Perpetual Beta in the Music Arena: Reverbnation

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We have come a long way studying the O’Reilly’s patterns for Web 2.0 platforms; some of the previous topics have been: harnessing collective intelligence, data is the next Intel inside and assembly in innovation. Now the turn is for “Perpetual Beta”. But what is it?

Perpetual beta

Perpetual Beta Life Cycle

Beta testing is, according to Webopedia (n.d.), a test to a computer product prior to general release, this test could be done by sending the software to beta test sites or to real users through the Internet to get some real-world exposure and feedback necessary to refine and revise the system. Beta testing is part of the old school waterfall model which include a program of sequential and iterative activities which are done for the user to ultimately enjoy and utilise the software; those steps in the waterfall model are: conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production and maintenance (Wikipedia, n.d.). The approach of this highly rigid structure is to have most of the features ready and then show it to a sample audience that would help to spot the flaws and inadequacies in the software. The exposure of the software to the target users is often quite to late in the schedule and the interaction with the user base is usually not enough; that could lead to an unsuitable product.

With the emerging of Web 2.0 technologies and the open source movement a pattern was recognised by Tim O’Reilly (2005, para. 4) that mitigates dramatically the problem mentioned: “the open source dictum, ‘release early and release often’ in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, “the perpetual beta,” in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis”. This creates a more dynamic and close relationship with the user as the developers are on the lookout of users’ operations to fix, tweak or add to the current functionalities. Let’s see how this principle applies to one of the most popular social platform in the music arena: Reverbnation; which is devoted to create a network of musicians, venues, managers, labels and fans, striving to give to each of these target groups special benefits tailored for their needs.

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Reverbnation has been in perpetual beta since its conception and numerous functionalities have been added according to the current needs of the users and the trends of social media platforms:

  • Promote It: is a feature that uses the fact of interlinked social networks to present the band to fans who like similar kind of music. For that, Reverbnation connects with fans through YouTube, Facebook, Pandora, etc.
  • Music for Good: with this functionality the artists contribute to established good causes via a percentage of songs sold. This taps into fans inclination to buy more music from social active artists.
  • Tunewidget: are popular between musicians to feature their music, videos and press releases in widgets that could be fixed anywhere in their websites, social media pages, etc.
  • Band Equity: this is a performance metric to establish the engagement of an artist with their fans and it takes into account several factors: the reach of people through social networks, blogs and websites; the influence of the contact, e.g. how much time the fans listen to the artist’s songs; the access to direct communication to fans, that is, mailing lists sign-ups and finally how recent all those interactions are. With Band Equity Reverbnation is able to create chart-like lists that featured the most popular bands in the platform.

All these functionalities were included in the platform not as important version reviews, but as incremental tweaks based on user feedback and behaviour and market trends. From my standpoint, Perpetual beta  is not other thing that a responsive outlook to what is going on in the platform environment.

Thanks a lot for reading and I’d appreciate your point of view.

 

References:

O’Reilly, T. (2005). Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved from: http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=4

Webopedia (n.d.). Beta test. Retrieved from: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/B/beta_test.html

Wikipedia (n.d.). Waterfall model. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_model

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16 thoughts on “Perpetual Beta in the Music Arena: Reverbnation

    • Hi Dicky, certainly is the Systems Development Life Cycle, is just that is a new version of it, where the design, testing and implementation parts of the life cycle are not so linear anymore and make use of the natural closeness with the user in Web 2.0 to streamline the fixing, re-design and re-implementation of the system. Thanks! Hey Dicky, don’t leave without having a cup hot and tasty cup of Colombian Coffee!
      Colombian Coffee

  1. Camzam

    Good post Jacques!

    I think being in a beta stage can be good as there is the potential to always stay relevant with users. If a website is treated as “a living thing” as a figure of speech, then it will always be in a continual state of evolution. Changing according to user demands and wants, and thus staying relevant in users minds which have the tendency to be very fickle.

    • I agree with you, “Perpetual Beta” is a great way to stay current with users wishes and likes and treat the product as a living thing is the way to go. The technology that we have today makes possible that change of attitude from the developers side: stay on the lookout to see what the customers want, so the platform can produce it. I think that Perpetual Beta is more an attitude to life and even in businesses where technology doesn’t exist, let’s say the convenience store in the corner where I was growing up, (you know late 70’s :)), they were on the lookout to see what were the new trends and the new wishes of their customers to come up with new products or change the old ones. Ultimately, is all about “responsiveness” to an ever changing world. He he! Sometimes I get a bit philosophical, 🙂 Thanks a lot for passing by and leave your comment, have a cup of Colombian Coffee! 🙂 Colombian Coffee

  2. Hi. Great post.

    I didn’t know there were such website. It’s really a great platform for musicians or artist out there to wish to start a career. One particular feature that I would like to point out is that it’s able to produce a list of artist or music depending on the location where the user are.

    I just realise at the bottom of the page there’s this player that allows user to listen to music without creating an account which is a good thing. Most users might not want to create an account. This feature enables more users to access the feature of this website.

    Purchasing ticket for a concert made thing so much easier too. This is really a good platform for all music lovers out there. Thank you for introducing this website to me.

    Have a great day.

    • Hey Max, thanks a lot for stoping by and showing me more functionalities!

      Yes, Reverbnation is full of features that they have been building up on the platform. They surely are in touch with all the users (labels, bands, managers, fans) to see what they need and add the features that could provide a better experience for them. Now that I came again to Reverbnation I found really cool functionalities and I’ll see the ones that you pointed out as well. Cheers! P.D. Hey Max and you should not leave without having a cup of Colombian Coffee! 🙂 Colombian Coffee

  3. Jeremy

    If musicians can produce a better product and complement their skills and knowledge with other musicians then I am all for it…good post buddy

    • Hey Jeremy,

      Totally, in Reverbnation the musos have a way to network within themselves. They can see what other are doing in terms of promotion, production, gigs, etc; so that they could tweak their page to fans, managers, venues and labels. Contacts can be made and new collaboration projects can arise; Reberbnation is a social network for music. Thanks a lot for visiting and commenting; have a cup of coffee mate!
      Colombian Coffee

  4. Hey Jacques! Great blog mate! I have to say, even though I have never heard of ReverbNation until this blog post, after reading this and exploring the website myself, it does seem to work well with the weeks topic! After learning about Perpetual Beta, I’d have to say that I prefer quite a lot of platforms that follow this rule. It helps to update the platform from problems and bugs that is usually encountered by the users during it’s initial release! ReverbNation has obviously made use of this very effectively, adding in features that will benefit the site! Have they removed anything as yet? (Do I get a cup of Colombian Coffee?)

    • Hey Brian “The Rocker”! Of course you can have a cup of Pure Colombian Coffee, be careful though: It’s hot!

      Colombian Coffee

      I totally agree with you that perpetual beta enables the platform to fix itself quickly. For this, the developers have to be involved in business operations, is a must that these guys are constantly thinking what the users are doing and how can they do to better their service. It’s a complete change in attitude and a great improvement in the Software Development Lifecycle! However, I think that the software engineers have to be careful in choosing what to fix or what to add; the features chosen to improvement have to be the ones that are going to create more benefit in the user base, the ones that are going to keep them happy. Software developers are into Customer Service now, Wow! That’s a change.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and comment! I won’t talk anymore for you to drink your coffee before it gets cold! 🙂

  5. Reverbnation has clearly undergone various changes since its inception. The inclusion of features such as promote it, band equity and music for good have considerably transformed Reverbnation from a platform where they showcase their music to one where they can actively engage their market and promote their product (music). This clearly shows that the incremental changes in the platform have clearly targeted objectives such as improving interactivity and its relevance to the music business. Another aspect that comes out clearly is that the use of perpetual beta is not necessarily a conscious process. Reverbnation’s improvements could have been a result of changes in the music landscape or following a given process strategy like total quality management which emphasizes on continuous quality improvement. There sure are some similarities in perpetual beta and continuous quality improvement. Is it probable that software design is increasingly taking a businesslike approach where client expectations have to be monitored and considered at every step? Perpetual beta seeks to ensure that changes in clients’ expectations are incorporated in web 2.0 applications (O’Reilly, 2009).

    • Hi Mohammed, thanks a lot for your interesting and relevant comment!

      Now that you have mentioned it: Perpetual Beta is a natural part of Total Quality Management, as per the definition that reads like this in Wikipedia:
      “Total quality management (TQM) consists of organization-wide efforts to install and make permanent a climate in which an organization continuously improves its ability to deliver high-quality products and services to customers”. Is just logical that the attitude to constantly examine users expectations and platform performance – which is Perpetual Beta – is a part of that climate. Software developers as we saw in the lectures and as you affirm have to be more than programmers and be a part of the business operations, wow that’s a big change! A change for good!

      Thanks again Mohammed and have a cup of Colombian Coffee!

      Colombian Coffee

  6. Hi,

    Nice post, very informative. It is true that perpetual beta in a lot of ways is very beneficial to an application in today’s ever changing environment. What is needed and wanted today may not be what’s wanted or needed tomorrow. By keeping the app in the constant beta state they are able to keep up with the ever changing demands of its users. This helps keeps users interested and coming back, but doesn’t this also create a potential problem. Users are known for their dislike of change, especially to do with the layout (as was seen with the changes made to the Facebook layout); constant changes to your application, whether to do with features or the layout may be met with user backlash. In your opinion, is there any way to mitigate the potential for user backlash caused by changes made to the application?

    • Hi Scott,

      As you said: What is needed and wanted today may not be what’s wanted or needed tomorrow; and perpetual beta provides the dynamic environment that is needed to achieve the current needs.

      Regarding constant and annoying changes on the platform, I have to say that if is not properly handled that could be a user repellent; I totally agree with you, because as a user, sometimes I get annoyed by new layouts and new ways to go around software. I think that the software developers and architects should see exactly what changes are needed by the most of the community, what changes they want, what changes are they going to find more benefitial and introduce them in such a way that is not so upsetting. Test the changes with focus groups could be a good idea.

      Thanks Scott for stopping by and here you have a cup of Colombian Coffee!

      Colombian Coffee

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