Shortcuts for Archiving Apple Music Playlists

Jacob Tender Playlists

I’m sort of a nut about metadata and archiving my digital stuff. I also like lists and enjoy listening to music. It’s all of those things that led me to my ongoing bi-monthly playlist project, where I collect the songs that strike me during a set period of time. These are time-capsules I’ve rather enjoyed making and will hopefully enjoy revisiting years down the road.

I make my lists on Apple Music, which allows me to share them on my profile with friends that follow me. What’s great about this platform, and I’m sure Spotify is the same, is that I can add a title, description and artwork specific to the playlist that is visible to all that come across it. I’m very particular about the sequencing of my playlists and equally as anal-retentive about the consistency of the metadata. These are parts of a set, after all.

Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 1.00.13 AM.png

So, I have this set of playlists that are just how I like them and visible to other Apple Music subscribers. Now what? Well, as with most things, I’d like to catalog them in a secondary location. I want a text-based backup, hosted on my blog here. That seemed easy enough when I started the task, but I quickly realized that hand typing each track name and artist was not a chore I wanted to undertake, especially not more than once. Cue automation!

List From Playlist Shortcut

This Shortcut asks me to choose a Playlist from a list, then runs two nested loops that grabs the title and artist name for each track and stores them in two variables. These variables are used in a text area with some light formatting to create a line of text with the pertinent information. The shortcut then combines the output of each outer loop into a single list. This is copied to the clipboard for pasting into my CMS from my iPhone or Mac.

Here’s an example of the output:

"Mr. Moonlight" - The Beatles
"Fell Asleep With a Vision" - The Spirit Of The Beehive
"The Leanover" - Life Without Buildings
"Nowhere2go" - Earl Sweatshirt
"Heaven" - Charly Bliss
"Archie, Marry Me" - Alvvays
"I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)" - The 1975
"Left and Leaving" - The Weakerthans
"Pretty Good" - John Prine
"Revolution Lover" - Left at London
"Hurt" - Johnny Cash
"Ain't No Sunshine" - Bill Withers
"The Gold" - Manchester Orchestra & Phoebe Bridgers
"I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" - The Soggy Bottom Boys
"I Like America & America Likes Me" - The 1975
"Let Me Down Slowly" - Alec Benjamin
"In My Dream" - The Action
"Too Late to Turn Back Now" - Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
"Never My Love" - The Association
"What Is Life" - George Harrison

Great! List done. Now I’d like to archive the artwork as well, but I don’t have all of the images used in my Camera Roll any more. Those that I do have are full images, not cropped to the proper proportions. I could go through the effort of tracking down the images on Unsplashed again and manually cropping them, but that’s even more time intensive than the text was. No problem, I’ll just have shortcuts pull them for me like I did the titles and artist names.

Image From Playlist

Nope! ‘The Get Details of Music’ action can get a lot, but it can only touch the metadata assigned to the music itself, not the playlist. For this task, I had to look to the web and use some RegEx magic.

Note: This Shortcut seems to work on all user-generated playlists, but fails on some Apple-curated ones. Essentials and Deep Cuts can be grabbed, but others will crash the shortcut. I have not investigated why and I make no promises that I will.

Admittedly, this Shortcut could very easily be refined, however I managed to get the result I needed early in testing, so quit before I lost a few hours to HTML stripping.

We start in the Apple Music app, sharing the playlist we want the artwork for. Choosing the Photo From Playlist Shortcut from the menu will send the URL for the playlist into a chain that grabs the source of the page, then looks for the following RegEx pattern.

(http(s?):)([/|.|\w|\s|-])*\.(?:jpg|gif|png)( 3x)

This will find all of the image URLs on the page ending with “ 3x”. This string is appended to the end of URLs pointing to the highest resolution version of a given image served by Apple on the webpage. This includes the playlist artwork and song artworks.

Depending on the length of the playlist, this may return a LOT of results. My CA001 playlist returns 93 results. I only only need the first though, which is the artwork for the Playlist. Here is the URL for the first matched item.

https://is3-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/SG-S3-US-Std-Image-000001/v4/36/be/d5/36bed521-15ce-d164-f358-ef3d7301fc75/image/939x939cc.jpg 3x

The image (939x939px) is displayed on the screen for output. I AirDropped mine to my desktop to plug in on Squarespace.

Get the Shortcuts Here

CloudFlare launches 1.1.1.1, Their Answer to Private and Secure Consumer DNS

CloudFlare has unleashed their new DNS service that's faster and more secure for the user than those currently on the market. Switching was a fast and easy decision.

From their post on the release:

We began talking with browser manufacturers about what they would want from a DNS resolver. One word kept coming up: privacy. Beyond just a commitment not to use browsing data to help target ads, they wanted to make sure we would wipe all transaction logs within a week. That was an easy request. In fact, we knew we could go much further. We committed to never writing the querying IP addresses to disk and wiping all logs within 24 hours.

Switch over now using the easy-to-use instructions on the 1.1.1.1 website.

What Would Happen if a Nuclear Bomb Went Off in Your Town?

This simulator from Outrider shows you just how far the disasterous effects of a nuclear explosion would reach if such a bomb was dropped in your zip code.

Earlier this month, Vladmir Putin boasted about a new arsenal of transcontinental warheads that may or may not exist. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the Russian Federation possesses 7,300 nuclear weapons, 4,500 of which are essentially on stand-by. The United States is continuing to build up their own stock in response. We're looking at a new Cold War here.

The simulation gives you a select few bombs to test out on yourself and your neighbors within the blast zone. The largest is the Tsar Bomba (USSR) which had a 50,000 KT yield at only half its potential power. 65,777 would die if that landed in my backyard. 1,854,811 in Washington DC. This was the largest nuclear test ever detonated, but the B83 has a 1.2MT yield (1200KT) and is sitting in the US stockpile today.

Hug your dog today.

It's Time for an RSS Revival

Brian Barrett for Wired:

The modern web contains no shortage of horrors, from ubiquitous ad trackers to all-consuming platforms to YouTube comments, generally. Unfortunately, there's no panacea for what ails this internet we've built. But anyone weary of black-box algorithms controlling what you see online at least has a respite, one that's been there all along but has often gone ignored. Tired of Twitter? Facebook fatigued? It's time to head back to RSS.

I've been an RSS user for many years now and as my interest in reading and writing waxes and wanes, my reliance on it does also. RSS is a great way to get information directly from lots of places in one centralized location. It saves time. RSS has been like this from the start and has changed very little. Still, the readers and feed management solutions on the market today lack modern nescessities that weren't even considered at the height of Google Reader's reign. For instance, feed filtering.

Here's Brian's rundown on the most popular services on the market today:

Still, Feedly has plenty to offer casual users. It has a clean user interface, and the free version of its service lets you follow 100 sources, categorized into up to three feeds—think News, Sports, Humor, or wherever your interests lie. It also shows how popular each story is, both on Feedly and across various social networks, to give you a sense of what people are reading without letting that information dictate what you see.

For more of a throwback feel, you might try The Old Reader, which strips down the RSS reader experience while still emphasizing a social component.

Power users, meanwhile, might try Inoreader, which offers for free many of the features—unlimited feeds and tags, and some key integrations—Feedly reserves for paid accounts. "I would say that at the moment Feedly is ahead of us in terms of mass appeal design look and UX, which is something we will try to tackle with our upcoming redesign," says Victor Stankov, Inoreader's business development manager. "Hardcore nerds love us way more than Feedly."

And those are just three options of many. The point being: In 2018, it's easy to find an RSS reader out there that suits your needs. Which, in hindsight, is no small miracle.

I've used all of these services and many more over the years trying to find one that suits my needs.

As the editor of a blog dedicated to logging the history of one musician's career, I subscribe to dozens of feeds that focus on hip-hop, pop, and industry news. Naturally each of these outlets churn out five to fifteen news stories a day. Factored out, that's a lot of headlines to surf. It's impossible to catch every passing reference to a singular topic in that much text. That's where filtering comes in.

There is FeedRinse, who has been promising a 2.0 launch for a few years now but still offers their old service in the meantime. There you can import your feeds and setup filters using keywords, author, tags as criteria and export them to a single new feed, but this isn't sustainable when you're consistently adding new sources. I've had issues with the exported feeds missing things as well. I'm looking forward to the relaunch, but meanwhile I've had to look elsewhere.

Beyond finnicky made-to-order python scripts that parse and filter feeds, I've found just two other pre-built options for cutting the fat from my feeds. Newsblur and Inoreader. Niether have beautiful interfaces, but do cater to an audience more savvy and reliant on RSS than your typical reader.

Newsblur boasts about six thousand premium users and an equal number of free users. They offer unique training features that highlight topics you are more likely to be interested in, but the keyword filtering isn't quite as robust as I'm looking for. Inoreader has the capability but an even worse interface, as Stankov alluded to above. I've tried their premium service a few times and I'm pretty happy with what comes through my filters, but exporting my cleaned feeds to my day-to-day RSS client Reeder 3 makes for messy metadata.

In the end, my setup for specialized topics generally consists of numerous services chained together, removing and adding metadata as it passes through filters and aggregators until it reaches my device. This isn't ideal and it only mostly works.

I don't think that RSS has necessarily died off as a result of Google Reader, but become more fragmented. There are few realms of this sort of technology that remain unstandardized in how it is consumed, something podcasters wish to maintain. In podcasting, which piggybacks on RSS, this has lead to a number of highly-featured clients. What exists in RSS readers is lacking in comparison.

I think there is major room for growth in this area and as more people spend less time on social networks, they'll likely revisit more analog options for news gathering. As the number of outlets increases, I hope that the major players in the RSS market will address my needs for topic-based filtering as well.

I'm open to any solutions worth testing.