I haven’t owned a TV for 8 years. Since the start of college, I have moved 8 times across 3 continents and the thought of lugging around a large black box, optimized for one purpose always had a whiff of anachronism. Don’t get me wrong, I still watched plenty of TV. But it was all delivered via the internet, via both illicit & later, licit means. I cast myself as the new generation of media consumers, untethered from both schedule and selection. Homo media superioris if you will.  In Veetle, I discovered my mea culpa.

It is hard to sell Veetle. I doubt I could sell it to myself. The pitch would go something like “It’s like everything crappy about TV, brought to the Internet”.  Even Veetle doesn’t seem to quite know how to sell itself. Their about page describes it as “provid[ing] the next generation live broadcasting platform that can deliver extremely cost-effective streams at a massive scale with unprecedented quality”.

What this really means is that they’ve built a custom Peer-to-Peer video plugin that allows for the streaming of extremely high quality content without having to pay for expensive servers or bandwidth costs. What this also means is that, being a stream, you cannot pause, you cannot fast forward & you cannot do a thing if the broadcaster decides to take the stream off the air for whatever reason. As it turns out, it is what Veetle cannot do, rather than what it can do, that makes it such a compelling service.

I first discovered Veetle about 2 months ago and, after grumbling about the absurdity of a site that required you to install a plugin to experience it, clicked around for a little bit and landed halfway in an episode of The Big Bang Theory which I hadn’t yet watched. I then proceeded to spend the next 5 hours catching up on the rest of Season 2 of The Big Bang Theory.

Since then, I’ve noticed an increasing amount of my entertainment hours gravitating to Veetle. I have unwatched videos languishing on my hard drive, I have TV shows on Hulu that look super interesting, there are videos on YouTube bookmarked that I’m sure are very funny… but instead, I was watching the last half of Die Hard 4, that really epic scene in Superbad where they destroyed the police car, 3 episodes of the Ali G show and half an hour of many, many random movies, most of which I don’t even know the name of because the broadcaster didn’t bother to fill out a program guide.

This was not good content. This was not even good, bad content. If you had asked me to construct a recommendation engine that would deliver me excellent content, the last half of Die Hard 4 would be pretty far down on the list.

I think, in our desire for optimality, we sometimes lose track of the burden of being optimal. I acquire plenty of content I’m sure will be optimal for me but then, when it comes time for me to consume it, it’s all so overwhelming. I have 465 items in my RSS reader right now that I need to clear by the end of the weekend, I have 8 books stacked by my bedside table that are all 30 pages read, Facebook is an irresistible & unrelenting stream of personally tailored to me content. In this ocean of optimality, Veetle slips up to me and whispers in my ear, “Don’t choose. Let the content come to you and, more importantly, when it slips away, don’t feel guilty for not optimizing away your time”. As it turns out, even as Homo media superioris, I still need to veg out once in a while.

The biggest risk Veetle faces is doing things “right”. Any competent product manager could walk in and immediately spot all of the obvious deficiencies in the product and aim to fix them: encourage people to fill in a schedule for their streams, add the “now showing” info to the browsing panel, build a faceted, tagged search engine, integrate with your calendar to remind you when a movie you particularly want to watch is about to come on, even, god forbid, a recommendation engine. Any competent product manager would ruin Veetle.

To be sure, the service is still very new and there are plenty of rough edges around the product that could be smoothed down. The AJAX breaks how URLs should work, comments don’t live update & you lose your place in the channel selector after you switch channels. But these are all minor annoyances.

For Veetle to be successful, it needs to recognize and fiercely stick to it’s core value proposition and avoid imitating any of it’s competitors. It needs to avoid overcomplicating the interface, adding features or anything which gives people more control over their viewing experience. If I wanted the Hulu experience, I go to Hulu. If I wanted the YouTube experience, I go to YouTube. Veetle awoke in me an experience that had lay dormant in my for 8 years and I hope to god that, in 8 years time, if I want the Veetle experience, I can still go to Veetle.

Responses

  1. Rich says:

    July 5th, 2010 at 3:18 am (#)

    I have been hooked on Veetle since I came across it. It is like HBO or Showtime on your computer. The best you only choose a station, they choose the show. Great Post!

  2. Rob Harris says:

    July 19th, 2010 at 8:42 pm (#)

    Keen observation. I've been without paid TV for about a year and I find myself gravitating more and more. It's good old channel surfing…in the wild wild west.

  3. Newbie says:

    July 26th, 2010 at 9:14 am (#)

    WOW powerful blog I loved it!! I thought I was reading about myself 🙂 I broadcast there and it is as addicting to do as it is to watch other broadcasts so all around the site is very addicting and unique 🙂 and I love it.

  4. Venkat says:

    July 29th, 2010 at 11:22 pm (#)

    I am the opposite. I nursed an old B&W TV for 2 years in grad school. Then I had a dorm-sized, 13″ TV/DVD combo for 5 -6 years that moved across several apartments with me. I bought a 46″ big screen last year.

    I *like* TV because I *don't* want too much control. I like schedules and not having to think. Okay, I DVR things sometimes, but I could never really get into online watching. I've only started recently watching Netflix via my Wii on my big screen, and only for shows like Yes, Minister, that are not available on scheduled programming.

    What you are describing is you rediscovering the joys or a reduced decision-making burden. I like sensible default scheduled programming to chug along, and only occasionally mess with the schedule 🙂 Join the club of lazy watchers. You've been working too hard on your TV for too long!

    Venkat

  5. Hang says:

    July 30th, 2010 at 1:15 pm (#)

    Bah! I said I like Veetle but I'm not going back to something as archaic as actual television. Having to watch TV at 8pm instead of midnight like I like? Worry while I'm out with friends that if they don't stop being interesting within the next 10 minutes, I'll miss the start of Mad Men? Stupid, interminable ads every 7 minutes? The scientifically optimized parasitic mind viruses that they've developed on VH1?

    Seriously, no thanks.

    My few incidental exposures with actual television have left me firmly thankful that I abandoned that medium a long time ago. Veetle is neo-Television to Television's plain Television.

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  7. Venkat says:

    July 30th, 2010 at 1:40 pm (#)

    LOL! Alright, homo media superioris 🙂

  8. MsLynn707 says:

    August 18th, 2010 at 4:06 am (#)

    so far I find veetle to be somewhat addicting, the one thing that would be a whole lot better would be that if you're showing stuff on veetle, you should post a schedule to show people out there what's coming up. IMHO

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    August 29th, 2010 at 7:01 pm (#)

    best text! thank you.

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  13. LawDog says:

    December 5th, 2011 at 7:44 am (#)

    Ummm… you can pause.
    Goto full screen, and hit the spacebar.

  14. Hang says:

    December 5th, 2011 at 10:57 am (#)

    You can’t pause and then resume where you left off like a DVR. You can pause it like you pause live TV.

  15. suckamothafucka says:

    December 8th, 2011 at 4:03 am (#)

    I just tried it and LawDog is right, I can pause it and pick up right were I left off later. I haven’t tried it for more than a few minutes, but it’s good to know I can go take a piss or refill my soda without missing anything.

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  23. fearless10 says:

    July 11th, 2012 at 8:41 pm (#)

    You Tube, Hulu, Veetle, Crackle all suck now. Remove the ads, regain your respect.

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  25. Lopakalolo says:

    July 29th, 2012 at 7:35 am (#)

    Am I missing something or did I start using Veetle when all it showed was basically movies & Sports.  When I go to Veetle now, it’s like a stupid web cam page with all kinds of bimbos displaying what they think is clever – Boring!
    What happened to the Movies and the Sports? Is it gone and gone for good?  Should I start searching for a Veetle alternative to return to why I started watching Veetle in the first place?  An inquiring mind needs to know why all of a sudden the original Veetle turned into a stupid format overnight?

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