Rdio and getting older

There used to be a time where I would love change and bleeding edge.  When Microsoft or Adobe (or Macromedia for that matter) would release beta software, I was all over it.  I’ve burned a lot of midnight oil playing around with buggy software that wasn’t ready for public consumption.  New things used to excited me, change used to excite me – not so much anymore.  I’m not sure what happened in the course of time: maybe I have less time to play with new things, or maybe my work-stream can’t be disrupted by bleeding edge, maybe I’ve reached a point in my developer career that I’m intolerant of half-baked solutions. Somehow I’ve become adverse to new things.

My latest intolerance: Rdio’s pivot.

I get that in the large crowd of streaming music providers, everyone’s trying to do something to stand out.  I understand that in this cut-throat music industry streaming providers are innovating and that change is hard.  However what bugs the hell out of me is when companies leave behind the people that got them where they are.  It happened to Digg, and Foursquare. I’m wondering if it’s happening to Rdio.

I can appreciate that they want their “Stations” feature to become front and center, and the part of me who loves music discovery appreciates that.  That said, Rdio’s screwed the bread and butter that loyal customers use everyday have been cast aside: their Playlists and Collections interfaces.

Now Collections have become “Favorites”.  Somehow during the process, my “unavailable” songs are front and center, and there’s no easy way to remove them or relink them.


The problem is that when it matched with my library it would match the song with a version on some “Top 100” compilation, or a soundtrack that’s no longer available – never mind that the album version is alive and well in their library.  If I’m lucky enough I can click into the library and unlink the song 6 clicks later, but for most of these I just get “Page not found”, so I’m stuck. I found that I can remove them in the Android app, but again it takes at least three taps for each song, with no way to do it in bulk.

Playlists – a feature I’ve made full use of – has taken a step back as well.  You used to be able to scroll through them in the navigation bar, but now in the name of simplicity they’re moved a layer deeper, taking away your ability to drag & drop a song directly into that playlist.

Lastly one of my favorite features is now deeply buried: the ability to see what your friends are currently listening to.  It used to be available on the main interface as the “People” tab, now it’s embedded and more of a snapshot.

Maybe someone at Rdio is on to something, maybe they’ve found the killer feature that is going to drive droves of new people to shell out money for Rdio subscriptions. Hopefully they’re right, because all it’s doing is making many of their longtime fans reconsider their patronage… or maybe I’m just getting older and change is passing me by.

Is it time to give up Foursquare?


Yesterday turned out to be a pretty busy day for us. In addition go going out to breakfast and running errands, we were also treated to a date night (dinner and a movie).  Ultimately we went to over a half-dozen places, and for each one I neglected to check into Foursquare.

I started using check-in apps back in 2009 with Gowalla. At the time Foursquare was gaining popularity but wasn’t yet on Android at the time. When Foursquare finally released their Android app in 2010, I switched allegiances and was quickly checking in at every place I went. What initially attracted me to Foursquare was their presentation of your statistics.  I loved the gaming aspect of the app: the points you get from checking in and the mayorships you collect.  My whole family and a lot of friends got onto Foursquare, and we had a lot of fun trying to one-up each other in points and check-ins, especially when mayorships were on the lines.

As with all tech startups, Foursquare had to figure out how to generate revenue, and over the years you’ve seen the app design and focus shift from the gaming aspect to trying to become a recommendations engine.  If you look at the app today, the points you get for checking in are no longer display by default, and you have to dig pretty deep in the app to get your mayorships or the scoreboard with your friends.  Whenever you check in anywhere, it doesn’t even tell you who is the mayor or how far away you are from stealing their title.  The news feed showing where your friends last checked in still adds some value, but without the gaming aspects I find myself questioning whether my friends really do care whether I went to the grocery store or gas station.  Part of it is attributed to the fact that my activities are probably a little more mundane now that I have a baby, you don’t see as many bars or restaurants in my feed anymore, but even if I’m somewhere interesting: Foursquare is providing me with little incentive to bust out my phone and check in.

Just like with Twitter, I realize that Foursquare needs to monetize in order to be sustainable – but I don’t understand how you can call yourself a social network when you take out all that is social.  If I want an app that is going to give me good reviews and recommendations, I’ll go over to Yelp or just stick with Google Maps.  I can respect a company trying to pivot, but now Foursquare is pretty much out of bounds.

Happy FourSquare Day!

Apparently 4/16 is unofficially FourSquare Day, a day celebrating the location-based service.  I’ve been playing with both FourSquare and GoWalla since January and have enjoyed it. It’s definitely interesting to see what places that you frequent, then compare it what your friends are doing.  While I’ve enjoyed using FourSquare, there have definitely been a few tips that I would offer to those who are thinking about using the App:

  • Don’t be lazy about new locations. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people create a new venue when one already exists.  The FourSquare App shoulders a lot of the blame, but users should try mixing in a search if they can’t find their venue.  I also wish that services like FourSquare and Gowalla had some kind of location reconciliation, where you could combine similar venues.
  • Don’t check in at work. The whole point of using FourSquare is to gage where you choose to hang out.  Hanging out at work and at home are not the same as hanging out at a place you socialize.  In some ways I think that checking-in at a place you work at is cheating, especially if you work at somewhere that people go to socialize. There’s a certain type of pride in being the person that chooses to go to a place – a shop, a bar or a gym – rather than someone who is forced to be there the most often.
    • In addition, don’t check in at home.  Even if you make it hidden, no one really cares if you’re “off the grid”.
  • Don’t simply befriend everyone. I must concede that in the wrong hands FourSquare is a stalker’s paradise. The degree of control, however is who you befriend.  Where I’m very caviler on Facebook & MySpace, I’m pretty reserved on FourSquare.

Lastly, people joke about the PleaseRobMe web site, which pokes fun at the fact people broadcast when they’re not home. While there is a little validity to that, it’s easy for burglars to figure out whether you’re home.  For many it’s safe to assume that they won’t be home on weekdays between 9-5, and people probably can figure out you’re not home if there are no lights on in your house.  I think the risk of broadcasting not being home is relatively small, especially if you don’t list your address in Facebook.

What are some other tips that you’d have for new FourSquare users?