Keepin' It Simple

Teletechnophiliac 2.0

It's been a long time since I've written in here, and I realized that the way I was approaching this blog wasn't quite working for me - it ended being less of the spontaneous user experience talk and more of a research-a-topic-and-analyze.

So I'm starting again, and this time I hope I'll be more successful in keeping up with this.

A lot of my devices have changed since I last posted - I'm currently rocking a beautiful HTC One X (I call her Trinity) and have taken quite a liking to the iPad 3 I'm using for my job. The majority of the time I'm actually on one of these devices - the only reason I turn to my Mac is for instant messaging in the evening.

My phone is usually at my side all the time no matter what I'm doing or what device I'm working with, but I've got it on silent all the time since most of the day I'm at work in meetings. This has led to quite a few missed calls from concerned parents, hurried searches around the apartment, and desperate requests to friends to call me so I can locate it.

I wish my phone were smart enough to know when to pipe up and when not to.

Setting sounds is a manual operation on the major mobile OSes, whether it's dedicated hardware buttons or diving into the Settings app and turning the phone on silent. How often do people remember to turn it back on though? People are currently forced to remember that their phone is on silent and to undo it when they're okay with getting audio alerts.

Well then why not make the smartphone 'smarter' and have the user experience seem like the phone can learn when to turn sound on or off? If I'm in a meeting with my boss for example, I probably don't want to know about the text message about my plans for the weekend. It's one of the most common use cases I can think of off the top of my head, but the only way I could see it working is having audio settings as an option in my Calendar events on the phone. In this way, I could tie my phone's silence to a time period.

But that's not the whole picture there: when I take a step back and think about, the first question to ask is "why do people turn their phones on silent?". There are a ton of answers to that boil down to "I'm busy and I can't be interrupted". But there are different things that people are willing to be interrupted for, and what happens when they stop being busy?

Oh the research possibilities.

For the time being, getting my phone to turn the ringer on automatically not baked into my phone, so I'll just have to keep hunting for Trinity and keep trying to remember to turn the ringer on in the evening.

It's Not You, It's Me.

Dear Grooveshark-

A while ago, I wrote a brief blog post about the split music library. While it didn’t delve deeply into the core problem I wanted to address (my bad, I’m hoping this will help to explain what it is I really wanted to get at), the fact remained that I had a problem. My music was everywhere. The way I picture it is like having a very messy closet. I had songs strewn everywhere. I had the same song twice in a few places, and organizing my entire music library feels impossible.

And then I met Spotify.

Don’t get me wrong, Spotify is not perfect. I’m incredibly frustrated with a few things - for example, I have yet to figure out if it’s possible to push my own personal library to any other device that I have Spotify on (I’m guessing it’s not possible). Instead, I found myself having to recreate my library using Spotify’s catalog so I could get to my library elsewhere. Not cool, especially when I’m used to being able to just log into Grooveshark and find everything there.

(Plus, they don’t have Asian Kung Fu Generation)

But the big reason why I’m moving onto Spotify completely is best explained when we take a look at what I really do with my music:
  • Listen to a song/playlist: I really like the visualization of the playlist in Grooveshark. It’s nice to know when my playlist ends, but that really matters to me when I’m actively listening to my song or playlist (versus having it on in the background while I do something else), which is pretty rare for me.
  • Search for new songs: The way I really discover music is through Last.FM’s recommended radio. When I find a song I really like... unfortunately I check Spotify first. If it’s not there, I check Grooveshark second. This is because Spotify stores the majority of my music (and my personal library if I’m on my home device). Grooveshark is usually better for choices like Japanese music.
  • Music organization: I’m a little crazy about organization of my music. The way I view it is this:
    • My personal library: this is everything I’ve collected over the years that is stored locally on my device. Some of it I listen to still, some of it collects dust
    • The supplements: This is every other song that I have. It doesn’t exist on my device, but it’s associated with an account that I have with either Grooveshark, Last.FM, or Spotify.
    • Earworms: my current addictions. They can be either a supplement or in my personal library. I play them over and over.
So that’s the first level of organization. And then there are my playlists. Like my earworms, what I would like for my playlists to do is be able to contain music from both the supplements and my library. Trouble is, I can’t do that on Grooveshark because that would mean having to import my entire library. While having access to everything wherever I go is nice, I’m not sure I want to invest the time on doing that. Spotify on the other hand imported my playlists from iTunes directly, and I was able to add on my songs there. But even that’s not a perfect experience, because the task that I perform the most often is...
  • Play music on my phone: About 50-90% of my music consumption is done on my beautiful Samsung Focus. Like Grooveshark, Spotify’s mobile app requires having a paid account, but unfortunately, there isn’t a Grooveshark app on Windows Phone. Actually, the only devices I had a Grooveshark app on were my Palm devices, but that’s another story (sob). I can’t justify paying for both a Spotify and Grooveshark premium account when Spotify fits my mobile needs.

Which brings us to this moment. I’m sorry, Grooveshark, I like you a lot and I like where you’re going, but it’s time for me to move on. I’m trying to unify my music as much as possible and make it accessible to me anywhere and everywhere... that means I have to pick an app that will get me there.

For right now, it’s Spotify.

I’ll be by even after I move over since there’re a few songs left over, but for now... so long.

Dieter Rams Exhibit @ SFMOMA

I had the amazing opportunity to go see the Dieter Rams exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), and I can't even begin to describe how amazing the experience was. If you're looking for inspiration of any kind, I highly recommend this exhibit. Prior to going, I would recommend viewing the documentary 'Objectified' - I just discovered it recently and it includes a section on Dieter Rams himself. A lot of today's most popular designers, including Apple's Jonathan Ives, attribute their insights to Dieter Rams in it, and it will give you some pretty good background to the exhibit.

The first thing I saw when I got into the exhibit: a display of some of the furniture he's worked on, and the first thought was "so that's where IKEA got their ideas from". The pieces on display were more than just beautiful, but they were somehow timeless - for pieces that were designed between 1960 and 1970, these were pieces that could fit into today's design.
But the part that resounded with me the most was a room with a display on one side and writing printed all across the wall on the other. The writing on the wall was the Ten Principles of Good Design:

  1. Good design is innovative
  2. Good design makes a product useful
  3. Good design is aesthetic
  4. Good design makes a product understandable
  5. Good design is honest
  6. Good design is unobtrusive
  7. Good design is long-lasting
  8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail
  9. Good design is environmentally friendly
  10. Good design is as little design as possible
The beauty of these principles is that they apply to the design of most things irregardless of the product you're working on . You can find these themes in every piece of his work - from furniture to software to lighters and vacuums, and I can't tell you how inspiring it was to see. You'll have to come see it for yourself.