Most of us in the west grew up with television as part of our lives, and we shared a lot of experiences vicariously through the tube. It was what we made small talk about around the water cooler or out socializing and as time passed, it was a shared bit of nostalgia we had in common with others. “Remember when the Fonz jumped the shark?”.

But it wasn’t just the story we shared. We also shared the context of the culture when the show aired. We even for the most part shared the season it was aired in.

And we even shared the anticipation and suspense of the cliffhangers. We had to wait a week to see what would happen to one of the characters, and a TV series spanned years, so we remember shows like Happy Days as being with us through our youth – from grade school to high school and to college.

But Netflix has broken all of that.

“Arrested Development” and “Breaking Bad” may have been as I described above for some people, but a lot of people now (even Sir Anthony Hopkins apparently) consume entertainment in ‘binges’ and I am one of them too.

In a sense, I have been a binge watcher since before the internet was even around. I used to refuse to watch TV series until they had established themselves with enough episodes to play daily. That coincided with specialty networks like the Space (science fiction) channel emerging, and the various Star Trek TV series that were produced.

No longer did I have to wait a whole week to see what would happen next, and the Space channel even tried to make sure that two-part episodes were played back to back. Add to that a schedule that repeated multiple times in the day. and we were no longer slaves to the weekly programming schedule.

Fast forward to now, and generally most of us are able to pick and choose when we watch what we want to watch, and for a mere pittance we can subscribe to Netflix and have access to a huge back library of TV series, most of which we never had time to watch, or that weren’t even offered on whatever TV package we happened to have at the time.

So to me, the entire “Breaking Bad” series took place in my life during September/October 2013, and my nostalgic memories of that series will always be colored by the fact that I saw them all in that time span.

More extreme examples of this time-shift nostalgia are when I retroactively watched all the Saturday Night Live episodes from the 90′s until today within a time span of a few weeks. That had some strange overtones of other nostalgia mixed in with it because I got to see all the popular entertainment people of the time promoting their stuff, and I know in hindsight all of their projects and careers turned out.

So I’m not upset about Netflix breaking nostalgia. It’s kind of neat actually. And it’s not like nostalgia was always the same for everyone anyway. It was probably only ever that way for a short time when network TV was king, and it was the main lynchpin that tied us all together.

I think in the future, nostalgia will be based on the internet. Like for example “remember when everyone used to have a blog?”

I was looking at some artwork through a magnifying visor (like YOU don’t need reading glasses too) and I noticed that up close the pixels on my flat panel monitors are very discrete and distinct from each other and it made me think about when I used to tune televisions sets (briefly) for a living.

Until flat panel monitors came along, and to a large extent even now, the video signal that forms the picture didn’t consist of discrete pixels. It was an analog signal, and there were all kinds of flaws and limitations inherent in trying to jam so much information into so little bandwidth.

Take the herringbone effect for example, or oversaturation buzz. Because of how color, grayscale and audio information was all encoded into the same signal, if someone wore a black and white pinstripe pattern it would bloom into a rainbow-colored moiré effect, and could also cause crackling and buzzing effects to creep into the audio channels.

We all remember the ads with the giant bright white lettering on a yellow background that caused the TV to emit an annoying buzz when they flashed on. OK.. some of us remember it?

There are actually laws in place that require broadcasters to watch out for and eliminate some of these effects or face fines because if they are severe enough they can actually cause interference with other television channels or even different kinds of receivers like police or taxi radios etc.

We marvel at modern technology and our JPEG and MPEG and PNG file formats, but they are all rooted in the hardware advances made by television broadcast engineers in the 1950s when they added color information to the black and white signal.

They are also one of the earliest examples of people worrying about backward compatibility. A black and white television made before color television was ever invented was still capable of displaying a broadcast television signal right up until analog broadcast was recently dropped.

To get back to my search for a point, tuning an old analog television set was a frustrating back and forth process that could involve potentially a dozen or more adjustments that all interacted with each other and had to be repeated for several iterations with more delicate adjustments each time through.

It also involved a fair bit of nerve, reaching inside live, plugged in and turned on television sets with a screwdriver while paying attention to the picture on the front in a mirror and trying not to think about the giant “NO USER SERVICABLE PARTS INSIDE” and “DANGER – HIGH RISK OF ELECTRIC SHOCK” signs on the back cover of the television.

And it struck me that modern agile based methods of web development are the modern equivalent of setting up the picture controls and alignment inside an old analog TV set.

Over the years websites have become more and more aware of who is viewing them and they now tailor themselves to what they think you want to see. The result is that websites today can seem like they are watching us because of our natural tendency to anthropomorphize everything we interact with.

Take Linked In for example. I have been a member for a long time, and given the set of contacts I had for years and the keywords in my profile, Linked In seemed like a boring place, stuck in the past, suggesting the same connections and businesses and articles over and over.

But I was no longer really interested in the kind of content it was offering me. It was suggesting lots of embedded software related links and contacts and businesses, and frankly – been there, done that.

I’m never going to not be an embedded programmer, but that isn’t what I want to do during the next phase of my career. I am trying to execute what I suppose is called a ‘pivot’ nowadays, and Linked In just wasn’t getting with my program.

But then I started to change my profile on Linked In and seek connections with people I have worked with on stuff about where I want to go and what I want to do, and gradually at first, and then increasingly so, Linked In started to suggest different people, different companies, different articles.

I didn’t really notice at first because I was too busy doing things relating to trying to shift career directions, but when I did notice it seemed to take place all at once. Linked In is like a completely different place now, suggesting all kinds of new companies and topics and people on the game industry.

It’s almost like it’s watching me, and it is in a kind of digital way. I get how it all works under the covers, but it’s still kind of impressive and maybe a bit spooky too.

But I can get over the spookiness because I know that it gets me.

So how many of us have spent most of our careers in a cubicle?

A lot I’d wager, but are things changing – or is the pendulum swinging back the other way? We hear about Yahoo and HP bringing the hammer down on people working from home, but working from home doesn’t necessarily mean an employee is a free agent, and a contract employee doesn’t always work from home or on their own schedule. Often we work on site and adhere to the same hours as regular employees.

But are HP and Yahoo typical of the entire job market or just certain sectors? Once a company reaches a certain size, they tend to acquire a lot of office space and real estate and other geo-related assets and it’s easy to see why they don’t want to see it sitting unused because their employees prefer to work from home, but there are still plenty of smaller companies that don’t want to scale up their operations, particularly if demand for workers fluctuates depending on a production schedule.

Most game companies don’t need every kind of worker involved in producing a game all the way through the development cycle. They need different types of people at different stages of production and unless they are ‘big enough’ to work on three or four titles at the same time, they just can’t keep all of those types of people busy all the time.

But many smaller game houses need to focus on one main title because they don’t have the resources to hire permanent staff for all of the roles needed to produce a game, so in the game business hiring people on a contract basis makes a lot more sense.

So from the perspective of someone looking for work, what does that mean?

Well it means you can take the McDonalds approach, and package your skills into a “Big Mac Meal” or a “Happy Meal” since a lot more companies are looking for employees at the drive through if you will.

Or you can package yourself in a non traditional way and wait for the right clients to find you – kind of like an artisan approach. That’s the approach I have decided to take.

But just because I’m a free range programmer, it doesn’t mean I will work for chicken feed…

Let’s try this again. I posted this before changing some WordPress settings and apparently the old links don’t work. Hopefully this time it sticks. Thanks to @4deck for letting me know there was a problem

Well I’ve been pretty quiet lately, and it’s for a good reason. I have been completely overhauling a website I’ve had sitting around for over a year with Lorem Ipsum text in it. Tsk tsk.. bad me.

In any case, I am pretty happy with my progress. Part of the reason for never getting around to doing anything was that my HTML skills were old – forged when it was tables all the way down. Not only was I facing the blank page syndrome, but I was faced with either putting something out there that really sucked from a clean, modern design point of view, or taking the time to learn how things are done nowadays and who has time for that?

Well thanks to my Twitter friend @snipeyhead, all is now well with my world wide web skills. She pointed me to Twitter bootstrap, and from there it was smooth sailing. If you’ve wanted to get your rusty old web skills up to snuff, I highly recommend starting with Twitter bootstrap. You can get it from http://getbootstrap.com and it’s an official Twitter product – the same fine code they use for their own website.

How’s this for a cleverly disguised “Hello World” to test my WordPress installation and linkage?