About David Pierce

David Pierce, the founder of Digitizd, is now Reviews Editor at The Verge.

The Best Headphones For Any Workout

When you’re working out, you need music. If not, you’ve got some rich inner life that I clearly lack. But if you need music to workout, you’ve probably sweat your way through a few pairs of headphones, or suffered through the constantly-falling-out-of-your-ears experience. MSNBC’s Gadgetbox gets into how to pick the right headphones for any kind of workout, and picks a few great pairs:

Two things to keep in mind when picking out a pair of headphones for working out are moisture resistance and ambient sound. If you’re just walking, a regular in-ear pair should be fine. But if you sweat heavily or want to run outside in a light rain, you’ll want a pair that’s labeled as water-resistant or waterproof.

When running on a jogging trail, through a park or on city streets, you don’t want to be isolated from the sounds of your surroundings. It’s a matter of personal safety. But if you’re at the gym, the last things you want to hear are the grunts from the next bench or panting emanating from the neighboring treadmill. In-ear headphones are best at keeping out ambient noise, while on-ear headphones and earbuds (like the ones that came with your iPod) allow you to hear what’s going on around you.

Personally, I’ve been nothing but happy with the Bose IE2 headphones, which I reviewed here a while ago. The StayHear tips keep the headphones from ever even coming loose in my ears, and the sound is so loud my music is easy to hear over traffic or the treadmill.

Good headphones are very much worth the investment, but be wary: once you’ve listened to good ones, you’ll never go back to cheap, came-with-the-player headphones again.

LDL: Let's Discuss Live

Virginia Heffernan, at the New York Times, wants to make a new acronym go mainstream. I hate LOL, G2G, OMG (though FOF, Frown on Face, is awesome), but LDL might catch on:

Oh, how times have changed. The idea that e-mail is chiefly a conduit for anger and lies seems almost quaint. After too may careers ruined and personal lives upended by online indiscretions, it should now be crystal clear that there are some things one must never, ever commit to e-mail.

And that’s why some bankers developed “LDL.” “LDL” — which means “let’s discuss live” — is an acronym that surfaced during the S.E.C.’s investigation of Goldman Sachs for its role in the nation’s financial shame spiral. How do the pros use it? Goldman’s Jonathan Egol is the first known master. When a trader named Fabrice Tourre described a mortgage investment in e-mail as “a way to distribute junk that nobody was dumb enough to take first time around,” Egol shot back: “LDL.”

Like vs. Love

Fair warning: pretty much anytime Jonathan Franzen writes about technology, or something I can spin as technology, it’s going to get posted here. This time, it’s an adaptation of Franzen’s commencement address at Kenyon College, where he talked about what it means when we want to be liked, and Liked:

A related phenomenon is the transformation, courtesy of Facebook, of the verb ‘to like’ from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice. And liking, in general, is commercial culture’s substitute for loving. The striking thing about all consumer products — and none more so than electronic devices and applications — is that they’re designed to be immensely likable. This is, in fact, the definition of a consumer product, in contrast to the product that is simply itself and whose makers aren’t fixated on your liking it. (I’m thinking here of jet engines, laboratory equipment, serious art and literature.)

But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a center. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist — a person who can’t tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity-sacrificing lengths to be likable.

Tweeting Live from the Scene

Brian Stelter, a New York Times reporter and possibly the best reporter anywhere, did some of the best reporting of anyone on the disaster in Joplin, MO. Twitter, Instagram, email, and his iPhone were critical companions:

I wound up at a McDonald’s south of town, where the power was on and where the Wifi worked. There, I uploaded more photos, uploaded iPhone video to The Times’ FTP site via a cool new app I had happened to download the prior week, and typed up my notes from interviews. The anecdote about the 22-year-old made its way into the live news story on NYTimes.com.

I sent a few e-mails and made a few calls to The Times suggesting that my Twitter feed somehow be incorporated into the coverage. It was, after all, the place where my latest reporting was being posted. Late in the afternoon, The Times published a link directly to my Twitter feed on the home page.

Looking back, I think my best reporting was on Twitter. I have archived all of the tweets here.

Better Radio With the Internet

I don’t listen to the radio much anymore. I used to listen all the time, to music and talk radio alike; All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, Fresh Air, Morning Zoo, and a bunch of other shows were in my regular rotation. I still listen to all of those shows, and more, but I don’t use the radio dials to do it.

There’s an advantage to radio, particularly in its serendipity and continuity. One of the New York City radio stations (I can’t remember which, but I want to say 1010 WINS) has a great tagline: “Give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world.” There’s something to be said for that, for the variety and lean-back experience of radio. But the new technology that’s made me stop using the radio dial – podcasts, mostly, plus a couple of great websites and apps – has its own merit, too.

The advantages of the Internet’s style of listening are twofold, I think: Personalization and On Demand. I can listen to exactly what I want (or at least a much more personally-tuned selection), when I want. I don’t have to wait for Fresh Air to come on anymore, because I just download the podcast. I actually don’t know when it’s on, but I listen to every single episode through its iTunes podcast. There’s no flipping through stations anymore, either – everything I want to listen to is right there waiting for me, whenever I want to listen to it.

The ideal, really, is to find the best of both worlds, or cobble it together from a number of different places. And, actually, I think it’s possible. There are a bunch of apps out there that make it easy to get exactly the content you want, or to find an endless stream of it. Some are just a better way of managing regular radio stations, others are a re-thinking of what a radio station would be. In all, they make for a personalized, lean-wherever experience for listening.

What You Want, When You Want It

In pursuit of finding exactly what you want to listen to, when you want to listen to it, there are a few really good radio options. Slacker is my personal favorite: It lets you listen to stations based on a single song or artist (a la Pandora), but also lets you play single songs or albums, as well as listen to stations curated by genre, or hand-selected by cool bands and DJs. To get all that, though, is $9.99/month. Pandora’s also a great option: Pick a song or artist, and get an endless stream of songs. Rdio is a giant music library, and you can play songs and albums as well.

A new app that has tons of promise in this world is mSpot, which mixes your personal music collection (music you presumably like) with the best of online radio. It matches your music collection with Internet radio stations, helping you find more music like your collection – and it does it automatically, just based on what you upload and listen to.

All Talk

All the apps above are good for music, but what about Car Talk and Glenn Beck fans? For those people, podcasts are really the best imaginable bet. Most radio shows are available as podcasts on iTunes (here’s 15 great podcasts to get you started), and they’re almost always free. Even if you hate iTunes, it’s both the best app with the most complete library of podcasts. You can manage them in DoubleTwist, a great app especially if you have an Android phone. Instacast is a good app for iPhones that lets you automatically download, and Google Listen is a similar one for Android. Generally, though, iTunes is the way to go.

I haven’t used this app myself, but David Pogue’s column in the New York Times this week was about a service called DAR.fm, which essentially acts as a TiVo for the Web. He explains how it works:

You can search, sort, slice and dice those listings any way you want: by genre, by radio station, by search phrase. It’s all here: NPR, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck. Music shows. Talk shows. Religion, sports, technology. Politics by the pound.

You don’t know or care when your show will actually be aired, or on what station. You only know that you’ve requested it. Shortly thereafter, an e-mail message lets you know that your freshly baked show is ready for listening.

The Radio, Only Better

Sometimes, you actually want to listen to the radio. Whether there’s a game on I want to hear, or something big is happening, or I’m just bored and want to zone out for a few hours listening to music, radio is a great medium. But it’s a pain to navigate, not every station is available everywhere, and who the heck knows where ESPN is anyway?

Go Go Gadget Internet! Nearly every radio station out there broadcasts their live feed over the Internet, available for listening by anyone with an Internet connection. TuneIn, for instance, lets you listen to over 50,000 different radio stations, from all over the world, on your computer or mobile device (it supports everything from PC and Mac to Roku and bada). You can even record shows, and then listen to them later in the app. Spark Radio does much the same thing, letting you find the Yankee game even when you’re nowhere near New York.

In the car, at work, or waking up, I love listening to the radio. I just hate the “radio” part of the equation. With the right apps (and an Internet-capable mobile device, without which I’m useless to you right now), you can have any kind of radio-style listening experience you want, as tailored and personalized as possible or just a long listen to the smooth jazz station from your hometown.

How do you listen to music, talk shows, and radio, especially on the go?

The Wallet Death Watch, Ctd: Google Wallet

Google’s having a big event today, and Google Wallet is the big announcement:

Because Google Wallet is a mobile app, it will do more than a regular wallet ever could. Youll be able to store your credit cards, offers, loyalty cards and gift cards, but without the bulk. When you tap to pay, your phone will also automatically redeem offers and earn loyalty points for you. Someday, even things like boarding passes, tickets, ID and keys could be stored in Google Wallet.

At first, Google Wallet will support both Citi MasterCard and a Google Prepaid Card, which you’ll be able to fund with almost any payment card. From the outset, you’ll be able to tap your phone to pay wherever MasterCard PayPass is accepted. Google Wallet will also sync your Google Offers, which you’ll be able to redeem via NFC at participating SingleTap™ merchants, or by showing the barcode as you check out. Many merchants are working to integrate their offers and loyalty programs with Google Wallet.

So maybe the wallet’s not dying, it’s just re-branding. Engadget is live-blogging the whole event, if you’re interested.

The Tablet Will Change Everything, As Soon As I Buy One

The Chronicle of Higher Education talked to a bunch of students, and found that they’re convinced that tablets are the future of education. Except none of them had tablets:

More than two-thirds of a large group of college students say that tablet computers will change the way students learn, according to survey results released today. The Pearson Foundation sponsored the survey of 1,214 college students, as well as 200 high-school seniors who are heading to college, and found overwhelming interest in the devices.

Most of the students were not speaking from experience: Only 7 percent of the college students and 4 percent of the high school seniors owned one. Still, 69 percent of the college students said that tablets will transform higher education, and 48 percent said tablets will replace textbooks—at least as we currently understand textbooks—within the next five years. The survey was conducted for the foundation this March by Harris Interactive, which weighted the sample so it was representative of the American college population in terms of income, ethnicity, geography, and other factors.

I like this, because it’s such a microcosm of how everyone seems to feel about tablets. They’re the savior of education, magazines, the Web, the kitchen, my relationships, disease, my cats, and everything else. But, at last count, they’re not that popular: Neilsen found that only five percent of the US population actually own tablets. Five percent is a lot of people, but that’s hardly a revolution.

The Wallet Death Watch, Ctd.

Fast Company is doing a fantastic job of following the future of how we pay for stuff, especially the last few days as Square’s ambitious plans have become clear. First,  E.B. Boyd details what Square accidentally stumbled on:

But, Dorsey tells Fast Company, the company was surprised at how many businesses took to it as well, like food carts selling street food and bands selling merchandise at their shows.

“As they started taking more and more payments, they started getting bigger and bigger, as you’d expect them to,” he says. “They were beginning to get more sophisticated about what they needed, and they started asking us for more tools.”

Then Austin Carr headed out into the real world to see whether or not Square’s cool idea actually worked:

To see how the payment system worked, we first purchased an item using the most outmoded system of all: cash. Grabbing the goods, having the clerk ring them on up the register, pulling out a wad of bills, and waiting for change and a receipt took 43 seconds. (Yes, we actually timed it.)

Then it was Square’s turn. We handed the clerk another item, watched as he clicked through the Square app, ran the credit card (this took a few swipes), and then asked how we’d like to get the receipt. After choosing the text message option, I entered my phone number, and waited. Time? About 1 minute and 5 seconds. (The payment is sure to be quicker going forward, as my number is now saved in their system. Plus, there are other benefits of the system besides speed, including having paperless receipts.)

Today, Carr talked to a PayPal spokesperson. PayPal’s been changing how we pay and get paid since before Square was even a twinkle in anyone’s eye, and as he reports, they’re not worried:

For Nayar, it’s difficult to envision one winner-takes-all technology in the payments industry. On his smartphone, he says, he has myriad payment tools: the PayPal app, Square app, an RFID tag, as well as payment plans through Starbucks and iTunes. “And none of those are even NFC payments,” he adds. “It’s not going to become a habit for consumers unless it’s easier. Sometimes I say, ‘You know what, it’s not that hard to pull out my credit card and swipe.’ I don’t find it particularly onerous.”