Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Can Quit Myspace Any Time I Like

Quit Myspace Day was on the 24th October this year. Did you quit? Are you thinking of it?

If you didn't hear about it, Quit Myspace Day came into being with this superb article written last year by music industry academic Andrew Dubber. In it he outlines the root cause of the one thing about Myspace on which everyone can agree - it's a bit rubbish. He also gave them a year to clean their act up, failing which, he declared that there should be a Quit Myspace Day where we all up and leave.

Due to the flocking nature of social networking, Myspace has, as Dubber puts it, every fricking band on the planet, to say nothing of a large proportion of the promoters, studios, merchandisers and other ancillary music types. With the right strategy it could be the best music site in the world, both for musicians and music fans. But it is not.

Instead of choosing to leverage that userbase in order to provide a service focussed on the needs of the music world, the Myspace strategy seems to remain bound up with general social networking, deals with major labels, TV tie-ins and the sale of advertising. Or something. All I know is that whenever I log on there is an awful lot of complete crap I have to mentally filter out in order to find the bits which are useful to me.

Dubber expands on this in his excellent follow-up piece, in which he examines the case of drummer, songwriter, and - during the day - Myspace Music Project Manager, Steve Clark. Clark, apparently, has been championing Dubber's ideas within Myspace, but, frustratingly, has been getting absolutely nowhere. It's pretty clear why not: their business model has nothing to do with music. It's about advertisers. Users aren't the customer, the advertiser is.

From this perspective, there is no need to actually supply the user with anything more than a bare minimum of what they might want - just enough to keep them there. They already have the critical mass of users - even if it is just "every fricking band on the planet" plus ancillary types, that's still a very large number to woo advertisers with. And as Dubber admits, in the section of his follow-up where he lists the remaining advantages that Myspace has to offer, this weight of numbers does give excellent SEO. A completely new band setting up both a Myspace page and a website may find that it takes a long time for their site to start appearing at the top of search results for them; not so with the Myspace page. This alone is not to be underestimated as a feature.

Yet their site remains butt-ugly, brain-numbingly frustrating and awkward to use. It's an embarrassment when compared with what is offered by the likes of Bandcamp and Soundcloud, newer services aimed squarely at meeting the needs of online musicians and doing so incredibly well. The best you can say about the recent changes on Myspace is that they are not quite as clunky and awkward as they used to be, but that's only because they had such a piss-poor starting point. Simple things are still hard; hard things are impossible. It is still the opposite of how it should be.

Myspace did not clean their act up in the given year, so a few days ago, as I type, Dubber posted this: the time has come. Der Tag. Quit Myspace day. There was a hashtag - #quitmyspace - on twitter, which made interesting following. A few people did quit. Others, like myself, mused about it and did nothing.  Mostly, nothing much seemed to happen.

Trombonist Andy Derrick wrote an interesting blog post opposing the idea. It is not at all clear that Derrick understood a single word of Dubber's writing about Myspace - the most charitable view is that he didn't read any of it, though why he felt the need to be so rude about Dubber is another mystery. However, Derrick does make one good point: while the advantages of staying on Myspace aren't nearly as good as they should be, there is equally no particular advantage in leaving. His key point is this: "promoters will happily look at a myspace page to find suitable acts to book, they just want to hear the music."

The people he is talking about have never heard of Bandcamp. They don't care about Soundcloud. They aren't interested in the future of music on the internet - they don't want to know any more about the internet than they absolutely have to, and they are quite happy that way. They just want to find a band to book, and being as it does (mostly) still have every fricking band on the planet, they see Myspace as the catalogue. They use Myspace as a verb.

I too did not quit Myspace. The next day I got an email there out of the blue from a promoter I have never met, offering me a gig at a venue in Camden which I wouldn't mind playing in. Mind you, the same email was spammed to about fifty other bands, so I don't feel particularly special or anything.

That's Myspace for you all over.

It's a reverse tragedy of the commons. I'd love to quit Myspace, knowing that I wouldn't damage myself in doing so. But until everyone else does, I risk shooting myself in the foot. Those who have quit all seem to have one thing in common - they are doing fine without it. I'm not. And if all it takes for the occasional random gig to get chucked my way is for me to not delete my account, that makes sense to me. Even if I only take some of those gigs.

I'd like to quit myspace, and maybe one day soon I will. But I'm going to wait. In the meantime, in the spirit of Dubber, I would like - redundantly - to declare today, and every day, Not Using Myspace Any More Than Absolutely Necessary day. I can quit any time I like.

Honest.

Posted via email from I Am Taking My Ball And I Am Going Home

Friday, October 8, 2010

Facebook Apps Steal Your Phonebook - Do They Also Corrupt It?

If you haven't already, go and read this article by Charles Arthur in the Guardian, where he explains how Facebook apps on the Android and iPhone platforms now copy your entire phonebook back to Facebook without asking or notifying you.

So even if you have not given Facebook your number yourself, all it takes is one Facebook friend who has both your number and a smartphone, and they'll get it anyway. Regardless of your privacy settings, they'll then give it out to anyone else you have friended on Facebook, so long as they have managed to match it up correctly.

The privacy issues are obvious. What about the data integrity issue? The Guardian article already covers the problem of incorrect matching, which is bad enough. But what they do with people like me who are a bit slack about deleting old defunct numbers?

Say I have an old non-working number for Alice, who I haven't been in touch with for years anyway. My friend Bob is still close to her, and so he does have her new number in his contacts list. We both log into Facebook on our phones. Facebook grabs Alice's old number from me, which it has not seen before. Since Facebook thinks this is a new number, it helpfully updates Bob's phonebook with it.

Unless Bob's phone is smart enough not to trust Facebook and adds the new number as a secondary rather than overwriting the old one with it, Bob has now lost Alice's actual number.

Does anyone know what happens in this case?

Posted via email from I Am Taking My Ball And I Am Going Home

HTC Desire Gripe #1 And Solution - Call Confirm

I've just got my shiny new HTC Desire phone. It's my first touchscreen device and while it is utterly gorgeous in many superficial ways there are numerous issues with the way the thing actually works.

(Boy do I feel old right now.)

The worst thing so far is the number of people I have called by mistake. It is not a large number, but it is a non-zero number, and as such, unacceptably large: that sort of thing has never happened to me before with any previous handset. Here's how it happened.

It didn't take long to copy my contacts over from my previous phone, as I had already backed them up to the PC. That was easy and quick. After I had done so I found numerous numbers in my contacts list that I had no idea I had - these appear to have been automagically gathered from Facebook.

I was curious, so I tried scrolling through my whole (now rather large) list of contacts to see how many new numbers there were. I didn't get very far through the list before I called someone at random. A friend, thank god. I hung up immediately, as it was a bit late to call that person really, but I knew I could explain if I had to. Still embarrassing though

Like a fool I went back to scrolling through the list - how stupid of me to want to scroll through my contacts list on my own phone - why would anyone want to do that? Of course, it happened again, this time with someone whose number I happen to have but who I really really did not want to miscall at 1am UK time. Or ever.

This was now seriously, seriously embarrassing. I was feeling physically sick at this point.

I was lucky, as I only miscalled UK numbers. It could have been much more costly than mere embarrassment: now, via the black magic of Facebook, I have phone numbers in there from internet friends all over the world. I really can't afford to miscall Australia.

Here's why it is so easy to call people by mistake on the HTC Desire: the touchscreen action required to scroll through the contacts list - sort of drag your finger up and down on it - is incredibly similar to the touchscreen action required to call someone in the list. Tapping a list item does not merely select it - it actually goes ahead and calls that number.

This is a serious problem.

The sensible fix would be to make it so that tapping a list item just selects it. If I want to call someone I'm happy to press the big green 'Call' button. I can't find a way to turn the call-on-select feature off, and I can't understand why it is there, unless it is a deliberate and cynical ploy to get lots of people to make lots of potentially costly random unwanted calls to friends, family and random people they happen to know on Facebook.

Android being android, there is an app that fixes this - it is called 'Call Confirm', and I just installed it. It intercepts the 'select to call' thing on the phone and brings up a dialog box saying 'Really Call Y/N'. Great, problem solved.

But this problem should not have been there in the first place.

Posted via email from I Am Taking My Ball And I Am Going Home