Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pecha Kucha - An Online Experience

So, it may be time to start blogging again, and what better way to resuscitate the creative flow than to say what I was going to say on Wednesday here for everyone to access at their convenience?

First, a look at the nature of the online music collaboration playing field:

As you can see, there is a certain confusion taking place for the mere fact that every contender:

A. Claims the same sensational outcome.

B. Does so in complete redundant in a metaphorical shouting competition

C. As a result of this, completely steamrolls the original goal (in this case represented by Kirk Douglas - "the real spartacus")

In checking out various sites catering to the idea of music collaboration, I see less and less innovation, and more and more sites (61 are listed on a blog that keeps track of them, and on top of that, there are another 29 disabled sites listed!). As a result, what was purposed as a gathering place for musicians has become a useless nobody-wins competition, something similar to format wars in the media industry, where we see intense initial competition by manufacturers seeking to produce the best medium for music or video in order to gain the right to universiality for the next few years and profit from it (most recent example: HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray). The key difference between format wars and the mess we see with music collab sites is, format wars end quickly and someone takes over. So far, this isn't happening with music collaboration sites, becuase as a service, they don't depend solely on fidelity, there are a few other things to address.

Beyond the obvious features a service needs to address (usability, utility, rich features, etc) are the unspoken bits that draw a person into using it, and I'm finding through the parallel design of another service in Axel's Microsoft class, that it's usually not just a need to use that service. Also, the draw to a service, and more importantly the service itself may not necessarily be the only goal in its creation. This idea is what we are trying to grasp and hone in Axel's class, where what a serice lets a person do is not only fulfill an explicit want or need, but also create social connections as a healthy and purposefully targeted by-product. In using this type of thinking, the function of the role of service naturally becomes more intuitive and simplified in order to produce the desired outcome.

In summary, my project will need to pull back from the typical vast feature set that alot of these sites are boasting, and think of what really matters to a person that wants to create music with another person. The end goal here would be the natural high that comes when two musicians click mid-song or jam, a drive to more creation with something like album or song theme contests, and of course the deeper social connection this kind of interaction affords.

Oh yeah, there's another video I wanted you all to see. This one is a TED talk exemplifying the power of bottom-up influence in the ultimate level playing field where everyone has a chance to be heard: the internet. The take-away here is just to note the strange ways in which you can influence people and create momentum, and in many cases unintentionally.

Hope this helps the people working on more pervasive and influential themes.


  1. I am about to watch the TED talk, and wanted to let you know that this idea, the power of bottom-up influence, is something that I find to be absolutely fascinating. It has been done throughout history, and is something that still occurs today— I just didn't realize it... so we CAN spark those movements we all have been talking about, maybe the internet is the way...

  2. I love that talk, he had it right on... That fuzzy line between letting your users flounder (and see who can yell the loudest) and really leading to give people a place where they feel they are involved in something real is so slippery. If you ever want to talk about what worked and what didn't in running a web community, let me know. I started one up in 1999 and ran it until 2003. When I jumped ship, we had over 50,000 members and over a million pageviews a day, so I actually know what I'm talking about in this case. ;)

  3. Tim I think you have a great point when you say "the end goal here would be that natural high...". Because really, the internet is all about the real world, which is all about finding these moments. Those are the ones you remember, not as a series of events, but as feelings. I think you're getting into the psychology of "Flow" (see They're beautiful and meaningful because of the connection between one human being to something so much greater. Your challenge, like you said, is bringing that to your project!