Friday, 26 August 2011

Google Please

Oh Google, could you do me a little favour please? I know you have a lot on your plate, what with Google Plus and whatever company your probably planning on buying next, but I really think it would be worth your while. You see, I’m a fan of Android, I like that adults are allowed to use it, as opposed to the mollycoddling iOS, but there is an area it falls short on, and that’s music. You’ve been making all the right gestures, but unusually Google, you just don’t seem to be thinking in the right direction.

People have ranted before about how poor the standard Android music player is, and clearly you’ve listened. It really is quite pretty now (even if it does still occasionally just stop playing mid song), and functions pretty smoothly and intuitively. The big problem is, which you don’t seem to have noticed, is that I don’t want to just listen to music on my phone, I want to listen to it on my pc too – and that’s where Apple resoundingly trumps you. It might be a lot easier to create a playlist on my phone now, but it would be even easier if I could create it on my pc and transfer it, and vice versa. iTunes does all this and more, but is such a cumbersome, demanding piece of software. You write such neat, clean straight-forward software – couldn’t you make us a simple music player. That I can easily add album art to. And sync music and playlists with my Android phone. You know, it could even integrate with G+ so that you can share what you’re listening too with friends.

There’s one more feature that you really must get on there. I was disdainful when Apple introduced it, but it does make sense - Automatically generated playlists. When you have a lot of music, and don’t have the time (particularly if you can only do it on your phone) to make playlists, auto-generated ones save the day. And the Apple algorithm doesn’t even seem to be that good – surely you Google, king of the algorithms, should be able to do something amazing there.

So Google, please, PLEASE, get your music in order, you could do it so well and so easily. 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Loving Lovecraft

HP Lovecraft has been on my 'to read' list for sometime, but it was only recently I picked up the lovely penguin paperback edition of the short story collection 'The Dunwich Horror' while browsing in Waterstones. The book is conducive to being read, and I quickly worked my way through the first story on a bus trip to Wales, the scenery of which perfectly mimicking the tale.

It was a pleasure to find a story written in 1928 so enthralling and atmospheric in a distinctly contemporary way, and a delight to realise that the praise heaped on Lovecraft from various horror writers (there's a quote on the cover from Stephen King) is thoroughly justified. The modern sensibility of the horror is no doubt a reflection of the massive influence his stories have had on modern horror and fantasy. It's quite palpable.

Lovecraft is clearly writing at a time in the early 20thC when modern science as we understand it was coming to the fore, yet there still lingered a residual 19thC sense of the mysterious and ineffable, hidden corners of our world full of ancient magics. His skill lies in melding together these visions of the world, so that ancient sacrifices and demon creatures from other realms but up against scientific analysis of mysterious objects that reveals chemical elements with heavier atomic weights then thought possible. As such, Lovecraft's over 80 year old stories, provide us with a bridge between those two worlds and gloriously provoke the imagination. It's a chilling and satisfying experience.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Google plus circles and streams

I've been having fun with Google plus this last week, while getting my head around the hybrid Facebook/Twitter structure of it. I found a great post by John Tropea on the differences between Google+ and Facebook/Twitter, and he sums up my initial confusion on how sharing with circles works. Essentially, when you post something to a circle, that whole circle won't see it in their stream unless they are all following you back, which is necessarily the case. I agree with John that this isn't very intuitive.

So, @Google, here's my simple suggestion to make it a little more intuitive: the little grey circle graphic next to each of your circles could represent what percentage of that circle follow you back - like a little circle graph. So if only half the people in one of your given circles follows you back then, then the circle outline is half red, half green (or some other colours), if 90% follow you back, then 90% of the little circle would look green, while a little 10% sliver would be red. I think this would be a quick, simple way for the user to see roughly how much of their intended audience might actually see their post.