After fighting it since the announcement, curiosity got the best of me and I turned on Ping in the new iTunes v10. I only did so after confirming that there is an easy way to turn it off, so I figure I don’t have anything to lose. After trying to use Nokia’s various Ovi services for a few years, I firmly believed that no one could release a service that was as half-baked as those, until I tried Ping.
In case you’re not technically inclined (but somehow reading my blog), Ping is billed as a social community built around music. I’ve used something similar – called Last.FM – for years. It’s really quite brilliant – you simply listen to music as you normally would, and automatically share your listening habits with your friends. They can see what you’re listening to, you can see what they’re listening to, and you can each comment on each others’ stuff. If you listen to a ton of music like I do, it’s really quite brilliant, and definitely helps me find new music when I want to.
So….Ping, then. Getting started is pretty easy – you login with your Apple iTunes account, setup a super-basic profile, including a photo, your location, a short description of yourself, and then you choose 3 of your favorite genres to start things off. Shortly thereafter, you’re taken to the recommendations screen, which for me, looked like this:
So, there are 2 major things wrong with this screen:
1. Nothing in my library indicates that I should follow 50 Cent, Daddy Yankee, or Lloyd Banks. I’ve never even heard of the latter two. Out of the 1,586 artists in my iTunes library, Ping only found 37 to recommend?
2. The only ways I see to connect with my friends are by searching for them by name or by inviting them via email.
So, I have fully established contact lists on Twitter, Facebook, and Google, at the least. I’ve spent a while building these, curating these along the years. Regardless, Apple hasn’t offered me the ability to search these contact lists for other people I may know using Ping. This would be forgivable if there was an easy ‘share my profile with my friends’ link that I could post to Facebook or Twitter – no such luck.
There is a dedicated link to my Ping profile that I can share with others – mine’s here – but I had to dig around a bit for it. I can assure you my parents wouldn’t have found it, nor would most of my ‘normob’ friends – the ones interested in Ping.
Another one of the major ‘features’ of Ping is the ability to follow your favorite artist, to see what they’re up to. I can’t really think of a good reason I would want to do this, but for the sake of the experience, I’m following a few of my favorites. How do I find my favorite artists? The same way I don’t find my friends, apparently – searching one-by-one. Amazingly, Apple hasn’t built a way for me to let iTunes analyze my library to see which of my 1,586 artists have the most playcounts and then see if they’re on Ping yet.
I’m not going to give up on Ping just yet – I’ll give it a fair chance, but the first impression is pretty pathetic. It definitely feels half-baked, which is odd for Apple. I’m definitely going to keep using Last.FM – the service is too valuable for me to pretend Ping can replace it. Have you tried Ping on iTunes? What are your thoughts?
3 thoughts on “Apple Ping Is Barely Half-Baked”
I had much the same feeling that you do – i turned it on for about an hour and poked around, and then I turned it off as useless. First, the idea of only choosing 3 genres is stupid – how many people do you know that ONLY listen to 3 genres of music? Secondly, as you mentioned, the ‘recommendations’ they gave were so far off the mark as to be laughable. Apple would like to bill itself as a music company, of sorts, and yet they can’t seem to understand that people who truly love music are fairly specific about their likes and dislikes.
I listen to Tribe Called Quest, Jurassic 5, Lyrics Born, Blue Scholars, etc for example – all of which are non-mainstream rap. Anyone who looked at those (and was supposed to be ‘in the know’ about music) could see that recommending me 50 cent or Little Wayne would be pointless.
Similarly, I listen to At the Drive In, Fugazi, Thrice, etc – post-hardcore and hardcore bands – so why is Ping recommending me freakin’ Cold Play and Nickelback?
Last.fm has had this down pat for years, as have Pandora and Slacker – rarely do recommendations from those services go too terribly off the mark… Apple would have been smarter to just make a strategic partnership with Last.fm, bake that into iTunes, and call it a day. Hell, that might have even made me switch back to Last.fm from Pandora.
True, but Last.FM is far too passive – their platform needs to be updated so badly it’s painful. They only track what you listen to – missing out on the rest of the context, such as when I listened to it, where I listened to it, and such. Moreso the when, though. I’ve been a Last.FM user for *years*, and yet they still don’t realize that I *never* listen to Christmas music prior to about 2p on Thanksgiving Day or after New Years’ Eve. Or that I typically only listen to classical music later in the day, and fast-paced ‘wake-up music’ earlier in the day.
I can agree that Last.fm needs some updates – but think about this: iTunes could provide (some of) that context to Last.fm, and Last.fm could provide the recommendations. For example, if it shows in my iTunes purchase history that I start buying Christmas albums around Thanksgiving, that info could feed back into my Last.fm profile. Not to mention, at the very least if Apple wants their own social network, they could at least provide API hooks for some of the other music services that are out there to share data.