Welcome!

Machine Learning Authors: Pat Romanski, William Schmarzo, Progress Blog, Liz McMillan, Mat Mathews

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
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"We're developing a software that is based on the cloud environment and we are providing those services to corporations and the general public," explained Seungmin Kim, CEO/CTO of SM Systems Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"We're focused on how to get some of the attributes that you would expect from an Amazon, Azure, Google, and doing that on-prem. We believe today that you can actually get those types of things done with certain architectures available in the market today," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Enterprises are moving to the cloud faster than most of us in security expected. CIOs are going from 0 to 100 in cloud adoption and leaving security teams in the dust. Once cloud is part of an enterprise stack, it’s unclear who has responsibility for the protection of applications, services, and data. When cloud breaches occur, whether active compromise or a publicly accessible database, the blame must fall on both service providers and users. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben Johnson, C...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
"The reason Tier 1 companies are coming to us is we're able to narrow the gap where custom applications need to be built. They provide a lot of services, like IBM has Watson, and they provide a lot of hardware but how do you bring it all together? Bringing it all together they have to build custom applications and that's the niche that we are able to help them with," explained Peter Jung, Product Leader at Pulzze Systems Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2,...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Data scientists must access high-performance computing resources across a wide-area network. To achieve cloud-based HPC visualization, researchers must transfer datasets and visualization results efficiently. HPC clusters now compute GPU-accelerated visualization in the cloud cluster. To efficiently display results remotely, a high-performance, low-latency protocol transfers the display from the cluster to a remote desktop. Further, tools to easily mount remote datasets and efficiently transfer...
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
"We work around really protecting the confidentiality of information, and by doing so we've developed implementations of encryption through a patented process that is known as superencipherment," explained Richard Blech, CEO of Secure Channels Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...