Welcome!

Machine Learning Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Rene Buest

Related Topics: Machine Learning , Silverlight

Machine Learning : Article

Bringing Excellence to the Field of UI Engineering

Exclusive Q&A with Bill Scott, Director of User Interface Engineering, Netflix

"My mission has always been to bring excellence to the field of user interface engineering," says Bill Scott, Director of User Interface Engineering at Netflix, which has 8+ million users, in this Exclusive Q&A with SYS-CON's AJAX & RIA Journal in the run-up to his session on October 20 at AJAX World RIA Conference & Expo in San Jose, California (October 20-22, 2008).

AJAX & RIA Journal: When asked to prove to doubters that user experience matters, also to the bottom line of a company…what companies (in addition to Netflix!) do you tend to reference?

BILL SCOTT: I love Pandora. Pandora is dead simple. You pick a song or artist and immediately a radio station is built for you. The player is easy to use, easy to rate songs and does a great job of integrating advertising into the player space. The Pandora player and its companion iPhone application demonstrate the power of simple, rich interfaces that don’t get in the way of the experience but enhance it. Understanding that it is the experience of music listening and not the site experience directly is what focuses a team to build an experience for the user and not for themselves.

AJAX & RIA Journal: What would you say to those who contend that while “Rich Internet Application” had a very clear meaning at the time it was coined in the early 2000s, when an RIA was a clear contrast to the prevailing mass of applications on the web, the contrast is largely gone – leaving the term less useful. Has the entire web really evolved that dramatically, already? Is “Rich Web” now a given do you think?

SCOTT: It is not a given. It is getting to be more common. But the idea is not to make everything “rich”. The idea is to give the best experience. Sites have really messed up when they forget what the user really wanted from them. A popular TV site was primarily used for TV listings. When they changed it to be “rich” they made it harder to do the primary thing—get a TV listing.

I think the term is still useful as most of the techniques, patterns, etc. are still being fleshed out. I continue to see sites launch rich interfaces that are an abuse to the user – so there is still a lot to learn. The more capabilities, the more dangerous it is. Chain saws are great for quickly cutting down a tree, but they can also saw off a limb.

AJAX & RIA Journal:
Your title at Netflix - “Director of User Interface Engineering” – bears testimony to the importance of front end engineering at Netflix. Are you surprised that there are not more ‘directors of UI engineering’ than there are?


SCOTT: Yes and no. If you really understand that crafting a good user experience requires solid engineering then it makes sense. If instead you think that creating a web interface is what developers who can’t cut the backend work then no it wouldn’t occur to you.

My mission has always been to bring excellence to the field of user interface engineering. What impressed me most about Netflix was their deep understanding of the criticality of this role. Think about it. From an engineering perspective, taming Java, JSP, HTML, CSS & Javascript into a cohesive framework with proper the proper software architecture while at the same time being perfomant for our 8+ million users is a worthwhile challenge. And then recruiting and keeping the talent to pull it off – well that deserves the attention of a Director of UI Engineering.

AJAX & RIA Journal: How did you get started in the world of user interface and user experience?

SCOTT: In 1984 I bought a Macintosh 128k. By the end of the year I joined forces with two of my fellow co-workers (from the Apple store where I worked) to write one of the first games for the Macintosh – GATO, a submarine simulation game. Designing and building the interface to this game completely hooked me on the joy of creating software that people wanted to use. From that moment forward I focused solely on user experience design and engineering.

AJAX & RIA Journal: What role do open APIs play in the business and software universe, in general terms?

SCOTT: In 2006, Netflix launched the Netflix Prize. The idea is to award $1 million to the team that can improve our recommendations engine by 10%. Why did we do this? We believe innovation is bigger than us.

Just this month Netflix announced its open APIs. By opening up APIs to the public we invite the talent of the masses to make Netflix a better experience. Open APIs foster innovation, provide an economic space for smaller development shops to thrive and allow businesses to host their services on a wide range of devices with fringe feature sets that otherwise would not have been supported.

AJAX & RIA Journal: Does Netflix make use of this trend towards open APIs?

SCOTT: Yes, with our launch of the public APIs on October 1, 2008. We are planning a soon to be announced Open Hack Day to invite developers onto our campus to hack for notoriety and fame!

AJAX & RIA Journal: What technologies does Netflix use in-house?

SCOTT: Our primary technology is Java running in a Tomcat/Apache configuration. For the user interface we use JSPs and the normal DHTML stack. We are in the process of re-architecting the presentation infrastructure utilizing: JSP tags, Struts2, Tiles2, YUI CSS framework and jQuery.


AJAX & RIA Journal: How about Cloud Computing: do you see it to be a useful product category?

SCOTT: Cloud computing is very interesting as it provides elasticity and cost benefits. We are looking carefully at all of the solutions in this space. Regardless of our direction we are busy architecting our infrastructure so that we have the flexibility to move to whatever makes the most sense.


AJAX & RIA Journal: Your latest book is called Designing Web Interfaces: Principles and Patterns for Rich Interaction – what goodies await your many fans in that?

SCOTT: The book is about interaction design: specifically, interaction design on the Web. And even more specifically, about rich interaction design on the Web. It is a distillation of best practices, patterns, and principles for creating a rich experience unique to the Web. In the book I discuss 6 principles for designing rich interactions (my talk follows this outline). There are 75+ patterns, a number of anti-patterns and over 250 examples from various web sites that illustrate these principles.


AJAX & RIA Journal: “Crafting Rich Web Interfaces” is the appealing title of your session at the upcoming AJAXWorld RIA Conference & Expo in San Jose CA. What is in store for attendees, and for those following it online during the simulcast of your session on SYS-CON.TV?

SCOTT: I will be sharing some the 6 principles from the upcoming book. The talk is chocked full of screencasts & animations that illustrate the good (patterns) and the bad (anti-patterns) when designing for rich interfaces.


AJAX & RIA Journal: What are the biggest meta-trends you see in terms of the Rich Web space in 2009?

SCOTT: One large trend (that has already started) is the way the Web (and its technologies) will be the platform for all kinds of environments. Starting with the iPhone and continuing with a host of new devices, web applications are now becoming prevelant in the mobile space.

With the iPod Touch, the web made its way onto my MP3 player – and it feels natural.

The desktop is already seeing this blending with Adobe Air, Microsoft Silverlight, Prism, Google Chrome’s application shortcut feature, Fluid and other products that bring a distraction free browsing experience into the desktop as well as bring the internet and social communities to desktop applications. Google Chrome basically introduces a Web OS onto the desktop setting the stage for online office applications to compete head to head with Microsoft Office products.

The Nintendo Wii successfully blended the web with its embedded Opera browser (Opera for devices). It is only natural that this will contine into other media spaces such as set top boxes and TVs. I will take some time for the devices to be powerful enough while still cheap enough, but it will happen. This will finally bring in web technologies onto the TV. Some will bring parts of the technology but eventually browsers will be fully integrated into these devices. Some of this has been realized already with the introduction of the Netflix player by Roku, the LG Blu-Ray player with Netflix, and the X-Box with Netflix streaming movies.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
Join us at Cloud Expo June 6-8 to find out how to securely connect your cloud app to any cloud or on-premises data source – without complex firewall changes. More users are demanding access to on-premises data from their cloud applications. It’s no longer a “nice-to-have” but an important differentiator that drives competitive advantages. It’s the new “must have” in the hybrid era. Users want capabilities that give them a unified view of the data to get closer to customers and grow business. The...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
In this presentation, Striim CTO and founder Steve Wilkes will discuss practical strategies for counteracting fraud and cyberattacks by leveraging real-time streaming analytics. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Steve Wilkes, Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Striim, will provide a detailed look into leveraging streaming data management to correlate events in real time, and identify potential breaches across IoT and non-IoT systems throughout the enterprise. Strategies for processing massive ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann and Aruna Ravichandran have been named Co-Chairs of @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley which will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "DevOps is at the intersection of technology and business-optimizing tools, organizations and processes to bring measurable improvements in productivity and profitability," said Aruna Ravichandran, vice president, DevOps product and solutions marketing...
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, an entertainment executive/TV producer turned serial entrepreneur, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to ma...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Int\ernational Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists looked at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deliver...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), provided an overview of various initiatives to certify the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldwide re...
Both SaaS vendors and SaaS buyers are going “all-in” to hyperscale IaaS platforms such as AWS, which is disrupting the SaaS value proposition. Why should the enterprise SaaS consumer pay for the SaaS service if their data is resident in adjacent AWS S3 buckets? If both SaaS sellers and buyers are using the same cloud tools, automation and pay-per-transaction model offered by IaaS platforms, then why not host the “shrink-wrapped” software in the customers’ cloud? Further, serverless computing, cl...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
The taxi industry never saw Uber coming. Startups are a threat to incumbents like never before, and a major enabler for startups is that they are instantly “cloud ready.” If innovation moves at the pace of IT, then your company is in trouble. Why? Because your data center will not keep up with frenetic pace AWS, Microsoft and Google are rolling out new capabilities. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Don Browning, VP of Cloud Architecture at Turner, posited that disruption is inevitable for comp...
Wooed by the promise of faster innovation, lower TCO, and greater agility, businesses of every shape and size have embraced the cloud at every layer of the IT stack – from apps to file sharing to infrastructure. The typical organization currently uses more than a dozen sanctioned cloud apps and will shift more than half of all workloads to the cloud by 2018. Such cloud investments have delivered measurable benefits. But they’ve also resulted in some unintended side-effects: complexity and risk. ...