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March 26, 2001
4:37 PM   Subscribe

Well, congratulations; you won your TiVo. So, now, are you wondering what they're doing to you with it?
posted by baylink (44 comments total)

 
bzzt!

It's another media frenzy over something that isn't new. TiVo doesn't associate the information with you; it's anonymous and always has been, and you can opt-out by calling them. That's it. Very easy.

Topic at the Tivo Community bbs - mentions all of the concerns, and they're shown to be rather weak attempts at bringing up issues that aren't there.

For the record, check out the privacy policies of TiVo's competitor: ReplayTV. It's the same thing! And UltimateTV has no privacy policy posted anywhere... but it does refer you to the WebTV privacy policy.
posted by hijinx at 4:42 PM on March 26, 2001


Um, speaking of the free TiVo I won thanks to that MeFi thread, I broke my TiVo last week. I received the Green Screen of Death a few days after the unit started to freeze up at times. Unfortunately, I was so excited at getting that unique error message at 2:30am that I totally misread it - I unplugged the unit right away. So now I'm an idiot with a broken TiVo and I can't get back to the GSOD.
posted by gluechunk at 5:02 PM on March 26, 2001


...But the real issue is... What about those rumors that TiVo is in danger of going under?
posted by jca at 5:06 PM on March 26, 2001


Um, speaking of the free TiVo I won thanks to that MeFi thread, I broke my TiVo last week. I received the Green Screen of Death
I got the 2.0 upgrade over the weekend, then wokeup this morning to the GSOD. I called tech support, it'll cost me $99 to exchange it for a working one. I guess I'm glad to add a 14Gb hard drive to my system. That is unless someone wants to buy a broken 14hr Tivo.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 5:20 PM on March 26, 2001


My original point was forgotten when I tried to write about my frustrations again. Could it possibly be that TiVo had this planned from the begining? To get us all hooked on TiVo and then - "Set Us Up The Bomb". Zig.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 5:22 PM on March 26, 2001


Possibly.

But you know, I have this question for hijinx:

Are you familiar with the principle of strategy that says that you don't plan for what you enemy is *likely* to do, but for what he is *capable* of doing?
posted by baylink at 5:49 PM on March 26, 2001


hmmm... I was just thinking. I'm a fairly big privacy advocate, but my TiVo logs? I don't care if marketers or networks know what I watch. Would it possibly *gasp* improve television?
posted by mathowie at 6:13 PM on March 26, 2001


You know... I'm of two minds here.

In the long run, more people having their tastes publically visible will likely have a positive influence on combating hypocrisy.

But it could be *very* messy along the way.

Anyone who doubts this is invited to read the history of the Klan.
posted by baylink at 6:34 PM on March 26, 2001


I'm confused, TuxHeDoh, your TiVo crashed because your software updated, and now you have to pay to get new hardware? Is this correct? Why should you have to pay? Please tell me I'm missing something here.
posted by megnut at 6:37 PM on March 26, 2001


TuxHeDo: Three little letters that should help: RMA. Wonderful arrangement whereby companies take back items that are defective or not working properly, and in exchange give their loyal, paying customers a replacement of equivalent value. Here's hoping you've already sent in the warranty card...
posted by salsamander at 6:54 PM on March 26, 2001


Worth noting that Headline News is running the story on the wheel just now, too.

"Tivo acknowledged it has collected information on it's 154,000 subscribers, but says it does not *disclose* personally identifiably information".

It was a Privacy Journal soundbite, but fairly balanced.

And here's an interesting thing, Matt: with JS *off*, my preview screen has a filled edit box, which NN4.7 doesn't seem to be able to manage when JS is *on*.

... but with JS disabled, the *POST* button doesn't work.
posted by baylink at 7:06 PM on March 26, 2001


meg-
I'm just as confused as you are. I agree. I talked to 3-4 different people. They told me that the software update, and then the crash were just coincidental. I tend to disagree since I'm in the computer field. The guy told me that my car could just blow tomorrow, just like my tivo was working yesterday and not today- as if that excused it. I was told that the $99.95 was a labor cost for repair of the unit. Just as I would have to pay for my car to be repaired, but Philips would end up replacing the unit first, and then repairing it. I don't know. I just know I'm frustrated and disappointed. I have canceled my service.

sals-
Forgive my ignorance, what's RMA? And would it apply even if I were one of the "giveaway" winners. Is it different from Manufacturers Warranty?
posted by TuxHeDoh at 7:28 PM on March 26, 2001


Are you familiar with the principle of strategy that says that you don't plan for what you enemy is *likely* to do, but for what he is *capable* of doing?

Obviously not enough, but this assumes that the enemy doesn't offer a way out. It does. You call a number, you tell them you want to opt-out, you're done. Unless this ability is revoked, I'm not going to get all up-in-arms about it.

One of the bandied-about possibilities before 2.0 came out, from rumormongers, was that TiVo would eventually siphon off part of its hard drive for ads targeted to you, directly, that it figured through suggestions and the like. But you'd still be able to FF through the ads. Something like this, I wouldn't be entirely opposed to if I saw some other greater effect from it - ie, TiVo Inc. stays in business!

Tux, Philips tech support stinks, big time, and I'm sorry you're finding that out the hard way. I would try to raise some more hell about it, and I'd certainly do some letter writing to Philips and TiVo.
posted by hijinx at 7:56 PM on March 26, 2001


RMA = Return Materials Authorization
posted by harmful at 9:31 PM on March 26, 2001


I am just thankful that I sold the TiVo I won. And thanks to whoever started spreading the news of the TiVo giveways way-back-when. I can't remember. Anyway, I know four people around here that either won or bought them and all four of them have stopped working. Ouch.
posted by bargle at 9:49 PM on March 26, 2001


I don't care if marketers or networks know what I watch.

I agree, let them know what I like to watch. It's nice to know that my TV habits may keep the good shows on the air (what the hell happened to Family Guy???). Anyway, I just got TIVO 2.0 last week and it was painless. I went to bed, woke up and there it was (no GSOD). And the new features are GREAT!

Still the 'rumor' scares me, especially since this is such a great product. The problem I see with TIVO is the price of the hardware. $399 is just too damn much when VCR's are $100. If they came down to $200 or less, they would fly out the door. The $10 service fee is well worth the added price.

But here's what REALLY worries me; TIVO is in a weakend state...and Microsoft is entering the market, hot and heavy. I see TIVO bought by Microsoft, and then we will all have the Blue Screen Of Death!
posted by Sal Amander at 11:48 PM on March 26, 2001


RMA in that context can also be "Return Merchandise Authorization" or "Return to Manufacturer Authorization" in addition to the very similar "Return Materials Authorization" - just pointing that out since I know computer people can be acronym nuts.
posted by gluechunk at 12:48 AM on March 27, 2001


I won my 14-hour in the first Tivo giveaway, and it's been working beautifully the whole time. I even signed up for the 2.0 beta program, and have been running 2.0 beta releases for a couple months. (Just to balance out the nay-sayers here.)

And I don't mind usage data being collected, as long as it's not associated with me as an individual and they state up-front what they're collecting and why. (Which Tivo has, on both counts.)
posted by waxpancake at 9:41 AM on March 27, 2001


By the way, you can opt out of transmitting your anonymous viewing data by calling their toll-free number. Details are on their privacy policy.
posted by waxpancake at 9:44 AM on March 27, 2001


What's more dangerous to you; TIVO knowing what you watch on TV, or VISA knowing what you buy? Neither claims to sell that info associated directly to you.

What I find interesting is that this whole privacy issue comes out ONE day before press info on Microsoft's UlitmateTV populates the web. TIVO's privacy policy is not new news, but TIVO's stock is dropping today. I smell a rat!!!
posted by Sal Amander at 9:58 AM on March 27, 2001


The Philips TiVo exchange policy says that if the unit breaks after 90 days (but before a year has passed) from the original purchase date, you've got to shell out $99.95 to get it fixed or replaced.

Regardless of when your TiVo breaks, you have to pay shipping costs to get it to repair HQ. I sent mine to Texas at a cost of $23. They shipped one back from Tennessee (closer to my abode).

Point being, I think their warranty is pretty bad, especially given that the two people I know who have TiVos have had to send them back for repairs. I'm addicted, but I'm past 90 days now, so I don't know what I'll do if the damn thing breaks.
posted by binkin at 10:02 AM on March 27, 2001


you can opt out of transmitting your anonymous viewing data by calling their toll-free number

For some perverse reason I'm amused by the idea that people who don't trust TiVo with their personal data in the first place would trust the company to actually opt them out when they call up and ask to be removed.
posted by kindall at 10:29 AM on March 27, 2001


(1) I broke a long-standing personal policy and bought the extended warranty on my DirectTV with TiVo box (35 hour version) ... nice to know that if I get the GSOD I can just wander on down to my neighborhood Circuit City and they have to deal with it, no deductible, no fees, no nothing.

(2) what is in TiVo 2.0? Is this something I should sign up for?

(3) boy am I pissed that the UltimateTV system, with the same cost as the TiVo/DirectTV combo, has the double tuners and double taping capacity. I'm sure TiVo will want me to shell out for a new box to get that for myself.
posted by MattD at 10:31 AM on March 27, 2001


That's really unfortunate about the TiVo problems. I have a ReplayTV and IMHO, the software is better and faster. I have experience with both systems as I am in the interactive TV industry.

I am also surprised that more set-top box manufacturers aren't taking the route that Echostar is -- building their own hard drive boxes, bypassing TiVo and Replay -- especially since Replay is pretty much out of the software business, and TiVo is having problems such that are documented here. The Echostar 501 STB will not be as sophisticated as TiVo/Replay, but it will be cheaper ($299 is the price I believe was quoted at CES in January), with an integrated DISH Network tuner. Targeted more to the "average" consumer.
posted by sbgrove at 10:57 AM on March 27, 2001


Eh? TiVo's not targeted towards the "average" consumer? I know Replay wasn't but....

MattD: the TiVo/DirecTV combo box includes a second tuner that'll be activated in a future software update. 2.0's feature set is essentially what is on the combo box... just brings it over to the standalone units.
posted by hijinx at 11:05 AM on March 27, 2001


TiVo is way too complicated for most people. Remember, most people can't set the clock on their VCR. TiVo, ReplayTV, and UltimateTV are still early-adopter products.

I love my TiVo but I'm definitely a geek.
posted by kindall at 11:07 AM on March 27, 2001


"TiVo is way too complicated for most people."

Heh, tell me about it. My mother can't understand why the TiVo can't record tapes we play on our VCR.

(Cable goes: Wall -> Cable Box -> TiVo -> VCR -> TV)

"But it's showing on the screen! Why can't TiVo record it?"
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:20 AM on March 27, 2001


In terms of ease of use, it's probably on par with the VCR, if only because you have to run an additional (phone) line to it, but you don't have to set the clock. Since you can choose your tv programs from an onscreen list (or just hit select when a show you like is on), I hate to think it really qualifies as "too complicated for most people" to operate.

I understand that some folks don't get the whole hookup sequence, but for the basic functions (pause, play, record) it's not any more difficult than the tv remote, and recording is most certainly a $hitload easier than a (non vcr-plus) vcr.

I love my TiVo (I won the 30 hr version - pthbbt!), I love the additional features of 2.0's software (padding in the record time, keyword searching, etc.), and I'll be very very sad if it breaks. If it does, I'll probably replace it. I'm not particularly worried about the amount of data being collected (although I thought the printed documentation said that it kept it's info on the hard drive, and didn't upload it - so I was a bit suprised that they did) since advertising is already marketed by program, so I'm already *getting* ads for the sort of thing that Buffy watchers buy - if my data means more british comedies on pbs, then I have served a purpose in the universe.

Oh, I just filled out the TiVo survey, so I should be getting my TiVo plushy in the mail. I wonder if he'll be phoning in my personal habits when I'm sleeping...
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 11:36 AM on March 27, 2001


Heh. That's great. And no, TiVo and Replay are DEFINITELY not for the average person. Echostar's 501 box will have a stripped-down, simpler interface for programming and access to features.

Designing for the average consumer is so hard when you're used to being an early adopter. I have to remember that even though I use a Replay and 3 STBs in my apartment, my interactive TV applications have to speak to people who don't even plug their STBs into the phone jack . . .
posted by sbgrove at 11:39 AM on March 27, 2001


My mother can't understand why the TiVo can't record tapes we play on our VCR. (Cable goes: Wall -> Cable Box -> TiVo -> VCR -> TV) "But it's showing on the screen! Why can't TiVo record it?"

Well, why can't it??? I mean, technically savvy individuals may understand why it won't (easily) work, but why isn't that a possibility? Why doesn't it work? It's shortsighted manufacturing.

I had to screw around a bit to get my TV/TiVo/VCR setup to work in a halfway sane way, but the wiring behind the TV isn't sane, let me tell you. The cable comes from the wall, splits to the TiVo and VCR, then joins back to an A/B switch which goes to an auto RF switch which takes input from my DVD's RCA-out jacks (or my N64, alternately, but I have to physically switch wiring to do that). Ultimately, I can record two things and watch a third with this setup, but why doesn't TiVo accomodate that anyway? Why do I need an A/B switch? (This could be solved if TiVo had a tuner bypass like any normal VCR.) Why do I need the auto RF switch? (Well, that's my TV's fault for not having RCA inputs.)
posted by daveadams at 11:45 AM on March 27, 2001


Why doesn't it work?

TiVo is a device for television, and not for the VCR. It can export to VCR, however, and some people might think that it could do the reverse.
posted by hijinx at 11:50 AM on March 27, 2001


some people might think that it could do the reverse.

Why shouldn't they?
posted by daveadams at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2001


TiVo is way too complicated for most people. Remember, most people can't set the clock on their VCR.

Yet we as a society have no problem giving these same people a license to drive a 2000 lb. vehicle at 65 mph!

TIVO isn't that difficult to learn, and the manual couldn't have been more dummy-proof! Technology is here to stay, and so is the GUI, so it's time for those technophobes to learn and adopt....or fall behind. 20 years down the road I don't want my tax $ going to a 'Commission' to close the technology divide.
posted by Sal Amander at 12:44 PM on March 27, 2001


Dave: Why shouldn't they?

Again, TiVo is a device for television - not prerecorded, archived items on videotape. Lots of people think that anything on TV is broadcast television when, of course, you can have multiple devices outputting to a TV: a VCR, a DVD, etc. TiVo supplements TV, not the VCR.
posted by hijinx at 12:46 PM on March 27, 2001


Matt sayeth: "Would it possibly *gasp* improve television?"

Since more people seem to like things like "Friends" and "Baywatch" than "Frontline" or "Homicide," I lean toward "no." Such is the tyranny of the masses. Have the Nielsen Ratings improved television?

It might allow commercials to be more targeted, however.
posted by luke at 1:42 PM on March 27, 2001


Spock: Be cautious, Captain. The sarcast-o-metertm is off the charts.

Wait a second, luke. Was the first episode of "Homicide" or "Frontline" or "Other Show Luke Likes" first shown the day television signals were broadcast?

No? Were they produced and aired before Nielsen Ratings? What? They weren't!? You mean, people developed these shows with access to demographic information? That's craziness! Sheer craziness! Such great pieces of entertainment must surely be the result of someone sitting in a dank basement room deep underground with naught but a single dusty lightbulb for illumination, mustn't they?
posted by cCranium at 2:39 PM on March 27, 2001


Never mind that the Nielsen's use fuzzy math. I guarantee Tivo would be a hell of a lot more accurate than Nielsens...
posted by owillis at 3:06 PM on March 27, 2001


Yet we as a society have no problem giving these same people a license to drive a 2000 lb. vehicle at 65 mph!

Well, yeah, but driving is way easier than operating a computer, which is what a TiVo is.
posted by kindall at 3:31 PM on March 27, 2001


luke wrote:
Since more people seem to like things like "Friends" and "Baywatch" than "Frontline" or "Homicide," I lean toward "no." Such is the tyranny of the masses. Have the Nielsen Ratings improved television?

Actually, I was thinking that it could highlight that there is an audience for frontline, and that perhaps 10% of 20-somethings love it to death and have a season pass, and it's worth keeping despite the majority of morons tivoing friends each week.

The Neilsen ratings let shows like sports night, my so called life, ben stiller show, etc, slip through the cracks probably due to the lag, whereas tivo could possibly offer up to the minute stats on user's viewing habits.

Whether or not it helps television, if I had to pick tivo log files or Neilsen ratings as a way to mold television, I'd opt for the Tivo data.
posted by mathowie at 4:09 PM on March 27, 2001


CCranium: Well, Homicide was canceled soon after it hit stride. Frontline appears on PBS, and I doubt it could survive anywhere else, where it would have to appeal to enough of a demo to please advertisers.

Actually, I was thinking that it could highlight that there is an audience for frontline, and that perhaps 10% of 20-somethings love it to death and have a season pass, and it's worth keeping despite the majority of morons tivoing friends each week.

I still don't follow you here. If Tivo highlights that X of 20somethings love Frontline and 10X of 20somethings love Friends, aren't studios going to continue churning with a 10:1 Friends-to-Frontline, crap-to-substance ratio?

The Neilsen ratings let shows like sports night, my so called life, ben stiller show, etc, slip through the cracks probably due to the lag, whereas tivo could possibly offer up to the minute stats on user's viewing habits.

How much of a lag is there? Aren't there always ratings the next day? All the shows you mention got a run of at least half a season. How were they done in by lag?

Whether or not it helps television, if I had to pick tivo log files or Neilsen ratings as a way to mold television, I'd opt for the Tivo data.

Agreed.
posted by luke at 4:52 PM on March 27, 2001


There's no question that Nielsen ratings are inaccurate, so much so as to be near-useless. They're so bad that the networks routinely threaten to drop their Nielsen subscriptions when they come up for renewal each year. But they never do, because for better or worse, it's all they've got. American families will not allow Nielsen, or any other company, to monitor them in a way that would allow for truly accurate surveys. And even if they did, the expense of doing so would be prohibative. So the networks keep on relying on Nielsen data, because without it they'd have no basis on which to set ad rates whatsoever. (Oh, also: In the last ten years or so as cable and satellite have exploded, viewership has become so dispersed that the networks are (rightfully) worried that if they did come up with a truly accurate system, it would show that the networks get far fewer eyeballs than everyone thinks. Another great reason to support the status quo.) However....

The Neilsen ratings let shows like sports night, my so called life, ben stiller show, etc, slip through the cracks probably due to the lag

I don't think we can say with any authority that those particular shows would have gotten ratings if only Nielsen had found a way to count all those people that we know had to have been watching just cause the shows were so good. Often, even great shows simply don't click with viewers. And So-Called sucked anyway. (heh)
posted by aaron at 7:57 PM on March 27, 2001



I wonder who gets Nielsen boxes. I've always wondered that, actually. What kind of a range of people do they represent, do they pick people at random or can you sign up to be a Nielsen person?

I recall seeing bits and pieces about the ratings of various media analysis shows and it seems to me I remember that Nielsen family members each watch something like 30 hours of TV a week.

I don't know, that kind of person just doesn't represent me.

Would Frontline still be as good of a show if it were on a Network? Advertising dollars speak volumes for network news magazines.

And I like Friends, dammit. :-)
posted by cCranium at 5:24 AM on March 28, 2001


But we've completely gotten off the point here. :-)

Obviously not enough, but this assumes that the enemy doesn't offer a way out. It does. You call a number, you tell them you want to opt-out, you're done.

He's *the enemy*. Why do you assume that he's going to *do what he says he will*? The data is still collected, and it's still sent to TiVo.

They have control over the box.

The horizontal.

The vertical...
posted by baylink at 9:29 AM on March 28, 2001


*slapping self on head*

*insert argument about how TiVo has built up trust, both online and off, and how the term "the enemy" is one I shouldn't've used to foster my argument*

As kindall said.

If you don't trust TiVo, the manufacturer of your TiVo box, or TiVo Inc., don't use it. Simple.
posted by hijinx at 9:38 AM on March 28, 2001


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