I’ve been using Spotify for 2+ years now, it deserves a longevity award. It also deserves some sort of honor for being one of the few subscription services I dole out for on a monthly basis – placing it alongside Netflix – and everybody has Netflix.
In spite of a number of other options, including from mega companies like Google and Amazon, I still prefer Spotify. It is entirely free if you don’t mind the ads and the premium account is $5/mo.
That said, I do have a few things I’d love for Spotify to incorporate:
Tagging – Playlists are cool, they are like categories, but everyone knows that you need categories and tags (ala WordPress). I like creating playlists – but what if I want to listen to a song on a specific subject? Or what if the song is on multiple subjects? Yes, I can create multiple playlists – but this quickly becomes cumbersome.
Listens – It would be great if Spotify displayed how many times one has listened to a song. I am an explorer – always trying out new bands, new albums – and oftentimes forgetting who I’ve listened to previously and which songs. If I could see how many times I’ve listened to the song it would allow me to more efficiently explore.
Searching Artists, Songs, Albums - I’ve listened to a lot of artists and this list of artists (or songs or albums) can become overwhelming. Sometimes I know I want to listen to an artist that begins with some letter or word, but I can’t remember its name in its entirety, it would be great if I could search only what is in “Your Music.”
Language / Topic Filters – I know that Spotify includes “explicit content” warnings on songs, but I’ve listened to far too many songs that had “explicit content” and weren’t marked as such. This becomes important when (a) one is playing the music in the presence of others who might find the content offensive, (b) one finds it offensive, or (c) one is allowing Spotify to post to one’s Facebook timeline and has an audience that includes individuals of young(er) age for whom such content might be inappropriate.
Shazam Functionality - If I am listening to the radio in the car I still have to use Shazam to find out and save what song I’m listening to. Adding this functionality into Spotify’s mobile app would be huge…especially since Shazam now makes me integrate with Rdio.
Which of these features? Or what other features would you like to see in Spotify?
Once upon a long time ago I thought about writing a review of Doodle, an online scheduling tool for simplifying the process of creating meets in which all participants can actually participate.
Recently I had the need to schedule another meeting with a group of individuals who have incredibly conflicting and variable schedules, so I decided to utilize such a scheduling tool again…and, of course, I went to Doodle first…
But I love to explore and curate and find the best way to do x and so I went through my semi-regular routine when evaluating something new I want to utilize:
Google relevant terms like “Doodle competitor,” “Doodle alternative,” “online scheduling tool,” “online meeting app,” and so on.
Go to AlternativeTo and see what alternatives they had to Doodle.
Visit a bunch of these options and review them in a hasty manner.
I visited a number of options like Dudle, DO’ZZ, SelectTheDate, ScheduleOnce, and so on. For various reasons I didn’t settle on any of these…but then I returned to one of the sites I’d written off for aesthetic reasons (it ain’t very pretty): WhenIsGood. After playing around with it a bit I was quite happy and have been using it since.
Let me walk you through its pages and you’ll see how simple and fairly intuitive it is. First we have our dashboard (“your account”).
Its very simply – essentially you see a list of events you have created and you can view, edit, or delete the events. I assume that detach allows one to remove the event from your account (you can use this service w/out creating an account).
Somewhat hidden at the top right you see a link to create a new event. The enter results code is for those who create events w/out accounts – its a unique string that identifies their event and allows them to access it.
I’ve blacked out a few small areas – mainly b/c they had my email address…which is floating around the internet, but I decided not to make any more available than it already is. There are a billion and one ways to get in contact w/me.
Under the events I blacked out the actual links to the events, they are clickable and allow you to view the event.
Now lets say we decide to create a new event, here is what we will see:
It isn’t the most intuitive interface, but if you mess around for five minutes you can figure it out. Note that you can set the length of the meeting, give the event a name like, “My Super Awesome Surprise Birthday Party For Myself.” There is that strange little slider bar above the calendar, use this to make the size of the calendar (not how many days, just its dimensions on the screen) larger or smaller.
But there are really a few more options we need if we are going to create a helpful scheduling event, so we click on Show Options which shows us this:
That is better. Now we can select the days we want to have displayed on our calendar. In my case I was scheduling a recurring event, which When Is Good doesn’t seem to inherently have any options for, so I just chose a week in the future and let people pick off those days, knowing that the event would then recur on a weekly basis.
Now click Create Event and you are all set….Right? Nope. You’ll get an error message, you need to “paint” some time slots. You are the first visitor to your event even before it is created and you get to determine what days/times will even be an option to folks when they view the event. Once you’ve selected your desired days/times you can successfully create the event. You’ll be given a unique URL you can share with anyone else via any method you choose (email, Facebook, Twitter, hand-written note, whatever). When someone visits this unique URL they will see this:
We could have customized the directions, as to me “painting” times is not very intuitive, I’d suggest something like, “Please click on each day/time slot you are available to attend.”
The individual wouldn’t see all the options I have at the top right, since in this screenshot I’m logged into my account, but at the bottom right they’d have a spot to enter their name and email and send the response.
Now we get to our last screen, the results screen:
Now I see the calendar I created with info. filled out by the individuals I invited to the event. The green highlighted spaces are the slots where all respondents are available (I told you, crazy schedules).
Next to each of the remaining time slots are little dots, the dots indicate how many individuals cannot attend at that day/time. If I put my mouse over a time slot it will show me who can/can’t come and if I put my mouse over a name (under responses on the left-hand side) it will show me all the slots they selected as available highlighted in green.
As you can see, it is a functional although not aesthetically pleasing tool. It isn’t entirely intuitive, but its simplicity makes it easiest enough to figure out with a few minutes stumbling around.
Why Not Doodle?
I decided not to use Doodle b/c of the pricing essentially. If you are a business or an organization that will frequently utilize online scheduling – go with Doodle, it has more features, the pricing is reasonable, and it is more aesthetically pleasing…but if this is just an occasional thing, When Is Good will do just fine.
Feedback for When Is Good
Here are a few unsolicited suggestions to the folks over at When Is Good to take their application to the next level:
Include dates on your What’s New page so we can tell if you have been working on the app recently.
Redesign the aesthetic layout, center the main screen elements, make new event stand out from the rest of the menu options.
Premium with When Is Good
When is Good does offer a premium version at $20/yr. which is around half of Doodle’s lowest paid plan. It adds a few more options, but nearly as many as Doodle. If I was you and willing to pay, I’d go with Doodle.
 This isn’t normal for items I’ll be using once-off, but I plan on using the scheduling tool more frequently, and imho, it is a lot easier to get people using the tool you want from the get-go than to change to something new half-way…since it oftentimes takes dragging kicking and screaming individuals long distances to get them to use any such tool in the first place. ↩
 If I spent a decent amount of time on each site I’d spend my entire life reviewing these sorts of sites…which I don’t have time for…this means, that on occasion, I don’t always, always get the best tool…b/c a tool that I write-off early ends up being the best…Still, I like to think I usually find the best and almost always find a tool that is more than sufficient for my needs. ↩
On June 27th, 2013 I began anticipating Soylent, talking about Soylent, impatiently waiting for Soylent to become available. I signed up for a week’s supply of Soylent on June 10th and it arrived on July 22nd.
Inside was a long sheet with instructions…I’m not a fan of the big sheet…What am I supposed to do with this? Unless I hang it on my way there is no easy way to store it.
You can click on the above image to see how long the instructions really where, but it would have consumed too much space on the page for me to embed the image here.
Next we had the bags of Soylent and the bottles of oil. You can see a picture below.
Theoretically, I should have received a package before this one with my welcome pack – which was to include a stainless steel measuring cup and an airtight pitcher as pictured below:
But I hadn’t and I didn’t for quite some time. I attempted using some of my own implements to make Soylent but had mixed successes. If this was what Soylent tasted like, I wasn’t going to stick with it. After a few tries I decided I would just wait until my welcome package came.
Ohh, and yes, I sent an email reporting the missing welcome package on the 23rd and of course received the usual automated reply the same day. It would be August 9th before I would receive a reply from Soylent and then to be informed that “I have forwarded your concern to our shipping department…” Then silence. Finally, on August 18th I received an email informing me that my starter kit was on its way.
Okay, that is a pretty ridiculous wait…the organizational side of Soylent has been extremely underwhelming…I’m not sure all of what happened behind the scenes, but, honestly, I don’t care that much if Soylent is good and works and if they learn from their mistakes – which, it seems (I hope), they are doing.
On a side note, the disorganization worked out to my advantage as I received a second shipment of Soylent by accident and when I asked what I should do with it they told me to keep it. I was pretty happy about that (though I feel bad for folks who ordered far before me and way more and still have not received their Soylent).
But How About It, Is It Good?
Now that you have heard about the nightmare of procuring my Soylent, lets talk about Soylent itself. It is a very fine mix and comes in bags that each contain three meals. I found trying to make Soylent in smaller portions to be a hassle – not only because of measurements and so on but because the powder is so fine that it puffs up into the air and lands everywhere while scooping.
In any case, I moved to making a whole packet at a time and it was so much easier. Okay, I know for those of you who cook, you are rolling your eyes – and yes, in the distant past I did sometimes cook – but the whole point of Soylent is to save time and improve nutrition.
Making Soylent was now simple – pour in the powder, add a bottle of oil, and then fill the rest of the pitcher with water. Screw on the air-tight cap and shake for around sixty seconds. Place in the refrigerator, remove when ready to consume, shake for five to ten seconds, then pour yourself a glass and enjoy.
Soylent tastes a bit like a milk shake. It has a pleasant flavor, though one I can’t place. Compared to any other powdered drink (Shakeology, RAW Meal), the “graininess” is almost non-existent.
It tastes good, the texture is good, and its easy to make – sweet! Another surprising and positive note is that it uses water not milk or a milk substitute and yet tastes better than Shakeology with (in my case) almond milk! Seriously, if you didn’t see the batch mixed, you’d swear it had to have a dairy base.
So, I like my Soylent and I intend on continuing to consume it. Right now I average two meals a day of Soylent and one meal elsewise. I allow myself to eat whatever I desire for that third meal – but my cravings for unhealthy foods seem to have lessened somewhat (not completely).
Should you get Soylent? Sure. Just be prepared to wait a bit. I think organizationally they are getting there, but with the delays initially as well as the huge demand, and then the ongoing demand for resupplies, it is going to be a while before Soylent is working smoothly.
A Few Importantish Notes
It Goes Bad
One of the great things about Soylent is that it lasts forever (hyperbole) in powder form. Something I didn’t realize until I received my Soylent is that once it has been mixed with water it needs to be consumed within two days. Apparently due to the nutrient richness of the drink, even while being refrigerated bacteria multiply quickly. I would like to know more about the health implications of this.
I oftentimes eat food far past its expiration date – especially dairy alternatives (almond milk, soy milk) and don’t have any problem…so I’d probably ignore this warning except after posting on the forums I learned that the bacteria make the taste go bad quickly – so its not just filled with bacteria, it tastes nasty too.
Still, I’ve been consuming Soylent over a two to may three day period and haven’t experienced issues thus far…and making it in this size batch saves me from measuring, etc.
Don’t Forget The Oils!
Each time you use a bag of Soylent you are supposed to add the oils as well – which provide some important aspects of Soylent’s nutrition. Being ADD, I have on occasion forgotten to put the bottles into the Soylent. This doesn’t bother me, but it is a dilemma – what am I supposed to do with these bottles of oil?
There was a lot of discussion of increased flatulence when using Soylent which, it is hypothesized, is caused by the bacteria in our stomachs not knowing how to handle nutritional food and the replacement of some of these bacteria with better bacteria that do consume this food.
I had no intention of mentioning flatulence, b/c I really don’t like talking about it. I was never a fart guy joker…but I must mention it, b/c it radically increases flatulence and it smells horrific.
This goes away after a few days – but my recommendation – start Soylent when you aren’t spending a lot of time with people…and please, give your spouse a break and sleep on the couch…or at least let them sleep on the couch.
My plan at this juncture is to continue Soylent 2x daily long-term. We’ll see if I grow sick of the taste…which is very possible.
I haven’t noticed any huge changes in my health, but that may come with time. I also am hoping to get my blood drawn and analyzed every quarter by WellnessFX so I can monitor my health, especially vitamin levels, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Wrapping It Up
Soylent is great – I’m exceptionally pleased with the product itself. The company has some work to do – and seems to be doing it. I haven’t noticed any amazing positive health effects, but I’m hoping over time it works positively. I’ll provide future updates as I’ve been on it longer and can analyze how I respond to the taste with continued consumption and whether I see any health changes positive or negative.
 The reason I wanted to do smaller servings was b/c Soylent goes bad after it is made and I wasn’t sure I could consume an entire package of Soylent quickly enough. ↩
 I discovered it isn’t really, really, really air-tight. I didn’t have room to put the pitcher standing up in my refrigerator (it is a mini) so I put it on its side – this worked a few times, but eventually it began to leak. ↩