Sunday, March 15, 2009

There's no such thing as "best companies"

The current issue of Fortune Magazine has a list of the "world's most admired" companies. They're also keeping track of the "100 best companies." There's no such thing as a "good company," there are only good people. If a company is good, it's because the people who founded it were smart, they made good decisions and established good policies, and they hired good people. A "good company" can be run into the ground by a handful of bad executives. Decades of progress and achievement can be lost in a matter of a few years, or in extreme cases, a few months. Ask the investors in Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Citigroup and Bank of America. At the end of the day, a company is nothing more than the quality of its people. Nothing else really matters.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Hulu Part 2: At war with everybody

Paul Yanez, a talented developer who had previously written a clone of Joost as a Flash application, recently released a program called MyMediaPlayer to provide a desktop interface for Hulu. This app uses Hulu's published, public specifications for accessing and displaying videos. It uses the Hulu player, doesn't strip out any advertising, doesn't introduce any advertising of its own and is free. Nevertheless, Hulu has repeatedly come up with ways to block MyMediaPlayer, and it appears that after five rounds of reworking the application in order to get it working again, Mr. Yanez has given up.

In the same vein, Boxee was able to reestablish support for Hulu by connecting to that company's RSS feeds, the same feeds used by Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Nevertheless, in just a few hours, Hulu blocked Boxee's access to its RSS feeds. As I write this, Boxee claims that it has worked around Hulu's changes and can again access the RSS feeds. Perhaps the best thing that Boxee could do is to change its browser user agent to look like Internet Explorer, so that Hulu would have to effectively shut down the RSS feed to block Boxee.

I don't know why Hulu is doing this, but it's only making itself look idiotic. All of its blocks will eventually be worked around, and its content isn't so precious that it's only available in one place. As I've written before, its actions are encouraging, rather than discouraging, piracy. Every time I see one of its commercials, I see a company that doesn't get it trying to act cool. Perhaps the people who called the company "ClownCo" weren't wrong, just premature.

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