Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oops, Pluralsight

Only a few weeks ago, we got an annual Pluralsight subscription at Euricom. Since then, I have downloaded a couple of videos, raw wmv's, to watch offline on my laptop, commuting.

Yesterday, being out of material, I headed over to the Pluralsight website to download some more content. I discovered the site was redesigned, removing download links next to the videos.

Heading over to their blog, I found out more.

On 24 October, they announced the site redesign, obsoleting the download links and focusing on support for mobile devices.
However, this change does require you to have a supported mobile device to take advantage of offline viewing moving forward. We no longer support offline viewing on laptops/desktops, at least for now. 
Just one day later, after receiving - probably a shitload of - negative feedback, they promised to support offline support for laptops and desktops in the near future again. 
We’ve listened to your feedback and have decided to support offline viewing for laptop/desktop users. We’re going to implement a desktop app that will provide offline viewing as soon as possible. We’re going to work around the clock to get this desktop app ready for release as soon as possible and hope to have the initial beta out within a few weeks from now.
After reading the initial post, I was somewhat dissatisfied as a customer. I knew the decision had to make sense though, from a business perspective. Supporting less platforms means less code, which is good. And mobile is big, it feels big anyway.

Based on the time it took to make the second announcement, I'm pretty sure mobile is nowhere near big enough to forget about laptops and desktops. Hey, being able to have a desktop on my lap still feels mobile enough to me.

I'm satisfied again though. I'm content Pluralsight didn't pull a 'Steve Jobs', and just pushed through their vision. Or maybe, they just can't afford to make a small (?) percentage of customers unhappy.

Some other random thoughts: Pluralsight, is it hard to include the links back in the website for now? Or is all the old infrastructure gone? What were other (business?) motivations to completely get rid of raw videos? Pirates, aay?


  1. Jef,

    Thanks for giving us the benefit of the doubt.

    Piracy actually wasn't the biggest concern. If it was, we'd be using DRM. We really do want the content to be as accessible as possible. The issue centers around features that we can't implement if we don't have usage data.

    For example, the new assessments feature requires us to know how much progress you've made through a course so that we know whether we can offer you a pre-assessment (25% or less material watched) or a post-assessment. We don't have a clue what clips you've watched if you download the entire course onto a stick and go on vacation.

    OTOH if you use our offline viewing feature in the mobile players (and the upcoming laptop player we announced yesterday), we track your activity locally, and as soon as you reconnect to the network we upload your activity so the tracking is completely transparent regardless of whether you're watching on- or offline. Offline viewing is actually a really cool feature - I wish that people would *try* it before complaining so vocally, at least those who actually do have tablet devices (I agree that trying to watch demos on a phone is tough, but a tablet is actually my personal favorite way to consume our material when I'm watching it).

    Thanks again for your patience,

    Keith Brown
    CTO, Pluralsight

  2. Hi Keith

    Thanks for your reply.

    DRM is probably something you want to avoid as long as possible, even if you have piracy concerns, because it's just a real pain for everyone.

    I'm giving you more than the benefit of the doubt. I respect the balsy move. Too bad it just didn't work out (yet). I think you guys will make it up pretty soon though, so no hard feelings.

  3. I'm also very dissapointed that the offline viewing is gone.
    And if I hear that the reason is the assesment feature I have to tell them, that I do not really give a lot about that feature.

    It would be easy to understand to anyone that if you take material offline it can't be tracked and that you will miss out on that feature. I certainly would not mind.
    And besides that, why can't I simply check a checkbox myself to keep track myself.

    So hopefully Pluralsight is reconsidering their descision.

  4. I hear you, Joerg. I have the same opinion. I think there must be _some_ other reason as well.

  5. I only mentioned the assessment feature as an example of where usage data is critical for us.

    We pay our authors royalties based on usage - that's how we get such great content, and I'm sure you guys want that to continue.

    We offer corporate plans with usage reporting to show ROI, which helps them convince their executives that purchasing subscriptions for their developers is a good idea.

    Future features we have planned also rely on usage data, which is critical to our business model.

    I hope this helps a little bit.

    Keith Brown
    CTO, Pluralsight

  6. Jef,

    I am also upset at the change to PluralSight, my issue is that none of my team have a devices that support off line viewing. Many time my people of out of country or just unable to connect to the internet. Our internet connection for streaming is poor and the viewing is difficult when it stops to rebuffer. I have attempted to make my comments via Facebook, but was banned from making comments on their site. They only want happy sanitized comments.

  7. Is it hard for them to learn that learning on Mobile is a passing FAD?

    For eg : I am learning a design pattern course. First thing I will want to do is try out the code in VS.NET which doesn't run on shit-pads. This isn't a god-damn movie that I watch and forget! In order to learn, I must put it in practice!

    My subscription is coming to end in December, if I don't have good enough option to watch it on PC by then, I won't renewing Pluralsight Plus.

  8. @Anonymous: Wow, that's lame, no censorship here though!

    @CyberCoder: Absolutely, I get that completely.

  9. The new offline player for PC/Mac is now available at Pluralsight. It works the same way as the mobile devices, but runs on any laptop that supports Silverlight.

    Give it a try and let us know how it works for you!

  10. Thanks for letting us know here. Will check it out this week.