How To Get The Best Out Of Your LoveFilm Experience – Take 2

Thursday 29 December, 2011

I originally wrote an entry about how you can Maximise Your LoveFilm Experience back in September, with the idea of writing a second entry to expand on what I’d said at a later date, but a couple of months after I wrote that entry, LoveFilm changed things around a bit and made some of what I said retroactively inaccurate and pointless. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to combine the expansion with an updated, currently more relevant, improved version of the previous entry

(You don’t need to read the old entry, I’ll be repeating the still accurate and relevant details here, probably word for word.)

The original entry was brought to you by my Good Friend pointing out that my assisting him with his LoveFilming should be turned into a blog entry.

So here we are!

I am a LoveFilm user. I’ve been a member since August 2010, courtesy of my aforementioned Good Friend, who has been a member for at least two years before me. Which is why it was quite surprising for me to be giving him pointers on Maximising The Experience and not the other way around.

First of all, you need to be a proper DVD/Game buff to get your moneys worth. As advertised, you can get a basic service for the minimum of £4.99, but that only allows you to get one DVD at a time and a limit of two DVDs a month, and there’s No Online Viewing Time at all. The more up the price ladder you go, the service vs money spent evens out for you. Think of your average price of a Movie or a Boxset, plus P+P, and then compare it to the subscription fee. If you’re looking to get the latest releases but run the risk of your list always being at 10 Titles or less, this service won’t be for you. There is also an issue of Copyright/Renting Laws that I won’t go in to right now.

The service I originally signed up for was the Full Whack one costing £16.99 a month. I could have 3 DVDs out at a time, and an Unlimited amount of them per month. That service also gave me an Unlimited Online Viewing and access to many free films to watch Online.

With the other, lesser packages, you get a limit on the amount of films (and games) you have out at a time, and a maximum amount of films/games you can have per month. You also have access to less free films on the Online Viewing service, as well as a maximum time limit, measured by Minutes, to watch a film online. A bit like a PAYG Phone Tarriff.

The service I have now, I believe, is the Full Whack One +Loyalty Extras. All parts of the Full Whack Services apply, but with what I’ve come to believe is a Loyalty Extras Scheme, I can have Four Discs out at a time instead of the standard three. This means I can now get through a maximum of 12 Discs a week if the Returns/Sending Out system and Postal Service runs smoothly.

I will talk about what could happen when these doesn’t work smoothly a little bit later.

There’s not really a downside to being a part of the Loyalty Scheme, if infact that is what it is, but I have noticed that those who now have four discs instead of three are no longer entitled to Free Extra Disc Tokens. These are things that are part of LoveFilms FilmExtra scheme, which I’ll go into a bit later.

Due to the fact that I’m just a film buff and not much of a console gamer, I won’t be going into the Games side of it. With me never using those services, I don’t have experience with them, or any reason to look into them, to have any opinions or suggestions. All I can say about it is that, for anyone as out of the loop as I am, you can rent games from them for the following consoles: PS3, PS2, PSP, Xbox 360, Xbox, Wii, DS, and Gamecube. For further information, you will have to google it.

So, now we’ve established what account makes the service worth it and the best kind of customer for such a service, lets move on to the service itself.

There is no point filling your list with films you don’t want to see or be sent just for the sake of buffing up your title list so that you’re not sent annoying messages telling you that your list is low. That is why you need to be quite the TV/Movie fanatic. Prioritising does work, but it’s not perfect. To date. I’ve only ever been sent “low” priorities three times, but it can and does happen without the influencing circumstances that befell me:

Once was when I had a short list of about 15 Titles and most of them were either “Short Wait” or “Long Wait”, the second time was when I’d entered a competition. (I will talk about Competitions a bit later). The third time was recently, just before Christmas. I had a Total of five titles on my High Priorities and the rest on medium or low. In the “low” priority list was a Christmas film. The only Christmas-related film on my list. I’m thinking that they had a system where Christmas films were sent out, regardless of priority, to watch at the appropriate time of around Christmas.

Unfortunately for them, or maybe just me, I had no intention of watching that film at or around Christmas Time and was waiting for a less-appropriate time in the future to watch it. I’ll consider it a lesson learnt.

Which brings me on to my next point. To make sure you can influence the discs LoveFilm send you so much so that you’re mostly in control of what you get, use Lists wisely. Separate different Genres/Themes/Mediums if need be and then prioritise within those Lists.

For example, I’ve made sure all films are in a Films List, and the ones that I really want to see as soon as possible are Maximum Priority. I have a Selected Television Series list so that I can make my way through a TV Series one by one. Sequels to Films and other Television series waiting to be watched after the current one are in a “To Be Organised” list. I also have a Documentaries list. On the Edit Lists page, Disc symbols symbolise the amount of discs you should get from each list. I have two on the Selected Television Series, One on Film and the remaining one on Documentaries. You can have 10 Lists on the go at a time.
When lists get to Ten or Less Titles, you will be alerted as such and told to add more. Sometimes, due to high demand, short stock of certain titles, and/or some other variable, LoveFilm will make the executive decision to send out a title from another list or a title of a lower priority and they do their best not to go out of order on grouped series. If anything happens where they do go out of order, though, send them an email letting them know. They’ll tell you whether you should return the disc or what they can try and do to correct it for you.

There is a Subscription option where you can get five Titles at a time, with a total of ten discs total a month. It also comes with a maximum of 10 Hours of Online Viewing Time. I’m guessing that would work quite similar to my system, if you wanted to get more discs from your lists at a time, but the total of 10 Titles a month for £17.99 might not be worth it when you can get that many +more in the same time frame with the Full Whack £16.99 subscription.

Some good methods of always keeping your Lists above the minimum amount, apart from being a constant film buff, is cataloguing. Don’t know what that is? That’s ok, I think it’s something that I made up a few years ago.

It’s where you choose an actor or a director that you’ve liked the work of, and you rent their whole catalogue of films and TV shows they’ve ever been in/worked on. That gets you, on average, a good 10 films, and maybe two complete TV Series as well. Even if they’re just in one episode. Obviously if you know you won’t like the film or have already seen it, don’t add it; But it can be a great way to expand your viewing horizons, it gives you a reason to see films or shows you wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

I mentioned this to my Good Friend and he liked the idea, and then came up with a good idea himself. Get your friend, who may or may not have different tastes to you, to list all the films they hate and add all the ones you haven’t seen yet/don’t know whether you’ll like or not to your list.

Or if you do have similar tastes, ask a friend to list their top rated films and add those instead. Unless you’ve seen them, that is.

When there is a “Long Wait” or “Short Wait” on some Titles, I find it best to rejiggle the priorities around so that they’re medium or low priority, so that you have a higher choice of getting something Top Priority, instead of them potentially bypassing the next disc and choosing something you didn’t want to see just yet, or had better things to watch right then. As soon as they’re no longer classed as “Short Wait” or “Long Wait”, you can re-prioritise them to their previous position on the list.

Sometimes, things don’t go as well as they should. Sometimes it’s the Postal Service’s fault; post is sometimes delayed and some discs have been known to “go missing”, but when it’s LoveFilm’s fault, let them know. If there’s a faulty disc, it’s easy to report it and get a replacement. Depending on how your lists are set up and what list your disc is from, you might even get a second Disc along with the replacement. All you have to do is return the one that doesn’t work.

I’ll be honest, in all of the time I’ve been using LoveFilm, I’ve had to report a lot of discs as faulty, but their extra discs on replacement and prompt responses of Customer Service make up for it. What you have to remember is a LOT of people use LoveFilm, some discs will be worn from over play and some will be scratched by careless people. The same can go for any rental service.

Something I referred to earlier was that LoveFilm sometimes do competitions. Sometimes they’re to win merchandise, or free cinema tickets, or even a free subscription to LoveFilm. The prize more often than not, though, is an Extra Film Credit Token for their FilmExtra scheme. And most of the time, you get one just for participating.

Due to the rejiggle of accounts, I’m not sure how many accounts have access to this scheme. I’m 99.9% that Full Whack +Loyalty customers don’t. There’s a chance that Full Whack customers don’t either, from what I’ve worked out from feedback and comments on Twitter, but their site still lists FilmExtra in their FAQ so I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been fully eradicated.

Running purely on that assumption, here’s some information about how it works:

An Extra Film Credit Token is exactly what it says on the Tin. You get one, you use it, you get an extra Film sent out to you from your list. Usually it’s from your Top Priority, sometimes it can be from your Medium Priority. Once I got one from my low Priority, but I won the token after adding a bunch of films I had no intention of watching to my List, just because it would have got me a Token.

When it comes to those kind of competitions, here’s a sneaky tip. Add the films you need to, to your main list, but put them all on low priority. When you get your token for it, delete the films you added and make sure your list maximises the chances of you getting a title you really would like to see, then choose to use it.

When you have more then one Token to be used, wait a good two weeks before using one token after another, because adding an extra film can make it go a bit wonky, in a good way, for a few Dispatches. And don’t worry, if a token disc arrives faulty, reporting it won’t lose you the extra film.

Last but not least, the CopyRight/Renting Law Issues I mentioned at the beginning of this entry. There is a problem between Universal Pictures and LoveFilm in the UK, just as there is with Netflix in America. Even if you reserve Universal Movies and they stay in your Reserve list until the day of release, once it’s been released, any and all Universal DVDs will be “Buy Only.” This is why you need more than just Coming Soon or New Releases on your lists, you’ll end up getting less than your moneys worth if you’re waiting for new releases to come out if they’re made by Universal Pictures.

For more indepth information on that, google it, because it’s a very involved topic that I just wouldn’t do justice by summing it up here. You just have to remember that the lack of Universal options aren’t purely LoveFilm’s fault. Many people don’t seem to understand that, and they end up reviewing the titles with complaints on the matter. Doing that is both pointless and wrong, because all that does is skew the title’s popularity rating and makes it seem all LoveFilm’s fault.

I hope I’ve been of help. If you’re not a member yet and my entry has tempted you to become one, I can get you a month free trial. Just drop a comment with your email (I’ll delete it straight afterwards if you’d like) and I’ll get back to you with the referral link.

This Is The Blog You Are Looking For

Wednesday 28 December, 2011

Fear not! Though the appearance has changed, the inside is still the same. This is still A Failed Journalist and her merry Blog.

Merry. Bah! That was an unfortunate coincidental use of the word, there. Nothing to do with Christmas and All to do with old (and untrue) folklore and children’s television.

Anyway, so about the Redesign! Do you like it? If not, why not?

I’ve been thinking about redesigning here for about a month, now, but I just didn’t know where to start. And then I got those spam-worthy comments about Twilight from an Anonymous commenter, which deviated into an Insult Fest directed towards myself and this here blog. One of the comments was along the lines of “This is a poorly designed blog” with a few other choice words thrown in, and whilst I wouldn’t say it that way exactly, I mean I was quite happy to leave it as it was, I did think it was time for a change and maybe an imrpovement.

Let me just take a minute to state that this is not a new look to see in the new year.

No. Just a timely redesign, from orange to blue. I didn’t make these decisions lightly. Infact, I made a clone of this place just so that I could test out new designs without messing around with this one. I learnt about templates!

It took me back to my website hosting days. Ah, memories.

Anyway, now that I’ve acknowledged the shiny new look, my work here is done for the day!

-A Failed Journalist-

Christmas Day 2011

Sunday 25 December, 2011

Ah, that day has been and almost gone again, and if we’re lucky, it won’t be back for another full 365 days. Or 366, considering next year is a leap year.

Which is a great! It mean’s Christmas won’t be back so quickly as it was this year.

See? I told you I’d be back to my Ebenezer Scrooge-ly self. I did use and abuse the thing that made me look forward to Christmas this year, and maybe next years and the year after that, to my hearts content. But I’ve exhausted the distraction and now I’m tired.

There was a trend this year, I noticed, of lesser gift giving. Whether it’s the value of the gifts, the amount of gifts or the meaning of the gifts, I’m sure it varies from person to person, but there was definitely a knew trend in the air.

Gifts were either useful, born of a sentimental notion, or one singular “expensive” item. Is this because of the economy? Are we all getting too old for novelty gifts that take up valuable floor space? Are we becoming less frivolous simultaneously, maybe? Are we seeing a bigger picture?

A mixture of all of the above? I imagine that’s the case for most people.

I’ve been saying, with more and more frequency, that I don’t want or need anything, I just wish I could have a good time with the people insisting on buying me gifts. I’m grateful for the gifts. The lovely, thoughtful, funny, useful gifts. And the chocolate. But maybe the money should go towards more important things? Or stored away to be used on a day spent together.

Who needs a musical lava lamp when silence can be filled with the conversation of a loved one? (Too cheesy? Meh)

So. Now we’re crossing over between evening in to night. I’ve done all but one Christmas Tradition, which is my Annual Awkward Christmas Phone Call with my good friend. He’s been quite the busy fellow this year, and he had many people make plans with him for today, so I’m waiting for him to give me the signal so that I can call.

I hope I get the signal soon. Like I said, who needs a physical present when you can have a good conversation with a loved one?

Excuse me, I have some words to eat

Monday 12 December, 2011

If you were to read my entries from around this time last year, you would be met with some words and sentences directed at Christmas and December fit for old Ebenezer Scrooge himself.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve changed my ways. I still hate Christmas, and the commercialisation of Christmas, and December and how the whole of December is a painful countdown to Christmas and then new year. And it’s always cold, and dark, and miserable. I think all of it is miserable and pointless and the less I had to do with it the better.

However. However… During the summer, I got quite attached to something that had a small reference to Christmas in it. And I am delightfully happy to finally get the chance to use and abuse this very small reference to my heart’s content. So it’s really all about that than it is about Christmas.

It’s exactly the same as hating Chemistry, but finding absolute joy in the song Catalyst by New Found Glory, and using and abusing the chance to sing it obnoxiously everytime work is done with a catalyst. Or the word Catalyst is mentioned.

I’m not happy to celebrate Christmas, this is just a very small way I can make the lead up to it tolerable. Something better to focus on, at least.

It’s amazing what benefits there are to having a geeky, fangirl mindframe.

I would thank the person responsible for this little reference right here, right now, on this very blog, but I don’t want to give any more away that would connect my blog with my LiveJournal.

So anybody intrigued will have to stay intrigued… (I say that as if I have regular readers)

Normal scheduling consisting of grumbling, moaning, complaining and many other things that describe my ill-feelings towards Christmas in general and December will resume as of now.

Thank You!

In Before Conspiracy Theor- Oh. Too Late!

Wednesday 7 December, 2011

It is not a good time for us LiveJournal Users, or indeed the ones who are running it.

When it’s not the bugs and the glitches from failed updates, the whole site is getting DDoS’d. We’ve had a disrupted usage and downtime every month for the past six months, and poor site service overall ever since Six Apart came along and then was sold over to SUP.

Lots of people are moving to other sites, other people are just giving up on blogging completely. The thing is, when LiveJournal works, it is the only blogging-based social-networking site (as opposed to Social-Networking based blogging sites) out there to do what it does, in the way that it does it, as well as they do it (Which says something, I know). There’s a nice mixture of a basic, steady platform that we can rely on, that the designers and developers have worked on, and a lot of room and settings to play with.

I’ll be honest, the part that we can play with has got more complicated ever since they switched their Customisation section from the old system to the new system, which limits the basic settings you can change and puts more power on customised CSS codes that can override them. For someone who knows nothing about CSS code, it’s quite daunting and sometimes frustrating. But my point is, for those who are a whiz with CSS and layout coding and such, it’s a very nice playground to be in.

You don’t get a nice balance like that on other blogging sites, not even the imitation ones like DreamWidth and InsaneJournal. DreamWidth has a small selection of default layouts and default customisations along with them and there’s not a lot of customisations you can do outside of your layout. I know next to nothing about InsaneJournal but I’ve heard it pales even more in comparison. LiveJournal allows you to do more with your profile, it has the best security control for posts that I’ve seen, the navigation is very good too. Yeah, the introduction of the Seasonal Banner left a lot to be desired, and there’s a few things that should be Opt-In rather than Opt-Out, but the best bits really are the best on offer out there.

When LiveJournal doesn’t work… Well…

The main problem is, is that by now, we’re used to the lack of communication from The Powers That Be that  now run LiveJournal. We have become very cynical to a lot of the things that the designers, developers, coders, maintenance team and customer service team say to us.

They change things “for the better” and end up making it worse, or something else worse. They recently changed the allignment for a layout called Flexible Squares. The “Glitch” by-product was that videos and pictures, no matter their original position or allignment, are now cut off either at the side or right down the middle, due to the new margins. That’s been a problem for a month and when the team first addressed the problem, they said “We know want went wrong, we’ll be releasing a new update soon that will fix it.”

A month on, we’re still waiting for that update. What is the hold up? We don’t know. We’re not even having that question answered, we’re just being ignored. They can’t even use the excuse of the most recent DDoS attack, which LiveJournal is still fighting against apparently, because they are two different groups of employees respectively dealing with the issues.

The thing is, is that all this cynicism has lead to some pretty big conspiracy theories. A lot of people are thinking that these DDoS attacks are actually downtime brought on by glitchy updates. It doesn’t matter if you tell these people that, actually, these are legitimate cyber attacks brought on by Russian Politics, these people refuse to believe it.

I can understand why. LiveJournal are doing a very poor job of defending themselves against these attacks. The attacks get bigger but we should see an exponential response of defense, and we don’t. There’s a very controvercial opinion that, even though LiveJournal is now owned by a Russian company, it was originally American so there should be two servers. One for the Russian users, and a second for the rest of us, so that we don’t suffer the consequences of politics we’re not involved with.

I don’t know whether I agree with that mindset, but I can certainly empathise with those who do. They are not Russian, they might not even be American, and they are spending money on a service that got itself tied up in something that it is too old and too weak to survive. Being involved in the Russian Politics might just be the downfall of the site and bring about the LJColypse. In their opinion, they are wasting their money. The site did used to be better, customer service wise, before the Russians took over.

And the main Russian owner doesn’t seem to care about the users outside of Russia. Up until very recently, if anything went wrong with LiveJournal, like a DDoS attack, the rest of the world found out up to two days after the Russian users did. I have personally trawled through Russian news blogs and news sites to find out information that, as a LiveJournal user, I should have known anyway. It’s like an immovable force has actually met an unmovable object, and eventually something will crack and give way.

So going back to the conspiracy theories, if LiveJournal don’t seem to be doing their best to right the situation, or preventing that the exact same things don’t happen in the future, it makes sense that people are getting suspicious. The theory that LJ are lying about a DDoS attack as an explanation of glitch-based down time is absolutely ludicrous, but some others do have a bit of foundation to them.

Like the site being down iconsequentially of the DDoS attack, just to bring about new updates. Sneaky and could actually be true. Back in 2002, on the anniversary of the 11th September attacks, Fanfiction.Net was closed down for the day in commemoration. When it came back, it turned out the admins of the site used the downtime to rid the site of NC-17 rated fanfictions.

Crime of Opportunity doesn’t seem the right phrase there, but either way, it left a lot of people unhappy and disgraced at the actions.

So that Conspiracy Theory comes from something believable. There’s no evidence I can think of to suggest it’s the case here, but I know for a fact that the FlexiSquare glitch was noticed around the time of the last DDoS attack and brushed off originally as a consequence of DDoS related bugs.

Again, LJ aren’t best known these days for their customer service and communication skills, but at least they owned up that it was actually an update glitch on top of a badly timed DDoS attack.

So what can LiveJournal do to satisfy their customers? Well, I don’t know. I have some ideas and suggestions, but nothing that would please everybody.

I know they need to deal with their server defense, because just shrugging their shoulders after it’s taken place and going “Sorry, we’re dealing with it.” doesn’t instill much confidence. They need to work on prevention.

Upping the customer communication is almost always welcomed. Issues recognised and stated etc, and apologies wouldn’t hurt either. They really need to stop fixing what isn’t broken and focus on what is broken instead. For every time they “improve” something, they bring down a backlash upon themselves because people liked it the way it was, and what’s worse, it usually breaks something else. If they just undid the update, it would fix things within seconds. Instead, they leave the new “fix” as it is and work on trying to fix the problem they caused.

They need to do something that makes us users want to stay, and not just because it’s better than the rest. If we’re going to deal with poor service from them, we might as well go deal with almost-as-good-as service from another place.

…Dare I say it? Maybe selling LiveJournal to another company wouldn’t go amiss either. I know it’s along the same lines as separating the servers, but LiveJournal seem to have both feet in the toilet and bringing down a crap storm upon them because of it. I just think maybe some separation would be beneficial someway. I mean, selling the site couldn’t cause more than there already are, could it?

In the meantime, it’s better the Devil I know for me. But don’t worry, i’m all set up for when the LJColypse does happen. Meet me at the Carousel in Fantasy Land!