Amazon sent me a promo email offering to ‘upgrade’ my Prime membership with HBO GO for an additional $14.99/mo. I looked at HBO’s site and HBO itself charges the same $14.99/mo for Go.

Two things struck me:

  • I might get a deal by subscribing as a Prime member. Turns out that isn’t the case.
  • $15/mo is hard to swallow for one channel. HBO has always been a premium channel but in a world of $10/mo Netflix, $8/mo Hulu, and $8/mo Prime Video it’s really hard to swallow. Each one of these services provides access to a vast amount of content and quite a bit of exclusive content.

Exclusive content has always been the argument for HBO. HBO has always been a few great exclusive shows and ad nasuem repeats of crappy movies. Netflix arguably has some of the most popular exclusive titles. For my part, I haven’t cared about HBO since the Sopranos ended.  The exclusive series might be great but I haven’t been exposed to them because it’s behind a paywall. My guess would be the only thing that was keeping HBO afloat are the old school people who subscribe via their cable company and don’t realize how much they pay for it.

People have realized how ridiculously expensive cable television for a while now. They are slashing the bill by choosing a smaller package or cutting the cord all together. Enter HBO Go, a plan to cut the cable companies out of the mix and go right to the customer. Great idea. An old school company adopting a new business model is always interesting to watch. However, charging 50% more than the highest priced competitor (Netflix) shows just how out of touch they really are. Netflix has a much larger catalog of content.

My guess is HBO nets less than $10/mo per customer when selling through the cable company. Cable company subscribers get access to HBO Go too. The biggest factor in the $15/mo price tag is not cheesing off their old school business partners by undercutting them. That hurts HBO Go’s ability to bring in new customers – the savvy ones that won’t pay $15/mo for one channel.

WordPress (WP) is the software that runs this site. WP started out as ‘just a blog’ software. In many ways, WP has stayed true to its blog roots but has grown into a full-blown CMS (Content Management System) on par with Drupal, Joomla, and Text Pattern to name a few. Nobody sees WP as just blog software these days whether that’s good thing or not depends on your prospective. My school of thought is blog software by definition is a content management system. Writing software so it works for a multitude of different sites is just good business sense. At the end of the day, if the software is versatile enough to run a small site like this one or my local bank‘s website, or a ginormous site like CBS New York and the CNN Newsroom it’s good enough for deployment on any site in my book.

Whenever people ask me what I do online I always say “Web Design.” While it’s not exactly what I do it’s a lot easier than trying to explain that I’m essentially maintenance man. Over the years moving domains, mail, and database driven websites between hosts, servers, and/or platforms has become like second nature almost boring. Fun to plan but the execution is pretty boring unless something goes wrong. Solid planning means things rarely go wrong which in turn makes things boring. Nowadays saving my clients money by consolidating web servers to new infrastructure is a significant part of my work. Right now, consolidation is the most challenging and enjoyable part of work for me.

Most of my ‘work’ time is spent doing preventive maintenance. Installing core or plugin updates across X platform. Most times the platform is WordPress but in addition to my own communities I have a smattering of XenForo and vBulletin clients too. WordPress has made installing updates trivial. It went from manually having to FTP in updates for core, plugin, and themes to point and click updates for all three in a relatively short period. Nowadays point releases (usually security or bug fixes) get installed automatically without any user intervention. This is great for site administrators who don’t know or don’t want to be bothered with the technical aspects of running a site. Not so great for guys like me.

In the last few months Jetpack, a plugin by Automatic (WP’s parent company) has added new services including automatic plugin updates and the ability to manage multiple WP sites from a central location. There is a paid service called CMS Commander (which I used for some time) had this functionality years ago and worked great. My bet would be they’re losing business due to the tight integration of Jetpack with WP and the stream of upsells from the Dashboard.

 

This leads people to wonder what my purpose is; Who can blame them? If WordPress can update itself and they can pay a nominal fee to JetPack for completely automatic updates to both core and plugins along with backups what do they need me for? WordPress has done great job with updates the past few years. Core upgrades rarely break a site. Plugin upgrades sometimes will break or significantly change functionality but overall it’s been a non-issue for the most popular plugins.

I see the writing on the wall and am working to expand my skill set into the coding side of things as quickly as possible. After the inital install, tweaks, and training JetPack can replace many of my services and do so much cheaper than me just because of their scale. Without question JetPack will cannibalize my client base and that’s okay. Technology marches ahead. We have adapt even if means having to learn new skills to put a bowl of beans on the table. If you can be replaced by a few PHP scripts you’re doing something wrong. 

There will always be people who need their hand-held, just want someone with experience to have their back, or just plain want security to be someone else’s headache. There will still be guys like me for those people. We’ll just have to learn additional skills to stay afloat. For my business purposes WordPress management has always been a value add to hosting. I cannot compete with GoDaddy or Host Gator’s hosting services on price but I can and do compete on customer service and peace of mind. My clients know if they read about a major WP exploit I’ve already patched it.  Their site is running smoothly and everything works properly because functionality gets tested after every core and plugin upgrade. A few PHP scripts will never be substitute for having a knowledgeable and experienced person to answer your questions.

Who knows maybe I’ll actually become a web designer.

Aside from all the self promotion/aggrandizing ‘look at me’ drivel, I  spend considerably more time trying to shorten my message while keeping it comprehensible then forming the thought for the tweet.

Twitter debuted before smart phones, when you paid per text message, and mobile data connections were very expensive. The 140 character limit is there so people can Tweet via text message. To this day text messages are still limited to 160 characters. Twitter reserved the extra 20 characters for user names.  Today, depending on what network you’re on smartphones generally send a big chunks of text either via MMS, or they’re automatically split up into several SMS messages and automatically put back together on the receiving party’s phone.

In the modern world pretty much anyone interested in using Twitter more than likely has a smart phone with the Twitter app. I’d like to see the stats but my guess is SMS tweeting is used relatively rarely outside of tech-starved countries. The only reason I could see for a North American or European user to Tweet via SMS is if they have run out of data or to save the minuscule amount of data loading up their Twitter feed uses.

Let the people stuck using SMS with feature phones be limited by their phone’s limitations. For the rest of us do away with the character cap or at least make it more generous.

Then again if you take away the character cap what do you have left? Essentially, a stripped down version of Facebook statuses.