Two Days With the HomePod – Jack Baty

Early reviews raved about the HomePod’s sound quality, and that clinched it for me.

I am in the same boat as Jack. Pre-ordered a HomePod and two days in, I love the sound quality -- HomePod sounds great soft or loud, with any genre of music, and as an upgrade over the built-in TV speakers when using Apple TV. As far as the "smart" half of the speaker, my needs are simple beyond music: control our HomeKit lights, set timers, add things to Reminders, play podcasts, and tell me the weather forecast. From everything I've read on actual smart speaker usage, those are the only reasons most people use smart speakers.

Of course, Alexa and Google Home have a different M.O.: Google as an index of all knowledge on the web and Alexa with a wide library of skills. I do have an Echo Dot and while the breadth of the skill library is impressive, a vast majority of the skills have very limited use cases. It is like shopping on Amazon, you know you can get almost anything there, but you keep buying the same small number of things you actually need. In the end, I used the Echo Dot for all the same reasons I use HomePod and the Echo Dot speaker is not even listenable.

The biggest miss with the HomePod is access to a calendar and multi-user recognition, but I'm sure that will come sooner than later. That's the thing -- the "negatives" are all software/services related and can be fixed with some software updates. The hardware is flawless.

Not to mention privacy: I'd much rather trust a smart speaker with the privacy model of Apple and the HomePod, than Google and Amazon -- two companies looking to sell me something or sell me to advertisers... or both.

Long story short, I highly recommend HomePod if you are an Apple Music user. As of now, the HomePod only makes sense for subscribers. For the rest of you, I'd wait for those future updates and scoop one up without delay.

Update on my Apple Music experiment... A, K, Q, U, X, Y, Z and # artists now done. (Loved 58 albums + 26 songs.) Even if this doesn't help the algorithm, I am re-discovering some good music.

Day One: Apple Music experiment

As I posted this AM, I am embarking on an experiment to hopefully improve my experience with the vast amount of music available to us via streaming services. Ideally I'd like to have better exposure to new, good music that fits my varied tastes and help me re-surface music in my library. The 'For You' tab in Apple Music seems like the best place for both, so I am going to work through my library and prune unwanted music, as well as 'Love' songs and albums I like a lot.

This AM I took an inventory of my pre-experiment status: 26 individual songs and 47 albums loved to date. Not sure when I did those over the last few years, but it's not a lot considering I have 3,862 albums (40,750 songs) in my library and have logged many hours listening to music.

I also wrote down some basic criteria to use:

  • If I really like a vast majority of the album, album will get 'Loved'
  • If it’s just a handful of songs and don’t care to hear the other, songs will be 'Loved' individually
  • I will remove any albums that I have no interest in any longer

Today I kicked off the experiment by tackling the 'A' artists:

  • Loved 2 AC Newman songs
  • Loved 1st ASAP Rocky album: Long Live A$AP
  • Loved 3 AC/DC songs
  • Loved 1 The Adolescents song
  • Loved 1 Alexi Murdoch song
  • Loved 1 Alvvays song
  • Loved 1 ‘…And you will know us by the trail of dead’ song
  • Loved Anderson .Paak’s Malibu
  • Loved Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha
  • Loved 1 Animal Collective song
  • Loved 1 The Anniversary song
  • Loved 5 Arcade Fire albums
  • Loved 1 Archers of Loaf album
  • Loved 6 Arctic Monkey songs
  • Loved 2 At The Drive In albums, plus 2 songs
  • Loved 2 Avail albums
  • Loved 1 The Avalanches song
  • Loved 2 The Avett Brothers songs, 1 album
  • Loved 1 AXIS album

My initial thoughts: it's a LOT of work. This might be a lot to tackle in 30 days. I'm also thinking it's best to not go in order, as some days might require a smaller section (like the X, Y, or Z artists) to keep momentum.

I certainly won't be posting this amount of detail everyday, but I do plan on checking in occasionally to update the status of the project and any insight I might glean. I will be logging the detail I posted above, so I am thinking I will include that in a single location for reference. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact it has on the For You section.

And finally, I stumbled across the 'Find & Follow Friends' feature of Apple Music and started the process of following friends there (thought it seems to take a while to connect people)... I did notice one follow finally went through and the 'Friends are Listening To' section showed up on the For You tab today. So another good discovery path! Anyway, you can follow me there if you'd like: https://itunes.apple.com/profile/endonend

Stay tuned!

Update: Log is here.

I came up with an experiment to help with Too Much Music. Each day for the next month I am going to spend time with my Apple Music library, reviewing a letter of the Artists section, pruning & loving albums to see how it impacts the For You tab & discovery. Will report back.

Too Much Music

Too Much Music: A Failed Experiment In Dedicated Listening : The Record : NPR

The diluvial nature of modern media leaves us little time to pause. The challenge, then, is to cultivate the patience and the discipline necessary to engage more deeply than the modern world allows. Just because we are flooded doesn't mean we have to drown.

I was thinking about this subject the other day as I rushed through browsing the week's new releases of bands I've never (or vaguely) heard of before. Judging each by 15 seconds or so of listening. Those that passed the test got saved to my library and (most likely) never given a full listen.

It's frustrating because I, like the NPR writer, poured over my record/cassette/CD collection growing up -- the artwork, packaging, and reading lyrics. It was crucial to the experience.

Picking new music then, for me, was a matter of record label or what ex members of some other band I liked were in the band. It involved a monetary commitment too and way more than 15 seconds.

As someone with varied and eclectic tastes, I do like the idea of having so much music available though. It allows me to listen to any type of music as the mood strikes. However, the struggle to deal with and manage it all feels so overwhelming sometimes.

I have been getting better and deleting stuff out of my Apple Music library but there are still way more hours of music than I could possibly listen to in the rest of my life. Maybe I should spend more time pruning? No idea.

Anyone have tips/tricks on how to manage this?