Goodbye, Rdio

Like everybody else, I felt like I had heard every song on Pandora by the time I discovered Rdio.  I was user number 4075, a paid unlimited user, signing up on June 6, 2010.  I was really happy to hear anything I wanted.  I used the Rdio Desktop client to create a collection on the service with my local iTunes Library.  I listened to it a lot.

Like many others, I moved to Spotify once it finally came to the US.  I don't recall why exactly, but if I know myself like I think I do it was simply because I wanted to try something else.  But I always thought as Rdio as the service for music lovers.

I ended up with a role at Rdio due to an acquisition.  They were bringing in the TastemakerX team.  There were other places the TMX team could have landed, but I wanted it to be Rdio.  It was perfect.  Just the right size, opportunities for growth, and most of all I'd be working on a product that people really, really loved.

I worked on handful of very different things while at Rdio.  When I joined they were midway through a major redesign.  I jumped in cranking out parts of the UI that still needed to be done.

I did a hardware integration for Jaguar/Landrover using Bosch's technology.  I doubt many people have seen that work, but it was cool to be working with hardware.

I think I was the only engineer that started and finished the Rdio Live project.  Live wasn't a popular feature within the company, and I understand that it only happened for political and business reasons.  But by the the time it launched people thought it was cool.  And it was.  We got terrestrial radio seamlessly integrated into an on-demand service.  It worked way better as an experience than I thought it would.  It even brought in new users.  I was told it was the most friction and hassle free launch in Rdio's history.  So that's something.

The mobile team was small.  Probably too small.  But I preferred it that way.  I got to work on every piece of the codebase.  Sure, the original app was in C#, due to a decision by people no longer at the company, to utilize Xamarin, but the current team didn't want it, or like it.  So we started rewriting it.  We were building from the ground up, in Swift (with some Objective-c), a new iOS application that will never see the light of day. I was focusing on the playback engine, something I've never done a deep dive into before.  As a side effect of Swift being new, and C# being new to me, this means I developed in two new languages in under a year and a half on a daily basis.  So again, that's something.

I may be the only person who received an offer from Pandora who feels about 50/50 if they will accept it or not.  I always told people Rdio is about as large of a company as I'd want to be at.  When I started I think it was just around 150 people.  It's probably closer to 200 globally now.  Pandora touts 1800+ employees.  I asked representatives to explain how I won't get lost in a sea of engineers.  They couldn't tell me I wouldn't.  They couldn't tell me I'd matter.

There's a possibility I'm more touchy about this than the rest of my team because this is the second time I've been acquired in two years.  Maybe I feel like I'm being pushed around with no control over my own destiny.  That I can be bought and sold to the highest bidder.  I don't actually feel this way, I can walk away at any time.  But the fact that it's come to mind at all means there might be something to it.

Rdio's shutdown isn't just a loss to me, or the people I share an office with every day.  It's a loss to the world of music.  Rdio was the service for music lovers, by music lovers.  In this world of The Streaming Services vs. The Music Business it's not enough to love music to keep the lights on.  There's no guarantee Pandora can do any better.  They're the ones, prior to their IPO, who were petitioning the copyright royalty board every few years saying they'd go out of business if rates were hiked up.  They're trying to pay less to artists.  The same artists who are already trying to put the streaming services out of business.  So I'm not sure how this can end well.

Regardless of any of this, Rdio will be a thing of the past soon.  A story about a fantastic product sold in a fire sale because the music streaming industry is brutal.  But I'm really lucky to have been a part of it, even for a short time.  Goodbye, Rdio.  You had too much empty whitespace.

Gabe's 2012 Year in Review

It's time for my mostly-annual "stuff and things" post.  I've missed some years, but I think I have more new stuff this time around.  I'll try and detail all of the software, hardware and services that I've used this year to make my personal and professional life better or more interesting.

Software

Desktop (OS X)

  • Xcode.
    Love it or hate it, I live in it.  Actually, I don't know if I love it or hate it.
  • Transmit.
    For many years in a row it's been my OS X FTP client of choice and I'm still very happy with it.
  • Textual.
    I switched OS X IRC clients this year to to Textual.  It's open source, and it's pretty customizable.  It's done me well, while admittedly my requirements in a desktop IRC client are minimal these days.  Not like the crazy stuff I used to do back in the "good ol' days".  This app doesn't seem to be actively updated on the App Store, but it's open source so I just compile it myself.
  • Tweetbot.
    The Tapbots guys can do no wrong, and I was happy to pay anything they wanted when I found they were coming out with a desktop version of Tweetbot.  
  • Chrome.  
    It has been my browser of choice.  I don't know why.  I guess it's faster?  I'm pretty browser agnostic, in general.  As long as you can build plugins for it and it's fast I'm fine.
  • Textmate / Sublime Text 2.
    I've been using the same old version of Textmate for years.  But I'm trying to move over to Sublime Text 2.  Sometimes I forget.  But Sublime Text 2 is better,  the features are handy, and it's faster.
  • 1Password.
    A great password management application for desktop and mobile, 1Password makes my life easy by managing all of the many developer accounts I have, as well as the ever growing social media world.

Mobile (iOS)

    Workclub

    • Tweetbot.
      Same as above.  But for iOS.
    • SF Climates.
      A weather application for the many micro-climates of San Francisco.  Everyone in SF should have this because it works.  Nobody outside of the city limits has a use for it.
    • Reeder.
      I don't use this because I love it, I use it because it currently works for me.  I require a RSS reader that will cache posts offline so I can read them while on BART.  This does that.  I'm always keeping my eyes out for something better.
    • Downcast.
      After moving to SF I started listening to Podcasts again.  When in Omaha I stopped listening all together, mostly due to a lack of a commute.  Here I'm listening to them just as much as I was in Chicago, and I'm again hooked.  Downcast is a really great podcast consumption application.  It has everything that I could want.  Things like playback speed, dynamic playlists and geo-fencing makes this the application for people who take podcasts seriously.
    • Highlight.
      As a fan of social-by-way-of-digital having an application that just tells me who's around is interesting to me.  I can ping those people that seem interesting, and you never know what will come of that.
    • Workclub.
      This is a new application from the Coffee & Power people.  It's something that I don't exactly know the true value of yet, but I think will become apparent before long.  As people are checking into their respective locations, it's cool to know what people are working on, and where.  I think this information can be invaluable at some point in the future when you realize "Hey, I think I saw a guy working on X at Y.  I should get in touch with him".  I almost want to think of it as virtual coworking.  I look forward to see what it does in the next year.
    • Routsey Pro.
      It tells me the when's and where's of the public transportation system of the Bay Area.  I set bookmarks of the stops and routes that I rely on and it becomes a one stop view of how much time until another one goes by.
    • Lyft / Uber.
      Lyft is my first choice for having a car pick me up and bring me somewhere,  it's cheaper than Uber.  But sometimes demand isn't in my favor and I go back to Uber.  Both are awesome services when using their application will tell someone behind a wheel where to get me.  And best part: no paying with cash.

    SF Climates

    Downcast

    Services

    • Spotify.
      I was a Spotify user years ago.  I had a fake UK account and I used a UK proxy server to access it.  Eventually they shut me down and I no longer had access to the service.  When Rdio launched I became a happy subscriber and used that until Spotify came to the US.  After comparing and contrasting side-by-side I again went back to Spotify mostly due to the API.

    • Evernote.
      I'm not sure why I pay for Evernote.  I should stop.  I use it plenty, but not enough to require the paid plan.  It's my cloud-based dropbox of text that I always know is accessible everywhere.  I use it for everything from todo lists, to just sketching down notes.
    • Cloud.ly.
      Such a rad service.  I have a little menu item that sits there waiting for me to drag something on it, and when I do it uploads it and copies the URL to my clipboard.  As simple as that.  It'll also auto-upload screenshots.  It works great and I use it a ton every day for sending files around to people.
    • Hover.
      My domain registrar of choice.  It used to be the old "Tucows Domains" from the day, but rebranded.  It's a simple, clean service.  If you think about what the complete opposite of GoDaddy would be, it would be Hover.
    • Fastmail.
      I continue to use Fastmail.fm as my email provider.  I pay them every year to do nothing but accept email and make it accessible to me.  They're not going through my email and selling the data to the highest bidder, and aren't trying to make me into a webmail convert.
    • Dropbox.
      Dropbox is kind of like the working directory of my life.  All documents, code, images, etc hang out here.  It's nice to know all my stuff is accessible from anywhere I happen to be.  Throw something in there and then grab it again from my iPhone or at work.
    • Testflight.
      TestFlight makes the life of any iPhone developer easier.  I use it both personally and professionally to send out test versions of applications I'm working on.  Without it the test process for normal users is a little more convoluted than you'd like, but using Testflight it's fast and easy.  Plus they add things like bug reporting, checkpoints and install reporting.  For free.

    Hardware

    • iPhone 5.
      The upgrade from the iPhone4S to the iPhone5 was one of the bigger ones.  It's substantially faster and the screen is a great size.  The memory bump in it makes a huge difference as well, as apps that are "in the background" take a lot longer to get killed by the OS.  Something I launch before work now is still alive when I go home.
    • Klipsch Image ONE headphones.
      The pair of headphones I've had for years, and really liked, a set of Sennheisers, finally reached their end this year so it was time to find a new pair.  I figured I'd use the Apple Store as my venue of choice to try out different options, since they had them physically there and it was easy to return if needed.  I tried a couple different ones and returned them.  I even thought I'd give a brand I wouldn't normally try, Skull Candy, a shot.  For your future reference the "Aviators" were awful.  Just awful.  More proof that headphones associated with a rapper (Jay-Z in this case) are bad.  Anyway.  I really like this pair of Klipschs.  They are over the ear, light, and mobile.  Perfect for my commuting and listening at work needs.
    • AppleTV.
      Next to my iPhone my AppleTV is the piece of hardware I use the most.  I purchase current shows through iTunes.  I stream movies through Netflix.  New movies I rent through iTunes.  If I wanted to use Hulu, that's there as well.  I've amassed a digital library of episodes of my favorite shows I can watch at any time, and I often do.  It's also a great AirTunes receiver where I send it music from Spotify from my Macbook Pro, iPhone or iPad to fill my apartment with tunes.  This piece of hardware is the most underrated Apple product, and I'm a fan.

    Misc

    • 1-800-Got-Junk.
      When I moved from Omaha to SF I had a ton of stuff I didn't know what to do with.  I hate selling things, so I figured I'd offer everything I had to friends, and anything left would just get disposed of.  1-800-Junk to the rescue.  They showed up with a truck and took everything I pointed out into their truck, and then charged me less than I expected to pay.

    Media/Music and Podcasts

    • These are the podcasts I'm currently subscribed to:
    1. Tech News Today.  A daily podcast detailing a succinct dose of what you need to know in the world of technology.
    2. MacBreak Weekly.  A weekly podcast discussing the world of Apple products.
    3. this WEEK in TECH.  A weekly podcast discussing everything that happened in tech in detail.
    4. You Look Nice Today.  A comedy-ish podcast that is just three funny guys chatting.  From the mind of Merlin Mann.
    5. MacCast.  A weekly podcast about the world of Apple products.
    6. Debug.  A new podcast that focuses on the world of iPhone development.  Great guests/interviews and really goes in depth with some of the great applications that live in the Apple ecosystem.
    • As far as the musical soundtrack of 2012, I can't say there's a ton of really new stuff that I listened to.  A lot of stuff that's just "new to me".  I can say the new Blaqk Audio album was way rad, and I listened to that a ton.  Also the first full length album from Stepdad was something I recommended to people.  Marilyn Manson came back with a vengeance with the new album "Born Villain , I enjoyed that quite a bit.  And last, but not least, Mark Mallman's epic adventure "Double Silhouette" is a masterpiece.  My favorite Mallman album, and that's saying a lot.  I feel like he's taken the songwriting and construction of these songs in a new direction that I really like.  That on top of the obvious attention to detail of the production quality makes it a must listen.
      Anyway, here's a list of songs I've listened to a lot in the past year with the help of Last.FM keeping track of that for me.

    Here are some older year in reviews to compare if you'd like.

    I've lived in San Francisco for a while

    I was asked a few weeks back why I haven't written a post on my blog since I've been to San Francisco. I mean, there must be a lot of stuff to talk about, right? It's a pretty significant move and maybe the world wants to hear me blab about it. But I think in general I have been blabbing about it, but in more specific channels.  But that's not to say I shouldn't have a larger periodic update.  And I'd probably miss a ton, so I'm going to do the generalizing thing instead of trying to think of every neat thing specifically.  Ok, I'll throw some specifics in too. San Francisco is like a custom-made little city that was built just for me.  The fact that I'm sure a lot of people feel that way speaks to the variety and life that this little big city brings.  I remember the first time I went to the Cat Club and the DJ played Prodigy's "Spitfire".  I looked to my friend and said "I don't remember the last time I heard The Prodigy played publicly."  It's one of those tiny moments that bring things into perspective and made me glad I was here.

    Obviously I love music, and this city is great for the music that I enjoy.  Just like Omaha is a great city for people who enjoy acoustic guitars and singer-songwriters, San Francisco is great for people who enjoy synthesizers, and electronic drums.  Other things too.  I just happen to like things I can dance to.  I can go out multiple times a week and dance all night to VNV Nation, Apoptygma Berzerk, and Nine Inch Nails from a DJ; surrounded by other people who enjoy it as much as I do.  It's a city where all the artists that I enjoy come through, and I really have to pay attention to the concert calendar so I don't miss something.  There's so much.

    One time at pride after getting backstage at a DJ VIP area I danced on stage in front of all of these people (below).

    The people here are an interesting breed.  In general they're all young, all good looking, and all full of energy.  They don't get married young, and they don't have children.  My kind of people.  It's easier to meet friends because there are just more people able to go out without finding baby sitters.  There's an overarching trend of people being "outdoorsy" here.  Like hiking, or camping, or white water rafting or whatever.  This puzzled me when I first moved here.  How is everyone doing this crap?  I don't even walk on a single blade of grass in a day (100% true), so where are they setting up a tent?  It doesn't snow, where are they skiing?  But it seems that SF is close enough to all of these places.  And while I do believe people do enjoy it, I think people make a bigger deal out of it just to fit in, since everybody else climbs mountains, there's pressure for you to enjoy that too.  FYI: I don't climb mountains.  But outside of the people who obviously try and fit in, people here are awesome.  They're crazy.  They lack in inhibitions.  They do what makes them happy.  It took me zero time to feel at home here.  These are my people.

    One time Andy Peters (@andypeters) came for WWDC and I dragged him to Bondage-a-go-go, my weekly dance club night.  It was totally rad to be able to bring one of my good Omaha friends out with me in San Francisco.  He had a blast.

    I expected when I came here to throw myself head-first into the startup culture.  I mean, this is the center of the technology world.  But that hasn't been the case.  I think it's simply because I'm enjoying myself at my current position and I'm not looking to throw myself into something else right now.  I'm making video games, and it's brand new to me.  Something new is always a ton more fun, so I'm enjoying it immensely.  My company is great, and I enjoy everybody who works there.  I tell people it's like going to summer camp every day.  You work on projects together with peers, but in this case we make money off of our projects, and still have fun.  Though I know myself well enough that somewhere down the road I will be looking for "what's next?", and I couldn't be in a better place to find out.  But I know I need to get out there and start meeting people to make that happen.  It's just hard when you work late nights in Burlingame, ya' know?

    Speaking of work, one time I launched a video game with an awesome team called Fish With Attitude.  It's a pretty fun game, if I do say so myself.  It's being rated very highly, it's ranked in the Top 10 of the Apple App Store, and the players love it.  In fact, we received a marriage proposal from someone who enjoyed the game so much the other day.  Crazy.  Here's everyone that's ever been involved with it at a bar.  And a random review someone did of it.

    Did you know there's a place where you can order almost any kind of food, completely online, at almost any hour of the day?  That place is San Francisco, and they realize sometimes you just need a calzone at 3am.  Seriously, you don't even have to call them.  Order from your iPhone if you want!  This fact cannot be overstated.

    So that's that for now.  Rock on.

    Another adventure begins. Goodbye Omaha.

    My time in Omaha is coming to an end.  On Friday, February 3rd I'll have relocated to San Francisco. When looking back at the past three years it's hard to decide what to put in this rather long retrospective post.  But I'll use it as my last opportunity to highlight, clarify, give thanks, and try to explain why I'm taking on this new adventure.

    I moved to Omaha thinking I'd have to dodge cows on the way to the office every day.  I thought I'd really dislike the city, but the job I moved here for would make it worth it.  Many of you know how quickly I discovered the opposite.  I fell in love with Omaha, its people and vowed to leave my job within a year.

    Being around the Omaha community I learned, for the first time, about taking risks, trying something new, and that putting your all into something wasn't just something for the "other guys", it's something everyone should do.  I knew quickly I needed something more than "a job".  I also learned of the support system sometimes needed in order for you to take those risks.  Omaha provided that for me.

    I attended the first Big Omaha and  left with an idea.  Something I wanted to build because I wanted to use it myself.  The idea of Hollrback was born.  With the help of my friend Kat I compiled a video to try and drum up some support for the project.  Before long project "Mysterious Dottie" was in full swing.

    Through the experience of Hollrback, among many other things, I started to learn the city that I previously decided I'd be more than happy to live in for the rest of my life may not be for me after all, at least in the short term.  I started to feel like personally I was missing out on something.  Something I've been needing to learn, not even knowing what it is.

    On top of that I've been slowly finding that my idea of the startup culture that I wanted to experience was something different than what was aimed for in the Prairie.  I wanted endless incubators, .com veterans, mentors and people willing to invest (not just financially, but that too) into the people here.  It made me realize instead of continuing my never-ending stream of regional constructive criticism, trying to turn it into what I want it to be, instead I should just go.

    This isn't easy, though.  I feel like I'm giving up on Omaha.  I care a lot about this place, the people.  I know many are probably thinking by this point "just go already and shut the hell up", but I've always only wanted the best for everyone.  I wasn't always happy with just warm fuzzies and people giving each other high fives and pats on the back.  To me it's not about how many people can think nice things about other people.  To me it's about execution.  I've failed with my first attempt at execution, but damnit I tried.  I've wanted Omaha to be full of people building awesome stuff to fulfill whatever vision they have.  But it's a very service-oriented city.  Consulting firms, financial services, branding agencies, development houses.  I'm not interested in doing work for people.  I want to build stuff to put into real people's hands.  The public.  Not ten people in an office somewhere to help them turn $1million into $2million.

    But I never would have known this about myself if it weren't for Omaha giving me the opportunity to learn it first hand.  Seeing the DownsDesigns, the What Cheers, the Princess Lasertrons, the Rahul Guptas, the Secret Penguins branch off from whatever they did before and start doing their own thing under their own rules.  Showing me that "having a job" is never the goal, and it's about doing something awesome that you care about.

    I wouldn't be moving on if it weren't for Silicon Prairie News highlighting others and giving me something to aspire to.  For highlighting little things I do, even when I tell them it's dumb.  (The post they wrote about my Chrome Plugin was the 2nd most read story on SPN last year, after I told Danny it was stupid and a waste of his time.  He did it anyway.  I was wrong.)  For creating Big Omaha and letting that inspire me to try something for myself.  Danny, Jeff and Dusty are probably sick of listening to me after three years, but I've never had anything but the upmost respect and admiration for what they're doing.  For reference: Here's the full catalog of things they felt worthy of discussing when it came to me.

    As an example of SPN picking up on the goofy things I do in the early days, here's the first interview they ever did with me to discuss "Retweet Thursday".  News was slow back then.

    Going forward I just hope something I did here in my short time has made some kind of impact. I always tried to be the best representative of the city of Omaha as I could be when going out to meet the rest of the world.  I always told them how if you need to go somewhere, and you don't know where to go, put Omaha first on your list.  This place can give you clarity that you didn't even know you needed.

    I'm not one for heady advice one liners, but I can leave with you the one thing I told myself when given this opportunity to pick up from my Omaha life and build a new one:  Live the life you'd be jealous of.  So that's what I'm doing.

    Come visit some  me time.  I can't promise I'll have room in my apartment, though.  Housing is a little tight out there.