Why are all streaming services rubbish?

 Film  Like most film fans, I'm subscribed to a lot of streaming services and in terms of the television versions of their apps, they're all an absolute mess to use.  With each utilising a different interface, most are more interested in pushing new content than making it easy to get back to the films and television we've already been enjoying.  Watchlists are often hidden away or take several clicks.  The iPlayer's the absolute worst example with its "your added programmes" section at the very bottom of the page.

Much of this has to do with a lack of standardisation between the apps.  When streaming was first introduced, for the most part, the app producers had to the follow a template which was baked into the technology.  So on my first "smart" DVD player, the Amazon and Netflix apps worked pretty much identically.  But with more powerful technology, that's no longer the case and that freedom has come with a usability cost.  The user has to learn how to use each streaming service separately which as I found with my elderly parents creates a barrier between the user and the content.

Hypercritical suggests here a standard spec for streaming apps to adhere to and it all seems eminently sensible.

"There must be a way for the user to manually create a list of media. In the common case, this is a list of media that the user intends to watch (eventually), but it can be used for any purpose. The important part is that the user makes the list intentionally. Nothing gets added to this list automatically.

"At a minimum, the list must accept top-level items in the hierarchy (e.g., TV shows, movies). The list could also accept more granular items, like individual TV episodes." [via]

My solution has been to largely abandon smart apps altogether.  Instead, I have my TV set up as the third screen on my PC with a very long HDMI cable around the room to the television with the mouse positioned within hands length of the armchair.  Many streaming services have Windows apps and although they're somewhat like their TV counterparts, are much easier to navigate with a mouse and keyboard.  Plus it allows access to streaming services which don't yet have a workable tv app and remain stubbornly in the browser.

As for watchlists, my LetterBoxd Pro subscription allows me to tell it the services to which I'm subscribed and the free streamers which means I can have a unified list of films things I'd like to see which acts as a kind of off-site (honestly ITV Player and 4od are significantly less shit in a browser).  The list can also be sorted chronologically by release date and date added, filtered by decade or genre and shuffled so that if you have a list as long as mine, some of the more unusual stuff will surface.  

Cataloguing BBC Radio 4's In Our Time using Dewey Decimal Classification.

Radio  In Our Time is a weekly live BBC radio discussion programme in which the broadcaster Melvyn Bragg and several academics elucidate a topic of a  philosophical, historical, cultural or scientific nature.  It's been on air since October 1998 and its format has changed little in that time, a moment in the week to listen to a group of very clever people saying some very clever things for forty-five minutes.

The series has clocked up nearly a thousand episodes and its inevitable with an archive that rich that a listener is more likely to catch-up on instalments which cover subjects with which they might casually be interested or being studying at school or university.  Except the website only sorts the episodes into very broad topics, culture, history, philosophy, religion and science so someone wanting to hear about mathematics or theatre has to wade through many pages of other topics.

Which is why, with my librarian's brain, I hit upon the idea of sorting the episodes using a library classification system and after the comparing a few decided Dewey Decimal Classification system (DDC) would suit the purpose because it's less complicated to work through than others and will be most familiar to readers due to its prevalence in public libraries.  Also Library of Congress can be astonishingly obtuse with all of its letters AND numbers.

Find below the results of my free time this past week and a half.  As you can see it's pretty logically ordered, a combination of following an abridged copy of DDC designed for small libraries originally published in 1979, Classify (an experimental classification site which aggregates the choices of thousands of librarians across the planet) and this Wikipedia page which has the most recent names for class names and hierarchical divisions.

Classification is automatically a compromise.  You're applying a numerical label to an object which it wasn't really designed for, so on some occasions, especially with something like In Our Time which revels in obtuse topics, there isn't a perfect place for the episode to go.  Also I've only used the a heading when it pertains to an episode which is why it looks like there are gaps in the sequence.  Melvyn and the gang haven't covered every sub-division in the DDC.

Every title below links to the episode's page on the Radio 4 website.  The original plan was to include the "shelf" number for each episode in-line but it looked messy and unreadable so they're relegated to labels when you hover your mouse pointer over the links.  You may find that the odd mouse-over DDC number doesn't match the section its in - I've moved a couple of things around so that they make sense in this list and have forgotten to edit the number.  Sigh, I'll check it again.

Anyway, I hope this is of some use to you and if it is, please consider leaving a Ko-Fi donationThe most recent episodes are here and I'll try to keep this list updated as much as possible.