An Update - or a Downgrade?

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I’ve owned Sonos speakers for 12 years - and I use them for hours - every day - 365 days per year.


I also own a software company - and I’ve been running software teams for 30 years. If somebody put this bad example of a beta app in front of me and said it was ready for prime time – after 30 minutes of playing with it and being constantly frustrated I would’ve fired them on the spot - are you guys serious?


All of these broken or missing features are really, really important. And your answer to why they’ve been changed or dropped can’t be “just open the desktop app”. 


I’ve used the desktop app maybe half a dozen times in my life – what are you thinking? Especially when you FORCE your users to set up your system and add or remove any hardware from a mobile device? 


Not to mention, in the half a dozen or so phone calls I’ve had with your support team over the years, nobody has ever asked me to “just open the desktop app” on my computer. Come on guys, are you for real?


First, what’s happened to something as simple as clearing the queue?


And why is there only a mute button if your source is a television? 


I have a surround system set up in an open concept living room/dining room/kitchen area that I regularly switch the distance of the surrounds from the listeners when people are milling around the living room, sitting at the dining room table, or cloistered in the kitchen.

What happened to the ability to control my surround speaker distance from the listeners?


Why would you drop something that is so clearly and audibly noticeable? Being able to press a button and change the surround output from full to accompaniment (or whatever it was called, I can’t remember - and now I can’t go look it up - so I’m guessing here) is actually a selling point – not a random feature that nobody’s going to miss. I can’t tell you how many people have heard that change and said, “What is it that? Where did you get it? How much did it cost - and where can I get one? And then they go Sonos shopping…


If it was technologically possible to turn this into a simple feature that worked at the click of a button - and made everybody in the room turn their heads and say “did something just change with the music - how did you do that?“ - that’s a pretty spectacular feature. So why would you ever even think about dropping it? 


It doesn’t make any sense at all.  And the answer, “Well, just setup True-play - it’s the same thing” is absolute BS - and an extraordinarily bad answer.


Because if you’ve even heard the difference once you don’t forget it.  True-play is absolutely not the same – and you shouldn’t be trying to sell BS to your extraordinarily loyal consumers - who chose to overpay thousands of dollars for Sonos hardware and software - for valuable, extraordinary features like this. 


I’ve been using Sonos speakers and software for 12 years. I’m a musician - I know what makes an auditory difference and what doesn’t. That’s why I started buying Sonos equipment in the first place - I heard the difference once - and I was sold. I went in to buy an overpriced, ultra high-definition television - and came out with an overpriced, Sonos sound system instead. And when I got it home and set it all up, I could not have been happier.


But now, the software functionality for controlling the music you play in this update is even worse than the functionality controlling your hardware. 


In my recently played list, I used to be able to delete anything that was played accidentally, or that I just decided I wanted to remove.  Why now can I only clear EVERYTHING on the list instead of just holding the icon and clicking the X in the top right corner of the icon, or pressing an edit button and then sliding the “ready to remove” item to the left and pressing the delete button. Like every other app I’ve ever used on an Apple or Android device…


I must have 500 playlists set up after having used Sonos software for over a decade. Now, my collection of playlists shows up in the randomized order that my playlists were CREATED.  And I have no way to reset it to sort ALPHABETICALLY - so that I don’t have to scroll for 5 minutes trying to find an inane thumbnail of the playlist I want. How could something so simple as “sort” now not be possible?


All I want (and what I had) was an alphabetized text list (include a tiny thumbnail on each row of the artist or album cover if you absolutely have to for the emoji crowd) of my playlists -  so I can simply click on them. With 12 to 18 rows of playlists on each screen, and easily be able to jump from “B” for Bach to “Z” for Zeppelin.  


Nope, now, I see 6 playlists per screen - with a giant thumbnail of four songs from each playlist that I could care less about seeing. And I can’t change the list display - even to reduce the size of each bloated icon – what were you thinking?


And if I try to get around your design flaws and bugs by just searching for my playlist in the search bar (which royally pisses me off because I already know what I want - I shouldn’t have to search for it), whatever I search for shows my target playlist at the BOTTOM of the results I get back - after scrolling screen after screen after screen after screen.


It’s my 12-year-old song catalog – if I built a playlist - sometime, any time – isn’t it logical that’s probably the playlist I’m looking for? So what reason could you possibly have to not leave it the way it was - where the playlist I built would show up at the top? Because intuitively (remember that approach to software design?), if I made a single artist playlist – and I’m searching for that artist – isn’t that probably the one I actually want?


Then, if I hit the edit button to fix my Sonos favorites – the screen shows me a list of even more annoying thumbnails. Now, I see a red minus symbol - so that I can delete something from the list – but now, there is no move icon to allow me to change the list order? Really?


When search seemed all screwed up, I checked my services to see if that was the problem - that access to music from a specific service was missing because it got disconnected. I noticed a few were missing – but when I tried to add them back in, your software walked me through the process of choosing the missing service, go out to the App Store to download it I so it can add it back into my system.


Surprise, surprise - the App Store says I already have it installed – which I already knew anyway - and when I clicked on the “Open” button I got a message saying “this page has been removed” - and then the App Store, Safari, and Sonos software all crashed. And I still can’t add it back into the system - it still says I don’t have access to that service.


Did your QA team do any integration testing at all with the services you make “available” - other than making sure those services exist on a pick list within your application?


Do you want to regain the trust of your userbase? Man up, admit, you made a mistake, take some ownership- and make the legacy version of the software - that actually worked - available again.

And then go fix your new version. And prove to your customers that you actually listen to them, and that the new software really works the way that it should. And then let your customers choose to upgrade. While you spend the next 6 to 12 months making the software work the way it should - but giving the users have the ability to go backwards in case they find yet another bug after bug, or feature after feature missing.

And if you do it right, a year from now, you won’t have to force anybody to upgrade. They’ll be running to do the update - and telling other people all about how great it is!


Software and technology wise - that’s done every day. You have a front-end piece of software that communicates with a middle tier and a backend database - and together they control your software and hardware. You should be able to have two different front ends talking to the other tiers at the same time – that’s how UAT works.

And if your answer is, “well, we can’t do that - it’s all or nothing”, that’s just another incredibly bad answer. And another incredibly good example of how botched this software update has been.



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