Editorial

For some reason, slideshows are still a thing

Mac users will sympathise with me here: youre working away on some photos you took earlier that day, nice mug of tea, Bowie playing in the background, when suddenly your phone starts ringing. Or the dog jumps on your lap. Or just absolutely anything that would cause you to absent-mindedly hit the pause button. And then--oh wait, no, no I didnt mean for that, oh damn...the screen fades away, your photos start whizzing past, and the musical legend has been replaced by some dude on a guitar hired to write the most monotonous piece known to man. This, my friends, is the slideshow.

My big problem with the slideshow isnt so much that it pops up when it doesnt need to. Thats the kind of thing I could probably fix easily with a third party tool. No, my biggest gripe is that slideshows just dont work as a way of showing off photos. Back on my old phone you had to start a slideshow and manually pause it just to get the photo full screen. To this day I still cant understand why they didnt just include a full screen option instead of a slideshow. All that trouble of making a timer setting and all that, for what?

When youre showing photos off to people, the slideshow doesnt work for one key reason: the computer has no idea how interesting each photo is. Its a very rare situation where people will sit down and watch photos flying past without saying a word. Naturally, when people do have something to say, you have to pause the slideshow. And then the music stops. The whole experience is pretty jarring, and its not even something people want a lot of the time. In my experience, they just use it to show their pictures bigger.

And then youve got the mobile slideshow. Now this, I feel, is something that just gets tacked on as a selling point. So now weve made another stupid assumption that people will huddle round a three-inch screen. Seriously, who is doing this? Watching a film on a small screen is awkward enough, but who is telling everyone to sit down and watch the slideshow on my tiny phone? It might have been cool the first time someone did it, but beyond showing off your new toy its hard to pinpoint any time ever Ive wanted a mobile slideshow.

In more recent times slideshow apps have begun to jazz things up a bit. They try to zoom and fade on interesting parts. The PS3 has a very nice slideshow app that casually throws the photos down on a virtual table. Apps like that, though, are kind of a throwback to the mobile slideshow. Sure, it looks fancy, but its just taking the problems of physical photos and applying them to the virtual world. "Boy, I sure wish my photos were smaller and harder to focus on!" No. Nobody has ever said that. Trying to sell the photo throwdown as anything more than shiny play fun is a complete joke.

Coming to the end of this piece, you might be thinking that I want all slideshows to burn. I dont; it probably wouldnt affect me if they did. The point Im trying to make here is that we assume it should come part-and-parcel with every photo app, when really it just isnt that useful. Slideshows will probably be here for years to come, and for years to come Ill still be here scratching my head over them. Maybe by then Ill have found a use for it beyond just "Hey look what my toy can do!". Or perhaps not. Just be thankful that this isnt part of a slideshow, else it wouldve faded off long before youd finished reading it.

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