Things the YouTube Apple TV app needs to improve

black remote control

Just a short list of things that’s wrong with the Apple TV YouTube app –

1. Every time you pause and play a video the entire video interface comes up and doesn’t go away for a good ten seconds. Users have to hit the back button to get rid of that shitty interface. Learning this behavior is bad, because NO OTHER app does this and then the reinforced behavior causes a lot of headache when using other, better apps.

2. There’s no fast switching between user profiles. This is true for other apps as well, but particularly needed for YouTube, where since a very long time we’ll all had separate profiles and thus the algorithm has learnt to show us different things. Going from one profile to another is just irritatingly long a process.

3. There’s no way to quickly refresh the recommendations the algorithm throws at us. There are some recommendations that we get shown for days at end, and we have to just watch the video to get rid of it. There needs to be a clear refresh button that just washes the slate clean.

4. There’s no “Live” section. In today’s day and age, there are a LOT of livestreams going on and we’d like to see them. Right now, the only way you can see them is if you search for them with the keyword “live” and hope to see it in the results, or if the algorithm shows them to you. There’s a section for “gaming”, which we NEVER see, but clearly they’ve not made the sections “learnable”.

5. When you’re watching a video and you want to interact with the “interface”, you can’t pause the video and interact with it. As soon as you move your cursor, the video starts playing. This is highly unwieldy.

6. Their end-of-video interface is shit. SOOOO many videos have content all the way till the end, but they wash over the last ten or fifteen seconds with the “in-video links”, thereby destroying my ability to see the content all the way to the end. This also creates a learning for channel owners to add a goodbye template at the end, which major news channels do, but this is not a good learning for when you’re watching a video on mobile or desktop. So for YouTube to do this, just focusing on Apple TV, is terrible!

There are some good things too –

1. The keyword search is epic. Much better than other apps and well integrated into the Apple TV search by voice model (here’s looking at your shitty search HBO). Though I’d like for the search to be deeper, with more sections to separate the searched content as “Live”, “popular”, “recent”, etc.

2. They’ve finally added a quick button to access the Channel from the video interface, but they’ve hidden the like/dislike buttons behind the “additional options” section in the video interface. This is, I guess, a move to trust the algorithm more, but it’s terrible, because I’d LOVE to downvote some videos after watching them.

3. The algorithm is actually doing well in recommending similar content over time. Not in the immediate instance, but over time.

That’s all for now. If you’ve been watching the news, you know that the police in the US has been attacking and arresting peaceful protestors all over the country, so please consider donating to the National Bail Fund Network here.

No updates please

I was an avid software updater. I would read the updates list, hit the update button and see the download happen. I enjoyed doing this manually because it’s a fun process to acknowledge all the work someone has put into this update that I’m downloading. In that sense, websites are no fun – they change suddenly and have no changelist to describe what all has changed and what new features are available.

But then I got bitten. First, on my iPad Mini (Series 1). iOS 9 slowed everything to a crawl. I still have use for the iPad, but it’s limited to two apps – Scrivener and Kindle. Everything else is basically unusable. I don’t even browse the web on it. It’s just easier to bring out my iPhone 7 Plus for that.

Then, went my Macbook Pro. The main reason is under-use. When I’m developing something, I’ll update the packages, update Xcode, get the latest and greatest of iTunes. But when I’m browsing or reading on it, Safari suffices. Chrome is a crybaby on OSX, so I dumped it and never looked back. Perhaps the lack of Chrome Sync is what drove my usage down? Not sure. All I know is that my Mac cries for updates and I deny it. I don’t even know what version of OS I have. It’s a pain to find out and keep track. I don’t have Siri on it. APFS, you ask? Not gonna do it.

Finally, the iPhone. Oh, the iPhone. I still enjoyed downloading and updating apps on it for the longest time. It’s the most used device I have (and I have the Apple Watch strapped to my wrist most of the day. It’s just not used in the same way). I have truly enjoyed watching app updates change the way I use my iPhone and what I keep on my main home screen.

Then, the inevitable happened. I got bitten. The app update didn’t mention that Terminology 3 was going to change one of the main features of the app – opening on the search view. I thought the cries of a thousand users would make the developer reconsider. I don’t even know where that debate went.

Then, I updated an app I was just trying and the developer put an ad at the beginning of the app, destroying the experience completely. I gave my first ever App Store review – a 1 star with a few choice bad words. I calmed down after a day and updated the 1 to 4 stars. But I made the developer notice. I made sure they understood that not mentioning the ads in the app update is the reason why they got the bad review. They changed the update text to include mention of the ads.

I don’t mind change. I’d just like to have it mentioned to me. Today, browsing the app updates page, I saw that Delta Dental had updated their app. I opened the details and all it said was “bug fixes”. There’s more effort made to inform users of what’s changing in SnapChat than what’s changing in an insurance company’s app. There’s technology for you.

Twitter changed. Instagram changed. Facebook changed. I see more ads and more crap ‘features’ in these apps that anyone around me. Maybe they’ve labelled me guinea pig?

One day, I updated Google Search’s app. There was a time I used it as my main search app. The app team had added Cards to the app. The feature destroyed the app. It had slowed down to a crawl, it was not even loading the cards properly and wouldn’t let me jump right into a search. Google eventually fixed the cards and made the thing faster, but the app’s main focus is still ‘showing information’ instead of letting me ‘search for information’. My main ‘search’ now happens through Safari – it’s got adblocking, it’s got session retention (Google Search app is crap for that), and it’s just nicer to use.

I’d like to remember what exactly it was that broke the camel’s back, but there’s just a very long list to look through. One day, I was just not updating apps with the same zeal and the same frequency. I realized that the release notes were a joke, and features were going to keep changing at whatever terrible pace the developers decided was right. I’m a developer, I know that it’s very easy to decide to change something (and very difficult to implement it). So I respect the devs who put hours into these updates. But I’m just not going to update apps (and OS versions) as frequently as they come out with them.

Since the last few days, we’ve been talking about iOS 11. My wife has been asking me to backup her phone and update it. She’s never been this excited about an OS update. But I couldn’t be farther away from it. I’m not excited about HEIF/HEVC. I’m not interested in iOS 11 ‘degrading’ my phone. I’m not even excited about all the bugs they’ll eventually iron out with a point release in a month or two.

But, I’ve readied my phone for it. I’ve deleted about thirteen thousand photos from my phone, primarily because I was tired of keeping them around (is it true that less storage used translated to better battery life?). I’ve taken a backup or two. Maybe I’ll update my phone today. Maybe I’ll update my wife’s phone first and see how that goes.

But app updates? No, thank you.

WordPresser: An HTML5 iOS blogger tool

WordPress is a great blogging tool. It has a lot of potential and in it’s more recent updates, it has grown from simply a blogging tool to a content management solution. I use wordpress on this blog for two purposes – blogging and tweeting. You see, twitter is a great service but the 140 character limit is a pain. There are thus a lot of services that allow for longer tweets. But I prefer using my blog for long tweets using the hash tag #LongTweet.

To tweet quickly from my iPhone, I want to use the WordPress app for iOS but it’s not adequate. So, I’ve built WordPresser. It’s a web app that uses HTML5 and XML-RPC to post to your wordpress.org blog. The link you need is – WordPresser. Open this in your iPhone or iPod’s Safari (opening it in any other browser doesn’t do much). Once you’ve opened it, save it to your Homescreen, it’ll save as a web app with the name “WordPresser”.

Before you go further, there are two things you need to do with your blog. One is conventional, the other, not so much. Continue reading