Idea: “Record This” Bookmarklet

Lately I’ve been intrigued by situations in which the amount of effort required to complete a task is not overwhelming but it is enough to prevent the task from getting done. The latest example, from a couple of weeks ago, was wine journaling. Sure it only takes a few minutes to pull out a laptop, log into your wine-dot-whatever account and structure a proper review, but unless a few minutes becomes a few seconds, I’m out… and so are thousands of other people.

Minertia is what I might call it… short for a “minimal level of inertia”.

Many companies have succeeded primarily because their products overcome minertia. Twitter is a good example of this. There were millions of people with (purportedly entertaining) thoughts, but none of these thoughts were worth spending more than 30 seconds to publish. Twitter provided a way to turn these idle thoughts into legitimate published communication with 30 seconds of effort, and BAM, they are the hottest company on the internet.

On to more pedestrian matters though: recording stuff on TV.

I’ll use Tivo as an example because that’s what I have, but this could apply to any DVR, Apple TV, Boxee, etc etc:

Here is how I decide to add a show to the repertoire of things my Tivo records automatically:

  1. Read about a new show somewhere online.
  2. Hear or read about it again somewhere else.
  3. Read about how good it is again and finally decide to do something about it.
  4. If I’m home, turn on the TV, navigate somewhat laboriously through on-screen menus and search for the show in order to set up automatic recording. If I’m away, go to and use their totally crappy search feature, try to find the program, and if that is even successful, set up automatic recording.

As you can see, this sometimes equates to several minutes of work (I’ve spent over 15 minutes trying to do this on my iPhone). Again, we’re not talking about a huge time investment here, but it’s enough to require steps 1-3 whereas with a little minertia reduction, people might be willing to record shows the first time they hear about them.

What got me thinking about this was an interview with Rex I read yesterday. In it, he mentions Modern Family as the best show on TV right now (I say it’s Dexter or Million Dollar Listing, but whatever). Thankfully, Rex’s interview was about the third time I’d heard this so I bucked up and did step 4. But here’s how much easier it could be:

  1. Read article on web which contains the name of a TV show.
  2. Click a bookmarklet to query Tivo, and Tivo spiders the page, highlighting all TV shows it recognizes.
  3. Click on the show you want, confirm with a little ajaxed-in dialog box, and a command gets sent to your Tivo to create a Season Pass for the show.

The effort would thusly be reduced to under 10 seconds.

As with the wine example, I fully expect someone to leave a comment pointing me to something that “kinda sorta” does this, but not in as optimal of a manner as I described above. Anybody know of something that does this? Or better yet, anyone work at Tivo and want to build this? :)

9 comments on “Idea: “Record This” Bookmarklet”. Leave your own?
  1. Wolf says:

    This idea is not new, I’ve heard it a few times before (although not many times), but it’s a very good idea; I wonder why it doesn’t exist.

  2. Mike D. says:

    Yep, not surprising. Very few ideas are truly new. What’s missing is someone actually doing it though. :) Tivo is usually pretty good at giving consumers useful stuff… wonder why they haven’t produced something like this.

  3. Wolf says:

    The idea I heard went more or less like this: a) A website with the TV listings and search where you would log in with your provider account B) Your physical box where you would log in with your account.

    In short, a web interface where you could manage all the things that are awkward to do with a remote (mass deletion, scheduling, search etc.)

  4. Dave says:

    My comment probably raises more questions than it answers and goes a bit off topic at the end but I find this interesting so couldn’t help myself.

    There may be a niche for the kind of thing your talking about… but it’s just the timing… and whatever the least common denominator device is out there at any given moment.

    Don’t you think more and more people will be streaming netflix on demand through their Series 3+ Tivo or xbox (what I do) or other device? And for the slightly more tech savvy, hearing about a show and going to or similar, adding it to their favorite torrent client and by the time they’re home from work, they have the whole current season of Dexter on their media center? (again what I do ;-)) Not to mention the Hulus and their ilk… apple too may be getting in the subscription game soon as well as rumors abound.

    So I think if we’re not careful, we’ll be skipping right over the phase where a tool, like you’re describing mike, goes around crawling for shows and adds them to your season pass list… to just having all the shows already available on demand in some list form already.

    I personally freaking love netflix streaming… it’s like the on demand version of what cable promised to be in the seventies with the advent of hbo…

    We recently went cabeless/satelliteless at our house. My current setup is over the air HD antenna for major networks through HD Tivo which is also used for netflix. Connect 360 on a mac home server running all my torrented tv shows to my xbox… then also an apple tv for stuff I buy and/or rent/rip.

    Over time I realized I was watching practically no live TV. So no longer burdened with any sense of urgency… it was easy to wait a few hours to nab the torrent for a show and then just watch it whenever.

    I still get to watch everything I love… and I am saving$120/month.

  5. chris says:

    I was frustrated by this for a long time and finally figured out a somewhat hidden feature of the Yahoo TV listings – you can link them with your Tivo. You have to get the code from off of your Tivo to connect them, but once you do, you can search the Yahoo listings and click the handy “Record with Tivo” (or something similar) and it’ll send the request.

    It normally takes around 20 minutes to get the request to the Tivo, but you can tell it to email you when it gets there.

  6. Mike D. says:

    Wolf: That’s cool, but it’s not really anything like what I am describing. I’m interested in bringing *contextual* recording ability to random places I see shows mentioned. I’m less interested in a dashboard that requires me to go to a separate location to manage stuff (although it’s useful).

    Dave: Good stuff, and I agree that the whole timed recording thing is going to go way once streaming/on-demand take over. It still doesn’t eliminate the need for what I’m talking about though. I still want the ability to pluck TV show mentions out of a web page and do something useful with them.

    Chris: Interesting! I will try that today!

  7. Peter says:

    Good show mentions – please allow me to increase your refcount for Hoarders (on now) and The Wire (concluded).

  8. John Whittet says:

    The “just works” revolution is coming down the pipe. The internet has paved the way for all these great services and connectivity to pop up, but the problem is that, for the most part, everything is isolated. With the advent of things like APIs (à la Twitter) you’ll begin to see more contextualized content.

    You should be able to read an article with a link to record that show on whatever service you use. Maybe it’s TiVo, satellite TV, or Hulu. Hell, maybe instead of an article it’s a podcast. Or a TV commercial.

    You’ll find stopgap solutions, Mike, but your solution is coming faster than you think. (And with that bit of high-flying, misty-eyed optimism, I leave you.)

  9. Josh says:

    Check out twonkybeam. Doesn’t work with TIVO yet but as these devices become web connected it’s just a matter of time. I’ve been toying with this same concept for a few months now. What I really want is a combination of delicious + twonkybeam + shazam-like mobile technology. So I can find video online, on my tv, or out in the open (mobile), identify it, store the reference to it, and then feed it to my device of choice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe by Email

... or use RSS