Initial Thumbs Down for YouTube Music

In 2012 I posted a blog raving about Google Music ( This past month, Google retired Google Music in favor of it’s new streaming music service YouTube Music. In short, the service is limiting and frustrating.

For starters, I have come to appreciate Google’s suite of services and have purchased multiple Google Home devices including Google Home, Google Home Max, Google Router and Google Chromecasts. While there have been integration issues in the past, nothing compares to my frustrations with YouTube Music. YouTube Music allowed me to transfer my entire media collection from Google Play, which was nice, but my purchased music only shows up under a separate tab, Uploads. In other words, they treat uploads completely separate from YT Music. Again, this would be fine if I was able to seamlessly interact with my music as I did in the past through Play Music using Google Home commands. Unfortunately, asking Google using voice commands like ‘Okay Google, play my playlist Vampire Weekend’ does not launch my playlist but YouTube Music Radio’s artist or genre request.

YT Music Search
YT Playlist

The two things very wrong with this are 1) Google Home does not play my YT Music playlists and 2) there are so many ads infused in their radio subscription with frequent messages to upgrade to Google Play Music Premium Service. I’d probably choose Spotify over Google if I needed to pay to stream.

The bottom line, the only way to stream my uploaded music at home is to use the cast feature from my smartphone or browser. And this, just when voice commands have become a seamless part of my human computer interactions. In short, Google, please allow me to use Google Home to stream my uploaded music playlists and stop asking me to upgrade every time I use the service. Thanks.

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Mobile.SocialXYZ v1 Results

Mobile SocialXYZ Home Screen

In my previous post, I introduced Version 1 of mobile.socialxyz. The system was released in June to my asynchronous online course on human computer interaction, a fitting setting for measuring human computer interaction of my software. Overall, the app achieved modest usage from the 18 participants in the course. Considering that coronavirus and quarantine has put a discount on mobile learning applications because why use the mobile version of the software when you are nearby a workstation, any levels of adoption of the mobile application was seen as a positive result.

A system survey found that 50% of the 18 participants stated that they used the mobile app frequently. This resulted in around 3,000 api calls made by the mobile application (a single api call is made for each and every screen accessed). This accounted for roughly 25% of all traffic across the entire platform (9,000 webpage views). Of those users logging into the mobile app, 65% accessed the app through iOS devices and 35% of students accessed the app using an Android device. Consequently, 16% of all content created across the platform was created through the mobile app.

User perceptions of the system were also captured. Of those users responding to the system survey, 78% indicated satisfaction with the mobile application compared to 100% indicating satisfaction with the browser-based system, 50% found it easy to use and 50% thought it was an excellent way to access updates by the instructor and classmates.

Mobile SocialXYZ

The summer HCI course provided a nice beta test for the application and helped to iron out critical bugs and improvements to be made for Version 2, which will be released in late August. Version 1 also allowed users to comment on the software and offer improvements for next release. For example one user identified that it would be beneficial to see comments from the instructor in the gradebook. Another user indicated that it would be useful to have the login persist instead of having to continuously log in. Both additions have been added to the latest app release. The comments features is illustrated in the image on the right and allows users to click on their grade to view a breakdown of the entire feedback left by the course instructor.

Mobile SocialXYZ
User Profile

Another nice feature added for Version 2 is a user profile screen, illustrated in the image to the left. As a social learning application, I thought it was important to allow users to view the basic background information of their classmates. Not pictured is the “Like” button at the bottom, which gives users an opportunity to leave a little bit of feedback if they want. Eventually, this screen will allow for greater levels of activity, possibly including a message wall and breakdown of user activity.

In conclusion, it was an initial good run through the software and I look for expanded use this fall with version 2 rolling out soon.

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Mobile.SocialXYZ v.1.2.9

After six months of mostly hard work, I have managed to deploy mobile.socialxyz v. 1.2.9 to both the Apple Store for iOS and Google Play Store for Android. Overall, the v1 feature set is what I was aiming for and the app comes flush with push notifications, gradebook, quizzes, discussion boards, blogging and social networking.

With such a short timeframe to turnaround 2 native apps for iphone and android, I went with the React Native programming language using expo as my packaging software. In short, react native code is written in javascript, which made me fall in love with the language and its capabilities. I haven’t relied so much on javascript in over a decade, so it is fantastic to find such utility in the language. Expo was also a tremendous value. Expo is a packaging framework, that provides many dependencies and linking needed to deploy react native apps across iOS and Android. In short, it helped speed up testing on physical iPhone and Android devices. This, in turn, sped up delivery to Google Play and Apple stores.

The coding effort was pretty substantial and involved client-side app development along with server-side api development. The below table tracks the file count and lines of code per category.

Coding Stats

These numbers work out to around 11 months of effort for a team of 5, according to Mike’s Basic COCOMO Calculator. Not bad for a 1-person team in 6 months.

COCOMO Coding Effort

Below are some screenshots of the app, including assignments / gradebook, discussion board and quality analyzer and messaging screens.

Assignments Screen
Quality Analyzer
Inbox Screen

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SocialXYZ New Logos

While working on the mobile app for SocialXYZ and after many a few years, I’ve gone ahead and updated the logo image and icon image for SocialXYZ.

The icon, by far is my favorite. I’ve combined the share icon with XYZ. I think it works well.

SocialXYZ App Icon

The logo works too, I think. It’s simple and not as busy as the old one.

SocialXYZ Logo

I also created a header image for the mobile app pages. It’s simple so as not to distract when users are navigating the app.

App Header Image

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Web Intelligence Journal

My colleagues and I recently published our article, “Real-Time Visualization to Improve Quality in Computer Mediated Communication,” in Web Intelligence. Below is the word cloud of the paper. Below that is the abstract and citation.

Abstract. Within conversational media, how others perceive contributions affects his or her interactions with those contributions. This research explores a novel addition to conversational software, one that provides real-time assessment of quality across user contributions. An analysis of 2,157 online conversations examined attributes of quality, including lexical complexity and prompt-specific vocabulary. These factors helped to inform the redesign of an existing asynchronous online discussion board (AOD). More specifically, a real-time quality analyzer was constructed, which provides users with a visual breakdown of their post in relation to the overall group discussion thread. An experiment across two populations was performed and results found that the system increased overall levels of quality in conversations, while also increasing quality interactions across the system. The results were supplemented with survey data and a social network analysis (SNA), which discovered higher levels of system satisfaction and group cohesion.

B. Thoms, E. Eryilmaz, N. Dubin, R. Hernandez, S. Colon-Cerezo, “Real-Time Visualization to Improve Quality in Computer Mediated Communication,” Web Intelligence, v18(1), 2020.

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