The iPad, Pandora and life


iPad, Pandora App

I’ve said it before but want to  reiterate that Pandora + iPad have made a deeper impact on how I live my life more quickly than any other technology change.  And in some ways that change is more ‘SciFi-ish’ than any other change I have experienced.

Don’t get me wrong other things have had more impact but they were much more profound in and of themselves.

  • Smashing my ankle
  • First Car
  • First Real Job
  • First House
  • Getting Married
  • First Child
  • Second Child
  • First Child going to college….

How can I even compare two pieces of Triviachology like the iPad and Pandora you ask?

Well I have worked from home a significant amount of time since 1997 and I have very consciously tried to limit the amount of paper I generate and find ways to get information in electronic rather than paper form.  I have felt that the eReader was going to reach takeoff eventually and while the pundits always poo poohed it I saw a steady decrease in the Paper load in the engineering world probably a leading edge in the utilization of information that had made it paper heavy for a very long time. When the piles on young and not so young engineers desks began to collect dust I figured it was because they weren’t shuffling through them so often any longer because the primary sources were in electronic not paper form.  The paper was for reference and for making notes on (BtW Paper / print / writing / reading is a fantastic intricate and powerful technology if you stop for a moment to think about it.)

Now I can carry around a single small compact rugged and handsome slab of Al and Glass that is book, magazine, note taking device (typing or hand writing, I take copious ‘ink’ notes on my iPad, Check out the Penultimate app if you want to try it.) calculator with some of the calculators capable of solving and displaying very complex systems of equations (MathStudio or SymCalc HD) and I do some quite complex artwork for fun and other purposes using ArtStudio.  I load a lot of papers and other tech pups (pdf) onto my iPad (iBooks) so I can read them at my leisure. 

Now the iPad is no replacement for a laptop (for me.) But unlike many commentators I do not see that as anything but a special case. It is a fabulous adjunct, extender, even amplifier, but I see it as a reasonable laptop replacement for certain users, especially those who are more interested in consumption than creation.  To be honest I think the combination of an iPad and a smart TV may be all that an even larger cadre of users need.  But that does not denigrate the iPad as a consumption device, it’s an adjunct amplifier to your digital life, that can be a replacement under certain limited circumstances.

So…there you go the iPad as significant life changer, what about Pandora?

Well here my story is a bit weaker and it’s really the combination of Pandora and the iPad and to an extent Netflix streaming service.  And let me tell you right now that I hate TV’s in the bedroom and my wife is addicted to the BBC versions of many US TV procedural cop shows..and insistes on watching them (on her iPad) late at night if she can’t get to sleep……I must have been bad in a very twisted way in some previous life…! Anyway Pandora in itself was a revelation, as I have said before it mix of being able to select music you like and then let it go off and find things similar in ‘feeling’ has opened me up to huge swaths of music I had never heard before.  Add that to the ability to have that music with me most of the time with the iPad and one can feel a bit like one is living in a movie with your own sound track, though I found this soundtrack doesn’t do a good job of foreshadowing the next scene.   And even though I curse Netflix fairly regularly it is nice to be able to browse in ‘the long tail’ of shows, see things I never had a chance to watch, like BBC’s Primeval, or some Nova or History Channel programs. 

So while those two services are not responsible for as profound a change as the iPad is in itself, added to the iPad they are a very profound change in my and my family’s habits…and as one would expect not always for the good.

IPad Neflix App

iPad Netflix App

New Age of Discovery | iPad, Pandora and the

Stars and Gas in the Milky Way Galaxy
OK, I have to admit that I have done most of my posting from the iPad for the past couple of weeks, it does make micro blogging pretty danged easy. The iPad continues to amaze me it is the single most life changing device I have ever used. No it is not the god machine and Steve Jobs, though a genius (with a lot of help from his team), was not a messiah. But the device and the infrastructure it accesses with such elegance have changed how I live in ways and at a speed that no other single device has (baring perhaps my license/first car.)

Telecommunications technology (phone and TV), the computer, the micro chip, the mini computer, the calculator, the personal computer, the internet, the cell phone, the laptop and now the tablet computer have each in their way had a profound impact on my life but each one though important in some particular piece of my life had little effect on other parts. The iPad has changed how I read, what I read, how I create, what I create, how I communicate with my wife, what entertainment I enjoy and when. It is my constant companion and I would be lost without it. This has never been true of any other device to the same extent though my laptop and cell phone are close, more because of how important they are to one or two important parts of my life, unlike the iPad which has had a broad impact on most of my life.

Is this good or bad? One part of me wants to say it has to be good, otherwise why would it have taken over so thoroughly, it allows me access to the web at almost any instant to look up info or browse, I use it to keep me amused at the club, etc. Another part wants to say bad, because there is no denying that I have been more sedentary (big word for sitting on my ass more) since I got the iPad, and I in fact have not read as many books since I got the iPad. Pull back for the big picture and I think that the iPad has enables changes in how I live my private life, and that good or bad is what I make of the changes it enables, because there is nothing that I used to do that it forecloses by its existence and use.

Though not as high impact as the iPad, Pandora is the other technical insert in my life that I feel I would miss profoundly. I am currently listening to it Jennifer Thomas’ Beautiful Storm, a piano piece with orchestral background, a strikingly beautiful piece of music I doubt I would ever have heard if not for Pandora. Over a period of a couple of years I have slid sideways from Nickleback, to Shinedown, to Adele, Glitrap, Jes and more. Music discovery is what Pandora is all about and I think I’m better off for it….

And that brings me back to the iPad and its impact….one of the things it does is make discovery easier, discovery of new memes, of new sounds, new skills and new voices. It allows me to fill in the little wasted cracks of time in my life with more discovery.

Two posts this week have dealt with 3D printers, what I think of as stereolithographic machines. And the computer controlled 3D wood carving machine I saw in Rockler catalogue. The Maker movement is all about discovery, the DARPA crowdsourcing initiative is all about discovery. So is it that the iPad and Pandora are my first windows into this new age of discovery?

Pandora…..Its not all about Free

Pandora, another technology and service that has changed my life.  A couple of years ago I stumbled across some mention of Pandora and pushed it aside.  A while later I went looking for a better way of getting music.  I tried Yahoo, Google, iTunes and started listening to internet radio but didn’t like what I found, even for free.  Then I ran across Pandora again and read the blurb on the Music DNA project that the company was based on. 

I started to use Pandora, a little at first, then more and more, finally running into the hours per month limit.  I did that for a couple of months, then had a look at the premium service.  I almost quite because I hated paying for something I’d been getting free. 

Then I had a bit of an epiphany, I cannot expect to always get good to great services for free, and the ones coming closest irritated me with their commercials.  Pandora had already introduced me to multiple new artists and completely new genre and I liked how it worked…

I paid up and have never regretted it.

There are always a lot of words flying about how Free has killed the web, and how so many magazines and papers started providing free services and could not sustain it or get the readers they had to start paying. There were the ones who tried to start charging from the beginning, which generally died out.

But there are more and more places where people will pay for content.  In particular in cases where, like me with Pandora, they really come to love the application and want more and can get it for a modest investment.  The Economist essentially does this, (I was an addict long before the web version, but their current model has gotten me re hooked several times) and there are others out there.

The secret is providing the customer with a compelling experience and charging a fair price.  Providing a me too experience with nothing special is not going to get customers.  Newspapers in particular have yet to develop the right combination of experiences via the web.  Local papers survive in the paper form because/when they have local value and because many of us love the crinkle of the paper in the morning.  But its the value/content that does not transfer to the web. 

I have to say as much as I love my iPad for most other forms of reading I still like the morning paper and its combination of format and topics….and by the way the funnies….the web-crowd always seem to miss how important the morning funnies are to folks.  And its not just  the ones I like.

And maybe that’s a secret someone needs to ponder.  Like Pandora (and the Economist and WSJ etc) the paper pushes content at me that I would not necessarily choose to (or know to) go searching for on my own, I trust the paper to do a reasonably unbiased job of putting out content that is of local importance (even if that importance is in others eyes) making me an informed/understanding local citizen. 

 I cannot know what I should be paying attention to outside of a small set of things that are central to my life.  The newspaper helps me pay attention to secondary stuff, I will not always agree with what is written but it does point it out.  And that is important.

And to receive that daily packet of local color I pay, I would pay for it online if the layout and the presentation were compelling.  But right now I go out to the mailbox every morning, rain or shine, snow and Ice, etc, for that few minute scan of my local environs and a few chuckles or groans at the comics.

By the way I live in Indianapolis and get the Indianapolis Star.  A very good local paper that I hope has many more successful years ahead of it.