The Nostalgia Business

Time states something that I’ve long suspected – that you can learn a lot about someone by going through their music collection (political stance, religious views, age).

What’s always been interesting to me is how closely people’s favorite songs are linked to their youth. The recorded music business is largely driven by teenagers. That’s nothing new, but there’s something about hitting your mid-twenties that makes Pandora good enough for all your music fulfillment.

Real life, I guess.

I think analysis like this gives weight to the idea that The Beatles got as big as they did not because they were a good band, but because they were the first breakout band heavily marketed to the baby boomer youth. Ultimate, the music of our youth is a way for us to remember what it was like to be young, without responsibilities, and what it was like to fall in love every week.

For many businesses the name of the game is to get us while we’re young. If they do that they have a good chance of having us forever. It’s a nostalgia business.1


  1. This is how Nintendo has been operating for years now. 

Technology Won’t Save Classical Music

I’ve been saving this link in Omnifocus for months trying to figure out why this idea of technology “saving” classical music bothers me so much.

So much industry tries to get off the ground by claiming that it’s about education and “the kids.” When I was in 6th grade there was a “Cable In the Classroom” campaign which claimed to bring something like “a new world of learning!” to elementary classrooms, but really it was a weekly break for teachers to catch up on whatever else they needed to do while kids watched a video.

I think it’s a similar thing with iPads and classical music. Advocates like this can fool themselves into believing that the real problem with classical music is that it needs more iPads – that there’s an app for that.

Did anyone else HATE their english classes in high school? Why? I rarely liked the books we read. They were oftentimes HUNDREDS of years old. English classes may be the place where we teach kids to HATE reading. They jokingly write on their Facebook profiles things like “Reading? HAHA!” under the “favorite books” section. Is it really a surprise that many students never pick up a book again after high school? We tried to shove “The Hobbit” down their throats in 7th grade (Yes – I HATED the Hobbit).

An eighth grader reading “Great Expectations” is probably going to be bored out of their mind whether they read it on paper or on a Kindle. I’ve read of classical music programs where they claim to lift the stuffiness of the performance by allowing their audiences to come and go as they please – as if the puny brains of today’s youth just can’t handle a symphony.

When you were in second grade, what COULD you handle? How long could you sit still? When is the right time to introduce them to classical music? Why even call it that?

Maybe it just isn’t the right time for these kids yet. That’s going to change if you let someone go to the bathroom between movements and play Angry Birds?

In the same way some kids learn to love to read by picking up the right book, some kids learn to love classical music by finding the right music – for them. It’s not really a classical music problem. It’s not a technology problem. It’s not “these kids” today. It’s a content-to-kid problem.

“Stuff I Had To Put Up With”

Amazon is having a magazine subscription sale today. If you want an all access digital and print subscription of Wired today check it out.

But you won’t be able to get it on your Kindle e-reader.

The disconnect between medium and content has never been greater. Check out this customer discussion thread, or not – because this is the most relevant part.

Here’s the problem there: the value of Wired is not merely the content, but the medium. Specifically, the visual display of the information in that inimitable Wired fashion (e.g. neon inks, beautiful layouts, fullpage graphs, etc.). It wouldn’t translate to the current Kindle.

Response:

Hmm, I always thought of that as stuff I had to put up with.

Bad Defaults With Good Intentions

Check out this TED Talk with Shlomo Benartzi titled “Saving for tomorrow, tomorrow.”

Although the video is about setting aside money, watch how he cites an example of changing from opt-ins to opt-outs in the name of a common good. Germany’s 12% organ donation rate is minuscule compared to Austria’s 99%. The difference is that in Germany citizens opt-in to the program. In Austria citizens opt-out.

Austria looks progressive here, but it didn’t sit well with me. I don’t want someone else making decisions for me. Germany’s 12% actually WANT to be organ donors. Austria’s 99% just didn’t look at the fine print.

The intentions are good, but with savings and organ donation I don’t want to opt-out. I want to opt-in. I want to explicitly make that decision for myself, not be the victim of someone else’s good intentions.

When marketers at companies do things similar to this people waste no time saying how unethical it is. How are opt-out retirement plans and organ donation wishes any different?

Related: What you lose when you sign that organ-donor card

Facebook Data Tells Us What We Already Know About Human Nature

These Facebook Data posts about relationships is like when OKCupid did the same data analysis. It confirms what you may already believe to be true.

For example, timeline posts go way down between couples after they’ve declared themselves to be in a relationship:

We studied the group of people who changed their status from “Single” to “In a relationship” and also stated an anniversary date as the start of their relationship. During the 100 days before the relationship starts, we observe a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple. When the relationship starts (“day 0”), posts begin to decrease.

singlemessageratio

On top of that, when someone declares themselves out of a relationship there’s an immediate spike of posts directed to them within the first couple days, followed by waves of people messaging them.

waves

We all know what this is. I see people, usually women, declare themselves out of a relationship, and then the wolves come out to sniff around, trying to pick her up but disguising it as support.

Of course, there’s no reason to put that on your timeline unless that’s what you WANT to have happen. It’s a prime opportunity for rebounds.

Do you Jabber?

Verbs was the king of instant messaging on iOS.

I got Verbs at version 2. I thought they abandoned it. But their iOS 7 update looks pretty good. It syncs conversations between devices, knows when you’re using Messages.app on your Mac and silences notifications during that time. Verbs was the best IM software on iOS…years ago. In its day it was the only iOS app that looked like it belonged on iOS.

This demo video is very careful to not show what services it supports. We can assume AIM, Google Talk and Jabber. The problem is that the world may have moved on. Who still signs into AIM? Who uses Google Talk? Google is rebranding it as Hangouts and trying to get everyone to use their own app. I suspect Google Talk as it was introduced (as XMPP/Jabber) won’t be around much longer.

And how many corporate settings actually use Jabber services now that there are things like Yammer and SalesForce Chatter? Not being smart – genuinely curious.

AIDS and The Thing

I was watching The Thing and it occurred to me how similar this is to the AIDS epidemic.

  • AIDS started getting recognized around the time this movie was released (1982)
  • It was originally thought that only gay men got this disease, The Thing is a completely male cast
  • The thing gets you by taking over your body cell by cell, similar to HIV
  • Only a blood test could reveal if you were human or the thing

John Carpenter also noticed this:

Part of the fear instilled into The Thing came from the AIDs epidemic that was making itself known at the time of filming. The idea that you couldn’t tell who was infected just by looking at them, only blood tests would reveal it, was not lost on Carpenter.

There Is No “Good” Ending

I finished Mass Effect 3 this morning and I’m just now understanding what people’s problem was with the ending.

On Kotaku, Luke Plunkett writes:

I had no idea which was the “good” ending I was after. All three choices I’d been presented with seemed ambiguous.1 Which was surely another creative decision on BioWare’s part, but a poor one, because this one interfered with the trilogy’s most basic assumption: that you can build the story the way you want to.

I have mixed feelings about this because in real life, no matter how well you plan or behave, no matter how you build your own story, sometimes you just gotta play the cards you’re dealt. There is no good ending. If you wanted a good ending then you should play games that are linear and don’t allow you to craft your character’s story.

I prefer games like that, by the way. I dislike open-world type games that try to make you believe you have ultimate control. I dislike seemingly endless side missions meant to make you think you’re crafting your story, but end up feeling like filler. If there’s a regret that anybody should have with the entire Mass Effect series it’s that they were tricked into wasting time doing side missions because they thought it somehow mattered.

They didn’t. After 20hrs over the past 6 months on ME3, not counting all the times I died that didn’t get logged, I’m glad it’s over. I liked the game a lot, but I’m glad I didn’t invest as much time in it as some of these people did. Even 20 hours is too much.

It’s not the ending that’s the problem. It’s the illusion.


  1. I also didn’t know which ending I picked. I just walked around until I saw an option present itself to me. This cleared it up for me. 

Guys Night

Bill McMorris, opening this article about male friendship:

I got a telephone in my room right when “Boy Meets World” was getting big. I saw the characters chatting on the phone daily and mistook a studio cost-cutting device for how friends interacted. So I grabbed the school directory and called up my best friend at the moment, Sean.

“Hi?”

“Hey, it’s Billy”

“Okay…”

The call was over in seconds.

I went through something similar. I grew up with two older sisters who were constantly on the phone at night. In my early teens I thought this was the expected behavior for guy friends. It always resulted in short, awkward conversations.

While my sisters could seemingly make a conversation go on for hours, me and my friends had problems making one go on for more than a few minutes. After a while we didn’t bother. We’d see each other in school the next day.

Now I barely use the phone. However, I like the idea of a cigar night.

Read the entire article for an idea of how male friendship differs from female friendship. I like hanging out with my friends, but if they’re just gonna come over and do nothing then what’s the point? Let’s drink and smoke,1 call each other horrible names, make jokes at each other’s expense. But no ladies, because yes – we can’t be our horrible selves around them.

Some friends and I tried the 21st century version of this years ago by declaring Wednesday as Xbox night. We tried it for a few weeks with GTA IV, meeting on Xbox Live at 8pm, and play together. The first session was just troubleshooting for people couldn’t connect. It took about 90 minutes of trying to get one guy in, games starting and getting restarted. Not much fun was had.

Then when it finally did work and GTA IV got boring we couldn’t settle on a new game. Imagine if you had a poker night and nobody really wanted to play poker, and you couldn’t decide what game to play in its place.2 That was Xbox night.

Xbox night died quickly. Now when I do play games I either see a few people on my friends list playing games by themselves or a couple of them playing without me. …but mostly I see that they’re on Netflix.

Maybe it really is better just to get guys together to drink and smoke.


  1. I don’t smoke. 

  2. On top of that, EVERYONE needs to own that game. With poker, only one person has to supply cards. 

Podcasts.app’s horrible show notes formatting

“Where can people go for show notes?” You often hear on podcasts.

You should just TAP for show notes. Where should people go for show notes? Just tap the screen or click the “Show Info” button in iTunes.

Rich show notes, poor formatting.

Problem is, Apple’s iOS Podcast app strips all formatting from this details screen. You can write richly detailed notes with headers, hyperlinks…you know, HTML, and it comes out looking like this.

Why would they do this? Is it a security thing? That doesn’t make sense – Safari shows you any HTML on the web. How is this any different?

It’s not much better in iTunes. Here’s the standard Show Info view. It isn’t the same show, but you can bet that you see a plain-text type view instead of properly rendered HTML.

iTunes Show Info

My bet is that extensive show notes are an anomaly. When iTunes podcasting support was originally added shows didn’t put much effort into extensive notes, so they didn’t bother with HTML formatting. But today it’s different – we have richly detailed, and HELPFUL, show notes, except Apple never updated the way they’re rendered.

Between stuff like this, and the poor syncing between iTunes and iOS (although iOS-to-iOS appears to be much more reliable), podcasts.app still has a ways to go.

It’s strange, because Apple was a pioneer here. They have the best way to discover podcasts and arguably the worst way to listen to them.

Some quick thoughts about this Beyonce thing

Remember when all those Daft Punk commercials came out earlier this year and gave a call-to-action to pre-order Random Access Memories on iTunes?

At the time I speculated that you wouldn’t be seeing the album on any of the streaming services. Why would they, both Daft Punk and Apple, go through all that effort with the commercials, the videos on Youtube, all to promote a pre-order and then make it available on Spotify?

But it WAS available on streaming services on release day. So what did we learn? Don’t pre-order music.

In high school I knew of people who stayed went to record stores at midnight to get Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy. Back then it was possible for an album to go out of stock, so if Pearl Jam was that important to you then a midnight trip to a record store was insurance that you wouldn’t have to wait a week for a re-stock.

But then internet and scarcity and you know the rest.

With this Beyonce thing, Beyonce owned the tech and music news for a day. And for a short time, say midnight to 12:07am, you could only find the Beyonce album on iTunes – at least until torrents started popping up.

I’ve seen more and more artists aligning behind certain retailers. Rdio appears to promote exclusives on artists you’ve never heard of. Apple can get Beyonce, because at least they’ll make 70%.

This is probably going to happen a lot more. Well thought marketing campaigns aren’t enough if there are options other than “BUY NOW.”

I Miss Adium

Yesterday I messed around with the 21st century ways to quickly call and message people. It’s a pain in the butt.

I’m gonna ramble about it now.

IN THE OLD DAYS – the year 2000 -…we had AOL IM. It was a simpler time. It was pretty much the only game in town for computer-to-computer messages. It’s what the kids used instead of FB/Twitter. In college we’d put where we were meeting for dinner as our away messages. We didn’t have cell phones…at least not yet.

Even then, some people had MSN Messenger, ICQ, and other messaging accounts. But it didn’t really matter, because software like Adium and Pidgin glued them all together. You had access to everybody who mattered through one free software package.

Today it’s a big cluster. Every time you want to message somebody quickly it comes with this added friction of figuring out HOW. Is this an email? A facebook message? A text message? An iMessage? What’s App? Skype? Each medium is now owned by a larger company that doesn’t want to play with the others.

Generally, one-to-one conversations tend to settle easily upon a single protocol, but groups get hairier because everybody has preferences. They want to use the thing they normally use. As people, family, friends, and work teams are distributed across the globe this issue has gotten bigger than it’s ever been. How do you get a bunch of people across the country talking to each other without it being a pain in the butt for everyone?

That comes up in my own group conversations. I’ve got group messages in iMessage and FB Messages. Anybody with an Android phone wants to be on Hangouts. But this guy (guilty) doesn’t want to be on Hangouts because he thinks Google+ is the devil. Why is he making this so DIFFICULT?!

What about conference calls? Can’t we all just Facetime each other? No, because Facetime is only for Apple stuff. And you can’t screen share in Facetime. What about Skype? Don’t we all have Skype? Yeah, but so-and-so says Google+ is free. Is it ‘better’? Uh, that’s subjective and debatable.

Facetime was supposed to be a game changer because it was going to be open-sourced. Anybody could work with Facetime – Android people, Windows people, didn’t matter. Except when they tried to implement it the patent trolls came out. The dream of Facetime being an open standard like Jabber/XMPP is dead. Now nobody can talk with anybody else.

Unless you all buy-in to a single platform. Get a Google+ account, or a Skype account…and probably someday soon a Facebook account.

I miss the days when communications weren’t based upon who used what. Also Adium had a pretty cool Link icon.

What I’d like is if the messages.app on iOS had the same philosophy as the old-school messaging clients. Let me put in my Google, FB, and other account credentials. Let me have all my messages in one app…preferably the stock app.1

That will never happen.


  1. Messages.app has something similar, but it’s based upon the old way of doing things. That’s why they call them legacy chat services

Vice Industries

One time, post-2008 market crash, I was in a grocery store checkout and the guy in front of me was buying a 6-pack of beer. He looked at the cashier and said “Man, I can’t believe how expensive beer has gotten.”

He still bought the beer.

That memory came to mind when I learned about VICEX, a fund invested in vice industries: alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and aerospace/defense.

Why invest in vice industries, or as noted in this article, “sin stocks”?

Vice firms normally require little outside capital and pay sizable dividends. Vice products do not need to be reinvented continually. Thus, growth is profitable and cash flow, rather than being forced back into R&D spending, is paid out to shareholders. Vice industries have consolidated and continue to do so: they operate as oligopolies. Competition is more subdued and they are able to “manage” prices.

And what about aerospace/defense?

These companies have the taint of Vice in that many investors do not want to own companies that produce missiles or fighter planes. However, they produce enormous cash flows and have been actively acquiring other companies and pay above average dividends.

And here’s the fund’s performance:

Vicexdjia

Like many things, it bombed late 2008/early 2009, but it’s now outperforming the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

In the recent election in NY they’ve started the groundwork for gambling upstate. The state is also supporting businesses like craft breweries, vineyards, and farms that produce greek yogurt. I’ve previously thought of this stuff as the “Yuppie Industry,” but “Vice Industry” sounds a little sexier.

I suppose other states are looking at similar initiatives. Makes you wonder how VICEX will do in the coming years. There’s big money in vice. Why? Listen to this guy talking about his Colorado marijuana business (~4:30). Why did he start it? “I was looking for, essentially, a recession proof job, that I would never go through another lay off.”1


  1. What I love about this video is that the guy who says this is trying his hardest to be viewed as a legitimate businessman in a legitimate industry. Then they show you the guy who grows the product and he’s pretty much what you expect. Then they show the guy who does the pot soda who works hard to distance himself from the word “pot.” “I don’t believe I manufacture a “pot” soda. I manufacture a “medical elixer.” 

Podcasting Is Pretty Much The Same As It Was Back In 2005

Allen Pike writes about how podcasting is on the rise. I’m skeptical.

He uses This American Life as an example of non-geeks getting into podcasts. I’ve often used my sister as an example of how non-geeks listen to podcasts. She’s not a power user. I bought her Instacast years ago. Now I’m trying to get her onto Apple’s podcast app so she can sync with iTunes. She hasn’t budged.

Why not? Because it’s not really that important to her.

I think her, and many others, like the IDEA of podcasts. The IDEA of free talk-radio. But what I end up seeing is a people who spend some time in the iTunes Store1 going through podcasts, picking things out, and never listening to them.

Let’s look beyond the assumption that This American Life was always for geeks/nerds/dorks. If you even know what TAL is you’re not like most people. How many of This American Life’s new listeners actually listen to the show? How many of them just like to declare themselves to be TAL listeners without actually listening regularly?

Pike cites a 65% increase in podcasting growth from 2010 to 2012:

Surely this growth can’t all be from geeks. So the jig is up: podcasting is seriously growing, and it’s not just geeks.

While more people are listening, or at least subscribing to podcasts, I don’t think it’s because non-geeks are getting into podcasts. I think it’s because more people are becoming geeks the way we viewed them 10 years ago. This is why 5by5 has a ton of shows about…well, pretty much the same thing.2

Regarding tools, Pike writes:

As of this writing, a horde of developers are building podcast listening apps. Podcast recording apps, on the other hand?

Well, more about that soon.

I assume that he’ll write a followup about making tools for podcasters, or announce some new software he’s been working on. We need it.

My favorite, back in the early days, was Podcast Maker. It hasn’t been updated since 2011. I use Podcast Maker regularly for the private podcast I make for my friends.3 The most technical you need to get with it is give it an audio file and an FTP location to upload to, and then share the feed.

Most non-geeks don’t have FTP space.

Today, if you want to do podcasting right you need a CMS, maybe a podcasting plugin, and understand how all this stuff works. If you don’t get FTP then you’re already locked out.

Meanwhile, Marco Arment writes:

But I’m not a believer that everyone should podcast, or that podcasting should be as easy as blogging. There’s actually a pretty strong benefit to it requiring a lot of effort: fewer bad shows get made, and the work that goes into a good show is so clear and obvious that the effort is almost always rewarded.

I’m not sure if it’s worth keeping bad shows out, because usually good shows rise to the top and the bad ones go to the wayside. Besides, everyone would benefit from having simpler tools, even the pros.

If you want to see what happens when you make these sorts of tools for non-geeks all you need to do is go to Youtube. There are a HUGE amount of Youtube channels from wannabe makeup artists, guys creating a character obsessed with gaming, Horror Movie enthusiasts, video game criticism. Sure, there is a lot of garbage, and I’m demonstrating what bubble I’m in with what I link to, but some of these are GREAT!

Think of it this way. It’s easier, and more lucrative, for Jenna Marbles to turn on her webcam, hit record, and upload it to Youtube than it is for her to create an entire podcasting back-end. Youtube IS the back-end.

I’ve seen a few channels that are nothing more than a graphic for a video and a voiceover. These are Youtube videos that want to be podcasts.

But they are not podcasts.

I’ve always viewed podcasting as something specific. Podcasts are programs (usually audio) I can subscribe to and have available in one spot on my computer, phone, or tablet. I shouldn’t have to go to multiple places to find an MP3 file to listen to. I want to just open iTunes or podcasts.app and it’s all there the way I left it, plus whatever new stuff that’s been made since the last time I opened it.

If you agree with me that this is the definition of a podcast then you too may not be confident that the medium has gotten much different in the past few years. It’s still mostly nerds talking about nerd stuff.


  1. Here’s another thing to think about. How much of the success of podcasting is attached to iTunes and the iTunes Store? If/when iTunes is no longer the dominant media platform then what happens to podcasts? 

  2. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy and regularly listen to a few 5by5 shows. But there’s only so much time one can, or should, dedicate to listening to people talk about new Apple products. 

  3. The other close friends I have tried it a few non-geek ways. One guy uploads his to Soundcloud, where I have to download it, reupload it, and huffduff it to get it into my podcasts.app. The other two use Podomatic. This isn’t really much different than what blogs used to be: someone’s personal creative output meant for a small audience. 

Paul Hardcastle’s 19

I’m listening to Paul Hardcastle’s self-titled album for the first time. This track, 19, is a Vietnam war protest track. It’s like if Steve Reich’s Different Trains was an electro track that he co-wrote with 1980’s Herbie Hancock.

Listening to this I think of Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings. It was written in 1936 and had nothing to do with Vietnam, but after Platoon featured it heavily the two became closely linked.

Music that reflects on and war and tragedy isn’t a new thing, but it’s usually somber. Think of Messiaen’s Quartet For Then End Of Time, but for something more contemporary you could look at Billy Joel’s Goodnight Saigon. Then something like this comes along that you can dance to and I wonder if it’s tasteless. But really, what’s the difference? That you could dance to 19? That Adagio For Strings makes you feel sad?

If Steve Reich’s 9/11 piece was something you could dance to I think there would be an outcry. I suppose when works of art take on unpleasant moments in history we’d prefer it they were sobering before anything else.

This video of a WTC 9/11 performance by Kronos Quartet demonstrates an unusual juxtaposition. Listen to audience members go “WOO!” between movements.

Check all this out on Spotify where you’ll hear ads about Old Navy’s Veteran’s Day sale.