So, my belief before playing with it was that the iPod Shuffle would be a good device for listening to podcasts despite the lack of display. I saw a lot of grumpy commentary to the opposite, but I never believed it. In fact, it seemed to me like it would be better for podcasts than music. I have yet to listen to any isolated music files (although I have listened to music podcasts) but my prediction was correct. This thing rocks for podcasts!
First, here’s how I have things set up. I have a collective smart playlist that collects together all the podcasts I want to go on the Shuffle. I then have a second smart playlist called “iPod Playlist” which uses the previous playlist as the source, has as a constraint “playcount = 0” and is limited to 450 Mb selected by most recently added. What this means is that I get the most recent podcasts added that I haven’t yet listened to. The beautiful thing about that smart playlist is that because of the playcount constraint when I plug in the Shuffle to resync, I can see everything I listened to disappear out of the list. Once the Shuffle tells my iTunes it’s been played, it’s not there anymore. That makes that list like a stack. I listen to the newest stuff in descending order and If for some reason I don’t feel like listening to a specific program, I skip it. It won’t be marked as listened and will remain in the playlist for the next time. I’m not finding the lack of a display to be any sort of problem at all. Everything in that list is by definition something I want to listen to. Skipping is not a problem at all, doesn’t screw up the playlist and thus far I haven’t had any problems with it at all. Even better, even with MP3s it seems to remember where I was when I come back to that file. If I get halfway through and then skip to the next track, I go back to the same position when I go back. This is not only on bookmarkable AAC files but on straight MP3s as well.
The Shuffle being so tiny has an interesting effect. Because it is so neglible in mass, I just spend all day with it around my neck and the earbuds in. When I get up from my desk or go check the mail or walk the dog, I continue to listen to my podcasts. There’s no preparation necessary, really, and very very simple to always have it with me. I’ve taken it to the gym, worn it around the house and through airports. My very long queue of podcasts to be listened to is shrinking rapidly, which is a good thing.
Yesterday I listened to Andy Hertzfeld talk about why he thinks the Shuffle is bad on IT Conversations. I listened to him say all this on the Shuffle as I was working and walking around the house. I’ve got to say he’s dead wrong. I don’t miss the display at all.