Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Chance the Rapper, Spotify Daily Mix & Transit App

Weekly Update 2016-52: The last one of the year! This was a week heavy in obsessions from Chance the Rapper and Jeremih's Christmas Mixtape to the new Spotify Daily Mix, to my new favourite app in the world: Transit.

Music: Merry Christmas Lil' Mama
I strongly dislike Christmas music. Sorry, I just do. It's so repetitive and boring, and you can't escape it during the holiday season. So what I really like is when artists come up with modern, new music that instils the same feeling but in a new way. And no, I don't mean covers of classic songs, but the infinitely harder act of creating new music. And so, here we have an excellent Christmas Mixtape from Chance the Rapper and Jeremih, two of my favourite artists. I especially love this song (see if you can spot a special guest about halfway through the song:

This weekend, I have been quite busy completing visual composites of my blog! I am also simultaneously creating, documenting, auditing and critiquing the process of this project as a learning experience/portfolio piece, and for someone who isn't too strong in the process area, I seem to be overcoming that handicap quite nicely.

I actually wrote a whole separate blog post on how I went about selecting and creating the typographic style of my blog, which I'll be posting this week. I love to read about process on Medium, so I think some of the inspiration for this project definitely came from that. More on this topic below in my Inspiration section of the update.

I also managed to finish fixing up the code of my portfolio site to get it onto Github (you can view it at chloesil.github.io) but I am having major issues transferring over all the domain stuff (which is also why this blog is currently reverting back to its original thoughtsvisualized.blogspot.ca url (thanks, 2011 Chloe!) so I'm hoping to get that all sorted out in the next week.

Other than that, it's holiday time so I will be making a lasagna (why not) and attempting to learn ONE song on the Ukulele this week. How hard can it be?

As an aside, I am wearing my new Doc Martens right now and they are killing my feet. So I suppose another goal would be to break them in. But that will take more than a week if memory serves, so perhaps the goal is not to have my spirit broken by these shoes. On the plus side they look super fresh and new so hopefully the aesthetic appeal will prevail.

Random Thought: Spotify's New Daily Mix
As you have probably picke dup on in past blog posts, I am pretty into Spotify these days. I'd say that of all the streaming services, it's probably the best in terms of UX. Spotify has a good knack for suggesting music based on your listening history that you will enjoy. And so is born a new feature that I just love: The Daily Mix.

It's a mix three components: tracks from your music library, tracks you've recently listened to, and a sprinkle of new music similar to the Discover Weekly playlist. And the best part - this mix is unlimited. It only shows you 30 songs at a time, but when you reach the end, more songs are automatically added. It's actually perfect.

I like to think of the Daily Mix as a Chex Party Mix of music. It's got stuff I know I like, stuff I am getting into lately, and new stuff it thinks I will like. You got your pretzels, maybe some nuts, and, oh what's that? A wheaty-chocolate thing? Okay sure! See, perfect!

Inspiration: Transit App
If you're a TTC slave like me (i.e. no other option to get around), you know the perils of waiting for a bus in the winter inside a ‘shelter’ (I use that word extremely lightly) that may never come. Much of the common commuter's disgruntlement is actually due to the lack of constantly updating information about transit services (both in Toronto and other cities around the world). The TTC has updating transit information, but you may have found that it is often inaccurate. Just think about what it would be like to live in a city like Montreal, with no live updating? That means Google Maps, Apple Maps, and all the other third-party transit apps are scraping information from what is basically a paper timetable. Come on guys, it's almost 2017! This is laughably upsetting.

So how do we solve this problem? Try to get transit agencies to install technology and hire more people to update their transit information more frequently? Yeah, good luck. I just bought my January Metropass for the newly hiked price of $4 more than last month, and I'm sure it will rise again next year to pay for the installation of Presto machines that are probably the least organized rollout of a transit fare system in history.

This problem seems somewhat unsolvable, right? Well, hold on there. In comes an amazing third-party transit app called, well, Transit. Fitting, right? To avoid confusion, please note the capital T to denote the app in the rest of this post.

Transit is making huge waves and overtaking the big guys, which is an amazing feat considering the big guys are Apple and Google, and the app is developed by a marginally small team out of Montreal (yep, the city where they don't even have updated transit information). As per this post from their Medium publication, Transit is using the power of crowdsourcing (think Kickstarter or GoFundMe) to allow users to input their own transit data to help themselves and others in their daily commute. So, where you might fund a project on Kickstarter with money, Transit only asks for your GPS location as you ride the bus (this costs you nothing), and shares that with other people down the line who are waiting for that bus. Voila! They have real-time updates of when the bus is coming, thanks to you! So imagine you share your location in the app on your way to work, helping others, and then use the app to find out when your bus is coming on your way home. People helping people! Not to mention, when you share information that helps others, the app lets you know so you can feel the warm and fuzzy feelings.

And if that weren't enough, you can read this amazing Medium post about their beautiful map interface and how they generate it (again, better than Google and Apple!). The beauty and usefulness of these maps put a tear in my eye. Basically, they have this guy named Anton who uses algorithms and all sorts of development black magic to generate maps that not only look better than the competitors, but also have an extremely improved usability. Just take a gander:

The lovely Anton.

Not only do the maps straight-up look better, they also take into account the ordering of transit paths so they do not cross over each other. Boy, just look at those perfectly curved lines.

I have always rooted for the underdog, but this one takes the cake. You can download Transit from the App Store or from Google Play, or read more in their Medium Publication.

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