let’s just go ahead and state the obvious (as a matter of full disclosure): i. love. apple.
plain and simple, i’m a huge fan of the little tech company in cupertino. i’m firmly planted on the apple bandwagon and i don’t plan on getting off any time soon. i don’t like the moniker “fanboy”, because it assumes an ignorant/blind following. rather, my allegiance to apple is based on over 10 years of superior products. i trust apple. they simply make amazing, beautiful products, so i’m able to trust that when they release new products, they’ll be in accordance with their long track record of almost exclusive hits.
but i’m also honest about their misses. yes, the cube just didn’t work. the messagepad never really made sense. the flower power imac was atrocious. a handful of software releases have just not been useful. yes, apple’s had some misses and near-misses.
so where does apple’s new social music network, ping, fall into the equation? well, it’s probably way too son to truly know. less than 48 hours into the launch of the service, many have written it off and they certainly have ample ammunition to support their argument. but i’m far from prepared to say it’s doomed.
1. RECOMMEND/LIKE ALBUMS FROM YOUR OWN LIBRARY
one of the first things you have to realize about ping is that it’s all about getting you to buy music from the itunes store exclusively. apple, it seems, has little interest in the music you already own—whether it was purchased from itunes in the past, purchased from somewhere else (amazon, bandcamp, etc.) or “illegally” downloaded. this is a big mistake. in fact, i think it’s the most glaring mistake as of now.
i have a 80+ gb music library full of music that i’d love to recommend to people in my network. of course, apple would likely tell you that you can absolutely recommend (like) that music in the itunes store. the problem is that nothing is inherently driving me to that itunes store page beyond going there to purchase it. in other words, i would love to recommend jenny lewis’ acid tongue, which i already own. there’s no motivating (and inherent) reason for me to navigate to that album in the store. social networks should seamlessly intermesh with my natural habits and the nature of liking/recommending songs/albums simply doesn’t.
2. NOTIFICATION SYSTEM
i’ve engaged a couple conversations on ping. well, actually, it’s hard to call it a “conversation” because it basically involved the 2 of us manually checking in on ping every hour or so. why? because there’s no notification system to let you know when someone has engaged with your activities. i had no idea when my friend commented on my song recommendation except for when i manually went to it and (manually) refreshed the page. no growl. no emails. no nothing.
if it’s truly going to be social, there has to be some method of notifying people when someone has engaged some type of social activity. for example, with tweetie for mac, i have both growl notifications for replies & DMs, as well as a menu icon that lights up when i have unread items in my stream. there’s simply nothing for ping.
3. STANDALONE DESKTOP APP BEYOND ITUNES
yes, i know this seemingly defeats the whole software concept behind ping. yes, it’s supposed to integrate into/with itunes. but it’s just not a natural fit. i listen to music literally all day long in itunes. that’s what i want to use it for. yes, i use the itunes store (within itunes), but that’s once in a blue moon and it naturally fits into itunes. a social network simply doesn’t fit.
twitter realizes that you’re not going to go to twitter.com every single time you want to post a tweet. hence, standalone twitter applications. these aren’t just third party any more, either. twitter itself has made this realization and have responded appropriately. whereas apple absolutely is not going to go for third party applications, they could create their own streamlined desktop app that somehow works along with itunes. i don’t have all the answers as to how it would all work, but it’s not a groundbreaking, revolutionary concept. it could be done and done well.
4. FULL-FEATURED IPHONE APP
why, of course, would we stop with a standalone desktop application? much more crucial to prolonged success is a full-featured standalone iphone app. of all people, apple—the primary instigator of mobile supremacy/importance—should understand this. yes, with iOS 4.1, ping will be integrated into the iphone’s itunes store, but who wants to launch a commerce app simply to access a social network!? not i.
what was one of the primary reasons/ways for twitter’s mainstream explosion? mobile apps. the same goes for ping. this makes complete sense for another reason: one of the primary features of an iphone if, of course, an ipod. the core building block of the iphone is a music application. it’s made to be a music-centric device. and who knows, maybe the ping iphone app could also somehow integrate with pandora or shazam or various other radio apps. it just makes sense.
5. SUBSTANTIAL FACEBOOK/TWITTER INTEGRATION
at this point, i just don’t have a lot of motivation to reorient my online social “life” to include ping. i’ve got twitter. i’m
stuck with laboring through plugged into facebook. quite frankly, that’s about where me and most people are maxed out at. i wish i could update from twitter or at least even see/comment on/like ping updates from facebook. it just makes sense. at first, at least ping was capable of utilizing facebook connect, but facebook—less than 48 hours in—has already killed that integration. i just need a way to create some kind of seamless integration with my other well-established social networks.
6. FULLER FEATURES
i won’t say too much about this because it’s painfully obvious. just go to ping. what do you see? not much, right? apple is famous for its beautifully stripped-down and user-friendly UI, but there’s a difference between clean and deficient. beyond the social network integration i’ve already detailed, it just needs more stuff to do. i could create a list, but i’m sure you could fill in these blanks. there just needs to be more compelling reasons to spend time in the app.
7. SMARTER ALGORITHMS
this partially goes back to my first idea of having integration with your own library, as opposed to just things purchased from itunes. much like genius/genius mixes, ping should be able to scan my entire library (with my permission) and detect what kind of music i like. from there, it could update my “music i like”, top albums and recommended people/artists (among other things).
there should also be some kind of local networks where i can see every user from little rock or arkansas or the united states, etc. within that, you could also narrow down users by artists or genres or top downloads or whatever. there just needs to be a “smarter” backend that helps you better connect with the service and other users.
so there you have it. there’s honestly more things that i could easily recommend, but these are the things that have most glaring to me so far.
bottom line, it’s literally less than 48 hours old, so i don’t want to write it off yet or assume that apple has rolled out everything they have in mind. for example, one of the things that will help resolve many of these problems will be just a bigger community of users. right now, i’m only following 15 people…because that’s literally the only 15 people i know that are using it right now (and that 15 includes 4 or 5 artists…a.k.a. people i don’t even know).
what would you add? if you’ve started using ping, what would you recommend to improve the experience?