Dear Spotify

Image of Various Spotify Apps

I’ve been using Spotify for 2+ years now, it deserves a longevity award. It also deserves some sort of honor for being one of the few subscription services I dole out for on a monthly basis1I no longer pay fro a subscription. I am happy with the ad-supported version. Sure, its a little annoying, but I don’t listen to music enough these days to make a full account worthwhile. – placing it alongside Netflix – and everybody has Netflix.Spotify Client Apps

In spite of a number of other options, including from mega companies like Google and Amazon, I still prefer Spotify. It is entirely free if you don’t mind the ads and the premium account is $5/mo $10/mo.

That said, I do have a few things I’d love for Spotify to incorporate:

  1. Tagging – Playlists are cool, they are like categories, but everyone knows that you need categories and tags (ala WordPress). I like creating playlists – but what if I want to listen to a song on a specific subject? Or what if the song is on multiple subjects? Yes, I can create multiple playlists – but this quickly becomes cumbersome.
  2. Listens – It would be great if Spotify displayed how many times one has listened to a song. I am an explorer – always trying out new bands, new albums – and oftentimes forgetting who I’ve listened to previously and which songs. If I could see how many times I’ve listened to the song it would allow me to more efficiently explore.
  3. Searching Artists, Songs, Albums – I’ve listened to a lot of artists and this list of artists (or songs or albums) can become overwhelming. Sometimes I know I want to listen to an artist that begins with some letter or word, but I can’t remember its name in its entirety, it would be great if I could search only what is in “Your Music.”
  4. Language / Topic Filters – I know that Spotify includes “explicit content” warnings on songs, but I’ve listened to far too many songs that had “explicit content” and weren’t marked as such. This becomes important when (a) one is playing the music in the presence of others who might find the content offensive, (b) one finds it offensive, or (c) one is allowing Spotify to post to one’s Facebook timeline and has an audience that includes individuals of young(er) age for whom such content might be inappropriate.
  5. Shazam Functionality – If I am listening to the radio in the car I still have to use Shazam to find out and save what song I’m listening to. Adding this functionality into Spotify’s mobile app would be huge…especially since Shazam now makes me integrate with Rdio.

Which of these features? Or what other features would you like to see in Spotify?

Why is Netflix’s Website SO Abominable?

I don’t have cable or broadcast television. I watch almost exclusively via the internet (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video).1Though Redbox also gets occasional visits from me. I pay my $8/mo. to Netflix and am fairly happy – though not as happy as when DVDs were still included in the price.

So, I love Netflix – but I also want to note just how horrible their website is. I don’t think this is a developer/designer problem – their developers/designers have done some pretty neat stuff (for example the open source projects Chaos Monkey and Genie). It seems to me this is a intentional choice by Netflix’s higher ups – though I don’t understand why.

Netflix running on Laptop.
Netflix running on Laptop.

If you’ve been with Netflix for any span of time you’ve experienced the many different variations of the site that have come over time. These iterations rarely add significant new features, almost always drop useful old features – and generally are a wash as far as their advantage over previous iterations. What in the world is going on here?

Let me make a “shooting-in-the-dark” guess. Netflix is attempting to increase the perception that it has an almost unlimited selection by making actual analysis of the collection by consumers difficult. I really don’t think this is a wise business move – but it is the only reason I can think of that a company like Netflix with talented employees is continuing to provide a sub-par experience to their customers.

“Come on Dave, the site isn’t bad. What are you talking about?” I’m so glad you asked.

  1. Netflix refuses to hide watched titles – so they are always cluttering up the screen. Want to watch an Action or Adventure movie? Good luck wading through all the films you have seen to tease out one you haven’t seen.

  2. Netflix seems to hide some watched titles (the logic seems arbitrary) but if you have rated a title without watching it on Netflix, then they will show it forever and ever. Come on Netflix, did you think this was an exclusive relationship? Of course we are doing business with Amazon, Hulu, and company…some of us might even venture out once in a while to a movie theater!

  3. One cannot add movies to one’s queue that are not currently available on instant watch. Why not? I’d like to know when films I’m interested in seeing are added and in being able to create a “watchlist” of films I’d like to see (rather than forgetting all about them until I stumble upon them again at some future date).

  4. The lack of fine-tuned sorting and searching tools. I can see New Releases – that is great – but could I see new releases sorted by year and then by average rating?

  5. It seems that Netflix is also using some arcane or arbitrary method for what titles it displays under “New Releases” and “Recently Added.” Films which show up when you drill down to a specific genre as new releases don’t necessarily show up in either “New Releases” or “Recently Added” at the top (all genres) level.

Granted, none of these are huge issues – and yes, I am being hyperbolic when I describe Netflix’s website as “abominable” but I am genuinely confused how such a large company could continue over such a long period of time to propagate an inferior website.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised…Amazon’s Instant Video site is horrendous as well. Only Hulu’s site offers a modicum of power – and even it lacks flexibility in certain areas (e.g., why can’t I search my viewing history?!).

Technology News Summary for April 19, 2013.

  • Drew Olanoff. “Google’s One Today App Aims to Make Charitable Donations A More Social And Frequent Experience.” TechCrunch.
    • “The app is called One Today, and it’s currently invite only for Android users at this time. The aim is to get people to donate $1 to different organizations, while getting the complete information about how your donation will be used up front.”
    • This is awesome…something I’ve been wanting to see for some time now, I hope there will be a way for churches to utilize this as well.
  • Sarah Perez. “Family Safety App Alert.Us Goes Beyond Kid Tracking with Message Boards, Battery Alerts & More.” TechCrunch.
  • Darrell Etherington. “All 13 Episodes of Netflix’s Third Original Series, Hemlock Grove, Now Available to Stream.” TechCrunch.
    • I’m not recommending Hemlock Grove, but it is an important ongoing development in the creation of original content by web powerhouses that increases their competition (and eventual inevitable replacement) with traditional content providers (TV – e.g. ABC, CBS, Fox, FX, Showtime, HBO).
    • This series follows Lillyhammer, which I never heard how it did, and House of Cards (which was an amazing success for Netflix), and slides in before the upcoming continuation of a favored cult comedy – Arrested Development.
  • John Koetsier. “Reddit Outages Today Caused by a ‘Malicious DDoS Attack,’ Not Boston Manhunt Traffic.” VentureBeat.
  • Alan Buckingham. “Amazon Prime Releases 14 Original Series.” BetaNews.
    • This is similar to the news above about Hemlock Grove on Netflix, though Amazon has taken the less expensive route by focusing on comedies and children’s shows – which are less expensive to create than political thrillers like House of Cards or horror like Hemlock Grove.
  • Matt Asay. “The Genius of Google Fiber.” ReadWrite.
    • An important analysis of Google’s entry into the internet service provider (ISP) arena and the business profits underpinning the move. I’m excited for this arena to be disrupted like mobile has, right now ISP’s are oftentimes abusing their customers, as I’ve noted previously in articles talking about the requirement to buy exorbitant amounts of bandwidth and poor customer service.
    • See also Jason Calacanis. “Google’s Fiber Takeover Plan Expands, Will Kill Cable and Carriers.” PandoDaily.
  • Ki Mae Heussner. “College’s Rejection of edX Highlights Potential Drawbacks of Massive Online Courses.” GigaOm.
    • The thing is, higher education institutions have to understand what their value is and what it is not. Universities that are selling themselves on classes with huge student to faculty ratios may be coming to an end. Why not just get the information over the web? On the other hand, small student to faculty ratios still provide significant benefits over web-based education, namely the opportunity for a mentoring and hands-on relationship between faculty and students.
  • Jeff John Roberts. “America’s Digital Library Launches – Without a Peep From Google.” paidContent.
    • While I would love for all books to be scanned in and digitally available online, I think in the meantime we should focus on digitizing our historical / public domain works. Let the battle play out in the courts over fair use on contemporary works and instead focus on digitizing the massive, inaccessible resources scattered across the US. Something which various organizations are attempting. I’ve been realizing how little content is digitized as I try to do obscure searches on 19th century authors and occurrences which must have (at the time) caused significant excitement and coverage.
  • Jordan Novet. “Feedly Survives the Outages from the Post-Google Reader Rush, Adding Users, Feeds and Maybe Revenue.” GigaOm.
    • I love Feedly, it is already much better than Google Reader. That said I do wish that they would do some algorithmic analysis to organize my RSS stories more intelligently. For example, I don’t need to spend time paging through five articles about Feedly from different sources, instead show me one story and put the five others under it…I can read them if I am interested in the topic, but not if I’m not. This was something Informed Networker was attempting to do back in the day, but we never quite got there…I also understand that this may not be practical, as the computation load spread across numerous users and feeds may be too much for Feedly to handle at this juncture (but keep it in mind Feedly!).