Sunday, January 18, 2015

Spotify gets annoying

I was listening to the Christian worship group Hillsong on Spotify the other day when the service suddenly played me a Katy Perry song. And then another top 40 pop song. And then I finally got back to Hillsong.

Weird, I thought. Normally, Spotify intersperses songs into its shuffle playlist (for freeloaders like me) with songs that are at least related - by the same artist, or in the same genre. So what I want to listen to gets interrupted but at least by something that isn't a jarring departure from what I chose. I accepted it as the price to pay for not paying the price for Spotify's premium service.

On my drive home from work Friday afternoon I'm listening to the new Steve Taylor album Goliath. I get through 2 songs and then MILEY CYRUS plays. OH COME ON NOW! Then another Steve Taylor song and suddenly: Coldplay.

So I switched to my Music app and started listening to other things.

Of course, I could pay the $10 a month to get the full service and skip Spotify inserting annoying songs. But on the iPad, you can listen to anything on Spotify without having to go through the shuffle play-only option that rules the iPhone app free mode.

Am I annoyed enough at Spotify that I'm going to hook my iPad Mini up to my iPhone adapter in my car and use my iPhone hotspot to stream entire albums in my car without having to listen to Miley Cyrus?

You bet I am.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Blogging platform showdown: Google+ versus Blogger

As I am wont to do from time to time (gee, that sounds familiar), I've switched up my blogging routine with a focus more on this blog on Blogger than my Google+ site. As you'll see from the embedded Google+ post below, that's a change up from my routine last August.

But the fact that I can embed that post here is one of the reasons why I've gone back to Blogger over Google+ - it's way more flexible. I can embed tweets, Instagram or Flickr photos, public Facebook posts, hyperlink to my heart's content, upload my own photos, videos, use Twitter cards, draft and save posts, schedule posts, etc. Did I mention embedding tweets? I love embedding tweets.
Noted tech blogger +Mike Elgan was the person essentially responsible for me using Google+ as a blogging tool, and it is a good, straight forward service: text and a photo (or photos) or a YouTube or native Google+ video or sharing a link. And while Google+ has some tremendous features that you really can't find anywhere else, they're mainly photo related, such as their Auto Awesome photos and movies.

As an actual blogging tool, it's not very feature rich at all, and doesn't allow for any real cross-platform content embedding. To be fair, it's primarily a social media platform, like Facebook, and not a blogging tool per se. But it's become a popular blogging platform in part due to folks like +Mike Elgan and others who have promoted it as the place to be for a smarter discussion.

And, indeed, Google+ is much more of a community than Blogger. I consider this blog a fairly stand-alone platform that I have to "market" if I want people to read it. With Google+, my fairly reasonably sized circle of followers are there to comment and reshare my material. So I get more feedback on Google+ than I do here.

My Google+ page
It's also worth noting that the big downside of Blogger remains that, even in 2015, it's a tool that is best used on a desktop. It's iOS app hasn't been updated in forever, and it has way fewer mobile features than Google+ does. On the road on my iPhone or iPad, I'm far better off using Google+ as a blogging tool than Blogger. It also helps that Google+ has an auto-upload of my iOS Camera Roll feature, which makes it far easier to share photos while on vacation or otherwise travelling.

Blogger may be more advanced technologically than Google+ in many ways, but at the same time, it also feels like a service that Google is not investing any time or resources in to significantly improve.

So, in the end, it depends on whether you want Google+, "new and simple" or Blogger, "old but robust."

Obviously, based on my changing preferences of the last several years, I go back and forth. These days, I'm seeing Google+ more and more as basically a "supersized" Twitter - it's people posting long-form opinions with a photo instead of 140-character opinions with a photo. If Twitter is a micro-blogging service, Google+ is a macro-blogging service for people who want a straight-forward, generally feature-free publishing.

But for people who want something a bit more sophisticated, if a little worn and aged around the edges - and I'm that category - I need something like Blogger or WordPress or a more full featured blogging site.

Which is not to say I'm abandoning Google+. Heck, in six months, I may change my mind completely again and go back to making that my primary blogging place again. As I am wont to switch up my blogging routine from time to time ...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sorry, Canada, no Twitter analytics for you

At least, not yet.

With no real fanfare before Christmas, Twitter let it be known that they now provide built-in analytics in their iOS app that lets you track just how unpopular ... er, how great your tweets really are. Yeah, that's the ticket!

The analytics first popped up for me when I was on vacation in Maui a couple of weeks ago, back when they were supposedly in the slow roll-out period. I thought I got lucky and it hit my account early.

When I came back to Canada, the analytics disappeared, and then briefly reappeared for me one day. Then they disappeared again.

I posted about it on Twitter and got this response:
And this was confirmed by a Twitter engineer:
So, while we wait for the global rollout, the good news is that firing up my VPN and reloading Twitter can bring the analytics back pretty quickly. I realize now that it was during times I was using my VPN that I could see the analytics in Canada in the post-postponed global rollout period.

All that said, I sure hope that Twitter analytics lasts longer than some other recent changes that Twitter made and then quickly unmade.

Friday, January 2, 2015

We saw whales in Hawaii ... and you won't believe what happened next!

Now that we're back from the Winnipeg portion of our Christmas vacation, I have time to post some stuff from the Hawaii portion of our Christmas vacation. And use a totally Facebook inspired click-bait headline to bring you here.

Here's a video of our zipline trip that Google+ made with their Auto Awesome feature. Basically, I uploaded all my pictures and videos, and ROBOTS did this.

And this is our vacation wrap-up video, full of whales, and food and more whales, and ziplines.

For those who just want whales, here's raw video of the "competition pod" that we saw while whale watching. It was an amazing experience.