When mistreating users becomes competitive advantage
September 16, 2014 3:34 AM   Subscribe

This week, of course, provided a glorious example of how technology companies have normalized being indifferent to consent: Apple ‘gifting’ each user with a U2 album downloaded into iTunes. At least one of my friends reported that he had wireless synching of his phone disabled; Apple overrode his express preferences in order to add the album to his music collection. The expected 'surprise and delight' was really more like 'surprise and delete'. I suspect that the strong negative response (in some quarters, at least) had less to do with a dislike of U2 and everything to do with the album as a metonym for this widespread culture of nonconsensual behaviour in technology.
Deb Chachra talks about the age of non-consensual technology.

Betsy Haibel explains why companies engage in these practises
Consent-challenging approaches offer potential competitive benefits. Deceptive links capture clicks - so the linking site gets paid. Harvesting of emails through automatic opt-in aids in marketing and lead generation. While the actual corporate gain from not allowing unsubscribes is likely minimal - users who want to opt out are generally not good conversion targets - individuals and departments with quotas to meet will cheer the artificial boost to their mailing list size.
posted by MartinWisse (188 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great post!
posted by flippant at 3:46 AM on September 16, 2014


I, for one, welcome our new Apple overlords. Unless I can get a better deal from AT&T. Or even Sprint.

Don't make me do it. I'm willing to switch to Sprint.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:00 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


http://www.whoisu2.com/
posted by Wild_Eep at 4:01 AM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


Consent-challenging approaches offer potential competitive benefits.

Me and the Mrs. deleted this from our wedding vows. And we're still in love.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:05 AM on September 16, 2014 [21 favorites]


It was a fucking bizarre thing for Apple to do, although not nearly as bad as the folk hypotheses floating around that this constitutes an intrusion or privacy exploit, or that the telcos are somehow complicit in something Apple did.

I hurt my ears because my car's stereo volume is set for listening to spoken voice podcasts about people discussing ancient Greece, not a brickwalled pop album that spontaneously began playing even though I didn't even have my phone's Music app running. But building this up as something Evil or as another impending sign of Big Brotherness or whatever is wrong. It was just a stupid, bizarre thing.
posted by ardgedee at 4:07 AM on September 16, 2014 [16 favorites]


Imagine how brilliant it would be if every single thing that was free on the app store just started downloading automatically onto your phone, the world ending in a constant stream of free to play bejewelled clone downloads overloading everything.
posted by dng at 4:09 AM on September 16, 2014 [18 favorites]


> I, for one, welcome our new Apple overlords. Unless I can get a better deal from AT&T. Or even Sprint.

AT&T and Sprint are phone networks. Apple is not a phone network, it's a supplier to phone networks. I'm not sure what you mean.
posted by ardgedee at 4:09 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


I suspect that the strong negative response (in some quarters, at least) had less to do with a dislike of U2

Oh, I don't know. My displeasure was pretty much 100% it being U2.
posted by cabingirl at 4:10 AM on September 16, 2014 [31 favorites]


I want tech companies to get their shit together before they make the leap from just being on screens to being everywhere around us.

One of the things that has occurred to me in the course of discussing self-driving cars is that, instead of waiting for you to make a reservation to hire a car for the day, car rental companies could partner with other businesses and send the cars out to follow people around and shout suggestions at them of possible destinations and reasons to make a trip somewhere. With accompanying coupon offers and discounts, of course.

They could pair up with restaurants, for example, and the cars could waft food odors at you like scented billboards do while they read out the menu, customized based upon what sort of foods you've been observed ordering in the past. And on occasion you'll accept a "free" ride somewhere but be taken to a presentation about buying a timeshare rather than the advertised destination. And/or the car will be an elaborate honeypot and will gobble you up trash-compactor-like and reprocess your body into Soylent Green.
posted by XMLicious at 4:13 AM on September 16, 2014 [45 favorites]


The U2 thing was an embarrassment, like a generally decent dad trying to be cool. U2 isn't a bad band, but they are an old band and probably not that impressive to kids these days.

It would have been better if Apple had given everyone a $15 credit in iTunes and then launched a campaign about sharing their favorite band or movie with the world.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:19 AM on September 16, 2014 [46 favorites]


But building this up as something Evil or as another impending sign of Big Brotherness or whatever is wrong.

That's not what the first article is doing. It's simply noting a few milestones on the path that took us to this place, and expressing concern about what's coming next from companies that have demonstrated a lack of empathy for users, overriding their preferences to do what those companies want to do anyway.

It's a worthwhile conversation to have, with or without your introduction of the capital-E Evil stuff.
posted by mediareport at 4:22 AM on September 16, 2014 [12 favorites]


Or even better: use that credit to encourage people to make a mixtape and share it with friends.

The U2 / Apple thing reads like Tim Cook trying to be Steve Jobs along with Jobs' love of the Beatles. Just be you dad, er, Tim. You're still pretty cool.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:23 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


U2 don't care, didn't they get $100M for this? And I'll bet most of the noise came from people who don't like Apple rather those who felt their autonomy violated or who hated U2.

Still for a company as savvy as Apple, a huge miscalculation.
posted by epo at 4:24 AM on September 16, 2014


They can make it up to me by gifting me with A Skeletal Domain by Cannibal Corpse; it comes out today
posted by Renoroc at 4:27 AM on September 16, 2014 [14 favorites]


It was a fucking bizarre thing for Apple to do

Quite the contrary - if anything, it's the other shoe dropping.

Bono is a board member of Elevation Partners, the IP/media equity firm. Having his band launch another tour with the help of a digital media service/technology platform would (appear to) serve as another boost to Apple's strategies, especially in the wake of acquiring Beats electronics, LLC. Jimmy Iovine, Beats' co-founder, has a large amount of pull in the music industry, and is expected to solidify similar tie-in deals for the company.

What's transpiring is the first public sign of Apple transforming itself from a "personal device" manufacturer to a talent agency akin to William Morris or CAA, which is very much in keeping with their competition against Google and Amazon.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:33 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's not like it's some horrible fatal mistake but it does seem very flat-footed and Microsoft-like.
posted by octothorpe at 4:34 AM on September 16, 2014 [10 favorites]


At least one of my friends reported that he had wireless synching of his phone disabled; Apple overrode his express preferences in order to add the album to his music collection

Is there any other evidence for this fairly extraordinary claim? I'm totally on board with the basic point, but this would represent a big extra step down the road described.
posted by oliverburkeman at 4:35 AM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


Jimmy Iovine, Beats' co-founder, has a large amount of pull in the music industry, and is expected to solidify similar tie-in deals for the company.

Well let's not forget Iovine also goes way back with U2 to his record producing days.

But yeah, this whole thing is a loss leader for the tour except U2 managed to get $100MM out of the deal. Remember that the last U2 tour grossed $736,137,344.
posted by JoeZydeco at 4:40 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


How dare Apple give me a free album I didn't want, and only downloaded if I deliberately set specific, obscure options to allow it.

>At least one of my friends reported that he had wireless synching of his phone disabled; Apple overrode his express preferences in order to add the album to his music collection

Is there any other evidence for this fairly extraordinary claim?


No evidence because it didn't happen. I don't have wireless synch on and I never saw it. You had to set some obscure "download from cloud" options that are not commonly used. And even then, only the listing of the album appeared and didn't actually download unless you took action to download it.

Why how dare Apple show me a track listing for an album I didn't want.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:42 AM on September 16, 2014 [29 favorites]


What's transpiring is the first public sign of Apple transforming itself from a "personal device" manufacturer to a talent agency akin to William Morris or CAA, which is very much in keeping with their competition against Google and Amazon.

lolwut? Why on earth would they do that? They're one of the most profitable companies on earth as a device manufacturer. Why would they leave that business for a few fickle hollywood dollars?
posted by empath at 4:43 AM on September 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


Is there any other evidence for this fairly extraordinary claim?

I suspect it's actually Automatic Downloads (of purchases) that's the issue here, not just regular-old wireless sync. It would make sense for content "purchased" (meaning it's associated with your Apple ID) to show up on your device if you've got that enabled.

I don't, and I hadn't heard anything about this until a coworker asked me if U2 suddenly appeared on my phone (they didn't).

pop album that spontaneously began playing even though I didn't even have my phone's Music app running

Did this really happen? Because that's madness.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:43 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


> That's not what the first article is doing. It's simply noting a few milestones on the path that took us to this place...

That's true. I wasn't responding directly to his essay (which is damn good), but thinking about the issue of how it is perceived by non-technologists when it happens. Because that has consequences too.
posted by ardgedee at 4:45 AM on September 16, 2014


Apple is not a phone network

And Samsung is Korean. Right?

I've retreated to the wilderness in Oregon. My followers and I have given up all forms of digital technology. We only communicate with organic technology that is both healthy and vegan for the cyberspace infrastructure.

Currently this message is being conveyed by Ronaldo, who is pedaling a bicycle which powers a generator, and Emily, who is transcribing this text message into Morse code. The text signal is being keyed by Walter, who is extremely proficient in signals, toward Michael, who helps farm our beet crop and also occasionally decodes Morse. The essential message of this comment was conveyed by horseback through several New England townships, finally arriving at the small apartment of Sven, entirely furnished by Ikea. Somewhere in the Hemnes and the Stolmen I realized that what is important about all this isn't the furniture, however well-crafted by Swedish furniture lords (Ugemaken-shuga in Swedish), but rather the comfort of a space where sitting - really just sitting - is still important.

I'm about to submit this comment using my phone, and already I can tell that it is a good comment. I can tell this because I use two phones. My IPhone has been talking to my Android phone, and both of them agree that this comment should be submitted. If only a human would push that damn button...
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:45 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


pop album that spontaneously began playing even though I didn't even have my phone's Music app running

My car ipod connector is really obnoxious for switching to the music app whenever something else I'm listening to stops (like soundcloud or youtube).
posted by empath at 4:45 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had to turn on "Show All Music" in my settings to see it, ready to download along with all the songs I have on my computer but haven't put on my phone.
I turned off "Show All Music" again, and it's hidden again.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:45 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Why how dare Apple show me a track listing for an album I didn't want.

I don't object to the album or to getting it for free. Seriously. Because I don't think it's all that bad. But I will never like it or ever want to listen to it again if I am compelled to do so involuntarily.

It's the control that matters. Or at least the illusion of control. Violate that and a lot of dominos fall.
posted by ardgedee at 4:48 AM on September 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


> Did this really happen? Because that's madness.

Yes. And I have hyperacusis. So it was non-metaphorically painful.

Has anybody clapped the palms of their hands over your ears, as if they were loudly applauding but your head was in the way? That's what it feels like.
posted by ardgedee at 4:50 AM on September 16, 2014


I wasn't responding directly to his essay

Perhaps pedantic, but given the ongoing sexism-in-tech discussion, it's probably worth pointing out that both linked essays are by women.
posted by mediareport at 4:59 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's ironic that Deb Chandra's article, read on an iPhone in landscape mode, has a big "subscribe" bar taking up a quarter of the screen. I couldn't dismiss it, and the article didn't offer the option of entering reading mode to eliminate it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:03 AM on September 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


As far as I can tell, my iPod Touch was an afterthought yet again as I can't find any U2-colored stains in my iTunes library.

Casey taught me all I needed to know about U2 years ago.
posted by delfin at 5:07 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


When your fridge is hooked up to the internet and can self-stock, what's to bet that Milky Goodness Milkshake Company pays to put a free sample in every fridge? Come on, it's free milkshake!
posted by Thing at 5:08 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


But remember the reason you're not allowed to root your phone, replace the core installed software, or get apps someplace other than the App Store: viruses. Not money, not control! Viruses.
posted by roystgnr at 5:19 AM on September 16, 2014 [16 favorites]


The thing that irritates me is that I can't delete it from iTunes Match. I am already bumping up against the limit - I don't need albums that I neither requested nor want taking up room I require for experimental accordion music.
posted by winna at 5:20 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


The tech sector has long suffered from a real lack of self-control. There's a deep, institutional ignorance of (if not outright disdain for) the caveat "just because you can, doesn't mean you should." The tech sector operates under the motto of "Look what I can do!" (the CS-degreed version of "Hey y'all, watch this!") This is exactly why we are now racing headlong into the brave new world of the Internet of Things™, despite practically no-one other than the geeks and nerds in-charge clamoring for toasters that talk to the fridge that talks to the giant corporation that delivers you more cottage cheese without you ever having to turn your head away from whatever space-cowboy shoot-em-up you're playing this week.

This latest Apple snafu was a relatively innocent expression of that "we know what you want better than you" mindset, but was certainly on the spectrum. At least it was easy to remove the music from your lists.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:21 AM on September 16, 2014 [14 favorites]


I can't delete it from iTunes Match

Apple's got ya.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:22 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also "purchased" songs don't count against iTunes Match's 25,000-song limit
posted by whitecedar at 5:24 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


But yeah, this whole thing is a loss leader for the tour except U2 managed to get $100MM out of the deal. Remember that the last U2 tour grossed $736,137,344.

Barely germain to the discussion, but that number means nothing. The last U2 tour also cost $250,000 a day to keep on the road (and I don't mean per show. I mean per day) because the complexity of the stage meant there were three stages touring around. I agree that number is high. But the bands actual take home from the tour was a fraction of that. The merchandise is usually the difference between profit and loss on torus for them and has been going back to ZOO TV.

The $100M from Apple will probably be their biggest windfall from the album and tour.

I find the whole reaction really amusing. Hardware companies have been putting stuff on your devices for more than a decade without letting you know. I doubt it's even the first time this has been done with music.

I think it was a bad risk for U2 take but this is so not the sea change everyone is making it out to be.
posted by dry white toast at 5:27 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


dry white toast: "The $100M from Apple will probably be their biggest windfall from the album and tour. "

Imagine having to settle for a measly $100M for your work. Boggles the mind.
posted by signal at 5:42 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


My friend doesn't even own an iPhone but the other morning he woke up and Bono was standing over his bed screaming his new songs at the top of his lungs. Clearly, these tech companies are out of control and evil. We are right to be outraged.
posted by bondcliff at 5:59 AM on September 16, 2014 [33 favorites]


I find a considerable difference between the phone you just bought having bloatware on it (Which FYI I loathe and immediately fix upon getting a new phone) and this situation.

Bloatware is stupid and pointless for the consumer but I don't see it as violating the trust of the end user.

You know a new phone on the major carriers is going to come with Bloatware. But its a violation of the end users trust to force anything(software, music, etc) on them.

End of the world for Apple? Of course not. But lets not compare that to the junk carriers put on phones out the box.
posted by Twain Device at 6:00 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


If this took every iTunes user 10 minutes of their time - noticing, researching, understanding and deleting or not - at US federal minimum wage that would cost them each $1 worth of their time. The latest estimate from Tim Cook is that iTunes has 800 Million accounts in 2013.

So Apple wasted up to 800 Million US dollars worth of their users time with this decision to spam their users.

Or more disturbingly, up to 1521 years of human life.
posted by srboisvert at 6:00 AM on September 16, 2014 [20 favorites]


It's really mind blowing to hear people say "all of these people who are unhappy are wrong." Sort of represents the whole problem with our age.
posted by Nevin at 6:04 AM on September 16, 2014 [32 favorites]


Apple shows iTunes users how to delete U2 album
I know it's only a drop in the bucket, but the fact that Apple had to pay someone to design and post this website (http://iTunes.com/soi-remove) fills me with glee.
posted by dhens at 6:05 AM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


1. I'm highly skeptical of reports that this album is behaving differently in terms of being synced to user devices and am willing to chalk it up these anecdotes to users being unfamiliar with the various syncing options including the option to push new purchases to your device or to make cloud-available music visible.

That's actually part of the problem; Apple didn't mechanically differentiate this free album from the music you purchase with consent—both are set with identical state properties and, if they wanted to give away this music for free, they should have found a way to make it available but with at least one consent action ("Would you like to download this free album?") before it entered your purchased list. People's taste and personal curation of music is an oddly intimate*, oddly closely-held emotional object.

2. This isn't a big deal in the global sense, but it is a disconcerting small detail and Apple has proven that small user experience details matter, that's what makes this stand out. This album push feels more like an Amazon move. People may say "What's the big deal? It's easy to remove." But that's exactly the same defence you can use against the bloat and trialware you can find preinstalled on your brand new HP notebook and Apple's had it as a point of pride that they don't give users that sort of experience.

Furthermore, this album caused a bunch of their back-catalogue of U2's paid albums to chart again which makes this a form of mild push advertising. Certainly one that's classier and with a chance of more utility than a popup coupon appearing on your phone for the Olive Garden but a push advertisement all the same.

3. That all being said: I don't think this is any particular ominous indication of Apple's direction going forward. The naïve enthusiasm of Tim Cook geeking out over U2 matched their likely naïve institutional enthusiasm in the outcome of this promotion. They've walked away from this experience with a certain amount of humiliation at the sour reaction online and I doubt they'd implement any future promotional event like this again.

* Apple says their watch is their intimate device. I think the smartphone already is to most users. Combining that with its precious and metered energy, bandwidth, and storage capacities makes it feel far more egregious when it's frittered away on non-consentual downloads in a way that's different than something being background downloaded on, say, Steam on a PC.

† I don't think anybody in Cupertino was happy to have to put up that support page and custom-built removal widget for the album this week.

posted by whittaker at 6:07 AM on September 16, 2014 [11 favorites]


Joe in Australia- That is ironic, but I don't really think that's her doing. This is actually from Deb's mailing list, and it looked entirely different on my tablet when I viewed it through my e-mail.
posted by lownote at 6:14 AM on September 16, 2014


My car ipod connector is really obnoxious for switching to the music app whenever something else I'm listening to stops (like soundcloud or youtube).

This is why I keep my phone empty of music. If it has anything (songs, audio books, etc) it defaults to auto playing that when it makes the car bluetooth connection, which I use for Pandora and for talking on the phone. There might be a settings option to fix this that I can't find, but I have "solved" it by just not having other audio files on the device which is deeply irritating in itself.

I know it's only a drop in the bucket, but the fact that Apple had to pay someone to design and post this website (http://iTunes.com/soi-remove) fills me with glee.

It's a one-click removal, plus of course signing in with your Apple id.

Consent-challenging approaches offer potential competitive benefits.

I totally understand why they do it (and why Reddit refuses to remove non-consensual content), in that these are things that make them money. I wish they would also take the time to measure lost satisfaction, lost trust, and lost brand identity as well; doing so might push the balance a little further towards better behavior.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:22 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


You know a new phone on the major carriers is going to come with Bloatware

iPhones notably don't.
posted by empath at 6:28 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I’ve been in meetings where co-workers have described operant conditioning techniques to the higher-ups, in those words - talking about Skinner boxes and rat pellets and everything. I’ve been in meetings where those higher-ups metaphorically drooled like Pavlov’s dogs.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:29 AM on September 16, 2014


There might be a settings option to fix this that I can't find, but I have "solved" it by just not having other audio files on the device which is deeply irritating in itself.

As far as I can tell, it's the fault of your stereo, which sends a play signal to your phone. Some stereos let you disable it, some don't.
posted by empath at 6:31 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


iPhones notably don't.

You mean aside from the software that I can only hide on the third screen rather than remove, right?

As far as I can tell, it's the fault of your stereo, which sends a play signal to your phone. Some stereos let you disable it, some don't.

I don't mind the play signal right now, because that triggers Pandora. But if there's even one audio file, then it triggers iTunes as the default. I'll look into the options on the stereo side, I had assumed it was a phone issue. Thanks.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:36 AM on September 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


You know a new phone on the major carriers is going to come with Bloatware

iPhones notably don't.


I kind of disagree. I have a full folder called AppleCrap on my iPhone that contains a number of unwanted apps that not only came preinstalled, but that I am not able or allowed to remove.
posted by joelhunt at 6:37 AM on September 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


http://www.whoisu2.com/
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:01 AM on September 16


The four-man band features Adam Clayton on bass, Larry Mullen on drums, Dave Evans–nicknamed "The Edge"–on... this is bullshit! Nobody cares! These guys are from England and who gives a shit?
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 6:37 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


You mean aside from the software that I can only hide on the third screen rather than remove, right?

I just stuck the ones I didn't want in a folder, but I wouldn't really consider that to be bloatware, they're pretty core functionality for a smartphone (maps, stocks, music, mail, etc). I do wish you could delete them, though.
posted by empath at 6:38 AM on September 16, 2014


I do consider the iphone to have bloatware. If I can't even remove it from my phone, well that just sucks. I, too have a folder full of apps I do not want, do not use, will never want, and will never use but I can't do anything about it. I like minimal apps - I'm always deleting things that have stopped serving a purpose for me and it drives me insane having things I can't delete.
posted by Aranquis at 6:43 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


We were trying to figure out who the U2 would be if Apple had iTunes and gave out a free dad rock album in 1984. And after making guesses about the Rolling Stones and The Who, we realized we were a decade off. Those bands, in their middle aged, 80's blazer wearing phase were only 20 years into their career, not 30. U2 has been around for a long, long time.
posted by thecjm at 6:45 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


> You know a new phone on the major carriers is going to come with Bloatware

A handful of Android phones come pretty close to bloatware-free.

And I agree with other people regarding iOS in that it's not so much bloatware but rather somewhat useful stuff that I'm just not going to use because I don't use my phone in that manner. It would be nice if I could remove or hide it in a better way than shoving them all into a folder, though.
posted by Gev at 6:57 AM on September 16, 2014


We were trying to figure out who the U2 would be if Apple had iTunes and gave out a free dad rock album in 1984.

Ricky Nelson.
posted by Nevin at 7:00 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


To me -- bloatware = stuff the carrier puts on the phone to monetize it with ads and crap. Apple's apps are distinctly not that. I think mostly they don't let you delete it because all their OSX stuff and itunes stuff depends on it being there, and so when people call tech support to figure out how to sync their mail or whatever, they have an app on the phone that they know works.
posted by empath at 7:06 AM on September 16, 2014




How sad that there is only widespread "outrage" when Apple uses their big brother control to force content on users, rather than their more regular practice of taking it away when it serves the bottom line.
posted by Poldo at 7:17 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nevin: "Ricky Nelson"

U2's first album was 34 years ago. 34 years before 1984 would have been 1950 when Mr. Nelson was only 10 years old. Teresa Brewer would be a better equivalent, she had her first hit in 1950 with "Music, Music, Music"
posted by octothorpe at 7:19 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just a little pinch of schadenfreude at all these people who are shocked, SHOCKED!, that Apple is acting like Apple.
posted by Cosine at 7:26 AM on September 16, 2014


free dad rock album in 1984

That's a fun question. So the kid, who despises her dad's taste in music, will be 14 or 15 in 1984, since that's a great age to start getting arrogant about music and thus she'll start thinking of older bands as dad rock. Dad was probably 25 to 30 when the kid was born. Let's say 25 and this kid is now 14.

I think the best choice would be Fleetwood Mac. Even though Dad would already have been a Dad when Fleetwood Mac's stuff starting hitting the charts, their records would have had a strong appeal to the late 20's, early 30's grown ups. Fleetwood Mac would also have had a strong appeal to the middle class / upper middle class professionals demographic, which would have a strong overlap with Apple users, both then and now. That demographic is a key reason why Bill Clinton's people would choose Fleetwood Mac for their theme music eight years later.

The only other real dad rock choice for that time period, for a group still releasing new stuff, would be AC / DC, but AC/DC fans probably wouldn't have been Apple fans back then, and Apple & Steve Jobs wouldn't have wanted to associate with that band. I guess there's also Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones, but their best days were behind him and probably wouldn't have been enough even for Dads. There's also Queen, which would hit the right notes demographically, but they seem to have a near constant cross-generational appeal.

So, somewhere in the multiverse's alternate 1984, Apple releases the first Macintosh. With each one of those Macs sold, a 3.5 floppy is included which has "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" in a very low quality mono sound file with an accompanying application which has a portrait (Atkinson dithered) of the band on screen. Dads everywhere are thrilled. Their daughters are somewhat annoyed. Apple Records makes noises about lawsuits. Tech writers are split about whether or not this whole digital music thing is going to work.

Sure, Fleetwood Mac didn't have the longevity of U2, but I don't think that's important when looking for an equivalent band which hits the essence of corporate dad rock.
posted by honestcoyote at 7:26 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


U2's first album was 34 years ago. 34 years before 1984 would have been 1950

I am basing my comparison using 1987's true blockbuster Joshua Tree as a benchmark. So maybe Elvis in 1984 would be a better analogy?
posted by Nevin at 7:35 AM on September 16, 2014


I like Marco Arment's take, that it's an issue of trust and not "wah me no want free album", but I'd say that this seemingly minor issue is actually the next iteration of a much bigger, if not the biggest, problem for Apple: their continued issues with "getting" the cloud and making their cloud services easy to use.

It's become almost a cliche to say that Apple doesn't get the cloud, that their cloud offerings are meager, poorly integrated, and confusing. But with the U2 debacle we see that it's worse than that...they've reached the point where they assume that all their customers understand what those offerings are and how to use them.

I'm typing this on a MacBook Pro. My iPhone is on a dock beside me and my iPad is in my briefcase. Tonight, when I get home, I'll watch a movie on Apple TV. I'm thoroughly bought into the Apple ecosystem and I'm a power-user comfortable with digging around under the hood if necessary. But I have no idea how iCloud works, and what it offers me, and why my free storage is always full when I never use it. I could investigate, but it's confusing and frustrating and Dropbox works without me having to Google anything.

And it's not like the U2 issue blindsided Apple. I'm sure someone or a lot of someones raised this issue before the announcement: "Hey, what if someone doesn't want the album?" But I'm sure the answer was something like "Easy, they can go into their Purchased Items and hide it!" Meanwhile, a large proportion of iTunes users have no idea how even the most basic of their cloud settings work...all they know is an album they didn't buy showed up in their music.

This weekend my business partner's 14-year-old daughter, who got in trouble for IAPs when she was younger and parental restrictions weren't as robust, called up her dad really freaked out about this album just showing up. She was afraid she accidentally bought something again and was going to get in trouble.

This sort of tone-deaf move really worries me, much more so than the iCloud hacking situation a few weeks ago. There are always gonna be griefers trying to find vulnerabilities in a system (and yes I agree those vulnerabilities should never have been there.) But this is a level of cluelessness and clumsiness that is atypical for Apple and I hope it's not a sign of things to come.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:35 AM on September 16, 2014 [12 favorites]


The four-man band features Adam Clayton on bass, Larry Mullen on drums, Dave Evans–nicknamed "The Edge"–on... this is bullshit! Nobody cares!

- Bonobos
- Thedge
- Larry Mullen Sr.'s son
- Adam Claytwothousandpounds

posted by whitecedar at 7:36 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just noticed that the author's name is Deb Chachra, not Chandra.

Also, this tempest in a teapot is the very definition of a first world problem. But:

It's become almost a cliche to say that Apple doesn't get the cloud

... only because there's some truth in it.

This is a level of cluelessness and clumsiness that is atypical for Apple and I hope it's not a sign of things to come.

Seconded.
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:41 AM on September 16, 2014


Ewww. Couldn't they have given me some Virgin Prunes (or better yet, some Daniel Figgis) instead?
posted by malocchio at 7:54 AM on September 16, 2014


Agreed, Ian A.T.

On the brightside, whomever on the chain said "Easy, they can go into their Purchased Items and hide it!" has now given Apple a red-faced-with-humiliation object-lesson since they had to put up that custom removal widget.
posted by whittaker at 8:02 AM on September 16, 2014


Eh. I'm not that surprised, really.

This is the company that makes and updates (more like downdates, amirite) iTunes. Not once have I updated iTunes and thought, unsarcastically, Well, this certainly fixed more problems than it created! Never, ever.

So they forced U2 on everybody? Yep. Seems like something they'd do.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


As a sidebar, from the New York Times article "For U2 and Apple, a Shrewd Marketing Partnership"
To release U2’s album free, Apple paid the band and Universal an unspecified fee as a blanket royalty and committed to a marketing campaign for the band worth up to $100 million, according to several people briefed on the deal. That marketing will include a global television campaign, the first piece of which was a commercial that was shown during the event.
So I guess it's not a flat fee, but a combo of services and direct payment.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:25 AM on September 16, 2014


Unless people walk away from their devices and contracts over these issues, Apple and co. will continue not to care. And they don't really care if they look clueless, either.

From landis' link:

"Apple, in turn, can leverage an uninterested and unwitting audience that is unlikely to do much about the transgression, given that it has no real recourse nor alternative."
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:25 AM on September 16, 2014


OT:

Exhibit A for why Apple needs to kill iTunes-as-it-currently-exists: it's possibly the worst possible brand-ambassador in their software portfolio and one of only two currently maintained and cross-platform.
posted by whittaker at 8:25 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


"And they don't really care if they look clueless, either."

I fundamentally disagree with that statement.
posted by whittaker at 8:26 AM on September 16, 2014


I like U2 OK, but I'm not really a huge fan or anything. Still, I'm perfectly happy to check out their new album if you give it to me for free. So I say 'thanks' to Tim and Bono.

But the spittle-flecked rants of people who are complaining so loudly because they got something for free that they didn't ask for, I just simply don't understand. Perhaps it is just another part of our culture's current state of perpetual grievance. These must be the same people who respond to a free sample at Costco by punching the sample lady in her smug little face.
posted by spilon at 8:28 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


These must be the same people who respond to a free sample at Costco by punching the sample lady in her smug little face.

Well, I'd punch her, if she ran up and shoved the sample in my mouth and said "There! Chew it! LOVE IT!!!"
posted by daisystomper at 8:36 AM on September 16, 2014 [28 favorites]


I don't know why people seem to overstate the emotional charge to people's dislike of this. I think it was a clumsy move for Apple, I philosophically don't like the idea of push advertising from that company and I think it's the wrong direction for them to go. My discourse remains fleck-free. My Apple products remain out of the garbage bin. I intend to remain a customer. Are we not allowed to point out disagreements and minor annoyances?

I'm sure you can dig and find all-caps rantings on twitter SOMEWHERE about this, but generally most people are either modestly annoyed or making jokes at U2/Apple's expense about it. Why are people reading in so much anger into the act of criticism?
posted by whittaker at 8:37 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


Well anything that makes Apple look bad is a beacon of sweetness, joy, and light in this weary world, I do have to admit that my phone manufacturer of choice (Motorola) has also done some pretty crappy things recently.

I bought an unlocked Moto G a few months ago and for the most part I have been very happy with it. However, two things gave me pause. First was "Motorola Contextual Services," which made using the phone awkward (it was doing stuff I had not explicity told it to) until I turned it off.

The worst offender by far, though, was Motorola Spotlight Player, a foul hellbeast birthed directly from the very bowels of Satan. Basically, it was apparently meant to show off the graphics and motion sensing capabilities of the device by way of interactive "stories." What this meant in practice is that I was using my phone and all of a sudden a little hat "flew" on to the screen. I wondered WTF was going on. I clicked it and it started a brief movie thing.

A few days later, the same thing happened with a little ladybug-looking thing. Eventually I was able to find a way to turn it off (though I apparently can't uninstall it and use the leftover space for something that would be useful for an adult human being).

I found a great discussion about this:
I hate the little hat on the Moto X

I agreed with the OP (who said that he would rather have his RAM used for something else) and the guy who said this:
I have to deal with 200-400 emails per day, I hate these notifications that are just ads. My phone is a tool, not a toy, I don't want my phone pushing other products at me this aggressively.

Then all the people cuing up to say "it's whimsical and fun" or "can't you just spend 30 seconds disabling it" (compare srboisvert's comment) reminded me why companies can get away with this garbage in the first place.
posted by dhens at 8:38 AM on September 16, 2014


"Easy, they can go into their Purchased Items and hide it!"

Still not as regrettable as "You're holding it wrong."
posted by Gev at 8:40 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think there's a big difference between doing this as a one-off thing versus if it were to become a regular occurrence. I'm not an iTunes or iOS user, so I have no dog in this fight, but certainly if I started seeing tracks I didn't want in my music library, I'd be quite annoyed by it. One U2 album? No big deal. But I think the backlash is at least in part because people know that once a business model shows some promise, companies tend to lean on it pretty hard.

And the "free sample" analogy proves too much, I think -- imagine the person giving out the samples placing one of the items being offered for sample into your cart, and saying you don't have to pay for it, but you do have to keep it in your cupboards at home. Minor nuisance, right? OK, now imagine they're doing it for ten or twenty items and suddenly your cupboards are cluttered and you can't find the stuff you actually wanted. Now maybe they let you throw out the free stuff, but they're not making it easy to do it.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:41 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


These must be the same people who respond to a free sample at Costco by punching the sample lady in her smug little face.

That's not really a parallel. Free samples are usually offered, at a store, and you can accept or decline, while you're already actively engaged in shopping, and are immediately consumed -- they don't linger.

Now: imagine you arrive home from a day's work, you're getting ready to cook dinner, you open your fridge and...there's a giant honey-baked ham just sitting there? I didn't buy this. Did I buy this? I'm vegetarian! I don't eat ham! Why is there a ham sitting in my refrigerator? You pick up the ham, and under it is a note:

Hello! In celebration of how much ham we've sold over the years, and how delicious ham is (don't you just love ham?), here's a free ham! We snuck in while you were out and put it in your fridge. We're aware that some people may not like ham, and if you're one of them feel free to just shove it behind the milk carton I guess, or maybe stick it in the freezer.

Because in this metaphor the ham is a U2 album that you can't delete [until Apple released a specially-designed ham deletion tool].

I freely admit I may have carried that grocery metaphor too far.
posted by cjelli at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2014 [28 favorites]


Fleetwood Mac didn't have the longevity of U2

I have an EP of new Fleetwood Mac material released last year, and technically they're quite a bit older since they started in the 60s. But yeah, as someone who was a teenager in the 80s, Fleetwood Mac would have been a decent choice for the Dad rock music. (A lot of 70s people sounded really cringey in the 80s, and more cringey now when I listen to their 80s output. "Hello?" anyone?)

I got the U2 album on automatic download (to my laptop, not my phone) and it's meh, but not so meh that I immediately had to delete it. I might care a bit more if I didn't have the option to just dump it in the cloud/hide it or if I were bumping up against a limit it counted against.

Normally I'm the person with the extensive but heavily curated music collection who CARES WHAT THEY LISTEN TO. This time, I don't really get the rage (and there is some, as opposed to eye rolling). It seems to me less like a privacy/device control thing and more like a cultural marker: a lot of people who are outraged and/or hate-listening (I've seen folks say that on twitter) value their identity as people who are too cool to listen to a dad band like U2. To which I can only say "whatever".
posted by immlass at 8:43 AM on September 16, 2014


But the spittle-flecked rants of people who are complaining so loudly because they got something for free that they didn't ask for

Is Apple going to refund people who went over their data plan because of this "free" gift?
posted by dhens at 8:44 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Can't find the album on my iPhone, just went looking for it in iTunes on my Macbook and still can't find it just by glancing around.

I'm not really interested in getting the album, so no need for directions, but I do find it a bit sadly amusing that I can't find the FREE album the company known for making things simple made available for me.

Ah, found it. It's in the iTunes store, which I rarely use. Guess that says something!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:46 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's just that every single thing merits criticism now. Every goddamn thing. Scorn, snark, perpetual grievance and Potemkin purity rule the day. Giving away a record is now an invasion of privacy, and bloatware and a clumsy misstep from a company that has succeeded too much and needs to be taken down a notch. Speaking of Notch, did you hear he sold out? Yep, and didn't even found a non-profit to save the world with the money. Or without it. That's clearly the better course, and what a decent person would do.
posted by Ambient Echo at 8:46 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, and "mistreating users", per the article title. Giving the album away is now mistreatment.
posted by Ambient Echo at 8:49 AM on September 16, 2014


Ambient Echo: Giving away a record is now an invasion of privacy

Neither of the links in the FPP say anything like this, and the only people who've mention privacy in this thread have said that it's not really an invasion of privacy. So this is pretty much a straw man.

Speaking of Notch

There's an app a thread for that, and you've commented in it, so why drag that derail into this one?
posted by tonycpsu at 8:50 AM on September 16, 2014


Because in this metaphor the ham is a U2 album that you can't delete [until Apple released a specially-designed ham deletion tool].

Well, except really all they gave you was a button that you could push to download a free ham if you want it. Still strikes me as much ado about nothing.
posted by spilon at 8:52 AM on September 16, 2014


For those of you who think this complaint is about receiving a free and unexpected album, it's not. Imagine that somebody sneaks into your house, leaves a free album on your table, and then sneaks back out.

Sure, you have a free album, but what the fuck was that guy doing in your house?
posted by truex at 8:52 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also, note that Apple didn't offer a free album to people. Rather, they inserted it without asking into people's personal music collections. Because it was automatic, it sends the signal that one's music collection is no longer a personal thing and considering the emotional attachment that people have to their music, it's almost certain that that will feel like a violation.

You know how people get upset when a passenger in their car starts futzing with the radio without asking?
posted by truex at 8:54 AM on September 16, 2014 [15 favorites]


Oddly it seems that most of the emotion seems to be coming from people who are annoyed that people are annoyed...


spilon: not quite. If that was the case it'd be like the free single of the week–you'd purchase it by clicking the 'free' button on the store. The U2 album is automatically considered purchased and will either display in your music app as available for download or the bits will physically download automatically to your device depending on the settings you chose for the music you consensually purchase.
posted by whittaker at 8:54 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


If you think of U2 as a band that produces albums as their primary income, then this is just a free giveaway and very nice of U2.

If you think of U2 as a band that produces concert tours as their primary income, then this is an advertisement for the tour and not quite so altruistic.

If U2 had paid Apple to give this to us for free, would people be so happy?
posted by smackfu at 8:55 AM on September 16, 2014


Question: Can recipients of this "free" music (legally) make copies and give it to their poor benighted friends who do not use Apple products or software?
posted by dhens at 8:56 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


on the other hand, i heard about the thing, went to my phone, navigated to the tracks, pulled them down, and started listening to the music. i then thought to myself "cool".

i would be willing to bet that i'm not the only one with this story, but i don't mean to diminish the valid opinions of folks who did not care for the whole thing... just saying that there is at least one person (me) who thought the whole thing was kind of cool.
posted by rude.boy at 8:59 AM on September 16, 2014


rude.boy: and many people find Olive Garden coupons add genuine utility to their lives and are grateful and there's nothing wrong with feeling that way.

The problem is assuming everybody wants an Olive Garden coupon popping up on their personal device.
posted by whittaker at 9:01 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


whittaker: agreed. just felt like dropping in my 2¢.
posted by rude.boy at 9:05 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have a full folder called AppleCrap on my iPhone that contains a number of unwanted apps that not only came preinstalled, but that I am not able or allowed to remove.

I do too, but mine is called Crapple.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:09 AM on September 16, 2014


My biggest beef is the arrogant assumption behind it that since some people at Apple like this dad rock, everyone must like it! I think it's built into Apple's perspective of its consumers. Steve Jobs famously said people don't know what they want but Apple does. It's also out of touch with a lot of smartphone users, especially of the Millennial age group. U2?
posted by ChuckRamone at 9:11 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I do too, but mine is called Crapple.

Oh ho, what a wag!
posted by entropicamericana at 9:13 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]



pop album that spontaneously began playing even though I didn't even have my phone's Music app running

Did this really happen? Because that's madness.


I don't even have an iphone! I went to bed with a Galaxy S5 and when I woke up, Bono was sitting on the edge of my bed with a brand new iphone 6 with a red ribbon on top, in upturned outstretched hands, and he was just staring at me.
posted by stenseng at 9:13 AM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


At least it wasn't Coldplay.
posted by smackfu at 9:15 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wish it had been GWAR.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:17 AM on September 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


Sure, you have a free album, but what the fuck was that guy doing in your house?

It underlines the fact that this isn't actually your house, and never was. And there are no houses you can own, it's a city full of rentals.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:19 AM on September 16, 2014 [14 favorites]


U2 isn't a bad band, but they are an old band and probably not that impressive to kids these days.

I'm almost 30 and U2 hasn't been cool my entire life. I'm fairly certain kids these days are not only not impressed by U2, they barely have an idea who they are.
posted by saul wright at 9:20 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


From what I understand, this appeared on iCloud. It did not appear in your "Music, right now! ::touch fingers::" (as promoted during the presentation) *unless* you had iCloud synced to your device(s).

It didn't appear on mine, because I don't keep things in the cloud (any cloud). I had to go click some setting that said something like, "Sync purchases from iCloud." Then, yep, there was the U2 album.

I turned that setting back off, and poof, it was gone.

I do see the point here: Lots of online and businesses (*$, etc.) have "free music" giveaway stuff. But you have to click something or go to a url and download it.

Gist: Big difference between "here's something free if you want to pick it up" and "here's something free we put in your personal space."
posted by CrowGoat at 9:22 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just got the "gift" today. It annoys me not because I don't like it, but the same way Word's auto-correct does. I had my music folder that way because that's how I meant to have it. Stop messing with it unless I ask for advice, kthanx.

But mostly I'm just saddened that Apple just invented music library spam and we can all expect our collections to go through the early-2000s-email-inbox phase any time now.
posted by ctmf at 9:23 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


It feels like this keeps getting repeated, but iTunes does have a setting to automatically download new purchases. (Details.) If you have that on, the album was downloaded without interaction, because Apple called it a purchase.
posted by smackfu at 9:25 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm almost 30 and U2 hasn't been cool my entire life. I'm fairly certain kids these days are not only not impressed by U2, they barely have an idea who they are.

I'm 26 and U2 feels so, so outdated. I know at one point they were cool, but it's so far from any of my experiences that it almost seems like a myth. At this point, it's not even like I dislike them but they are like store-brand vanilla pudding.
posted by Aranquis at 9:35 AM on September 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


It feels like this keeps getting repeated, but iTunes does have a setting to automatically download new purchases. (Details.) If you have that on, the album was downloaded without interaction, because Apple called it a purchase.

Weird, because I do have that setting turned on, and that isn't at all how the U2 thing worked for me. I had to one-by-one click the download button next to each individual song. So for me, it behaved be no different from any other 'free single of the week' promotion.
posted by spilon at 9:39 AM on September 16, 2014


Automatic downloads aren't enabled by default, FWIW.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:42 AM on September 16, 2014


Yeah, but it's also not something I would be wary of turning on. It seems like a good idea to download the songs I buy on one machine to all my others.
posted by smackfu at 9:54 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


Not to me, because I "curate" all my devices. (And yet I'm not throwing a tantrum about this.)
posted by entropicamericana at 9:57 AM on September 16, 2014


A tantrum? Tell us how you really feel.
posted by smackfu at 10:01 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


So now people that don't want a multinational corporation to insert arbitrary content into their personal collections are "throwing a tantrum"?

"I don't understand why people are upset. Obviously they are crazy hystericals!"
posted by truex at 10:02 AM on September 16, 2014 [13 favorites]


Note that nobody would have had a problem with this if Apple had sent out an email with a button that you had to click to get the free album instead of automatically inserting the thing into everybody's library. It's weird that people are missing that point, and instead think the upset is over the album itself.
posted by truex at 10:03 AM on September 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


So much anger at people who don't want to own as much crap as possible.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:04 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Gist: Big difference between "here's something free if you want to pick it up" and "here's something free we put in your personal space."

That, but also, "The iCloud is not your personal space, it's our space that we're in charge of that we're letting you use on our terms." It's a message that pokes big holes in the illusion that makes the cloud seem like a good idea, and it's a message that could not possibly come at a worse time.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:08 AM on September 16, 2014 [13 favorites]


"I don't understand why people are upset. Obviously they are crazy hystericals!"

Oh, I understand why people are upset. I just think they're being completely unreasonable.

So much anger at people who don't want to own as much crap as possible.

Oh, the burden of owning and carrying around the (easily hidden) extra bits pointing to an album on the cloud that I am under no obligation to download!
posted by entropicamericana at 10:08 AM on September 16, 2014


I'm upset because there this now a false-positive in my otherwise spotless purchasing history. How will Apple accurately predict my purchases now?

Also, iTunes is Apple's Windows.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:12 AM on September 16, 2014


You take that back, Windows is just fine.
posted by Nevin at 10:13 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Elvis would have been the choice in 1984. His 25th Anniversary box set came out that year and there was a lot of marketing $$ thrown at it, as it was one of the first box sets. I was 23 that year and I bought it because Elvis was fucking awesome.

But don't just trust me. Note that the cover of London Calling by the Clash (1980) was an Elvis homage, as was the cover of Pleased to Meet Me by the Replacements (1987).
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Oh, I understand why people are upset. I just think they're being completely unreasonable.


It's not that unreasonable to want to have some degree of control over your stuff and not have something you don't want shoveled into your library/collection.

To bring up a parallel of sorts, Steam has occasionally given me a free game and rather than have the download start immediately I get a notification and the option to download it if I want.
posted by Gev at 10:15 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


um, hey... free album I didn't know about until Metafilter told me I had it. (check, yep it's waiting in the cloud)

I like free stuff, but you think I'd get a message via either iTunes or my registered email about this 'gift'.
posted by dreamling at 10:17 AM on September 16, 2014


Oh, the burden of owning and carrying around the (easily hidden) extra bits pointing to an album on the cloud that I am under no obligation to download!

That's the crux of the matter: some of us want to be able to control, as much as we can, what is on our phone or on our computer.

Smartphones are very personal devices. I am not exactly sure what the iPhone interface is like (I am confused by the concept that iPhones are just now getting a horizontal view... is this true?) and many smartphone users (like me) spend a considerable amount of time tweaking them to be just right.

It would be a jarring experience not only to have music automatically downloaded, but then to not be able to remove the music. And then to have someone say "just hide it).

I have an Android phone (a Nexus 5). If I want to add or remove music or whatever, all I have to do is plug it into my (Windows) computer, and add or remove music or photos or files or whatever.

I would hate to have someone say, "well, we know what's best for you, trust us."

I mean, obviously I am not crafting my own smartphone from artisanal heirloom vegetables at my local non-pasteurized cheese shop, but whenever possible there are a lot of people who prefer to make their own choices in this world.
posted by Nevin at 10:18 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's no right or wrong on this. There's just stupid, which is what Apple and U2 are, because people are not talking about how great this album is or is not, but about how stupid Apple and U2 are or are not.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:19 AM on September 16, 2014


it just occurred to me, there's another apple mis-step in all of this... the misguided assumption that everyone on the planet pays attention to their media events. i do... but i was surprised at how many people do not, and had no idea about this. like, no clue. and still now. hopefully that was a bit of a reality check for the folks at apple.
posted by rude.boy at 10:21 AM on September 16, 2014


Because in this metaphor the ham is a U2 album that you can't delete [until Apple released a specially-designed ham deletion tool].

Actually, unless you actually do download it, it is going to disappear from your purchased music list in mid-Oct, never to be seen again unless you pay money for it.
posted by hippybear at 10:29 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't even have an iphone! I went to bed with a Galaxy S5 and when I woke up, Bono was sitting on the edge of my bed with a brand new iphone 6 with a red ribbon on top, in upturned outstretched hands, and he was just staring at me.

Are you that friend I was talking about?
posted by bondcliff at 10:33 AM on September 16, 2014


Hey buddy!
posted by stenseng at 10:34 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's just stupid, which is what Apple and U2 are, because people are not talking about how great this album is or is not, but about how stupid Apple and U2 are or are not.

The funny thing about all this, I am a former U2 fan who really hasn't liked much since Zooropa. I've always bought their albums though because I hold out hope that they've just released some missteps and one of these days they'll put out another War or Joshua Tree. I'd finally given up though and figured I'd purchased and listened to my last U2 album.

So then Apple goes ahead and, depending on who you believe, gives me the option to download this for free or force feeds me this album like U2 is corn mush and my iPhone is a goose on a foie gras farm, and so now I own it and listening to it is only an investment in my time, not my money.

And you know what? For the most part I like it. Sure, it has some very late-U2ish sounding songs, the sort of songs that made me give up on the band, but there is also some very rocking songs (I'm a dad, so I suppose they're dad rocking, whatever the fuck that means) that I wouldn't have heard otherwise. I like it just fine.

I'm glad they gave me this album though I do agree that it should have required a press of a button to acquire it, not to get rid of it. I do think a lot of the annoyance (or outrage) reminds me of the Janet Jackson nipplegate thing in that there was a little bit of outrage initially but then once it got out there everyone all of a sudden decided they, too, were outraged. It takes far less time to delete it than it does to write a post about how much of your time and bandwidth has been wasted by it. At best this thing is a minor inconvenience, like junk mail or when people cold call you and ask you if you need your gutters cleaned. Toss it in the recycle bin, say "no thank you" and get on with your day.

Anyway, my point is, yes people are talking about how good the album is. Within the first few days most of the articles about it were reviews, most of them were positive, and then a few people wrote things like "Yeah, but not everyone wanted it!" and now most of the talk is about freedom or control or whatever.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. U2 does seem to be long past the point of relevancy and this stunt doesn't seem to be helping them out much. I don't expect they'll gain too many new fans though they might regain a few people like myself, who were pleasantly surprised to find that the new album is worth listening to.
posted by bondcliff at 10:56 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


How does showing a nipple on television equate to a company modifying a user's personal music collection?
posted by truex at 11:03 AM on September 16, 2014


It doesn't.
posted by bondcliff at 11:07 AM on September 16, 2014


How does being outraged about a nipple on television equate to being upset about a company modifying a user's personal music collection?
posted by truex at 11:12 AM on September 16, 2014


Because from what I can tell, there was very little outrage initially. It wasn't until there were a few articles written about it that a lot of other people came out of the woodwork and decided that they, too, were outraged.

It may be different in this case because it took a few days for people to realize they suddenly owned a U2 album. There's about an 85% chance I'm talking out of my ass, this being the Internet and all. I still think it's a bit overblown.
posted by bondcliff at 11:15 AM on September 16, 2014


Hmm, I think the negative twitter comments were pretty much immediate. Then there was a cycle of "how dumb to dislike a free album" commentary. And now we're in the third phase, where people are writing thoughtful blog posts about it.
posted by smackfu at 11:25 AM on September 16, 2014


I wish it had been GWAR.

We all wish it had been GWAR, Cookiebastard.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:29 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


This tweet made me laugh.
Back in my day we didn't have all this U2 invasion of privacy drama, our Windows just came with Canyon.mid and we liked it JUST FINE
posted by Space Coyote at 11:31 AM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hmm, I think the negative twitter comments were pretty much immediate.

Gotcha. On Twitter I only follow Adam Clayton and Tim Cook.
posted by bondcliff at 11:33 AM on September 16, 2014


If this had been, say, a new Beyonce album, I think the reaction would've been very different.
posted by girlmightlive at 11:36 AM on September 16, 2014


Back in my day we didn't have all this U2 invasion of privacy drama, our Windows just came with Canyon.mid and we liked it JUST FINE


What about Windows 95 forcing us to listen to Weezer!?!?!? Where was the outrage???
posted by stenseng at 11:41 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it's just because I have shit tons of music and others don't, but if I enabled something that allowed my phone to download everything I've bought and stored in the cloud on top of the stuff I have obtained form other places and want on my phone, the damned thing would explode. I didn't even know it was on option. I curate what music goes on my iPhone myself anyway. There is no U2 on there, even after this badbadhorrible thing Apple did which is badbadbad. This all just seems so overblown. I can't understand why being given the option to download an album if you want to is such a big deal. Invasion of privacy? I mean, I don't have Bono overseeing my web browsing and shaming me, do I? It's just an album I can download if I want to?

modifying a user's personal music collection?

Someone might see the U2 and think you're a loser!
posted by Hoopo at 11:43 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


It would be a jarring experience not only to have music automatically downloaded, but then to not be able to remove the music

I don't think that's what happened. It's stored in the cloud, you can download it if you want to but there's no obligation for it to be on your phone. And if for some reason you have your phone set to automatically download stuff from the cloud, pretty sure you can remove the songs from the phone, just not your "account" or cloud storage.
posted by Hoopo at 11:50 AM on September 16, 2014




What about Windows 95 forcing us to listen to Weezer!?!?!? Where was the outrage???

Yeah, and all that Brian Eno.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:30 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am confused by the concept that iPhones are just now getting a horizontal view... is this true?

No.
posted by whittaker at 12:53 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


What about Windows 95 forcing us to listen to Weezer!?!?!? Where was the outrage???

You buy a house that comes with some furniture. Cool.

You come home one day and there's a new credenza mysteriously sitting in the corner. Not so cool.

This concept seems very difficult for people to grasp.
posted by whittaker at 12:55 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


If this had been, say, a new Beyonce album, I think the reaction would've been very different.

I don't think Tim Cook likes Beyounce that much.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:09 PM on September 16, 2014


Some people are delightfully surprised to find a new U2 album on their phone.
Some people don't even notice.
Some people are ambivalent about the whole thing.
Some people are annoyed because they like their music catalog just so.
Some people are pissed that their non-unlimited dataplan was used to download something they never asked for.
Some people are panicking because they think their account has been hacked.
posted by ckape at 1:21 PM on September 16, 2014


Oh, I understand why people are upset. I just think they're being completely unreasonable.

I hate Bono and his stupid fucking sunglasses. Sure he's done a lot of good charity work, but I shouldn't have to listen to his music.

(I feel like he and Chris Martin share the same 2 pairs of dirty jeans. Blech.)
posted by discopolo at 1:38 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Some days you wake up to customers complaining
Some sunny days love for Apple is waning
Some songs are too bulky for a mobile data plan
Some days you get an album from an Irish rock band
posted by tonycpsu at 1:38 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wow, you mean some people identify with music so deeply that it's part of their core human identity, spending years of their life and experience collecting and curating a music library filled with deeply personal songs imbued with meaning and memories and Apple just went in in a hamfisted and unprecedented intrusion and was like "LOL, JUST UPGRAYDED UR HUMAN IDENTITY TO A U2 FAN!! YR WELCOME!!" and then made the album difficult if not impossible to delete.

I guess I can see how that could be potentially upsetting to some users.
posted by j03 at 1:57 PM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


made the album difficult if not impossible to delete.

it is neither of those things, though. for most people it's not even downloaded
posted by Hoopo at 2:36 PM on September 16, 2014


The question is, who really has control of the digital service that is rapidly expanding into all corners of your life, that you carry a device connected to pretty much all of your waking hours? Is it you?* Or is it someone else?

*It is not you.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:36 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not a big fan of pre-checked boxes in web forms or forcible U2 downloads either, but to suggest that these are even in the same solar system as rape is not something I'm comfortable with.

It either trivializes rape, or grossly overstates the moral gravity of a pre-checked box in a web form, or both.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:09 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


You buy a house that comes with some furniture. Cool.

You come home one day and there's a new credenza mysteriously sitting in the corner. Not so cool.


No.

You buy a house that comes with some furniture. Cool.

You come home one day and there's a new coupon for a free credenza mysteriously sitting on the floor. Then you realized someone pushed it through the mail slot in your front door.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:41 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I disagree, First: if you have a mail slot built into your front door or acquire a house that has one, the floor of the front hallway would be mentally allotted to be a public space... Second, your analogy would much more closely map that front hallway to...oh I don't know...your email inbox on your phone? Where, perhaps, Apple could have sent you an email saying "hey, free album if you do X".

That's not what they did so don't disingenuously cook the analogy, ok?

I would also be pretty pissed if some neighbour used the mailslot to shove random shit like steaks or creme eggs or happy meal toys onto the floor of my foyer to grimly greet me when I get home.
posted by whittaker at 3:52 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a setting in iTunes that shows your "iTunes in the cloud" purchases. If you have that turned on, then the U2 album would show in your library alongside the stuff you did download, just with a cloud icon. It's relatively difficult to delete those items, usually you can only hide them and I'm not even sure how.
posted by smackfu at 3:57 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's perhaps a more useful analogy: You've signed the consent form to allow UPS to leave stuff you order from Amazon on your doorstep without requiring a signature. You do this because it's handy to order stuff from the office and not have to be home when it arrives to receive it.

One day you come home to find Amazon has shipped you a credenza and it's sitting on your front porch. That's awfully nice of them but you don't need a credenza and you don't like the look of the credenza.

So you drag the credenza out to the back alley to get picked up with the garbage. You're already annoyed about the whole thing but when you mention it to your neighbour they go "I don't see what the big deal is, you threw it out, right?"

Then you soon discovere that it's not gone; that, in fact, the city doesn't deal with large furniture disposal that way. Sure, it's out of your house but it's sitting there at the back of your property. You google "How do I get rid of the Amazon Credenza?" and Ars Technica and Mashable have articles about how you have to take them to the city dump in order to permanently get it off your property.

How kindly disposed are you to Amazon now?
posted by whittaker at 4:00 PM on September 16, 2014


Second, your analogy would much more closely map that front hallway to...oh I don't know...your email inbox on your phone?

oh I don't know...your iTunes music library? If they sent it as email, people would be bitching about spam. Or they would make more ridiculous analogies about an intangible music file they didn't even download being the same as a 200lb credenza on their front porch.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:06 PM on September 16, 2014


Easily disproven: Apple already sends promotional emails out all the time. Heck Apple gives away free music all the time via the iTunes storefront.
posted by whittaker at 4:13 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's perhaps a more useful analogy

or perhaps not
posted by Hoopo at 4:14 PM on September 16, 2014


I have a question for those who see no problem with this.

Imagine that you have a DVR. You record your shows and watch them when you want. One day you turn on the TV and discover that the manufacturer of that DVR has automatically pushed the season premiere for an upcoming television show that you do not watch to your device. They did this as part of a financial partnership with the television studio in order to promote the upcoming season of that show.

Is that okay?
posted by truex at 4:30 PM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Imagine that you purchase a laptop. One day, without your permission, the manufacturer has it automatically download and install a complimentary new movie editor from one of the manufacturer's third-party partners.

Is that okay?
posted by truex at 4:36 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


If Steve Jobs actually was not happy with Apple as it is now being run, this would have pacified the howling ghost and laid it happily to rest. WE know better!
posted by jfuller at 5:18 PM on September 16, 2014


I don't know what the deal with these 5000 analogies is. I doubt it is going to change anyone's mind. And I think apple received enough backlash that regardless it probably won't be happening again anytime soon.
posted by Aranquis at 5:20 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


A lot of you are saying that you don't know how iCloud works. It's easy, really. iCloud is a machine that eats nude pics of celebrities and poops out U2 albums.
posted by Skwirl at 5:36 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Imagine a shitty analogy stamping on a human face, forever.
posted by entropicamericana at 5:40 PM on September 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


- Bonobos
- Thedge
- Larry Mullen Sr.'s son
- Adam Claytwothousandpounds
posted by whitecedar


Hey! U Talkin' U2 to Me?
posted by The Deej at 6:25 PM on September 16, 2014


Imagine you always wear forty-seven hats. You have carefully curated your hat collection: each one is unique and expresses a different part of your eclectic personality; each is also of such a weight that the combined hat mass sits just inside the limit of your endurance.

One day, an extra hat appears on your head and you fall down. While you recover, people comment that this new hat is rather ugly. How do you feel about invisible forces that create hats out of nothingness and materialise them on people's heads between jaunty purple fedoras and leopard print deerstalkers now?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:39 PM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


Imagine that you have a DVR. You record your shows and watch them when you want. One day you turn on the TV and discover that the manufacturer of that DVR has automatically pushed the season premiere for an upcoming television show that you do not watch to your device. They did this as part of a financial partnership with the television studio in order to promote the upcoming season of that show.

Is that okay?


Sure. I used to have a Tivo, they did that all the time. They even made suggestions for programs you'd like and recorded them automatically, during the idle times when it was not already recording a program you picked. That was kind of the whole point of DVRs. You had an immense resource you weren't using: all those cable/sat channels that you only watched a few hours of each day, while thousands of hours of programming went right past you. If you're not interested, don't watch the suggestions, then it will erase the old junk and something else new will come along.

But there's no pleasing some people.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:12 PM on September 16, 2014


Imagine that you purchase a laptop. One day, without your permission, the manufacturer has it automatically download and install

The album is not downloaded and installed unless you opt to download it. I'm not sure what's so hard about this. Apparently if you hit shuffle it can play from the cloud, which might be a minor inconvenience, but if anyone says they don't ever get annoyed by the odd selection of a crap song or interlude while shuffling as it is, I will ask them to organize my music selection because they're a damned DJ savant.
posted by Hoopo at 10:26 PM on September 16, 2014


I'm pretty sure that the whole point of a DVR isn't to have the manufacturer provide curated content from their media partners.
posted by truex at 11:01 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


…and let's ignore the "download" bit, it's a red herring and I didn't mean to infer that the use of bandwidth is the reason why this is A Thing™.
posted by truex at 11:05 PM on September 16, 2014


Putting unrequested, undeletable content into what people consider their personal libraries is poor form.
posted by Pyry at 11:11 PM on September 16, 2014


I wish I could give U2 money for this. It's such a glorious example of trolling.
posted by 99_ at 11:48 PM on September 16, 2014


Putting unrequested, undeletable content into what people consider their personal libraries is poor form.

It is not undeletable. It will only remain in any iTunes user's "purchased content" iCloud account until mid-October, at which point it will disappear, UNLESS they have downloaded it.

Apple has also released a method to hide the album so anyone who does not wish to have it appear during this limited-time can do so.

I don't think this was really the best method for them to have gone about doing this particular promotion, but while it was unrequested, it is certainly not undeletable, and it will delete itself from any users' experience who do not wish to have it in about 3 weeks.
posted by hippybear at 12:30 AM on September 17, 2014


We were trying to figure out who the U2 would be if Apple had iTunes and gave out a free dad rock album in 1984.

Conveniently, they did just that* and the answer sounds like "We Are Apple (Leading the Way)" and Apple II Forever." Flashdancey, Pat Benetary stuff that probably felt more current at the time than U2 does today.

*OK, ultimately they gave them away on a 1987 developer CD, but the songs were commissioned for 1984.
posted by mumkin at 12:44 AM on September 17, 2014


I have a Computer Science degree. I've been working with computers since I was in elementary school and my phone is manipulating my data without my knowledge or consent. This is an old, old debate by now, but open source software principles seem to have only won Pyrrhic cultural victories so far.

Who controls our devices is a worthwhile concern and it is only muddled because people have thrown up their hands and said, "this technology is so complicated, I want the paternalistic corporation to take care of it for me!"

But that's poppy-cop. If you hired an in-house concierge and you gave them a to-do list but they also were messing with your album collection and digging through your sock drawer for the negatives of your dirty pictures then you wouldn't put up with that. Then to add insult to injury, they make backups for you, and store those backups in a cardboard box on your front lawn when it would have been just as easy to put them in a lockbox.

The principle is the same. My devices should only do things that I give them permission to do. I give them permission to sync *my* purchased content. I give them permission for over-the-air firmware and software updates. I don't give the device permission to give me ads in my playlist and I don't give the device permission to backup my photos to the cloud. Defaults matter. Design that properly takes complicated instructions and makes them understandable for regular people matters. These devices aren't toys any more. They're hugely intimate in our lives.
posted by Skwirl at 7:05 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't give the device permission to..

Yes you did. You didn't read the License Agreement before you clicked Accept, did you?
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:59 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Imagine that you have a DVR. You record your shows and watch them when you want. One day you turn on the TV and discover that the manufacturer of that DVR has automatically pushed the season premiere for an upcoming television show that you do not watch to your device. They did this as part of a financial partnership with the television studio in order to promote the upcoming season of that show.
Is that okay?


No it is Sony.
posted by srboisvert at 1:52 PM on September 17, 2014


"Imagine how brilliant it would be if every single thing that was free on the app store just started downloading automatically onto your phone, the world ending in a constant stream of free to play bejewelled clone downloads overloading everything."

Oh, God, that would be so great... oh, please let that happen.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire...

...Yeah, gonna be Bejewelled.

posted by Don Pepino at 2:50 PM on September 17, 2014


Yes, license agreements are also, relatedly, problematic.

It all goes back to the idea that we used to know that we owned the physical devices that we bought and now the systems around ownership are purposefully obfuscated to prevent that. Cute one-liners aside, the fact that one needs a law degree to have an eyes-wide-open understanding of tools that are quickly becoming ubiquitous is ridiculous.

You could make the same quips about the printing press in the 15th century. Why should private individuals have control over printing presses?
posted by Skwirl at 2:56 PM on September 17, 2014


I DON'T LEND ALL THESE ANALOGIES VERY MUCH CREDENZA
posted by stenseng at 4:37 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Jesus, would it have been so hard for Apple to say, "Hey! We have the U2 album and it's free for anyone who wants to download it! Just ask us and it's yours!"

No. That would not have been so hard at all. But Apple decided not to do that. They wanted some bullshit publicity about having "the most downloaded album of all time" or some shit and so forced it down every one of their customers' throats in an attempt to claim that title (which, thankfully, Billboard denied them).

Anyone who doesn't see the arrogant blunder here is....well, "willfully blind" comes to mind as the nicest thing to say.
posted by mediareport at 8:06 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I own a Kindle, but I don't feel like I own it. Amazon secretly owns my kindle so they can torture me with their crap GUI.
posted by xtian at 8:41 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


All I'm saying is that this is not much different than the backdoor aug hacking in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
posted by Skwirl at 9:50 PM on September 17, 2014


Don't push your analogies on me! I didn't ask for them to be downloaded to my mini-phableter.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:23 AM on September 18, 2014


Ha! I knew that bait was too good, but it took you a while. Are you guys moving on to snark about another part of speech, like anecdote or adverbs or something?
posted by Skwirl at 5:38 AM on September 18, 2014


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