Working Software from Spotify over Comprehensive Documentation about Spotify

Agile companies produce working software first, and comprehensive documentation about how agile they are later.

I have the habit of going for a walk every day, for about an hour, developing new ideas while listening to tacky music. To accompany me on those walks I have a Google Nexus phone with a Spotify app, several downloaded playlists, and nice Bowers & Wilkins headphones.

This is my report of what happened yesterday:

spotify1

I am standing with my coat on, headphones on, and my smartphone in my hand, ready to start a downloaded playlist.

I click Shuffle. Nothing happens.

I click Shuffle another few times. Nothing happens. I think, “Oh great, here we go again.”

I choose a random song and click Play. Nothing happens. I let out a heavy sigh of frustration.

I switch to another playlist, but that one appears to be stuck. The screen doesn’t show any songs, and the please wait loading circle just rotates endlessly.

Jeeeezus!

I go back to the first playlist, which briefly says “downloading” followed by a crash of the entire Spotify app. Oops! “Spotify stopped unexpectedly.”

I say out loud, How do you mean “unexpectedly”? This happens almost every day!

I reboot the phone angrily, but it makes no difference. Spotify starts automatically and then also freezes automatically. No music from Spotify today.

I count to 10 to prevent me from targeting my frustration at my dear Nexus phone. I go outside for my daily walk, without music, but with my headphones on. Because they look cool.

Soon after I leave the house I suddenly hear music. Yes! Apparently, the Wi-Fi needs to drop away for Spotify to emerge out of its coma. This has happened several times before. Spotify gets confused and paralyzed when Wi-Fi switches on and off. Why?

Sadly, the euphoria lasts for only 10 seconds. Then the music stops. Aaaaaaarghhhh, goddammit!

I click Play again, the music resumes, and I continue walking. For about 30 seconds, or 1 minute, or 2 minutes. And then it stops. Every time.

Holy F(*#$%)*@**** BEEP and BEEP BEEP and I’ll fly to Stockholm and (*$(^&@ BEEEEEP

After five attempts I give up. The rest of my walk is without music.

spotify2

This is just an example of the problems I have with the Spotify app almost every day. I have already re-downloaded the app four times. That helps, for about a week or so. And then all the problems are back. I have also re-downloaded the playlists within Spotify lots of times, mainly because Spotify loses my playlists more often than my spouse loses his battery chargers.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I’ve been at Spotify’s office in Stockholm. Honestly, I like the company, and the people (Hi Anders, Jimmy, Joakim, Alek!), and I love the catalog of music they offer me. But I absolutely hate their software. (And not only the Android app. The Windows desktop software sucks too. Though it has improved. Slowly. With the emphasis on slow. It takes about 3 minutes to start it.)

Spotify is seen by many as the “poster child” of Agile companies. There is even a nice document by Henrik Kniberg describing their agile organizational structure. But the Agile manifesto says, “working software over comprehensive documentation”. Really, who cares about squads, tribes, guilds, and great-looking offices, when the software is not working?

I had plenty of time to think about this, not listening to any music. And I decided I won’t read anything about Spotify again, and I will remove the references to Spotify from my upcoming new book.

First, as a paying customer, I want to hear music.

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p.s. Nobody from the @Spotify account has ever replied to any of my many rants on Twitter. Just saying.

p.p.s. Please don’t offer me alternatives to Spotify unless those alternatives offer my favorite music.


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  • Leyton Collins

    REALLY want to thank you for this post! It is such a hot button issue of mine about places that are ‘gloss and polish’ Agile without any substance behind it. They might as well make it up as they go … but then again they probably do; which as in this example the software doesn’t actually work.

  • Danja

    I am not going to say that SoundCloud is better, or that you should use Apple devices. 🙂 This evening I deleted Rally Dev app from my iPhone because the app would not let me log in no matter that my login was correct. The irony is not lost on me – these guys created an app to help you manage your agile development process (from your mobile device) and yet their app won’t even let you log in. Tsk, tsk. I sympathize…

  • http://www.crisp.se/henrik.kniberg Henrik Kniberg

    Hi Jurgen!

    I agree that the product quality has taken a hit lately, and your article is a powerful reminder about what really matters at the end of the day.

    I don’t agree with the “therefore stop writing about Spotify” part though. All companies hit a rough patch from time to time, especially fast-growing startups. If people are only allowed to write about companies with perfect track record, then it would get very quiet.

    So, with all due respect, I will continue sharing knowledge about interesting companies and real-life experiences, both successes and failures. And I hope you do too.

    • jurgenappelo

      Henrik, thanks for your input!

      I agree, one customer complaining is not a reason to stop writing. So please continue sharing your experiences, as I do.

      Please note that I have promoted Spotify as an inspiring agile company at dozens of conferences and events, until people started asking me, “So how come you complain about their software so often?” And I have no good answer to that.

      Therefore, I’m not very interested anymore in any Spotify promotion unless the experiences that are being shared help explain why the software is so buggy. And why in my experience, despite all the agile practices, it is the worst software on both my Android phone and my PC.

      Looking forward to learn from any insights on that topic! 🙂

      Jurgen

      • http://www.crisp.se/henrik.kniberg Henrik Kniberg

        Agreed, I’m very curious about that too. We’ve been talking about sharing more failure stories in general, to balance out the “agile poster child” perception, so this is a good opportunity.

        • jurgenappelo

          That would be great. I’ll be happy to promote Spotify with a balanced story. 🙂

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