A frustrated Nowhere TV user said something the other day that I’ve been thinking about more than I should and I wanted to take a minute to try and explain how Nowhere TV is different from most channels on Roku and why it is a private channel (not in the Channel Store) and why I continue to maintain that Nowhere TV is an experiment, a crowd-sourced sandbox where users and I can explore together what the platform can do.
This user was upset because a certain piece of content was not playing well on their Roku. This is not at all uncommon. On any given day there may be any number of content sources that break for any number of reasons. I do what I can to fix them, but in many cases the root cause of the problems are beyond my control. A server may go down. An RSS feed my be malformed or not updated regularly. A video may be encoded in a way that makes it not play correctly on Roku. These are things that I can’t do anything about other than wait and hope. And more often than not the problems are corrected by the publishers within a few days.
When I tried to explain to my frustrated user that the particular problem they were having was caused by the way the content was encoded by the publisher (not me) they got even more upset and said something to the effect of “If I go to a restaurant and order a burger and the waiter brings it to me burnt I don’t expect the waiter to tell me that the problem was caused by the chef and he can’t do anything about it.”
I understand the metaphor and I appreciate the point this person was trying to make, but it also demonstrates their misunderstanding about how Nowhere TV works. Nowhere TV is a content aggregator, which in simplistic terms means that it links to content from lots and lots of different sources and that I as the maintainer of the channel have no control over those content sources.
So what’s wrong with the hamburger metaphor? Let’s start with the waiter and the chef, they both work for the same restaurant and that restaurant was responsible for cooking the burnt hamburger. That’s different from Nowhere TV in that I (the waiter) and the content publishers (the chefs) do not work for the same entity. The content in Nowhere TV is encoded (cooked) by hundreds of different entities and Nowhere TV simply curates it all and presents it to users in a somewhat unified, coherent interface.
Furthermore, the hamburger in this metaphor is an entire product being sold to the customer. One piece of content out of the hundreds (thousands?) in Nowhere TV not working for a day or two would be more like the lettuce on the cheeseburger being a bit limp.
Oh, and the hamburger would have to be free for this metaphor to work. Nowhere TV doesn’t cost users a dime.
All this talk about hamburgers is making me hungry.
A more apt analogy for my frustrated user might be one in which they buy an iPod from Target and after some period of time it stops working. They cannot then go back to Target (the waiter) and demand that they repair the broken iPod, they have to go to Apple (the chef) for that. And again Nowhere TV is free, so It would be more like Target giving someone an iPod free of charge, the iPod breaking, and that person demanding that Target repair it.
An even better comparison, and one much more closely related to what’s really going on here, would be a web browser. If one specific web page is not displaying correctly in my web browser, I don’t complain to the developers of the browser, I complain to the authors of the web page. Nowhere TV is not unlike a web browser in that respect. It renders content authored by other people. If those other people don’t author the content well, Nowhere TV won’t be able to render it well.