I’ve been watching app.net for a while since Dalton’s ‘audacious’ post about. I really liked what he proposed. I was one of the early adopters of Twitter’s API. I started Tweekly.fm in early 2009, being under the first 500 apps. Now there are more than 3 million registered apps.
I loved working with it, and like most other developers were really excited about what it could become. When Twitter announced annotations, I was really excited. This meant anyone could embed any metadata into posts! An example of something I thought I could easily do on top of Twitter’s API was related to Tweekly.fm. I could embed music information into the posts. Anyone could then mine it for their use, contributing back to an ecosystem.
Alas, that never came to fruition. 2010 was the first and last time Twitter held a developer’s conference. I understand their choice, but I don’t like it. Nothing against them. I still use Twitter daily and probably will for quite a while still.
Now that app.net came along and promised what I wanted, I witheld at first, checking it out. I even started contributing to the API spec before I backed. My biggest worry was kickstarting the network effect. I’m not paying for an awesome API if no one is going to use what I build. Dalton and co pulled out the stops and even provided an alpha version on top of the API. Respect. To give them the benefit of the doubt and really wanting something like this, I decided to back. Even if a small community of tech (hipsters) use the API, it is still the worth a year’s tier.
Now that it got funded, I’m really looking forward to the following. I don’t think people realise what amazing things can be built on it, and what is to be expected of it. My favourite API features: Annotations and Filters.
As mentioned previously, annotations allow any post to be embedded with meta information. Now: Filters allow any stream to filtered based on a lot of criteria. Filters are unique to a user and can be taken with them to any app.net app.
So, let me give you a few example of the power of this:
1) Don’t like it when people cross-post to app.net from Twitter or Facebook? Create a filter that discards all tweets with sources from other social networks. Now you have a pure experience.
“App.net will combine the simplicity of cloud infrastructure with the power of web frameworks to deliver the best platform for developing social web applications.”
Now take that idea to something as follows:
2) Let’s start a photo sharing app. Instead of having to build my own social infrastructure, I tack onto app.net. When posting photos, I embed captions, urls, etc. Now in the app itself, doesn’t matter who you follow, I can add a filter to ONLY retrieve this apps photos from your existing app.net graph.
Now, going even further, I can add more filters to that stream as well, only retrieving users you actually chose to ‘follow’ on this service if you don’t want to follow your existing app.net graph.
The potentials are endless. Currently developers are only building the normal suite of apps: ios, desktop, etc. Once the API comes out of alpha, we’ll start seeing the so called ‘killer’ apps that use these new API features.
On the other side. I’m not naive to disregard that app.net might still fail. Inside, its an echo chamber: an early adopter community of great people. Convincing people to join this network for $50 a year (if it stays this) is going to be app.net’s biggest problem. I suspect if a killer app comes along, users will pay. However from a UX perspective it might be a bit jarring, wanting to sign up for a service, but then having to resort to paying for ANOTHER service they know nothing about. Perhaps, developers can handle the payments on behalf of app.net for continuity’s sake.
Either way. I am excited about it. I want it to succeed.
I have a Python API wrapper for it out on github that uses the current available alpha API endpoints.
I love SoundCloud. Discovering artists and being able to share my music with others. I’ve been using soundcloud next for a few weeks now (and have submitted feedback). However, here is a more extensive critique of soundcloud’s redesign.
First, the bad news:
1) Waveforms just doesn’t load. It’s horribly buggy and ends up looking shoddy. Examples:
2) Genre doesn’t display in the feed. I follow a lot of artists, and some create various types of music. I don’t always have time to listen to all of it, and depending on my mood, sometimes not in the mood for certain types of music.
vs old souncloud:
3) No clear distinction between genre and tags on song pages.
Genre holds the same value as tags (even in the old soundcloud). In other words, clicking on a tag sends you “tag/rock” and clicking on the genre in sends you to “tag/rock” as well. So, I understand in a certain way to deprecate “genre” to just being another tag, but as you can see above, it looks stupid. It looks like I “accidentally” added “rock” twice.
4) No more download information on songs.
To a certain extent, I understand removing download information. Plays is a good enough indicator. It will most likely always be higher than downloads. And, some artists on soundcloud hit the download limit, in which the download indicator then doesn’t add value too. However, I liked it, mainly for my own artist page. I now have to go through a click to my stats page to see how many a specific song of mine has been downloaded. Considering that the old soundcloud returned this information, I don’t see it as any technical challenge to allow users to just set a tickbox to see it. Turn it off be default.
5) Some parts of the site is unresponsive and slow.
The new notification box at the top is a bit slow sometimes. When I click, it loads the part of the box right against the toolbar. Only once the rest of the information is loaded, the rest of it shows. It’s a small amount of lag, but long enough to be annoying. It is however substantially better than previously seeing activity related to you.
I checked the network activities for the stream page and user page.
On the stream pages, your recent activities are displayed in another box. When then clicking on the notification box, it doesn’t load your activities again. Which makes sense, considering the data has already been called.
However. On the user page (where there is no recent activity box), activities are still being called. It should then be expected that when clicking the notification box that it shouldn’t send another callback for you activities (compared to behaviour on the stream page). It does however, creating pointless lag.
Any SoundCloud developer want to elaborate on this? I can understand as a design choice to send another call (for more recent activities than when the page loaded), but if the stream page doesn’t do it, why does the user page?
6) Where’s my spotlight tab?
This is probably the most worrying thing for me. I haven’t seen any feedback to suggest it is coming back. I bought a subscription specifically for this. I have a lot of songs, so I want to put my best foot forward and show what I can do. Hopefully this will return.
7) No genre or music tags on user pages.
Similar to the feed, there is no information on genre or tags on user pages whatsoever. The only way know what music a person makes when they follow you (or land on their page) is to either read their bio, or actually having to play a song. If the song is new and you don’t know what it is, you have to click through. Due to this, I haven’t followed a lot of users. Even if they want to forego displaying, how about a tag cloud underneath the picture?
8) No more mini-update box.
This is much easier to read and quickly digest than the stats page.
Now for good news (or things I like):
1) Better stream.
Much less visually noisy.
2) Recent Activity Box.
Previously I had to click through to my activity, or have my activity be lost within the main feed. I like this.
3) Better looking waveforms.
When it actually loads fine, it looks better than the previous iteration.
4) Better commenting.
By far the best improvement.
The previous version often obscured most of the waveform and tried to display most comments. It was ugly. I often just switched off the comments.
Now it displays under the waveform and doesn’t display every single comment on a popular song.
5) Larger pictures.
Visual elements add to my music experience. I like this. Probably not for everyone.
6) Better album/set listening.
It gives a nice idea/feel of where in the set you are.
As well ass better information about different songs. Compared to old version:
7) Concurrent listening.
I can now move about soundcloud while listening to a specific song (instead of it closing the song). Nice. However, I’m a bit unsure how obvious this display is. To me it wasn’t immediately obvious that it would return me to my current song I’m listening to.
Any ideas on how to improve this?
8) Reposting and changing of vocab.
A favourite is now a ‘like’ and you can now repost songs to the stream for others to listen to. I feel ‘like’ is entails a smaller investment of interest and should hopefully increase its usage on the site. In other words: I ‘like’ a lot more songs. I have fewer ‘favourites’.
All in all. Still a great experience. The biggest issues are for me: Bringing back spotlight tab (or at least tell us that it wasn’t going away anyway), less buggyness and more tag/genre information on the stream and user pages.
What do you think of the new soundcloud? A fan?
EDIT (11th August):
It seems SoundCloud has added genre information back to tracks in the stream and user pages!
I actively consume new music. I love discovering new sounds.
For quite some time my method was mainly as follows:
1) Load up Last.fm and see the artists they recommend. Click through to the pages.
2) I then check what the artist is about and then see what the top songs are.
3) If last.fm has a preview I listen to a few.
4) If not, I click through to the track page, to hopefully find a youtube video or hype machine link to the song. If there is none, I usually end my search and move on.
This became rather laborious. An artist has music up somewhere on the web, whether its on YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, Rdio, Grooveshark, hypemachine, Last.fm, ex.fm (you catch my drift). I don’t want to make effort to listen to a new artist’s best songs (to determine whether I should do the effort to actually get their music): it should just be easily available.
I was literally going to start and make my own web version of this: pull in stats, pull in music from all the sources, so that when I search for an artist I can listen to their stuff with ease.
It’s amazing! It’s very similar to what I wanted. It’s Last.fm, but pulling in music in a music player. What’s also great, you can load up your existing music and it will augment it by adding the artist pictures and album pics as well. Now when I listen to M83, I can also see related artists, and quickly jump through to listen to them!
It works like a normal music player. You can add playlists, etc. It however also has automatic playlists autogenerated based on a massive amounts of filters! It’s awesome! (Just tested: Mood - Energetic). Not bad. It pulled in songs from YouTube and SoundCloud. (Powered by EchoNest).
It’s still buggy here and there, but I probably haven’t been this excited about a music app like this before! Do try it out. It’s open-source as well.
With some interest, I’ve started following the quantified self movement recently.
In short, through the use of various technologies, tools and apps, you can monitor what your body is doing, and act accordingly. It’s gaining popularity, with products like Fitbit and Nike+ Fuelband. Along with services like 23 and me (genetic testing) is ushering in a new era where we can pre-empt illnesses. The trajectory is ramping up to a point (where I believe), there will be a product/device embedded in you that will know your body and track everything that happens.
As Paul Graham said in his post about “frighteningly ambitious startup ideas”, it just feels so incredibly obvious that this is where it will head. Along with wondering why we were allowed to drive pieces of iron at speeds we weren’t made to handle, I believe that in the future, we will look back and wonder: “So how did people stop illnesses and disease? When the symptoms arrived?! Wow. Backwards!”. A future I see, is a future where such a product is able to monitor your body and heal it whenever something is out of place. Sort of like a nanotechnological supplement for the immune system. We rely so much on other microbes in our body that isn’t “technically” us, another supplement will help.
Technology is not there yet, and the quantified self movement is rather nascent still in the mainstream. The problem I do see though that these types of devices will have to overcome, is the problem of people “knowing” what their status is. People don’t want to be privy to their mortality. It is echoed in a simple philosophical question: if you can know when you are going to die, would you want to know?
With stuff like 23 and me, you choose that gamble. Do I sign up and discover I’m predisposed to some types of cancer, or do I choose to live in relative (blissful) ignorance until the problem kicks me in the face? It’s not an easy answer, and I suspect people will only do it if there is some certainty and pre-emptive benefits of it. ie, don’t tell a person he has a 5% chance to get throat cancer. Don’t just tell them: tell them what they need to do, so they don’t need to worry.
So I suspect this is where the quantified self movement will have to go before it becomes mainstream. Before the “automated healing” step can take place, quantified self devices will need to tell us how to be healthier in a way that appeals to everyone. It’s an intermediate step before quantified self devices don’t even need to tell us anything: it will just keep us healthy. Although the automated healing idea is rather pie in the sky, the current slew of quantified self devices will need to take into account what is telling us so that it can have a beneficial effect to health.
Do you think this is true? Is the market of active quantified selfers limited at the moment due to this?