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sjb64
Level 7

Channel Pre-release

We have been working for the past months on our channel (FlixRaider) to review lesser known but worthwhile titles from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and soon HBO Now. We're getting ready to submit to the public store (which we know will take a while) but wanted to get the thoughts of any of you who'd want to try it out first.

The channel currently has about 400 reviews which we add to constantly, uses the default (test) RAF ad server, streams off of our Vimeo account, and was developed on a Stick, a 2 and a 3. Subscriptions and user preferences, trailers, ratings, and the like are in the works for a later release, this first release is purely ad based and anonymous.

We're interested in your thoughts, comments, suggestions, criticisms, and any other feedback on the channel layout, technical issues, performance, approach, or anything else you would want to say. This includes any feedback from Joel or Chris or any other Roku employees as we haven't submitted the channel yet. TheEndless has already given us invaluable assistance and now we're looking for everyones input. Open and free responses are what we want (Enterr - now's your chance for some gloves off critiques).

This isnt a release ready channel yet, so we are expecting there to be issues, and we have some we already know about and are fixing...

    The extro shows a YouTube call to action button at the tail end
    The wording on some of the about us screens isn't fully fleshed out
    The contact us page directs them to a in-dev website with no contact us link
    Some of the graphics show RedBox on them, even tho they're no longer streaming
    Some tiles (for example 'More TV Series') are missing
    Our header dips into the overhang on the sides


This also gives us a chance to see how our servers and tracking systems respond under requests from outside our controlled environment, and using various Roku devices beyond our few we have here. Finally, we jumped some hoops to allow intros and extros on Vimeo (Akamai) hosted HLS videos that require conflicting cookies for each segment, we are hoping to expose any problems that code may have.

Public messages in the thread or private messages to me (sjb64) are both totally cool.

The private channel code is 'FlixRaiderDev'.
FlixRaider channel
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8 Replies
sjb64
Level 7

Re: Channel Pre-release

A few changes...

    The intro was messing up on some players and 'should' do better now.
    The ads no longer play, we got enough tracking information to know they were spacing correctly, and have been disabled until release.
    An announcement screen that normally would show only once to a device (until changed) now shows at startup for the time being.


We've received some good tracking and statistics and usage information over the past few days from 100+ installs, and really do appreciate all the help. We're hoping to continue it over the little while.

Thanks everyone
FlixRaider channel
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sjb64
Level 7

Re: Channel Pre-release

If anyone else if using Vimeo Pro like we are, and manually parsing the redirects, we were being redirected up to last week to a standard URL (iirc), and everything was working great. Sometime Friday it looks like some (or all) of our videos were being redirected to a SSL version of the same URL, instead of a new URL. Since I didn't have that redirect code watching and calling the SetCertificatesFile/InitClientCertificates routines, everything stopped. This is fixed now, but just a heads up for anyone else using Vimeo in case this was a change that affected more than just us.
FlixRaider channel
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EnTerr
Level 8

Re: Channel Pre-release

"sjb64" wrote:
... Open and free responses are what we want (Enterr - now's your chance for some gloves off critiques).

Oookay, since you asked for it! In trade, give piece of your mind re this work of mine.

Here goes:
  • I like the Indiana Jones style logo

  • The slogan "What's streaming worth watching" understand I cannot. Yoda speak is it? Does it mean "Streaming: what's worth watching"?

  • Missing apostrophes in the About text: "isnt", "theres", "thats" (was this copy&paste from winword?)

  • The lack of cursor position counter (e.g. "4/10") in roGridScreen bothers me; it comes to bite me later, when i have selected "more sci-fi" and it shows me a multi-row list, saying on top "Sci-Fi & Fantasy (60)" but is unclear how many are there per row and roGrid is in wrap-around mode - meaning is very un-obvious when moving left/right, have i reached the 1st or last item on current row or not.

  • The way the menu system works is bizarre, requires user self-training; considering the big "blink" when selecting Home vs Genres vs Playlist and changing everything underneath, there should be a selection highlight to show the mode (i.e. say i clicked "Genres", so change the icon for it to a different color).

  • i am confused about the difference between "Home", "Genres" and "Playlists". "Genres" okay, i get it! But what in the world does "Home" mean?! I don't feel any homier there, it's just another screen with lists. I guess you couldn't come with a better name for what that is, said main screen or whatever it is - but it is important to use helpful names. Not to mention if you cannot describe it easily, maybe it shouldn't be there. "Playlists" is even stranger - i have no clue what that is. At first i thought it will be things i had bookmarked while browsing - but no. Seems it's just the entries from "Home" and "Genres" repeated again. Hmm, what's the point?

  • In fact, seems to me there shouldn't be separation at all to Home vs Genres vs Playlists. Take a cue from Netflix. And there are not that many rows in Home and Genres, so put them together - first the rows from Home, followed by Genres rows. Thus it will all be in one screen and in order of importance.

  • "Play on Netflix" does not start a movie, just Netflix main screen or wherever ileft off (tried multiple times). "Play on Amazon Instant" worked, OTOH.

  • "Search" seems to work well.


Bonus notes - website. I browsed to http://www.flixraider.com and (unintentionally) ran into some troubles:
  • Website is very slow to load, it takes 5 seconds for a simple html page to load. There must be something wrong with your PHP (why no static html?), since images load instantly.

  • Broken apostrophes on http://www.flixraider.com/about-us (encoding? page says is in UTF-8 but apparently is Windows-1252)

  • "FlixRaider News", "Movie News" and "More" on bottom of the pages are empty links

  • the "+" next to the Search icon spits bunch of errors
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sjb64
Level 7

Re: Channel Pre-release

"sjb64" wrote:

... Open and free responses are what we want (Enterr - now's your chance for some gloves off critiques).

"EnTerr" wrote:
Oookay, since you asked for it!...Here goes:


First and foremost, thank you for the feedback! I've forwarded this to our team to discuss and we're really grateful on your thoughts. (all of them)

For anyone else, we'd love you thoughts too so, if you have time, please let us know what you think. The good, the bad, the ugly.

We want this to be the best product possible.
The slogan "What's streaming worth watching" understand I cannot. Yoda speak is it? Does it mean "Streaming: what's worth watching"?

We're looking at this, tag lines are always difficult, just like logos. Meaningful, extremely short, memorable, easy to say ... a lot to put in 6ish words or less. Our goal was/is to denote that we a.) Cover streaming content and b.) Try to find you things worth your time. Your suggestion definitely helps and we're going to re-evaluate how to make it better if at all possible. Would love to hear other peoples thoughts on this, even if it's the same.

Missing apostrophes in the About text: "isnt", "theres", "thats" (was this copy&paste from winword?)

Umm, yes, it was, from the websites Visual Studio project actually, but is corrected.

The lack of cursor position counter (e.g. "4/10") in roGridScreen bothers me; it comes to bite me later, when i have selected "more sci-fi" and it shows me a multi-row list, saying on top "Sci-Fi & Fantasy (60)" but is unclear how many are there per row and roGrid is in wrap-around mode - meaning is very un-obvious when moving left/right, have i reached the 1st or last item on current row or not.

We'll look at that, not sure what the plan on it is yet.

The way the menu system works is bizarre, requires user self-training; considering the big "blink" when selecting Home vs Genres vs Playlist and changing everything underneath, there should be a selection highlight to show the mode (i.e. say i clicked "Genres", so change the icon for it to a different color).

Good idea, we'll do just that. Since there are all essentially list screen grouped in different ways, we can see you're point that it's hard to know just where you are.

i am confused about the difference between "Home", "Genres" and "Playlists". "Genres" okay, i get it! But what in the world does "Home" mean?! I don't feel any homier there, it's just another screen with lists. I guess you couldn't come with a better name for what that is, said main screen or whatever it is - but it is important to use helpful names. Not to mention if you cannot describe it easily, maybe it shouldn't be there.

Home was taken from the website meaning. While the other screens are specific grouping, Home was kind of a collection of special starting groupings, we'll look at renaming it to Main or something.

"Playlists" is even stranger - i have no clue what that is. At first i thought it will be things i had bookmarked while browsing - but no. Seems it's just the entries from "Home" and "Genres" repeated again. Hmm, what's the point?

We were discussing just that when I saw your post. Playlists are essentially the other lists, but played as a group. An episode plays, gives you a chance to launch the movie, back up or go forward in the list, or allow it to continue on its own. We were discussing options having it separated as it is or putting a playlist option on each list.

In fact, seems to me there shouldn't be separation at all to Home vs Genres vs Playlists. Take a cue from Netflix. And there are not that many rows in Home and Genres, so put them together - first the rows from Home, followed by Genres rows. Thus it will all be in one screen and in order of importance.

If those were the only ones, yes. But we are adding other groupings, such as Themes where we have a couple dozen groups like 'Couples Therapy' or 'Road Trips & Escapes', or Services where we group what's new and what's all on Netflix (and the others), or Hosts with their own custom interests and categories, and so on. Between these, and more plans for Home (Main?) there will be many dozens of lists. So the top menu was to categorize them into general group types for people to get to what they were in the mood for quickly.

"Play on Netflix" does not start a movie, just Netflix main screen or wherever ileft off (tried multiple times). "Play on Amazon Instant" worked, OTOH.

We're not permitted to launch Netflix into a movie, no one is except Roku. This is an agreement between Roku and Netflix that isn't documented anywhere we can find, but we were given a heads up on it. We can launch into the others, and are quite capable of launching into Netflix, but would never get approved for the store if we did. The launch screen explains it a bit, but looks so much like the other launch screens that it would get missed. We'll change the wording on the Netflix links to something like "Launch Netflix".

Bonus notes - website. I browsed to http://www.flixraider.com and (unintentionally) ran into some troubles:

Thanks for the bonus feedback. Sadly we ran into some production launch issues with it and didn't intend for it to be release in its current form. We've got some major updates coming there so stay tuned. May open up a seperate thread for feedback with it elsehwere.

... and we fired our web guy.

I will definitely hit your Tangrams app, used to play with those (plastic ones) as a kid, along with the soma cube (similar concept, in 3D).
FlixRaider channel
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EnTerr
Level 8

Re: Channel Pre-release

"sjb64" wrote:
The slogan "What's streaming worth watching" understand I cannot. Yoda speak is it? Does it mean "Streaming: what's worth watching"?

We're looking at this, tag lines are always difficult, just like logos. Meaningful, extremely short, memorable, easy to say ... a lot to put in 6ish words or less. Our goal was/is to denote that we a.) Cover streaming content and b.) Try to find you things worth your time. Your suggestion definitely helps and we're going to re-evaluate how to make it better if at all possible. Would love to hear other peoples thoughts on this, even if it's the same.

Let's generate some taglines:
  • Streaming: the good parts

  • Streaming that's worth it

  • Worthwhile streaming

  • Streaming unearthed (working a Tomb Raider / Indiana Jones allusion)

  • Streaming digs

  • Streaming discoveries

"Playlists" is even stranger - i have no clue what that is. At first i thought it will be things i had bookmarked while browsing - but no. Seems it's just the entries from "Home" and "Genres" repeated again. Hmm, what's the point?

We were discussing just that when I saw your post. Playlists are essentially the other lists, but played as a group. An episode plays, gives you a chance to launch the movie, back up or go forward in the list, or allow it to continue on its own. We were discussing options having it separated as it is or putting a playlist option on each list.

That's easy to address by adding "play all" item as first or last in each category list. Bonus: it will function as a marker to know when i have side scrolled to the whole list and am wrapping around.

Here is something else i observed the previous week but did not write about - and it's a biggie: playing the video clips stutters! I did then some further research and here is what i scratched on a note "1.5mbps on your 2.3mbps network" (that's the popup showing with streaming debug enabled on Roku). At the same time i tested player's networking with VUDU channels test (Browse / Settings / Playback Quality / Run test) and it was measuring as "HDX" (they don't show the exact number and indicator seems logarithmic, but guessti-math-ing it, it was ~7Mbps). I have no issue with YouTube or Netflix, so problem should be away from me - the servers you use or intermediate networks. Maybe Uverse is choking Vimeo, i don't know - but stopping every few seconds to buffer is a no-no.
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sjb64
Level 7

Re: Channel Pre-release

"EnTerr" wrote:
That's easy to address by adding "play all" item as first or last in each category list. Bonus: it will function as a marker to know when i have side scrolled to the whole list and am wrapping around.

We did exactly that late last week.

"EnTerr" wrote:
Here is something else i observed the previous week but did not write about - and it's a biggie: playing the video clips stutters!...

I want to try to diagnose this but Vimeo doesn't give a whole lot of control there. I have detailed stats (including underrun history) but everything is by IP, and only 3 (out of 500+) are showing a consistent issue. The worst was one that played just a single video but had 16 underruns, which is insane, one IP had some usage and a dozen total underruns, while the vast majority of the IPs show no underruns at all. If you want to PM me your external IP we can look in into it specifically.
FlixRaider channel
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EnTerr
Level 8

Re: Channel Pre-release

"sjb64" wrote:
We did exactly that late last week.

I had a look at the change and here is another feedback (not sure if it was there previous week in that form) - seems like you are fighting against the GridScreen UI design. Paddling against the flow, against what users are already used to. Things like "More Previews" actually changing the structure of the grid (from 1-category-per-row to 1-category-spread-to-all-rows) - with no other indication (took me a while to realize the lower categories had disappeared - because the current row i was focusing on remained practically the same) - and then "back" popping to the previous grid with a very little visible change, which is a head-scratcher.

Or showing only 5 items per row (so nothing is hidden to the sides) and overflowing the rest to the next row. This one i may even considered reasonable if it wasn't going against my experience with the same GridScreen UI in other channels. I guess i am so used that each row is a category and all items from it are in that row. I would think the other viewers have also been "trained" to expect the same kind of grid. The fact that moving left or right rotates the row and does not move the selector doesn't help the intuition either - it "cuts", separates the row away from the whole roster. A good grid for the way you use it would have been if current row does not rotate but instead the selector moves left-right-up-down, kind of like in the Roku Home screen - but i don't think there is such a mode.

I think you should customize your catalog presentation to the GridScreen tool capabilities, rather than trying to bend them over. Mostly because it cannot bend that way the way you need it. See Amazon Video channel for example of use, they have much more videos i believe and still use it in a "regular" grid. Netflix uses custom component but they still follow the same experience.

PS. one more tagline proposal:
  • "We dig streaming" (play on words, to mean both "we are into streaming" and "we mine for precious gems of streaming")
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sjb64
Level 7

Re: Channel Pre-release

We submitted the channel for review and since we want the FlixRaider code to be for the public channel, we changed our dev channel to FlixRaiderDev. Thanks for everyones help in testing and reviewing the channel, and a special thanks to EnTerr and TheEndless.
FlixRaider channel
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