Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Rant Time: Apple Music vs Twitter

Posted in Apple, botch, business, california by commorancy on September 12, 2018

apple-cracked-3.0-noderivsI know I’ve been on a tirade with the number of rants recently, but here we are. I rant when there’s something to rant about. This time it’s about sharing Apple Music playlists on Twitter… and just how badly this feature is broken. Worse, just how Apple itself is broken. Let’s explore.

Twitter Cards

Twitter has a feature they call Twitter cards. It’s well documented and requires a number of meta tags to be present in an HTML page. When the page is shared via Twitter, Twitter goes looking at the HTML for its respective Twitter meta tags to generate a Twitter card.

A Twitter card comes in two sizes and looks something like this:

Small Twitter Card

Twitter Card Small 2

Large Twitter Card

Large Twitter Card

What determines the size of the Twitter card seems to be the size and ratio of the image. If the image is square in size (144×144 or larger), Twitter creates a small card as shown at the top. If the image ratio is not square and larger than 144×144, Twitter produces a large Twitter card. The difference between the cards is obvious:

  • Small card has an image to the left and text to the right
  • Large card has image above and text below

It’s up to the person sharing on Twitter to decide which size is most appropriate. Personally, I prefer the larger size because it allows for a much larger image.

Apple Music Playlist Sharing

Here’s where the RANT begins… hang onto your hat’s folks. Apple’s engineering team doesn’t get Twitter cards…. AT. ALL! Let me give an example of this. Here’s a playlist I shared on Twitter:

Apple Music Playlist Twitter Card

What’s wrong with this Twitter card? If you guessed the image is way too tiny, you’d win. Apple doesn’t understand the concept of producing a 144×144 image properly. Here’s the fundamental problem. In iTunes, my playlist image is uploaded with a 1200×1200 size image. This image is well large enough for any use on the net. Here’s how it looks in iTunes, albeit scaled somewhat small:

iTunes Playlist Image

Note, iTunes retains the full image size, but scales the image as needed. If you look at the playlist on the web, it looks like this with a much larger scaled image:

Apple Playlist Web

As you can see, the image scales properly and still looks good even larger. Yes, even large enough to produce a 144×144 image on a Twitter card.

Here’s the Twitter card metadata on that Apple Music Preview page:

meta id="1" name="twitter:title" content="‎AstroWorld Pioneer by Klearnote" class="ember-view"

meta id="2" name="twitter:description" content="‎Playlist · 22 Songs" class="ember-view"

meta id="3" name="twitter:site" content="@appleMusic" class="ember-view">

meta id="4" name="twitter:domain" content="Apple Music" class="ember-view">

meta id="5" name="twitter:image" 
content="https://is5-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/SG-S3-US-Std-Image-000001/v4/a2/c6/6f/a2c66fc6-a63b-f590-c6db-e41aebfc327c/image/600x600wp.png" 
class="ember-view"

meta id="6" name="twitter:card" content="summary" class="ember-view"

You’ll notice that the text in red above is the piece that is relevant. Let’s look at that image now…

600x600wp

Scaled. Click to see 600×600 image

You’ll notice that the playlist image content is centered at 213×213 pixels in size centered in a light grey box that’s 600×600. Yes, that thick light grey border is part of the image. This is actually how the image is being produced by Apple on their servers. That would be okay if the image were scaled to the full 600×600 pixels. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Twitter will scale any image to its preferred size of 144×144 pixels for small Twitter cards. Here’s what a 144×144 image looks like when scaled by WordPress:

600x600wp

Small, but reasonably clear. Here’s Twitter’s crap scaled and unreadable version:

twitter-144x144

I have no idea what Twitter is using to scale its images, but it looks like absolute trash. The bigger problem isn’t that Twitter has scaled this image down, it’s that Apple has provided Twitter with such an already small and crap looking playlist image. Why have a 144×144 image if you’re only going to use 1/9th of the entire space? Apple, why wouldn’t you not want to use the entire 144×144 image space to make the image look like this:

pioneer-1200x1200

That sized image would make the Twitter card look like this…

TwitterCardFixed

… instead of this absolute shit looking card…

TwitterCardBroken

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Apple used to be a well respected company who always prided itself on doing things correctly and producing high quality products. Today, they’re a shadow of their former selves. Producing products as crap as this only serves as a detriment to all of the other products they now offer. It’s clear, Apple Music is an afterthought and Apple seems to have only one engineer assigned to this software product… maybe none.

It’s also clear, Apple doesn’t respect the standards of anyone, not even themselves. I consider this absolute crap attention to detail. Seriously, who wants their images to be scaled to the point of unreadability? No one!

Yet, when I called Apple Support to report this issue, I was told, “This is expected behavior”. Expected by whom? Who would ever expect an image to be scaled the point of nonrecognition? No one. If this is the level of software development effort we’re now seeing from Apple, then I don’t even want to think what corners are being cut on their hardware products.

What’s next? Apple watches catching on fire and exploding on people’s wrists? Phones taking out people’s ears? If I can no longer trust Apple to uphold the standards of high quality, then the mighty have truly fallen. There is no hope for Apple no matter how much crap they try to peddle.

Apple, Hear Me!

If you are serious about your business, then you need to be serious about all aspects including offering high quality products, services and features. This goes all the way to playlist sharing on Twitter. My experience with dealing with Apple in this matter was so amateur including the way Apple Music itself is being handled, why should I continue to use this product? Give me a reason to pay you $99 for such shit! Seriously, in addition to the above, I’m also finding what appear to be bootlegged music products on Apple Music and yet you’re pawning it off as official releases?

And as suggested by your representative, why should I contact Twitter for this issue? Twitter’s features work properly when provided with the correct information. As has been stated for years in software engineering, “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. It is you, Apple, who are providing Twitter with garbage information. It’s not a Twitter problem, it’s an Apple problem. Also, because this is an Apple engineering problem to solve, why should I contact Twitter on Apple’s behalf? I don’t work for you. You need to have YOUR engineering team contact Twitter and have them explain to you the errors of your ways.

This is just the tip of the iceberg here. There’s so much wrong at Apple, if you continue to entrust your family’s safety into Apple’s products, you may find one of your family members injured or dead. Apple, wake up and learn to take quality seriously.

Then next time you are shopping for a computer or a watch devices, you need to ask yourself, “Do I really trust Apple to provide safe choices?”

Apple has now officially and truly reached the level of shit!

Broken Apple Image credit: The King of The Vikings via DeviantArt

↩︎

Advertisements

Rant Time: The problem with Twitter

Posted in botch, business, social media by commorancy on August 27, 2018

Twitter-smTwitter began as a lofty idea for small text social conversation. For many of its early years, it managed to keep some semblance of order and decency. As of 2018, the platform has devolved into something far less useful and more problematic. Let’s explore.

Primary Twitter Topics

Today, Twitter is primarily dominated by breaking news, gun control and political rhetoric, sometimes all three at the same time. While these topics do have a place, reading these dominant conversations every moment of every day is tiring. It also goes against the diversity of what the platform is intended to offer. While these topics have a place, they don’t really have a place as the dominant force on Twitter. They exist simply to clog up each Twitter user’s feed.

Twitter’s Failings and Slow Development

When Twitter began back in 2006, it offered a fairly limited social conversation platform with its 140 character limit. In fact, that limit wasn’t raised until early 2018, 12 years later… when the limit went up to 280 characters. Talk about slow development! This 140 character limit was a holdover from SMS days which still to this day hold this limit. I do not know why Twitter chose this arbitrarily small amount of text for a social conversation platform. It had no relation to SMS and couldn’t send SMS messages, so it never made sense.

Twitter has also firmly embraced the “no edit” mantra to the chagrin of many. To modify a tweet, you must delete it, then recreate it. This is a cumbersome hassle. It also means that any feedback you had on that tweet must be forfeit. There’s a real incentive to get the tweet right the first time. For a conversation platform in 2018, this limitation on a text discussion platform is completely ludicrous. Clarification of thought is extremely important in all text mediums. The only way to ensure clarify of thought is via editing. We all make mistakes when typing, such as their for there or they’re. These are extremely common typing mistakes. Sometimes it’s the accidental misuse of homonyms. There are plenty of other types of common mistakes. There is also rewording. Yet, here we are… 12 years after Twitter’s inception and we STILL can’t edit a tweet. What the hell is going on over there at Twitter, Jack Dorsey?

While Twitter has grown little since 2006, only offering better privacy, limited feed customization, an ad platform and some UI improvements, it really has done next to nothing to improve the user functionality since 2006. I’ve worked at companies where the product has almost completely performed a 180º turn in product features in only 1-2 years. Twitter has remained nearly stagnant, feature wise and has implemented clamored features at an absolute snail’s pace (read, it hasn’t implemented them) in its 12 years of existence.

Censorship

As we all should understand, the first amendment free speech protections do not apply to private corporations. This ultimately means that there can be no speech submitted on the Twitter platform that is protected. As much as people want to complain that some left or right winger has been suspended, banned or otherwise dismissed from Twitter, that is Twitter’s right. Twitter is not a government owned or operated corporation. Therefore, they can censor, delete, suspend or otherwise prevent a user or entity from putting any content onto their platform for any reason.

What this means is that Twitter can do whatever they wish and claim violations of ‘terms of service’. After all, Twitter writes the terms of service and can modify them at any time without notification to anyone. In fact, Twitter isn’t even required to have explicit terms listed and they can still delete or suspend anyone they wish, for any reason. As I said, free speech protections on Twitter do not apply.

Leadership Team

Jack Dorsey heads up the leadership team at Twitter as CEO. In the last 1-2 years, he’s spouted rhetoric about reduction of hate speech on Twitter. What that ultimately translates to, within Twitter’s current moderation tool limits, is deletion of selected speech or accounts, regardless whether it contains hate speech or not. If Twitter doesn’t like what you have to say, out you go.

Twitter SuspendedNo more evident is that in those users who have amassed 15k followers or more. One foible on one of these accounts and Twitter closes it. No no, can’t have a 15k or more followers seeing something that Twitter management doesn’t like. Even celebs aren’t immune to this. If you are reading the article and you have amassed more than 6000 followers, your account is a risk with each tweet you post, particularly if your speech primarily consists of political messages, controversial topics or divisive ideas (NRA vs Gun Control, Abortion vs Pro Life, Trump bashing, etc).

The current technical means at Twitter’s disposal to reduce this kind of speech consists of tweet deletion, account suspensions or bans. Twitter has no other means at its disposal. In reality, Twitter has dug the hole it is now in. Twitter has failed to foresee problems of user scale. Whenever the total user base grows, so are the problems amplified that go with that. Twitter should have initially implemented some level of moderation and anointed users to help moderate its platform in a similar fashion to both Wikipedia and Reddit. It didn’t.

Twitter is to Blame

Twitter has only itself to blame for not taking proactive action sooner and in failing to build more complete moderation tools sooner. Additionally, social platforms that have implemented self-moderation automated systems have done exceptionally well. When the community downvotes certain content at a certain level, then Twitter should not promote it into user’s feeds. In fact, Twitter’s continual promotion of tweets into people’s primary feeds has actually propagated hate and problematic speech. Instead, Twitter should have been building a self-policing platform from day one or at least within the first couple of years. They chose not to.

Even today, Twitter still hasn’t built a self-policing platform. I regularly find hate speech in my feed. Worse, while I can mark the stuff I like with a heart, I have no such action to force items out of my feed that I choose not to see. The best I can do is mute the user or mute the account. Why is that Twitter? Why can’t I mark individual types of tweets that I no longer want to see and have that content removed from my feed? Why do I have to trudge all the way into preferences and put in mute words or, even more sledgehammery, mute or block the user? Even then, that only affects my account. It doesn’t have any impact on the global Twitter.

Employing Social Moderation and Tweet Grading

Using social moderation is both effective and necessary when you’re working with millions of users sending millions of messages per day. Twitter is a social platform. Let’s use that social interaction of those millions of people to bubble worthy messages to the top and sink crap messages so they never get seen. This is the ONLY way to effectively moderate at scale on a social platform. The value of each tweet is in its worth to viewers. Many viewers all marking tweets downward means less people see it. Many viewers marking tweets up means more people will see it. I can’t imagine that any sane person would choose to vote up hate speech, death threats or similar unacceptable or violent content.

I’m not saying that any one user should have undue influence over a tweet’s popularity. In fact, users will need to build their trust and reputation levels on the platform. For example, newly created accounts might not even be able to influence up or downward momentum of tweets right out of the gate. It might take 2-4 months of interactions on the platform before the user’s interactions begin to count. This way, users can’t go out and create 100 or more accounts in an attempt to get their tweet to the top of popularity. In fact, any tweet that ends up getting upvotes from too many newly created accounts without other upvotes should be marked as suspect and have their own trust levels locked or reduced.

Additionally, it should take interactions from many trusted accounts simultaneously to raise a tweet’s popularity substantially, particularly if those accounts have no relationship to one another (not following each other). This says that independent users have found a tweet’s content to be worthy of interaction by others.

This isn’t to say this is the only algorithm that could be built to handle social moderation, but it would definitely be a good start and a way to take this platform to the next level. Conversely, I will state that building an algorithm to scan and rate a tweet based solely on its textual content is next to impossible. Using the power of social interaction to grade a tweet and raise or lower its value is the best way to force those who want to game the system out of the platform.

Also, there should be no exemptions from the system. Not for CNN, not for Proctor and Gamble, not for any account. Social moderation needs to apply to all accounts or it’s worthless.

I’m not saying that social moderation is in any way a perfect solution. It isn’t. But, at least it can be fair when implemented properly. Can this kind of system be gamed? Probably. But, the engineers would need to watch for this eventuality and be ready to make change to prevent further gaming of the system. Eventually, the holes will be patched.

Multiple feeds and Topics

Here’s another area where Twitter has failed. As with any social platform, users have likes and dislikes and topic preferences they want to see. For example, I really don’t want to see political bashing. That’s not my thing. I’d prefer a feed that is politic free. My only interest in politics and political candidates is when there’s an imminent election. Otherwise, I want it out of my feed. Same for NRA / Gun control arguments. Same for Trump tweet bashing. Same for Pro Life vs Abortion. I don’t want to waste time with these types of divisive controversial topics in my feed. I have better uses for my time. If I want to see that content, I will explicitly go searching for it. I don’t want it to automatically appear in my feed.

Yet, Twitter has not implemented any customized feeds based on likes, hobbies or preferences of information (i.e., new technology). Instead, Twitter has based this part on following Twitter accounts that offer such information. The problem is, chasing down these accounts to follow. Even then, because those accounts might only post new on-topic information 20% of the time, the other 80% of the time I would see stuff I don’t want to see in my feed. Herein lies the problem with Twitter. It shouldn’t be based on following a user, it should be based on following conversation topics.

I’d prefer to customize my feeds (and have several feeds hooked to different topics) and subscribe to those feeds. I don’t need to follow any given account that’s talks about stuff I’m not interested in. Instead, by following topics, my feed gets interesting tweets. I can then discover new accounts to follow and also discover topics I’m interested in. This is the single important piece that Jack and team have sorely failed to address within the Twitter platform. To reiterate, I want to see stuff in my feeds that I am interested in, even if I don’t follow that account. I don’t want to see stuff I’m not interested in at all even if following an account that tweets about it. Following by topic is more important than following by user.

This is the power of social media. This is the power of Twitter. This is what is missing to make Twitter a complete platform… this, in addition to social moderation.

Twitter’s Hand Moderation

Instead of implementing a social moderation system or an interests based feed system, Twitter has spent its time hand moderating by suspending and banning accounts all in its stated goal of “reducing hate speech”. While deleting accounts may reduce that account’s ability to post hate speech, it doesn’t stop the user from creating a brand new account and starting it all over again. This is Twitter’s flaw in the user follow model.

Only the above two designs: 1) topic based multiple feeds and 2) social moderation will lead to lasting change within the Twitter platform. Nothing else will. Twitter’s hand moderation technique is merely a small bandaid with limited scope. It will never make a dent in reducing hate speech on Twitter. Lasting change only comes from innovating the platform in new and better ways to improve the end user experience and, at the same time, reducing the signal to noise ratio.

It’s time for Twitter to step up and actually begin innovating its platform in substantial new and meaningful ways… or it will perish.

↩︎

School bullying takes on new life on Internet

Posted in Health, peer pressure by commorancy on October 4, 2010

School bullying and peer pressure is something that each of us has to endure at some point in our lives. When attending grade school, we quickly learn about bullies and peer pressure. This life lesson happens very quickly. Perhaps even as early as kindergarten when another kid pushes you down because you wouldn’t give them the purple crayon. Whatever the reason, it starts early and only gets more and more problematic over the years.

By Middle and High School, these bullying tactics go from wanting your crayon to making the student feel like an outsider. Peer pressure comes in many forms, though. From the person who taunts merely to give the bully pleasure over someone else’s pain to the bully who uses others to get their schoolwork done or get money.  The pressure might even force you into trying drugs or smoking.  Whatever the reason, it is very hard and emotionally painful on the student being pressured.

Internet bullying

With the advent of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter, it’s now easier than ever for students to broadcast themselves on the Internet for all to see. The danger, of course, is that by participating in such public web sites, each person can easily make themselves into a local celebrity unintentionally. Worse, your ‘friends’ are also on these sites and subscribe and comment on your personal statuses and posts.

Unfortunately, these very public outlets are both used and abused by student bullies. So, hanging the laundry out for everyone to see invites other people around you to comment. Not all comments are nice. Some even take the form of using bullying tactics to make the other person feel unwanted.

Teen Suicides

In the last few weeks, there has been 5 to 6 publicized teen suicides that are apparently directly attributed to Internet bullying. That said, these seem to have begun with local school bullies using the Internet to harass and humiliate these students. Students still in the teen years don’t yet have enough life experience to understand that the bullying isn’t the end-all-be-all of their existence. There is more to life than school and classmates. In fact, once you get past school, it’s likely you’ll never see most of those people ever again.

College, unfortunately, does present itself with peer pressure as well, but not always the same as high school. It can present in the form of Greek hazings, school clubs and other forms of social interaction situations. As a student in College, I had chosen not to become involved in any of these organizations because I wanted to concentrate my efforts on my studies.

Unfortunately, there are still other situations that can become an issue. The dorms. Many Colleges and Universities require you to live in the dorms for at least one or two years (depending on school policy). When you are forced to live in the dorms, you may also be forced to room with someone.

College Life, Dorms and Roommates

Unfortunately, when you’re forced to room with someone, you have to take the good with the bad. In my college dorm life, I’ve had several different roommates. One would go out drinking the entire night and come back smelling up the entire room of sickening alcohol breath. He would do this nearly every night. I was literally getting sick from the smell, I had to leave the room to get fresh air. I asked for a new roommate as I couldn’t sleep with that going on. The next roommate was a severe asthmatic who required breathing treatments every night using a loud machine.  The treatments lasted anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour.  I didn’t mind that he needed the treatments, I minded when he chose to do the treatments. He preferred to do this after 10PM and sometimes after midnight. That lasted about a semester.  I moved into a dorm without a roommate.  Unfortunately, even that situation wasn’t perfect as I had a suite-mate (we shared the bathroom).  In this situation, he was incessantly complaining about the bathroom.  After this, I moved into an apartment with another roommate and then later without one.

As a side note, if you sign a lease with a roommate (for whatever reason), be very careful.  If the roommate leaves and stops paying the rent, you are liable for the entire rent for the rest of the lease and all the utilities in your name.  So, be careful that you trust your roommate fully.  Also, sign small leases (6 months or less) and ask for an easy out should a roommate stop paying.  With cell phones, it’s easy to keep phone service separate now.  However, utilities like cable TV, internet service, water, gas and electricity can bite you.

Another side of this, with roommates, I would regularly find my stuff missing. Supplies and other items would inexplicably walk off. This would include pens, paper, books, CDs and personal items. I never knew exactly who was responsible, but I knew my roommate had let someone into the room. This is also part of college life. So, don’t bring valuables into a room with a roommate unless you really don’t treasure your belongings. Also, roommates do finger through everything you own, so be ready for this.  Finally, don’t allow your roommate to borrow or lend out your items to others.  You will never get them back.

Anyway, this basically means, you have no privacy in a dorm and roommate situation. This is also where bullying can start.

Social Clubs and Parties

In college, participating in the Greek system may seem to make you fit in, but it opens you up to social problems. Not only does it open you up to more peer pressure, it opens you up to hazing, Greek parties, binge drinking and other college party games. Greek parties are some of the strongest alcohol pressure zones you will ever find in college life. They can also become some of the most outlandish parties.

As a young person just having been turned loose in College, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important and why you are there. After all, this is the first real taste of freedom most kids have in the world. Unfortunately, that freedom is just an illusion. No, you aren’t policed by the university to make classes. So, it is left up to you to get your butt out of bed and make it to class on time. It is also left up to you to get your school work completed. If you don’t do this, you can’t make the grade and you may be kicked out.  So, focus on the schoolwork and push everything else aside.

Schools choose to ignore bullying and peer pressure

Unfortunately, both high school and colleges are no better peer pressure situations. In fact, most schools look the other way and pretend it doesn’t exist. Bullying happens primarily because there’s something different that someone doesn’t like. Whether that’s because of the color of their skin, their religion, the classes being taken, their sexual orientation, the clothes they wear, the car they drive, the friends they have, the beliefs they hold, the music they like or whatever, it all begins with intolerance and hate.

This intolerance is usually passed along to their kids by parents. Kids learn what’s in their environment and expand on that as they grow. If parents have predjudice, these get passed onto their kids. The kids foster this all throughout school and lives which turns the kid either into a bully or the one being bullied.

Unfortunately, no matter the cause of bullying, intolerance and hate, schools ignore it. They don’t want to know it exists and they, instead, solely focus on the school as a money-making venture. In other words, schools really don’t take an interest in their student body’s health and welfare beyond simple measures (i.e. a school doctor). Schools ignore the bullying, hate and intolerance usually because those being bullied don’t say anything to anyone. Of course, when they do say something, the school may not do anything anyway. Schools tend to prefer status-quo over getting involved. Getting involved can also expose the school to legal issues and they prefer just to stay ignorant for their own legal betterment and financial gain. Also, if the school kicks out any student, that means they’ve lost the revenue from that student. So, there is a negative financial incentive to stepping into bullying situations and remove such students.  Unless the student clearly violate school policies definitively, they really don’t want to do anything.

The bullying persists

Because schools choose not to get involved, bullying persists and nothing gets done. This also leads students into taking matters into their own hands. In the suicide cases, these students felt their only recourse was suicide. Suicide is the flip side of the school massacres. Those prone to suicide are the people who tend to internalize their depression and take their own lives instead of being aggressive and taking the lives of others and then themselves. However, bullying can lead to either outcome depending on the type of person involved. Unfortunately, the other more violent outcome could just have easily have happened.

Whether suicide or a massacre, these issues usually stem from the same source: bullying, hatred and intolerance. With sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, students can now be more cruel and bullying than ever. Now these bullies can not only bully in person, but they can now find all of that person’s friend’s pages and leave hurtful, cruel and damaging comments on the Internet for everyone to see.  Or, in some of the cases, cruel videos of the students in private situations.

In the case of Tyler Clementi, he was apparently not openly gay. Yet, his roommate apparently choose to live stream video of a sexual relation on the Internet and Tweet about it. A camera that he had apparently been hidden before the relations started.

Lucky

Tyler’s roommate is lucky to be alive. If Tyler had been the personality type to explode, it’s possible that dorm or school could have ended up a massacre zone with many students and teachers dead or wounded. Instead, Tyler chose to end his own life by jumping from a bridge alone. Neither outcome is proper or necessary. But, Tyler thought so.

The reality is that schools need to wake up to peer pressure. It’s real and it is not going away. Students need a safe haven where they can go and openly discuss peer pressure situations where they will be taken seriously and investigated free from school penalties and consequences.  Diffusing peer pressure situations is actually important for schools to discuss because the outcome is quite clear should a bullied student take action.

Right now, there is no such place. Students would have to see their own independent psychological counselor to discuss these situations, but these counselors are powerless to do anything to resolve the situation. If schools want to stop the suicides and massacres, they need to set up a safe haven that has the power to stop peer pressure, bullying and other such stupid student tactics dead in its tracks. It’s really the only way. Unfortunately, such a program will cost real money to set up and universities won’t do this because they will lose some of their precious profits to manage such a program.  Public schools can’t do this with the severe funding shortages they are now incurring.  It’s a program whose time has come, but unfortunately, it’s going to take legislation to force schools into compliance.

%d bloggers like this: