Sunday, May 25, 2008

13 things I would work on to make Pandora better

Pandora is a great service, it plays music I like, and I'm often finding new music that I like. It has almost completely replaced my desktop music player when I'm at my computer.

In no particular order, here are some of my suggestions on how to improve Pandora. (Disclaimer: I use Pandora, and due to my affiliation would like to see what's best for the company)

  1. Link to Wikipedia for Artist information. I found a new band I've never heard of and I like this song. Great! I go into the song menu and I click on 'Artist'. I get a a short blurb about the artist if I'm lucky, worst case I get a nearly blank page. Link to the wikipedia content, because your pages suck.

  2. Don't skip songs I like. This new song is awesome! I'm going to create a new station from it (which I prefer to creating stations from artists - you get a more focused station). Wait! You found what I wanted, but you stopped playing what I was listening to and switched to the other station, and I don't get to finish the song I liked.

  3. Dump Flash. It takes a lot of memory on my computer. I've noticed times when I have to reload the whole page, usually when changing stations. I'm not the only one that notices how buggy your implementation in Flash is. Wendy Boswell at Lifehacker writes that she sees a 23% increase in CPU usage when Pandora is in a tab in Firefox, or in it's own window.

  4. Play music videos. Link to YouTube pages, allow artists to upload their own videos, make your own integrated player. I don't really care how you do it, as long as if I want to watch a video you make it easy to find it.

  5. Give me statistics. How do I find out what kind of music I like? I want something better than just what stations I've created. I want to see what song's I thumbed up/down, what genres or musical attributes the song has. I want to see the trends in my music preferences since I started using the service.

  6. Let your users contribute. By providing basically only thumbs up/down, you are missing out on lots of data. I know you have your audiophiles who rate the songs, and they do a great job for the most part, but open up that data to your users, and allow your users to add value to your data. Tell me what the 400 characteristics for songs are, not just 30 or so. This could go well with a plugin architecture.

  7. I'm tired of this song. Give me the option to set how long you don't play a song for, instead of always 30 days.

  8. Make it easier to share radio stations. I don't use the social network built into Pandora at all, and I don't know anyone who does. I know that I can find the link to a station and send that to a friend, but I still want it to be easier, and see more people doing do. Yes, there is a link on the station to "Share This Station With a Friend" but the form only takes email addresses, which is not the easiest way for me to send things to my friends.

  9. Pandora Mobile. I would gladly pay the $36 per year fee to access if I had an AT&T or Sprint phone, but I don't, and I probably wont switch carriers until I can get a web and flash enabled phone.

  10. Song Queue. Provide a list of the next songs to be played on a station. I know this can change dynamically, but that doesn't prevent you from doing this. I should be able to remove a song that I know I don't like before it plays.

  11. Pandora can get too repetitive. The other night I was listening to a station, and heard a familiar song. I looked back and it was played only 21 songs ago, and it wasn't even a song I gave a thumbs up to. That just made me waste one of my "6 per hour, per station, or per QuickMix". [from FAQ] What does skipping a song do? How many skips do I get per hour?

  12. Don't keep playing a song I dislike. I know you have weird regulations that require you to do this, but you need to do more than suggest I switch to another station. Give me a list of stations I can switch to, or even better, this is a good time to recommend a new station to me.

  13. Sleep timer. Pandora times out and stops playing music after 3 hours. Why not let me set a timer for earlier as well, 3 hours is too long for me to listen to when I go to sleep, which is something I occasionally do.

Protip 1: What keyboard shortcuts are available? I personally didn't know there was any, and you have to click on the "tuner"(where you change the volume) before you can use them.

Protip 2: Start a classical station.

My stations are here. Send me some links to your favorite stations in the comments.

UPDATE (11:48pm 5/25/08) Another song repeats itself for me, but this time only 3 songs after it was last played, that is unacceptable.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

PSA: social|median invites

I'm sure there's more than enough of these around now, but I just received an email saying that I have 5 invites which expire on Friday May 23rd. Just use my username ryansv if you want to try out the site. I haven't used it much, but it's worth checking out.

On May 14, 2008, your socialmedian account has been specially provisioned for you to be able to invite 5 additional people to check out the socialmedian alpha. These special invites are set to expire on Friday May, 23, 2008.

To invite your friends to the socialmedian alpha, you can direct them to:

1. go to
2. click on "create an account"
3. Instruct them to use your socialmedian username as their special invite code.

We are getting close to a public beta of socialmedian -- probably about 4-6 weeks away. Having more of your friends try the service will help us get there faster and help with the launch.


-the socialmedian team

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Friendfeed unavailable

I'm surprised I haven't seen a huge uproar from all the Scoble followers.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Integrating Social Media and Education, the students are already there

Julian Baldwin has written up a series of interesting thoughts about social media from his perspective. Go and spend some time reading them, they're not very short but it's worth your time if you're interested in social media.

I personally connected with the second article, where Julian talks about how social media could be used in furthering education.
"There are many benefits in asking students to maintain academic blogs. If a student writes an essay they can password protect it. Instead of using paper their essay can be graded online. Essays can link to references, which makes it easy for teachers to verify sources and prevents students from making up sources they never used or excuses for why they don’t have it but claim to have it done."

I just finished taking a class at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) called Social Implications of Information Processing(class website). During the duration of the class I posted some of homework assignments from it. The assignments were all approximately one page responses to a prompt question.

This was not required for the class, nor did I really mention the website to the professor or the teaching assistants. I used the idea of posting to this blog to require myself to write articles that I thought the public audience of my blog would enjoy.

I also kept all of the articles very current, sometimes writing in response to things I had read online earlier that day. This, along with being able to link to the sources directly in the articles, I felt really increased the quality of the assignments.

Julian also mentions an interesting idea about letting the general internet using public determine a portion of the grade.
"Students could add work to YouTube, Flickr, Helium etc. to let the masses rate it and determine a small portion of their grade."

This idea however, I am wary of. I believe that students would tailor their assignments to entertain the internet populace, instead of the academic community, and the community in their field of research. This was not a large problem for me, as I'm a student in computer science, and the few people who read this blog would (I feel) be interested in the topics I was given.

One problem many of the students had with the class was that 30% of the grade was determined by "class participation", which was largely determined by awarding up to 3 points per class, 1 for each time you raised your hand and was called on. I (along with some of the other students) immediately realized there was not enough time to include all of the approximately 50 students in a 2 hour class. That's 150 times students would have to talk, more than once every minute.

That being said, it would have been much more reasonable to have class participation be awarded for participation that occurs online. We did use the forums of the Blackboard (wikipedia) system, however, this was used mainly for completing and turning in assignments, and not much collaboration occurred there. For the record, I am not a fan of the MyWPI implementation of Blackboard.

Here's the list of all the assignments I posted online, along with the grade I received on them.

There was one other paper I wrote which I did not put online, it was written quickly and I didn't feel the quality was up to par. It was about "exploitation of the intellectual property right legislation".

Putting my work online certainly kept me responsible for actually doing the work, and as a side effect, also started me actually writing on the blog. I would love to see social media become more integrated with education. If we can make it easier for students to communicate with each other, I truly believe it would benefit everyone involved.

P.S. Alternate title for this post was "Social media in your classrooms, enhancing your communications"

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Google Reader updates again, provides major usability increase

The Google Reader team has just released another update to their product, for those of us who increase the font size on the page. The new feature lets you increase the font of only the current article you are reading.

If this sounds simple and even useless to you, then you are not someone who occaisonally does increase the font. This is a very welcome addition for me. Now when I'm reading with an increased font size, the interface doesn't blow up as well, making what used to be nearly useless usable again.

Here's what used to happen to the interface (notice the buttons and search box at the top collide):
Google Reader with font increases everywhere, making the interface unusable

And here's what it looks like now (interface original size, just the post has font increased)
Google Reader Screenshot featuring the new font increases on only the current article

The only minor bug I've found so far is the current folder I'm reading also has it's font increased, which I actually don't mind so much, in fact it may not be a bug at all. However, when I switch to all items from a folder, the original folder font size is still increased.

Good job Google Reader team, especially Mihai Parparita, keep it up.

EDIT (3:19pm 5/8/2008): Forgot to mention, I'm using the Better GReader plugin for Firefox, but I had the same usability issues with the standard version of Google Reader

Google has become constant part of my internet experience

Quick poll, how many tabs do you have open in your web browser, and how many of them are Google services?

I have 9 tabs open, and this includes Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Reader. Oh, and those 3 tabs never close.

Leave your answers in the comments

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pandora under maintenance

Screenshot of Pandora's maintenance message: Pandora is conduction system...

This showed up when I tried to "thumbs up" a song. Anyone know what's going on? There's no mention of it on the official Pandora blog. I wonder if it's just routine, or if they plan to roll out some new features. Here's hoping to the second option.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Google Reader allows me to (surreptitiously) alter the text of any article.

I glad to see Google Reader's new features. I saw another article that I received from Louis Gray's Google Reader Shared Items again. Thanks for keeping on top of the world for me Louis. :-)

The (current) top item in my Shared Items feed shows that you can alter the text of any article, I couldn't find the permalink in my Shared Items Feed.

Editing the text of an article on Google Reader

This could lead to misleading people by changing the content, or even adding more content. It could end up with me not being able to trust content from shared items anymore.

The edited article shown in my Shared Items on one of my friends accounts.

The article appears in my shared items feed with the article changed with the text I included. Note that you can alter full html markup of the article, potentially leading to other sorts of attacks.

Hopefully Google changes this back soon, I'm content with them continuing to post the full article in my Shared Items feed.

UPDATE: Another problem I've had with the new Notes feature is that there is no way to edit the notes (as far as I can find), all you can do is un-share them.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Google Calendar is unavailable - One of the seven signs of the apocalypse?

It's not Gmail or Google Reader, but these things always unnerve me. Anyone else getting this?

UPDATE: It's back now. The world is still here.