Kyle Coburn

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Heart Beats

Having carefully built my music library for years before streaming services were a thing, I still manually manage my collection.

I try to maintain a star rating for songs in my most-played albums. 5★ I always want to listen. 4★ I sometimes want to listen. 3★ Meh. 2★1★ Why would I have a song this bad taking up space?

From there, I create a smart playlist of the 5-star songs for each of my favorite artists. There’s currently more than 50 of these in my playlists folder. I do the same with genres (Classical, Post-Rock, Indie, etc.). It’s quite a bit of work to get all that, but the result is a really enjoyable way to listen to music I like.

Aside from generally making a mess in my iTunes sidebar, and not being easy enough to start shuffled playback, my manual system misses artists that I like but haven’t yet realized I should make a playlist for, and thus I forget to listen to them.

So I did what I do, and built an app.

Heart Beats iOS app

Download for iPhone/iPad. It’s also open source on GitHub.

Heart Beats presents your library, sorted by Artist or Genre, filtered by those that have at least the minimum (set to 20 in the above screenshot) number of 5-star songs. Favorites ignore the song minimum (e.g. the Stromae playlist has 15 songs but is still listed). Tapping on any row will open the system music app, and sets the queue to those songs, shuffled.

The app has replaced my haphazard manual collection of playlists, and saves me the need to dig through folders in the music app when I just want to start playing something while I start the car. It’s a pretty niche design for my use case, but if you invest the time to rate songs from artists you like, you might find it handy.


For a year with nothing planned, 2017 turned out one event after another, good and bad. To help process, I annotated some of my favorite pictures I took last year in a photo essay:

See my 2017.

A Different World

There’s a world where Facebook, WeChat, et. al. aren’t central to billions of humans. Where the web didn’t explode into the mass market so quickly, leaving time for compelling, distributed (i.e. not centrally-owned by flavors of “don’t be evil”) networks to grow to prominence on the backs of a less-messy RSS spec. In other words, it’s a world that never stood much of a chance.

Here, the consequences of this failure have brewed for a long time. Mark Zuckerberg started a hot or not app in his dorm, and after his company marketed itself to political operatives touting their unprecedented targeting effectiveness, he was offended even to be asked about it: “to think [Facebook] influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea”, while investigating a run for president.

Though the open web might have lost, you’ll continue not to find me on Facebook. Instead I’ll tilt at windmills on this blog (probably expect a post a year but hey), which is subscribable to with any modern RSS client. Or check in manually should you care to.