Spotify Web Player, or, “The Updates We Never Needed”

I do quite a lot of work on computers that aren’t mine. I rely on folders in the cloud and web-based applications- it’s just easiest for me, and incredibly cost-effective. I mean, I wouldn’t want to pay for Creative Cloud for the handful of times I need Premier Pro during the year.

So when I need to drown everything else out, I turn to Spotify. Specifically, I use the Spotify Web Player. It was a godsend among poor UI applications. Just find my playlist, start it, and as long as I’m running uBlock Origin or AdBlock (bleh) I don’t even get commercials (I’m a college student, do you really think I’d pay for premium?). All of my playlists are right there online, and I can snatch them and start them wherever I’d like.

Until it disappeared.

R.I.P. old Spotify Web Player (201?-2017) You were not great, but you provided the best background noise. (Image not mine [I hate Relient K])
Ok, perhaps “disappeared” is a bit strong. The web player is still there, but they’ve been rolling out an update that changes the entire UI. It caught me off guard and as someone who lives and will likely die by his Google Calendar app, I hate change. It wasn’t even properly set up, so during my 9:30 a.m.-12:00 working period, I had no Spotify music.

I had to rely on a YouTube playlist like a barbarian.

The new Spotify Web Player. Look at it. It’s horrible. Agree with me.

Gone is the…well, music. The entire first part of the day, songs wouldn’t even play. Thankfully, that got fixed later in the day. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to add songs to playlists, and impossible to add multiple songs at once.

It’s clunkier. The tracks on a listing have wider rows than are necessary and it takes up time scrolling to find the perfect song. Lists are gone from artist pages.

The PR wing of Spotify is in full-ion damage control mode on Twitter.

And, looking at the community forum that Spotify has set up for users to review their products, it’s clear that the dislike for the update isn’t isolated.

To put it into perspective, the “Yesterday” meant from this post is April 9, 2017. Lots of hate pretty quickly.

I’m using it right now because my playlists are so fire and I have no way to export them (yet?) and I just realized I can’t drag and drop songs into playlists anymore. That was arguably one of the best parts to the previous web player.

I. Am. Seething.

Granted, the awesome nerds on reddit have made a partial work-around, but users have to be on Chrome, since it’s a browser extension. I’ll hold out and wait to see if Spotify fixes it. Otherwise I’m finding some alternative to use.

New apps: f.lux and Twilight

I use f.lux on my laptop. It takes the computer’s location into account and begins removing blue light from the monitor a few minutes after sunset, and gradually removing more blue light until the wee hours of the morning.

It’s not super customizable; it only lets users adjust the day and night brightness levels. So nearly the same time every night it begins the process of eliminating blue light from my laptop.

It works great for me because I don’t do a whole lot of design work on my laptop. If I forget about an assignment that I have to design something for, I can disable f.lux for an hour by ticking a box in settings.

I use it daily (nightly, I suppose) and love it. I fall asleep faster now and the front page of reddit isn’t literally burnt into my retinas at night.

Twilight does the same thing as f.lux, but allows users to tweak settings a bit more than f.lux does. Users can decide the color temperature, intensity of the red light and screen dimming. It’s far more customizable, but sometimes after updates it doesn’t always stay on the set schedule.

I love Twilight because I can set multiple schedules for when the blue filter goes on; Sunday-Thursday, the filter starts earlier in the evening, and Friday-Saturday it goes on later in the night.

The pause button is also really great. When I went to iO Chicago, my tickets were on my phone to be scanned. Though the filter was already running, so it was as easy as pressing pause (which shows up on the notification swipe-down menu), letting the ushers scan and going on with my night.

Both the applications are great, and I’d recommend them to anyone who works late and goes to sleep immediately after. I know that f.lux recently added an Android version, but it’s root-only until it’s out of beta.

I’m always looking for new apps, so if you’ve got one that you’re using nonstop lately, drop it in a comment below and I’ll be sure to check it out!

Podcasts

Planet Money


Planet Money is, in my eyes, the quintessential podcast for journalism. It can pack a topic that would take other programs a solid 90 minutes to cover into episodes of about 20 minutes. I’ve listened to Planet Money for a few years now, and there are a few standout episodes:

The Matzo Economy

Don’t Believe The Hype

The Tale Of The Onion King

Peanuts and Cracker Jack (embedded above)

Finding The Fake-News King

The ever-rotating hosts have a phenomenal grip on economics and relaying it to laypeople. The show is set up like a longer radio broadcast. More often than not, there is audio from within the studio, accentuated with audio from in the field, which propels the story forward.

Twenty Thousand Hertz

Twenty Thousand Hertz is a recent find thanks to 99% Invisible. It’s all about sound design, and it’s still relatively new. Arguably, this is more podcast-y than Planet Money. Where Planet Money got its start as a radio show, Twenty Thousand Hertz is much more engineered. You can almost see the many different layers of audio working together in each episode.

It’s newer, so there aren’t as many episodes as Planet Money, but I still have favorites:

NBC Chimes (embedded above)

Sound of Extinction

From Analog to Digital

There’s one host here, examining a topic with the help of phenomenal sound additions and interviews from experts. If you ask me, he’s still looking for his “podcast voice.” I consider this the 99% Invisible of sound. It can take complex ideas about audio and package them in a way that anyone can understand and appreciate.

99% Invisible

99% Invisible is a hit for anyone wanting heavily edited, engineered, amazing-sounding audio stories about the design elements we face daily but rarely notice. Host Roman Mars also has the silkiest voice that’s like a jar of molasses being poured over your ears. Every intro of “This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars,” causes an immediate sense of calm and intrigue.

Mars, along with a staff of talented reporters and producers, create stories about the often-used but constantly unseen aspects of architecture, infrastructure, history, technology and a host of other topics.

I just started listening to 99% Invisible religiously in October, but I’ve gone through a sizable chunk of their content. My favorites are:

War and Pizza (embedded above)

Plat of Zion

Project Cybersyn

The Trend Forecast

Guerrilla Public Service

The beauty of 99% Invisible is that anyone can get into it, at any time. Each episode is self-contained like the previous ones, but is heavily engineered like serialized podcasts. It blends the ability to tell complex stories like Planet Money, and the high-quality sound design and editing that Twenty Thousand Hertz brings to the table.

I love podcasts. I listen to them all the time- walking to class, biking the trails near my house in summer, while working, and often just for leisure. I use Podcast Addict (the free version) on my phone, and Stitcher on my tablet on occasion.

I’d love to go into it in some capacity for a career- sound is so intimate and personal and the most perfect avenue for great storytelling. Shameless plug: I created a six-part podcast for an immersive learning project I was a part of in 2016. It’s even up for consideration in the batch of work we submitted for the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards. It’s embedded below, take a listen!

UPDATE: It won first for IASB Radio In-depth Reporting, and was runner-up for SPJ Region 5 awards!

What about you? Drop a comment below with any podcast recommendations, I’m always looking for something new to listen to!

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 was the next step in webpage evolution. If Web 1.0 consisted of static information, Web 2.0 held a focus on user-generated content, responsive design and ease-of-use.

Examples include social media sites, which are populated with user-generated content and form a feeling of community and inclusiveness. I think of Twitter as the quintessential Web 2.0 site, mainly because of its slim timeline, which lends itself to accessibility on many platforms.

A common thread that contrasts Web 2.0 with Web 1.0 is the importance of active use instead of passive use.  Web 1.0 is akin to an advanced, faster phone book. Users seek information, and have little additional use for the web page beyond that. Now, users might stay on only a handful of websites as digital citizens, being exposed to new information constantly in the form of timelines and feeds.