|Concerning groupthink and community guidelines. | 22 jun 08 9:36 a.m.
Whew! Things are especially busy these days as we continue to develop new features while dutifully squashing bugs and optimizing performance to keep things silky smooth (no fun moshing if thesixtyone runs like a slideshow, right?). Since so many of you have asked: our official peak was around 9400 listeners. Moving along, I wanted to make this final post before we move thesixtyone updates to our new dev blog.
One of the most unique aspects of thesixtyone is how we employ methods of collaborative filtering that allow listeners (not stuffy suits in a boardroom) to help discern the gems from the sea of new music hitting the web. Our motivation for music reaching our homepage simply comes down to what's new, exciting, and sincere, not what's going to sell more plastic discs at Walmart.
It is our interest, however, to ensure that our homepage is an accurate reflection of the overall community. While I can appreciate the effort and creativity that go into organized activities like "upload parties," it's important that songs that reach our homepage come organically from the universal community -- the only way we can reliably shed light on good new music is when listeners make independent decisions. Groupthink (mob mentality) is dangerous because it drastically limits the voice of the community to specific subsets of power users, which is exactly why so much injustice pollutes today's record business.
Another issue that's come to our attention is preventing spam, curbing abuse, and protecting user privacy. We originally implemented an "open" comment wall system because we felt it would help drive interesting conversations about new music. On the other hand, anyone familiar with Myspace can tell you how a simple commenting feature can also morph into a very nasty spam headache. I probably read hundreds of email complaints every week from listeners who love thesixtyone but can't use their walls because they've become inundated with irrelevant messages from artists and listeners. These three comments probably sum it up best:
"Attn: If you spam my wall, not only will I delete your comment, but I will block you from commenting. I'm on thesixtyone almost all the time when I'm at work. Trust me, if I'm interested, I will find you on my own."
"This dude's one of the most prolific spammers on here. I just came back after a 1 month hiatus and he's got 8-10 messages on my wall (just cleared all the crap up, Punts gets 2nd place and byadourgroupwtf gets 3rd). I'm not even a subscriber. And let's not get into the tuneboxes. I pretty much can't use my Tunebox anymore...it's like it got butt raped."
"I started blocking people but then realized that I spend way too much time deleting comments and blocking and I shouldn't have to work so hard just to stop idiots from ruining my musical safari. Don't they know that humans don't like being spammed and that it's all just empty noise? Music discovery here shouldn't be about being the most aggressive spammer...to me, spamming thesixtyone is like slathering ketchup all over your fillet minion."
I think this also brings up another reason why we're concerned about the growing trend of artists leaving mass-messaged spam indiscriminately on listener (and artist!) walls. Our fundamental mechanics are designed to naturally bring the good stuff to the surface -- this isn't a cluttered directory like Myspace (ok, no more Myspace references...), so artists aren't really taking advantage of thesixtyone when they do this. Most of the top artists on thesixtyone (with huge listener bases) simply uploaded their music and allowed thesixtyone to work for them.
As for curbing abuse and protecting user privacy, it's become evident that we need to start enforcing our Terms of Service -- if thesixtyone's going to be a legitimate, trusted ecosystem for a new music industry, we need to take these issues very seriously. Consequently, we've recently implemented an automated system designed to detect and notify in the event of suspicious activity. We've had to ban 6 users (3 listeners, 3 artists) for repeated abuses that have been in clear violation of our ToS. Our general policy is to not disclose this information; however, since rumors have bubbled up regarding the inactivity of certain high-profile users, we've decided to make a one-time exception and publish the list to clear up remaining confusion:
boris van luger (artist)
melanie fudge (artist)
It's very important to note that it's never fun having to address this issue, but adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards spam, abuse, and privacy is something that all burgeoning services (i.e. Xbox Live, Digg, YouTube) must take seriously and is ultimately in the best interest of the community.
Moving on to a more positive note: new features! As I wrote earlier, we really do appreciate the time and effort some of our listeners spend organizing activities on thesixtyone. While things like bump/upload parties aren't really in sync with thesixtyone's mission, we realized it'd be awesome if we designed a more constructive and formalized way for people to still get together with like-minded folks and socialize around new music they love. That's all I can say for now, but keep a look out in the next few months. We really think this will take what community means on thesixtyone to a whole new level -- I can't wait to share it with you all!
As I roundup this unusually long announcement, I wanted to thank you all for having the courage and patience in taking an active approach to discovering music you love. thesixtyone began as a humble dorm room experiment, and it's been very exciting watching how it's rekindled people's excitement for music. I've decided to turn comments off for this thread, mainly because we're still just 2 people, and, time being such a limited resource, it's really important that we shift our focus on the future as we continue to deliver an exciting music adventure for you all here on thesixtyone.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.