The Death of Print (or: My Adventures with the Boston Globe)

Update 20161122: Since writing the text below, I’ve been contacted by several staffers at the Globe via many channels. They not only assure me that my discrete issues have been addressed, but that they’ve had meetings to pick apart what went wrong based on the notes I wrote up below. Hopefully my experience will (ultimately) make things better in the future.

Setting the stage: I’ve been a digital subscriber to The Boston Globe for years now. Corinna decided she would like to try getting the Sunday edition in print. Here are the things I needed to do to accomplish this:

  1. Log into my account on their website, to find there was no easy way to simply add ANY print subscription to my account. You’d think they’d want to make this braindead simple.
  2. Call their phone line (1-888-MY-GLOBE) to find out they were only open until noon on the weekend.
  3. Remember on Tuesday that I wanted to do this, and call the phone line again, waiting on hold for a few minutes to talk to a representative. I state that I want to add Sunday delivery to my existing digital account. I’m told the only way to accomplish this is to close out my existing subscription and add a new one. The existing subscription will be terminated as of Thursday, but my new subscription won’t be in effect until Sunday. So I’ll have no digital access for those few days. That seems ridiculous, but I accept it.
  4. Wake up this morning, excited to fetch my paper, to find nothing. Try to attach my new account number to my login, but meet no success.
  5. Call their support line, wait on hold for 5 minutes until a robot tells me i’m 22 in the queue. I hang up and run to their online chat.
  6. After about 5 minutes a chat rep. appears, I explain my plight, and she straightens everything out. She tells me my subscription has no digital access, and would I like to add it? I told her that I was supposed to have digital access, that the rep on Tuesday told me I would have it as of Sunday, but apparently that rep messed something up. She schedules a redelivery before 2pm and gives me gratis digital access until my ‘repaired’ subscription kicks in on Tuesday and we end our chat. I have no idea why it takes them several days to activate a digital subscription.
  7. Just before noon, I learn they have a Customer Service iPhone app. The sign-in screen asks for my name, email, phone # or acccount #, and house #. After lots of trial and error, i find that the address and phone number were out of date on my account. I can’t remember if the phone rep asked for updated information or not, but she clearly should have. As someone who’s never had print delivery, to assume that the address is correct on my account seems unwise.
  8. I reenter chat (with 10 minutes to spare before they shut down at noon) and explain that the address is wrong on my account, and that is probably why I didn’t get a paper this morning. I give the rep my account number, which is attached to an address in Wellesley. I can’t tell you if the original phone rep transposed numbers or I did, but the whole time I was using the incorrect account number. So some person in Wellesley probably just had digital access added to their account. I give the rep my current info, and she updates my account, crediting me for today’s paper and suggesting that I will receive a paper at my ‘new’ address starting next Sunday.
  9. I log into the Globe site, attaching the new account number to my Globe login, and notice that while my billing address has been updated, my delivery address is still incorrect. There is no clear way for me to change this myself. My plan is to check back in a few days and see if it is fixed, otherwise I see another chat in my future.

It is maddening to me that this process was so painful.

  • Why can I not add a print subscription myself, online, without involving a customer service rep?
  • Why can I not update the address on my account myself?
  • Why wasn’t I able to add print delivery without losing my digital access for several days?
  • Why didn’t the phone rep verify my delivery address?
  • Why didn’t the chat rep, once I complained of a missing delivery, verify my delivery address?
  • Why is the process to attach my subscription to my login a manual process? Why can’t the customer service reps do it for me?

The Movies I Saw in 2015

I saw fewer films in 2015, but it was a rather busy year for me. My final total was 148, which was 11 fewer than 2014. There are some things conspiring that could depress the total in 2016, but we’ll have to wait and see if that ends up happening.

If you are interested in the technical guts of these graphs, look here.

The graphs, as well as the list itself, are behind the jump below…

Continue reading “The Movies I Saw in 2015”

The Movies I Saw in 2014

I saw one more film in 2014 than 2013, but strangely, I apparently didn’t see any short film or, more likely, I didn’t record seeing them. With so much short-form video content available online it is difficult to figure out where to ‘draw the line’ in my recordkeeping.

After deciding last year that ~160 features a year was unsustainable, in 2014 I watched 158 159 features, so perhaps it is..

If you are interested in the technical guts of these graphs, look here.

The graphs, as well as the list itself, are behind the jump below…

Continue reading “The Movies I Saw in 2014”

2013 Films in Review

The Movies I Saw in 2013

As regular readers know, I keep a list of all of the movies I see each year. Breaking a trend, I saw fewer features (146) than I had in the previous year (160). I don’t really have any insight into this other than a strong suspicion that ~160 isn’t terribly sustainable for me. I never actually got around to writing my “Best Of” 2012 post… As you may remember, I decided to stop waiting until the Oscars and instead just judge the movies I saw in the calendar year. I may be backtracking on this for 2013. I haven’t made up my mind yet. This year, You’ll see some pretty graphs that I spent entirely too much time on. If you are interested in the technical guts of these graphs, look here. Luckily, all of the time I spent on writing the code for this year will make posting these graphs in the future a no-brainer. (I might even go back and spruce up the past few years with the new graphs). The graphs, as well as the list itself, are behind the jump below. Continue reading “The Movies I Saw in 2013”

The Movies I Saw in 2012

As regular readers know, I keep a list of all of the movies I see each year.  For the second year in a row I saw more feature films (160) than I had in the previous year (155), setting a new benchmark.   I’m planning on putting together my “Best Of” list in a few days.  As per my recent policy, I’m basing the list on movies I saw in 2012 (as opposed to waiting until The Oscars).  This means I’m missing some movies that came out in late 2012 (I still haven’t seen Django Unchained for instance).  Oh well…  All of the data porno is after the jump Continue reading “The Movies I Saw in 2012”

The Princess Bride at 25

The Princess Bride turns 25 today.  Reading about this reminded me of a funny story from when I was a kid.

My father rented The Princess Bride and brought it home, announcing that he thought it would be fun to watch as a family.  I protested, saying I didn’t want to watch a girls movie, and stayed in my bedroom.  After about 25 minutes of hearing my family thoroughly enjoying the film, I sheepishly joined them in the living room.

I don’t remember if I watched the beginning of the movie immediately after the first viewing ended, or if it waited until later, but I definitely remember when I finally did see the beginning and being completely embarrassed yet amused at how my reaction to the title of the film paralleled the character of Fred Savage in the movie.

If it wasn’t such a perfect story I’d probably still find it embarrassing.

2011 Films in Review

Here is my review of the films I which saw in 2011.  In a change from the past few years, this does NOT include movies released in 2011 which I saw in 2012.  Which is why The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn’t feature prominently on this list.  I know that I am missing some great movies by adopting this strategy.  Furthermore, movies that were on last year’s “Best Of” list should also be included on this year’s list (using the new rules) but I decided to omit them than recognize them twice.

While I wouldn’t say that 2011 was a bad year for movies, it wasn’t particularly special.  Maybe I just chose poorly…  Where in years past I would have to whittle down my list of ‘best’ films, this year it felt like work to simply come up with 10.  It’s not that there is an abundance of lowlights, but there weren’t many highlights.


The Great CD Re-Rip

Back around 2002, I sat down and began ripping all of my CDs to MP3.  I worked on it during my downtime, on nights and weekends when nothing better was going on.  It took me about a month to plow through several hundred discs, but I eventually finished.  When I temporarily moved from Boston to NJ during my unemployment back in 2003, my CDs were boxed up for the move.  They stayed that way.  In fact, the boxes were in my parents basement until Corinna and I moved to our house in Watertown back in 2007.  Since then they have remained in boxes in our basement.

For many years I continued to buy physical discs, immediately ripping them and placing them on a shelf or in a box.  In the past year or two, I have effectively stopped buying CDs, instead opting to use download services such as iTunes, Bleep, Beatport and Amazon’s MP3 store (as well as directly from artists).

Back in 2002, MP3 files of 192Kbps seemed like a pretty reasonable compromise between audio quality and file size.  But fast forwarding ten years, hearing the muted high and low end of those 192Kbps files, especially when I have several terabytes of storage in my house, was frustrating.  I had thought about re-ripping all of my discs to a higher bit rate, but the task always seemed daunting.  My collection of physical discs had ballooned to ~500 discs and it simply felt like it would take forever.

Back in September I was at the All Tomorrow’s Parties “I’ll Be Your Mirror” festival at Asbury Park with some friends.  During some between-band chit-chat, I mentioned my regret of choosing 192Kbps and that I was considering finding a service that would re-rip all of them for me.  DQ mentioned TaskRabbit, a service which pairs up people willing to do odd jobs (a.k.a. “Rabbits”) with people looking for help.  This idea stuck in my head, and a few weekends ago when Corinna and I were doing some basement purging I decided that I would just do it.  Some of my CDs were more than 20 years old, and waiting would only increase the chances of bit rot.

I posted my task on TaskRabbit, being as specific as possible.  I decided to skip worrying about what the ‘right’ bitrate was and chose Apple Lossless format.  A lossless codec cuts the file size in about half without losing any fidelity at all.  I figured if I had 500 CDs each around 600MB, than the total size of the re-ripped CDs would be about 150GB, which really isn’t all that much these days.  My existing music archive (with my old 192K rips in addition to any music I’ve bought digitally) totaled around 205GB at the time I started this project.

The hardest part of posting this task was trying to pick an upper cost.  TaskRabbit asks you what your upper cost is, and then Rabbits bid on the task, TaskRabbit assigning you the one who came in lowest within some time constraints.  I figured a reasonable price was $300 plus a maximum of $100 for expenses (I was asking the rabbit to not only rip my CDs, but also discard jewel cases and place them in sleeves that would be purchased by the rabbit).

In almost no time, TaskRabbit mailed me saying that a rabbit successfully bid on my job, and they came in at $255 (+ expenses).  I was thrilled, as not only was someone interested in the job, but the whole shebang was going to cost me about 50 cents a disc!

Adam, the rabbit who won the bid, scheduled a time to come by my house to pick up the CDs.  He guessed he would be done in about 3 weeks, which seemed reasonable.  He swung by on 12/17 to pick everything up and was very professional.  After a day or two he sent me a sample ripped file to make sure I was happy with the rip, metadata and file naming.  Everything looked great, and so he started up full-steam.

A few days later I was on the train down to NJ for the holidays and wouldn’t be back until New Year’s Eve.  While I was off relaxing with my family, Adam was keeping me posted with status updates or questions every few days.  He asked what to do with the few live bootlegs that were in my collection.  I told him to just set them aside and that I would handle them myself (since no metadata was available for them on CDDB).  Soon after I returned to Boston, I heard from Adam that he was almost done and we scheduled a time on 1/8 for him to drop off the finished product.  I was thrilled that it only took him 3 weeks, and when he arrived I saw that he took excellent care of everything, and seemingly had no trouble with my pretty specific requirements.

I decided it would be a good idea to do a bit of an inventory, to make sure no discs/rips slipped through the cracks.  In doing so I found a 20 or so CDs that I couldn’t find rips for (even though they were organized and put into sleeves).  I talked with Adam and he wasn’t sure what happened, but he offered to swing by and pick them up (even though I had already closed out the task and paid him).

Overall, this was a great experience.  I now have all of my CDs ripped in a lossless format, and my CDs are organized and taking up much less space than they were before.  Surprisingly, only one track on one CD wouldn’t rip due to damage.  I guess I take pretty good care of my things.   My new music collection is approximately 345GB.  Furthermore, using TaskRabbit successfully on a huge task such as this one gives me confidence to use the service in the future for more odd jobs around the house.

Right now I’m trying to find a more permanent storage solution for my CDs, most of which are in sleeves but some of which are still in their original cases.  I tried Snap-N-Store cases but they were pretty lousy.  The compartments for discs weren’t wide enough, even for my discs with sleeves.  I’m currently in the market for a solution to this problem, so if you have any ideas please let me know.  I’m looking for something with a lid to keep the dust out.