Category: Apps

How TikTok feels

The video is 34 seconds long and the camera follows a cat, who carries a tiger plush doll into a tiny clearing in the forest. I think that video is exactly how all good TikToks feels, like the ones Bourgeois makes about trains. You press play and nothing is explained to you, but everything is following its own internal dream-like logic. Like a portal to another dimension opens up, offers you a brief glimpse of something you never expected, and then closes.

Garbage Day

Ryan Broderick, who writes the excellent newsletter Garbage Day, sums up how TikTok feels perfectly.

I used to browse TikTok from the web site without an account for a few months. I’d go there on and off seeking a hit of joy and randomness. It wasn’t until I downloaded the app and created an account that I saw the true power of the app and its algorithm.

I know apps all use their own secret sauce to group you into buckets by their internal metrics. But I’ve never had an app actively try out different content on me to see what I responded to.

One day it was all ADHD.

One day was Books.

One day was girls dancing.

One portal opens. Another portal closes.

It was never 100% one thing or another but I would scroll through the 30-60 second clips, liking some or sharing with my wife, or just watching and seeing what was served up next. There was a definite theme to each session.

Clearly I was being served a particular set of content to see if I enjoyed it or not. As a result, I find myself in a weird little world that has both been completely built for me, but also broad enough I am consistently amused and delighted by what I see.

It’s not like other places that lumps me into a bucket and serves me the same kind of content all day. The Amazon “you bought socks, so we’re going to recommend to you… MORE SOCKS” problem. TikTok was honing in on my weird enjoyment of weird animal content.

And unlike Instagram where every 3rd or 4th post is an ad, there’s hardly any! There’s an ad when I first open the app I scroll past without giving it the time to finish. If you’re on the site too long there’s a video from Tiktok telling you to take a break. But it’s in the form of other videos. It’s seamless. I’m never taken out of the world Tiktok builds for me. Every now and again there’s a sponsored post from a creator, clearly tagged and obvious by the tone.

Despite being absolutely massive in scale, it doesn’t have the feel of a corporate, professional social network. Even the brands there are weird and wonderful. There’s a tone to Tiktok lacking elsewhere in social spaces at scale. The number of weird logos alone are the work of one creator who plays a perfect deadpan logo designer. The entire site is wrapped in whimsy where nothing is really as it seems and you never know what’s going to happen next.

Open a Portal and step through.

The duck (and friends). Pablo and his friends! (@lilquackers)

And the fish guy? Seriously, the first time I heard Bubba I lost it laughing. My wife stared at me like I had lost my mind. The ballad of Bubba and Brad is pure joy. The Goldfish Guy (@lukesgoldies) Poor Bubba. Brad always gets the best of him.

For a dose of comforting, warmth on a cold day, you should meet this buddy. Fritz and Donnybrook (@oldtimehawkey) He’ll make you a treat, share a pop with you and settle down for a movie or campfire.

There’s Stage Door Johnny (@stage_door_johnny) who deconstructs the English language and all of its weirdness. He also has a very pleasing accent.

I love the storytelling of Andrew (@andr3wsky).

Every time Kendahl Landreth (@kendahllandreth) comes up with her mom impression I lose it laughing.

Stacey ❤️ (@stacebookspace) delivers unhinged affirmations with a dose of book recommensations.

Ever seen a man feed humming birds out of his hand? Watch birdperson666 (@birdperson666) greet Hector.

For your Gen X news, look no further than Corrbette Pasko (@corrbette).

For wild and wonderful monologues, run, don’t walk over to Musings of a Crouton (@mr.mosebys_lefttit).

I love people talking about their process and have fallen in love with Jordan Hexem (@jordanhexem). He shows you the location vs. the shot. It’s wonderful!

When I need my Sports Ball news, I turn to Sports-ball news with Taylor! Taylor Page (@trashprince522)

This is a smattering of the accounts I follow and bring me joy. I don’t post. I’m here to watch and enjoy. There’s a culture on Tiktok of showing your work and explaining how videos were made. The ability to stitch (reply within the video) and duet (play multiple videos all together) open up a world that lacks the pristine polish of most social spaces. This allows for “conversations” between separate videos, a group of musicians to perform “together”, and getting to see multiple sides of a story.

The ability to interact with video within the video gives the entire site a more organic and feel. If Instagram is walking into an art gallery, then Tiktok is showing up at a pop-up art exhibit in the middle of a busy city with people on their way to work, stadiums and running out for coffee.

Portal opens. Portal closes.

If you’ve seen mention of a Bones Day / No Bones Day. Yup. The messiah is a 13 year old pug names Noodles who dictates the days.

Disliking Songs in Spotify?

I emailed Spotify this morning. That was an endeavor in frustration in itself. But after coming across no way to hide/dislike a song or artist in Spotify on either the desktop application or Android phone app, I had to ask for help.

I found two help articles, but neither reflected what I was seeing in the application. And I keep them updated like it’s my job. So I emailed support and we’ll see what they say. But maybe you, dear reader, know how to tell Spotify I do not care for this song or artist, please stop showing it to me.


I want to:

  1. Tell Spotify I don’t care about an artist so they will stop showing up in Release Radar/New Release lists.
  2. Remove a song/artist from Spotify-generated playlists.

I use Spotify on:

  • Android
  • Linux (Ubuntu)
  • Mac OS

I found these help articles: Improve playlists made for you – Spotify – There is no button to dislike/hide on Android/Linux. Didn’t check Mac. Maybe it’s there but nowhere else?

Then I found: Undo disliked songs – Spotify. Since I figured if I could undo disliking a song, there must be a way to dislike the song… but I can’t dislike a song… so I can’t undo it. I tried searching for “dislike song” but it returns no results.

I’m lost. How is it not possible to tell Spotify “I do not care for this song/artist.”

I’m tired of artists showing up in release radar and playlists without a way to give input to about them.

Mainely Offline

Did you know you can download a large area from Google Maps for offline use?

Google Maps app with Offline Maps circled.
Select Offline Maps.

By opening Google Maps on my Android phone, I pressed the hamburger menu in the search bar, just below the Wifi-Only toggle, there’s an option for Offline Maps. Press it and press Select Your Own Map.

This will open the map with a large box. Move it around and zoom out as far as you like to capture the area. It will tell you how much storage you’ll need to use. (Almost the entire state of Maine was only 140mb). Download this and you’ll have it available to you offline.

Select area of map to download offline, with the state of Maine selected.
Zoom out for a larger area.

As a rule, I do this with my home area, just in case I’m ever in a situation where I need it. Maps will update your offline information every month automatically, with options to do so more frequently, or remove the data entirely.

It won’t give you the full Maps experience, but you can search for specific places like “Hannaford” (a local grocery store) or “Acadia National Park” and you’ll be given turn-by-turn navigation. It worked flawlessly for the entire week we were without non-roaming cell phone reception.

The state of Maine selected for offline use, using 149MB and expiring in a month unless updated.
Maine, Offline!

As I lack even the most basic sense of direction, this saved me and got me all over the state without issue. Here’s a sample of the trips made with completely offline Google Maps while in Maine.

131 miles from Belfast to Acadia National Park.
150 miles from Belfast to Booth Bay Harbor. (Not counting the whale watching.)

Swipes

I can finally start using the Android Gmail app. For the past few years I used Bluemail primarily for one option.

Swipe right to delete. Swipe left to archive.

For years the Gmail app would let you select either delete or archive. But not both. And I don’t want to triage email by opening it and clicking delete or archive. I want to swipe left or right and not have to look at them. Especially good for sales email where I am not tempted if I don’t open the message.

The latest update contained those magic words.

WHAT’S NEW
• You can now customize left and right swipe actions to more efficiently manage your inbox.