Irritations of Being a 21st Century Girl: Part 1

There are many great things about living in this day and age. For instance, any time I have a question about anything at all, I can probably find the answer on the internet. The other day I had a question about taking a certain cough syrup and a nasal spray at the same time, so I hopped online (actually had The Man hop online) and found a list of known drug interactions, determined the two medicines worked safely together, and went ahead and took a dose of each. Yesterday, I learned how to roast a duck (delicious), the best way to boil chicken breasts (I know, it shouldn’t really be a mystery, but it was), what to do with a duck liver (saute and serve on toast – yum), and how to cook steel cut oatmeal in a slow cooker, among other things. I was having a very domestic day.

Unfortunately, I also learned something else that I wish I hadn’t. The Man has been complaining about it for awhile, and in some ways, I had seen some of the inadequacies of my Netflix queue before, but yesterday was the day of supreme irritation. Here’s a picture of my personal Netflix queue:

Netflix Queue
Obviously only a small portion of the page. As you can see, I'm a huge BBC fan.

Do you notice anything right off the bat that strikes you as a potential irritant? If you have a list of your own, you’ll know that by changing the number to the left, you can rearrange shows. You could also press the little triangle just to the right of the number to place a particular movie selection at the top of your list. You’ll also see that the name of each movie or show is hyperlinked, allowing you to either hover to see a brief info box, or else click to go to that selection’s page and see reviews, actors, and more info. Pushing the ‘Play’ button plays the movie, and after you’ve watched it you can select the number of stars the movie has earned in your personal approval rating system. You could even click the hyperlinked genre categories to see more movies that fit the theme (TV shows, foreign films, etc.). Finally, if you’re tired of the movie haunting your list, for one reason or another, you can click the corresponding ‘X’ at the righthand side of the queue and delete the movie from the list. All pretty simple, right?

Well, sorta…

Theoretically, you should be able to arrange the movies in whatever order you choose by typing a number, selecting a show, or just pushing the ‘up’ triangle to push the movie to the top. In my case, since The Man and I share this list, I’ve just put all of my selections at the top of the list, and all of his at the bottom. I would prefer to arrange in another way that’s not offered, however: genre or approval rating. I can see why approval rating might have been ignored – perhaps I’m unique in knowing that I want to watch a ‘good’ movie but not knowing what that might be. However, there’s no excuse to not be able to sort by genre. When you sit down with someone else to watch a movie, how do you decide what you’d like to watch? I’m pretty sure that The Man and I are not alone in our overwhelming preference to decide whether we’d like to laugh, think, be scared, or be excited. It’s very seldom that we sit down to watch a movie and have a pre-ordained choice in mind. We always have to ask the comedy/horror/action question, and then sort through the list to see which is which, and what each plot is, before making a final decision.

Which leads me to my next irritation with Netflix. We have a Blu-Ray player that also includes a Netflix app so we can see instant watch films directly on our TV. Love it. It’s so convenient and cool, definitely a far cry from going to the video store to rent a VHS, as I did all of my life up until the end of college, when I finally got a DVD player. So yes, I realize that I have it good, but I’m a little confused at how far technology has come for Netflix, but how they’ve ignored certain usability aspects, like the appearance of my movie queue when I’m looking at it on my television vs. my computer.

Netflix App
This is basically what my queue looks like from my TV screen, except that we don't have a Roku.

The problem here? Not only can I not sort at all from my television, something that I’ve just learned to get over, the queue on the TV does not follow the order of the queue that I’ve arranged on my computer. In addition to this, the movies change places on their own every now and then, just to mess with my head a bit more. Since my queue consists of about 100 movies at most times, and the queue on my television shows up as movie posters/box covers that scroll to the left, I have to click a button to go through each choice the list. That wouldn’t be a terrible problem if I just knew where the movie that I wanted was (for instance, if I could sort by genre, and knew that movies 10 through 30 were all horror). However, since the queue does not accept any set order, and movies move themselves around, when looking for a movie I can only guess where I think it might be (front or back half of the list) and take a stab in the dark. If I don’t know at all what movie I’d like, it means going through the entire list, often a few times.

Irritating? Yes. Life altering? Not really. I know how very spoiled I am. However, given Netflix’s recent problems with customer satisfaction, you’d think they’d take usability into stronger consideration. Eventually The Man and I will probably move on to Google TV, which will negate most of my complaints, but as of today I’m still a bit annoyed and wanted to share.

Just for the record, I adore Netflix. They won my loyalty forever when, after Hurricane Katrina, they put my account on hold without having to be asked, sent me back my last month’s payment, forgave me the movies that were in my possession when the hurricane hit, and apologized for the situation the inhabitants of the Gulf Coast were going through. I rejoined as soon as possible. Also, by keeping their instant watch titles stocked with BBC options as of late, they’ve definitely kept me happy as a telly-watching clam.

Alright, enough jabbering. I’m away to experience another common irritant – license renewal at the DMV. Ack!

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