Bill Long 2/9/11
A Near-Hopeless Task
One of the things that has seriously limited my life's choices over the years is my inability to follow directions or figure out how things "work." In this regard, often the most terrifying words to me are when I hear someone say, "Don't worry. It's easy!"
A related problem is that I normally don't understand what people are saying to me, even if they are speaking in English. I think that people make too many logical leaps when they speak; they leave out necessary intermediate steps; their words allow for multiple interpretations; they don't use clear language; they don't have a good and precise vocabulary at hand to describe what they want; their minds are muddled and I can't help them remove their confusion.
Because I can't follow directions and I have difficulty following people's logic and words, I deny myself loads of pleasures I would otherwise enjoy as a "normal" person, and I end up sinking deeper into spheres of knowledge that are often arcane or of limited utility for most folk. The flip side, however, is that I am a relentless seeker of clarity; I believe that lack of clarity costs us billions of dollars a year in productivity...
This essay gives a case in point of how I have chosen to deny myself simple pleasures because I can't figure out something basic--like how to order Netflix.
Take Netflix, For Example
Netflix has been around for several years, and it offers two services: (1) movies and TV shows streamed directly to the computer or television; and (2) DVD's sent through the mail to you at home. The former costs about $2 less per month than the cheapest plan of the latter. So far so good.
So, I decided I wanted to watch movies in the convenience and quickness of my personal computer. I already have given up on finding devices that are compatible with my "big screen" so that I can project the movies onto the screen. It will be my Mac or nothing.
So, after making my first decision, I went on their website and was delighted to discover that they have a one month free trial offer. Before clicking on it, however, I decided I would try to see what kind of movies are available for streaming to my home computer. Here is where my problems began.
So, I go to the home page and then to the "how it works" pages to learn about what I told you already. I am ready to browse movies, since you want to know which ones the service has available to you. Click on "Browse Selection." Great. I am on the page. I am met by two options. I can "search" for movies or actors or I can "Watch Instantly" movies from about 20 genres. First, let's do the latter. Ok, I want to find out what is available in various categories. I like "Thrillers," and so I headed to that heading and clicked. So, I come to "Thrillers" and see the same page I just left, except for a series of "Thrillers to watch instantly" at the top of the page--you see pictures of the movie box. There are seven there; I click on the "More" and see seven more; I click on the "more" and see yet seven more. That is all. So, on my first reading, I see that there are 21 movies in the category of "Thrillers" that I can watch instantly. That seems like very few. So, I search around a little more. I found this page, which is the "Top 25" Thrillers.
Hm. So, my first question is how can the 21 be 25? Does that mean the 25 are available too? I begin to search down the list of movies that are the "top 25" and see that most of them aren't replicated in the 21 movies in the "Thriller" category that I saw previously. "Shutter Island" is in both lists; maybe there are more. But then I see that the "top 25" list can't be the only movies that are available; after all, since these are only the "top 25," there probably is a 26 and a 27 and many more. Thus, I am stymied. Is one list a DVD list and the other list a "streaming" list? Is the "streaming" list exhaustive? Or have I misinterpreted everything?
This first conundrum, consisting really of several unaswered questions, is now compounded by another. Let's say, in order to sort out my confusion, that I go back to the home page and decide to do a search under "Search." Logical, you know. So, I like the actor Matt Damon. I plug his name into the "Search" and find that Matt Damon yielded four results ("The Bourne Supremacy," "The Informant!," "The Bourne Ultimatum," and "The Good Shepherd"). But then, on the bottom of the page are about a dozen more "results" that aren't "Matt Damon" at all. They are movies where someone named "Diamond" or "Damo" or "Matteo" are listed. In other words, the search gives me pictures of the boxes of these irrelevant movies, while only listing the names of the Matt Damon movies. Hm. Strange. Why would they give me things that don't fit my search criteria unless their search engine is pretty shitty?
So, trying to ignore the problem with the search engine, I decide only to look at the actual Matt Damon movies--four of which are listed. Thus, I click on Matt's name and go to a page that only lists him. Bravo. Matt Damon. Then, we have two categories of movies on that page, entitled "Featured Movies" and "All Matt Damon Movies." Now neither of these terms are clear to me, since I haven't been introduced to them previously, though it would be reasonable to assume that "Featured Movies" are the "Netflix" movies, in some form--even though the distinction between streaming and DVD has long been lost on me. Well, the number of "Featured Movies" with Matt Damon as its lead is five--which is one more than the four which were listed on the previous page. So, you wonder what is up, but it just sinks me into deeper confusion.
So, all I really wanted to do was peacefully to order movies at $7.99 a month and see them in the quiet of my home on my home computer. First, I became confused as to why they only give 21 "streaming" movies in each category but have 25 listed as the "top 25" elsewhere on the website. Which list is the "streaming" list? You would think it includes more than 21 movies. But why don't they just give you a list of them all? And, what is the connection between featured movies and the movies that they have, either streamed or in DVD? And, why don't they make it easy for me to look things up--like under categories such as "Academy Award-movies" or "Best Actor" movies?
To me, then, the site is unusable, and thus the potential "joy" of being able to watch movies in a reasonably accessible fashion at home is out of the question. And, because these folk have put Blockbuster and Hollywood Video out of business, I can't go to the store and rent movies...I will continue to go to some movies in the theaters, and I usually write reviews of them, and I will see some old movies, either because I happen on them on TV or I see them at my brother's place, but the life of movie-watching is pretty much off the table for me other than that. I suppose I could find some people/friends to try to clarify this for me, but I don't have anyone in mind whom I would want to ask. Thus, it is just more detail on Chinese or Sanskrit or, if I am tired, more poring over internet maps or listening to some YouTube music. Some day I will have to get over the "block" of figuring out how basic things work. But the problem is not new--I find trivially easy things that many people find impossible (like writing books); I find impossible things that most people, it seems, find easy. And, I don't easily find people or ways to make the easy things for them easy for me.
Back to work..