Track Flags

Podcasts are continuing to evolve as a marketing tool. Puma is using music to spead the word about their frangrances. Beatport regularly puts out a wicked mix made from new releases. Even Apple releases a podcast once a week with new tracks that they'd love for you to buy.

For the most part, these marketing vehicles are doing their job. I've been moved to buy many tracks that I heard for the first time on a podcast. The problem is, they are too hard to buy.

Podcasts are certainly a step up from the old way. Downloading a DJ mix and then searching for a tracklist is a pain. Some will have a .cue sheet, but even then, you have to have software capable of handling that .cue sheet and doing something reasonable with it. For those keeping score, iPods don't know what a .cue is.

When I'm grooving away to Beatport Burners, I frequently think to myself "I need to buy this." If I'm at my computer, I can make use of the brilliant links that you can build in to podcasts, but I'm never at my computer when I'm listening to podcasts. I'm always listening on my iPod, usually at work. That means I get to play the game of writing notes to myself on scraps of paper, or dropping entries in my Google Notebook. Surely there is a better way.

We need a solution for flagging tracks on our iPods. Microsoft's Zune is already rumored to support bookmarking of shared tracks. If Apple wants to justify the development time, they can mark this in the increased iTMS sales category, but certainly we'd have reason to flag tracks other than as a future purchase reminder. I can see flagging tracks to use in iPhoto slideshows, for use in a DJ set of mix tape you are working on, or even as one you'd like to email Jimmy about because you think he'd like it.

My suggested implementation borrows on UI that most users are already familiar with. First of all, I borrowed the flag icon from Mail.app. Most users are familiar with flagging important emails for further future action. I also needed a UI gesture that could be performed on the iPod. Apple already lets you click and hold on a track to add it to an On-The-Go playlist. All they need to do is support that same gesture while on the track ID screen in a podcast.

  1. From the default podcast screen...button click to enter track ID mode.

  2. Click and hold. Flag icon is added to verify this track is flagged.

Later, back in iTunes, you can create a smart playlist with flagged tracks. If they had a link associated with them, you'd get the typical cirlcle-arrow icon to go to that link. If a link was not assigned, you'd at least have the information about the track that you'd normally scratch down on paper.

Here's hoping for this in iTunes 7!


Jason said...

I like it. I could definately use flagging. It could replace my overloading of the 5 star operator...

You could even have different flags with varied attributes if that was useful. Do the click and hold to get a flag, and then spin the wheel to change it's type.

I'm thinking you'll see all of this in iTunes 7, about the same time they support me spinning it to the confederate flag, to mark a track as needing a big "Yee Hawww!" Here's hoping they actually get some features added though.

---ryan said...

The trick is to add features without adding complexity and bloat. I like the idea of different colored flags, but I'd be happy with a single flag. As you say, it's better than the "1 star=jimmy likes" hacks that people resort to now.

Ohh, and if we add colors to the flags, can we add a pattern too? I laugh when you see Steve at WWDC talking up the accessibility features in the OS, yet they continue to use colors that colorblind folks can't distinguish.