The Next Track, Episode #140 – The Reunion Tour

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxThe band is back together, and we explain our new approach to the podcast. We then discuss how music may change as more people use voice assistants to request what they want to hear. And, of course, we present our own next tracks.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #140 – The Reunion Tour.

Find out more at The Next Track website, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 38: Levels and Curves

Photoactive 400We welcome back Nik Bhatt, of Gentlemen Coders and RAW Power fame, to pick his brain on editing photos using levels and curves: what the differences are between the two tonal adjustment tools, and how to use them. We also talk about understanding the histogram, and touch on editing white balance and why we may be using the eyedropper tool wrong.

Listen to PhotoActive, Episode 38: Levels and Curves.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Why You Should Outline Before Writing Important Business Documents

While it may not seem like the key to your business, much of what you do revolves around written documents. From your business plan to your website, from press releases to company memos or emails, you write documents to share information and to convince people to buy your products or invest in your company.

Writing these documents is important, and there’s a skill that is essential to crafting efficient documents: outlining. Instead of just starting with a blank page – or window – and writing, it’s extremely useful to take the time to create an outline for your important documents.

Here’s why you should outline before writing business documents.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Use Private Browsing to Maintain Your Privacy on the Web

You know that whenever you visit a website, a great deal of data is collected about you by the company running the website, and by third parties that track you to serve ads. The more you use the web, the more information goes into a profile that companies like Google and Facebook use to target ads that match your search terms, the types of websites you visit, and more.

While you can use an ad blocker to not see ads, and also to block some of the trackers used to follow you around, these tools aren’t 100% effective. But there’s another way you can maintain your privacy: you can use private browsing.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 73: Maintain Your Privacy When Browsing the Web

All modern web browsers provide the capability to use “private browsing,” a way of maintaining your privacy when using the web. We discuss how to use this feature, as well as some browser extensions that will also mask some of your personal information.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

Voice Assistants Will Impoverish Music

Back in the day, when you wanted to listen to some music, you’d go through your record collection – LPs or CDs – and look for something you might like to hear. Perhaps you had a hankering for a specific album, and you just needed to find it (assuming you hadn’t alphabetized your collection). Or there was a record you wanted to hear, but you couldn’t remember exactly what it was (if you had a really big collection), and needed your memory jogged by the album cover. “The white one,” perhaps, or “the one with the car.”

You can sort of do that today with a digital music library. You can search by artist, album, or track, or you can “flip through” your albums, seeing what you have, identifying music by its artwork.

But if you use a digital assistant to ask for music – Siri, Alexa, etc. – you don’t have that option. For example, I just asked Siri on my iPhone, “What’s the Beatles album with the white cover?” The response:

Beatles

The human brain can only remember so much. One of the reason that phone numbers are seven digits long – or seven digits plus an area code – is because the brain can’t really remember longer random elements. Try remembering a 10-digit number; unless you use it regularly, you won’t be able to. Splitting numbers into groups – such as xxx-xxx-xxxx – makes them easier to remember, but for most people, memory has very strict limits.

You can remember your favorite songs and albums, but your brain can only hold a limited number of them. If I were to ask you to name, say, ten of your favorite songs, you’d be able to do that pretty quickly. But if I asked you for a list of 50 songs or albums, that would be a lot more difficult.

When you ask a voice assistant to play music, you won’t be able to flip through a virtual record collection to find something to listen to. You’ll be able to easily likely ask for something recent and popular, or something that you’ve listened to recently. But you won’t be able to ask it to play that record by the Rolling Stones, you know, the one with the zipper, that a friend played recently, because you don’t know its name. You won’t be able to request a record that someone gave you for Christmas when you were in college, because, again, you’re not sure of what it’s called. And forget about trying to get a voice assistant to play a specific version of a classical recording… So how will you request music? You’ll ask for the handful of songs or albums you can remember, or you’ll ask to hear music by a specific artist.

Many people listen to streaming music in playlists, and if you do this, you’ll remember their names; this is why record labels are targeting playlists as a way of getting streams. However, the kinds of playlists you’ll ask for are most likely dynamic playlists that change as new music comes out and as older tunes become less popular.

But the rest of the music you’ve heard all your life, the stuff you may have owned on record, will you ever think to ask to hear those albums? Probably not. And the longer you go without hearing them, the further they’ll be from your memory. You can certainly listen to genre- or decade-based radio stations to jog that memory from time to time, but you won’t have a record collection to search as in the past.

The more we use voice assistants to request music, the narrower music will become. We’ll essentially be listening to radio again, and, since most people don’t buy any music at all any more, we won’t have our own purchases to browse when we want something specific. And since streams will be concentrated among a smaller number of tracks and albums, the rest of the artists won’t get much play, and won’t get much money. This will lead to less new music being made, and we’ll be the poorer for it.