Tuesday, April 2, 2019

April Fools: Discocover Weekly & Bob The Flamingo

Weekly Update 2019-14: The joys and cringes of software products trying to prank their users for April Fools including a delightful joy in Spotify's Discocover Weekly and my new hero, Bob the Flamingo.

Did you know HyperX and Nissin Cup Noodles are doing a headphone collab?

Just joking.

Music: Discocover Weekly
My experiences with April Fools pranks from tech companies have been mixed at best, but I so happened to be the butt of a joke that ended in my favour. Yes, if you're anything of a fan of Spotify's Discover Weekly playlists, you already know the joys of waiting for Monday to roll around so Spotify can give you your new musical flavour of the week. You'll also already know about the little prank Spotify pulled on April 1, regarding a small typographic change to the playlist - Discocover Weekly.

Yes, the prank was based on Spotify's assumption that its listeners are not huge fans of disco covers and covers of disco songs alike. Well, I am here to tell you Spotify was wrong. I love disco so much and never make the time to listen to some classics, so this was a lovely little gift on an otherwise drab Monday April 1.

I love this whole thing and I'm not sorry. More on this prank as a marketing tactic in the Random Thought below.

After a long, long weekend, I finally finished marking all the final projects for BrainStation. This was truly a wonderful group of students, they'll be hard to top next semester. I also turned Erika's old desk into a workstation for myself (my own desk is currently covered in plants) and it's been pretty good working in there now that the weather is a bit warmer and I don't have to pay to heat a whole extra room.

Moody at night. Daytime is good, too!

Being that I have two free Thursday nights until the next semester starts, I was finally able to attend Hack Night at work last Thursday. The Workflow team had purchased a Raspberry Pi (similar to Arduino) microcomputer to be able to cast their screens more easily to their communal TV screen, which I helped to set up (but really just watched them set up). I also gave out some free design critique on some other passion projects going around the office. Our development organization is so choc-ful of creative and intelligent people, and hack nights allow us to use our collective genius to work on non-work projects in a comfortable setting. Plus, the office provides dinner for us!

Larissa held an engagement celebration party for her friends at Storm Crow Manor, which I have been wanting to check out since it opened. The wedding train keeps on trucking, as we headed to Newmarket on Saturday for a wedding tradeshow. It was actually better than I thought it would be, and Larissa even managed to find a photographer couple that she really liked and may hire for her wedding. They've photographed other weddings at the Ontario Science Centre before, which was a big selling feature.

Tomorrow I'll be drumming at the office (my favourite way to end the workday) and preparing for another one-off UI Design Workshop taking place on Wednesday. Even when I am between semesters, I suppose they just can't keep me out of the classroom.

I'd also like to use part of this weekend to write a LinkedIn post on my teaching experiences so far.

Random Thought: April Fools in Tech
It has become a sort of vogue trend for popular tech companies to participate in April Fools pranks. While I am a big fan of a well-crafted prank, I find it ceaselessly interesting that some products choose to pull pranks in direct contradiction to good user experience principles. Google did this with Gmail in 2016. They added a glaring orange Send button beside the normal blue button, that would allow the sender to attach a gif of a minion doing a "mic drop", and then supposedly mute the entire conversation without allowing anyone to reply.

This prank was ill-advised at best, as some users accidentally hit the button and then never received expected replies, and in some cases lost their jobs because of it. Google quickly disabled the button.

Google is back at it again in 2019 with a software-based screen cleaner in their Files App, somehow automagically detecting and removing dirt and dust from your screen.

Tinder joined in on the fun by asking its users to verify their height before being allowed to continue. I think that one got a little bit of a backlash from male-identifying users...

Whether intended or not, this one spurred a lot of social unrest and definitely polarized some people on the internet. There were many petty tweets about this change by disgruntled men around how Tinder should also release a weight verification for women. Disgusting.

On the lighter side, Vena's development department put out a little lighthearted article on our supposed Office Mutiny Over Coding Syntax. It's worth a read and a chuckle.

And of course, there's my new favourite disco playlist courtesy of Spotify. While I'm sure the disco genre choice was meant to be a joke, I personally love disco and was especially pleased to see Spotify also used it as a marketing tactic to test out their new algorithmically-personalized curated playlist feature. Not only did they give me a wonderful disco playlist, but they gave me a shiny, new algorithmically-personalized disco playlist.

Let me break it down a little on how good this playlist is. It's got Scissor Sisters, The Beach Boys and Madonna, all my favourite deep cuts. The covers are maybe the best part: a weird Euro-cover of Beatles' Day Tripper, a metal cover of KC and the Sunshine Band's I'm Your Boogie Man and an indie pop cover of Earth, Wind and Fire's September. It's got an AMAZING jazz cover of Michael Jackson's Don't Stop Til You Get Enough by James Chance & The Contortions, whose lead vocals sound eerily like Keith Richards. How can an algorithm be so good, that it can pick out weird genre disco covers that I'll like?! Can this algorithm have the power to convince people to realize they love disco?! This is the future and I love it.

Inspiration: Bob The Flamingo
Perhaps my biggest accomplishment of the week was that I finally dragged my butt to the ROM to use my membership for the first time since getting it in the mail last week. Yesterday was the last day to visit their exhibit on the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, so it was pretty crowded but well worth it. One of the true standouts was a wonderful series of six photos all encompassing a flamingo named Bob.

Cleanse your mind palette because this is NOT A PRANK. 

He's my new hero.

In Curacao in the southern Caribbean, Bob is famous as a symbol of conservation of nature and wildlife. His life took a dramatic turn when he flew into a hotel window, leaving him severely concussed. He was cared for by Odette Doest, a local vet who also runs a wildlife rehabilitation centre and conservation charity – the Fundashon Dier en Onderwijs Cariben (FDOC).

Existing disabilities meant Bob couldn’t be released, but instead he became ambassador for FDOC, which educates locals about the importance of protecting the island’s wildlife. Odette drives him around to lots of different events as a spokesbird and powerful symbol for environmentally conscious practices and their effects on the ecosystem.

Odette often takes Bob to schools to meet children.

Bob, Odette and their cat at home.

These photos of Bob were captured by Curacao-based photographer Jasper Doest, and have earned Doest a commendation in the award’s photojournalist story category. I love this kind of international news story, trying to bring important issues to light and insight action through a strong symbol of peace and intended outcome. Aka, let's keep our planet clean, and let's do it for Bob!

Check out more of Bob's story on Doest's website.

Did I mention Bob loves snacks? Sounds like someone else I know...

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