TimeShift your life part 1: DVDs

I’m a moderately busy person. Not “Cory Doctorow” busy, but busy enough with family, work, personal projects, and keeping up with the current state of IT geekdom that stopping to watch the TV, go to a movie, or listen to radio just doesn’t happen on a schedule. I’m documenting my current methods of coping, with the intent to check back in a few years and see what I’ve been up to. 🙂

Read on for more, but I’ll warn you I ramble and get a bit verbose.

Coping tactic #1: DVDs

DVDs are an obvious answer to going to the cinema. It’s 80% of the experience, for 20% of the price/effort. And yet, to purchase the all the DVDs can be hideously expensive. Hiring the DVDs from the video store is more cost effective, but then you’re stuck with meeting the return schedules.

The alternative I’ve chosen is Quickflix: rent the DVDs for a fixed price per month and with no fixed return schedule. Receiving and returning them by the post saves time in the video store, and entering a selection queue online means you don’t have to choose movies on the spot but can plan out your viewing.

There are several US-based services that provide this experience (NetFlix being the prime talking point), and two Australian ones that I’m aware of. BigPond Movies may have been the first (I’m not sure), but I’ve avoided them ever since they started. Why? Let me tell you: competency, or lack thereof. I’m of the opinion that companies should have a core product competency and not stray too far from it. In this case, BigPond is an ISP. Providing DVD rentals doesn’t fit anywhere in that ISP product range – we’re not talking Internet movie downloads here. Plus, my confidence in BigPond as an ISP is not very high, so I can bring myself to trust them as a DVD-by-mail provider either. Now, I may be doing BigPond Movies a huge dis-service here – this is all conjecture and opinion based on previous experience with BigPond. Let me know if you have had better experiences.

Quickflix has worked extremely well for me in the last few months with the follow minor exceptions:

Out-of-order delivery:

When several DVDs from a series are in my queue and in the order I expect to see them (e.g. Ninja Scroll the series discs 1, 2, & 3), then I expect to receive them in that order. It is not a good experience trying to watch disc 3 before disc 1 – I don’t know the characters and it’ll contain spoilers.

It would be awesome if either a) the system recognised their linked nature and forced them to be delivered in that order, waiting until disc 1 has been delivered before sending disc 2, etc or b) the system could allow me to set dependencies such as deliver Ninja Scroll (the movie) before Ninja Scroll series disc 1, etc.

This obviously becomes much more important with larger box sets such as Babylon 5, Firefly, and such.

Recommendations Optimisation:

Similar and related to the first, when offering me new recommendations don’t suggest Excel Saga Volume 6 if there is no record of me seeing the 1st 5 volumes. Just show me Vol. 1 and then if I add that to my queue, show Vol. 2 in the recommendations next time.

Already Seen:

To assist with the recommendations fix there has to be some way of marking the DVD as already seen. When a DVD has been delivered by Quickflix, it automatically gets marked as “Already Seen” but there is no way to manually set this. The current method of selecting “Do not suggest this title to me” does not really fit the concept. The easiest way I can think of doing it without extra clutter is to leverage the rating system. If I have rated a DVD, then it should be safe to assume I have seen it and this can be used in the recommendations tweaking.

HD-DVD, Blu-ray, DVD:

One last item is the format differences; this is more of a preferences setting. I need some way of letting Quickflix know that I don’t/do have a HD-DVD or Blu-ray player. This way I wouldn’t have to see these format types in my recommendations or browsing if I didn’t have a particular player and the system could offer me the HD-DVD version instead of the regular DVD of a particular movie if I had that player. Also, it should be fairly safe to assume that if I’ve rated the DVD version of a movie, then that rating would apply to the HD-DVD and Blu-ray versions as well – they’re the same movie essentially (yes, apart from extras & enhancements & quality 🙂 )


In short Quickflix works very well and I can only see it getting better in future. It lets me see DVDs of content that I choose to watch, on a schedule I choose, and without any inconvenience. Love it.