Untangling Web 2.0

An aspiring information professional shedding light on the Web 2.0 phenomenon

Innovation in Assembly? SoundCloud hits the right notes!

SoundCloud is the world’s leading social sound platform where anyone can create sounds and share them everywhere.

But in the world of Web 2.0, SoundCloud does something just as important. It allows users to get involved in the way we experience SoundCloud.  It does this by providing users with its data, enabling them to create their own APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) which add value to SoundCloud’s already existing applications. This concept is outlined in one of Tim O’ Reilly’s patterns of Web 2.0, ‘Innovation in Assembly’.  ‘When commodity components are abundant, you can create value simply by assembling them in novel or effective ways’. 

There are ten best practices that are recommended to gain maximum benefit from this concept and SoundCloud addresses all of them.

Let’s explore how!

1. Offer APIs to your service. A great example of this concept is ‘Radio for SoundCloud’ which is an app designed by a third party. The premise of this app is that SoundCloud’s music is utilised in a radio segment format, using SoundCloud’s content.

2. Design for remixability. The ‘Radio for SoundCloud’ app would not be possible if SoundCloud’s content wasn’t easily available for disassembling and remixing.

3. Apply API best practices. SoundCloud really gets behind its voluntary developers by providing genuine developer support infrastructure. A website has been created just for them with the required documentation and tips to get started as well as a forum to ask questions and a blog to keep SoundCloud and its developers connected.

4. Use existing standards. SoundCloud not only uses existing standards but is concerned with using standards that will improve user engagement. As an example, SoundCloud replaced Flash with HTML 5, to support sound sharing on mobile platforms.

5. Build your business model into your API. SoundCloud’s APIs all enhance an important business objective – sharing sounds everywhere, and with 10, 000 developers at their disposal, that’s an achievable goal.

6. Use Web 2.0 to support your platform. SoundCloud utilises essential Web 2.0 components by allowing its users to comment, like and repost sounds. Users can private message each other and read SoundCloud’s blog.

7. Be your own platform customer. SoundCloud developed its own application for mobile devices which enhances the user experience.  Users are always updated due to push notifications, meaning that SoundCloud is always hovering around in the background. SoundCloud allows users to embed its music in their own website or blog which is a great way to disperse its content all over the Web.

8. Granular accessibility of content. The ‘Granular Web’ is all about ‘making web development componentised and outsourceable’. SoundCloud is certainly providing the means and the raw data for users to do some of the work for the company!

9. Use your platform to build customer trust and loyalty. SoundCloud hosts internal hackathons and encourages its users to submit hacks. There’s no better way to show users that their input is valued!

10. Learn from how your customers remix. Hackathons also allow SoundCloud to learn from their users and it is clear that SoundCloud wishes to utilise their users’ talent – the developers’ website encourages users to think about applying for a paid position!

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Inbox making happy [Image] (n.d.) Retrieved by http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulamarttila/6751712175/.

If SoundCloud continues to hit the right notes in its innovative approach to development, it will benefit both the company and its users  – now that’s music to our ears!

What does everyone think? Does anyone use the APIs of any online service? Would you consider becoming a developer?

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YouTube – Is it really all about you?

I hadn’t  ever really given much thought to the name YouTube before. But after analysing YouTube against one of Tim O Reilly’s patterns ‘Data is the next Intel Inside’, YouTube couldn’t have chosen a better name. Because it really is all about YOU, the user… and your data of course. This concept is all about data as the commodity, rather than a web application’s function.

YouTube - created by us

YouTube – created by us

                       YouTube icon [Image] (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/jurgenappelo/7749081576/

YouTube are experts in using your data and then making sure you or we continue to interact with it.

Think about it.

You Tube owns a unique, hard to recreate source of data. All of the site’s content is generated by users and there’s something exciting about knowing I can post my own content on YouTube right now and that if it weren’t for people like me uploading videos, YouTube wouldn’t exist. That I can watch pretty much any music video I want at any time, when not too long ago I had to wait every weekend for Video Hits and hope that I hadn’t missed my favourite artist of the month, is mind blowing. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think YouTube and its users are solely responsible for the revolutionised way we access music.

And boy, does YouTube enhance the core data or what?

Firstly the opportunity to comment is genius. After all, who doesn’t want to put their two cents in? If I am watching something really controversial or just a bit pathetic (such as YouTubers who think their ‘singing’ is going to be their ticket to fame) I want to see if people agree with my point of view and I love it when people are having a disagreement in the comment box!  In his blog, Jason Van Dyk observes that on websites such as YouTube, ‘there is a far greater focus on the conversations between users, as opposed to providing a place for advertisers to promote brands’.

I agree with Jason – yes there is a greater focus but that doesn’t mean that there is not a focus on the dollar sign – there has to be. When YouTube started streaming ads at the beginning of videos, I was surprised but I quickly got over it because at the end of the day, there are all those great enhancements for the users.

On many an occasion, YouTube has suggested videos I might be interested in based on the videos I watched on my last visit and it’s sort of embarrassing to know that what I’ve been watching for hours on end, is stored somewhere. You can also see how many likes and dislikes a video has had, and detailed statistics on how many people have watched it and how they found it.  So it’s pretty obvious that YouTube have data on you and us.

The_Matrix_by_CrimsonDiabolics

The Matrix [Image] (n.d.) Retrieved from http://crimsondiabolics.deviantart.com/art/The-Matrix-136586049

I think it’s a two-way street. In return for our data, YouTube lets users control their own data. We can embed videos into our blogs, email them to anyone and share them on other applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr, Bebo and Digg. We can modify videos that we have uploaded, add links to other videos, only allow certain people to see them and we can remove our videos from the site. I really appreciate that freedom – to undo something that has been done. I used to seethe with anger when Facebook required me to explain why I wanted to be untagged from a photo, to the person who tagged me, before my request could be granted.

Am I being too kind to YouTube? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Busy bees in The Hive

If you have a huge job that needs doing, it makes sense to recruit as many people as possible to help, right?

Well, in the context of Web 2.0, this principle is known as harnessing collective intelligence, which is the first of the eight core patterns of Web 2.0, outlined by Tim O’ Reilly.

MP900433057 [Image] (n.d.) Retrieved from http://c4lpt.co.uk/new-workplace-learning/liso-fostering-collective-intelligence/

Consider this scenario.  My workplace, the National Archives of Australia, is home to an inconceivable number of Australian Government records. Members of the public search our collection online for records relating to topics such as immigration, defence and Australian politics.

However, only around 25% of our collection is listed online at item level, and although that is still a significant amount of records for avid researchers to sift through, it seemed that some records were destined to go undiscovered. ‘Projections on the time it would take archives staff to describe the lists without public help currently stand at 210 years’.

Thankfully, the organisation is harnessing the collective intelligence of its passionate clients by way of  The Hive, a Web 2.0 application that allows users to transcribe documents which ‘help[s] the Archives improve the discover-ability of documents by making its contents searchable’.

Screenshot of transcription process on The Hive

Screenshot of transcription process on The Hive

This concept is similar to that of Wikipedia, in that it relies on its users to contribute to its platform and trusts its users with its content, and just as many denounce Wikipedia as an unreliable information source, some in the archival profession are wary of users having such control over transcribing records.

So let’s find out how The Hive measures up to some of the characteristics of O’ Reilly’s pattern of harnessing collective intelligence.

Users Add Value

2520 of 4517 archival records on The Hive’s website are now able to be searched online as a direct result of the transcribing efforts of The Hive’s users, so it is clear that they are adding value to the Archives’ database. Some users are transcribing items so that they can request the item be digitised straight away. In this way they are adding value to the Archives’ itself as an institution, indirectly as a side-effect of their transcribing.

Users can communicate with each other by commenting on each individual record so there is the opportunity for users to connect with each other by way of their shared interests. At this point in time there isn’t an opportunity for users to create or upload their own content, but as the premise of the project is centred on reproducing and modifying content, this does not seem to be an issue.

Network effects magnify this value

Access to the archival collection increases as more and more people transcribe records, which in turns adds more value to The Hive as well as the National Archives of Australia, and as users are able to modify errors in previous entries,  ‘the consistency and quality improve as more people participate’ which is the case with Wikipedia.

Reward Users First

But how does The Hive convince users to spend hours of their free time on this sort of activity?

After all, nobody does something for nothing. But O’ Reilly explains that  ‘applications can be constructed in such a way as to direct their users to perform specific tasks’.

Users’ transcriptions are instantaneous, giving them an immediate sense of accomplishment, also known as intrinsic motivation. The Hive also employs gamification techniques by allocating points, providing a leaderboard and awarding prizes for a certain number of transcriptions. One of the prizes is a copy of a record of interest to the user, free of charge. Rewarding users with something that is of interest to them personally, may encourage them to continue pursuing that interest by way of The Hive.

            So there you have it! Trust and reward your users and they will become your very own worker bees! Would these incentives encourage you to participate too?

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