Entries in Personaliztion (13)
Signal Patterns is a company that tries to help you discover the real you by learning more about yourself. They have created a music product called Music Patterns which was just released publicly today. The process of self-discovery begins by listening to a variety of different music samples and rating them from disliking to liking something a lot. The entire process only takes a few minutes.
Once the survey is complete, you are given the results in a dashboard-style presentation. In addition to your results, the service provides actual music recommendations, lets you connect with like minded people, and a playlist tool (based on imeem). Music Patterns is pretty good at determining what you like - in my case it lets me know i like instrumental, intelligent and complex music. However it interprets that as thinking i would like Rush and Yes - two bands I completely despise. I think it miserably fails in determining what i dislike. For instance it tells me that i do not like music with amplified instruments or music played at ear shattering volume - i think my Rock and electronica heavy CD collection and 20+ years of concert going will tell you a different story.
An audio-based survey fails because while it can somewhat determine aspects of music i may gravitate toward or repel from. Its not that i dont like loud music - i didnt like the loud music they were playing. Its not that i don’t like percussive music - i actually love it - but the few examples they played were not representative of the style i like. Many songs i disliked because i had negative associations with the genre not the mood - just because i dont like smooth jazz does not mean i dont like smooth music. Finally and most importantly, this type of survey ignores meaning and interpretation. Its like the Charlton Heston scene in Waynes World - every genre has its true artists and its dime-a-dozen mediocrity - play me a song from a master and i will react differently than i would from hearing a wannabe.
Twones, an Amsterdam-based startup, launched a beta of their new music activity aggregator/social network. The idea behind Twones is a solid one - there are so many music services out there and simply no way to get your friends to use the same one. This makes sharing music and seeing what your friends are listening to pretty difficult. In addition to tracking what you listen to on your media player (iTunes, Winamp, etc), Twones also allows you to track music you listen to on dozens of different music sites including Last.fm, iLike, YouTube, Finetune, MySpace, imeem, MOG, Seeqpod, Deezer, Hype Machine and many more. Your listening activity is then aggregated and presented on your Twones profile page. Friends can see what you are listening to and playback songs on their original source page or other services. When you find songs you like, you can bookmark them for later.
Lifestreaming services like Strands and Friendfeed require you to have accounts with specific services so they can access the RSS feeds of your listening activity. Twones, uses a Firefox plugin that basically tracks whatever you listen to on the web regardless of whether you have an account with a specific web service. This has the advantage of aggregating a much wider range of music activity. On the flipside, there is no way to globally block tracking on specific services aside from manually clicking the icon in the browser window to disable the tracker.
Like other social networks, you can find people to “follow”. When viewing the Music Activity tab, you can see your own activity, your friend’s activity and everyone’s activity. Its a good way to see what other people are listening to and discover new music.
Twones also lets you search for artists and songs. Search results and artist pages take a Foxytunes approach and are loaded with information including bios (Wikipedia), similar artists (Last.fm), concerts (Eventful), albums (Amazon), videos (YouTube), photos (Flickr), and recent chatter (Twitter).
There are some issues with the service. Your dashboard has a recommendations tab but that does not seem to be working yet or provide any explanation of what it is. The charts seems to be inoperable at this time as well. The UI attempts to be clean and concise but for some reason comes across as more clunky and cluttered. More attention to typography and better use of ajax for progressive disclosure of information would be a great help.
The Twones beta version is a promising start and clearly addresses a need with today’s multiple source model of digital music consumption.
There are literally thousands of music blogs on the Internet and keeping track of them can be a major hassle. Its also difficult to get an idea of what’s hot at the moment since the buzz is dispersed over so many sources. The Hype Machine is essentially Technorati for music - a music blog aggregator that tracks all of the music blogs on the internet and provides you with the tools to make sense of it all.
The recently redesigned site is a major improvement over the previous version. The site still maintains the spartan style of the previous version but utilizes color and simple design elements that make navigation is cleaner and text much easier to read. Aside from the standard list of all music pulled from every tracked blog, The Hype Machine has some very interesting and useful features…
The Hype Machine provides you with a dashboard that allows you to manage your favorite songs, blogs, people and searches. These items are then aggregated into your customized Love Feed. You can check your Love Feed for new music, play songs directly in the page and add them to your Loved Tracks. Unfortunately there is no way to play your love feed as a playlist at tis time.
Keeping track of what’s popular at the moment across thousands of blogs is easy with The Hype Machine. The Popular tab provides a ranked list of songs that are getting the most clicks and plays on the site. Its a great way to see where the blogosphere buzz is at the moment. However, there is no easy way to tell which songs are posted on multiple blogs which is also an indicator of buzz aside from just clicks and plays.
The Hype Spy is another interesting way to get a feel for the current zeitgeist. The Spy basically shows you what all users are currently listening to at the moment. Additionally, they also provide a list of the most recent searches.
When you click an artist name, you will see a list of blog entries and songs across the blogosphere that contain that artist. Additionally, these pages also include links to purchase music across multiple stores, tour dates and music videos.
You can also access the full list of blogs tracked by The Hype Machine. In addition to a list of top blogs, you can browse the directory alphabetically.
Overall the new Hype Machine is a welcome change and a site i will be using frequently to find the latest and greatest from around the net.
While the UI looks simple and straightforward its is very problematic. When you type in a an artist name, you will see live search results. Unfortunately, many items that display in the live search box are actually not represented in the catalog (it would be better to just restrict results to available content). There is also no difference between your play queue and search results - if you search for something new (or click an artist or director name), the results replace your play queue. Not only that, but it often inserts songs you have just listened to. It would be better to have the queue and results separate and provide the ability to add items from the results to the queue. This approach would also alleviate the site’s biggest problem - there is no apparent way to get back and access your personalized channel based on items you have rated.
Ratings are also problematic - you can only rate videos but not artists. I may very much like an artist but not like a particular song and VV does not seem to have an understandable method for how this common occurrence is handled. There is also no way to see videos you have rated. Additionally, the site does not provide any data regarding what album the video is from or links to purchase songs.
VV does provide a nice selection of good quality video (that surpasses services that rely on poorly encoded or labeled YouTube for their content) and it’s fun to click around and check out different artists. However, the problems of the service are significant and need to be addressed before it can graduate to a truly compelling offering.
MyStrands launched a personalized streaming music video site this week. The service streams music videos from YouTube based on your favorite artists scrobbled via the MyStrands desktop application. In addition to the video stream, the service provides additional video and channel recommendations, Mystrands members who listen to the current artist and artist discography (Amazon).
A very nice feature is the ability to set the next video to a similar artist, the same artist or other artist (from your favorites). You can add videos to a favorites list and use a set of simple icons to rate or block videos. The service also keeps track of your recently played videos in case you want to go back and review them.
Unfortunately, It doesn’t seem like there is an easy way to embed your personalized player into a web page at this time, but you can directly link to your personal channel. Overall a very nice beta.
SonicLiving members can access their personalized concert calendars and view all shows for any day across 13 major metropolitan regions. Once you find a show, you can view details or find tickets. Unfortunately, unlike the full browser version, you can’t add the show to your calendar, view members who are attending, or post comments. It would also be nice if the service provided you with a view of shows in your wishlist and allowed you to automatically add shows to iCal.
The most interesting feature of the service is the ability to browse the iTunes store. Type the name of an artist into the search box and select the desired artist from the results. You can then browse an artists discography, view album details, listen to 30-second samples, and add songs to a shopping cart. To purchase songs, you need to go to the full browser version of Sonic Living. Unfortunately at this time, albums don’t include artwork and you can’t add full albums to your cart.
Overall, this is a good attempt by a Music 2.0 site to provide an iPhone version of their service. With some of the additional improvements stated above, SonicLiving may provide users with a truly great app in their hands.
I occasionally purchase music on iTunes but usually search for DRM-free versions first on other services. I heard great things about the new Beastie Boys Album, “The Mix Up” and decided to purchase it on iTunes since they were offering it DRM-free. I was not expecting to receive an email a few days later that explained that purchasing the album on iTunes made me eligible for preferred seating to the upcoming tour via Ticketmaster. Of course there is alot of fine print that explains exactly what “preferred seating” means, but the general idea behind this feature is an excellent one. DRM-free download purchases coupled with rewarding fan loyalty finally begins to fulfill the promise of the Music 2.0 revolution while simultaneously providing a strong incentive against pirating. This approach helps iTunes and the labels legitimize download purchases and increase sales by adding value; It rewards fans who decide to purchase music legally when many other options exist; and, helps artists drive more ticket sales where many of them generate the bulk of their profit.
I came across SonicLiving another Music 2.0 concert and event tracking social network. The free service allows you to track your favorite artists, see upcoming local shows and purchase tickets. To create your artist wishlist, you can manually enter artist names, upload your iTunes library file or use your Last.fm and Pandora data. You can set preferences to be notified by email about upcoming shows on your artist list. Your profile page details shows you are attending and interested in, popular events in your area, messages, friend requests and other relevant information.
You can either search for specific shows or browse though a calendar style interface. When you find a show you want to attend, just click the show and select the “I’m Interested” option on the show detail page. You can also view shows by venue. In addition to concerts, you can browse other events including theatre shows, museum events, festivals and other local art performances.
The two similar sections, “Calendar” and “Wishlist” are a bit confusing. The Wishlist section makes sense as it displays upcoming shows that match artists in your tracked artist list. The Calendar section displays shows you will be attending. There is no way to see other shows that don’t match your wishlist. It would be much better if SonicLiving merged the two sections together into a single calendar and provided the ability to toggle between all shows, wishlist shows, popular shows, and shows you will be attending.
The actual concert detail pages provide basic show information, a tickets link, and people who will be attending the show. You can also add comments and upload concert posters but the information. Artist pages display upcoming shows, fans, and You Tube videos. An interesting feature is the ability to browse the artist’s albums and songs and hear 30-second samples from the iTunes store. However, this feature should be on the main artist page instead of being buried in a secondary page link.
SonicLiving provides a variety of ways to access and share your calendars via RSS, iCal, Google Calendar, 30 Boxes and others. They also provide a variety of widgets you can put on your website, blog or social network profile to share your upcoming concerts.
The combination of tracking music concerts in addition to other events is a powerful one that similar services fail to deliver. If SonicLiving can fix some of the serious but easily correctable UI issues, they can be poised as a strong contender in the Concert 2.0 space.
Concert 2.0 - 12 Personalized Concert Listing Tools
Bands In Town: Slick Concert Tracking
After you register for your free account, you can manually add artists you wish to track or import your top artists directly from a Last.fm account. The “Shows” page displays all upcoming shows in your area though the use of a tag cloud. The service utilizes a very slick AJAX interface that allows you to dynamically change the date range, distance from city, max ticket prices and label type to update the tag cloud. Artists that match your favorites are shown in larger type so you can find them easier. Simply rollover an artist name to see a show summary and click it to view the show detail page.
BIT also provides a calendar view that quickly lets you see shows from favorite artists and shows you want to attend.
Show detail pages contain all the relevant information such as time, place, ticket info, a Google Map and show poster. Users have the ability to add events and edit venue and artist information. You can view other user pages and see their upcoming shows and favorites, but at this time there is no way to add them as a friend or leave them messages.
Of all the concert tracking tools I’ve reviewed, BIT has one of the best UI’s. Aside from some light community features, the only issue I really have with the service is adding artists. While a Last.fm import helps build your favorites, it appears they only use your top 50 artists. To add more artists, you need to go directly to their artist page or enter them manually. They need to explore more ways of quickly adding artists to your favorites, either by integrating that functionality into rollovers or letting you expand the range of artists pulled from Last.fm.
View My Bandsintown Page
see also: Concert 2.0 - 12 Personalized Concert Listing Tools
Last week I covered a variety of Last.fm visualizations. One of the most promising of the bunch is an online utility called LastGraph. When I first tried to use the service it was offline. Now its back up, working great and sporting some cool new features. Basically, LastGraph takes your Last.fm listening behavior within a certain date range and creates a really beautiful wave graph of it. The updated version now lets you select from a variety of color schemes in addition to the classic Ocean theme. I did have problems opening the generated PDFs in Preview but when i rasterized them via Photoshop, they showed up no problem. There is also a Flickr group to upload your own graphs. Have a friend on Last.fm? For their next birthday, use this tool to generate a giant poster of their listening behavior.
Music is a terrific motivator while working out and a new service called Prime Condition (beta) takes it to the next level. The service allows you to design your own workout routine and download a customized mp3 mix. The unique thing about prime Condition is that the workout mix contains a female voice-over that instructs you throughout your workout. The voice provides basic instructions on good form, counts your reps, tells you when to rest, and informs you on what’s coming next.
You create workouts using a cool Web 2.0-style configuration tool. You build a routine by selecting exercises from a set of body area specific menus. For each exercise you can set the number of reps, rep speed and rest time. As you continue to build your workout routine, the service displays the workout’s total time. If you want to mix cardio into your routine, there is an intuitive time-based UI that allows you to adjust the intensity level. For instance after five minutes of biking you can increase intensity, after the next five minutes increase it more, etc. Once you have designed your workout, Prime Condition will let you mix a playlist and generate a downloadable mp3 file with your new workout.
The service provides a free tier that limits your workout to 45 minutes and uses their own music for your mix. For $9 a month you can upload your own mp3s, get queue priority, and encode higher quality workouts. You can also make your workouts public and browse workouts from other members via a tag cloud. The UI is clean and simple but sould use some better organization and consistency. Unfortunately, it does not seem like there is an easy way to share/email your workouts with another person. If you already use a portable player when working out, and are looking for a little extra motivation, you may want to Prime Condition a spin.
Check out my workout mix…
Pandora just launched the redesign of their web site. Aside from some slick Web 2.0 style design (round corners, gradients, faded patterns, etc.) the site features fully integrated advertising. Not a bad idea given the potential for impending rate hikes for streaming radio. Now I’m not a huge fan of advertising on the web, but Pandora’s implementation is pretty interesting and effective. Ads on most sites look like they are just slapped into a space on the page with little relation to the overall page and many users simply ignore standard skyscraper or square ads due to “banner blindness”. Pandora’s integrated approach makes the advertising and page seem like a cohesive whole.
The ad integration includes (not in all cases) a short message in the upper left, branding in the upper right, a skyscraper ad on the right, a background image towards the bottom and right and a text ad directly beneath the main content area. Many advertisers also have a branded Pandora station as well. As you progress though songs, the ads reload and cycle on the page.
I have never been a huge music video person, mainly because I find that most programmed stations simply do not reflect my taste. Additionally, the hunt and peck method currently available is great for finding a specific video, but does not provide much in terms of music discovery. That is the promise of of personalized music video. News broke last week that Last.fm, the music recommendation community, will be launching a video service soon. The service will allow user to create their own personalized video channels based on their listening behavior. Initially the service plans to start with independent labels and eventually extend their existing radio agreements to bring in content from the major labels. Last.fm’s press release states their more ambitious long term goal, “Last.fm aims eventually to have every music video ever made on the site, from the latest hits to underground obscurities to classics from the past.”
In the meantime, there are a variety of new tools and services that use your Last.fm data to create personalized YouTube video stations. Lets take a closer look:
Last.tv is a very basic service that allows you to enter your Last.fm username (or anybody else). Just click the play button and a customized video channel based on your Last.fm charts opens in a new browser window. You can also extend the station further to include both your friends and neighbors as station influencers.
The interface is very straightforward consisting of just the video name, a next button, and standard embedded YouTube video display and playback controls. Aside from some strange metadata mismatches, The service does a pretty good job using my Last.fm artists and serving up appropriate videos. An added benefit of using YouTube as the video source is that you often get to see live performances, interviews and alternate versions that you would never come across in more traditional music programming. Many YouTube mashups I’ve come across often suffer from choppy streaming, but Last.tv seems to have pretty smooth playback overall. Even when you decide to skip to the next clip, the current video still plays while Last.tv retrieves the next video.
While Last.tv does a good job of loading the next clip when you skip a video, it does not seem to preload the next video as the current video winds down. This results in a short but annoying delay between continuous videos. It would also be nice to see what video is coming next. Repeated videos is a consistent issue. This could have something to do with the fact that YouTube has multiple versions of the same video but Last.fm sees them as distinct clips. I have also found that on many occasions i get back-to-back videos from the same artist (though some people may like this). The ability to block videos from appearing again would be a great feature. It would especially come in handy when there are metadata mismatches or scrobbled items you have no interest in. Surprisingly, there is a complete lack of any easy method to share your channel on you web site or blog.
Overall Last.tv is a great way to have a personalized music video experience.
LastTube (beta), allows you to watch YouTube’s content based on your Recently Listened Tracks scrobbled to Last.fm. Unlike Last.tv’s continuous playback approach, LastTube presents you with a list of artist matching videos from You Tube. Just enter your Last.fm username and the Flash application pulls in your recently listened to tracks and associated YouTube videos.
The ability to access a filtered list of videos based on my listening behavior is a great feature. Playback of videos on a PC is good but on a Mac its very choppy and i find myself needing to view the actual YouTube video page to get any quality playback. The overall UI is clean, simple and easy-to-use.
Even though the service is still in an early beta, LastTube’s approach is limiting. The inability to create a continuous playback station and lack of any tools that allow you to share your personalized station are major drawbacks. By taking some lessons learned from Last.tv and combining them with the filtered list approach spearheaded here, LastTube can be on its way to a more promising offering.
I Love Music Video
I Love Music Video (ILMV) is an artist-focused service that lets you find YouTube videos based on your Last.fm charts. Enter your Last.fm username and you get a page that displays your top artists. Each artist in the list has its own page that displays their top tracks based on Last.fm’s data. When you find a song you like you can click it to see if there are any available video matches and play the video right in the page.
Browsing videos by artist-track is a very good idea however ILMV makes this a pretty frustrating endeavor. Instead of showing me which tracks have video matches, you must click on each track name to see if any videos exist. It would be much better if there was an indicator next to the track name that shows how many matches there are and save me the time of figuring it out for myself. Like LastTube, ILMV takes a hunt and peck approach instead of offering any type of personalized station with continuous playback. There also is no easy way to get back to your “profile” page as any reference to it disappears as you begin visiting other pages in the site. The artist-track approach is promising but there is little else here that adds any value. Since Last.fm already presents information in this format, ILMV will likely be rendered irrelevant with the launch of Last.fm’s video offering.
Personalized music video is in its infancy. It will be very interesting to see how this space develops over the coming months. Last.fm certainly has made a name for itself with its personalized radio offering, now lets see how they do with the video. In the meantime, the services listed above can provide a glimpse of things to come.