Painted into a Corner

When I first co-wrote Milestone Surveillance Lite and XXV we had a performance problem. My PC was a Celeron 300, and the Axis 200+ was unable to stream more than a couple of frames per second. Analog Matrix systems would run full framerate (25 or 30 fps), show 9 or even 16 cameras at any given time, and have virtually zero lag for joystick control.

As the hardware became more powerful we were able to add more cameras. Few people ran XXV (named after its ability to show 25 cameras) at full capacity, but 25 was more than 16 and more is better. People had the theoretical option to run 25 cameras which was a good selling point. People understood the argument instantly.

Since the jump in cameras on the screen was such a good story, we went on and said why not place 64 cameras on the screen at once. Again, few people ever ran 64, but they had the option. Again 64 is better than 25, and it is such a simple principle to explain.. more = better.

Now we can do hundreds of cameras on the screen at once. No-one can make sense of what is going on, but more is better..

Right?

What would happen if we released a software that went back to 16 cameras? Would anyone buy such a system? Since we’ve kept preaching that more is better, then 16 must surely be vastly inferior to a 200 camera layout.

That’s a difficult sales-pitch!

We’ve painted ourselves into a corner. Leading the clients to believe that “more is better”. More features, more cameras, more frames per second and so on.

Which would be true if we had infinite resources.

When a company decides to spend time on A, then they are NOT spending time on B. Adding one more camera driver, might mean that the IP auto-detection function did not get done, spending a lot of time on optimizing the decoding pipeline means NOT spending time on simplifying the UI and so on.

I think people like the idea that they CAN go to 100 cameras, just like the speedometer suggests that I can go to 160 mph if i so desire.

Truth is, we never do, and we really can’t – even if we tried.

The iPhone showed the world that people will trade more for less, if things are done right. The world was awash with phones that had myriads of  features. Microsoft laughed at Apple – a phone with no bluetooth, no exchange server support, no cut-and-paste! Microsoft had long followed the strategy that five shitty features had to be better than one good one, and now a newcomer was going to do things totally differently. No chance they would succeed.

Perhaps video surveillance is different.

Why do people REALLY need a 64 camera view? Help me out here!

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Pretending to be Objective

One of the things I was taught before I started gambling in the stock market was to never “fall in love with a company”. The flip-side is probably just as bad; Short selling AIG because of hatred is not a rational thing to do.

If you are going to pretend to be a journalist, you have 2 options. Pretend to be objective or acknowledge that you are totally biased and confess to it. Consider Paul Krugman vs. Glenn Beck; Krugman does not pretend to be objective at all, and when you read him you KNOW that you are going to get a doze of Democrat and/or neo-Keynsian propaganda. That is Paul Krugmans vantage point. There are no hidden agendas, but plenty obvious ones. Beck on the other hand pretends to be objective. Opinions can’t be objective – ever. Even opinions based on facts are subjective. Some opinions are not based on facts at all, and we have a tendency to attribute more value to facts that support our opinion, while dismissing facts that do not (it’s called confirmation bias).

Stating a number of verifiable facts that support your opinion, does not make it objective. Lots of people think it does. They forget all the other factual information that do not support the stated opinion. Some facts are not brought to the table at all, others are intentionally forgotten, dismissed or disregarded as mere fantasy.

If you, as a blogger, pretend to be objective, and you might even believe that your opinions truly are objective (after all, they are based on facts), you’ll find that your audience becomes self-radicalized. Since what you are presenting is facts, it’s extremely hard to argue. Host of show : “ARE you denying the fact that….”, guest : “No, but we also found that..”, host : “those facts are not important, MY facts are!” (or alternatively, the host might just dispute the facts as being lies or fiction). As time passes, your only audience will be people who agree with you, and as “everyone agrees” it only reaffirms your opinion as being objective. Lou Dobb’s and Bill O’Reilly likes to run quote panels from “regular folks” who praise their wisdom as a sort of ego-booster.

So, opinions based solely on facts, are not objective. Nor are opinions based on fiction. That does not mean that I take opinions based on fiction as seriously as opinions based on facts. I am also painfully aware that I have to trust someone, which adds a secondary layer to the opinion shaping. As we have confirmation bias, we will trust whoever presents information that supports our own ideas. If I believe the earth is flat, I will consider a scientist who says it is round a fool. Why should I listen to a fool at all?