Somesongs (what can be done?)

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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Niveous » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:00 am

Spud wrote:I don't think somesongs needs flashy graphics as a marketing device. It never did. t just needs people to use it. If it is made useful again, people will do that.


I think Somesongs needs to attract the musician more. A dedicated core of reviewers (mods) and the ability to modify your band profile page a little (a picture, a blurb, the ability to put your best reviews up for all to see) may help. If bands feel like they have a little homepage where they can post up new songs, it may be the boost somesongs needs.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby roymond » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:16 am

AJOwens wrote:I don't know where to begin. I guess I'll start by cautioning you not to jump to conclusions. If the site has lost its popularity, that might be due to bugs or administrative issues, but all we really know is that not enough people use it. To fix that, we need to attract users.

Actually, a lot of people know a lot about why it isn't being used these days. Since the site has been broken, I wouldn't expect many people advertising it. It's broken, it needs to be fixed before finding new users. That's the purpose of this thread.
The second step is to make sure that when someone visits for the first time, they don't think, "I've stumbled into someone else's house." The main URL takes you, in effect, directly to some kitchen where strangers appear to be having breakfast. You think, "What am I doing here?" and excuse yourself.

OK, everyone has different expectations and comfort levels with things like this. I love dropping in for breakfast and meeting new people. A meal is my preferred social venue. That's exactly why I love seeing a listing of tracks to listen to without any muck telling me why or what else to do. Rather than static, I see it in motion and inviting. I want my name up there. I want votes. I want some feedback. I want to hear what Tuuur posted because he's been evolving. I read other peoples' comments on other peoples' tracks because its engaging and often hilarious. Again, not lately, because it's broken. But that's what somesongs was and can be again.
Better separation of purpose is needed. There's not enough contrast between headings and body, tabs and main page, central area and sidebar...

Yes, textbook guidelines are nice and applicable, but that's not the stuff that's killed the site. I guess you missed Lunkhead's link. All he's doing is duplicating it as an academic exercise, and most of what I'm doing is lobbying to keep it going...step by step. Making improvements to both function and form, but let's get functions going.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby jb » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:23 am

I can tell you that the way the site works and looks are both very specific and intentional decisions on Jeff's part. If you want it to work the way some other site works, you should probably just start posting on that other site. And I think you're going to have to hire a couple of front-end developers if you want to get it working anywhere close to what thesixtyone had going on. Not that I encourage that, because I think thesixtyone is a little bit ridiculous and rewards obssession way too much.

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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Reist » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:39 am

Alright, I'm convinced that somesongs isn't going to be modernized. But I still think it's ugly and could be tweaked to be more user-friendly. So I compiled a list of the things I hate about its interface. Feel free to discuss, and if anyone with somesongs power hears my cries, I would appreciate if you'd consider my suggestions. Because I think they're quite valid.

Ladies and gentlemen, Andrew Reist presents:
A LIST OF THINGS WE CAN EASILY FIX
(because it might be more productive than just arguing)



1. The statistics page. There's no need for this. It's information for the sake of information, and it's just another link crowding up the main page.
Image


2. The sign up page. The note from Jefff is hardly needed, as the details are summed up on the info page. It just crowds up an otherwise alright page. Also, do we need "a good book", "a good movie", and "a good website" filling up four slots? As with the stats page, it's just information for the sake of information. People don't like being quizzed to death, and I've never searched someone's page on a music website to find out what books they think are good.
Image


3. The search page. Do you see that little link? Yeah, that little one at the bottom of the search for artist box - list all artists. That's a useful link! If we put a link to that on the main page, we don't need the "search for artists" box in the search section. That search box is already on the "list all artists" page. Mind you, the "list all artists" page seems to be having some issues, but at least it's useful, as opposed to the stats page, which really should be removed from the front page.
Image


4. The recent activity page. Honestly, the only recent activity I care about is "recent comments", since those songs are most likely the ones that will get my attention (as they already prompted a response from another user). Actually combining "recent comments" and "recent replies to comments" into a single list "recent posts" would make the most sense, I think. And "recently rated songs" can go. I really don't see the point of that, since most songs that are getting rated will be on the front page anyway.
Image


5. The past week's tops page. I didn't even know this existed. And I kind of wish that it didn't. I only found it by accident, and it caused me confusion and distress, without providing me with any useful information or help. I vote we just get rid of this page altogether.
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6. The contact page. Minor gripe here - why do we need all those html tags listed below a contact form? As with many problems I listed above - information for the sake of information is ugly and useless, traits which somesongs needs less of.
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7. The message board. This is a little depressing. There were three topics posted in 2009. Is there any reason for this message board to stick around? I would vote no.
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8. The info page. I crushed a few pictures together to sum up how the info page works. It's unorganized, ugly, and filled with useless information. Instead of claiming that mp3.com doesn't work with somesongs, then updating and claiming that it works, then claiming that it's dead ... why not just delete anything that mentions mp3.com? This page could be streamlined easily into a FAQ page, with some vital information about participation above the questions. Because seriously, a functioning website can't have an info page like this.
Image


9. The first time page. This can be summed up in the FAQ section and deleted from the front page.
Image


There you go. It doesn't have to be totally revamped, but anyone who says the site is working to its full potential is off their rocker. I actually like the minimalist look of somesongs, so it would be good if we made it fulfill that minimalist potential, instead of being bogged down by useless links and information for the sake of information.

EDIT: Crap, I didn't even notice that link bar on the right hand side.


10. The lists on the right hand side. Personally, I'd cut down this list to a few options as to draw more attention to each remaining choice. I would leave top songs, lost songs, and random songs. That pretty much covers all the buttons that draw my interest. The others just clutter it up and convince me to click on none of the buttons at all. Also, why is the song search here, as well as in the search section? I'd cut it from the main page - if we have a prominent button that obviously says "search", people will find that if they're looking for something. And it would reduce clutter.
Image


11. The top left link. Why doesn't the top "somesongs" button link to the front page? It goes to the "info" page, which is pretty ridiculous since there's already a link to the info page at the bottom. We should link the "somesongs" button to the front page, and in doing so we can remove the "list songs" button.
Image


These are all pretty easy changes, and if we work through this like a checklist, I think that somesongs (while not modernized) can be far more user-friendly and actually maximize its potential as a minimalist website.
Last edited by Reist on Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby jb » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:49 am

I disagree with you about the statistics and the books/movies items. The statistics let me know how the site is doing-- I am invested in the site, and it encourages us to get invested in the group of music as a whole. You might not agree, but that's what I like about those stats.

The book/movie stuff lets me know who somebody is beyond what songs they like. Who are these people on this site? If I'm matching my music to them, why must I be restricted to music? I want to know something else about what they like, to see if we have something else in common or, if I'm not familiar with the book/movie, to find something else that *I* might like.

The other stuff, *shrug*. Just be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater because you took five minutes to scroll through a web site looking for things not to like. (Yeah, I made an assumption there, sorry if you are annoyed.)

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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby jb » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:52 am

Also, the "past week's tops" page was necessary because without it the same group of songs would always be displayed-- MC Frontalot and whatnot would always get the most ratings and the most number of GOOD ratings, and therefore camp out at the top of the all-time list. So you need to have time-bast ratings, and the all-time list shouldn't be the default. Tops for the past week is what Jeff chose.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Reist » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:17 pm

jb wrote:I disagree with you about the statistics and the books/movies items. The statistics let me know how the site is doing-- I am invested in the site, and it encourages us to get invested in the group of music as a whole. You might not agree, but that's what I like about those stats.

The books/movies thing is debatable, to be sure. I feel that the other points are much more important - that was more of a minor gripe. As for the stats, I disagree - the only stat that I found useful on there was "users (who have visited in the last 4 weeks)", which could be placed directly on the main page instead of crammed in (yet) another link on the main page.

jb wrote:The other stuff, *shrug*. Just be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater because you took five minutes to scroll through a web site looking for things not to like. (Yeah, I made an assumption there, sorry if you are annoyed.)

Yeah, I am a little annoyed, but at least you realize it. I used somesongs quite a bit a few years ago, and I genuinely want it to be improved. And this wasn't a five minute thing. I've had these gripes before, but I spent an hour compiling the things that have annoyed me about it in the past.

As I said multiple times above - somesongs claims to be about minimalism - providing an easy interface through which to interact with independent music. But it's not minimalist - it's big, ugly, and clunky. If it's going to reach its minimalist potential, we need to cut some things. And I'm standing by that.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby jb » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:24 pm

Reist wrote:Yeah, I am a little annoyed, but at least you realize it. I used somesongs quite a bit a few years ago, and I genuinely want it to be improved. And this wasn't a five minute thing. I've had these gripes before, but I spent an hour compiling the things that have annoyed me about it in the past.


I guess the bottom line is that whoever is willing to put the work in to make it live again, more power to them and I look forward to seeing what happens. I'm not, personally, willing to put in the time to work on it, so take whatever I have to say about it with that in mind.

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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby AJOwens » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:50 pm

roymond wrote:Actually, a lot of people know a lot about why it isn't being used these days. . .

OK, well, I've obviously stumbled into a breakfast in progress, spouted irrelevant remarks, and earned strange looks. Sorry about that. Carry on!
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Spud » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:02 pm

I would use it again if it was as simple and functional as somesongs used to be. If it had lot of visual crap designed to keep me entertained and distract me, I would not. I find comments like "I didn't even know it was there, and when I found it, I wish I hadn't" pretty bizarre. That means it was buried deep enough not to get in your way as a casual user, but available to those who are interested. Sounds like good design to me.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Lunkhead » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:12 pm

Generic wrote:But the one feature that sticks out in my mind is that you were only allowed to rate a certain number of songs a day. The idea behind this was to encourage you to be frugal with your recommendations (and also to discourage abuse), but I felt like it had the unfortunate side effect of distracting from the music itself.


First of all, I haven't added features like that. I haven't done anything to the original somesongs. The whole notion of me doing anything with somesongs.com is all completely hypothetical still, which is why I'm interested in what people think about whether it's even possible to resucitate it.

Second of all, that's only one specific detail about how thesixtyone.com chose to implement the concepts I was talking about. I didn't mean that I wanted to implement all the same concepts as thesixtyone.com in exactly the same way, so I think you were jumping to conclusions there. I don't think their site was perfect or anything, but it did seem to be effective in building an active userbase, so I think there must have been something to what they were doing that's worth looking at.

Spud wrote:Even if I WAS into the visual chaos and "come on in, you'll figure it out as you go" mentality that typifies video games, I would find it wildly inappropriate as a direction to take somesongs, which has more in common visually with Microsoft Excel than thesixtyone.
...
I don't think somesongs needs flashy graphics as a marketing device. It never did. t just needs people to use it. If it is made useful again, people will do that.


I didn't say "video game", and I don't think thesixtyone.com was really like a "video game" per se. I think by "game" I just meant something that makes using the site feel like play, like fun, like it's rewarding, like there are goals you can accomplish, some of which are presented to you in an easy to understand fashion. I think it's perfectly feasible to introduce some of those concepts of giving people encouragement to participate without introducing visual chaos or flashy graphics.

roymond wrote:Actually, a lot of people know a lot about why it isn't being used these days. Since the site has been broken, I wouldn't expect many people advertising it. It's broken, it needs to be fixed before finding new users. That's the purpose of this thread.


Last time I checked it was mostly functional again. The period where it was horribly broken was a while back, and I think it was due to a forced database upgrade conducted by Dreamhost or something, or some similar upgrade of a part of the system that involved updating some code. The code updates eventually did happen for a lot of the basic functionality. Some things still don't work, but you can sign up, create artists, post songs, rate songs, comment on songs, use the message board, etc.

jb wrote:I think you're going to have to hire a couple of front-end developers if you want to get it working anywhere close to what thesixtyone had going on.


I have the technical capabilities to implement it myself, I just don't have the time. It'd take me months or years of bits of my spare time here and there, so I have to weigh whether that sort of time investment would really be worth it. I am working on modifying the unofficial Song Fight! archive jukebox site to work like thesixtyone.com and lala.com, though, where you have an MP3 player that persists as you navigate around the site, and that keeps a playlist of the songs you've listened to in that session, etc. I've learned a lot of stuff building that site that I plan to apply to my somesongs knockoff if I ever have time and motivation to do so.

jb wrote:Not that I encourage that, because I think thesixtyone is a little bit ridiculous and rewards obssession way too much.


You and Spud seem to think alike. ;) That's all well and good as long as your little community continues to hover somewhere between too small and too large. But how would you feel if songfight.org had as little activity as somesongs.com? Would you just give up and walk away? Would you want to try to figure out how to motivate people to use the site and join the community? I don't feel like the people in the "it's fine the way it is" camp have really addressed the current total lack of activity and what could be done about that.

Reist wrote:A whole lot of stuff with screenshots


Reist, I agree with some of your points, and had already made some of those changes in the knockoff I was working on.

I disagree about the statistics page, though, and the extra personel information. I don't think the small "statistics" link in the footer really clutters things up, and I think it is useful to be able to quickly see the size of the community, how active it is, how much content there is, etc. As for the extra personel info, it's completely optional, so people can ignore it if they like. Or if they like they can provide some more info about themselves in a way that may help foster a greater sense of community among the users.

I actually disagree about the "Recent Activity" page, too. I used all three lists to determine when someone commented on one of my songs, replied to one of my comments, or rated one of my songs. There was often back catalog activity that I wouldn't have seen on the home page that showed up there, too, and sometimes led me to songs I liked that I might not have found otherwise.

As for the HTML tags, they are there to show you what HTML tags are allowed in the particular text box they are under. I think not labeling them as such is maybe not very user friendly, but I think it's user friendly to show people what they are allowed to type into the box.

As for the message board, I think wanting to remove it due to inactivity is kind of silly. You might as well remove the whole site, then. I mean, that's kind of what we're talking about here. When the site was active, the message board was useful for discussing the songs and the site, and again for helping to create a community. With no activity, how useful is any of it?

Anyway, I doubt those fairly small changes to the site would do anything to resurrect its community of users, but that's just me.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Reist » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:26 pm

Lunkhead wrote:Anyway, I doubt those fairly small changes to the site would do anything to resurrect its community of users, but that's just me.

I think those changes would help reduce the clutter on the site - which is detrimental to its existence as a supposedly easy-to-access, minimalist website. I'm not saying to pull a mac and remove all the buttons except one, but I strongly feel that the site is bogged down by useless links and a very, very cluttered info page. Doing these things wouldn't necessarily resurrect a user base, but at least the site wouldn't chase away potential users with its clunkiness.

As for the message board - if you were a new user viewing somesongs for the first time, and you clicked "message board", expecting a thriving community, you'd see a long list of links titled "somesongs is dead". Would you come back? I doubt it. By all means, if you manage to resurrect a user base, bring back the message board. But I think it could easily impact new users negatively.

I'm confident that I presented enough proof (visual and otherwise) to support my points. If I had the know-how and expertise to change it, I'd be stripping it down to bare-bones somesongs right now. But it's up to you - I've made my suggestions, and you should do what you think is best.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby roymond » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:32 pm

Obviously there's some passion out here. Let's channel it better. I've drank my coffee and am less grumpy now. I can probably do the most good by finishing my GOM and posting it there. See? I didn't even know someone was fixing stuff on Jeff's site :oops:

Mr Owens, I fully respect you and your arguments.

Andrew - while I agree about cutting clutter, I have just never gone into those pages to be bothered by them. I guess I use it as the minimalist site I think you desire, so for now...just don't click those links! Post songs, listen to songs, post comments and vote. It's worked fine that way for years without ever worrying about the info page.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby AJOwens » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:36 pm

Aw, you can call me Jim.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Reist » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:37 pm

Spud wrote:Sounds like good design to me.

Image
Uh, are we talking about the same page?


roymond wrote:Andrew - while I agree about cutting clutter, I have just never gone into those pages to be bothered by them. I guess I use it as the minimalist site I think you desire, so for now...just don't click those links! Post songs, listen to songs, post comments and vote. It's worked fine that way for years without ever worrying about the info page.

Yeah, it can totally work that way, and that's how I used it back when I first came to somesongs. But if we care about bringing in new users, the info page can't be such a disaster. Why would we want a cluttered info page and a first time here page (which has no original info - just summarizes the top points of the info page) when we can combine it into a streamlined FAQ page? Why would we want two links (somesongs and about somesongs) which reach the same page? Those are fairly simple changes to implement, and then maybe I wouldn't get so annoyed each time I open somesongs. It's just sloppy, and for a website that's been around so long, it's pretty much inexcusable. This thread is about improving somesongs - why would I turn a blind eye to its faults when they could be fixed?
Last edited by Reist on Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Lunkhead » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:45 pm

roymond wrote:I didn't even know someone was fixing stuff on Jeff's site :oops:


Just to reiterate, that "someone" was Jeff. I haven't had anything to do with the current site except as a user like everybody else. I haven't seen or modified the original site's code. (I don't know PHP, so I wouldn't be able to do much with it anyway if I had access to it.)
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Lunkhead » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:48 pm

Andrew, I would really like it if you would check out http://www.bozos.com/ssj/ because, like I said, I heartily agree with some of your points and implemented those changes in my knockoff. It'd be great if we could move beyond stuff like "two links to the same page is bad design", as I hope we could all agree that it's certainly less than optimal...
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby roymond » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:57 pm

Reist wrote:for a website that's been around so long, it's pretty much inexcusable.

It's almost like he was more interested in making great music than maintaining his Frankenstein machine. But by all means, it can use a scrub next time around.

As someone who builds and maintains websites on my free time, and for no money, I'm not quite sure what the answer is. Sam has offered his code, I think. We'd need design, development, and hosting. I'm happy to help fund it and offer grumpy feedback. And I'll even throw in free music!

Here's where I see it sits in the music making value chain:
- Songfight: week-long challenges that force you to get off your ass and produce a song end-to-end. Allows for lots of experimentation with lyric, song writing, instrumentation, performance, recording, and production.
- Somesongs: eclectic showcase of new music in final form. Provides quick feedback and exposure. The good songs rise to the top over time via votes.
- Bandcamp (as well as many others): free net-label for when you have an EP or album of material ready to distribute.

All three of these are low-key, artist-driven environments and in my mind they each provide a different service.

Then there's YouTube: video promotion of said albums. Provides global exposure and attracts lots of ridiculous comments.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby roymond » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:05 pm

Lunkhead wrote:I haven't had anything to do with the current site except as a user like everybody else.

I know that. I don't think anyone thinks you touch it, but I may be wrong. I just did not know that Jeff was still tweaking it. When Frankie led the charge a while back, it was still broken, and the subject has been dark until you started your project.

Also, I can reach out to Tuur, as he was the most active user back then.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Lunkhead » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:51 pm

OK, I just wanted to make sure that was clear to all. I actually contacted Tuuur a while back and he took a brief look at what I was doing. He posted some comments on the message board. He had this to say in an email:

Tuuur wrote:My take on somesongs is that it relied on songfight people for its population;
and somehow those left in the course of a few years. It'd be interesting to
see where they went, if they discovered other sites or ways to post songs
and discuss them with others.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Generic » Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:22 pm

Lunkhead wrote:
Generic wrote:But the one feature that sticks out in my mind is that you were only allowed to rate a certain number of songs a day. The idea behind this was to encourage you to be frugal with your recommendations (and also to discourage abuse), but I felt like it had the unfortunate side effect of distracting from the music itself.


First of all, I haven't added features like that. I haven't done anything to the original somesongs. The whole notion of me doing anything with somesongs.com is all completely hypothetical still, which is why I'm interested in what people think about whether it's even possible to resucitate it.


I never meant to imply that you had. I did, however, mean to imply that you shouldn't. If I get outvoted, then so be it.

I appreciate the current interface as it looks and sits at http://bozos.com/ssj/ - I'm not sure I would if you were to implement new features using thesixtyone.com as your model.
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Re: Somesongs (what can be done?)

Postby Lunkhead » Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:31 pm

I just wanted to make sure that was clear. Also, I want to be clear that by "like thesixtyone.com" I mean similar in concept, not necessarily similar in implementation or look and feel. I kind of feel like I've stirred up an angry mob just by mentioning thesixtyone.com, though, and wish I hadn't used it as an example. I had no idea some people disliked it so much that just mentioning it would make it difficult to talk about some of the ideas they incorporated into their original site. Personally, I don't really find it objectionable to give users feedback that rewards them for participating, which is really all I'm talking about.

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