Last.fm and the application of the lightweight models and cost-effective scalability

Standard

Lightweight model and cost-effective scalability is a pattern that Tim O’Reilly identified as part of Web 2.0 platforms endeavours (O’Reilly, 2005, pag. 4). This pattern consist of maintaining the ability to scale quickly when required. The lightweight model implies that is not only a matter on technology, the business model of the company should be able to dinamically cater for a increasing number of user/customers.

Nowadays, cloud computing allows to rent utility computing services such as storage and computing resources tailored to the demands of the users; that’s why is affordable for Web 2.0 start-ups to rent those services on the Internet, instead of buying expensive hardware and software for its functioning. In the event of success and acquisition of a considerable user-base, the Web 2.0 platform would only need to upgrade their services in the cloud, so it could cater for more users. Facebook was based in this pattern, as was created by a few students with a small capital in Harvard University; then, as more users were adopting the platform more economical and technical resources were added to provide the needed increased power to the service.

Image

Let’s explain this pattern better with its relation to a popular music website: last.fm. Last.fm is a music platform that uses a recommendation system called Audioscrobbler, which helps to recognise the musical tastes of user based on the tracks that they listen to, either on online radios, user’s computer and portable music devices; this information is uploaded to a database via the music player or a plug-in (Wikipedia, n.d, para. 1) where is catalogued and used to make recommendations to users depending on their tastes.

Image

Starting small and growing from there: at the beginning Audioscrobbler was a university project of Richard Jones when he attended the University of Southampton in the UK. He developed the firsts plug-ins and created and API for the community to contribute to extend them. On the other hand, last.fm was a music site and online radio. Both merged to become a stronger company. But their beginnings were humble, start-ups with few resources making use of open source software in the case of Audioscrobbler (Wikipedia, n.d, para. 4-5).

Growing and acquisition by CBS – scaling up: By 2007 CBS, the giant american media corporation acquired last.fm for US $280m, the largest-ever UK Web 2.0 acquisition (BBC news, 2007). By this time it had been a long walk since their humble start-up and so, their user-base increased exponentially and of course their needed resources were much more, so using cloud computing to scale was the way to go to gather more storage and computing resources.

Image

Shoemaker to your shoe: For the creation of a lightweight business model is important to consider in which aspects the platform excels and what other aspects could be outsourced to business partners; linking different business models in synergy. With this approach the platform could focus in their competitive advantage and let other contribute in what they do best. In last.fm we can find examples of this: before, last.fm had its own online radio service; but realising that there were many other online radio stations and streaming services like Spotify and YouTube that were offering a better service, last.fm decided to cut their online radio and outsource it to those providers (last.hq, 2014). As we say in spanish: “Zapatero a tu zapato” – “Shoemaker to your shoe”, meaning that anyone should focus in their field of expertise and outsource other activities to companies with better expertise. In the case of Last.fm, their focus is the music recommendation system (Audioscrobbler).

Image

In a nutshell, the pattern is: start small, increase customer base, get more economical resources, scale up gathering more technical resources, outsource activities that are not part of the competitive advantage and grow, grow, grow but always making sure that the expansion of the company is proportional to its customer base.

Thanks for stoppping by and feel free to have your say!

 

References:

BBC news (2007). Music site last.fm bought by CBS. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6701863.stm

last.hq (2014). Did someone say on demand?. Retrieved from http://blog.last.fm/2014/01/29/did-someone-say-on-demand

O’Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0 – 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

Wikipedia (n.d.). Last.fm entry. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last.fm

Music Rebellion Leveraging the Long Fat Tail: CDBaby

Standard
Image

The Long Tail

Leveraging the Long Tail is a concept introduced by Chris Anderson in 2004 and adopted by Tim O’Reilly later on when describing the main features of Web 2.0 platforms to explain the concept that with the introduction of Internet and later technologies the small and not known sellers and producers have the same opportunity of distribution and sales than the big fish in any market. There are a few mainstream fish who get most of the market share, but there are millions of “not known” little fish that aggregating the total of their small-scale sales can actually challenge the figures of the big ones. Wow, that’s an interesting concept!

Our favorite topic is music, so I’d like to show how this concept applies to this field. Firstly, to contextualise the discussion let’s see how the music industry was run in the past in contrast to how it’s run in this digitised world of today:

For the most part of the 20th century the power in the music business was held by a few big names: Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner; those were the main labels. But what do I mean by label: “A company that produces, markets and distributes the music of artists”. At that time they were the ones that had the recording studios, the distribution channels to stores, the media support to publicize and advertise and because of that, their voices were booming stronger than any other fish in the pond. Only a few artists chosen by them were the only ones who had a major opportunity of having a great living out of music. But not anymore, all the musicians now are in a  a level ground as the resources have been made accesible for “everybody”, that is:

  • Home studios are cheap so any given artist could access them easily or even invest in one to create a product of a decent standard.
  • There are music distributors, such as the feature of this article CDbaby, that receive music from artist in CD format or MP3 and sell them through their online store and even more, send the music to high-profile online music stores such as iTunes and Rhapsody.
  • Social media and internet methods of advertising and publicising such as Facebook and Google have made that low-profile musicians could be known better.

ImageLet’s focus in CDbaby as a typical example of leveraging the long tail. Their slogan is “the best independent music store in the web” (stylised in lower case, reflecting the grass roots background of their members).

What are their features and how this relates to Leveraging the Long Tail:

  • There are more than 300,000 artists signed up to CDbaby. I have to say that they are mainly independent, but also mainstream artists are there (CDbaby, n.d., a).
  • Those artists caters for a significant number of micro-market niches.
  • The sign-up fee for the standard service is $ US 49 and includes worldwide digital and CD distribution as is shown in CDbaby website (n.d., b). This is a price that is affordable to any musician. Nowadays, the big labels don’t have the exclusive worldwide channels of distribution, as now any humble musician could reach any place in the world with their products.
  • CDbaby make use of digital music that could be distributed through the web at minimal cost through the use of MP3s and other compression formats; minimising then the inventory costs, being this one of the features that helps the leveraging of the long tail.
  • CDbaby receives a limited number of physical CDs (4) to minimise inventory space. CDbaby will ask the artist more CDs based on the demand of the product.  In addition, offers the service of CD manufacturing so the small fish could have a CD factory that they could count on using on demand orders.
  • Comments and rankings crowdsourced to fans help the users of the platform to filter and explore the ocean of music.
  • Artists are prompted to categorise their music and tell if their music is similar to other artists, so that the right music could be pitch to fans that have bought similar music.

CDbaby empowers the independent musicians leveraging from a big long tail, but it also true that the ocean of artists is huge and the noise is loud, so now it all comes down to how the artists can stand out to get the attention of an information overwhelmed hordes of fans.

Thanks for stopping by and have a read.

What do you think? Feel free to post your point of view.

Cheers!

 

References:

CDbaby (n.d., a). About CDbaby.com. Retrived from: http://www.cdbaby.com/about

CDbaby (n.d., b). Pricing. Retrieved from: http://members.cdbaby.com/cd-baby-cost.aspx

 

Perpetual Beta in the Music Arena: Reverbnation

Standard

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.

Image

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

The Art of Safe Online Dating Regulating Users’ Behaviour: eHarmony

Standard

Image

eHarmony advertises itself as “The #1 Trusted Singles Online Dating Site”. This kind of Social Networks are a one of kind Web 2.0 applications, because they strive to introduce strangers, help them to find a match and start a long-term relationship. That is, help strangers to connect and create a relationship in the real world! So safety is a number one priority for the site and the compliance of the rules by the members becomes an important issue, as the reputation of eHarmony depends on that and ultimately they are dealing with the physical integrity of the members. How eHarmony regulates the behaviour of the users?

First of all, the Risk Management division is committed to preserve safety. They are involved in mitigating the risks of being part of the social network. They have several approaches to regulate behaviour of users:

Publish rules to stay out of trouble: common sense advice is given to the community in regards to how to go about contacting, meeting and getting to know other people. Here are some of the tips from the eHarmony Australia website:

  • Always use your best judgment: people looking for love tends to get blind about con intents from fake prospect partners. The cheats make use of this tendency to take advantage of the situation as can be seen in this video.
  • Never share financial information or certain personal information: with the pretext of trying to find out more about a person life, the cheats ask questions to find information that could be used to break into financial accounts. Click here to watch the in-person phishing con video.
  • Be cautious when sharing personal information: some people feel the need to rush to get to know better the other person and hastily share personal contact information such as, phone numbers and emails. That could result in people being harrassed as they don’t know each others’ temperament yet. For that, eHarmony advises to go through a step by step communication process that eventually would lead to a secure call made by the system where neither the person calling or the one receiving can see each other’s phone numbers.
  • Do your own research: even though there is some screening carried out by eHarmony with authorities, they have a disclaimer saying that the information could be out-of-date. They encourage people to make their own reseach before meeting the other in person by typing the match’s name into a search engine, contacting local autohorities to obtain public information, or using a paid service to obtain a full background report.
  • Make your first date safe and successful
  • Always be respectful and kind

The risk management division of eHarmony receives concerns about a match and undertake proper investigation on the issue that could lead to cancelation of accounts and escalation to authorities.

Finally, eHarmony also works closely with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) to identify and combat online fraud in Australia. As such, if there is a belief that one of the matches could be a fraud suspect, in addition to reporting to eHarmony, they encourage to file a report with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission website at: www.ScamWatch.gov.au.

In this way the online quest for love becomes safe and people can focus in finding their soul mate!

 

Blogging Strategies for Success

Standard

Blogging comes from the simple urge to communicate and express ourselves with ideas which are relevant to us. Nowadays, with Blogging and Social Network in general this drive is exercised more easily than ever has been; anyone can post about anything in the Web. Of course, this creates a huge amount of information for public to read, there is an ocean out there. So, the question is: How to get my target audience to read my blog? A practical approach has to be developed to get the point across to the right people in this sea of information.

  1. Focus: The focus of the blog should be clear, in this case, Enterprise 2.0 should be the main and recurrent point in all posts. The blog should be focus to a target audience, if otherwise the blogger is writing of too many different topics the audience could not be interested in some of them and for certain will lose engagement.
  2. Tags: These important words give the search engines the elements to find the blog in the blogosphere.
  3. Write often: A following is expecting interesting and regular posts, so to keep the contact the blogger would need to keep the discipline of writing compelling posts. Also, search engines PageRank better blogs and web sites that have been updated recently.
  4. Links, commenting and networking: Networking is the process of becoming part of the community. There are a lot of people writing important stuff about Enterprise 2.0, including the students of INB(N)376, therefore links to important blog entries and commenting in their blogs is paramount to create that relationships and sense of community, which eventually will drive more traffic to the blog. It’s all about communication and communication is about writing and reading in this case; precise and spot on comments in someone else’s blog will lead certainly to comments in our blog.
  5. Promote: Through Twitter, Facebook, Emails, Websites and any other relevant media.

Blogging is like friends talk, and we are building friendship through digital communication and blogging tools. We have to make it as natural as an informal chat and I think that’s the way to go.

This blog post is based in ideas from: Braniac (How to Blog Successfully), Pingler.com (How to Blog Successfully) and in lectures from INB(N)346 Enterprise 2.0.

Jacques

Enterprise 2.0 is More Than Social Media!

Standard

One of the more important features in Enterprise 2.0 is the configuration of the organization where it is applied and how the line of commands go from seniors to juniors. In a company that is applying Enterprise 2.0, the configuration is more or less flat, meaning that the juniors of a company could help in important decision making contributing with ideas and concepts.

The traditional way of doing business in Enterprise 1.0 was to have a top-down command chain where the only ones that could input decisions in the activities of a certain company were he managers or even more just one person, for instance, CEO, President, etc.This way of organizational behaviour has upsides, such us quickness of reaction; but it also has some downsides as the neglection of the collective intelligence of the employees of a company; let’s talk more about this: The Manager, CEO or President could have a lot of knowledge and expertise, but they are not doing every single job that has to be done, there are a number of employees, who from their set of functions, build the company’s products or services. Some of these employees in their own domain could have more expertise than the manager, due to the fact that they are specialized in a specific set of activities, while the manager has an overall picture of the organization. It would be foolish for a General Manager to neglect the knowledge and experience of employees; it would be foolish for a General Manager to make decisions by himself discarding the significant input that their junior could add to the process.

Web 2.0 is a facilitator of the process to obtain the general knowledge of the company, but it’s not the only way to get it. The only requisite for the seniors to get important knowledge from juniors is to have an open mind, establish smooth communication lines and of course the ability to evaluate ideas. Therefore Enterprise 2.0 could be implemented without Web 2.0 technology, creating events such as meetings and gatherings to let this information flow. Of course Web 2.0 helps to create this process, but my point here is that Enterprise 2.0 is not only Web 2.0, is an attitude, is a paradigm shift!