Muting

One of the most poisonous elements of modern technology is the ability to mute both content and people. 

On the surface, it sounds perfectly acceptable. You grow tired of a certain topic or the exhaustive sharing habits of certain friends, and, without going all the way to remove them from your day-to-day experience, you simply quiet the portions of noise that bother you the most.

In a world of highly-curated opinions, deeply polarizing and heavily-politicized views, and rampant tribalism in the consumer sphere, however, the ability to simply remove certain opinions that are not adherent with your own is irrefutably dangerous. 

You ought to know — and embrace — opinions divergent from your own. Moreover, if you respect someone, you ought to listen to all that they have to say, rather than selectively censoring them.

On a more trivial level, muting discussions during a conference or live event is marginally palatable. But, in my eyes, it's still troublesome. Is it really so difficult to contend with a flowing river of collective discussion over a mass-consumption event? Surely not. 

Knowledge is frequently defined as a justified true belief. The justification portion is one of the most important, as it requires you to have circumstantial awareness of opinions both supportive and conflicting.

Without apt justification, we can easily fool ourselves into a false sense of knowledgeability on a vast spectrum of topics. In the technology world, for instance, we can pay attention selectively to analysts, writers, or publications — all of which skew toward one brand or another — in order to seemingly justify our particular allegiances and habits.

The danger is, obviously, minimal. Nevertheless, it does pose significant damage to intelligent and measured discourse.  Without circumstantial awareness, it's far too easy to succumb to extremist opinions and flagrant unintelligence regarding certain — frequently important — topics.

For all of this I mean to simply argue that when you're next confronted with an opinion you disagree with on Twitter, a website, or another such outlet, do not simply tune it out. Equally, do not reflexively attempt to counter. Instead, simply absorb and consider. Keep it in mind. 

Obviously if someone's expressing outrageously offensive opinions, this does not apply. But, in the realms of business, politics, and artistry, I cannot stress enough how important and conducive such tolerant and rational behavior can be. 

Removing people and opinions from our daily experience for the sole purpose of alleviating our own anxieties and insecurities of our own opinions — or, worse, for the sake of expressing superiority over someone else — is destructive. And, in a world of highly-curated content, it can result in us missing important information and circumstantial awareness, thereby fostering disjointed beliefs and ever-worsening extremes in opinion.

Muting ought to be used extremely sparingly, rather than as a means to support your comfort.  If you don't like what's being said, I daresay there's plenty more constructive means for you to contend with such rhetoric. And if you don't appreciate an event that's happening, just avoid Twitter (or similar) for an hour.

We have more power than ever in terms of shaping the way we comprehend our world — business, media, politics, or otherwise — and, although it might take more work, I'd say opening yourself up to opinions outside of your own is of the utmost importance.

Creative Cloud Reaches Maturity

Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge:

Adobe is making a major move into the cloud. The company has just announced the next version of its flagship digital editing tools, Creative Suite, and for the first time the new products will only be available through the company's online subscription service. Adobe previously offered standalone editions of each product, which users could choose to keep or upgrade as new editions were released, but now the only way to receive major feature updates to the product series will be to remain subscribed to the $49.99 per month service.

I've been a Creative Cloud user for almost precisely one year and I couldn't be happier.

In fact, just ahead of the service's release last year, I wrote the following:

In building an accessible and affordable backbone for Adobe services, the likes of Photoshop and Illustrator are no longer relegated to the confines of the elite, but rendered open, seamless, and even affable to the average consumer. Although I have long been willing to pay for the full Creative Suite offering, I eagerly await the arrival of Creative Cloud this Friday. If the backbone works effectively, I imagine Adobe will find itself winning over a great many people in the coming months.

Creative Cloud has clearly succeeded in having an impactful introduction into the creative world and is doing plenty to democratize and distribute the tools necessary to create the best work.

Many have been apprehensive over the pricing of Creative Cloud and what impact this might have on Adobe's long-term dedication to its software and innovation. Although I can certainly recognize and appreciate the concern, I tend to think it overlooks much of the value of the service for an enormous volume of users. 

Simply put, although it removes a large cash influx each year from a minority of dedicated customers, Creative Cloud ensures an ongoing revenue stream, whilst also increasing the potential customer base.

I suspect Creative Cloud appeals to a much larger demographic than a full $1,000+ Creative Suite package. Accordingly, I'd argue that Adobe has opened the door to much higher revenues, whilst also reducing the viability and attractiveness of pirated copies.

In other words, Creative Cloud renders Adobe software a mainstream and accessible suite of tools for those interested in all manner of creative endeavors. And, with this pricing scheme, the usage of Adobe's software becomes incentivized and attractive for a huge number of users. Adobe will no longer have to sustain multiple versions of its software, but instead focus upon iterating and improving upon its core products at all times.

If you ask me, this is an unprecedented opportunity for innovation, particularly as Adobe now must worry itself over actively losing subscription income. Customers are no longer distant, veiled entities, but engaged, active, and important elements of Adobe's success.

In my eyes, this makes Creative Cloud one of the most useful and reliable services to which I subscribe. And I fully intend to continue my subscription for the coming year. I suspect it'll only continue to impress.

Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, Discusses the Future of Media

Reed Hastings in a letter to Netflix and its investors:

Over the coming decades and across the world, Internet TV will replace linear TV.
Apps will replace channels, remote controls will disappear, and screens will proliferate.
As Internet TV grows from millions to billions, Netflix, HBO, and ESPN are leading the way.

For those of you who wrote Mr. Hastings off in the summer of 2011, I suggest you read this and re-evaluate your perspectives.

At the helm of a startup that's reshaped the way we consider modern media consumption, Hastings has repeatedly shown a well-tempered philosophy with regard to the future of the landscape.

Of course there've been sizable problems once or twice, but, at the end of the day, he's a fallible man. And in this 11-page document, we bear witness to a very thoughtful gentleman opining about the future of his industry.

Of particular note is Hastings' clear alignment with — and belief in — Netflix's future of platform agnosticism as a key to its growth. He cites the increasing proliferation of intelligent television devices as a primary reason for such thinking — a notion that makes a very large amount of sense, contrary to the genuine lack of such forethought in the industry.

Hastings is also fundamentally aware that Netflix's position of dominance and growth can only be sustained for so long. He writes of the impending large-scale disruption of television and explains his plot for Netflix to help nurture, encourage, and support such growth — even by offering supportive olive branches to pre-existing and well-entrenched cable companies.

It's a candid, thoughtful, and well-considered look into the near future and is an immediate source of excitement for me as a fan of innovation and media. (And Netflix, obviously.)

Along with Jeff Bezos, I find Reed Hastings to be one of the most affable and impressive executives around. Moreover, I'm hopeful the combination of performance with outward messages of optimism such as this will help solidify confidence and excitement in both Netflix and Hastings.

Most of all, though, we've found the holy grail of the media industry: a likable, forward-thinking executive with a vested and well-stated interest in nurturing the disruption of his industry.

The 11-page letter is available, in its entirety, on Scribd. Peter Kafka has also provided some interesting insight into the document at AllThingsD.

Bloomberg: Amazon Set-Top Box Coming Fall 2013

Brad Stone, Bloomberg Businessweek:

Amazon (AMZN) is making e-readers, tablets and will likely soon introduce a smartphone. As it works to build all types of connected devices, that leaves a natural next step: a television set-top box. The e-commerce giant is planning to introduce a device this fall dedicated to streaming video over the Internet and into its customers’ living rooms, according to three people familiar with the project who aren’t authorized to discuss it.
They say the box will plug into TVs and give users access to Amazon’s expanding video offerings. Those include its a la carte Video on Demand store, which features newer films and TV shows, and its Instant Video service, which is free for subscribers to the Amazon Prime two-day shipping package. The Amazon set-top box will compete with similar products like the Roku, Apple TV and the Boxee Cloud DVR, along with more versatile devices like the Playstation 3 and the Xbox. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.

Given Netflix's high-flying performance and positive press this week, the timing of this rumor's arrival is certainly not unintentional.

First things first, Amazon's on-demand video service is a fringe offering at best. It's integrated selectively with television and mobile devices, available most beneficially only to Prime members, and lacks some of its competitors' ambitious content partnerships. Simply put, Amazon's offering simply does not strike me as holding critical value or awareness.

Obviously, though, Amazon's invested in providing a window onto its storefront in whatever capacity possible. Furthermore, in the case of Amazon, they're not simply providing streaming, but also video purchasing. So, in an environment primarily characterized by devices like the Apple TV, Roku, and Xbox 360, I can certainly understand the lure of a hardware device wherein it can control end-to-end purchasing and the like.

Also, unlike Netflix, Amazon is selling an ecosystem. Thus, it is naturally precluded from the Apple TV and its interactions are difficult on a great many mobile devices. Accordingly, producing a proprietary product makes some sense.

Still, regardless of the inherent logic and rationale, I'm skeptical concerning the long-term viability and value of an Amazon-branded set-top box. Although Amazon is largely uninterested in margins and would, therefore, likely be fine with mediocre sales of its product, I cannot avoid the thought that such a device would be arriving at an extraordinarily transparent "me too!" moment.

Amazon's original programming is reportedly "terrible" and its media library is poorly differentiated from those of Apple, Microsoft, or virtually anyone else. On top of that, Roku — and others — already provide a robust window onto the Amazon ecosystem.

In releasing their own box, it'd be framed as a move against Apple, but I think the greatest victim would be Roku. Traditionally, Amazon has heavily promoted Roku — a smaller, more agile firm. Accordingly, Roku has become the de facto device for those wishing to interact with Amazon services. In this move, Amazon would sacrifice such a partnership, whilst ostensibly starting from scratch in the world of devices and media clout.

Of course, this would presumably allow Amazon to sell more media without any notable detractions. But is the business reasoning — "We might as well?" — sound? I'm skeptical.

So, as I say, perhaps the move makes sense in terms of gaining direct branding in the living room, but I fail to recognize the true differentiating potential and allure of such a device over its competition. Of course this is little more than unsubstantiated rumor at this stage. So, it'll be interesting to see what Amazon might provide should this product make it to market.

(Beyond "terrible" shows, that is.)