Saturday, March 21, 2009

Netflix 10 Million Subscribers Party

Netflix recently celebrated 10 million subscribers with a festive bash at HQ in Los Gatos. The theme was "Netflix Cocktail Attire." Figuring that most would dress up in red Netflix envelopes, I wanted to wear a costume that would represent the instant watch feature that I'm working on, allowing subscribers to stream movies directly to their computer or TV over the internet. Hmm... Well, zeroes and ones don't really show too well, and going as a big XML document didn't really appeal either. It turns out that the first commercially available device that plugs into your TV and allows you to stream Netflix movies instantly, is called the Roku player. While not as well known as other Netflix-ready devices such as TiVo and XBox 360, just about every Netflix employee has a Roku box, so it was a safe bet that everyone would recognize my costume. The other significant factiod is that Netflix initially developed the Roku box before spinning it off into a separate company when they realized that partnering with many device manufacturers was a better strategy than going into the hardware business.

A plain black box. Not exactly thrilling material to work with. But wait. The remote, while not exactly stylish, is distinctive. So being the left-brained person that I am, I jumped at the idea, as it was more of a reverse-engineering project than a creative one. I promptly whipped out my Roku remote and a pair of calipers and started measuring. Based on the size of cardboard that I had, 10.2:1 was the perfect scale:

This project took me much longer than expected - a good 10 hours one Saturday due to a few last minute flubs. I spray-painted the cardboard and cut the buttons out of black foam core. To get the button logos just right, I found a high-resolution image of the remote and blew up each button and printed it out to use as a stencil. The arrow buttons and the Roku lettering are actually paper taped on, and the rest are white paint and sharpies. Towards the end, I got tired of being exact, and eyeballed the placement of the buttons. All-in-all, it turned out well.

At the party, I got tons of comments and lots of laughs. Walking around in that costume in a packed courtyard with hundreds of people wasn't exactly a picnic, and another downside (upside?) was that I only got to eat one chocolate-dipped strawberry during the whole party. I guess I was born to wear costumes like these, as my Dad and sister so kindly reminded me of Halloween when I was four years old. My mom, being the seamstress that she is, decided that I would be a Christmas present, requiring nothing more than cutting three holes into a wrapped, bottomless box and sticking it over my head. My sister was not amused at our decreased loot-gathering velocity due to my unwieldy costume.

Meanwhile back at the party, I got my picture taken with several Netflix execs, including CEO Reed Hastings:

The next day, I even and made it onto the HackingNetflix blog. I'm famous! Here are some of the insanely talented folks I work with:

Feast your eyes here for more pics from the party:

Netflix 10 Million Subscribers Party

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