Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Insight into Iran, via Netflix

I've never been to Iran but I have some idea of what it's like thanks to Netflix. There is a large subset [not large enough, imo] of Netflix movies available to watch instantly. You can add any of those to your Instant queue. You have to opt in for the Silverlight experience.

I mentioned previously how I hooked up my new laptop to my HDTV via HDMI cable. I tried the Netflix "watch instantly" feature and found the picture quality good and the experience reasonably effortless.

Bill Scott, UI engineer for Netflix, gave a talk at the Mix 2009 conference on modern user interface conventions. They've tried to make the Netflix navigation experience effortless, although they don't quite succeed.

I'm enjoying his book on Web interaction design patterns. It categorizes and names the conventions you see everywhere on the net, such as drag and drop (he says you have to give users an "invitation to drag" to somehow let users know a thing can be dragged) and he favors direct in-place editing (rather than navigating to another page to change a photograph's title or description as an example).

Designing Web Interfaces
Principles and Patterns for Rich Interactions.

It took a bit of thinking to guess why the wireless connection was sometimes not excellent. I have one of those netbooks I almost always keep on but with the lid closed in what I assumed was a sleep or hibernate mode. I have no technical expertise on this, just a guess, but I think the router is still aware of that wireless Internet connection when the netbook is asleep, so I shut down my netbook when I want to watch a streaming Netflix movie.

I watched the animated movie Persepolis which is a kind of autobiography of a girl growing up during the transition from the Shah to the Islamic Republic. Although I cringe at the amount of smoking (I have a respiratory problem that causes me discomfort at the presence of cigarette smoke), I understood a lot of the family and cultural dynamics of the girl growing up in Iran and sent away to a bittersweet life in France as a young adult before returning home to Iran.

With so many of their citizens under the age of 30, Iran has a generation gap as America did during the 1960s. You get a real sense of the everyday repression of youthful casualness and the ominous presence of the moral guardians patrolling the streets looking for women not dressed modestly enough but also intruding behind closed doors looking for alcohol or responding to pop music.

It shouldn't have come as a total surprise that the election there was fraudulent. I remember watching the Chris Matthews show when he said his catchphrase "tell me something I don't know" to his panel of guests right before the Iranian election. One guest said that despite a recent increase in popularity of the reform candidate, it had already been decided that Achmedinijad (sp?) would be named as the winner. Actually, that show was four years ago, a few weeks before the previous election. You can look it up, Chris.

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