Tag Archives: design & user experience

The Corporate Miss: Cubefarms and Open Office Environments


I work in a very interesting open office environment. And you know what one of the benefits of this setup is? Nothing.

It sure keeps us quiet. If that’s the idea, it works pretty well. We sit feet from each other and we stare into our “privacy-enhanced” dual monitors and we don’t talk. Talking would be rude. And when the younger group of consultants, talks about 50 feet behind me, it IS annoying. This is a huge miss. We’d rather send an email than drop by and say hi. For consideration of our neighbors.

So everyone wears ear buds and listens to music or pretends to listen to webcast presentations. We’re really just hanging out in our little fishbowl, wondering who is watching us and why they’ve got us all clustered together. This building has about 2 complete floors of available space. They could give us each cube and offices if they wanted to. But they don’t. Something about this layout says “innovation.” Something about this open environment says modern. What it really says to all of us, “I’m watching you.”

And if you know anything about corporate IT you already know they can watch every keystroke. Do they? No. It would be extremely boring and inefficient. But they put little sniffers on your computer. 1. Is he opening Facebook? 2. Is he checking his personal G-mail account too often. 3. Is he opening inappropriate sites? 4. What applications does he spend the most time on? (They can ask for a break down of you entire day, week, or month by application activity. So, it’s not like we’re going to get away with anything if we were not looking over each other’s shoulders.)

And the millennials are not much happier. Sure, they break out in song and dance every now and then to piss the rest of us off. But for the most part their joy is also muted by the observation of considerate silence.

I was walking around the building today and walking past a very clean and open cube farm. I once thought cube farms were the height of impersonal space. Today, I think a cube farm would be a major upgrade. When I visit my friends on the 5th floor, they’ve all got their own spaces. Their own walls to hang things. Their own extra chair for people to stop by and chat.

So what’s the motivation behind the open office environment? Enforcement? Compliance? Space savings? What ever it is, the research shows the detrimental effects of being in an open environment. I’ve just mentioned a few.

  1. Isolation – rather than open
  2. Noise – zero privacy
  3. High stress – as opening your Facebook page might get you busted

What they’ve shown, more than carrots and sticks, workers prefer being given the opportunity to succeed on their own terms. Mastery seems to be its own reward. So if they put us in spaces that respected our human nature the wouldn’t need a manager in a desk looking directly over everyone. It’s demeaning. It’s cruel. It fosters subversion and hiding in conference rooms.

Whatever the open office experiment was, it has failed just like the open classroom idea that came in vogue as I was entering 7th grade. No work got done. In middle school all we did was make eye contact with our friends and goof off. In the corporate environment the exact opposite occurs. We make zero eye contact, we rarely talk, and in the middle of a group of people we can feel more isolated than when we are alone.

I’m not going to change my company anytime soon. But I have to say, I’m really glad I only work with them as a consultant, part-time. If I were there 40+ hours a week, I’d bug out.

Reference: Why the Open Office Fails – Forbes

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

The Failure of Apple Music, Might Really Be iTunes


Apple Music was not meant to take over the streaming world. With a fairly low-key launch Apple announced that their new streaming music service (once called iTunes Radio) was now going to be Apple Music. They made a big show of their 24/7 Beats One Radio program as well, with, GET THIS, live DJs. Wow.

Instead, with Apple Music they pretty much left iTunes in shabby shape and bolted on some streaming capacity and a radio station.

The reality is, as my three-month anniversary is nearing, I’m not going to renew my Apple Music subscription. I’m guessing a whole ton of other people feel the same way. It was an interesting start but the experience was marred by the interface and trying to understand just what Apple Music was and how to invoke its magic streaming station from a song Pandora trick. It didn’t work for me. Again, the failure may have been more a problem with iTunes in general, and Apple’s attempt to bolt this new idea onto the old structure. They wanted to make iTunes new again, but the polish and sparkle has actually made iTunes harder to use.

Here’s the problem with iTunes. If you are a purchaser and collector of music, keeping iTunes in-sync and organized is difficult. I suppose for kids who will never buy a music collection, streaming and more streaming is a great option. As long as their parents are paying for their data plan, what could be the problem? Well, that moment in the airplane when you lose connectivity, but they’ve got some other media downloaded to watch at that time. For me, my massive on-disc MP3 and FLAC collection is spread across several hard drives. Even today, on my MBP, I have a substantial percentage of space committed to my music collection.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 3.53.24 PM

And I have a bigger problem than that.

With my music growing bigger than my storage capacity on this machine, I occasionally have to split things up and take non-essential music off to a backup drive. And when iTunes loses track of things I often wind up with album track lists that look like this.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 3.56.10 PM

And occasionally it will take me several attempts to find the track that actually exists.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 3.57.03 PM

But that’s after several of these.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 3.56.46 PM

So why doesn’t iTunes have a simple way to reconnect with missing files (all of them at once) or deduplicate tracks? Apple hasn’t had to work to hard on iTunes lately. And it’s easy, because they have no viable competition for hd-based music on iOS or OSX. It is a shame that our music libraries are forced into such a dated and uncooperative software program. But Apple had a chance, with a NEW music app release, something called Apple Music, to reinvent the wheel. Make everyone happy.

Instead, with Apple Music they pretty much left iTunes in shabby shape and bolted on some streaming capacity and a radio station. For the money Apple spent to buy Beats and Beats One Radio I would’ve hoped a revolution in music and our music app was coming. I was sadly disappointed.

Today managing any substantial library of music within iTunes is a nightmare. If you don’t mind watching the pinwheel of death appear every time you try to make a change, like deleting those to extra tracks per track on The Shins record above. The same type of nag screen comes up and then the pinwheel of death. A 15 – 2o second pause where you can’t do anything but watch the little hypnotic ball is quit maddening.

You’re better off deleting The Shins all together, waiting for the pinwheel pause, and then reimporting The Shins from their current location and again waiting for the pinwheel.


OPTION ONE: Apple could keep revising the Apple Music / iTunes cluster fk over the next few years and leave us all in this hypnotic and frustrating state. Meanwhile, they will not take many customers from Spotify or Pandora, as was their plan with Apple Music.

OPTION TWO: Apple could BUY Pandora for their streaming and curated playlist content. Let that be their streaming service. Add a few features like being able to hear an entire album, if available. But why reinvent such coolness when it already exists and you’ve got 147 BILLION in cash reserves. And while they are at it, rather than advertising on Shazam for music recognition, why not buy them? If Apple wanted to dominate the music portion of their consumer electronics world they could, but that’s not their plan.

Apple sells expensive computing devices and consumer electronics equipment. And while they do make some money on iTunes and selling music, it’s a tiny fraction of their overall revenue. On the other hand, they need a music player and some music systems for their entire iOS and OSX platforms. Today they are piddling around with a crappy product and an even more confusing implementation.

OPTION THREE: Apple can do nothing. And we can hope for a third-party app that would allow us terrestrial music collectors to manage and sync our libraries across multiple devices without so much hassle and pinwheel watching. Is there a killer music app on Android? (That’s a legitimate question.) If so, maybe they could bring it to iOS and make some more money. I’d really appreciate it.

For now Apple Music is a bust. iTunes while frustrating is the only game in town for iPhones. Let’s see where Apple goes next. Maybe the Apple TV could finally become the home automation/entertainment platform we’ve been waiting for. If it’s using iTunes and Apple Music, we’re still a long way off. Even Siri can’t fix the broken iTunes interface.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

what some other people are saying about Apple Music:

Sorry to Say It: Yep, Apple Music Sucks

With all the fanfare they could muster, Apple entered the streaming music market a month ago, and the verdict is mixed. Mostly, the verdict has been “meh.” But I’m beginning to see the chorus of posts claiming how bad Apple Music is. And it’s time to weigh in, even if briefly.

Apple Music Sucks.

It’s not a Spotify or Pandora killer. It’s not going to be a great salvation for us musicians who are stupefied by our tiny royalty checks from spotify or Apple Play. (think $0.00014 per stream) Even top musicians, that I know, are getting $2 monthly royalty checks off successful catalogs. Okay, but what’s so bad about Apple Music?

It’s confusing. 

Is Apple Music this Beats One radio thing? I could care less about streaming radio. DJ’s, talk, funny people, and some music. I don’t do radio at all. So Beats One is a bust for me. Beats One appears to be Apple going for cool, going for trendy, going for fashion and entertainment and zeitgeist and stuff. No thanks.

Beats One Radio = NO.

Is Apple Music about building radio stations around your favorite artists? Well, okay, but, if I’ve got every album by a certain artist, I’m not really needing a station on them. And besides, even if my kids are not, I am conscious about my monthly data plan that is getting eaten up by my son’s Pandora subscription.

Apple Music Stations = Maybe.

So I guess this is where the real magic is supposed to be. If I like an artist, but I’ve only heard a few of their songs, I can build a station around them. Just like Pandora. But I’m not all that interested in another Pandora. Again, I realize I’m not the target demographic.

The power of Pandora is in the human curated music. And this was supposed to be Apple Music’s killer feature. Curated lists, acquired in the Beats Music purchase, that would hip me to new and powerful playlists. Like Hip Hop by Dre. Or Disco by Madonna. The problem is, I could care less about those features. And users who are passionate about them, say the Apple Music playlist and playlist sharing feature is broken. Again, I’m not the target. But I’m also not impressed by the offering at this time.

Apple Music Playlists = Not Ready for Prime Time

And so, for me Apple Music feels like it should be it’s own app, and not muck up the already confusing iTunes. But that’s not what happened. And I’m hopeful that Apple will get it right over time. But there are still some maddening things about iTunes as well, that they never fixed.

I’m a Mac without a great music app. And Apple Music just made the one we have worse. So yes, Apple Music sucks, but so did iTunes before it. Perhaps Apple will pull a miracle drug out of Bono’s ass and create the killer music app for the iPhone and Mac. I’m not holding my breath.

This rant continues here: How Streaming Music Sucks the Life Out of Music

click to see parody twitter account

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)