back to article In the week Uber blew up, Netflix restates 'No brilliant jerks' policy

In 2009, Netflix published what became an influential slide deck explaining its culture, including a policy of not hiring “brilliant jerks” because the benefit of their moments of excellence are outweighed by the cost of their other behaviours. Now Netflix has updated the document with a new explanation of how it aims to make …

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Re: What do Netflix staff do that requires all these not-brilliant stars?

I installed it from the demo disc on PC Mag.

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Re: What do Netflix staff do that requires all these not-brilliant stars?

"Netflix degrades the quality of the stream [...] iPlayer doesn't,"

It surely does, although I think it only goes between HD and SD quality, whereas I think Netflix has more different resolutions to step through, so I guess it's less noticeable.

Amazon also have multiple quality levels, although because they start on the lowest and it seems to take several minutes before they'll go up to HD, the first couple of minutes of the program are in fuzz-o-vision.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What do Netflix staff do that requires all these not-brilliant stars?

"f it was not that tough everyone and their dog would be able to run a video service."

One only has to spend a few minutes with some of the second tier streaming services (or the Video On Demand service of your cable provider) and their crappy interfaces and poor delivery to be reminded how good Netflix is at what it does.

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Re: What do Netflix staff do that requires all these not-brilliant stars?

Basically Netflix wipes the floor with the other services so, as long as you are not requiring the latest movie releases (they went away from that to spend the money on making their own shows, they have a huge number of them these days) then you will be well satisfied..

Yes, I would say in technical terms Netflix beats something like Crunchyroll. Of course, CR is a much smaller company, and as I understand it they do have occasional issues with their hosting service. The main difference is content: Netflix is a general-content service, covering all their bases to give a little of something to every interest, while CR is for a targeted audience.

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So does this mean

That Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson are never going to be getting their own Netflix Original series, then?

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I'd consider paying for Netflix but

I have a bigger collection of DVDs than it has films available to watch (not particularly hard, because the choice on Netflix is shockingly bad..)

Take away the genuine 'Netflix originals' and the 'we stick our credit over another company's 'Netflix (not very) originals' and there's barely anything there.

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Re: I'd consider paying for Netflix but

I will bet serious money that you don't have a bigger collection of DVDs that their movie selection - despite the fact that you are right, it is small.

They decided against just making movies available because, quite rightly, they realise that anyone can do that and compete with them (Now TV for instance).

So, they make of lot of their own shows - and many of them of are pretty good.

As a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I am particularly are well served.

And, as a holder of a Cinema pass, I watch the movies you no doubt buy on DVD, at the cinema. It is better - no matter what your system is - and cheaper, I watch most adult releases so it costs about 2 quid a movie, excellent value really. And, of course, I see them earlier, which costs a serious premium with streaming services and DVDs.

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Re: I'd consider paying for Netflix but

> I have a bigger collection of DVDs than it has films available to watch

It's not the number that matters (OK, it is to some extent) but the quality. Many years ago we took out a subscription to an online video service. They advertised the thousands of films they had available as being a major draw. It probably was if you were willing to waste your life on the sort of dross that is available from Sky Movies. However, going through a significant proportion of the list we discovered that only 4% of their films sparked any interest at all.

Given that a person will only accumulate DVDs they like, or choose, I'd want any online service today to offer at least 25 times as many movies as we have DVDs. And that would only get them to parity. The sad thing is that there probably aren't enough (good) films made in a year to supply 1 a week that we'd actually want to spend time watching.

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Re: I'd consider paying for Netflix but

The sad thing is that there probably aren't enough (good) films made in a year to supply 1 a week

Well, there's about 750 recognised Hollywood features released each year, and a similar number of largely overlapping films released in UK cinemas. Applying a suggested 4% worth watching to the 750 big screen releases, you've got 30 a year that might be worth watching for an individual of given tastes (the "worth watching" criteria varies from person to person, I suspect that the actual total they select would be tightly clustered around that 4% number.

However, if you go down to the indie film level, there's around 50,000 or so released each year. Which means that if there's nothing to watch, either the vast majority of Indie releases are dross, or alternatively there's plenty of brilliance there, it just has to be searched for. Worth thinking that Mad Max, Trainspotting, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Bad Lieutenant and many other top films started out as Indies, and there's earlier works directed by George Lucas, the Cohen brothers, Spike Lee, Peter Jackson etc etc. And plenty of John Carpenter.

So perhaps the problem is that Netflix, Amazon, Sky and the rest is that they're just focused on big platform rebroadcast of major studio stuff. Making it all work is a great feat, but if the new content is fairly thin then its not much of a deal. I wonder why they don't do a better job of offering indie content? Having built the platform to sling blockbusters in high volume, surely adding a whole load of low-viewing films doesn't cost much more than the storage and a few dollars for updating the database and billing systems?

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Re: I'd consider paying for Netflix but

"I watch most adult releases" - not something I personally would proclaim publicly, but each to their own.

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developing developers development

> “that brilliant people are also capable of decent human interactions, and we insist upon that.”

I wonder if they would be willing to apply their non-jerk attitude to management and administrative roles, too?

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Re: developing developers development

"I wonder if they would be willing to apply their non-jerk attitude to management and administrative roles, too?"

I'd settle for them applying it to a "screensaver" that actually saves the screen burning rather than displaying a dim static picture with searing static white bits that never move while on pause.

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Re: developing developers development

I'd settle for them applying it to a "screensaver" that actually saves the screen burning rather

You are aware that screensavers are not actually needed on LED/LCD displays? And, if you are still using a CRT then it's probably time to switch to something slightly newer..

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Re: screensavers

You are aware that screensavers are not actually needed on LED/LCD displays? And, if you are still using a CRT then it's probably time to switch to something slightly newer..

Plasma screens, innit.

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Re: screensavers

.. and OLED screens. My LG G4 is looking very blotchy, now

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Headmaster

Re: developing developers development

@ CrazyOldCatMan sorry mate but you can burn images into LCD screens by displaying static images for long periods. I ruined a screen because the browser I use always is in the same place. Agree the CRTs should be replaced, but because of space and power saving. Screen-savers suck because the screen remains on using power. A blank screen is preferable.

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Brilliant jerks

I find this idea quite interesting. The history of great companies would suggest that brilliant jerks are required, at least in the early days. We might all wish that weren't the case but just stating "Our view is that brilliant people are also capable of decent human interactions" doesn't make it true. Very very good people are capable of decent human interactions but real brilliance, especially in technical areas, normally requires a laser focus on the task and a thick-skinned determination to drive the project to completion by any means. Both of those traits have a cost in terms of decent human interactions.

Netflix of course are now a huge established company that doesn't really require stunning brilliance from its employees. It just needs to keep slightly ahead of the competition and not fuck up too badly. In those circumstances brilliant jerks aren't required and are probably counter-productive.

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Re: Brilliant jerks

Very very good people are capable of decent human interactions but real brilliance, especially in technical areas, normally requires a laser focus on the task and a thick-skinned determination to drive the project to completion by any means. Both of those traits have a cost in terms of decent human interactions.

I went to MIT with more than a smattering of really brilliant people, and maybe 10% of them were jerks. The people who struggled tended to be jerkier than those who didn't.

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Re: Brilliant jerks

Netflix has lots of job positions that are doing things that require getting stuff done but not necessarily creativity or design expertise. If the person in one of those roles shows up on time, gets along with their workmates and competently performs their job, they shouldn't have to worry about getting fired for not being a "high flyer". Netflix is sending out a message to their employees that their jobs are on the line every day even if they are doing what other companies would consider satisfactory work. Given that, I'd find another job if I could.

I cut the TV cord 10 years ago. No cable, no Netflix, no satellite. I rent a movie from time to time and that's about it. This means that instead of paying those companies every month, I am adding stamps to my passport. I spent some time with a friend in Wales this year. I'm visiting friends in the US in August and we'll be there for the total eclipse and I'll be in Prague around Christmas. Next year I have a trip planned to visit Iceland and Dubai. I could skip all that and pay for 500 channels of nothing on, but on balance, I think I'll keep seeing the world in person, thank you very much.

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Childcatcher

I'm an Amazon subscriber and although the video selection is not great it seems to be pretty much on a par with Netflix. 95% shite. Especially now they've started importing YouTube type dross to pump up the figures. There is probably still enough to justify the subscription.

I stuck with Amazon becasue I make a lot of use out of the Amazon Prime Music and the improved delivery option. I normally opt for slow delivery and take the £1 credit the often hand out for that.

As for the dippy hippy culture in Netflix. Sounds like a way to pay well for a short time, overwork talented graduates to disillusionment before throwing their hollowed out husks out the door.

What't the alternative? Work in the public sector. Get paid less, overworked if you have talent and enthusiasms, have to work with jaded arseholes left right and centre, before having your hollowed out husk thrown out the door when the incumbent government cuts funding or priorities on the whim of some twat that's never stepped foot in the region.

Netflix doesn't sound so bad after all.

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fair dismissal?

So they'll fire " those who figure if they do a decent job without f*cking up they'll have a safe job"

IANAL but I'm not sure they can get away with that in Europe.

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Anonymous Coward

That 'brilliant jerk' thing

Sounds a lot like a Westpondian sort of thing. In Eastpond, my experience has been that in our culture admiration more often betides the 'brilliant grey man'.

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Who are they talking about here?

Do they consider the Uber CEO to be "brilliant"? He's just a typical thug businessman screwing over anyone and everyone to get to the top. He's had a history of ignoring laws - his previous startups were both file sharing related. He failed to pay withholding on his employees in one of them, which the IRS considers worse than simply not paying your own taxes.

Uber wasn't even his idea, it was his partner's. He may be a jerk, but certainly isn't brilliant.

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Monoculture

The problem with their idea is you build a monoculture, maybe not the same one their competitors build (like Google) but a monoculture all the same. And those are never healthy.

You need a mix of people to really get things done; the mercurial type who comes up with the radical new idea and the slogger who'll do the boring bits to get it to production.

And while it's reasonable to go looking for the brilliant but nice type I'm not sure they exist, at least not if you want someone who will get their idea to fruition. At best you'll find someone who just does a really good job of hiding what they really think and does a good line in making the team believe they've achieved consensus when it was really a skillful sell/tell job seeding their thoughts.

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The problem with corporate self-understanding

The one important thing about humans is that we always want to be what we are not. We also want to do exactly the things we can't do. Like fly, go to other planets, create self-conscious minds. That's totally fine, it's called "progress" or "pursuit of happyness".

Facts about corporations are that they consist of humans and their mottos always reflect the way they wish they were instead of the way they actually are. Which might lead us to the assumption that a company usually is just the opposite of what they claim (or whish) to be. But who wanted to work for someone with a motto like "We're a bunch of backstabbing, broke dilletants but we honestly hope to get better"?

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Netflix?

The one viewpoint we haven't had is from an actual Netflix employee - I'd be interested in hearing an insiders view of things. I've got to say, I subscribe to the sentiment and would like to hear how it plays out in practice.

And I'll try to be less of a jerk going forward, but......

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If the Jerk at Blockbuster had accepted that Netflix offer, no one would give a sh!t what Netflix think...

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Anonymous Coward

So I clicked on the link....

They say a lot, which seems at odds with the ethos they espouse...

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It's easy to apply the 'no jerks' rule once your business is up and running and jerks have created the technology you need to conduct business. Once the business is up and running you need the team players to keep the business rolling.

But when the business hits competition and the consensual culture supporting the current business model no longer works, as eventually it surely will, lets see if the consensual culture can adapt. History suggests that such a culture will not be able to change because there will be no consensus on the change required.

So an interpretation of this position by the management of Netflix is a statement to potential competitors that they are not in a position to meet radically new market challenges should such challenges arise.

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