

The interface.  While it looks nice, it’s impossible to find anything.  There’s just too much garbage.  I don’t want to have to go to 7 different services to get the content I want.  I want to go to one.  I also don’t want to wade through piles of garbage shows to find something that’s barely worth watching.

The service.  Ten or fifteen minutes into streaming something, the audio gets all screwed up turning Dora into a Syth Lord.  *Update* Upon further reflection, the distortion sounds more like the demon from the Exorcist I’ve googled it, and every message board talks about the lousy customer service Roku has, and I’m still looking for an answer.

So now I’ve got a Roku currently designated to streaming Dora the Explorer.   And that’s about as useful as I find this thing right now.

Why they’re not going to leave Facebook

I saw this tweet from @markgr and had to write about it.  The reason being, I don’t believe Google +, Diaspora or any other new social media tool has a chance until the come up with something completely different.   I wish it wasn’t true, but all we have to do is look at recent history to see that it probably is.

All of these new ideas are just Facebook repackaged.  Google Wave, Google Buzz, Google +, and Diaspora when distilled down to their basic structure and interface are all Facebook.  There really isn’t anything different.  Unfortunately, the one thing that they don’t have is the crowd.  And they’re not going to get the crowd, until there’s a crowd there.  There won’t be a crowd there until the product is actually new.

I’ve been on all five of the above.  Here’s how my experience has gone:

1. Get hooked on the buzz that this is finally the revolutionary social network that is going to connect me with my friends without being evil.

2. Get the email saying that I’m part of an early beta testing group.

3. Log on, add my information and a photo.

4. Spend sometime skimming around the “news feed” equivalent.  Upload a photo or two.  Invite some friends.

5. Check in daily to see what’s new and who has joined up since he last time I checked an hour ago.

6. See that no one else is using it.  Well, not no one.  Lot’s of people in HighEd are writing about how this will change HighEd marketing because this will finally take down Zuck.

7.  Begin checking less frequently—still finding that no one I went to college, high school, randomly know is one.

8. Give up and update my Facebook status.

And that’s it.  Until something revolutionary happens, Facebook is it folks.   It’s just like changing banks because of some outrageous fee their charging.  Yeah, it sucks to pay the fee, but all my stuff is there.  My paycheck is automatically deposited there.  My bills come in through the online banking feature.  I’ve got everything set up.  It would be a pain to change.  Plus I might miss a bill or two in the switch over.

I don’t care how frustrated people are with Facebook.  The crowd is there.  My crowd is there.  I’m not moving without them.



I’m Tired

I’m feeling a bit fatigued at the start of this New Year. No, it’s not the teething five month old. That’s not the kind of fatigue I mean. I’m getting tired of the staleness that I see in the Web 2.0 world, and I’m wondering what’s next.

Thinking all the way back to 2007 when Facebook (as we know it to be) was a mere three years old, Oprah and that idiot Ashton Kutcher weren’t on Twitter, and MySpace was still relevant, it all seemed so new, fresh and exciting. We were all trying to figure out just what these new communication tools could do and how we could apply them to our trade.

But that was a lifetime ago. Now, the Boomers have invaded Facebook, and @BlueFuego is reporting that Facebook FanPage interaction is way down. I’ve got to imagine that’s a symptom of teens and tweens not wanting to hang out in the same social space as their parents. Twitter, well, someone still needs to explain to my why I care about following celebrities and brands that spend more time talking about the love they get from fans and clients then what they’ll do for me.

I’ve unsubsribed to most of the blogs I used to read. Those websites with multiple authors have really just gotten old. The content just isn’t as fresh as it was 2 years ago. They seem to focus no on analytics and number crunching and that’s fine, but something seems to be missing from the conversation – like we’ve all gotten tired of playing and now are just jogging down the first base path.

Where’s the fresh content? Where’s the innovation? Where’s the next big shift? Why are we doing this?

Sadly, I can’t claim it’s coming from me. I’ve completely neglected this blog the last 6 – 8 months. And to quote our president, “That’s my responsibility.” Saying it is one thing, but acting on it is completely different. I’m not great a finishing projects and I often find the last ten percent truly dull and drab. I’d much rather frame a building than do any type of finish carpentry. Perhaps my dis-allusion with the current state of this new media is that it’s no longer new. It’s evolved and become more sophisticated.

One place where I am finding a chance to frame a building is here at Groton School. I’ve only been working for an independent boarding school since August, but my sense is that there is a movement towards more sophisticated marketing strategies. Certainly there are schools out there like Andover and Exeter with $1 billion plus endowments that run a pretty sophisticated show, but for the most part, these independent schools seem a few years behind higher ed. This makes sense in a lot of ways because studies showed that higher ed was quick to adapt those new social media (there I said it) tools into there marketing campaigns. At SMC, we had been blogging since ’03 for example. Not the case here.

The difference between these schools and higher ed is these schools are doing it with much smaller shops, and they’re doing it with unique restrictions (i.e. a campus full of minors). That is what’s getting me going and lighting a fire under me.

I think this stuff still works. You just have to keep your eyes on what’s important, and guess what, it’s not about you. It’s about me.

It’s always been about me and what you can do for me. As a skier, I’ve really been impressed how ski areas have been using social media. Check out @jaypeakresort and Okemo on Facebook. They’re using those two tools to offer their followers deals. One recent deal from @jaypeakresort included room, meals, daycare and lift ticket for $140ish. A great deal and a great use of marketing. Yeah they talk about their snowfall and their new buildings but in a way that entices the follower to want to take advantage of their deals. I have no idea if these deals are exclusive to Twitter followers but they sure make it seem like it and that makes me, as a follower, feel special. And I think that’s what has me fatigued. All they talk has moved from the emotion that these powerful networking tools can spark in people, to raw numbers and data and how a seller (because we’re all selling something) can get his message out to the potential user.

I’m not a data guy. I have tried to be but I just hate it. I’m emotional and irrational and I love to create positive emotional experiences for people. To do so I have to constantly realign my perspective so that it’s not focused on what I want, or what I want audience to want, but rather it’s about creating that space for the audience to interact and create and share emotional experiences together. (I have shamelessly ripped that off of Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae p110)(rest assured I just threw up a little in my mouth after paraphrasing him.)

Wow. That was a massive brain dump and at times raging venting exercise. Whew! Great way to kick off the New year with that off my chest. I know I’m going in a couple of different directions with this post, but this really was more of an exercise for me. Remember it’s always about me.


It’s coming. I’ve been thinking about this post that I wrote a couple of years back. Although it’s no longer August, it still seems too early to be fall.

Looking at the calendar, I’m realizing that this it the first weekend that I’ve been in my house since the beginning of May. I’m not complaining at all. We’ve had a couple of trips, a couple of weddings and the rest have been spent upta camp with my family. In fact, if I thought I could convince Wife, I’d be up there this weekend. But being away has left a number of projects that need to get done.

The roof was looking pretty rough and Wife and I decided that we did not want to risk a Vermont winter and thaw with an iffy roof. The roofers have been working since Monday. They’re doing good work, but I’m definitely sick of the banging and commotion. It hasn’t been the quiet weekend I was hoping.

The windows sills are looking pretty rough and all need to be primed and painted. The garden needs to be pulled up. And there’s a bit of touch up work here and there that need to get done. All this and I need to hit the road in a week.

This week coming up will be a challenge no doubt. It’s the last week before I hit the road. I’ve got a huge to do list on my desk and I’ve thought of a half dozen other things I need to add to it when I get to work on Monday. Not that I’m stressed about it though.

This travel thing is getting old. I’m almost 30. I don’t see how I can be on the road for 5 or 6 weeks when I have a family. What I need to do is propose that our office create a e-communications position like others have. It will mean that I need to step it up as well and produce on the ideas that I have and am rolling out this year.

I also don’t doubt for a second that it’s the changing seasons that’s getting me in this mood. I’ve had a great summer here in Vermont and don’t want to see it go.

Seven months in. Almost eight.


I am actually surprised that I’ve kept this up for as long as I have. Over seven months. Not bad. Longer if you count when I was posting once every six months (see 6 posts in 2006 vs. 81 in , but I’m not. It was that Integrating Technology into the Classroom class with Greg Thweatt that inspired me to get this thing going and keep this going.

It’s totally therapeutic for me to put my thoughts down on paper. Um, I mean the Internet. I always thought that it was the action of putting ink to paper that I loved (I even wrote that here).

Nah, it’s just the act of getting thoughts out of my head onto something I can read and reflect upon.

Has this blog changed since January? Yes.

It’s changed names three times at least.

The photo and crap on the sides has changed quite a bit.

Topics have changed from class, to work, to personal.

Pivotal moments/posts:

Florida Training Trip 2008 – I wrote a blog post about the new communication plan that I came up with because I was unsatisfied with our current e-com plan.

Integrating Technology into Curriculum – Got it started and built momentum. Loved that class. Greg Thweatt is an incredible teacher. This was my best post. I love that analogy that I made up all by myself!

Jay Peak
realized that I’m often more creative outside the office than in it.

New Media Douchebag: When I decided not to be a douchebag.

www.alittlespunk.com: Yeah I get the sexual inuendo. It’s my dad’s nickname. It’s on his business card. I swear. You should try calling him Spunk in a pub in England. That’s when it gets really awkward. And p.s. despite what my wife says, I’m totally bringing the nicknames back when we have kids.

EduWeb: Sitting in front of Brad J. Ward. Since eduweb, I’ve had some serious traffic to this site. For me, considering what I write about, I’m psyched that I have about 15 or so visits a day. 20 plus when I post. Thanks, Brad.

Other people started reading, and I started advertising. My url is on my gmail signature now. So what does that mean? Well, self imposed censurship. I know some people that I work with read this (Conor, get off your blackberry and stop trying to get me fired). I think webguy might. Others may too.

So say I didn’t want to work at SMC anymore. Say I wanted to get a development job at Dartmouth. I couldn’t announce that in my blog. I also can’t rant about change anymore like I did here or our support staff like I did here.

In someways I really miss that anonymity that I had before, but I also like the positive encouragement I get from people from time to time. So what to do?

Hang it all out there and hope I don’t get bit?

Or self censure? It takes me away from the original purpose of this blog. Vent and reflect.

Move In Day

Poor, poor neglected blog….

Yes readers, I’ve been neglecting you. Many apologies for that.

Today was move in day at Saint Michael’s. One of my favorite days of the year. This is when all of those students you met last September as seniors (sometimes as juniors or even sophomores) in high school show up on campus with carloads of clothes, dorm furniture and other tons of other stuff. Some parents get teary-eyed, some are beaming with pride, and I’m sure that many are wishing they were the ones about to embark on the four best years of their lives.

For me, as an alum of Saint Michael’s (2001), it also brings back many a memory. I’ll never forget pulling up to the traffic light on Route 15 and being mortified as my mother honked and waved at strange people wearing smelly, sweat laden t-shirts, blowing whistles and holding up signs that read “Welcome Home”, “You Brought Too Much Stuff”, and “Thanks for the $$$$$$”.

As soon as we pulled into the Ryan Hall parking lot we were swarmed by those same strange people in those sweaty shirts. They grabbed all of my stuff and only asked, “What room?” Freshmen, savor this. It is the only time that you will have your stuff unpacked for you.

Yes there are many fond memories from those first two days on Saint Michael’s campus. One of the first people I met on campus is still one of my best friends and I still keep in touch with many of those that I met during orientation week. There will be friendships forged in these next weeks (and next four years) that will last a lifetime.

Stop it!

Dear U.S. Media,

Please stop comparing Usain Bolt to Michael Phelps. They are not the same.

Please stop saying that what Usain has done is more impressive than what Michael Phelps did. It’s not. It is impressive, but it’s not as impressive as what Michael Phelps accomplished.

Please don’t forget what Phelps did or diminish it by comparing it to 2 events in track and field.

Here’s why:

1. Usain Bolt raced in two races (not including qualifiers over) three days. He dominated both races, showboating through the finish of the 100m. He set two world records while doing so.

Michael Phelps raced in 8 finals (as many races as Bolt raced in total) over one week. He set world records in 7 of his 8 finals. He dominated in most. He did so with class and without showboating.

Advantage: Phelps

2. Bolt ran the 100m and the 200m.

Michael Phelps raced in the 100 fly, 200 fly, 200 IM, 400 IM, 200 free, 4×100 free relay, 4×200 free relay, and 4×100 medley relay.

This is the equivilent of running the 100m, the 100m hurdles, the 200m, the 200m hurdles, the 800m, the 1500m, the 4x100m relay and the 4×400 relay.

Advantage: Phelps

3. The 100-200 double.

Bolt became the first person since Carl Lewis to win both events in the same Olympics. Okay, that’s been a long time. I get it. But what they are telling you is that Bolt is the ninth person to acheive this feat. Here’s the list.

Phelps is the only person to ever have won 8 medals in one Olympics. He’s the only athlete ever to win 14 gold medals. Here’s the list: Michael Phelps.

4. Everybody runs. Not everybody does the butterfly.

I saw this argument in an article posted on somebody’s bulletin board. Really? That’s why Bolt’s accomplishment is more impressive? Because everybody can run? Seriously?

I ran in high school. I was slow.

I swam in college. I was slow.

What the hell do either of my athletic talents have to do with Bolt’s? Nothing. They’re both better.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a former swimmer and a college swim coach. I’m a fan of swimming and watched every race. I haven’t really watched anything since. (Okay, I admit it I watched the women’s beach volley ball, but I swear it was for the sport.)

I really don’t see how you can honestly compare the two accomplishments. What Bolt has done in his two races is incredible, but I bet we’ll see it again. Phelps? We may see that again too, but we’ll see another 100-200 before we see 8 golds in one Olympics and before we see anyone overtake Phelps’ career total.


I love beer. I really love beer.

Now when you read that, what was your first reaction? Was it negative?

It’s my belief that American culture towards alcohol is primarily a negative. When I say I love beer, I often wonder if I’m perceived as an alcoholic or a beer swilling frat boy.

I don’t think I’m either. I just love beer.

I like the taste of beer. Sure it was an acquired taste at first, but now it’s an appreciative taste. Depending greatly on my mood, I may thirst for a Labatt Blue, or a Budweiser. If I’m feeling eclectic, perhaps a PBR tall boy.

Hot summer day, something hoppy like a Magic Hat H.I.P.A. And nothing tastes better than a fresh Switchback after a day of skiing.

So what brings this up? Well, I was on a business trip with some colleagues last week. We had been delayed in Richmond, VA for a couple of hours and we were had a couple of drinks at a bar there. Finally we took off and landed in JFK (most disgusting airport I’ve ever been in) where we were delayed for another couple of hours. By then it was after nine o’clock and I was sick of being in an airport.

The others grabbed a table at a restaurant while I stayed outside to answer a phone call. I got back and they were all drinking waters. I ordered a Yuengling (they don’t distribute to the VT so I try to order it hen I can) and maybe it was me, but I felt like I got looks from the group.

This could have been a total paranoid observation on my part, but I think it did spark something in my mind re: alcohol and it’s perception in the U.S.

When I think of alcohol and it’s effects, I think back to my high school French teacher and his description of the French devotion to wine. He said essentially that the French don’t drink to get drunk, it is instead a side effect tot he experience of drinking alcohol. They drink wine in an appreciative way – appreciating the taste, fell and smell of the drink and conversations and experiences while drinking.

I’ve tried to think of drinking in that way too. I won’t apologize for my love of beer. Like I said before, I love the taste of beer. I love tasting new and different varieties of beer and returning to old favorites as well. Beer varieties can be like tags for the memory. Certain beers will bring up specific memories.

I will always associate a recent trip out west with Fat Tire Ale. College: Labatt Blue, the first summer out of college: Harpoon Summer, a NEACAC conference in Boston: Samuel Adams Summer Ale, a trip to Paris: Heineken, St.Patrick’s Day my freshman year of college: Magic Hat #9, and there are many more.

So where does the problem begin? At what point are we taught that alcohol is bad and people who enjoy alcohol (without taking it to excess) have a vice?

I need to think about a little more. This post is already much longer than I had anticipated.