Zune Podcasts - A Rant

September 21, 2011
3 min. read

Zune podcast functionality on Windows Phone Mango was obviously designed by someone who never listens to podcasts.  I’ve tried to use it over the last three weeks and it is an exercise in futility. 

There is one glaring problems that needs to be addressed before it is close to usable.  It all comes down to episode management.  Unfortunately, this is the most important factor of any podcast solution.

Order is allowed, for either oldest first or newest first.  This is great.  What this means is that it will constantly download the oldest or the newest.  Doesn’t matter how many times you have heard them. It doesn’t matter if you manually marked them as heard and manually deleted them.

If you have oldest selected, guess what is downloading back on the phone?  Do you remember those old favorites that you have manually deleted 10 times already?  Yeah, they’re back.

Hello old friends.

If you are caught up and always listen to the latest, the moment it comes out, then having the newest set and keeping the latest X on your devices works fine. Myself, I set almost everything to oldest, because if 2 episodes come out before I get back to that podcast, I want to hear them in order.

This isn’t that hard.  When a feed is added, a piece of data is tracked for each episode.  If you have downloaded and listened to a podcast, store the podcast filename or URL with a played flag. When you are listing episodes, you put a small indicator that this is old and listened to already.  When syncing podcasts, download the oldest or newest that don’t have the listened to flag set.  Done. This is programming, not rocket science.  The user can manually redownload them if wanted, but otherwise they are dead to us.

Now that we have a database that remembers which are played, can we mark them as played without downloading them?  Pretty please?  Some podcasts were online before you were even a glint in your compiler’s linked binaries.  I’m at episode 140 of 200, but selecting oldest will only allow me to start at 1.  Even if episodes were marked as listened correctly, I would have to download and mark all 139 prior episodes.

Now, can we ask for another great feature?  Add an auto delete after listening option.  Wouldn’t that be great?  You listen to an episode.  It is marked as played in the DB and deleted.  Now what happens?  The next episode is automatically downloaded to get up to your keep at least number.  It would be almost like the software was reading my mind.

I’ve almost stopped listening to PodCasts on Windows Phone, because the management of episodes is more work than the enjoyment of listening to them.  Maybe it is too easy to spot really crappy software after using really great software.   If anyone wants to see really good software, look at drPodder on webOS.  It is open source, take a look.  It makes Zune’s implementation looks like a bad student programming project.

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