power to the people

general — avner @ November 27, 2008

the way we consume entertainment is changing rapidly, and as usual the technology and the users are moving faster than the industry.. being the little guy in a market full of giants we figured we should use our size to our advantage.. we can move faster. we can take risks. we can have fun. and we can really listen.

if we let go of traditional concepts of how companies approach product development and give our users much more control and visibility over what goes into future versions of boxee, then maybe we can achieve something special.

while we have Twitter and our forums, it is not a very structured way to discuss ideas and collect feedback. the quick survey we conducted was an easy way to sort through a very defined set of alternatives, but determining where we should focus our effort in terms of new features and bug fixes is a much more complex challenge.

over the last few days we have been looking into potential solutions that will enable us to have a real conversation around what should be included in future releases of boxee.

ideally the platform to accommodate such a discussion should:

  • be open for everyone
  • enable users (including boxee employees..) to post an idea for a new feature
  • facilitate a discussion around an idea (and let users track the discussions they care about)
  • provide an easy way for users to express their interest level/priority for getting a feature in boxee
  • find a way to reduce the number of duplicate discussions
  • be flexible, but don’t require boxee to spend too much dev time customizing it.. (we should focus on building boxee..)
  • keep it simple for the user

we looked at both UserVoice and GetSatisfaction as potential platforms. we ended up choosing Get Satisfaction. within a few days of our next version we will put together http://ideas.boxee.tv and will start the conversation. can’t wait!

as to why we chose getSatisfaction. it was not an easy choice. both services seem to be really well designed and thought out. we chose getSatisfaction because:

  • we got over 40 replies on twitter with people recommending it (and we should listen to our users…)
  • it has a single sign on support, which means our users can tie in their boxee login with getsatisfaction (a big one in my opinion)
  • while uservoice is incredibly suited to get clear voting on features, and would have been our choice if that was the only thing we wanted to achieve, getsatisfaction is a better match for how we want to grow this conversation
  • api api api. take a look at http://help.twitter.com. the faq is a winner, and tied with the twitter look and feel. we love the approach of “This API seeks to expose every and all functions of http://getsatisfaction.com
  • the founder & ceo of getsatisfaction is an early boxee alpha tester.. :)

December 4th, 2008

general — avner @ November 26, 2008

our next release will come out on Decmber 4th at 8am EST.

some of the things we improved/fixed: local media scanning, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa and CNN. we also spent some more time on Hulu. making it better.

initially we planned for a bug fixing/polish release, but as usual we got a bit over excited and squeezed in a bunch of new stuff…

on Dec 4th we will also start pre-alpha testing of boxee for Windows (we originally planned it for this week, but the scramble around Apple TV 2.3 resulted in a short delay.. sorry). there are ~ 200 people who signed up to be part of the pre-alpha, and we’re going to gradually grow that list until we officially release it in alpha (probably early next year).

almost forgot. happy thanksgiving!

Adam Sandler |MTV Music

boxee on Apple TV 2.3

general — avner @ November 23, 2008

we posted instructions on how to get boxee running on Apple TV 2.3 manually, but it was a bit hackish (you had to open a Terminal, ssh into your Apple TV and run a few commands), which means fun for some of us, and a serious no-go for most of us.

so it was great to see Scott Davilla and Stephan Diederich to act quickly and come up with a new version of the USB Creator. now it is as easy as before to get boxee/xbmc on the Apple TV. ~ 35,000 people have already done it! (maybe more). Scott and Stephan deserve all the credit for making it happen. and making it so easy.

a quick reminder, once you download the latest version of the USB Creator follow these steps:

  1. insert a bootable USB key (1GB) to one of your USB slots and run the USB Creator (disconnect any external USB drives connected to your laptop to avoid crying once you discovered you just formatted a 1TB drive with all your media..). see a video how-to guide.
  2. plug the patchstick into your Apple TV and reboot it (i.e. disconnect and reconnect power cord), you’ll see a penguin. this is good. now wait till it finishes the install.
  3. take out the patchstick and reboot
  4. you’ll see a new option in the Apple TV menu ‘xbmc/boxee’, go to Update and choose ‘Boxee’. let it do its thing.

that’s it. you’re done. now you can run boxee and start playing MKVs, streaming from last.fm, Hulu, etc.

known bug: sometimes when launching boxee you’ll see a blackscreen (instead of boxee’s login screen). click Menu (back) on your Apple Remote, and try again. Scott & Stephan are working on a new launcher that will eliminate this bug once and for all.

known bug 2: if freezing at boxee login screen, please see this forum thread. its a geeky solution, but beats factory restoring your atv.. our next release will take care of this, so the fix will no longer be necessary.

you told us what you want. now we need to make it happen.

general — avner @ November 21, 2008

we had over 1,100 people fill the survey in less than 12hrs (thanks!!), telling us what content/services we need to add to boxee next.

the results so far:

which one of these TV networks would you like us to add?

HBO 27% (310 votes), Discovery 21% (237 votes), ABC 21% (236 votes)

HBO has been making great television for years. The Sopranos, OZ, Rome, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Entourage, etc. so i guess it shouldn’t be a surprise (especially with True Blood generating so much buzz). the BIG issue with HBO is that they don’t offer full episodes online… :( they are making so much money from the cable companies, that they don’t want/can’t risk it. which means users have to go to ThePirateBay, TVRSS, or wherever to get them… that’s a shame. doesn’t make sense. hope TimeWarner/HBO will put their stuff online soon.

i was sure ABC (Lost, Desperate Housewives, etc.) is going to win this category, but the biggest surprise for me was the strong demand for the Discovery channel.

so…. since we can’t do much about HBO… we will bring you ABC and Discovery. they are both using the Move Networks player, so hopefully we can kill 2 birds with one code-base.

which one of these movie services would you like us to add?

clear winner here. Netflix with 80% of the vote. Amazon far behind with 14%.

the subscription model makes sense. you don’t have to think before you start watching a movie. click play and if you don’t like it you stop. no issues like movie expiring after 24hrs, and all that other stuff that comes with the gift of rentals with DRM…

i believe over 8 million people are using Netflix and most of them can take advantage of steaming the movies online for free, so it’s a pretty good value proposition. we should bring Netflix to boxee, and do it better than Xbox360 ;)

which one of these video services would you like us to add?

Joost with 55%, iPlayer only with 15%. Veoh 12%.

i was sure our UK users are going to give a fight. we already started working with Joost, so we should be able to deliver on this one.

(hmmm… pssst. Comcast. anyone listening? Fancast with only 7%?! it’s a really good service. may i suggest you give it a marketing push?)

which one of these Internet live broadcast services would you like us to add?

ustream.tv with 33%, qik 14%, justin.tv 13%

issue with this category is that many of the videos are in bad quality and will look like crap (sorry) on your big screen TV. but some of it is unique content, that you just can’t get in any other way. sometimes (most times) availability trumps quality. ustream it is.

which one of these music services would you like us to add?

Pandora owned this category with an amazing 70% of the vote. i was a bit surprised to see such a low demand for Rhapsody and eMusic. it seems the subscription-model for music is struggling (at least among our users).

pandora-bizdev@pandora.com check your inbox. boxee wants to talk.

which one of these photo sharing services would you like us to add?

Facebook Photos with 54% and .Mac/MobileMe with 19%. biggest surprise for me was that photobucket did not do better. the demand for .Mac support is to be expected given our strong bias towards Mac at this stage..

need to look into them Facebook APIs. hope it’s easy enough.

…and, we’re back

general — avner @ November 21, 2008

UPDATE: there is now a new version of the USB Creator. see here. (you can still go hard-core and do it manually..)

if you have Apple TV running the 2.3 firmware, want to run boxee and are not afraid of opening a terminal, then follow the instructions here: http://forum.boxee.tv/showthread.php?p=13301

so this is a pretty geeky solution. but it works. work is in progress to make it as plug-n-play as before. should be available soon.

this is where we got our inspiration. one of the greatest philosophers of our time. Rocky!

rocky speech
by magivcideo

general — avner @ November 21, 2008

help us get nominated for The Crunchies

general — avner @ November 20, 2008

we need your help to get nominated for the Best Startup of 2008 Award… please click on the badge or here to support boxee’s nomination.

could be cool to get this sort of recognition. last year’s crunchies had an impressive list of winners, so we would love to try and get our name in there this year..

about The Crunchies:

The 2008 Crunchies is our second annual competition and award ceremony to recognize and celebrate the most compelling startups, internet and technology innovations of the year.

The Crunchies is co-hosted by GigaOm, VentureBeat, Silicon Alley Insider, and TechCrunch. Best of all, the internet community is invited to choose who wins.

welcome on board Bijan and Fred

general — avner @ November 17, 2008

we’re excited to announce that boxee has received an investment from Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures.

starting today, Bijan Sabet from Spark and Fred Wilson from Union Square will join our board.

Bijan brings a history of living room innovation from his days in WebTV Networks and Moxi Digital. Fred has been investing in the Internets since before Al Gore invented it.. they understand the web, the users and what makes a product successful on a unique level. together they bring to boxee lots of relevant experience (as well as a great taste in music - fred, bijan).

so what is it that we see in this space that has us so excited?… change. people are turning away from the traditional broadcast or cable TV experience in favor of:

  • a true on-demand experience - to watch a specific episode of The Office right now (and do it for free)
  • a connected experience - to play a song and see the lyrics, choose to watch the music video for it, or start singing the karaoke version
  • a social experience - to see a friend has a season-pass for Battle of the Bods, watch it for a few minutes, and tell them you no longer want to be their friend
  • an open platform - to play any media from any source, run any app, without a gatekeeper restricting what you can or can’t do
  • something that’s easy to use - even for grandma!

looking at these trends, both Bijan and Fred believe that boxee is positioned to become the software running tomorrow’s living room, where the Internet, social networks and TV are intertwined.

our growth from an idea based on XBMC to what you see today of boxee has not been easy. over the past year, with the support of families and friends, we’ve put our heart, soul and an unhealthy amount of time into making boxee come true. when we launched in June our goal was to attract 5,000 alpha testers. this past weekend, we passed 100,000 sign-ups.

these numbers prove people are looking for new ways to enjoy their entertainment. we’ve heard over and over again from users on our blog, forum and twitter that boxee is their favorite way to play media in the living room and on their computers. with each new user, article, and blog post about us we grow one step closer to our goal of becoming the firefox of media centers.

join us. it’ll be a fun ride!

our goals for 2009:

  • grow out of our comfortable closed-alpha cocoon and launch a kick-ass beta
  • build even more functionality and content into boxee while making it easier to navigate
  • listen to user requests, ideas and frustrations (and improve the product accordingly)
  • work with team-xbmc, developers and partners to extend boxee beyond the confines of our limited resources
  • finish the year with ~ 1,000,000 users

a new bug fixing version is available for download

general — avner @ November 16, 2008

we just released a minor update to the alpha for Mac and Apple TV. version 4166.
if you’re already a boxee alpha tester you can get it here (if you’re on Apple TV update Launcher and then update Boxee).

it fixes some nasty SMB crashes (when connecting boxee to another computer or storage device on the network). we also made some small fixes to the streaming of Hulu.

we’re going to release another version with even more bug fixes, as well as some new stuff on the first week of December. we’re just too itchy to release stuff out as soon as we have it working..

when gidon met meghan

general — avner @ November 7, 2008

we are big fans of Meghan Asha, so we were really excited when Mark Burstiner introduced us to her. it was also cool to see Mogulus in action (we should probably find a way to bring them as well as other live broadcasters into boxee).

check out gidon’s interview with meghan. beside his wardrobe malfunction (no nipple) it was great :)

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