Monday, February 23, 2009

Embeddable YouTube Playlists: the Workaround for 10min Video Limits

I spent a few hours this weekend trying to figure out how to upload a 48-minute video to YouTube so it can be embedded into a web page for viewing.

The challenge comes from the fact that YouTube now only accepts videos that are at most 10 minutes long.
Turns out the solution is fairly simple:
  • use your favorite video editor to chop the video up into chunks of 10 minutes or less
  • upload the videos individually to YouTube (this was the time-consuming part for me, since my connection is slow)
  • create a YouTube playlist and add all the videos to that single playlist, taking care to ensure that they're in the right order
  • copy the embed code for the playlist and paste it into your webpage (tweak the height and width of the embedded object as needed)
And that's all there is to it!
The playlist will take care of switching from one video to the next automatically, so the viewer doesn't need to do anything from the time he starts viewing the first clip.
As an added bonus, viewers can easily resume viewing from any of the videos in the playlist if their viewing session is interrupted. No need to load the entire video from the very beginning.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dear Symantec, you just lost a customer

The gist

A couple of weeks ago, the Norton Internet Security software installed on my laptop started warning me that my subscription was expiring in a matter of weeks.
Since I've been a long-time Symantec customer, I didn't think twice; I clicked through the links provided then tried to renew my subscription... and failed. 
Over the course of two weeks, I tried no less than eight times to renew my subscription. Each attempt failed miserably because Symantec's online store refused to let me complete my purchase; the website kept rejecting my (valid and correct) billing address.  
So instead of generating some recurring revenue from a long-term returning customer, the Symantec online store only managed to drive me away. 
The gory details
The renewal process seemed simple enough. I clicked the "fix" button on the Norton Internet Security screen and it opened a window that announced I was about to begin the subscription renewal process. 

The renewal window then launched a browser that took me to a renewal page on the Symantec website. The page correctly reflected the name of the product that needed renewing, and it recognized that I was in the Philippines and expected to be billed in US dollars. So far so good.

Clicking the "renew" button, unfortunately, took me to the Australian Symantec online store.
I hesitated for a moment, but I figured... why not? The last time I had purchased a Symantec product, I had completed the purchase at the Hong Kong online store. As long as it works, I didn't really care which online store I buy from. 
A quick review of the screen showed that I was still going to be billed in US dollars, which was fine. I took one last look to see if there was a way for me to change the country, but the only thing I could change was the currency.
So I click the yellow continue button and hit my first road block: a form that requires me to provide my email address, a password, my customer data, and my address. 
Frankly, I wasn't too thrilled about getting this form because I'm a returning customer and the site should know this because I had hit the "Renew" button to get here. I already have a Norton account and had already provided my personal information to Symantec before. So why am I being asked to provide this info all over again as if they had no idea who I was? Shouldn't I just be asked to log in to my Norton account?
Despite this road block, I plod on, determined to renew my subscription. So I fill in all the required fields, only to hit the second and now impassable roadblock: the form believes my address is invalid. 

The form kept requiring me to choose one of the Australian states despite the fact that I had explicitly chosen the Philippines as my country (and the Philippines was one of the valid values for country). Choosing "N/A" for state didn't work and all the other options for State didn't match any Philippine state (we have none). 
Attempts to submit my data would cause the form to reload with the same error:  State value was invalid. And the postcode that I entered was also rejected since it wasn't an Australian postcode.
So despite persevering through multiple clicks and jumping around from site to site, I still had not managed to renew my subscription. 
It gets worse
Despite all these road blocks, I (foolishly) wasn't quite ready to give up yet, so I tried a different tack. Rather than going through the generic subscription renewal process, I thought I might have better luck if I start from my Norton Account. 
So I head over to and login in successfully with my Norton account credentials.

Once I was logged in, I could see clearly that I had an expiring Internet Security subscription as well as older subscriptions that had already expired. 
Unfortunately, there is no "Renew" button next to the expiring subscription. The only action I could take was to view the product, which I did. The "View Product" link took me to yet another page which shows more data about that specific subscription. 

Again, there is no renew button, but there is now another button that reads "Protect Additional PCs." 
Since there was no other visible action available to me, I click the "Protect Additional PCs" button  to give it a try... and find myself on a screen for Norton Antivirus, which is a completely different product! 

This product mismatch was totally unexpected given that I had come from a Norton Internet Security page. If I had not paid attention and had simply purchased the license, I would have ended up paying for the license key of a product that I don't even use.
By this time, I was fed up. I had wasted enough time on this and had tried enough times to renew my subscription. Heck, I wanted to renew my subscription. I was willing to keep giving them money year after year. But that site has made it impossible for me to buy what Symantec was selling.
So, shame on you, Symantec! You just turned a loyal, paying customer away. 
As I type this, I'm downloading AVG.