Dropbox and Video are not a good fit

(This post is cross-posted on Mediafly’s Blog)

DropboxDropbox is a phenomenal service. Over 25 million users agree. We use the service extensively within Mediafly for file transfer and syncing of non-sensitive files, and it has become a part of our daily production workflow. Most of our partners and customers use Dropbox as well, to shuttle files back and forth with us. In fact, several team members have reached the referral limit because of the number of other users they have brought onto the service.

We have received a question from a few companies that produce a lot of video: “how is Mediafly different than Dropbox?” Specifically, these companies want to distribute pre-production dailies, rough cuts, studio cuts, and more, to their executives, producers and directors.

At a high level, this seems like a great use of the service:

  • Installation is easy – users simply need to download the app, sign up with a credit card, and start using.
  • Users can download for offline playback
  • Publishing consists of a user that has access to the shared folder dropping video into the folder

However, there are a lot of problems with this approach:

  • Security: Dropbox has had a fair number of security holes discovered. While most services will have issues that need to be found, addressed, and appropriately apologized for, the approach Dropbox seems to take is “simplicity over security”. They prefer the service to be simple and easy to use, and if necessary security takes a back seat.
  • Content security: Dropbox is not built to keep your content secure. Video and documents are stored in exactly the same format that you place them into a Dropbox folder. The only form of device-level security is a four-digit PIN; beyond that, content can be easily retrieved from any rooted or hacked device.
  • Speed: Uploading a video to Dropbox’s service is slooooow. Even over fast Wifi connections. Even on paid accounts. The company is clearly limiting bandwidth, in the interest of constraining costs. We have seen speeds as slow as 30kbps. This translates into ~10 hours to upload a 1GB file. The system was not created for speed, and as a result transferring large videos will take a long time.
  • Playback: Playing video via Dropbox uses the simplistic progressive download method. High-quality videos buffer constantly, or require a large amount of time to fully download prior to playback. Meanwhile, modern adaptive bitrate technology like HTTP Live Streaming or RTMP is nowhere to be found.
  • Control: Dropbox offers rudimentary support for permissions. A folder in a user’s account is fully locked down. That user can share that folder to another Dropbox user. However, say you want to give 3 users read-only permissions to a folder? Or, worse yet, say you have two subfolders that should only be visible for one of your users? None of this is possible with Dropbox, and you are forced to constrain your choices to match the simplicity of the service. Worse yet, since there is no ability to give users “read-only” access, any user with whom you share files can then delete those files!
  • Branding: Dropbox’s website and apps are always under Dropbox’s name. There is no opportunity to use your own brand.

How stupid are some people?

A new web service is pushing beyond the traditional information-sharing lines found on Twitter, Facebook, and their social brethren (names, hometowns, birthdays, pictures, etc.). Blippy.com intends to show to the world exactly what you purchased through your credit cards. You sign up, enter your credit card details, and choose how much data you want to share to your social network (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).


Why would anyone want to do this? What benefit is there from my friends seeing how much I purchase at a given retailer? How is the world better now that it knows that I spent $27.53 at Amazon.com to buy a pack of AAA batteries and the latest Dan Brown novel?

If you think this idea is as ridiculous as I do, and agree that all those people who put their private financial information at risk for absolutely no benefit are incredibly stupid, you’ll be thrilled to know that only one day after “going beta” and being introduced on TechCrunch, the site is now tracking over $1M of sales.

Of course, this information is invaluable for Blippy. Private purchase data, ripe for analysis and resale, all at their disposal.

By the way, this company was founded by the creator of F*ckedCompany, the once-popular 2000-ish website that tracked layoffs across large and small companies alike. At least now you can understand what kind of minds dream up this stuff.

Google Voice (today) –> AT&T (1980’s)

This is a great opinion piece by Judy Shapiro at Advertising Age. It draws parallels between the widely acclaimed Google Voice service and the breadth and reach of AT&T’s investments in the ’80s and ’90s. The conclusion is that this is a dangerous path for Google, as it takes it far afield from its core business, and that while the core business may not suffer today, it may (will?) in the near future as a result. From the article:

Much like AT&T did 20 years ago to maintain its growth, Google is trying to do the same — control the data distribution channels. In the case of AT&T, it was all about information delivery to business and residential users. In the case of Google, it’s all about advertising delivery to its “product” — the users of its services.

The trouble with wanting to dominate all delivery channels (whether it be information or advertising) is that you are forced to go further and further afield from your core competency. And while playing in disparate businesses is something a leader brand can afford to do, over time the core business tends to suffer — slowly but inextricably. Then at some point, you are willing to throw out the knitting needles. AT&T did, and it did not end well. Google looks like to be headed in the same direction.

Podcasts on your Blackberry with Mediafly

Mediafly just released the beta version of their player for BlackBerry devices. For those of you who don’t know, Mediafly is a free service to enable you to manage all of your podcasts and discover new podcasts, across all of your devices (iPhone, iPod, Sansa, Zen, Squeezebox, chumby, PopcornHour, Zune, CastGrabber, and even plain old RSS). That may sound complicated, but it’s enormously useful once you realize how it works.

I listen to This American Life from Chicago Public Radio quite often – at the gym, on the bus, etc. In the past, I would have to remember to sync my iPod to iTunes to ensure the podcast is loaded onto it. With Mediafly Audio Edition for Blackberry, however, I can simply stream new and recent episodes quickly through the application’s interface whenever I want.

When you open the application, you are given a list of channels with default shows within them. Lots of great exploration here. There are a lot of audio programs I recently started listening to that I did not know existed before starting to use Mediafly. I’ve become a fan of Gordon Deal’s dry wit on the Wall Street Journal podcasts. And, the Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business puts out CareerCast, interviews with professionals on various career-related topics. I find these to be excellent as well.

Next, you can customize your own channel list. If you want to customize the list, you can register for free at Mediafly.com and link your BlackBerry to your device. You can then add and remove shows and episodes from both the BlackBerry and from the website.

Finally, there is a version that supports video podcasts as well in the works.

It’s definitely worth trying out, at the very least to see what kind of content you can find. The release is a beta, so please let them know if you encounter any bugs or other issues (you can do so right from the application, it seems).
To install, point your BlackBerry browser to: http://www.mediafly.mobi

Incorrect use of English

I saw this site on incorrect word use and common English errors a long time ago, and recently rediscovered it. It has a list of 1202 incorrectly used English words. Fascinating to at least scroll through.

Those who know me know that my favorite is irregardless. I love the site’s smarmy response:

Regardless of what you have heard, “irregardless” is a redundancy. The suffix “-less” on the end of the word already makes the word negative. It doesn’t need the negative prefix “ir-” added to make it even more negative.

Guys, are you on this website?

DontDateHimGirl is a community site where users (women) can post guys that should be avoided. Includes pictures and comments. Sample comment:

Otis is a liar and a cheater.He is from over north nobels square. He will do anything to get what he wants. He will say that he cares about you and that you are very special and will treat you well, But there is an alternative motive to this logic. He will take you for all that you have. He will nickel and dime you until you wont have anything. He looks good and drives a nice car with rims on it but he is nasty.


Untraceable, uncensorable documents

Wikileaks is developing an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis.

I was just thinking about how I would post something anonymously for the world to see yesterday. Good timing! More nefarious/criminal/profitable uses: posting insider information on a company to affect the stock price in one direction or another (does anyone have a Wikipedia aggregator?)…

Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their own governments and corporations.

Site link here.

Personalized highway billboards

MINI USA, the company that makes Mini’s, is doing something very cool.

The idea is simple, first give MINI USA some irreverent information about yourself (nothing too personal). Then MINI USA then sends out a special keyfob (4-6 weeks after sign-up) that identifies you to each of the Motorboards you pass. When the boards detect that you are about the drive by, they deliver a personal message based on the information you originally gave.

So, if I have a Mini and drive past one of their billboards, I can have it say, “Jason, you are one handsome man!” for the world to see. In Chicago, the billboard is on 294 near O’Hare.