I have a lot to say on this topic lately so i’ll organize it into 3 posts:
- Why I left my social networks.
- What I learned while leaving.
- What am I doing now?
Part 1 - What the hell happened? Last month, in a fit of rage, or perhaps a moment of enlightenment, I left almost all of my social networks. I suddenly realized that these virtual worlds were no longer their for me, and did me more harm than good.
Take a look at your Facebook feed, seriously, go ahead, i’ll wait. What do you see? For starters, you aren’t seeing what you want to see, you’re seeing what Facebook and the paying advertisers want you to see with an occasional friend update along the way (which they chose for you). But who is that friend? Do you know them? When was the last time you saw or spoke to them? Over a year? Probably.
My Facebook homepage was no different. Filled with life experience from people I barely know, baby pictures from coworkers from a decade ago and general vitriol about life. For a moment, I stopped caring about whether or not these “updates” were interesting and started to focus on how they made me feel, and more often than not, I felt worse. I felt sad, angry, jealous, annoyed, etc. These aren’t emotions I want, so why bother?
The bandaid - For a while I tried blocking the problems, filtering them, customizing my security, etc. Now this became another burden, as most of it can’t be accessed from the mobile app, only on the website. More checkboxes, more time gone… This is spam, this ad is offensive, this friend shares nothing but stories about cancer, this friend shares nothing but lost pets. Who should see my latest picture of my kid, my friends, their friends, all my friends but not this guy, my family but not my friends, the public?
But now that I’ve blocked these people and filtered my own submissions, why am I still friends with them? And perhaps more importantly, are they someone that should see what I have to share? Blocking their updates from being seen by you doesn’t make your updates hidden to them, these are two different things!
Now, how often do you look at your friends list? Go look at it, who are all these people? For me, the 150 or so friends was really only a handful of “active” friends. The rest were either dormant accounts, or worse, lurkers who love to read about your life but never contribute anything. One day, someone who I completely forgot about on Facebook came up to me and asked me to “watch what I say”. Not a great feeling because I felt close enough to this person to “friend” them but didn’t realize that what I was sharing was either inappropriate or potentially offensive to them. In addition to these active and inactive accounts, I also found completely deactivated accounts, which didn’t come as much of a surprise, but intrigued me as I hadn’t seen them in the past… I now know what this means and will go into it in the next post…
If you ask me, Facebook has become TOO large and a victim of its own success. In the beginning, it was fun finding old friends, reconnecting briefly and enjoying some time to catch up. But now it’s clearly a business model. They have shareholders to answer to, they have to keep evolving and making money. They have their own currency, their own advertising algorithms, their own SSO for logging to other sites (which also caused me a lot of problems!). With each new feature, ask yourself, is this making the experience better for me or them?
So, right now my Facebook account is ”pending deletion”, but I haven’t felt the need to resurrect it and I certainly won’t miss it once it’s gone. Was there any value? Surely it can’t ALL be bad and ugly. Yes, you’re right, but you’ll have to wait for the third chapter for the good…
The other networks I left, FourSquare, Instagram and LinkedIn were also fueled by similar reasons, but on smaller scales for the niches that they focus on.
Last article on music streaming!! After deciding late last year that I wasn’t going to buy any more digital music, I’ve finally decided on Rdio. It wasn’t a landslide though, but i’m happy with my decision. Here are my thoughts on how the platforms compare:
Design - Rdio wins, hands down. The interface is clean, modern and intuitive across all platforms.
Library - The catalog on Rdio was missing 2 albums that I had on Spotify, but then they also had one that spotify didn’t, so it’s very close. The only time I was annoyed recently was when an eagerly awaited album was locked in as a spotify exclusive on the date of release. I was relieved to see that this “exclusivity” only lasted one week, but I hope this doesn’t happen often, no services should be allowed to do this.
Audio Quality - Rdio doesn’t have an extreme mode like Spotify does, but I set my streaming settings to high quality and I really can’t complain.
Social/Sharing - Rdio seems to lag a bit behind Spotify here, but they are moving in the right direction. They recently added the ability to share from the mobile app, but it is a bit clunky to use (requiring a long press on the track selection screen, not on the currently playing screen). Spotify also has more universal industry support (Rolling Stone published their playlists on Spotify, and SongPop links directly to Spotify).
Music Discovery - Rdio wins again. Spotify emails me the weekly new releases, but it isn’t a tailored email, just “here’s all the new music this week”. Rdio, on the other hand, alerts me, both in app, and in email about artists I already listen to that have released new material this week as well as material that’s new to Rdio entirely. Finding new artists works the same for me as on pandora or spotify, by listening to “similar artists” stations. I also have been browsing other users collections and playlists as well to see what I might like.
Cost - Believe it or not, Rdio wins. Yes, they are both $10 a month for the premium service, but rdio will discount multiple subs under the same household, so once I need to add someone, it’s cheaper.
Rdio isn’t perfect, and I have found bugs in the platforms streaming system from time to time (I’ve submitted them) but i’m sure these will iron out over time. Overall I’m glad to be part of the rdio world, if you join, look me up so we can share some tunes…
I continued my Spotify trial for 30 days, and I was so convinced it was perfect that I bought a $30 prepaid card at Target so I can go another 3 months. But the more I used the service, the more I got frustrated with it’s “model”.
You see, Spotify IS all about playlists. Make a list for the gym, a list for work, a list for your friends, and share them all around and we can all enjoy our musical mix-tapes of the digital age. I like to make playlists as much as the next guy, but when it comes to enjoying music, I prefer to listen to complete albums, the way the artist intended, in their original order. I like discovering an artist for the first time (FightStar or example), and listening to their back catalog the way it was released. So, for me, retaining the album/artist/track/year integrity is paramount.
So I ended up contorting Spotify to fit my needs. I started to create playlists called “Albums” and playlists called “Artists” and I painfully dragged my albums and Artists into each folder to rebuild this “itunes-esque” model. It started to get ugly, sure, but it got the job done. And all was well, for a little while…
The more time I spent with my new friend, the more bugs I found that really started to annoy me:
- The currently playing track doesn’t update on the iPhone lock screen. I’d be shuffling my music (Yes, I still like to mix it up too) and glance at an unfamiliar track only to see that it’s NOT the currently playing track! Spotify would be showing me the track prior, why? Unlocking the phone and going back into Spotify corrects the issue, but this must be something I do often because it really annoyed me.
- Playback position isn’t saved between sessions. I would start listening to a playlist in the morning, get 8-10 songs in, and when I start up the app for the commute home 8 hours later, it would remember what song I was playing when I stopped, but the “next track” is greyed out, meaning it didn’t save “where I was”. This happened every day, and I found no way to resolve it. :(
So, as I was searching around for other spotify reviews, I found that the service was frequently compared to Rdio. I initially passed over Rdio because of the smaller catalog and negative reviews of the iPhone app (itunes reviewers can be harsh!). But now I figured it was worth a look.
I started playing with the Rdio ecosystem and one thing quickly jumped out at me about how they model their streaming experience. Building your “collection” of online music is all Album based! You find an artist, click the albums and just “add them to your collection”. Now, this may sound silly, because it’s never really yours, but the sense of ownership is so much greater with Rdio for the same $10 a month. I have a virtual collection of music, sorted by album and artist and I barely had to do anything but check a box next to all the albums I want. This just makes more sense to me.
I prefer this model a lot more, and have been using Rdio for the last few weeks. It too is not without it’s bugs and nags, but i’ll save those for another post. Ultimately both services are fantastic, but for now, i’m an Rdio fan. If you’re also going down the road of music subscription services, they are both worth a look.
I just deleted all the music off of my iPhone. I actually went into iTunes and unchecked the box that says sync music to my iPhone. Hell, I don’t even have iTunes open right now… This is certainly unfamiliar territory, but for the next 30 days, i’m trying something different.
Spotify launched over a year ago for US listeners and I had dismissed it back then mainly because I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of “renting my music”. I had some strange desire to see my files… seriously, I want to look at a folder full of MP3’s (or M4A’s) and say, OK I own these! But recently, I see more and more friends joining spotify, are they just using it occasionally on the free ad-based version, or are they onto something?
Then I started recalling my other reasons for not signing up last year, and checking to see if they are even relevant anymore.
I don’t want to stream all the time. Spotify Premium allows you to save offline music, so when my commute goes underground, or I don’t want to burn through my data plan, I will be fine. The offline limit is over 3,000 tracks, which easily dwarfs the 1200 files I currently keep in rotation on my phone.
I don’t spend that much on music. I added up all the music I bought from January until now through iTunes and Amazon MP3. Since this “service” would cost me $120 a year, this is an important figure, right? I was shocked and embarrassed to tell you what this figure was, but let’s just say it was easily larger than $120, and that’s after I factored in my iTunes 20% discounts. Now this is getting harder to ignore.
They won’t have all my music. I looked up every album I bought this year to make sure they were on Spotify and to my surprise, they all were. Yes, there are still some artists; be it those in legal battles, or just online digital holdouts, that are not on Spotify, but they aren’t on iTunes either.
The streaming quality isn’t as good. Not only is it “as good”, but the offline files offer an “extreme” mode which is of a higher qualiry than what itunes currently offers. I haven’t done a test to see if I can even realize the difference, but just knowing that it’s better makes it better.
It’s only been a day since i’ve started this experiment. The trial lasts for 30, and there’s still a few unknowns. Such as how will this work with my car audio systems? How do I shuffle albums (a pet peeve of mine)? Do new releases come out at the same time as iTunes? How do the mobile apps function? Are they as good or better than the iPod music player?
There’s a possible shift in the way we/I listen to and purchase music, if it works out for the better i’ll be sure to let you know. One of the hardest parts of this? Looking at albums I paid $10 each for only a few weeks ago…
Saw @cwgabriel mention that this month was Penny Arcades 14th anniversary so I figured I’d share a few pics from when their empire was a little smaller. These were taken when we met the crew at E3 2002. The “plan” for those who wanted to meet up with them was basically “Find us in Kentia Hall”. Well, find them we did, and took some pics and I got my E3 Show Daily signed by Mike. Thanks guys for 14 years of funny!
It’s funny how differently my son and I can play the same game. We just got Need 4 Speed Most Wanted for 360. For the uninitiated, it’s an open world racing game. What this means is, you can race other cars, increase your score, unlock new cars etc. Or you can tear-ass around the city and do nothing to progress the game. You’re never penalized for this, and the fun never ends, if that’s your idea of fun. So, one of the aspects of this game is that there are cars hidden around the city. Now, when I find one, I immediately see what races are also unlocked, and proceed to complete them to get to the next level. I take care not to intentionally crash, I stay on course for the race and if I don’t finish first i’ll restart it. Now, here’s what happens when Jory finds a new car. He’ll take it to the repair shop, change colors until he finds one he likes, then does donuts until the back tires “burn off” so he’s just riding on rims, which now spark (and who doesn’t like sparks flying off the back of the car, even if it’s at the expense of traction). Then he’ll drive head on into oncoming traffic or launch the car off a cliff. Take the car back to the repair shop, rinse, repeat. But for a game to be able to please both of us, even though I can barely stand watching him play it, is a great accomplishment! Kudos Criterion and EA!
For a while I was glad we didn’t get the weekly emails proclaiming that for every “forward”, Bill gates will send you money. Then, years after telling people these emails were bullshit, you got the people sending them “just in case it’ real”. Well, leave it to Facebook to ruin everything with the new social version of mass stupidity.
I frequently visit Facebook, and I enjoy seeing what my friends are up to, see what’s going on in the world of the internet, etc. What I don’t enjoy seeing is kids with cancer, kids who lost parents in combat, dogs that are about to be put down, etc. The list goes on and on. I am not saying I’m ignorant of the bad things in life, I send money to the charities I support and sometimes ask friends to support the same. But these new “guilt posts” do NOTHING but spread horrible pictures and stories across you and your friends news feeds.
When you see a photo of a young boy that is kneeling at his dads grave that says “Isn’t this kid brave? Click Like to show you CARE, keep scrolling if you’re a heartless bastard!”. Well, maybe they aren’t worded exactly that way, but you get my point. These are now spreading like wildfire, and what people don’t realize is that by clicking Like, ALL your friends are seeing that you Like that photo and are now encouraged to do the same. I have news for you, the “likes” that pic is racking up does nothing to help the cause (if there even is one) but only help increase the popularity of the page that created the post.
Time to stop “Liking” everything…
I’m sick of all the avatars and player customization. Not to be nostalgic, but I liked when consoles didn’t know a damn thing about me. I picked up the controller and hit Start, Run, or Play… Someone else can walk into the room and pick up the other controller and start playing. Nowadays, there’s all this prep time and decisions required before you can just play a game. My son had a couple of friends over recently and he wanted them to join him in one of his favorite multiplayer games. Since they hadn’t been here to play Xbox before, the 360 demanded to know who they were. Let’s just say they weren’t happy with their choices of his dad, or his little sister. And let’s assume they did choose one of these options, they are now penalized by “never having played” before. All the cool characters that Jory unlocked were only available to him. Thanks Microsoft! The PS3 behaves much better than both the Wii and the 360 by not forcing these kinds of decisions. Anyone can turn on an additional controller and just start enjoying the game. It may seem like a small difference, the PS3 logging in the “console” vs Microsoft logging in the “Player”, but it’s just one of the reasons I like the PS3 better. The Wii can be even worse at times, forcing you to select the Mii of a family member or choose from a random cast of characters. Just let us play!
Haven’t written in a while, and as a result, I’ve decided to move to a more affordable, simpler blogging service. Hence, welcome to my tumblr. I used to use the techmoments moniker as an area to answer my friends common tech questions, but a lot of these questions just don’t matter as much anymore. So many technologies have become so mature, that it no longer requires any decision making. Does it really matter which router you buy? Probably not, they will all work and serve your needs well. What TV should I get? Whatever is on sale, they all look great… I’d be glad to have a Mac vs Windows, Android vs iOS, or PS3 vs Xbox discussion any day though… And why not, I own a little of all of them, and use them all regularly. But on to today’s topic…
I’ve always enjoyed being on the cutting edge of technology, always had the latest phones, had a bluetooth headset at a time when I had to literally explain it to everyone who saw it and we were using wireless networking (Proxim Symphony line) before anyone was even using wired networking in their home. This is what identified me, what made me unique. I was a geek and proud of it (thx AP). I liked being different.
Welcome to 2012… Now everyone has a smartphone, everyone uses wifi, bluetooth headsets are practically given away for free. I use an iPhone, and I understand the fanatical apple fanboyism, but this has reached an all new level. Seemingly normal people have waited on ridiculous lines, stayed up until 3am to preorder, and tracked their deliveries every 5 minutes until that shiny new iPhone arrived at their door. When did the tide turn? When did the cutting edge get so damn crowded? Where does someone like me belong now?
We have reached a pinnacle in usability, thanks to the legendary Steve Jobs. There is no secret operating system tucked away in Europe that is somehow “better”. There is no need to import a phone nobody has ever seen because it does some cool new trick that no other phone does. So, I sit here and I enjoy my iPhone 4. It was a breakthrough when I got it, the screen still looks amazing, and it does what I need it to. Will I upgrade to the iPhone 5? Of course, but I’ll be just another one of millions who have the same exact phone. They all look the same, they all work the same, and you can get it in any color as long as its black or white. I miss the days of a more fragmented, more diversified world of mobile communications… Because, that was when things were really interesting.