Things That Just Fit

My Netflix Chat asking How to turn off 'Because You Watched'

Netflix: Hi there! [Netflix] here. How can I help you?
Joe: Hello, [Netflix]. Joe here.
Netflix: Nice to meet you, Joe!
Joe: :) I would like Netflix to stop making suggestions based on my viewing habits. If I set up a new profile, the pure suggestions lead me to find more interesting content. Suggestions made on behalf narrow things too much.
Neflix: Oh, I totally understand what you mean. I gave good ratings to Pixar movies once and now I get a lot of Kids movies in my suggestions.
Joe: So you understand. But can it be changed?
Netflix: Let me take a look into that. Right now we don't have the option to complete turn off features but we can find other options :)
Joe: Thanks,
Netflix: You're welcome! That's what I'm here for. [Time passes.] I'm still here with you, Joel :)
Joe: Whew!
Netflix: The best option we have here is to turn off the test participation option on your profile. We're constantly testing our features so some of the suggestions you see there we based it on what your see. Just Click Here to turn off this option.
Netflix: You can also clear the movies you've rated so we don't take that into account when making suggestions. Click Here and you'll be able to clear your ratings.
Joe: So turning that off will remove the curated "because you watched this..." I haven't rated any movies.
Netflix: Oh, no problem. It won't completely turn off the "because you watched this" but don't worry I can definitely pass this on as feedback.
Joe: What do I give up by turning off "test participation?"
Netflix: Only minor features. For example, right now some customers can't rate movies at all.
Joe: Really? Well, I won't miss that. Is there limit to how many profiles I can create and delete? Because that's another option.
Netflix: That's a really good option. You can have up to 5 profiles and we don't have a limit to how many times you delete them.
Joe: I will try that then. Please pass along my feedback about finding the suggestions to reduce the number of meaningful selections presented.
Netflix: Great! I have already left a note here in my system to let our IT team know that our customers want a change in the way we present suggestions.
Joe: Like no suggestions whatsoever.
Netflix: Got it. I've got your back on this, Joel :) Any other great idea that you may have for our website?
Joe: I'm good, and I really appreciate your time.
Netflix: It was my pleasure. I also appreciate your time, this definitely helps us provide an even better service so thank you. Oh, and one more thing, if you wouldn’t mind, please stay online for a one question survey.

New Book reveals How to Responsibly Report News Online

Over the weekend, I published my fifth ebook, Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Reporters, and Other Online News Gatherers (Amazon, Google, Smashwords).

If you agree to write reviews at all three stores (and actually do), I will gladly give you the book for free. Ping me, here, Google+, or Twitter.

There is no quid pro quo. If you don’t like the book, say so. Of course, positive reviews would be welcome, but honest ones are better. Stores like Amazon have generous return policies. Honest reviews help the potential purchaser make an informed decision and better avoid buyer’s regret that leads to dissatisfaction or book refund requests. So, please, be straight.

I’m Back and Mean It This Time

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Today, I resume posting at Oddly Together after two long hiatuses over four years. The blog returns focus to the original concept never executed—storytelling and things that go oddly together. 

Presently I also post at my name domain, as well as several social sites. During the next month or so I will evaluate whether to regularly write at both blogs. I may dedicate the other, “Five Minutes Joe”, more to writing about writing, with emphasis on journalism.

For now, I will cross-post somewhat. Oddly Together reaches a wider—and different—audience, as do Google+ and Twitter. Then there is reblogging, which is Tumblr’s thing.

My new mantra: “Go to the audience”. As I first explained six years ago in post “Iran and the New Democracy”, mobile devices and Internet-connected—so-called cloud—apps allow anyone to be publisher and broadcaster, bypassing mainstream media. Storytellers like me must go to the audience, wherever, whenever, and on whatever device. The days of expecting people to go to newspapers, radio, TV, and the like are over. Go to the audience, reciprocate, and it will come to you, too. Original content will be priority but by no means all posted here.

The Tumblr audience is bigger than when I joined in May 2008, but the character is remarkably similar. New York, baby. It’s that Big Apple thing far removed from Silicon Valley geeks. Then there is the founder’s personality reflected throughout. Yay, David.

Good Reporting starts with what You’ve Got

I’ve got a pointer for bloggers and journalists, that’s probably unnecessary: Use all resources on hand when writing.

Late yesterday, I posted: “Google has lost control of Android”. After I completed writing the nearly 2,000-word missive (it’s longer now), I went to a Forrester Research tablet report received on Friday to look for a chart. I had planned to write a separate news story on the report and hadn’t read it before writing the analysis. How stupid.

There are two charts in the report, and the second one contains data that supports the main point my analysis makes. Had I seen that first, and the supporting text, I would have structured the story quite differently and written something shorter, since analyst Frank Gillett so affirmatively supports my main premise.

After posting, I inserted a second lead paragraph and changed the first, to clearly refer to the data. The analysis doesn’t flow as well as I would like, when adding in Frank’s tablet forecast, which is fault of my original construction not his data.

The point: I should have looked at his report before writing one word of my analysis.

Photo Credit: Tony Hall

Do you have a journalism story that you’d like told? Please email Joe Wilcox: oddlytogether at gmail dot com.

I made a friend while walking. (Taken with instagram)

I made a friend while walking. (Taken with instagram)

In what alternate universe am I? Spaghetti O’s cost HOW MUCH? (Taken with instagram)

In what alternate universe am I? Spaghetti O’s cost HOW MUCH? (Taken with instagram)

Last week, I bought Train's new album 'California 37'. It's a surprisingly good listen, with one helluva anthem in track “You Can Finally Meet My Mom”, which I only discovered this morning (shows how little free time I have). Coincidentally, tickets for Train’s US tour for the album went on sale today.

The song is musically and emotionally rich. The lyrics are timely, but not timeless. That’s okay. The linked video is bit of introduction to what I consider to be the best song on the album.

The best songwriters are good storytellers. The most moving music evokes a story from your own life, as surely this one will for many.

Everything about this track is oddly together. 

Do you have a music story that you’d like told? Please email Joe Wilcox: oddlytogether at gmail dot com.

I spent some time playing with Neko, with one hand on his feather wand toy and the other on the Fujifilm FinePix X100. The camera is light and features a real viewfinder, which made composing the images easier while shooting action shots one-handed.

Do you have an animal story that you’d like told? Please email Joe Wilcox: oddlytogether at gmail dot com.

The Queen of Aggregation Takes the Prize

When I look at changing news media and things that go oddly together, Huffington Post and the Pulitzer Prize would be two of them. After all, Ariana Huffington is the queen of aggregation, right? Yet one of her reporters took the coveted journalism award this week. Could it be that—gasp—there is a place for new world-old world journalism after all, or that one becomes the other?

I’m a harsh critic of Huffington Post, and an unfair one at that. I don’t read the site ever and haven’t closely followed changes since being acquired by AOL only to really be the one ultimately taking charge. Huffington is Queen Bee over AOL news, make no mistake about that.

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The Delicate Art of Anonymity in the News

Doreen Marchionni:

Quoting anonymous sources in the news these days is about as verboten as telling your waning audiences to bug off, as the student reporters at the college where I teach might attest. In some ways, they’re synonymous.

For decades, lazy journalists routinely attributed controversial material in stories to anonymous sources — until readers and media critics lashed out. By the time I got to college, the practice was so out of favor that I hardly imagined its use. My teachers preached the rigors of fact-based reportage and deep sourcing that comes from humping a beat. And if a source wouldn’t go on record with vital information, backdoor it with a comparable source or leave it alone — it’s not worth losing your credibility with audiences if the source turns out wrong. 

Then I got in the news business, and shit got real.

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