Author Archives: Seth Cardoza

The Trials and Tribulations of a Grooveshark User

If you don’t know about Grooveshark, it’s a really nice service that allows you to listen to just about any music your heart would desire. Unlike other free music streaming services, you can listen to the exact songs you want whenever you want, and however many times you want. Add music to a library, mark your favorites, make playlists and share them with friends.

They offer a VIP service for a monthly/yearly fee that provides an ad-free online experience, allows more songs to be added to your library and playlists, as well as access to their mobile apps. I’ve been so pleased with their service, that I signed up for their VIP service back in November, before I ever had a smartphone with a supported platform. They had planned to increase their subscription prices, but subscribers would be locked in at the price they initially paid forever. I knew I would eventually want to use their services on a mobile device, and didn’t mind giving them my money to support the service while I wasn’t using any of their mobile apps.

I’ve since purchased an Android phone and use their mobile app frequently. There’s a small bug that won’t update your playlists if you’ve added/removed songs via the website. It’s a bug they know of, and they say a workaround is to rename the playlist via the website, and this will force the mobile application to update. It’s an annoyance, but one I can deal with. I ran into another bug a little over a month ago. One of my playlists was emptied. I contacted them to figure out what happened and if there was a backup. They apologized, but they didn’t have any backup. There’s also no way for users to back up their playlists themselves. It wasn’t too big of a deal, I mean, it’s just some music. The playlists can be rebuilt, nothing of monetary value was lost. I rebuilt my playlists and moved on, until it happened again. I contacted Grooveshark again about the situation, and they apologized again, and added 3 months of VIP service to my account at no charge. There’s really not much I could do other than rebuild the affected playlists again. It has since happened a third and fourth time over the past month and a half (I’ve been comped another 3 months of VIP service, giving me a total of 6 months for free), with Grooveshark still not backing up user data, nor providing users with a means to do it themselves.

Grooveshark really provided a great service, one that I raved about to friends frequently. As with many other Web 2.0 services, you might say I have little/no room to complain about issues with a free service, and I would agree, but I am a paying customer. Sure, it’s just music, but I enjoy creating playlists of different types of music, different moods, etc. It’s time consuming, and inexcusable for Grooveshark to not have backups of user data, especially for paying customers. At this point, I’ve stopped using Grooveshark, and won’t use it again until the situation is resolved (even for free). I need to be assured that my data will not be lost, partially or totally, on a regular basis, or at the very least be provided with a way to back up my data if Grooveshark will not do it for me. It’s a shame because Grooveshark had a truly great service, and one of the few that I would gladly pay for.

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Boycott Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a sexist, made up, capitalistic holiday. All advertisements aim at men buying stuff for women. No one ever talks about a woman buying something for their man, and why does anyone need to buy anything at all. Let’s all band together and boycott Valentine’s Day this year.*

*Disclaimer: Seth Cardoza is not responsible for temporary celibacy, sleeping on the couch, sleeping outside, sleeping in one’s car, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, upset stomach, lost or strained relationships, stabbings (accidental or intentional), or any other forms of bodily harm, both inflicted and/or received.

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Update Your Business Model

If you haven’t heard, I’m getting married this year. One of the fun things I get to do is talk to vendors, food vendors, photographers, videographers, DJs, and hotel/resort managers. I recently spoke with a wedding photographer, and a question I always have is “Who gets the rights to the photos?”. This is very important to me for a few reasons. One, because the pictures are of me and my family, and I want to be able to do what I want with them. Two, what happens in 20 years when we want to get another photo album, or more prints, and your company no longer exists to get permission to do so or purchase from directly.

So, I ask the inevitable question, and this photographer tells me we are allowed to print the images ourselves, but cannot take them to a commercial printer. This means I can’t even take my pictures to CVS, Walgreens, Walmart or the local developer to get a few 4×6’s printed. She then goes on to say that

We do all the work, why should they be the ones to profit off of it.

This photographer is paid to photograph the wedding, and wedding photography is not cheap. If you feel your work is worth more than what you charge, and feel the need to retain the rights so that you can make more money off of printing, then you’re doing it wrong. Charge more for your photography work if you truly have the talent to warrant it, and provide better service.

Times have changes, and you need to update your business model to follow suit. This outdated business model makes you look cheap, and your explanation makes you sound bitter.

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The Man Grooveshark Playlist

Here’s another Grooveshark playlist I put together. All song titles have the word “man” somewhere in them. If you have any suggestions, I’ll take them into consideration. One noted omission is Black Sabbath – Iron Man, as I hear it way too often, and it doesn’t really add to the quality of the playlist.

Listen to “The Man” on Grooveshark.

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Placeholder Image Generator

This is a great tool for placeholder images for wireframing a project.

A while back, a service called Placehold.it was posted to reddit. It received mixed reviews, most of the criticism being that the site owners themselves, or a hacker could replace all your placeholder images with something much less work appropriate. I decided to create my own placeholder image generator, and release the source code. That way, you can host the application. Sure, it could still get hacked and leave you in a sticky situation, but now it’s your site, not another person’s site. I assume most people put more trust in themselves than others.

Here’s a quick example of how it works (default image):

Placeholder Image

You can view more examples as well as learn how to use it by reading the documentation. The source code is available at the bottom of the documentation, both with a generic version, and one specific to CakePHP.

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The Wonder Years Grooveshark Playlist

I made a Grooveshark playlist capturing most (it’s really hard to get it all) of the music from the Wonder Years TV series. I used wonderyearsguide.com as a reference point. I’m not sure if the website is complete, but it covers quite a bit of music. Some songs that are notably missing are any Christmas songs. I thought they would take away from the playlist, since most people don’t care to listen to Christmas music outside of the season.

There’s a lot of great music from the 60s and 70s, and a few classical pieces as well. Let me know if there’s something notable missing, and I will update the playlist so long as Grooveshark has it available.

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Nature Valley National Parks Project

As I was eating my highly nutritious granola bar breakfast this morning, I noticed some writing on the wrapper. Nature Valley National Parks Project will donate $0.10 for each wrapper you mail in, through August 31, 2010. My first WTF was “why would I spend $0.42 on a stamp for you to donate $0.10?” I’m sure I could mail more than one per envelope, but it’s still not very cost effective. Secondly, if this is about nature and preservation, wouldn’t it be better to have a code on the wrapper that I can enter into a website so i don’t have to waste a paper envelope, and fossil fuels don’t need to be burned to deliver all these wrappers to your processing plant? I should note that they will donate a minimum of $250,000 (and a maximum of $500,00), but this seems more like a poorly done marketing campaign, and a mock effort at actually helping the environment.

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Misplaced Hate on Flash Based Websites

Flash receives a great deal of hate from the web development community, myself included. Common complaints include load times, performance, unnecessary animations/transitions, forcing users to watch (long) intro movies, inability to bookmark content or specific pages, inaccessibility (especially to mobile users), auto play audio, and that it is bad for SEO. The thing is, most of these same complaints can, and do arise from poor development using HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

I can easily include unnecessary animation and transition effects on my site with Javascript, especially with one of the many Javascript frameworks readily available now. I can load down the site with numerous images and other media, CSS and Javascript files, and bloated markup. I can make a website difficult to use for users, and especially mobile users. I can poorly use AJAX for everything making it difficult or impossible to link directly to anything but the home page.

Flash as a development tool does not require superfluous transition effects and animations (AFAIK). It doesn’t force the developer to include an intro to the site, or to auto play some audio file. There are ways to make sites more accessible in Flash, allowing for bookmarking or directly linking to inner content. The website doesn’t have to take an SEO hit just because it uses Flash. Flash would be less resource intense if there were fewer animations and transitional effects. A secondary, light weight version of the site can be made for mobile users, and others that either don’t have Flash or don’t want to use it.

In my experience, the blame for poor Flash sites often rests in the hands of the developer. It is a poor choice to load up a website with animations. It isn’t user friendly to force users to watch an intro movie that you think is super awesome. The lack of bookmarking, direct linking, and the hit to SEO are all avoidable and to allow for otherwise is laziness. Remember, Flash is just another technology that is often used improperly through no fault of its own.

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jQuery Form Focus Plugin

This jQuery plugin will add a background color to text, password, and textarea input fields in forms when focused, and then revert to the original background color on blur. It is a one line call, with one (optional) parameter, the background color.

You can target all forms on the page with this simple line:

$('form').formFocus();

This will default the focused background color to: #f0f0c0

You can specify the background color as follows:

$('form').formFocus({backgroundcolor:'#ff0000});

which would make the focused background color a very bright red. You can also target forms specifically, whether you only want to use it on a single form, or if you want to specify different background colors for each.

$('#demo1').formFocus({backgroundcolor:'#ff0000});

$('#demo2').formFocus({backgroundcolor:'#0000ff});

Download jQuery Form Focus Plugin

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Toolbars on the Bottom of the Page

Adding a toolbar pinned to the bottom of the view port is becoming more common for websites. The idea is to add a bit of functionality, making common links easily accessible at any time. The problem is that it can often give the site a false footer, as is the case with CNET.

CNET Toolbar gives website a false bottom.

As you can see with the image above, scrolling to this point of the article can give the reader the impression that this is the end of the article (as it did with me). But, viewing the image below will show you that there is a large amount of content below this point.

The rest of the page after the false bottom.

Because of the design of the rest of the site, mainly the appearance of the header, a reader can mistakenly assume that an article has ended, when they have yet to read the bulk of the content. When adding functionality such as a toolbar like this, make sure you aren’t decreasing the usability of the site in the process.

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