First look at Disney Plus

Disney+, the biggest initiative and priority in the near future of the iconic company, went live today in the US and Canada. I have been using it for 2-3 hours and below is the summary of my experience so far.

The sign-up is pretty standard and smooth. Nothing major. Even though there was some reported difficulty in finding the app on Apple Store

Fairly expectedly, the app encountered some technical issues which users widely reported here. I have had my fair share as well

That led to Disney+ Help twitter page issued the statement below

In addition to the technical mishaps, I was a bit frustrated by the User Interface. While you can download episodes from the mobile app, I couldn’t find the feature on the browser version. I am not sure if that was intended to limit the downloads, but I was under impression that it was possible.

At the end of a movie, you are presented with a suggestion like the screenshot below, but there is no way to get back to the homepage or the category page

There is an “Extras” tab under the main banner of a movie/episode. They can be never-seen-before clips that viewers will appreciate. However, they could have made the tab more visible or added it to the end, in my opinion

There are some Extras clips on the mobile app that are not available on disneyplus.com.

At the bottom of the website, there is a tab called “Interest-based ads”. On that page, you can choose to opt out of behavioral targeting by ads companies on disneyplus.com

In terms of content, I am excited about National Geographic and Marvel. But to succeed, I do think Disney Plus has quite a long way to go and much to improve if they want to augment user experience

Disclaimer: I own Disney stocks in my personal portfolio

Smaller government or smarter governing?

One of the conservative ideologies in governing is that we need a smaller government and freer enterprise. The premise behind that thinking, I suspect, is that we trust companies to do well by doing good. The problem is they don’t often do so.

Here is the new initiative by AT&T

Enjoy more data. Starting with your October 2019 bill, you’ll get an additional 15GB of data on your Mobile Share plan. This bonus data comes with a $10 price increase. AT&T confirmed to The Verge that there’s no way to opt out of this “bonus.” Here’s the company’s statement:

“We are communicating with some customers regarding changes to their mobile plans. Customers have the choice to change their plan at any time and can always contact us with questions or to understand their options.”

This probably won’t surprise AT&T customers one iota, of course — this is the company that was just finally slapped on the wrist with a $60 million fine for throttling what were supposedly “unlimited” plans back in 2011, and the company that’s now pocketing an extra $800 million in “admin fees” every year after more than doubling that inexplicable surcharge last June. This is the company that’s now making you pay its property taxes on your business internet bill, while it repeatedly jacks up the rates of its few remaining grandfathered unlimited cellular plans.

Source: The Verge

The predatory practice is so disturbing that I don’t have the word to describe it.

Another example is Boeing with their 737 Max woe.

“The culture was very cost centered, incredibly pressurized,” Adam Dickson, who worked for Boeing for 30 years and led a team of engineers that worked on the 737 Max, told BBC Panorama in a program airing Monday night.

“Engineers were given targets to get certain amount of cost out of the airplane,” he added.” Certainly what I saw was a lack of sufficient resources to do the job in its entirety.”

Source: Business Insider

The cost-cutting goal at Boeing led to the company using $9/hour engineers on the planes that sell for millions of dollars and can decide the fate of thousands of passengers. This is a company that enjoys a duopoly of the sky, along with Airbus.

There are certainly a lot more examples of how companies do not volutarily act in the interest of consumers. You will find out more by watching a few episodes of either Patriot Act or Last Week Tonight.

My point is that companies care more about bottom line than consumer interest. Sometimes, those two issues align and be sure that they will advertise the hell out of what they do “for you”. Unless there is a party that can help keep the companies in check, consumers will be at their mercy. There are a few cases in which consumers can threaten the existence of companies such as the #DeleteUber movement a while ago, which suddenly kept Lyft from administration. However, those cases are not common or not common enough.

That’s why we need rules and governments to enforce those rules. It is understandable that red tape and unnecessary regulations are a pain and should be removed (trust me, as an immigrant dealing with all these immigration policies, I already had a bit of American bureaucracy). But that means we need to be smarter in governance , not less governance. By removing all regulations, we help companies reduce compliance costs and be legally less responsible.

As citizens, we don’t have the time and resources to understand all these regulations and conduct studies on how they affect business. The job is left to people who are dedicated to making laws: lawmakers. Hence, whenever somebody mentions that we ought to remove regulations, be sure to ask who and what will protect us citizens from the excessive corporate greed?

Free Speech – When You Pray For Rain, You Have To Deal With The Mud Too

The debate on free speech between tech companies, specifically Facebook and Twitter, and politicians such as Elizabeth Warren is heating up and getting hotter than ever. Facebook refused to take down political ads from the right wing that the left consider fake news. Politicians led by Elizabeth Warren vehemently criticized the decision by Facebook arguing that it is helping the President win an election again.

Coming from the background that I have, I appreciate the freedom of speech in America which is enshrined in the Constitution. There is nothing better to ensure that everybody is free to voice his or her own opinion. The right in and of itself is great and good. The problem; however, lies in how people execute the right and how it is perceived by others.

When a right-winged party runs a political ads with controversial information, the party is within its right to do so. Facebook, as it claims to preserve the right to expression on its platform, chooses to honor it. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.

The problem is that when you exercise your right to free speech and spread out false information on others, you rob others of the right to be perceived truthfully. In that sense, is it still acceptable? Also, it then falls onto Facebook to be the guardian of truth, the entity that decides whether a piece of information is right or false. And it’s not an easy task. Whatever Facebook does will please one part of the population and piss off the rest. Whatever is truth to one party of an ideology will be considered fake news by the opposing party.

I fear that there is no definitive answers to this debate. The Internet and Facebook enable friction-less communication of information and, as a consequence, false information around the globe. That’s the byproduct of it. I don’t see how Facebook can do one without harming the other aspect of their operation. And as explained above, I don’t see how it can please anybody in its endeavor to preserve the First Amendment, but also to police the content.

When we pray for rain, we have to deal with the mud too. That’s my mentality in a lot of issues. In this case, I think we pray hard for the rain, but we are not ready to deal with the mud

The right to speak and not to

There has been quite a story about the issue between China and the NBA. An executive from Houston Rockets tweeted his support for Hong Kong and it resulted in backlash from China. Steve Kerr, the head coach of Golden State Warriors and a regular critic of the current President and Administration, didn’t have much to say about China. Critics blast him for his selective speaking out.

I find it bizarre to see Kerr criticized. Freedom of Speech is sacred in America. As far as I am concerned, it involves the right to voice your opinion freely. Not saying anything is also a form of voicing one’s opinion. Kerr has every right to publicly talk about any issue he wants and to not say anything at all as he is well pleased.

I understand that celebrities have a platform and following that can and should be used to affect social changes. But at the end of the day, celebrities are only humans and as humans, they have rights. They reserve the right to their opinion and how they voice it, as stated in the Constitution. There is no guarantee that anything material would have happened if Kerr had spoke out. And I am not sure that basing your own opinion on that of others, especially strangers, is a good idea.

If the right to say something is sacred in America, as enshrined in the Constitution, then so is the right to not have to say anything against your will. If you were in Kerr’s place, would you appreciate being blasted for only exercising your right?

Humans as story tellers

Per one of my favorite books: Sapiens: Brief History of Humankind, human-beings have an extraordinary ability to tell stories and that’s essentially how we built civilization after civilization. Each of us, including individuals, governments or corporations, tries to tell a story every day and get everybody to buy into the story.

Startups such as WeWork tried to convince everybody that it is worth $60 billion. But the public doesn’t believe it and the story crumbled, sending the valuation downward to as low as $15 billion.

Companies such as Facebook, Google or Amazon try to convince lawmakers and consumers that they care about privacy and security. There are pieces of evidence that may back up the story, but there are also incidents which undermine the narrative.

Luxury brands such as Nike or Apple succeed in getting us to pay more for their products than the alternatives which surely deliver the same functions. It is because they are better storytellers and their stories are more convincing.

Some governments have a better reputation and track record than others due to the consistency in churning out evidence to back up their stories.

A guy has to conjure up a story about himself to convince a girl into a romantic relationship and vice versa.

Of course, the storyteller can only try so much to tell a story with all the corroborating evidence in the world and audience still won’t buy it. That’s why we have non-believers in science or in general different reactions and opinions.

I am fascinated by it.

The end of Suits, that show about loyalty

Suits is a series that I have been following for a few years. Though the show doesn’t appeal to audience as much as it did (partly because of other shows and partly because of the writing itself), Suits still holds a place in my heart.

The chemistry between Harvey and Mike or Harvey and Donna is one to dream of. The way Harvey managed Mike is a true example of leadership. There are quite many different definitions of leadership, but what Harvey did for Mike is what I consider actions of a true leader: allow subordinates to grow, take blame when things go south and make sure employees get the credit when due. But it’s not the biggest reason why I love the show. One of the dominant themes in Suits is loyalty to people through thicks and thins, and nothing demonstrates it more than this scene, in my opinion:

The older I get, the more I appreciate the trust others lay in me and the close relationships I have, albeit with a small number of folks only. Loyalty is a two way street that is sacred, beautiful and hard to come by. If you have it, try to keep it.

For all the good memories and life lessons, I’ll miss Suits.

Do you want to live in a society like that?

I never drove before in my life. Since I have been taking lessons with an instructor and some of my friends who are experienced drivers, I really appreciate knowing the signs, the rules and nuances in driving. Otherwise, the consequence could be very expensive financially and potentially fatal.

Imagine a society where anyone above 18 could drive outside without taking any class or license. Everyone could just drive outside with a state ID to prove that they are 18 or older. Even those whose track record is blemished with DUI or multiple accidents due to reckless accidents are allowed to drive. Would you want to drive or even live in that society? Would you feel safe? Would you want your kids to live in that world? Luckily, we live in a world where everyone needs a license to operate a vehicle. The bigger and more powerful vehicle, the higher license is required. We don’t take away vehicles. We just require everyone to prove that they are capable of operating the vehicles safely.

Well, replace cars in the example above with guns and you pretty much get something very similar to the US nowadays. This weekend saw another mass shooting in Texas that killed 8 people. The shooter used a military grade weapon and didn’t pass the background check. How does it make any sense that this kind of horrifying tragedies keeps happening and worse, at an alarmingly fast rate? If we require everyone to prove they can operate a car safely and take away that privilege if they have a DUI or a terrible record, why aren’t we doing the same for guns?

Gun lovers argue that background checks or measures to ensure guns don’t fall into the wrong hands will take away their guns and freedom. As mentioned above, a driving license doesn’t take away any car. Why would it be different in the case of guns? Because cars are a necessity in our life and still require driving licenses, why would it be easier to own an unnecessary material such as guns?

New York Times has an excellent article explaining steps taken to own a gun in different countries. Here is how it looks between the US and Japan. Take a look and see if you can spot a difference.

United States 

1-Pass an instant background check that considers criminal convictions, domestic violence and immigration status. 

2-Buy a gun.

 Japan 

1-Take a firearm class and pass a written exam, which is held up to three times a year. 

2-Get a doctor’s note saying you are mentally fit and do not have a history of drug abuse. 

3-Apply for a permit to take firing training, which may take up to a month. 

4-Describe in a police interview why you need a gun. 

5-Pass a review of your criminal history, gun possession record, employment, involvement with organized crime groups, personal debt and relationships with friends, family and neighbors. 

6-Apply for a gunpowder permit. 

7-Take a one-day training class and pass a firing test. 

8-Obtain a certificate from a gun dealer describing the gun you want. 

9-If you want a gun for hunting, apply for a hunting license. 

10-Buy a gun safe and an ammunition locker that meet safety regulations. 

11-Allow the police to inspect your gun storage. 

12-Pass an additional background review. 

13-Buy a gun.

Results?

Source: NPR

It is absolutely mind-blowing that we still let this happen and that nothing has been done