Review of Rdio

September 6, 2010 | Comments (2)

Music is the single best representation of anyone’s true inner self.  You might think you know someone, but browse through their music collection and you might just change your mind.  The way that we listen to music has changed drastically.  We’re moving away from physical formats to digital formats.  I buy all my music digital-only now, though my 2000+ CDs & records are still in the house.  Aside from rare or sentimental albums, I think my physical music objects will soon be going to Amoeba Records to earn a few bucks.  I have everything in digital format (backed up, of course) and listen online more than anywhere else anyway.

We’re also moving away from the ownership model of music to the subscription model.  Services like Pandora,, Rdio, and others serve as a way for people to access nearly any digital music album or song they want, any time.  And no need to pay per song — it’s a monthly subscription cost.  You can listen to anything you want, as often as you want, for as long as you want.  I truly believe this is the future of music — no more “I own this piece of plastic which has 12 songs on it.”  Instead, it will be “I subscribe to X Service and get unlimited access to all music.”

A subscription model is easier and better for the end user, and still profitable for the music producers.  I dare say not profitable for the artists, though I hope with a more open subscription service you will see more independent artists earning money directly from fans instead of through useless record company middle men.  The subscription model could also alleviate a lot of the music piracy that has sent record companies into a DRM tizzy and seriously damaged easy access to music files.  If I pay $5 or $10 a month and can get anything I want, why bother downloading illegally or legally?

The problem is, of course, bandwidth.  If all the music is online, you’re live streaming every time you want something.  The U.S. is woefully behind other countries in developing a high speed network.  My hope is that Google’s wired bandwidth project, as well as the development of 3G+ networks, we will see an improvement in service over the next decade.  In the meantime, these services can still work — if the services do something smart.

And Rdio has done just that.  Rdio is the online music streaming service I use.  I love it, though it has some teensy kinks that are still being worked out as it achieved mass adoption rates at their release well beyond what they were set up to handle.  It’s stabilized a lot, and is truly awesome.

There’s a website of course, and a desktop version to use, as well as apps for mobile use.  You subscribe for either $4.99 or $9.99 a month to get unlimited streaming music, as well as the option to sync songs to your mobile device and even download the MP3s (for 99 cents, much like iTunes).  The ability so sync your favorite songs to your device means you don’t have to download them next time — nice!  Saves bandwidth in the future, and makes the service more efficient and sustainable.

The neatest feature for me is that Rdio matches up your iTunes or other collection so you can easily build your “collection” in Rdio to match what you already have–making browsing what you like really easy.  I found that they have access to about 2/3 of the music I have in my iTunes collection, but I do listen to some fairly obscure stuff.  They do not have access to all music by all artists.  Some artists will have nothing available for them (like Dead Can Dance), but others will have everything in their catalog (like Air), while others have some weird smattering of songs or albums (e.g. Underworld).  They currently are partnered with Warner, Sony, Universal, EMI, ioda, The Orchard, INgrooves, and Iris.  More partners are added as time goes on, and I’m pretty confident that missing music companies will be added soon as Rdio’s popularity soars.

Of course there is a social component where you can friend folks and see what they’re listening to.  I discovered a good band today using that feature.  That being said, Rdio could benefit from some music recommendation offerings, much like Pandora or offer.  When I don’t know what I want to listen to, Pandora is still my first choice.  But when I want a particular song or artist, then it’s off to Rdio.  I’m loving it in my car, listening to my favorite songs on my commute without worrying if I synced the right album onto my phone or bringing the right CD with me.  If your music tastes are wide-ranging and fickle and you’re on the go with multiple devices, then Rdio might be a good choice for you too.

Recently I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how best to follow my activities and writing and recommendations online.  The answer is that it’s up to you!  Choose one of the three options below for your best bet.

  • My Blog: My long posts are always here, on  I also have started selecting the  most interesting things I Tweet and posting them as a daily digest with perhaps 8 links.  Look in the sidebar for ways to subscribe via RSS or email.
  • Twitter: This is another great place to follow me.  I Tweet as @TheLiB throughout the day most days, and if I post a longer article to the blog I will add a link on Twitter.
  • Facebook: I’m on Facebook.  I don’t post directly to Facebook, but everything from Twitter (inc. links to my blog posts) feeds into Facebook.  If I get comments I do try to reply to them and engage here.  In truth, I don’t like Facebook very much. Facebook’s privacy policies and data ownership practices concern me, so I’m not giving them any unique content, no way no how. But I recognize some of my peeps are there, so I’ll try to be there too.

So if you follow my blog, Twitter feed, -or- Facebook profile, then you’re going to get everything.  It’s all a matter of how you prefer to consume information.  If you’re following me in more than one of these places, you might start to get annoyed with me and hate me.  And we wouldn’t want that!

I’m also pretty active on Flickr, Foursquare, Gowalla, Rdio, and Pandora.  And I’m on other services as well, though not so active on those.

Here’s where I’m going to be speaking, in cyberspace or face-to-face (or in “meatspace” as many cyberpunk and science fiction books call it).  Drop by and say hi, and if you’re attending one of these events drop me a line to tell me what you want me to talk about.

  • September 2010 – “Web Searching 2: Advanced Tools and Tips” – four-week online class for Infopeople
  • September 21, 2010 – “2.0 Services without 2.0 Million Dollars: The Best Free Web Services for Broke Libraries” for the Future of Libraries Conference (San Francisco)
  • September 29, 2010 – “Ebook ‘What Ifs’: Issues that Impact Scenario Planning” webinar panel with Matt Hamilton, Josh Hadro, and Bobbi Newman for the eBooks at Libraries: The Tipping Point – Library Journal Virtual Summit
  • October 12, 2010 – “Online Outreach and Marketing” webinar for the Florida Panhandle Library Access Network
  • October 13, 2010: “Mobile Services for Libraries” – Infopeople webinar
  • October 20, 2010 – “Technology for Small Libraries” webinar for the Florida Panhandle Library Access Network
  • October 24, 2010: “UX4Lib: Designing Digital Spaces for Positive User Experiences” with Aaron Schmidt – Internet Librarian Pre-Conference Workshop
  • October 25, 2010: “Digital Managers Sound Off!” with David King, Bobbi Newman, and Matt Hamilton at the Internet Librarian Conference
  • October 26, 2010: Moderating Track A, “Innovation, Risk, & Failure” at the Internet Librarian Conference
  • October 26, 2010: “Fail! Learn! Share!” with other panelists at the Internet Librarian Conference
  • October 26, 2010: “Augmented Reality & Libraries” with Jaap Van de Geer and Erik Boekesteijn at the Internet Librarian Conference
  • October 27, 2010: “Best Free Web Stuff for Broke Libraries” at the Internet Librarian Conference
  • December 9, 2010: “User Experience Design for Web Services” – Infopeople webinar

SJPL app screenshotThe San Jose Public Library‘s mobile app, designed by Boopsie, is now live and works on all platforms: Apple/iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Palm, Windows Mobile, etc.  You can see a live demo of what the app looks like at  Go to the same site on your mobile device to be redirected to the appropriate download for your device.  If you’re an Apple or Android user you can also look in the App Store or Marketplace for “SJPL” or “San Jose Library” to find the app.  All I gotta say is: it’s freaking awesome. I’ve been using it to search for and reserve books for weeks, and browse new titles when I’m in long lines.  It’s super easy and super fast.

The features of our app include:

  • a smart catalog search feature that predicts as you type, with summaries and what libraries have copies on the shelf
  • reserve and renew items / check your account
  • RSS feeds with cover images for our newest books, movies, music, and eBooks in different genres, subject areas, and languages
  • location listings with one-click maps to the 19 SJPL locations
  • mobile access to tens of thousands of the library’s online magazines and newspapers through EBSCO Mobile
  • one-click access to calling, texting, or emailing the library staff
  • upcoming events and classes at all of our libraries
  • quick access to the Library’s Facebook and Twitter profiles

The app’s been out for everything but Apple for weeks now, so we resisted publicizing it.  After much kerfuffle with the Apple app store folks (*fist shaking*), including rejection of our app the first time we submitted it, Boopsie finally helped us get it all up and running.  There is still a tweaky bit with the Facebook link in the Apple version (*double fist shaking*) but all in all, most things are happy-go-snappy now.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

The experience with Boopsie has been good, and working with them was way easier and more cost-effective than trying to build our own cross-platform app.  I would recommend cross-platform development to all libraries–don’t just do an iPhone app.  You’re leaving so many users of Blackberry, Android, and other devices in the dust and saying they don’t matter as much to you.  It’s kind of like the uncool fact that our library eAudioBooks don’t work on Macs. You don’t want to (and should never) alienate people based on their device choices, nor should you or the vendors you use show bias toward or against a particular platform.

If libraries are struggling with the “what do we do with mobile” question, I’d first recommend developing a simple, scaled-down mobile-friendly version of your website.  Second, and if you have the money, I’d recommend working with Boopsie to develop an app for the library.  Mobile web access and mobile app access reach similar, but sometimes different, audiences.  So it’s best to have both, but the website’s more important.  Why?  Because the app requires that not only the user find out there is an app, but make a conscious effort to download it, then an effort to remember it’s there and to use it when they need library stuff.  Not everyone would do that.  But most mobile users would look to see if they can renew books or find directions on the library’s website, and if you have a mobile-happy website, so much the better for you and your customers.

  • Libraries webbies–Check out a new freemium Search Engine Optimization tool from Ginzametrics.
  • “I believe that Net Neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time.” – Al Franken –
  • From @dweinberger I’m starting a new job as co-dir of Harvard Law’s Library Lab. A very cool place w/ astounding folks. Weinberger is the author of Everything is Miscellaneous, in which yours truly gets quoted!

Want to learn more about web search?  I’m teaching a 4-week online class through Infopeople.  There is a cost: $75 for CA folks/$150 for everyone else.  The class starts 9/14.  Find out more at

  • Brilliant! RT @sxseventy Today I have invented the sarcasterisk*. It’s for typed sarcasm. Example: Sure, that sounds like a fantastic* idea. My first sarcasterisk* sarcasm: “Oh yes, library eBooks have very flexible* use policies & are easy* to download.” Ta-da!
  • If we believe this we must press library eBook licensing NOW. Via @ALA_TechSource: How Libraries Ensure Ongoing Freedom
  • Niiiiiice! Bash that info overload! “Email Sucks. 5 Time Saving Tips” direct (via @kevinrose):
  • More free eBooks! From @mashable: 10 Essential Free E-Books for Web Designers –
  • Worth a read. The M Word – Free Ebook on Social Media Marketing (via @DigiLibraryBlog @ALALibrary @scstatelibrary):
  • A good recommendation from @s_francoeur If you miss the EtherPad service that allowed massive real-time document collaboration, try
    From @PierreTran: 50 Open Source Replacements for Really Expensive Software | Datamation #opensource
  • Libraries could totally use this on self checks & kiosks! Miracle Film Turns Any Surface into a Touchscreen (@mashable)
  • from @loriayre: New RFID stndrd uses ISIL codes 4 lib locations. US would have 2 use OCLC. Can nonmembers get codes?
  • GetGlue builds social data about media. Way cool. Via @mashable Check in to TV Shows, Movies & More with GetGlue –
  • For my fellow minimalists: From @BoingBoing The nitty-gritty of whittling down your possessions
  • Recently Released/Updated Social Media Infographics W/Plenty of Facts & Stats (FB, etc), (via @resourceshelf)
  • From @jdysart: Reminder: proposal deadline to speak @ Computers In Libraries 2011 is Sept 15 & will NOT be extended,
  • How Steampunk can Save Librarianship: Libraries Redefined (Part 2), from @pcsweeney –

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