Corporate Logos at Disneyland

A great Disneyland postcard that I found on Flickr:

Lots of folks—non-fans, but even some die-hards—resent the corporate logos found at Disneyland. For me, as a kid, they totally legitimized the place.

Tomorrowland especially: as much as I admired the Walt Disney Company, who were they to say what was going to happen in the future? But Disney + Monsanto + GE + RCA + McDonnell Douglas, etc…there’s a vision I could trust.


TILT is on Netflix. But no, actually, it isn’t.

Two years ago, after enough prospective viewers had inquired about it, Netflix decided to start carrying my documentary, TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball on DVD. They purchased two hundred (!) copies, and I was thrilled: not only was the film going to be available to a lot more people; it also meant that TILT was now a real movie, in some sense on par with all the other real movies you see on Netflix. Like Lawrence of Arabia. Gone With The Wind. I’m going a little overboard here, but you get my drift.

Weeks later, TILT appeared on Netflix. I proudly put it in my queue, and moved it to the bottom. (Because let’s be real here, the last thing I need is another copy of TILT to watch.) Emails trickled in from people who watched it for the first time via Netflix, and loved it. Between this and the film’s availability on iTunes, things were great.

Things looked even better a month or two later when I noticed that TILT—still in my queue—was listed as “Availability: Unknown.” They had two hundred TILT DVDs, and they couldn’t keep them in stock?! Unbelievable! I wrote back to my Netflix contact: “Need more?”

“Nope,” he said. “Not enough demand, so we won’t send them out.”

Which patently makes no sense.

I followed up with him and, for some reason, couldn’t get a straight answer to the seemingly obvious question of why they wouldn’t mail out DVDs they already had. All his responses were in the vein of, “don’t you get it, your movie isn’t popular enough?” Which, of course, I get. The only information I did glean is that if enough people put TILT in their queue, they’ll start sending them out again.

So I’m asking a favor: put TILT in your Netflix queue. (It won’t actually go into your queue, it’ll go into that “Saved” no-man’s land at the bottom, with all the films as-yet-unreleased on DVD.) If enough people do this, hopefully those two hundred TILT DVDs sitting in Netflix’s warehouses will see the light of day again.

And thanks for your support.

P.S.: If you haven’t seen TILT and would like to: well, it should be obvious, don’t wait for Netflix. You can buy it on DVD, or buy or rent it on iTunes. (One quick plug for purchasing the DVD: you’ll get the brimming-over-with-content Extras DVD, which a lot of people like better than the film itself. You’ll also get my brilliant and insightful director’s commentary. And the deep pride of ownership that comes with possession of a finely-crafted piece of art. Okay, going overboard again, but anyway, feel free to watch it any way you’d like, just watch it!)

UPDATE: I’m told that if you only have the Netflix streaming plan, you can’t add a DVD to your queue. So in that case, we’re out of luck. But I appreciate the thought anyway.

What’s really missing from the iPad.

There is, of course, endless speculation about what the iPad should have had, and why it will be an abject failure because of [your favorite feature]’s absence. “Video camera” seems to be the #1 cited omission. No doubt videoconferencing via iPad would be nice, but hey, I don’t even know that many people that video chat, so I’m not sure how something used by so few people could be considered essential.

There’s one feature omission that everyone seems to have forgotten about: multi-user.

Without multi-user capability, whose bookmarks are going to be in Safari, mine, or my wife’s? Whose usernames and passwords will get saved? Whose schedule will be in the calendar app? Contacts in the Address Book? You get the idea. Without multi-user, most of the built-in apps will be, by necessity, useless, filled with data that’s not yours.

The good news is that multi-user requires just a software upgrade; maybe we’ll see it when iPhone 4.0 comes along. Until then, my iPad will be used about 50% less than it should be.

Visionary or Pragmatic?

Concerning John Gruber’s Apple’s 1997 Tablet Concept Video post, Gruber makes the point that Apple used to make concept videos about tablet computing; now, they make for-real tablet computers. I’m not sure if he’s just making a cheeky comment about the rapid advancement of technology, or about the very nature of prototypes and the kinds of products Apple should be producing. But there’s something significant here: Steve Jobs’s Apple would never produce a video like Knowledge Navigator.

When I was a product manager at Apple in 1994-1996, MRDs (marketing requirement documents) nearly always started with the prose equivalent to Knowledge Navigator, something similar to:

Richard Sanderson sits down in his leather chair, the wave of heat from his crackling fireplace cutting through the morning chill. Richard lightly touches the screen on his Apple SuperMac 3000 and it comes to life with a soft glow.

“Something worrying you?” asks the concerned voice coming from the computer, its facial recognition capable of detecting subtle changes in its operator’s emotions.

“Oh, nothing much,” says Richard. “I’m just behind in my bill paying, and I have a presentation due this Friday on delinquency rates in New York City.”

“Hmmm…I may be able to help you with those,” says the computer’s soothing voice.

I’m not kidding: that’s what they actually sounded like, more resembling the build-up in a Harlequin romance than a technical spec. Why write like this? For one, it conjured up undeniably seductive portraits of what new technology could not just look like, but feel like. But more importantly—and self-servingly—these MRDs created their own market by hypothesizing a strawman use-case that no one wanted to refute. I mean, how could there not be a market for this product? Did you not read that description? Are you seriously telling me you don’t want to be Richard Sanderson?

But at the end of my Apple tenure, it was clear this was falling out of favor. After the failures of QuickDraw GX, 3D, Apple Guide, Newton, OpenDoc, Copland, et al, it had become abundantly clear that the Richard Sandersons of the world weren’t Apple’s savior: in fact, it had become quite clear that he didn’t exist at all.

Steve Jobs is described as a visionary. Yet he doesn’t do what most people assume a “visionary” would do, e.g., gaze twenty years into the future. He’s a visionary by way of looking into the very near future—two to three years out—and realizing what’s possible with the technology that will very-soon-be-available. He recognizes the moment at which toy becomes breakthrough, and can sense when it’s near.

“These MP3 players suck,” one could imagine him saying in early 2000. “But if we crack the two reasons they suck–low storage capacity and bad user interface–they won’t. These are problems we can solve, and soon.” And here comes the iPod. Not a do-it-all super assistant, like the Newton tried to be. Just an MP3 player, transformed from technology trick into a solution to people’s real needs.

Steve Jobs wins less because he’s a visionary, more because he’s a pragmatic.

It’ll be trivially easy for Twitter to make money. Or not.

From the September 24, 2009 New York Times, in an article about Twitter raising money, and their ability to generate revenue:

“It would be trivially easy for them to turn on a revenue source today,” said Steve Broback, founder of the Parnassus Group, which runs conferences on Twitter and other business topics. “I don’t see that they are in a big hurry to start generating revenues, mostly because they want to minimize any sort of negative effect on their community.”

So in fact, what Mr. Broback is saying is that it would not be trivially easy for Twitter to turn on a revenue source today.

Just wanted to clarify that.