Airplane WiFi — Isn’t This Old News?

Everybody (well, Joe Sharkey in the NY Times and lots of bloggers and Twitterers) are foaming at the mouth about the trials of WiFi in commercial airliners. I must be missing something here. I flew on Lufthansa from San Francisco to Munich three years ago with a terrific WiFi connetcion. I believe they discontinued the service because of the cost, but there certainly didn’t seem to be any major technical glitches. True, I did expect in-air WiFi would be more commonplace by now, but I think the press and blog coverage is missing an important fact that this isn’t something new.

Terms of Service

I guess it had to happen sooner or later. Someone submitted a hard-core porn video feed to (No, don’t go looking for it!) Maybe we’ve just been lucky thanks to keeping a fairly low profile. We do accept RSS feeds with content tagged as ‘explicit’ but there’s explicit (perhaps just audio with adult language) and then there’s really explicit. I’m thinking of dealing with it in a few ways.

  • No content tagged as ‘explicit’ on the home page.
  • Content tagged as ‘explicit’ is invisible to those who have not opted-in via their profiles.
  • In order to opt-in, you must read and agree to the Terms of Service *and* you must claim to be 18 years old or older.
  • You can register without explicitly agreeing to the Terms of Service, but the first time you submit content, you’ll have to explicitly. (Sorry for the re-use of the word ‘explicit’.)

I’ve got no experience with this, and I welcome suggestions. In particular, if you can recommend another site that handles occasional explicit content well and/or has good Terms of Service, let me know.

Ratings Now in RSS Feeds

All RSS feeds generated by now include program rating data according to the conversationsNetwork namespace. If a program has been rated, the <item> for that program now includes the ratingAverage and ratingCount elements. If the feed was requested with authentication (identifying a particular member) it will also include the ratingIndividual element. The ratingTimestamp element has not yet been implemented. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s worthwhile and whether it should reflect the last rating by the authenticated individual or by anyone.

Users Tell Us What’s Wrong

You can always count on loyal website visitors to tell you what you really need to hear. I emailed a survey to the registered members of this morning and already have some great responses. Here’s a sample of the answers to “What do you NOT like about”

  • collections
  • No Comment
  • Not sure I totally understand how it works.
  • I do not understand how I am supposed to use SW, and the web pages don’t make it manifest. What is “collect” and what does “subscribe” imply? Unclear. Yes, I can spend a lot of time clicking “help” to “FAQ” to “Advanced: Collection” but I still feel that I’m using a Swiss Army Knife as a club. Awkward and unfamiliar.
  • – the search is annoying; I wish it would search both feeds and episodes, without having to go to a separate page. – the look is quite cluttered and visually messy – it’s not good for discovery; I don’t find the homepage content useful — it’s rarely something that I want to listen to, and doesn’t change frequently enough. I haven’t looked at other’s collections much, maybe that would be helpful.
  • Jason Ponten
  • Too early to tell
  • Too much data entry required to add a single program. The feed reader should be more forgiving. I’ve tried to add several feeds that failed, but I assume they work find with iTunes or other feed readers.
  • Removing individual programs from collection (that was added trough feed) was not working, but now that seems to be fixed.
  • Removing individual programs from collection (that was added trough feed) was not working, but now that seems to be fixed.
  • Nothing
  • I’m not so sure about the Stack Overflow-type badges and such, though I’m always a late adopter in the social media thing.
  • I used to get these emails from ITC, and I just manually downloaded each one and put it in a directory. Now, I don’t know where to find that stuff. there seems so much, it’s confusing to a simpleton like myself.
  • Same as above
  • not friendly for new users. not clear what should you do there..
  • I am not sure how to use it.
  • – No audio podcasts of video talks available – The time lag in updating my feed after making changes to my collection. – The strictness in parsing RSS feeds has not allowed me to move all of my podcasts over to Spoken Word.
  • to much mumbo jumbo and does not seem smooth
  • It was difficult to figure out at first.
  • Wasn’t obvious how to subscribe to a feed, although I just went back and found it.
  • Not live. New feeds sometimes take days to add programs to my collections. When a new feed is added you should give the ability to add a small number of older programs immediately to test the feed.
  • I just didn’t find a lot of podcasts that I hadn’t already found. It’s been a while since I checked. I’ll look again and maybe this opinion will change.
  • Cluttered UI.
  • Some of the feed parsing is pickier than I thought was necessary. If I make a collection on SpokenWord and subscribe to its feed on my PC its not always easy to differentiate which original feed an episode is from. So I don’t use this feature. it’s not really your fault but there isn’t an easy way to contribute to SpokenWord other than adding feeds. I download podcasts with gpodder on my PC and I don’t tag or rate podcasts because it’s a lot of extra effort.
  • can’t get to it ALL!
  • Off the top of my head? Nothing.
  • Too hard to find things. I am pretty new at this. I also visited TED. I felt it was easier to find interesting stuff there.
  • Can’t think of anything… Tue, 5/12/09 9:14 AM
  • Well, for one thing, the feedback link to tell you what didn’t work didn’t work. And here’s an obvious but unappreciated idea: I signed up to hear a progran that wasn’t there. Can you build some kind of machine that’ll delete busted or cancelled links? Also, I had a little too much difficulty finding the actual link to the program. In fact, more than a little too much.
  • Search is so broken! I search for my own podcast and it doesn’t show up in search results – even though I’ve submitted it. I have to type the exact url. Related keywords are useless. Also, I would really, really encourage you to create multiple lists of podcasts broken down by various categories, topics, niches, sub-sub niches, brand-new podcasts, etc. Even if these lists are in a separate section of the site (not taking up valuable home page real estate) these would be invaluable to finding/discovering podcasts I haven’t heard about previously.
  • there is an empty yellow popup area on the home page that just says “close window”
  • The layout and searching for new podcasts. Not much Canadian Content.

What do you think? Maybe we have a UI problem?

Kindle Needs Profiles

Here’s a feature I’d like to see in future versions of Amazon’s Kindle’s software: user profiles. My wife and I would like to share the same Kindle, she with her books, me with mine and both of us sharing the NY Times, the New Yorker, etc. The best way to do that would be for us each to have separate bookmarks, so that I could just pick up the Kindle, switch to my book marks and pick up in the document and on the page I was last reading.

Bug- and Feature-Tracking Report Online

By popular demand, I’ve posted a report from Jira, our issue-tracking system, for all to download. Many (most?) of the items won’t make sense to anyone who’s not actually writing code for, but you may find it interesting. By all means, feel free to peruse it and if you find a feature request that you think should be escalated (or one that should be added), let us know. The best place to discuss bugs and new features is on our Spoken Word Strategy discussion list.