Monthly Archives: July 2011

Movie Theater vs. Home Theater (part 3)

To review: I’m talking about an article on ZDNet that tries to make the case for streaming first-run movies to a home theater. In the first part, I laid out the argument they made, and then took a look at the ‘why I hate theaters’ portion. In the second part, I moved on to their ‘why my home is awesome’ argument.

Now let’s take a look at what prices would be required and a few other hurdles to streaming first-run movies to your house.

 Technical hurdles

Well, you need the right hardware. Figure an HDTV, a good sound system, and a box with a subscription to a streaming service. Initial outlay has gotta be over $1400, but if you’re really considering this option you probably already have this stuff.

And of course you’ll need reliable broadband. It’s the “reliable” part of that that’s going to stump a lot of people. I’m sure you’ve all experienced broadband slowdowns at one point or another, due to system load, throttling, or whatever reason. That’s always a risk. But I’ll tell you what – if a bandwidth issue occurs while I’m streaming a movie I paid top-dollar to see in high-def, I’m gonna be way more peeved than if someone in a theater turns on his cell phone for 15 seconds. Costs at $2-$5 are one thing… prices at the levels we’ll be talking about below are a whole different animal.

Then you’ve got questions about DRM protections, licensing, etc. Basically, where do you draw the line between being able to watch the movie when you want it (which necessitates you having an accessible local copy of it), and the fact that once you are done watching it you aren’t allowed to still have that copy anymore to do with as you please?

The ZDNet article acknowledges that these problems exist, and I agree that for the most part there’s not really much you as the consumer can do about them – it’s up to the corporations and studios involved to figure those out (which of course means it’s not happening anytime soon, but for the sake of argument we’ll continue).


Studios are not going to let you pay the same at home as you would at the theater. $10 per movie isn’t going to cut it. How do they know you don’t have 10 people crammed into your living room, and they’re out $90? Where’s the balance point between what you’re willing to pay and where their risk is negligible?

Let’s start with what you’re willing to pay. As it is now, let’s say I spend $10 per ticket and (generously) $10 in gas to get through a movie at the theater. So if I’m out on a date, I’m spending $30. A family of 4 would be $50. (If I need babysitting suddenly I’m up to $100 without trying, but let’s keep this simple.)

So what am I willing to pay to watch a new movie in a vastly more convenient setting (ignoring the quality and other issues I’ve already discussed – but which in reality would weigh heavily on me)? Would I be willing to pay the same price if I’m the only one home vs whether my wife and/or kids are watching with me? The ZDNet article posits $30 per film. I have to agree – that’s about what I am willing to pay, but that’s also just about the upper limit, at least until my kids are older and can watch with me. Would a single person be willing to pay that much? They’d be paying a premium to see it at home, while those with 2 kids would be getting the same film at a steep discount. Doesn’t seem fair, but single people generally have more disposable income so maybe they wouldn’t mind.

So let’s go with $30. Just because.

Now let’s look at that $30 from the studio’s perspective. On the surface, they make out pretty well at that price. They don’t have to split that with the theater, for one. They would have to split it with the streaming service, though, and that would probably be a pretty similar arrangement, where they get a larger slice near the release date and a diminishing slice in increments after that. But still, if it’s a single person watching, they make out at about 3 times the rate of a theater ticket, and probably for a longer time. But that quickly diminishes the more people watch it together.

And what do they do about the people with large living rooms who invite 10 friends over? Heck, those people could actually charge admission at $3 a head and break even, while the studios have lost $70-ish in potential revenue. We’d have a new small-business sweeping the nation – and don’t pretend it wouldn’t happen, you know it would. I’d invite people over every chance I had! That’s easy money. (But wait… suddenly I’m an unlicensed movie theater owner.)

They need to raise the price to discourage that kind of behavior. What about $80 a film? That would discourage a few entrepreneurs – not all of them – but then any sane single person, or even a small family, would laugh at that price. You’ve just lost the base of your revenue.

Honestly, I don’t see this ever working out without some way to count and charge for individuals. Studios don’t assume that much risk if they don’t have to.


So let’s summarize:

  • Ticket prices are high, but aren’t really too far out of line from what they’ve been since the ’70s.
  • Rude people suck, and they’re a huge deal when they are there, but if I’m honest I really don’t run into them that often. Your mileage may vary.
  • The odds are you’ll be interrupted more at home – or you may be more likely to be the one doing the interruptions.
  • Snacks are cheaper at home (but a little more work).
  • I don’t care how good your home theater system is, it’s not gonna match a theater’s system.
  • Staying at home means missing out on the social/community/shared experience aspect of the theater. It also means less escape time away from “real life.”
  • There are lots of technical hurdles, not to mention legal ones.
  • None of the above matters, because there’s no reasonable price that satisfies the consumer and the business at this time, nor will there be until we can account for the number of people in front of the screen at home.

If we could just teach society to be civil and consider others, there wouldn’t be issues with rude people in the theater, and I think that would go a HUGE distance to removing the argument of the anti-theater crowd. But we live in an increasingly self-centered world of entitlement, so the odds aren’t good there.

All the same, I vastly prefer the theater experience to staying at home for those first-run movies that I really want to see. Barring the occasional rude people, it’s just more fun, not to mention a better experience technically (unless you’re going to a crappy theater, I suppose).

What do you think? What would you be willing to pay for first-run streaming to your home? Do you think it would really be a good experience from a technical perspective? I am really, truly, interested to know what you think. I know you have an opinion on this. Weigh in through the comments.

Movie Theater vs. Home Theater (part 2)

To review: I’m talking about an article on ZDNet that tries to make the case for streaming first-run movies to a home theater. In the first part, I laid out the argument they made, and then took a look at the ‘why I hate theaters’ portion.

This time I’m moving on to their ‘why my home is awesome’ portion.

But first, let me address a point a forgot to address last time. They argued that theaters used to be plush and served real popcorn with real butter and good candy. Really? Is pre-popped popcorn really an issue? Where is this stuff being served? I don’t think I’ve ever been to a movie theater that served pre-popped popcorn (well, except for second-run, but those aren’t in this discussion). Yeah, there are other snacks as well now, and they’re not all good, but the classics are always there that I can remember. Is anybody else getting the same shoddy snack options as these guys?

As to plush theaters: yeah, the old converted theaters were cool and ornate, and I miss them, but more often than not they also had ripped, squeaky, dirty seats, and they weren’t stadium seating so visibility could be a problem. I’d love to see the best of both worlds, but if I had to choose, I’d go with what we’ve got now.

Okay… moving on.

Their argument for replacing movie theater with home theater:

  • I have an HDTV and good sound.
  • Snacks at home are cheaper.
  • I like my house.
  • I can pause the film, and nobody is rude.

I’m going to take these out of order, easy ones first.

I’m glad you’re comfortable in your house and it’s clean. That’s awesome. You win this one.

The expense of snacks. You know what? You’re right. Snacks are cheaper at home. You’ve gotta do some work to prepare them and do the clean-up, but I’m with you.

Nobody is rude and you can pause the film whenever you want. Okay. Obviously you live alone and don’t have a phone. For most people, the odds of being interrupted are actually pretty high at home, if only because the stupid phone won’t stop ringing. Then you’ve got kids who have to go to the bathroom, or don’t want to go to bed, or get confused by the plot and are constantly asking what’s going on. Or maybe that’s your wife. Or your roommate. If there’s more than one person in your house, the odds are they’re going to interrupt you somehow in the course of a two hour film.

And guess what… if you pause the film because you need to go to the bathroom or get a drink or whatever, you’re the one who’s being rude. You’re wrecking the flow of the story and taking me out of the film, just like that guy in the theater who distracts you with his texting or talking. Movies are meant to be immersive (the good ones anyway); they should be continuously grabbing your attention, not broken up into segments. If you’re exhausted with the effort by the end, that’s a good thing. Don’t pause my film.

You’ve got a 72″ HDTV with surround sound? Awesome! I envy you. Also, it’s still way inferior to the theater experience. I’m sorry, but unless you have a system like I’ve never seen before at your house, buried in a virtually light free room with speakers everywhere, you’re not replicating the full audio/video experience that I get at the theater. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking your system. I seriously envy you. Your system is light years ahead of mine, and I want it badly. I’d much rather watch stuff at your house than mine, but you don’t have what I need for the first-run, big movies experience. And if you have kids or neighbors, you can’t turn up the sound as loudly as I want it, either. I want to live inside the screen (metaphorically, obviously…).

And let’s talk for a second about what you don’t get when you stay at home. A community experience. If you want to be a hermit, that’s your thing. Fine with me. I actually like the shared experience of seeing a movie with a group of people who are looking to be entertained – especially when they’re succeeding. I love the experience of hearing 100 people gasp or cheer along with me as the film takes us through its roller coaster of emotions. That can make a mediocre movie seem really good to me.  It can make an excellent film even more visceral. The risk is that someone in the group will do something that’s incongruous with the film (that she is breaking the unspoken “social contract” with everyone is part of why it’s so damaging to the experience), but for me that risk is well worth the payoff when it comes together.

I also don’t get to leave my own life behind quite as completely if I stay at home. That’s part of what I want to do with a movie: leave my life behind for a while. If I’m at home, as soon as the film is over I’m right back in my life again, distractions everywhere. If I’m at a theater, the experience takes a little longer to fade.

I like going to the theater. You can’t replicate that at home.

The final point in the article deals with what price point would be viable for streaming first run movies to the house, and touches on some other hurdles. I’ll tackle that in the next post.

Movie Theater vs. Home Theater (part 1)

Yesterday I read an article in the ZDNet Tech Broiler attempting to make the case for the studios to release first-run movies direct to streaming options (specifically Netflix and iTunes). What they really did was take a full page laying out the case for why they don’t like going to the theater.

Their argument made the following points, frequently predicated on the reality that corporate megaplexes have mostly pushed out the smaller independent theaters:

  • Theaters used to be plush and served real popcorn with real butter and good candy.
  • Cost is high.
  • You have to drive too far. In traffic, even.
  • Theaters are frequently located near a mall, which makes the traffic worse and makes parking a nightmare.
  • You have to walk across a parking lot.
  • Box offices are understaffed, and automated ticket dispensers are too few – plus there’s a service charge for buying tickets online, which is what is supposed to save the theater the expense of populating the booth to begin with.
  • You have to show up too early to get a good seat, because it’s too crowded, plus people save seats for non-existent people so they won’t have to sit next to others.
  • During the movie, there are disturbances: people are using their smartphones which lights up the room, kids are crying (who shouldn’t be in the movie in the first place), people are talking, etc.
  • Restrooms are dirty.
  • Prices are going up but nothing is improving.

Then they make the typical argument:

  • I have an HDTV and good sound.
  • Snacks at home are cheaper.
  • I like my house.
  • I can pause the film, and nobody is rude.

Here’s my take on all that…

First of all, half of those points are just whining like a child. Oh, no… you have to drive?! And park in a parking lot?! And there are people where you’re going?! Dear God, corporations must be evil! What are you a hermit?! Suck it up, Bucky. I especially love that he complains that there are too many people in the theater. So… you’re saying going to the movies is still popular, which is why people don’t want to go. Reminds me of Yogi Berra’s famous line, “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

Seriously, though, those points are all one man’s experience in an over-crowded part of the country (New York/New Jersey). Those problems are problems there no matter what you’re doing – and if you live there you know what to expect. Can’t blame the theaters for that. I live less than 5 hours away and have a vastly different experience. Not that they’re not valid issues for him, but those points are not worth pursuing universally because they’re not universal.

There are some good points in there, however. Tickets are expensive, and so are the concessions. I don’t like the online service charge, either. Sometimes, people are rude, which sucks. Let’s take a look at those arguments.


I’ve made the argument on this blog and elsewhere more than once that I think the cost of going to the movies is too high. I stand by that. However, is it really that much higher than when we were kids? I’m going to take concessions out of the calculation because it’s easier that way (plus concessions make up the majority of revenue for theaters, as I understand it, and I don’t want the theater to go out of business – plus concessions are optional).

Ticket prices in my area are $9.50 for an adult 2D evening showing (up to $15 for an IMAX showing). Some areas are higher, some are lower, so let’s use the official average ticket prices as reported by the National Association of Theater Owners as our guide.  That’s $7.89 for 2010 (which I think is under my cost last year, but reasonable). Using an online calculator, I’ve adjusted that cost for inflation for the years 1974-2010.


So, yeah, comparatively it’s high now, but not much higher than the late ’80s and actually lower than the mid-’70s. The ’90s, when I remember thinking prices were reasonable but about as high as I wanted them at around $5 locally, were actually the lowest point in the last 40 years, using today’s dollars. I’d love ticket prices to be lower, and they should be, but I can’t say that they’re way out of line from what they’ve been in the past.

The $1 service fee for online purchases – I don’t know for sure, but I’m assuming that’s a charge from the online service provider, not from the theater. I pay it as infrequently as possible, but I can’t begrudge the service provider making a buck (though I’d be way happier if it was $1 per transaction, not per ticket – it doesn’t cost them anything extra to process 12 vs. 1 ticket). If they don’t get paid, the service doesn’t exist, and sometimes I need it.

Rude people

Yeah, rude people suck. But is it really that pervasive of a problem? I’ve been to 5 movies in about a month, and only one of them featured a guy talking during the film (okay, another one had a loudly crying kid for short periods, but that was a kid’s movie, so I didn’t expect perfect behavior there). Granted, that guy was really annoying and ruined the scene for me twice, but 1 out of 5 is still pretty good. And I didn’t see a single smartphone illuminate in any showing.

I have been forced to ask people to be quiet before, and I have a pretty short fuse for that kind of thing – but honestly it doesn’t come up much. I’d say it was because I live in a generally polite area, but I don’t really remember it being a huge problem when I lived closer to Philadelphia either.

So that takes care of the ‘why the theater sucks’ arguments. What about the ‘why home is awesome’ arguments?

I’ll tackle those in my next (probably much shorter) post.

My daughter gives concerts to no-one

singing daughter

From last year, but the same pose.

It’s “rest time” at our house.  It used to be “nap time” but the naps have given way to just individualized down-time. It could be a nap if you want one, but it is an enforced period of mid-day relaxation.

During these times, the girls can do anything they want, from the aforementioned napping to reading, coloring, playing with dolls or toys, or anything else they want, so long as it is self-contained and doesn’t impede their sister (or frequently their mother) from their chosen activity.

My youngest has decided that today she is giving a concert. That’s not just a fancy way of saying that she’s singing in her room. Her door was open a crack – just enough for me to peek in without her seeing me. For the last 20 minutes or so she has been standing at one end of the room, feet together, good posture, her head scanning the room as she sings. That’s fine, and cute, and healthy as well.

Here’s what I thought was worthy of putting in print: After each song, there is silence. At first I thought she was just trying to come up with another song to sing, but it quickly became obvious that wasn’t the case. Her body language wasn’t right for it. She kept scanning the room, with a humble smile on her face, for about 30-40 seconds, and then started in with the next song. After one song, she quickly looked to the side with a quizzical look and then said, quietly, “Sure,” before launching into the next song (evidently by request).

She’s got an entire audience in that room. She’s waiting for the applause between songs.

Childhood is awesome.

Review: Captain America

(Man, I’m actually burning through my movie picks this year. This is awesome – big thank you to my parents for babysitting.)

Tonight my wife and I settled in for the highly anticipated Captain America: The First Avenger – and on opening weekend, no less! The trailers for this movie have looked awesome. Did the movie do as well?

Yes and no. Visually, I really think they nailed it. The costumes, the set designs, the effects… all excellent. It was set in a romanticized 1940’s and featured enhanced humans, cartoonish disfiguration, futuristic weaponry, and a goody-two-shoes hero. By all rights this thing should fail miserably, but it works. I liked the main characters and acting (especially Stanley Tucci – he created the most human character in that movie). Red Skull was really done well, visually. The set pieces were cool. It was fun to watch.

Unfortunately, it was also predictable and spent significant time setting up the Avengers movie instead of simply telling a Captain America story. I’m not sure it works as well as a stand-alone film as it does a part of a larger story. A lot of the “surprises” in the film are given away in the trailer. There were two major montages, both of which should probably have been shorter, or in the case of the action montage, replaced completely by something better. It was cool to watch, but felt more like an assembly of action shots they wanted to fit into the movie but didn’t have time to get to otherwise.

There are really quite a few ways for me to nit-pick this thing to death, if I’m honest, but that would depress me, so I’m not going to do it. In the end, it was a fun movie and I’m glad I saw it. It looked great and I had a good time watching it. (Can you tell I’m really tired, and my energy for writing this has petered out? Sorry. Maybe I’ll revisit it later – but maybe not.)

Review Addendum: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt 2 – book comparison

No, I haven’t read the entire series in the last 12 hours. I have, however, read an excellent article that explains how much of my disappointment in the finale of the movie is taken care of nicely in the book.

The article describes how Christian themes wound into the book are removed from the movie by comparing the final confrontation across the two mediums.  Even if you don’t buy the Christian interpretation (though I have to say the guy makes a great case – at least to me, but remember I haven’t read the books), the description of how the finale plays out in the book vs the film lays plain that the differences are staggeringly important.

If I hadn’t already decided to read the books, this article would have convinced me to do so.

And if I had read the books already, this large of a departure would tempt me to calling this film an abject failure.

As it is, I still contend that the movies are entertaining, though it’s disappointing that the ending felt a bit flat. It is evident, however that… as always… the books are better.

And when you’ve got a few minutes, head over and read De-Theologizing Harry… It’s a really interesting article.


Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2 (spoilers)

I guess it’s about time I started reading the books.

I have now seen all the movies. I just returned from the final entry.

The final story in a cohesive series bears a huge burden. It must tie together the threads of not only its own story, but of the entire series in a satisfying way. In this case, there have been seven movies leading up to this final showdown. That’s a lot of story to tie together and a lot of weight to carry.

I haven’t quite finished processing what I think of this film yet, so I am just going to list some thoughts I have below. We’ll see where that takes us. There will be huge, massive spoilers. Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know. Seriously.

  • I enjoyed the film overall, but something felt missing. I wonder if that would improve if I watched parts 1 and 2 back to back. I admit to having forgotten some detail of part 1 in the intervening months.
  • Snape turns out to be a good guy. No surprise there. I was surprised, however, at the violence of his death – and really that he died at all. I thought he’d make it.
  • Snape had the same patronis as Harry’s mother and Harry (right?). Here I’m a little confused. Was that simply because they’d been friends for so long and he loved her, or because he was really Harry’s father? I think that distinction was a little unclear.
  • I think I need to hear the Deathly Hallows story again. Am I right in gathering that Dumbledore was the central character in that story? He certainly had possession of all three hallows.
  • What was the point of the resurrection stones? Just that he can talk to dead loved ones? I’m not sure I see why he dropped it in the woods.
  • I liked all the callbacks to previous films (mostly in revisiting key locations).
  • I’m a little confused about the timeline surrounding the Gryffendor sword and its replica.
  • I’m a little disappointed in the death of Voldemorte. It looked cool and dramatic and all, but I really don’t think it was pulled off in a way that supported the theme of all the stories (which it had to do): that love is greater than evil. As shown, Harry fought evil with power and smarts, though in the end it came down to power. I understand that I’m oversimplifying and that friendship and love did figure in, but the emphasis was really on the fact that the Elder Wand was rejecting Voldemorte. So it’s just the mechanics of magic that beat him and Harry was good enough to capitalize on that. That’s fine, but doesn’t really support the love theme very well. As I said to my wife on the way home, really all they had to do to refocus the emphasis was to show the ghosts of his loved ones standing around Harry encouraging and supporting him. That would have clearly shown that what was sustaining Harry was love. And I wouldn’t have minded seeing a little more fear – or maybe rage – on Voldemorte’s face at the end, either.

There’s more bubbling around in my head, but those are the biggest rocks tumbling around in there.

Have you seen it yet? Read the books? What did you think? Can you answer my questions?

Netflix becomes stupider, Warehouse 13 returns

Yes, I know stupider isn’t a word. It applies to Netflix nonetheless.

I’ll start this off by admitting that I don’t have Netflix. I have used it at other people’s houses from time to time, and enjoyed it, but haven’t pulled the trigger to get my own account.

Why? Because it doesn’t have what I want in its streaming library 90% of the time. I can find something to watch, sure, but usually not what I want to watch. Periodically I browse their website for shows I’m interested in. Most of the time if they’re there they are DVD only – no streaming.

Why would I pay for that? That’s essentially what I get with my cable subscription and a Redbox.

Here’s the other downside for me with Netflix (and all streaming services): no special features. I love special features. I like listening to the commentaries, watching the “on the set” and “behind the scenes” featurettes, and especially the deleted scenes. I don’t know of any streaming service (with the exception of Zediva) that provides for any of those. (Of course some studios are making separate versions of their DVDs for rental purposes that don’t include these features either in an attempt to force me to buy the retail disc – which is a whole other level of stupid. They actually spend more in order to provide me with less for worse return.)

So yesterday Netflix announced they are “changing their plan structure.” You now get to pay $8/month for exactly half of what you paid $8/month for yesterday. You can get streaming OR DVD by mail, but not both for that price. Or you could pay double to get the whole enchilada again. So they’re basically saying that their streaming service is equal to their DVD service, even though it has a fraction of the titles available.

I’m sure it has a much better profit margin for them, so I can understand their enthusiasm, but from a consumer side … they simply don’t have a big enough library yet.

I can’t find many of my geek wants, for example. The new Green Lantern animated lead up to the  live action film, any Justice League cartoons, the old Superfriends cartoons – pretty much any super-hero content, really with a few minor exceptions; any Looney Tunes; most kids’ shows (no Mister Rogers); Babylon 5 … heck even Star Wars isn’t on streaming! Even huge hit sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory, Friends, How I Met Your Mother… I could go on.

Where’s the value? I can watch a lot of documentaries … that’s great. I enjoy documentaries. And they have plenty of shows I don’t watch, too. And there are a handful I want to see. But $8/month for the privilege? No.

They don’t have Warehouse 13 on Netflix streaming either (it’s on DVD). So if I wanted to catch up on the last 2 seasons to prepare for the third season premiere, I’d be out of luck.

I did watch the premiere on Monday, by the way. It wasn’t one of the best episodes, but it was solid. Even though some parts felt like filler when you look at what actually happened, it was enormously fun to watch. The acting and writing are awesome. Even the “boring” parts had me laughing. If you’re not watching this show yet, you should.

You can catch it on Hulu.

Google+ is open – is it a better Facebook?

So I’ve been on Google+ (Google Plus) for a little while now. For those who don’t know, it’s another social media platform, like Facebook. You make a profile, then you can start making comments and posts. You see a stream of all your friends’ posts, just like in Facebook.

Let’s face it, to the majority of people it’s pretty much Facebook with a facelift.

So what’s the draw? Some reports have Google+ listed as a Facebook killer already (though they concede it will take a while).  Is it really worth switching?

Well, here’s what I like about it:

  • I find the concept of “circles” identical to Facebook’s friend groups, though I think Google has done a much better job of making it easy to work with. Drag and drop and friendly looking is the way to go here.
  • Related to that, I think it’s easier to target your posts to individual circles or groups of circles than to do the same with Facebook’s groups.
  • I also like that, like Twitter, you can put someone in one of your circles, but they don’t have to reciprocate (i.e., they don’t have to “friend” you).
  • I’ve found it easier to set privacy settings for various parts of my profile than in Facebook, but I can see how other users might get overwhelmed with that. I still want to experiment a bit more with it, as well.
  • I haven’t run across any inane games yet that will suck my time – though I’m sure they will show up at some point as adoption increases.

There is also the concept of Hangouts, which is essentially video chat as I understand it, but I haven’t tried that yet. Sounds cool – but then I also think Facebook is rolling out a video chat partnership with Skype, which is probably similar though I haven’t seen it yet either.

What don’t I like?

Basically, Google’s decision that your profile  (at least your name and gender, and picture if you have one) must be public and searchable on the web. That’s non-negotiable for them. You can’t have a hidden profile. If you are someone who enjoys some level of notoriety (even if it’s only at a local level) and want to have a private, “you can’t find me” presence that would be invite-only – or maybe that’s how you want to handle your young child’s online presence – you’re out of luck. I’ve known some teachers, for example, who want to be on Facebook for their family, but have left because they’ve been inundated by “friend requests” from former students. Some people just don’t want to give yet another avenue for marketers to get ahold of their name. I don’t see why Google refuses to allow that option even as a possibility.

I have my Facebook profile hidden from web search results now, and I’d feel better being able to do that with my Google profile, but that’s not too huge of a deal, personally. I do wonder how I’ll feel about that for my kids when they’re old enough to get a profile, however.

I also don’t like that almost none of my friends (and literally none of my face-to-face friends) are on yet, so there’s not much activity at this point. I assume that will eventually change.

So, the big question: is it worth it to switch from Facebook to Google?

Honestly, most of the aspects of the systems seem pretty equal to me. Even those things I listed above are not huge differentiators, though they give Plus the edge. Facebook has the inertia going for it, though, so being realistic, Joe User is not going to run out and switch without something bigger drawing them to Plus. And I can’t say I blame him at this point. Google+ is still new and there’s no harm in waiting to see how it improves before doubling your social networking effort. If you’re into early adoption, though, and like to play around with new toys, this can be a fun place to hang out.

If you want to get in and need an invite, let me know in the comments.

If you’re already in there, let me know what you think of the system. Is there a something I missed, or something that you think is big enough to pull Facebook users away? (and hey… why not click that little +1 button you’re seeing here… you know you want to.)

So long, BlogGlue

I don’t talk much about the technical side of having a blog, but though it might look technical, this is really about the business side of blogging.

One of the things I do on the back-end is choose “plug-ins” that add features to the blog that (hopefully) enhance your experience here or at a minimum help me accomplish something that the blog software (WordPress, in my case) doesn’t do natively. For example, and at issue here, at the bottom of each post is a list of “Related Links”. A plug-in provides those.

The plug-in that runs now lists older posts on my blog so if you liked the post you can find similar things I’ve already written. For the last month, I’ve been running a different plug-in that has a great feature: in addition to listing old posts I’d written, it also links out to related posts written by people I hand-selected on their blogs. I thought it was a great way to introduce some of you to some of the people I read, and they in turn could (and did) use the same plug-in to introduce me to their readership.

That plug-in, BlogGlue, also has some integration with Facebook and Twitter to make it easier for me to let people know when new posts are available.

In general, it functioned as advertised, in that it successfully found related posts from both my own blog and those I identified and put them on my posts. Cool.

But then the trouble began.

As it was first processing my site, it started posting random years-old posts to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Very messy and annoying. So I turned off the integration until it was finished processing.

I never turned the Facebook integration back on, though, because it kept randomly throwing links to old posts on Twitter, and even worse started sending direct comments to one of the guys whose blog I linked to saying “I suggested you in” whatever the post was. What? Why in the world would he care that this software added a link to an old post on his blog in a years-old post on my blog? It’s just spammy.

But then, that’s who this plug-in seems to cater to: spammers. Out of the hundreds of sites using this plug-in, I could only find an extremely small handful who were not quite obviously spammers. I couldn’t even fill the limit of 5 associated blogs that comes with the free account after an hour or more of searching for non-spam blogs.

And speaking of limits, that is finally what did them in for me. They have a 400 post limit on the free account. After that, you have to pay $10/month to raise the limit to 1000. I have over 400 posts already, and I pay less than $10/month for my entire hosting account. So nothing I posted after I installed the plug-in was getting related-posts additions, my friends weren’t seeing any traffic from any of my new posts, and to fix that, I’d have to more than double what I currently pay to run this blog.

Not happening.

Great idea for a plug-in. Nice related post functionality. But it needs some serious work on the other features.

  • Don’t bug my friends with pointless Twitter pesterings.
  • Don’t spam random old posts all over the place. At least give me the option of whether to tweet about old entries.
  • Maybe allow me to control how far into the past to index my older posts – or just index a rolling 400 (or more reasonable limit) of my old posts so the newest ones actually show links.

In my opinion this plug-in is just a way to make some quick bucks off spammers. I’m all for taking money from spammers, but I don’t need to be on the giving side of that equation – especially when the ancillary functions are so annoying. So… later, BlogGlue.