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I think my Nikon D40 has a sensor defect

I noticed yesterday this nasty bright green dot and line in recent photos from my Nikon D40:

Nikon D40 Sensor Defect?

Crap.

Just to be sure, I did some more test shots tonight with my other lens, and it’s definitely there.

It doesn’t seem to be dust on the sensor. After some quick Googling, I found this guy, who had the same symptoms on a D40, and returned it under warranty as defective.

The D40 has a 1 year warranty on parts, so I guess I have to figure out how to get warranty service on it. Any pointers or ideas?

Update: Nikon’s Knowledge Base has an article about “banding” – vertical lines appearing in high contrast areas of photos. I don’t think that’s what this is – my line is green, has a bright dot on it, and always appears in the same place. Hmm…

Update 2: A ha! Here’s a Nikon KB article on “defect pixels”, that says if they appear consistently, you should have Nikon evaluate your camera. Bingo!

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Channel 9 Guy has infiltrated Intel



Channel 9 Guy at Intel, originally uploaded by Josh Bancroft.

This isn’t new, but I still display my Channel 9 guy(s) loud and proud. It’s a reminder to me that I want to make Intel Software Network kick the kinds of butt that Channel 9 (and it’s siblings) do.

Here you can see one of mine against the endless grey fabric expanse of cubes here at Intel (Jones Farm 3, to be exact, but they’re all the same).

I’ll have to post some pictures of the gigantic Channel 9 Guy-head beanbag I scored at PDC05. I keep it in my cube at work, not only for inspiration, but because my wife wouldn’t let me keep it at home. πŸ˜‰

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iPhone Posse (and a Nokia N95)

At the last Ignite Portland planning lunch/meeting, traditionally held at Esan Thai in downtown Portland, we were commenting on how many iPhones we had between us.

So we piled them all in the middle of the table for a photo op. :-)

And then there’s the lone Nokia N95 from Renny, who had to horn in on the action. πŸ˜‰ You can’t blame Renny – his company does marketing for Nokia, and the N95 is definitely a cool phone. I know lots of people that use N95s instead of iPhones. Heck, I’m even a little jealous of some of the things it can do (5MP camera, GPS, 3G, video streaming/recording).

Oh, and this gadget post is for the people complaining in the comments that I don’t write about gadgets enough lately. πŸ˜›

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Facebook is Fading (for me)

I’m using Facebook less and less. Last year, when it was the new buzz, I was on it a lot. I have almost 400 friends there. I used to join groups, create groups, explore new apps, update my status, write on people’s walls, use Facebook messages in lieu of email, and do all of the stuff that everyone does on Facebook.

But now, I find that I only check Facebook a few times a week. And the only thing I see when I go there is a bunch of requests to add people, or invitations to add less-than-compelling applications (zombies, werewolfs, pirates, ninjas, etc).

What changed?

I think I reached a saturation point. I don’t think anything about Facebook changed. I don’t think they’re worn out, or going downhill, or any other dire thing. I just think that what I really enjoyed about Facebook – the novelty – was exhausted.

It was great fun to search around in Facebook to add people I know, to make and remake connections. It was great fun to explore and find interesting applications.

But at almost 400 friends, I think I’ve added everyone I know that’s using Facebook. Same thing for applications – I’ve added and used most of the interesting ones. I feel like I’m running into the law of diminishing returns.

Has something else stolen my affection and attention? Not really. I tend to use the whole web as my social network these days. It’s all about the feeds I read, the people I converse with on Twitter, and the actual connections and relationships I make with other human beings. I’m not infatuated with some other social network, I think my concept of a “social network” has expanded beyond a single tool like Facebook.

So what am I going to do? Close my Facebook account? Declare Facebook bankruptcy? I did that with LinkedIn. I closed my LinkedIn account, because literally the only thing I ever got out of that service was lots and lots of requests to add people to my network. Nothing else.

I’m not giving up on Facebook. I’m not going to close my account. But I’m going to pay significantly less attention to it.

Let me know if something new an exciting happens there, and I’ll go back and check it out. Here’s a link to my profile.

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Tradition: Liveblogging the Macworld 2008 Keynote

Since Steve Jobs’ keynote at Apple’s Macworld expo in San Francisco tomorrow is the only thing I’m going to be able to think about, and the only thing most geek bloggers are going to write about, I’m putting this post up as a placeholder for something that’s become kind of a tradition for me – liveblogging the Macworld keynote.

I’m not going to be there, but inevitably, I end up chatting with a few of my geeky friends on Google Talk, Twitter, etc. during the keynote, as we all frantically refresh Engadget, MacRumorsLive, and any other source we can get our hands on during the 1.5 hours in the year that matter most to Mac fans.

Check back during the keynote (9:00 – 10:30 AM PST) on January 15 for updates. Or, if you’re reading this after the fact, enjoy the exultation (and, possibly, disappointment) as Steve reveals the future for the Mac faithful. πŸ˜‰

Well, it’s starting. Communications channels are open, agents are in place, and I’m just waiting for the trickle of information to start!

Twitter seems to be down under the load. This is the first MacWorld keynote since Twitter got REALLY popular, so I’m not really surprised. But I’m disappointed, as that’s where most of my personal “connections” are – I know at least a dozen people who are at the keynote, who were posting updates through Twitter. Oh well!

First new product announced: Time Capsule! A full Airport Extreme wireless router with a “server grade” hard drive inside. 500GB for $299, 1 TB for $499. I was about to buy an Airport Extreme to replace a flaky router at home, but something told me “never buy something from Apple this close to Macworld!” Glad I waited, even though my friends said “there’s no way they’ll update the Airport Extreme!” :-) Sure, you can get the same thing with an Airport Extreme and an external USB hard drive, but backing up from Time Machine was never supported, and this is an all in one integrated unit. Kinda spendy, not sure if I’ll get one or not (definitely won’t run out and buy one today – I don’t have the money!). But a cool product nonetheless.

Next up, iPhone! Going over some stats – wow! 4 million iPhones sold, about 20,000 phones per day. I’d say that’s WAY more than the 1 million they hoped to sell by the end of the year. That much sales put them in the number 2 spot in the smartphone market, behind RIM (BlackBerry). Wow. They basically murdered all Windows Mobile and Palm OS smartphones in one fell swoop.

It looks like a new iPhone software release will happen today. Based on the features they’re showing (“my location” in Google Maps, rearrange the home screen, “web clips”), it appears to be consistent with the features we’ve seen in the leaked 1.1.3 firmware. Since I never did a “jailbreak” on my iPhone after my brick fiasco, I’ll happily update to 1.1.3 as soon as its available. The “My Location” in Google Maps, plus the ability to add webclips/bookmarks to the homescreen are definitely worth it to me.

Oh, and apparently they’re releasing new apps for the iPod Touch – Mail, Stocks, Weather, Notes, and Maps. Basically, the apps that the iPhone has but the iPod Touch doesn’t. That’s nice. But wait, what’s this? If you own an iPod Touch and want those apps, you can have them for the low low price of only $20! What a rip off. Doing a jailbreak and adding those apps yourself for free is probably still the way to go if you own an iPod Touch.

Now Steve is talking about iTunes. 4 billion songs sold so far, 20 million on Christmas Day (new record), etc. etc. He’s announcing iTunes Movie Rentals, which pretty much everyone expected was coming, All the major studios, over 1000 movies available, 30 days after DVD release, 30 days to start watching, 24 hours to finish watching. $2.99 per rental, “new releases” $3.99. Kind of lame, but I might feel differently once I get my dream HDTV + Mac mini setup going. Steve also announced “Apple TV Take 2”, with HD movie rentals ($4.99). Yawn. I still maintain that a Mac mini is a much more flexible and powerful home theater PC option, for not much more money. HD rentals are the only really difference. The “take 2” stuff will be available as a software update for existing Apple TV owners in a couple of weeks. Oh, and there’s a nice price drop on the Apple TV from $299 to $229. That makes it a little more appealing, but still not for me, I think.

I get the feeling that Steve was kind of rushing through all of these announcements to get to the “big” one of the show. I sense a new MacBook coming! :-)

The CEO of 20th Century Fox was on stage for a while, blah blah movies blah.

Steve is back on stage. MacBook Air! “A third kind of notebook”, worlds thinnest, etc. Whee! This thing is so thin it fits inside an envelope. 0.16 inches thick at the thin end, 0.76 at the thick end. 1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 13.3″ LED backlit display, built in iSight, etc. The MacBook Air has a 1.8″ hard drive, like the iPod Classic and other small computing devices. Which means that it’s really slow. 80GB HD is standard, but 64 GB SSD flash drive is a “pricey but fast” option. Paul Otellini is on stage now, talking about the chip. Shrunk 60% from the first gen Core 2 processor, I’m guessing this is a new Penryn processor, which Intel just released at CES last week. Paul says it’s “thick as a nickel, wide as a dime.” The Air only has one USB 2.0 port, and apparently a brand new video port called “MicroDVI”. Yay, another cable format! It’s got Bluetooth and 802.11n (of course), but apparently no physical Ethernet port for wired network. That’s going to hurt it in corporate environments, but then, I don’t guess that’s where this thing is aimed at. It doesn’t come with an optical drive, but you can buy a USB SuperDrive for $99. It gets 5 hours of battery life, which is about twice what existing MacBooks and MacBook Pros get, but the battery doesn’t appear to be user replaceable, and that’s going to make a LOT of people mad. It does come with 2 GB of memory, though, which is nice. Price is $1799, pre order today, ships in two weeks. They’ve already got some nice pics and a guided tour up on Apple.com.

I really don’t see myself getting one of these, but there’s no denying it’s a lustable computer. If I were computerless, and contemplating a new one, it would take some hard thought to decide between the MacBook ($1099), MacBook Air ($1799), or MacBook Pro ($2000). But, already being spoiled with a MacBook Pro, I just don’t seen room in my life for a MacBook Air.

Unless, that is, Rachel falls in love, and just HAS to have one. πŸ˜‰

So, after all of that, it looks like I’ll be updating my iPhone to 1.1.3 as soon as it comes out, and probably buying a Time Capsule soon. I’m pretty happy, and honestly a bit relieved that I don’t have to try to come up with $1800 for a MacBook Air. πŸ˜‰

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Site Statistics I Care About as a Blogger

This is another post that grew from an interesting conversation at work. We were discussing what site statistics/metrics are REALLY important to a blogger. That is, swimming in a sea of numbers and graphs and data, which are the ones that are the most meaningful to you as a blogger? That got me thinking about the ones that are most important to me, so off I went taking screenshots in Google Analytics, and this post was born. I had a lot of input from my friends on Twitter, where I conducted an impromptu Twitter InstaPoll(TM) to get their ideas, so thanks to them for their input. I’m also going to do a separate post on stats that are just plain fun to look at, but don’t really tell you anything useful. πŸ˜‰

All of the screen captures used in this post represent real, live statistics for this blog, from Google Analytics and FeedBurner (Ooh! My unmentionables are showing! πŸ˜‰ ).

Pageview Trends, not just Pageviews

If you asked most bloggers what statistic they care about the most, it would probably be pageviews (or visitors or hits or however it’s quantified). You know – how many people are reading my blog. But what I care about more than the absolute number of pageviews is the trend of pageviews:

Pageviews.jpg

The reason I care about the trend of pageviews is because it lets me know what “normal” traffic to my blog looks like, and shows me when there are deviations from that “normal”. You can see from the graph above that there’s a little wave pattern that happens. The time scale for the graph is about a month, and traffic drops off on the weekends, and picks up in the middle of the week. Anomalies in the trend alert me that there’s something I need to do.

For example, a spike in pageviews might happen after one of my posts gets to Digg, Techmeme, or somewhere else that’s sending a lot of visitors. This alerts me that I should jump into that conversation with a little more attention than normal, or, if it’s a LOT of traffic, pay closer attention to site performance, to make sure the site doesn’t go down under the load.

Conversely, if there’s a drop in pageviews, that’s an indication that something’s wrong. Perhaps my webhost is having an outage, or I inadvertently broke something on the site (happens more often than I’d care to admit!). Again, the trend tells me if there’s some kind of action I need to take, and that’s why it’s important.

I don’t really care about “absolute number of pageviews” as an ego booster. Partly because I don’t write this blog to get gobs of traffic, partly because I know that the numbers only have meaning if you understand their context (it’s all relative), and partly because there’s another statistic I’ll talk about later that inflates my ego much more effectively than pageviews. πŸ˜‰

Traffic Sources

I like to have a general idea where my traffic is coming from. Search engines? Links from other sites? Direct bookmarks? Google Analytics gives a nice overview of this:

TrafficSources.jpg

As you can see, the vast majority of my traffic comes from search engines. Why is this important? It reminds me to make my posts search engine friendly. Write clear, descriptive titles, and just generally try to keep the quality of my posts at a level that I would want to read if I found it as a search result.

The fact that the majority of my traffic comes from searches also has bearing on what we’re going to look at next…

Top Content

This view shows me what the most popular pages on my site are, for the period of time selected (in this case, the last month or so):

TopContent.jpg

It often surprises me to see which of my posts are the most popular. It’s not usually the ones I would have guessed. Why are the popular ones popular? It turns out that the answer lies in the combination of the fact that the majority of my traffic comes from from search engines, and the next metric we’re going to look at.

Keywords

Keywords show me what people were searching for when they arrive at my site from a search engine. I originally wasn’t going to include this item, because I couldn’t think of what meaning it really conveyed. I was going to include it in my other post, “stats that are fun to look at”. Until I wrote the previous paragraph, and realized that it explains why the “Most Popular” pages on my blog are so popular: Search Engine Traffic + Keywords = Most Popular Pages.

Keywords.jpg

The top search keywords also shows me which of my pages has the most “Google Juice” – that is, how highly ranked in Google search results for a particular search any one of my posts is. For example, go do a Google search for “iphone outlook exchange sync”. As of this writing, my post “The iPhone will NOT sync with Microsoft Outlook/Exchange, might be upgradeable to 3G” is the number one result for that search. Pretty cool, huh? :-)

The most popular pages on this blog are the ones that are very highly ranked in the search engines (mostly Google), since that’s where the vast majority of my traffic comes from.

Referrers

Referring sites makes up a pretty small percentage of my traffic, but they’re very meaningful to me. They indicate a link from another site to something I’ve written, which means that I’m part of a conversation somewhere. I like to stay as involved as possible in those conversations, adding info where I can, or at the very least, dropping by to say “thanks for the link!”

The default sort for Referrers shows you which sites contribute the most incoming traffic:

Referrers.jpg

This is interesting, to a point, but it doesn’t change very often. I find it much more interesting to invert the sort order, and read it from the bottom. That way, I can see ALL of the sites that are linking me to me, and make sure I don’t miss out on jumping in to any of those conversations.

RefferersInverseSort.jpg

I do a kind of mental filter on these – some of them are repeats that continually bring in a trickle of traffic, and some of them are search engine results (stuff from Technorati, Techmeme, etc.) that don’t require a personal response. But I always go through the referrers list and look for opportunities to go post a comment on the referring blog.

Subscribers

I mentioned before that there’s one statistic that swells my ego more than any other. It’s not even so much that it makes me feel good about myself, but I think the number of subscribers to my feed is probably the most meaningful of all the statistics and metrics that my blog generates.

Subscribers.jpg

Every single subscriber represents something that’s more precious than a pageview, highly ranked Google result, or incoming link. It represents someone’s voluntary attention. Someone has said “I like this site enough that I’m going to pay a portion of my precious, limited attention to it, by subscribing to the feed in my reader.”

To me, that’s the ultimate compliment you can pay to a blogger. That’s why I write here. I try to be interesting and useful enough to other people that they deem what I’m writing worthy of reading on a regular basis. I feel like each person that subscribes to my feed forges a link of relationship with me, and THAT is what makes the geeky parts of my brain feel all tingly and nice. It’s also related to why I think I like social networks like Twitter and Facebook so much – for me, it’s all about making connections and building relationships with other people.

So, if you ever want to flatter me, just subscribe to my feed! πŸ˜‰

Conclusion

Keep an eye out for the “companion” to this post, on “stats that are just plain fun to look at”. I’ll link to it from here when it’s ready.

What stats do you care about? Disagree with any of mine? If so, post a comment below, or write up something on your own blog, and link here, so I can see it in my referrer log and respond. :-)

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The Adobe/Omniture/2o7.net Controversy and the Danger of Closed Source

If you haven’t been following, there’s a bit of a scandal in the blogosphere these days about Adobe software products (like Photoshop and their whole CS3 suite) phoning home to a suspicious-looking (indeed, intentionally deceptive) domain name – 192.168.112.2o7.net. That’s “two oh seven” not “two zero seven”. It’s designed to look like an IP address on/from your local network (192.168.x.x is a very common private IP range). People started noticing these calls, and wondered what the heck Adobe was up to.

Turns out, the calls to that address were use to send usage statistics/data to web metrics company Omniture. This, in itself, is not a big deal. Almost everyone uses some kind of web metrics. Google Analytics is a popular one – I use it on this blog. We even use Omniture to track stats on Intel Software Network. Web sites do this all the time, and it’s normal. But when it’s an application, not a web page, making these calls, and it’s happening without the users knowledge or permission, and when it’s going to an address that was intentionally made to deceive people, well, folks get mad.

Adobe blogger John Nack has been doing an admirable job providing answers during this fiasco (he has a good FAQ post on the topic). (On a side note, I’m proud of Adobe for having bloggers to talk about stuff like this. Imagine how much worse for them it would be if they didnt.) But there’s one question that Adobe hasn’t given a satisfactory answer to (an, surprisingly, it’s because they say they don’t know the answer):

Q.: Why does Adobe use a server whose name is so suspicious-looking?
A.: I’m afraid the answer is that we donÒ€ℒt really know. The fact is that this SWF tracking code already existed on the Macromedia side at the time the companies merged, and it was adopted without change by a number of products for CS3. The people who wrote the code originally did not document why they used that server name, and we canÒ€ℒt find anyone who remembers. I’m sorry we arenÒ€ℒt able to provide a more solid, definitive explanation.

Emphasis mine. Besides the fact that they’re blaming this on the guys at Macromedia who wrote the code that’s doing these calls, they’re basically saying “uhh, we just had all this code that we dropped in there, and we don’t know what’s in it, and we didn’t review it, and it’s not documented, and nobody who worked on the original code works here anymore. So we don’t know why it’s doing that.”

Not exactly confidence-inspiring, is it?

So why is this post titled “the Danger of Closed Source”? Simple. If this were an open source project, with an active community of developers involved, the code would be available for anyone to review, and this kind of deceptive trickery would have been exposed a lot sooner. Not to mention the fact that a patch to remove it would have been made available already. Or the fact that the quality of the code in general, and the documentation, would probably be a lot better. Open source doesn’t magically make these things happen, but in a popular, well managed open source project, it’s more likely to happen than in a closed source project.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about open source, its culture, and its practices. I highly, highly recommend a couple of books on the topic: The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond and Open Sources 2.0, a collection of essays compiled by Google’s Chris DiBona and my friend Danese Cooper (those are both affiliate links). Both books, and the essays they contain do a terrific job of getting past the “hype” and stereotypes of open source software, and explaining why increasingly, closed source software is a bad idea, in software quality, customer experience, and as a business model.

This latest example with Adobe and the nefarious 207.net domain name only serves to illustrate that point. I actually feel bad for them. They acquired a company and it’s “assets” (a bunch of code that they had to integrate into their own products). They probably chose not to spend the resources necessary to go over every line of code (of which there are probably millions) to understand everything it’s doing. Who would? So, they do the best they can, integrate the code, test it, make it work, and, having done their best, release it to the world.

And then something like this comes along and bites them. And even though they did their best, they’re still getting hammered for it. By the press, bloggers, and eventually, shareholders to whom they’re accountable.

But it gets worse! Want to think of something REALLY scary? If Adobe “just doesn’t know” what’s in the code that’s on millions of people’s computers around the world, who’s to say there’s not something a lot more dangerous, a lot more malicious, and a lot better hidden lurking in there? What if a disgruntled Macromedia developer hid some code that would give him backdoor access to every computer running Photoshop? What is there’s code in one of these apps that’s silently searching hard drives for passwords and other identity information, and sending it off to some evil dude in a foreign country?

That’s the danger of closed source software. When you use it, you’re putting yourself completely at the mercy of the people who wrote it. You’re giving them your trust. Based on what? Hope and blind faith? The fact that nothing bad has happened so far? Adobe trusted the source code, and customers trusted Adobe. And look what happened.

Are you a little bit more wary about closed source software after reading this? I hope so.

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How to Integrate Discussion when you have an site based on Articles

I’ve been back at work at Intel Software Network for almost a week now, and already there have been some great discussions. Last week, in staff meeting, we were talking about how to better integrate discussion (comments, etc.) into the articles that get posted onto our Community pages. I spoke up and volunteered to put together some thoughts on how other sites accomplish this, as well as how I think ISN could do it. I started jotting down some notes, and taking some screenshots, and it just kind of evolved in to this blog post. We’re not talking about the secret sauce or anything, so I’m posting it here.

Some backgroud first. If you’re not familiar with the layout of ISN, we’ve got a couple of “areas” to the site. The main site and the community pages are powered by a custom CMS that we’ve written, and the main unit is the Article. (Links go to examples.) New articles get posted with news, contest information, white papers, or whatever the community managers decide to post. There are other areas of ISN, including the blog and the discussion forums. What we’re looking at is how to add better, meaningful discussion capability to the articles in the main/community areas of the site.

I see a lot of similarities between ISN and one of my favorite news/community sites, ArsTechnica. They are set up in a similar fashion – they have an area where news articles are posted, and they have a separate part of the site for discussion forums. In their last site redesign, they added some features that I think work really well, and that represent one way we could improve discussion on ISN articles.

On just about every “article” on Ars, be it a news story or whatever, there’s a link at the bottom of the story that says “Discuss” or “Comments”. (Click on any of these screenshots to go directly to the page being show, and see how it works firsthand.)

ArsFrontPage.jpg
ArsArticle.jpg


These links go to a thread in a special forum the created in their existing forum system, specifically for discussion of news articles:

ArsNewsForum.jpg


This way, there’s a separate forum for discussion of news articles, and each article gets its own thread:

ArsNewsForum-1.jpg


Some articles at Ars, in the “Journals” area, have comments integrated and displayed right at the bottom of the page, kind of like a blog post:

ArsIntegratedComments.jpg


On further investigation, though, you see that even these comments are really part of a thread in the News part of the forum. There’s just some display magic that makes the comments appear on the article page itself.

OK, so Ars has a nice facility for discussion of news articles. What does this have to do with Intel Software Network?

Well, we have an existing forum system that’s home to a lot of great discussion. Just like Ars. I think we (ISN) could accomplish our goal of adding discussion to those “static” articles on the main and community pages simply by adding a link on each article to its own discussion thread in the forums. We could create a separate forum for discussion of articles, like Ars did, or we could create the threads in the relevant topical forum (discussion of Multicore articles in the Multicore forum, etc.).

Why not add some code to the article system to let people post comments directly there? Well, we could do that, and it would work. But how would people find those discussions, if they weren’t where the other discussions are happening? Would they be indexed by the search engines? Would people be able to get notifications when followups were posted in their threads? If we talk about coding up our own comment system, that’s fine, but in order to have it be at least as robust as the discussion capabilities on the forums and on the blogs, we’re talking about a non-trivial amount of programming.

I think adding a link to a discussion thread (where appropriate) to each ISN Article, whether automatically or manually, would be a simple, easy way to increase contributions to the site, engage in better conversations, and take advantage of the existing resources we have, and that our community is familiar with (the forums). Whew, I almost let the word “leverage” slip out in there. But I refrained. πŸ˜‰

Let me know if the idea of how this would work on ISN isn’t clear. I was going to do some mockups of what it would look like, but I think the concept is pretty simple, and I’d rather spend time discussing the actual issue that mucking around in Photoshop to do a mockup. πŸ˜‰

What do you think? A simple change with great benefit to be had? A dumb idea? Is there something else entirely that I’m missing or not taking into consideration? Luckily, since this is a blog post, the ability to post a comment is baked right in. Use it, and let me know what you think. :-)

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NetFlix is Ripping Off Honest Customers

Rachel and I are very casual Netflix users. We have the cheapest plan, that gives us one movie at a time, up to two per month for five bucks a month. We’re not huge movie watchers, so this is perfect. Lets us see some new movies once in a while, very affordable, etc., etc.

A few months ago, we received “The DaVinci Code” in the mail from NetFlix. Shortly thereafter, we lost the DVD. We can’t find it anywhere, and we’ve looked. Either one of our small housebears children ate it or hid it expertly somewhere, or, more likely, it accidentally got thrown in the recycle with a pile of junk mail, magazines, and catalogs. Oops.

NetFlix won’t send us the next movie in our queue until we return this one. On the NetFlix site, there is the option to Report a Problem with a disc, including an option that only an assiduously honest person would choose:

NetflixLost.jpg

“OK,” I think. “We’ll just have to bite the bullet.” I click the link, to find out how much they’re going make us pay:

NetflixPay.jpg

Twenty bucks! For a DVD that came in a paper envelope!? That sucks, but what other choices do I have?

Let’s think about that question for a minute. On the previous page, I had noticed that they had “The DaVinci Code” for sale. “Only $5.99!”

NetflixBuy1.jpg

That’s a lot cheaper than $20. What do you get for your $5.99?

NetflixBuy2.jpg

A full plastic case with original artwork, AND the bonus disc, just like you’d get from a retail store? That’s a great deal. But that’s where I start thinking.

If I were a less than honest person (I’m not), what could I do to avoid paying $20 for a disc that I lost? What would my options be?

NetflixOptions.jpg

I could choose either of those first two options, say I never received the disc, or that I sent it back and it got lost in the mail. Completely dishonest, but NetFlix probably just figures on this happening sometimes, and takes the loss. I get my next movie, life goes on (except for that nagging, heavy, burning guilt that attaches itself to my conscience).

If I wanted to try to assuage my guilt, maybe I’d choose to buy the $5.99 version of the movie, and then, after it arrives, choose the last option there, “I don’t have the little white envelope to return the disc”. Let them send me a new envelope or whatever they do, return the $5.99 copy of the disc, and again, life goes on. With less guilt, but still an uneasy feeling that something isn’t right.

That’s what led me to wonder, “why on earth would Netflix punish ONLY honest customers with a $20 lost disc fee? Why not let them pay $5.99, a price they’re obviously comfortable charging other people?” Think about it – the only people who are going to pay that $20 fee are the people whose scruples won’t let them pick one of the other possibilities that I’ve described after only a few minutes thought. Who knows how elaborate you could get if you decided to become a dedicated NetFlix scammer…

It would be nice if NetFlix offered a limited amount of forgiveness for lost discs. Maybe one “get off free” chance per customer. Heck, why couldn’t they just say something like “Look, we know you lost a disc, but if you upgrade to a more expensive plan, we’ll forgive you just this once.” They get more revenue out of the deal, and I go away not feeling like I’ve been treated like crap.

So what are we going to do? We’re going to pay the $20 lost disc fee. And I’m going to harbor this bad feeling toward NetFlix for a while, this feeling that I’ve been mistreated, and taken advantage of. And now I’ve blogged about it, so maybe some other people will read about how NetFlix treats their customers. Maybe 10. Maybe millions. Maybe I’ll cancel my NetFlix account. Maybe other people will, too.

The moral of the story? Don’t treat your honest customers like cheating scum, while letting everyone else have a sweet deal.

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