The DMV and Netflix

Taking a Test with a Pen

This week I visited the DMV to take my California driver’s license written test. It was a pen and paper test. When I took the equivalent test in Pennsylvania 17 years ago it was computerized. These are the trade-offs that must be endured when moving from a progressive state like PA to one like CA (it’s a shame the written word cannot convey vocal inflection, a sparkle of the eye, and a smile).

The test is not to be taken lightly. It contains 36 multiple choice questions. It would be difficult to pass the test without reading the official manual, you’d need to be lucky. When questions venture into non-posted speed limits, fine amounts, jail sentences, BAC, and load measurements you cannot rely on logic to pass. Some of the questions on my test were written in a deceptive fashion; obvious “answers” existed that were wrong.

Moments after taking the test it is graded by hand by a DMV employee. If you are taking the test as an original applicant (obtaining your license for the first time) you pass with 6 or fewer errors. If you are renewing your license only 3 errors or fewer are permitted. I went 34/36. Someone else took the test while I was there and went 26/36 (no license for you).

Another thing different between CA and PA is the photo taking process. In PA you have your picture taken, then it appears on a screen for you to approve. If you don’t like it you can try again. It’s a fast process, and you know what your picture will look like. In CA they point you in the right direction and shoot you. No questions asked. I have no idea what the picture looks like . . . because you have to wait 10-14 days to receive your license in the mail. What? In PA they print the license right in front of you. You walk out of the building with the new license. Instead of a regular license I have a little slip of paper that looks like it was typed in Microsoft Word that says “He can drive.” (Okay, so it says a little more than that, but not much.)

These are the trade-offs that must be endured when moving from a progressive state like PA to one like CA (and now the sparkle of the eye and smile have disappeared, only to return when I remember the PA liquor laws).

Finding Movies and Shows on Netflix

I used to be amazed at how difficult it is to browse movie and show titles on the Netflix streaming site. It seems like a sortable database would make so much sense. And then I realized that the amount of disorder is designed. If you were able to align titles alphabetically you would become very aware of all the titles that are missing. Run a search for an actor or a director and you’ll get a feel for the limitations of available titles. I believe the Netflix streaming site design is intended to appeal to impulse views and window shopping instead of actual searching. By having many moving parts and lists designed by your viewing habits and ratings, the scope of the inventory is masked.

I was reminded of this limited inventory last night. I had compiled a list of about 20 titles I wanted to add to my queue; none of them were available.

Now I understand why the Netflix streaming site is a pain to navigate. They don’t want you to be hunting with a plan. They want you to go impulse hunting while the Netflix algorithm throws prey across your screen. Don’t hunt what you want–hunt what we have.


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