Calling all TV viewers

A while back I asked a bunch of questions about Television watching habits in a personal effort to understand if Free Software or Open Source could have a quality impact on peoples lives in that area. Now mugshot is looking to bring freedom to your Televisions. How you ask? That’s what we’d like to get from you!

We’ve setup a survey to look for a diverse group of people who we could learn more about their TV habits. So if you are a super fan or only watch a little bit of TV or anywhere in between we want to hear from you.

Currently we looking for people in the Boston area to take part in our survey. If you or someone you know could take a minute to fill out the following quick survey we’d really appreciate it. (seriously quick, it takes an average of 5 minutes to fill out)

Here’s the survey link:

Please pass this around to anyone; friends, friends of friends, enemies, frienemies, and family members!


They Paved Paradise and Put Up A Parking Lot

I’m in Seattle for the weekend for my cousins wedding. I finished my taxes in an awesome hot dog / coffee shop that I go to everytime I’m there. Taxes were… painful, and more than usual this year. But at least after all that procrastination it’s finally done.

This is the first time I’ve been to Seattle and it’s rained on me, I used to think everyone was crazy talking about how much it rains here. But it hasn’t stopped since I got here yesterday and I guess it’s supposed to keep going until I leave. Don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.

TV To Them

I’m still getting responses to the TV Survey questions, one and two, which is excellent! The more information the better.

Some interesting notes compiled so far…


Many people responded that their favorite commercial on Television right now are the VW GTI commercials, both the “Fast” and “Swede pretending to be a German” version. If asked “Have you seen all of them?”, most people had to search online to know the answer.

The top complaints against Advertisements were:

  • Mis-targeted (i.e. showing a Ford F-350 commercial to someone who drives a Toyota Prius)
  • Repetative (i.e. showing the same Ford F-350 commercial 4 times or more during a single show or sitting or week)
    • Annoying, this often comes out of the repetative viewing of the same ad
    • Not entertaining, again probably largely due to the repetativeness, but some just aren’t entertaining even before the 50th time

Types of Programming

TV executives most likely have some other kind of break down for this, but this what I’ve noticed from talking to people.

  • TV Shows with Plot (Lost, The Shield, and Battlestar)
    • Require attention during the show
    • Need to be seen in release order
    • Often have forums for related discussion
  • Sitcoms (Seinfeld, Will and Grace)
    • Order doesn’t really matter, plot is usually contained to single show
  • Reality TV Shows (American Idol, Amazing Race)
    • Order kind of matters, but is very easy to recap (i.e. they voted off these people, there you’re pretty much caught up on Survivor)
    • Can often have forums or fantasy games attached (i.e. Who will be kicked off next? Pick the order…)
  • Genre Streams (Genre based Networks like HGTV, Food Network, CNN)
    • While these do have individual shows attached, most often are described as good background noise when doing other things
    • People half listen to catch events, (like corporate meetings where everyone is on their laptop)
  • Sports Games
    • Almost always need to be watched Live (experience of watching the game can be ruined by prematurely finding out the final score)
    • Fantasy sports and forums are often attached to the game
  • Local News
    • Evening or morning watchers
    • Similar to sports, needs to be live only or else it’s not news anymore

Well I have lots more than that and I observed two of my friends who watched American Idol, so I got some good notes from that as well. Will write it all up later now that my tax troubles are done.


More TV Questions with out Pity

Ok, sorry. I’ve gotten a lot of great responses from people and am trying to keep up with compiling all the information. If you haven’t had the chance to answer the first tv habit questions please do. Mail these along in the same way as the old. I’ll be posting the synopsis of our questions asked and with some breakdowns of information found later in the week.

Again, please copy these questions into an email and send off your answers to me (bclark [at] redhat). Thanks for helping!! Starting off with some general questions I should have asked last time.:

  • Broadcast, Cable, Satellite, other? What package (Digital, HBO, Starz)?
  • Location? Age? Married / Single / Engaged / Dating / Roommates?
  • Setup: TV, Gaming, Home Theater, Home Theater PC (HTPC)?
  • What shows do you watch when someone else is in control?
    • Maybe not shows you’re embarrassed about, but ones you wouldn’t normally turn on if you had the remote.
  • What shows do you usually watch alone?
  • What shows do you usually watch with others? Who? Why?

Of the shows you make time for

  • Please pick the two you most recently started watching and describe how you got into them
  • When do you go to TV Show related sites?
    • After, during, or before the show?
  • Are there shows you will not watch recorded?
    • Why is that?
  • Do you watch Live Sports? Which ones?
    • When you watch Live Sports, do you use the pause / rewind features of your DVR?
    • Do you do your own Instant Replays or wait for network instant replays?
    • Do you watch sports at home or at a bar?
    • Do you usually watch sports with friends?
  • If you download shows off the internet, how do you watch downloaded episodes?
    • On your TV or on your Computer or your iPod or Other?
  • If you’re recording reruns to catch up on a season of a series, do you watch the re-runs in the order they aired or as you collect them?


  • What was the last commercial you remember watching?
  • Do you have a favorite commercial right now? Which one? Why?
  • What’s the worst thing about watching commercials?
  • What’s your least liked commercial right now?

Why not brainstorming? Why all the Research?

A number of people have asked me why they can’t brainstorm. Lets clarify this… you can brainstorm! I actually hold no mental powers over you right now and am willing to allow you to live a free and normal life. Later my IRON GRIP OF DOOM will strike down upon you and force you to brainstorm, but that’s later.

Shelving The Brainstorm

Seriously, why do we want to shelve the brainstorm for now? (I say shelve because we will get to it, and you should keep those bubbling ideas around for later). However we need facts and problems to solve first. If we’re designing something for someone else to enjoy, we first need to understand them.

Recently someone inside of Red Hat said he wants to “…design with facts, not just opinions.”. Well that’s exactly what we [1] want to do here. There seems to often be a level of mistrust of designers (like myself) or usability people too that we’re just people who get to make up the answers on the spot. How should people change their desktop background? This way! – Because I’m the usability person and what I say goes. Well that’s not how things work and it’s not how they should work.

When coming up with new solutions to problems you have to first understand the problems. Understand the needs people have. To do that you have to meet the people, reach out to them, ask them questions. Then we can conjure up new ideas, and instead of running off for the next year to create something… we’ll prototype them and bring them back to the people we first connected with. We’ll ask those people, “Hey what do you think of this?”. When we get their feedback we’ll continue to iterate on our prototypes and ideas, maybe we’ll go back to the drawing board but we’ll continue using the same process. This creates solutions based off real data, not opinions of certain people on how things should work and it’s more fun to have people who you can test experiments on, right?


[1] More clarifications, the “we” that I continually use here is you the person reading this and me the person writing this and everyone else who is participating in our little research experiment. This isn’t my employer [2] or fellow employees. Since this is all in the open anyone who is working on a project that could take advantage of this is welcome to use the data as they see fit, I should probably look into some kind of Creative Commons license or something for any content derived.

[2] Whilst I may take my federally mandated “smoke breaks” to blog and read emails people send me in my real working world life I am developing on something else. There is no Red Hat Enterprise Digital Video Recorder (RHEDVR), or Red Hat Advanced Television Server (RHATS), or Red Hat Global Television File System (GTVFS), or Red Hat Virtualized Television Experience (RHVTE). If you work for any kind of digital video recording company [3] please do not call my manager and attempt to get me fired for creating these products I have listed, they are fictitious.

[3] Whee recursion! No company has attempted this, nor would I really expect them to do such a thing. This is me trying to cover my pretty little white ass. It’s been suggested that I use my gmail account instead of my @ redhat address to let people know there is some differentiation. But… I’m lazy.

more questions to come, stay tuned for my next “smoke break”


Killer Television Survey Data

Last night I asked some questions to survey people about their television viewing habits. I’ve gotten a lot of really excellent responses so far and compiled some of the trends I saw in peoples responses.

Just to clarify something from my previous blog post, this is a research project. I’m not writing any code, I’m not building a TiVo like box or anything. At least not yet. What we’re doing is trying to understand what people are already doing when they watch TV to see if there’s a need that can be solved. Later we can examine that need, throw out ideas for how to solve it and figure things out from there.

I really appreciate everyone who took the time to respond to my questions, I have more questions for you coming soon. If you didn’t respond to my earlier questions just wait a little bit and I have more questions to incorporate to your response. If you did, I’m about to post more questions and it would be awesome to see the same people writing back again. You can use the subject “Killer Television” or creative derivatives (some people were pretty creative already) so I know you’re not a spammer 🙂

I could do this research as blog comments or a wiki thing, but I don’t want everyone to read other peoples responses since it tends to shape your own. Thanks for understanding, I’m keeping all my compiled results open for everyone to see and take part in and anyone who emailed me could also make public their responses if they want, I’m keeping them private otherwise. If you see something in my notes that you want to clarify email me and let me know, if you forgot to mention that you do something listed here or want to mention that you _never_ do something listed here let me know.

These are my notes so far:

Laptops in the living room

  • Could be the audience, but most people have a laptop with them in the living room.
  • Some people have full PCs, but they were used for a Media PC
  • Some people will not use the laptop at all when their show is on, all attention is focused on the TV

Eating While You Watch

  • Some people are set against eating while watching
  • Others only snack while they watch TV
  • Some always eat their meals while watching TV


  • Some have DVRs (TiVo, Cable or Satellite DVR)
  • Some people have MythTV and other similar media pc setups
  • Australians have a situation with PVRs [ ]

Which shows do you watch that you don’t record

  • Live Sports, many people felt that watching sports after they’ve happened isn’t worth it.
  • There’s a good number of people who watch live sports, need to ask more questions related to this (*)

Web sites of TV Shows

  • Message boards, especially for complex shows like Lost help people keep up with the show
  • Fan sites are much better than network offerings in terms of content and community of people who watch the show, they are also more frequently updated
  • HBO often has decent sites related to their shows, however their message boards are lacking in community of users
  • Commercial sites are mostly helpful for the time its on, who the cast is, an episode list and some synopsis, plus a lame store for show related items. Otherwise they don’t seem to be good resources
  • IMDB and Wikipedia are helpful for researching information about shows, like actors and history
  • Internet only offerings sometimes lure people to network sites, like alternate endings to a show or spoilers
  • Many shows are offering phone numbers or sites to visit for more information, ex. Lost’s “Oceanic Airlines” site [ ] or American Idol’s phone voting

How You Catch up on a Series In Progress

  • Many people buy or Netflix the DVDs of previous seasons
  • Many more download (via torrent) episodes to catch up, need to ask how they watch these episodes (*)
  • Set a DVR to record all episodes of the show as a new season approaches, need to ask if this works and how you watch reruns (*)

Moving on

A bunch of people had suggestions for more questions to ask which is really helpful in building a set of survey questions or general knowledge to gain about this area. Feel free to send these kinds of comments along too.

With this data you can already start to get an understanding of what people how people are watching TV. This is a certain audience of course, only those within the sound of my blog, but as we figure out more of the questions we need to ask we can expand this to ask people who aren’t TV junkies or have anything to do with Open Source (not that all responses so far have been people like that).

A couple people emailed me and jumped right into the brainstorming of what we can code to create a new DVR or whatever. It’s good start thinking of things like that, but we want to wait until we have more of the facts about what’s good and what’s bad for people who watch TV. Email me with your television viewing habits now, later we should bounce ideas back and forth.

I’m trying hard to stick to this design process which I promised I’d explain later, right now our step 1 was defining, which is up for debate as well. I put “Killerization of the living room”, if you think that sucks as a goal let me know another way to phrase it. Our second step 2 is researching our goal, what people are doing, what technology exists, what’s happening in the market right now. What trends exist and are fading away will all shape what you want to brainstorm about in order to solve the problems we see or create experiences that we think are missing. Rock on. 🙂



I’m taking on a new personal project. I’d like to design a better television experience. Technologies surrounding this include things like DVRs, HDTVs, DVDs, and lots more, some software solutions are MythTV,
Freevo and others but that’s not what I’m out to create. I’m looking to do some anthropology on television watching habits, figure out some new ideas and then later report the findings so we could use that change an existing project or create a new project that fits a different vision.

A lot of the projects out there right now are “…by developers, for developers” [*], this isn’t what I’m interested in. I’m interested in two things, one is to figure out what the heck most people are doing in their living rooms so we can create something they want and the other is to an attempt to demonstrate a method of designing good software that can hopefully be reused in other Open Source projects.

I’ll talk more about reusing software design later, for now I’d like to ask your help… the lazy web, and you. I’m going to start my investigation with some questions to get an understanding of some people and how they watch TV. I’d like to investigate a number of those people further if I can. This is a probably going to be a pretty big undertaking since I’m just doing this on my own time, so be patient if I don’t get back to you right away. I’m already planning on observing a number of people I know while they watch TV, you can volunteer for this if you like (and are near the boston area please) and I’d love to take some of your time watching you watch TV but don’t feel it’s at all necessary. I think I’ll only get to talk with most people through email or maybe phone.

Here’s what I’d like from you

Copy and paste these questions into an email answering each one and sending it to me,bclark (at) redhat (dot) com

  • What TV shows do you make time to watch?
    • Sopranos – You watch completely alone so no one else can interrupt
    • The Shield – You watch alone, but know friends are watching it at the same time, later that night or the next day you chat about it..
  • What TV shows would you normally not admit you watch? (I won’t tell anyone else)
    • Shows you are embarrassed to say you watch or only watch when someone else is in control
    • I’ll admit that I got hooked into Sex and The City back when it was on but usually I don’t tell people that.
  • Do you have a DVR?
    • If yes, do you use it to record all of your shows?
    • Which shows do you watch that you don’t record?
  • Do you have a computer in the same room as your TV? Do you use it while you watch TV? If a laptop see next question…
  • What do you do while you watch TV?
    • Eat? Which meals? What do you watch while you eat? Do you watch TV when you’re not eating too?
    • Use the computer? Do you do this during every show or do some get your undivided attention?
    • Excercise?
    • Anything else?
  • Do you visit the web sites of TV shows you watch? If yes, which ones, why?
  • Have you caught up on a TV serires recently? If so, how did you manage to catch up on missed episodes?

The Definition

The killerization of your living room

Every step along our process involves the word “killer” or derivitives of that. First we start with our definition, our goal. The “killerization” of your living room. How can we make the watching TV, sitting on your couch and overall living room experience ‘killer’. I’m not sure we’re done the defining stage yet, but next up in the ‘design process’ would be research stage, which is were you all come in. We all want to make our living room’s killer, now we just need some data to figure out how.