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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We are Hiring

Ok, so I am still new at Netflix. But thought it might be interesting to write up my first impressions.

Sean Kane, my predecessor did a really great job of helping me understand the culture so there have been no surprises. No surprises, but a good bit of delight.

Here are some of the ways I would sum up what I have seen so far.

Treated Like Adults
This is a really important cultural trait. It starts with salary. You choose the mix of $ to equity and have the flexibility to switch it around from year to year. We pay extremely well (hey we even brag about it on the site). But it goes beyond that. It works it's way into HR, recruiting and all the other parts of the company that in other places tend to be out of sync. We don't make a bunch of rules. The HR policy manual is extremely small.

There is an amazing amount of transparency of how the business is run as well as successes and failures. This makes it a great place to learn and thrive.

Blend of Science & Art
Truly it is consumer science here. A lot of experimenting and analysis. It is very intriguing to work at a place that really gets the importance of a great interface as well as balances it with the realities of business.

And did I mention that we have some of the most incredible work policies and pay anywhere in the country? And we are doing very well?

Ok, so we are hiring!

I am looking to fill two positions immediately on my team.

Sr. Staff UI Engineer
This is a senior position in which you will work closely with me and my team of engineers to improve, architect and code integral solutions that impact the whole site. This is a really key role that will take our site to the next level from a web development best practices, performance and infrastructure perspective.

Senior User Interface Engineer – Customer Service
This is a new position that we are opening up this week. In this role you will help re-design and engineer a new web based customer support center. We will put the same care in this site that we do with the main Netflix site. Many of the ideas, solutions may find there way into the general Netflix site as well. If you love building great web applications then please give me a ping.

Other Positions in Other Teams
Adrian Cockcroft, former Sun Distinguished Engineer and eBay research labs member is just one of the luminaries here at Netflix. Adrian has two immediate openings on his team.

Creative Director.
Yes, we are looking for a talented creative director to work directly with with our VP of Product Management, Gibson Biddle, on taking design for Netflix to a whole new level. Up for the challenge? Let me know.

Sr. Marketing Graphic Designer
Barry Enderwick is looking for a talented graphic designer to work in his team. Barry's team creates the brand, the advertising, the badges, the printed material, etc. If you are a graphic designer this is an awesome opportunity to work on one of the most recognized brands in America.

For all of these positions, feel free to email me. You can reach me at b dot scott at yahoo dot com.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Netflix Here I Come!

Over the last 2+ years I have had the honor and pleasure of working for one of the greatest companies on the planet and with some of the greatest designers & engineers on the planet.

Yahoo! has been a great place for me. I learned a lot. Feel like I contributed a lot. I have had an honored position as a mouthpiece (a genuine one) for Yahoo!

Now its time to move on to the next challenge.

I am excited to announce that I will be joining Netflix as the Director of UI Engineering. Netflix is one of the most amazing companies to work for. And I think the most exciting days are ahead for Netflix. The challenge of digital delivery is something that I think they (we) are ready for.

I am succeeding the excellent Sean Kane who is in stealth mode, co-founding a new startup. I wish Sean amazing success and am looking forward to applying my talents and energies to the world of movies!

MIMA - Jason Freid

Finally got to hear Jason Fried (37 Signals) in person.

I know that Jason is controversial and his stance on team size, ways of working are controversial and cannot (I believe) be applied in every situation.

Its a lot like Extreme Programming. Back at Sabre I lead two engineering teams and we were doing full on XP, agile methodology. As long as it was not treated like a religion but was a set of principles to inform your work I found it to be really useful.

Onto the talk. Jason had some great points. Lots of things that I agree with.

Keep your team small
  • Forces you to focus on what's important
  • Clearer communication comes for free
  • "Communication usually fails except by accident"
Collaboration is about communication, not control
  • Keep your team apart. Interruption is not collaboration. Interruption is the enemy of productivity.
  • Encourage alone time
  • Stay away from each other as much as possible
  • Communicate more passively, less actively.
Meetings are toxic
  • Usually a symptom of a problem, not a solution. Mentioned a business leader in Brazil who advocates that all meetings are optional.
  • Meetings convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute
  • Require thorough preparation that people rarely do
  • Tend to procreate
Instead make tiny decisions
  • Decisions are progress
  • Progress is great for morale
So I am a realist. Organizations do grow in size. So you have to work hard at keeping teams small. And we should avoid meetings wherever possible. However (and Jason talks about this) you need to communicate with each other in ways that are least disruptive. Meetings do have to happen (Jason is not saying never have a meeting... just they are very infrequent and really are more working sessions).

In different teams I have led I have instituted things like "No Meeting Days". No one is allowed to call a meeting on those days. Or "Work from Home Days". They were all designed to give designers & engineers "flow time". Time to get into the flow of what they are doing and stay there.

If you can have a few hours of non-interrupted productivity it is amazing what you can accomplish. I have had people remark at my crazy "weekend projects". What happens is I get off by myself, no interruptions, no IM, no email and just get into the flow of what I am working on. That zone is the same thing a runner feels with they get that "glow", the groove of running.

Jason talked about the power of REM sleep and compared it to REM Work. Uninterrupted flow. What is interesting is I have over the last few years biased toward open office arrangements. I am beginning to rethink this. Why? Its too easy to interrupt your co-workers with trivial stuff that doesn't demand immediate attention. And verbal communication can be very redundant and time consuming.

A couple of months back I was trying to get a lot of stuff done. So instead of checking email every 15 minutes (!) I decided to check once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Man, I cannot tell you how it changed my day. The ability to get into some work without interruption was exhilarating.

If nothing else, Jason's talk was a wonderful reset for me to think how I manage and remember my number one priority is to make those that work for me successful, productive, motivated and appreciated.

My MIMA Talk

For the folks at MIMA (or others interested), the latest version of my talk Designing for the Rich Web Experience is available for download.

Thanks for all the wonderful comments and discussion afterwards.

I also gave this talk at Yahoo last week. Look for it on the YUI Theatre in a few weeks.

MIMA - Lee Rainie - Internet Usage

I attended and spoke at the MIMA (Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association) Conference yesterday.

The conference had around 700 attendees with backgrounds in design, marketing and advertising. I was really impressed with the conference and came away with some nice nuggets.

First up was Lee Rainie. Lee is the founding Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. They study in detail the impact of the internet on American families. Lee's talk was jam-packed with stats. The podcast will be available next week as well as the slides which I will post then.

First, some basic stats.

Internet Usage:
  • 72% adults
  • 93% high schoolers
  • 98% college students (with margin of error could be 100%)
Broadband has reached almost 50% homes in U.S.
  • 55% of online teens have created their own profile
  • 51% of young adult internet users have uploaded photos to the internet
  • 26% teens remix stuff they find on the web as posts, blogs, etc.
  • 9% of adults
From their research they break down internet users into 10 types (unfortunately I am missing some of the percentage breakdowns). The big surprise is that the low tech crowd is 49% of the population! And only 8% are technophiles!

High End Group

Omnivores - 8%
Late 20's. The gadget lover crowd. Own an iphone (probably live in the bay area :-). Photo & video freaks. Wireless. Lots of students & racially diverse. Broadband 90%.

Connectors - 7%
Late 30's. Email & IM primarily. Really into technology but messaging is critical. Skewed toward women & upscale African American.

Lackluster Veterans
40'ish. Broadband 77%. Tech is necessary for them, but not exciting. The like the experience of being off the grid. Often rather watch TV than youtube.

Productivity Enhancers - 8%
40'ish. Broadband 71%. Flipside of lackluster. Use for productivity. Skewed toward english speaking latinos.

Middle Group

Mobile Centric - 10%
Skewed toward African Americans & Latinos. Not early adopters. Phone texters. Photo takers.

Connected but Hassled
Mid 40s. Female dominant. Worries about information overload. Tech is not fun!

Low End Group

Inexperienced Experimenters - 8%
Enthusiastic, but very inexperienced. Not tech savvy at all. Easily confused by the technology & blames themselves.

Light But Satisfied - 15%
Prefer Traditional Media. Mid 50s.

Indifferent - 11%
Broadband - 12%. Lifetyle choice is to NOT be online and be proud about it.

Off the Network.
Mid 60s. Female dominant. Diverse Race. Poorest Group. Broadband - 0%

To find out what type you are, take the quiz at the their site.

The last nuggets was Lee's take on 10 ways the internet changes the life of people it touches.
  • Volume of Information. Long tail expands
  • Velocity of Information. Smart mobs, wisdom of crowds, bottom up intelligence (think google search, social networks)
  • Venues of Intersecting. Place shifting, time shifting, having "absence presence" (e.g., physically there but chatting with someone else over the internet)
  • Venturing for Information. Search strategies change, expectations of what you can find out changes.
  • Vigilance for Information. Attention is truncated. Continuous Partial Attention and elongated attention (deep dives for information). Result is "expert amateurs". Someone goes home from Dr. and researches medical condition and sometimes can know more than the Dr. did about the specific condition and latest treatments.
  • Valence (relevance) of Information. Being Digital. The Daily Me. The Daily Us. People become alienated in social & information bubbles of their choosing.
  • Vetting of Information. Becomes more social. Credibility tests change as people ping their networks.
  • Viewing of Information. Information is disaggregated. Becomes more horizontal. New reading strategies to digest information. Coping mechanisms.
  • Voting & Ventilating. Tagging, rating, commenting. Collective intelligence emerges.
  • inVention of information & Visibility of new creators. The read/write web. Everyone can publish. More people become "famous".

Anti-Patterns: Talk

Recently, I have been giving a new talk on Anti-Patterns.

current set of anti patterns

Sometimes it is most instructive to look at design patterns in reverse-- as a set of anti-patterns. In this talk, I am exploring the common mistakes that designers & developers make when attempting to craft a rich web experience. There are a bunch of counter-examples from consumer facing web sites (both inside & outside of Yahoo!) as well as from enterprise web applications.

The anti-patterns explored are:
  • meandering way
  • borg idiom
  • tiny targets
  • hover and cover
  • pogo stick navigation
  • novel notions
  • metaphor mismatch
  • double duty
  • linkitus
  • windows aplenty
  • animation gone wild
  • misguided misdirections
  • missed moments
  • one at a time
  • non-symmetrical actions
Venues for the talk so far have been at: