Please stop making everything automatically play, it’s horrible

Content providers on the internet seem intent on ramming as much of their copious levels of content down my ears and eyes as they can. I hate it.

I remember a few years ago I was at a party in America with some international friends. The Swedish contingent had brought along a laptop with Spotify on it, of course (Spotify use in the Nordics is incredibly high, mainly thanks to near-universal broadband provision and a long history of excellent music).

We were all invited to add songs to a party playlist which had started in the room, this worked out great. It’s one of the huge advantages to Spotify. I love it for exactly this reason, the collaboration of friends saying to you  “oh you’ll love this”, and the ability to find it in high quality straight away is just great.

About ten minutes in, my Swedish friend, Fredrik, stared at his play queue and exclaimed.

‘Someone has not learnt Spotify etiquette”, he said.

I knew exactly what he meant. Someone had searched a song, double clicked it, and had, while playing the song they wanted, also managed to add every other song ever that has something related to that title to the play queue. It’s one of the few annoyances I still have with Spotify. I dearly love the service but a double click (or tap in the mobile app) shouldn’t give an unlimited licence to play, unless you’re in a playlist already, search results should be exempt from this. You can also very rarely easily remove an endless play queue, it takes a lot of working out sometimes to know how just to remove 387 songs from your queue, especially when for some reason the delete option gets removed when songs are added in this way. It is such a bad example of a user interface in an otherwise excellent app, it gets me every time.

I first started using Netflix a little while later. Netflix was a revelation to me. Having just launched in the UK, the ability to have a carefully curated selection of the BBC’s back catalogue, some fantastic movies all on demand and instant was just incredible.

Here I was, watching 30 Rock in my dorm room in the States. The credits start rolling and I pop into the communal kitchen to make myself a sandwich. I come back ten minutes later and I’m half way through the next episode. Why? Auto Play. This is not a feature I had specifically turned on, it just presumed I’d want to see the next episode. Why wouldn’t it? I’ve just watched a previous episode. I have nothing else to do all day but just watch Netflix, so of course I want to watch the next episode.

Except. I don’t.

I’m still on a free extended trial of Amazon Prime (for reasons I won’t go into explaining now), and this does the exact same. ‘Oh, you must want to watch the next episode of The Man In The High Castle, you so enjoyed the last one’, I hear it internally gloating at me as it counts down to the next episode while I frantically search for the remote to stop the timer.

I watch a lot of TV, but I watch a lot of different TV in an evening. I hate watching four episodes of the same series, I have excellent self control. I want to watch a couple of episodes of Transparent, two of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and one of Have I Got News For You.

BBC iPlayer and the BBC News website recently jumped on the bandwagon of automatically playing something else you’d like or the next in the series, and to add insult to injury, YouTube turned this on as a default back in March.

I hate it. It means I can never digest a TV episode or documentary as you’re thrown straight into the next episode, you never appreciate the people who made the programme, you never get time to let the drama, comedy or information sink in. I don’t want my choices of my next viewing picked for me. I want to make the decision as to what I want to watch next. Don’t presume, follow my lead. I’m the customer.

Everything has become an endless mess of noise and sound in the world of streaming and the only way to stop it all is to find an exit or back button on a remote which you can obviously never find at the right time.

I understand that all of these things can be switched off, but why the hell are they on by default anyway? Are we really that lazy as a species now that we can’t be bothered to press a select button on the remote when it offers up the next episode anyway? We’d rather let it count 15 seconds and jump straight to the next one?

Stop it. Please, all of you, stop it.


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