Tag Archives: social

The Beat-Play Experiment – Entry #5


So we’re finally in internal beta for Beat-Play! We are just working out some minor workflow and design changes, but nothing serious.

We should have the main social network engine up on our servers and ready to use in a couple weeks. We’ll have playlist capabilities, videos, blogs, user updates, alerts, calendars, and all the other standard social stuff.

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The Everything or Nothing Society – A Market Analysis

We are an everything or nothing society. We either want everything now, or in our minds, we might as well have nothing.

We are never happy until we have everything we want. This is an important mental factor to be aware of in our society. It can explain a lot of behavior. I believe most people forget about it, probably because they’re guilty of it themselves..even me.

But where does this mentality come from, and what harm, if any, can it do?

Sure, some people may claim that having that mindset only pushes people to do their best all the time, and strive harder for what they want, but is this really true?

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The Process of Innovation – Think Social!

This is an awesome topic that I love to share with people whenever I can.

Innovation is something that can be thought of in several different ways, however there are good ways, and then there are better ones.

Innovation can be basically anything that solves a problem that has not been previously solved, or it can be something that solves a problem that was previously solved, while solving other problems at the same time(these are the better ones).

There are really two perspectives into innovating. One is purely the scientific aspect of it. The physics, the research, the testing, the technology. Then there is the practical, social side of innovating, which does not always agree with the scientific side.

The process of innovation should contain both views, almost at the same time. It is not enough to innovate and solve one problem technically, while socially creating another problem.

A quick example of this may very well be gas powered vehicles. They’ve solved a huge problem in enabling faster travel, but they’ve also caused a sort of social dilemma, because people are almost forced to use them in some fashion, and they are now proven to have negative impacts on air quality and perhaps weather.

Innovation should be approached from the view of the true designer:  the architect, who builds not only for aesthetics, but for purpose, and function. The architect builds for the social function, while utilizing the best scientific practices and innovations available. But the purpose is always foremost, for the people.

People are weird. They do not really seem to fit any set pattern as a whole. There is an infinite variation, and this must be accounted for in design.

Innovations when designed for people, tend to solve the most problems, and leave the least behind. The best innovations, the truly beautiful ones, seem to leave no problems behind, and just fit, like a puzzle piece finally being snapped into place.

When designing Beat-Play’s music search solution, I ended up solving several social problems: How do I find new music? How do I find good music? How do I not waste time searching for music?

The way I solved these problems was to think about it from the approach of the social first. The first step is always to survey what already exists. I studied the different methods of how music was found and shared now.

I found some methods that were better than others, and I looked at the best ones, and searched out the problems there. It turned out that I found some.

The best solutions available at this point for finding music are Pandora or Last.fm, where the music is suggested and played for you, allowing you time to focus on other things. This is a great innovation, but I saw flaws.

It went right back to thinking socially. Pandora finds songs based on other songs, using basically scientific data and variables to link songs together into an automated playlist.

This I knew, was the wrong way to think about it. People are not defined by any given variable. They are defined by many variables that vary all the time. Music is no different. It is a mere extension of people. There needed to be a social way for people to find music.

So my idea came to me almost rather simply. It was to use social networks, and people to create a user’s playlist, instead of a computer.

On Beat-Play you can follow friends or favorite bands, who you share a taste in music with, and who are infinitely as variable as you are; and the music those people like enough to save, will automatically get played in your radio.

This enables you to find the best new music literally as simply as a mouse click, without searching through mounds of bad music, wasting hours before finding a good song. And it keeps you updated.

Also this method does not limit a person’s playlist to one genre of music, or a certain group of artists, like Pandora does, unless the user wants these limits on.

This solution is so beautiful because it solves several other problems at the same time. When you hear music on your radio coming from your friend’s playlists, if you like it, you save it into one of your playlists, and it then gets sent to anybody following you.

For the best artists, this is an amazing way for fans to spread the music for them. It’s actually a form of free promotion and distribution in addition to being a much better way for fans to find the music. It can even be a great way for artists to gain advertising revenue by tracking plays, which could then result in the best music being free.

The more the people love and share the music for free, the more the artists will get paid, making everyone happy, and rendering piracy irrelevant!

That is what I mean by snapping in a puzzle piece. This solution fits on all sides, perfectly with it’s surroundings. This solution came by simply analyzing the environment that the innovation must exist in, which is always an incredibly social one.

If we inject this social perspective into our innovations, we can adapt what we know about the scientific, physical stuff, to coincide with the social factors, to form the ultimate solutions.

Design thinking is an extremely powerful thing, especially when approached in the right way. The formula is simple: Search out the problems, and then fix them, integrating what you know both about the social and scientific or technological environments currently present.

If you do that, you will do great things. Innovation is everyone’s responsibility. There are too many problems for us not to all try and solve them. Good luck. Think social!

Written by: Dante Cullari Founder & President Beat-Play, LLC

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The Problem with Song Recommendation Engines, and How they could be Better

I thought I’d talk a little bit today about song recommendation engines, as far as where we are currently with the technology online, and how it can get any better.

First of all, we’ve all heard about Pandora’s Music Genome Project. They actually have a very dedicated staff that goes through each song for about 10-15 minutes and reports on a list of many different musical variables. The results get fed into the algorithm and BAM, there’s your playlist.

Last.fm does something very similar, but they use different variables, and many sites, like thesixtyone.com, use a “similar” function that introduces you to music with similar variables.

So how do you tell which one works the best? You’d almost have to go through and look at the variables they use to tie music together. It would be almost impossible to tell if the site could have played you a better song than the one it did. Streaming music seems to be the way to go, but right now I believe the biggest factor in people’s choices between these different websites may be the design appeal and ease of use. That, and the lack of anything better.

There are several problems I see with this picture. Number one is that it never seems like a good idea to use a tool that has no clear distinction between it’s competitors. There’s gotta be one that’s better, but in this case it’s too hard to tell, or would take too much effort. This most likely has a lot to do with the fact that these concepts are no new, and no one has really settled on one ultimate solution, yet people do have their favorites of the moment.

That brings me to the second problem with this picture, which is a fundamental one. The current song recommendation engines all use the song’s variables to tie the songs together, and then tie you to the songs by entering a song or artist you like. This a pretty cool, but your control over your music ends after you enter your favorite artist or song.

Music is such a social thing. It seems to me that our playlists shouldn’t be controlled by similarities between songs, but similarities between people.

There needs to be a system where I can follow people that I share a taste in music with(my friends, favorite band members, ect). Then anything in those people’s playlists will get sent to my radio player, at random, or at my control. This not only ensures that you’ll hear only the best music, but also it will automatically update you when new songs are out, and it doesn’t bind you to one genre, or one sound.

If you’re like me you could listen to 4 or 5 different genres, back to back. This system would also allow for filters on things like genres, moods, tags, ect, and could create a much more custom listening experience.

Also for new bands, this would almost take the place of promotion, because it is basically automated word of mouth and is the epitome of viral. With this model, who knows, you could be the one to discover a band for your whole generation.

I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds a lot better than trusting variables and algorithms. This model will actually be out soon. It will be included in my website, Beat-Play, coming out in beta this April, 2010. It will be undergoing many changes early on in the beta process, but we hope to get it all fleshed out by June.

When it comes to the internet and all of the crazy, complex, and really cool tools out there, it’s best to keep this thought in the back of your mind: “Is this the experience I want?” If the answer is “I don’t know”, then there’s usually a problem somewhere, and also a void waiting to be filled.

For more info about the Beat-Play beta check out the BeatPlay Beta Overview

And to sign up to beta test, visit: http://MusicWithoutLabels.com

Written by: Dante Cullari Founder & President, Beat-Play, LLC

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