Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rant On Music Listening: Library Bifurcation, Offline Listening, and Bitrates

Listening to music is hard again.

Library Bifurcation

To listen to all the songs I like, I have to have some of my music in iTunes, and some of it in Rdio (I pay the $15/mo and always have). Once I decide which music I want to listen to, I fire up the App that gives me access to that music. What a mess! If I have a playlist in my mind that wants to have music from both services, I'm out of luck.

The vast majority of what I listen to is on Rdio, yet as artists get more and more frustrated with streaming revenues (effectively non-existent for the artist AFAICT), they're pulling more and more of their music off the streaming services (e.g. Rdio & Spotify). Whenever they do this, I either stop listening the music, or I get it on iTunes (99 times out of 100 iTunes tends to have the music I want, it's just that the App sucks so I try to stay out of it). Lame!

Offline Listening

Streaming sucks. Let's face it, it only exists because Rdio and Spotify (and other early streaming services) were trying to get around licensing regulations/rules/laws. It's a brutally horrible user experience. Using the network to stream music is wrought with technical issues that get in the way of a good listening experience. Chief among those issues is offline access to music. While Rdio recently revamped it's "Downloads"/offline experience (which is much better now), it's still a PITA to re-download gigabytes of music each time I re-install the player (change phones for example).

Apple completely screwed this up with their Cloud music offering (whatever it's called) stuff. Their transition to cloud-hosted-everything essentially is what caused me to drop iTunes, nearly altogether, as a listening platform. They moved my entire library into the cloud and gave me poor tools to work with it from there.

If you listen to music on the move (planes, trains, automobiles, bikes, running, skiing, international travel, etc), "streaming" is just a failure.

Bitrates

All the recent chatter about enhanced music listening services is ultimately good for the consumer, but the only service I've seen handle this appropriately is Rdio. If users want high bitrates, they can easily pay for them with Rdio, and dial the bitrate they ultimately want. I'm stoked that the industry is finally paying attention to bitrates. Apple screwed us all when iTunes was initially introduced with it's awful quality. We're playing catch up; finally.

Solution?

I want a platform agnostic DRM solution, so I can purchase, or access for free if the rights holder wants to offer it as such, high bitrate CDs or digital downloads of an album or track, and to have all the players support said DRM, so I can use the player of my choice. Streaming services can be cheap/free sampling products (like they kind of were originally), that upsell me into the platform agnostic DRM. After typing that, I feel like we've already tried this. What happened?!?!

If you want to steal the music, you can be an asshole and strip the DRM so the artist doesn't get paid.

Like I said, what a mess. The listening experience is suffering like it never has before.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Colorado, Legalized Cannabis, and Parenting

It's been a few years now since Colorado legalized recreational cannabis growing/use. I have friends and relatives in States/Countries that haven't legalized it yet, and I get questions from time to time from them about what life is like here given that it's legal. They engage as if life in Colorado must be radically different. It's not. Some impressions after a few years in...

  • The Colorado Department of Education has been able to distribute millions of dollars in grants to school districts throughout Colorado thanks to a portion of cannabis retail sales tax dollars being allocated to the DoE. Some of these grants have directly impacted our kids' schools. The kids themselves are aware, via the administrators/teachers, of where the money came from. It was funny to hear my son come home from school one day telling me XYZ was built because of "pot tax revenue."
  • No, the roads are not any more dangerous than they were when it was all illegal. At least, any increase in danger is not perceivable in my world. Maybe there's data out there saying otherwise, but I'm just speaking from my perception as random joe citizen.
  • No, there aren't people wandering around stoned out of their minds. Everyone has not turned into a pot-head.
  • Yes, access is as simple as wandering into any number of pot shops and buying what you want off of a shelf.
  • No, there isn't a pot shop on every block (though they certainly do have a presence).
  • No, kids are not allowed to have pot on school grounds.
  • Banking for retail outlets is a big problem. Apparently banks have been reluctant to take on pot shops as business customers b/c it's still "illegal" at the Federal level. This causes shop owners to manage unsafe amounts of cash and leaving them at higher risk of robbery.
  • Landlords (both retail and light-industrial for growing) have jumped at the opportunity to lease to these new businesses.
  • Stigma around pot has plummeted, and that has made the job of parenting around it 100x easier. It's not some thing that is out to kill all of us and ruin lives, and that makes the discussion around it with little ones much more sane and approachable.
  • No, our kids don't smoke pot (at least not that I know of :) ).
  • THC content in retail marijuana is a problem. There's no regulation on this front, so you can sell marijuana with really low THC levels, yet sell it as though they're high, which misleads the consumer. There will ultimately need to be regulation on this front. Disclosure around THC levels will be required at some point.
  • THC in food items (candy, baked goods, etc) is the biggest challenge as a parent. We've had to take extra precaution around the kiddos taking food/candy from "strangers" and even peers at school (who might have inadvertently come into possession of THC'd candy themselves). To our knowledge our kids, nor their friends, have not eaten any THC, but it's the greatest risk for sure. Packaging and selling of THC'd food items isn't regulated, so you can wind up with something that can get you high without even knowing it. Regulation will have to step in here.
  • The landrush to make a buck in the new industry has led to more than a few morons trying to distill/infuse/cook down a variety of things in an attempt to make intensely potent THC. They've hurt themselves in the process.


    It's still early, and the overall impact won't be known for decades. I would summarize my impressions thus far by saying that the legalization hasn't been a big deal, _at all_. It's been most noticeable in the context of more funding for schools (obviously a great thing). The sky hasn't fallen.

    Mexico's President Pena Nieto sounded like a DARE broken record six months ago in this interview with Bloomberg; skip to the 8-minute mark. I'm glad that here in the States we're progressing in terms of stopping the silliness around cannabis being illegal; long overdue. As for other states following suit, I'll bet a dollar the vast majority legalize it in the next few years, and that the Feds back off of it within five to ten years.


    Much ado about nothing.

    Friday, March 13, 2015

    Orrin Keepnews On Technical Leadership?

    Orrin, who recently passed away at 91 years of age, was an award winning Jazz music producer. As I was listening to this 1980's interview with him conducted by Terry Gross with NPR, his words about music production perfectly described how I've always viewed my role in building software products. If you're trying to lead others in the construction of something creative (e.g. software), take note.

    "The role of the producer is that of a catalytic agent. My job was to create the circumstances, set the scene, in such a way that the artist could behave at his creative best. Although my methods of doing that, and techniques, have undoubtedly changed and developed and have become more flexible over the years, that concept as I look back on it stayed with me for over 30 years." - Orrin Keepnews

    http://www.npr.org/2015/03/03/390467352/fresh-air-remembers-jazz-master-orrin-keepnews

    Sunday, March 1, 2015

    Week In Pictures

    Shot a full week's worth of interactions this time. The 1.2 50mm Canon fixed prime lens is a thing of beauty; dang hard to get focus right at apertures that big, but when you do, the results are incredible. I put an 'X' at the end of the captions of the pics where I think I got it right.

    Taking daughter to school. This one's gaining in complexity by the minute these days. X
    Quick conversation with daughter's teacher.

    Catching up over coffee with Nick Matheson. X
    Learning about what Alec Zopf is up to. X
    Talking toys over dinner with tired VC Brad Feld.
    Learning about cancer drugs and bioluminescence from Dan Rudnicki who's 1000x smarter than the rest of us. 
    Drinks with Doug Williams who came to town to talk with Brad and me about partnerships with a Built In Colorado group. X
    Tricia Bailey helping me get acquainted with the 10.10.10 crew on their last program day.

    Brad doing his thing with the CEOs of 10.10.10.

    Cameron saw me sitting alone before the main event. He came over just to say hi. Nice guy.

    Paul Talbot (photographer/partner at 23rdstudios.com) was in Denver shooting the earlier event, then came back up to Boulder for the next event du jour. X

    Elyse Kent; the mastermind who got Brad, Doug and me to open up about Gnip & Twitter's partnership. X

    More Doug. X

    Winding down a really fun day with Brad and Doug over yummy food/wine.
    Doug contemplating his next move.
    Jodi playing along.

    Couple's therapy with Deb.
    April; behind the eyes.
    Individual therapy with Jillian (yup... right after couple's).
    Someone who fully embraces the camera; David Cohen.
    Awesome Agile & food manufacturing discussion with Kyle Kuczun and Dan Heiges.
    Dan arriving late and pondering his drink order.
    Lunch with the guy who always seems to have it figured out; Todd Vernon. X

    Kelsey wielding a straight razor and a #1 clipper before my haircut.

    Hostess Aprilla at an awesome dinner party at our house. X

    Happy, fun, and new Boulder transplant, Wendy Hepworth.

    Another guy I can learn from; Isaac Hepworth

    Ian with a lot on his mind. X

    Melissa with a lot on her mind too. They have a baby forthcoming.