Saturday, August 13, 2011

Google Music – Designed by Experts

Google Music – Designed by Experts

The original title was going to be “Designed by Interns”, but no intern would ever make these mistakes. I then toyed with “Designed by my Grandma” before deciding to level the most harsh criticism I could muster.  

The overall effort for Google Music Beta is poor, certainly not up to other Google apps -- I love Picasa, Voice/GrandCentral and Blogger). Maybe there is a pattern. I think those other apps were built outside, acquired, and re-branded. Can anyone provide the answer?

In real life I am an IT project manager. I don’t usually get to drive requirements, only “guide” my business partners to better solutions. In this case I’m the customer… and here are my demands!

Top Things to Fix:

The upload process. 

I have music in two formats on my PC - WMA and MP3. Why? The additional bit depth in WMA makes for better playback on large stereo systems. For headphones – who cares? And, for the road trip CD, MP3 makes sense, 150+ songs on a CD!

Best Upload Process Suggestion: 

Steal from Apple, or, create your own library, upload the META data first, run a compare, request uploads for only the unmatched content (this blog is under Creative Commons license, so you can steal from me if you like). Another option: call Dell, they have some really cool de-dupe tools.

Upload started Sunday 8/7/2011 and finished Saturday 8/13/2011 just after 2:00pm. 11150 songs, 142 hours at the rate of ~78 songs per hour.

G Music Almost Done

META data fixes

Editing data at the Album level makes sense – so that you can avoid splitting an album. However, compilation albums, samplers, and soundtracks have multiple artists.

When you try to reduce the duplicate albums by setting the Artist as “Soundtrack” it breaks the link from the individual artist. For example: I am no longer able to search for all “Madonna” songs. Her work on Evita is going to get lost. One layer of Meta is missing.

G Music Meta Fail

META Data fixes (part II) 

Enable META data editing at the song level. This will allow tagging of artists within a Soundtrack, Sampler, or other compilation album. And, it would allow clean up of the “Various” and “Unknown” collection. 

Best META Suggestion: 

Create a spreadsheet view with multiple columns and allow bulk edits of all data elements (Bonus idea: add a couple user-defined fields for a pinch of coolness. I’d love to track Elfman or Eno or Costello across multiple albums, bands and genre).

Duplication Management (See also Track 11 and Track 12). 

So my WMA and MP3 versions are both included in the upload and now I want to go and delete the less quality (MP3) version… There is no way to determine which is which, no way to sort within the album, and no way to select multiple items to be deleted. In one case I had a single album upload 57 songs, rather than the correct 22 tracks. Overall Google Music reports 11150 songs for 607 albums or ~18.4 songs per album. Considering the number of “albums” I have with only 1 song, you can see the scope of the problem.

Improve Album Art Graphic Quality

They call it “Album Art” for a reason. I can onlyG Music Pink describe the current graphics as “Atari-esque”. A relational database of cover art seems logical – but maybe Google is storing an image with every album for every account and feel the need to save a bit or two. Also, I’m glad you have art for “16 Hits of Hawaii” by the Hawaiian Surfers, but why are you missing the Cars “Heartbeat City”? And your album art coverage of Classical music is poor. 

Best Album Art Suggestion

Quit squeezing pennies and/or bits, and provide better graphics. Bonus idea: make sure user uploaded art is checked, then share it with everyone.

Processor Demand by Music Manager

If the upload is limited by G Music CPU 2internet connection speed, what is Music Manager doing to with all of the extra processing cycles?

Greater than 25% CPU for 6 days… Bad code… bad code… go sit in the corner.

Best Music Manager Suggestion:  

Check your code (simple, yes?), or consider packaging the upload rather than raw streaming, or see item 1.

“Track 11” and “Track 12” (songs with no titles). 

Apple provides track info. Microsoft provides track info. How could this be missed? Again, Google probably has this information, and a 5 second sample could probably match up the album/artist/song data. If you can use facial recognition (Picasa) on a photo, why not a similar function on music? 

Best Track 11 Suggestion: Apply a really cool Google Algorithm to ID the track then give the user a chance to accept your suggested changes.

Genre Management

Al Jarreau is a vocalist, but the album probably deserves a “Jazz” Genre. There is no way to move the album into another Genre from the Genre view. And, again, tracks from some albums are sprinkled across different genre. I suspect most of Toad the Wet Sprocket will be under Rock or Alternative, and not in Vocal. 

Best Genre Management Suggestion

Allow META data edits in all views (or, see recommendation above).

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Music rating is not binary, please consider a simple scale of 1 to five from I HATE THIS to I LOVE THIS. Or, for more fun “Bing This” to “Google This”.  Also, if you have song duplicates, it is possible to rate the same song with both a UP and a DOWN. Why not a “Thumbs Down” search – so that you can build that perfect gift CD for your evil twin brother that really likes Abba (or maybe for your wife that likes ABBA).

Best Ratings Suggestion: Life is not only 0 and 1, try 2, 3, 4, 5 (go wild!) and, a qood QA team is worth their weight in gold.

Google Music Help

This section gets the same minimalist functionality of other Google services. But a nice “Quick Start” guide would be a huge help. And really…. not a single Help article on managing duplicates??? Oh, yeah, that really doesn’t work at all.

Best HELP suggestion: write a decent quick start guide, or have a “Dummies” author do one that you give away for free.

G Music Help 


Other things to consider:  

The world needs an upside down “i” for Pink (using the “!” mark is not proper grammar). And, we need a Alt-xxx character code for the artist formerly known as Prince – since he doesn’t want us to call him Prince.


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