Saturday, 22 November 2008

Social Media Mavens: Get like Gladwell, Know Your Woofers from Your Tweeters!

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Reading Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Blink' has got me thinking. I'm only on page 35, but already he's covered the topic of 'thin-slicing', i.e. by relying on first impressions, rather than always drilling down for more information, it's surprising how accurate our intuitions can be.

In this way, Gladwell cites how specialists can predict how robust a couple's marriage is by observing no more than 15 minutes of them in conversation on any topic. In another example, students correctly assess the effectiveness of a series of lecturers completely unknown to them on the basis of only two seconds of video. On their first glance, two experts on Greek statuary turn over 18 months of detailed and costly analysis validating the authenticity of a recently 'discovered' marble, exposing it as a fraud, purely based on instinct.

In short, it's probably not really worth reading pages 36-277 of Blink, as I already have that gut-feeling that it is a fascinating work. However, whilst I've been reading I've also been fidgeting with Twitter and listening to the new album from the School of Seven Bells on my iPhone. So what? Well, there is a connection...

I received a Tweet from WiReD (it's Listening Post blog) the other day which provided enough of a hook in it's 140-max characters to prompt me to click on the embedded TinyURL. This took me to an article about Musebin, a new service currently in private beta which cludges music reviews with Twitter by enabling contributors to submit reviews of albums in less than 140 characters. As I said, it's in beta, so it can still be a little flaky in its efforts to search for album-art within a quirky pop-up form, but by and large, submitting mini-reviews is a liberating little experience.

How is it possible to capture the essence of, say Genesis' 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway', Kraftwerk's 'Autobahn' or Christina Aguilera's latest 'Best Of' with only 140 characters to play with? Well, of course, the answer is 'easier than you might think'. The trick is to start with albums you know and love, I suppose. Once you've registered, Musebin allows multiple reviews of the same album and makes no judgements regarding whether or not the album was released in the last thirty years or the last thirty minutes

Other visitors are encouraged to give your reviews a Yay! or a Nay! based on whether they accurately capture the spirit of the recording. They can even leave a comment longer than the review itself if they wish!

The 140 character limit is no accident. Register your Twitter details and your reviews are automatically added to your Twitstream and those of your followers, who get to click on a TinyUrl to Musebin itself. (Whilst it's still in beta, this prompts followers to log-in or register which will unfortunately put a few people off for now). What's more, if as a Twitterer you decide to follow @musebin, your reviews, along with any others posted on the Musebin site will arrive as Tweets into your Twitstream, teasing and tempting you to check out something new, revisit something old, or log into Musebin to set the record(!) straight about Guns & Roses' Chinese Democracy by posting your own review.

Brilliant little synchronicities emerge. I'd waivered over the new School of Seven Bells album in the iTunes store for a few days, figuring that it was my kind of thing, but still hanging back from clicking that all-too-worn Buy Album button. Then a couple of hours later, this Tweet appeared and I needed no more encouragement:

Via @jasonvo: Ethereal. Quirky. Beautifully musical dissonance and head bobbing beats make this dream pop...

Working together, Twitter and Musebin provided me with a little nudge in 140 characters, but maybe I'd have got round to buying the SVIIB album sooner or later. I don't know. However, this tripped my train of thought onto one of the questions that I hate the most. 'Where on earth do you find out about these bands?' It drives me nuts! Why I'm not sure. Certainly, there is an childish element within me that prefers bands at that sweet spot just before they hit the charts or make it big. Somehow, after that happens they're not mine any more. I'm not like that with everyone you understand. I certainly don't just like things because they're obscure. Indeed, I'm happy that a lot of the stuff that is somewhat obscure stays that way. Similarly, bands that I 'collected' as my own personal 'property' in their formative years, might still get a visit from me today (my foray to Geneva to see REM [#remgeneva] a couple of months back being a good example). On the whole though, I haven't got a really good answer to the question 'Where on earth do you find out about these bands?' I just do.

I suppose it's a mix of purposeful and subliminal multi-channel overload, but I can't put my finger on it. All I do know, and this brings us back to Malcolm Gladwell in a couple of ways, is that I'm not not to bad at judging books (and CDs) from their covers. I suppose I have a diverse range of interests, but I don't often bring home or download a dud, even if it's something I haven't heard or even heard of before, from deep down in The Long Tail somewhere.

I'm so used to it, I can buy at a 'Blink' and get it right most of the time. What's more, the compelling stickiness of powerful Social Media tools such as Twitter, when combined with Musebin, combined with, I suppose, 'knowing what I like' could maybe transform me into a Maven and a Connector (two of the stars of Gladwell's The Tipping Point) at the same time. Hardly Paul Revere, and I certainly couldn't lay claim to assuming the role of the third of The Tipping Point's stars 'The Salesman', but maybe I'll think about that one tomorrow

By the way, Musebin's a Brooklyn based startup and currently looking for an Intern to help with the office admin along with some of the beta-testing and bug-fixing. How did they advertise for the role? On Twitter of course. Want to apply? Apply @musebin. Your resume/CV must be no more than 140 characters long. Good luck!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Their life's work in 140 characters or less!

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I'm loving Musebin which accelerates the drive towards the Twitterisation of everything by creating a platform for creating, sharing and rating albums in 140 characters or less. It's a great discipline for focusing your critical faculties as you try to describe the latest Xtina Best Of or the earliest eurohippy noodlings of Kraftwerk before they discovered Stylophones.

It swipes your reviews straight into your Twitterfeed too.

Musebin is still in beta... ask them for an invite.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Conversation(s) - #smc_mcr goes live

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I attended the first Manchester Social Media Club gathering at The Northern last night. A pleasant hour or so. Well attended, well organised.

The debate got a bit too blogged down.

The electric current which drove most people to attend is probably Twitter and its related appendages, Brightkite, Twinkle, Fireeagle, etc. They weren't overly mentioned, which is a shame as I think that Twitter is the glue that holds all the already established blogs and sites together. I also think that the limits imposed by Twitter can enrobe an author in a veil of mystique and glamour which is often quickly whisked away when the link to the their blog is clicked. I tend to enjoy people's twitstreams without always bothering to read their blogs. 'Fun and foxy' across 140 characters can sometimes translate to 'dull as ditch' over a full post. (Sorry to those of you who're paid by the word). The medium is, yet again, the message.

Social Media works when it results in a room full of people talking to each other, but there was something else going down last night throughout the debate which was even more fascinating. People in the room Tweeting away, liveblogging or commenting (sometimes with some acidity) on the quality of the debate. How weird is that? A load of people who don't know each other but discover each other on Twitter, get together in real life, to stand next to each other Twittering on their phones.

Who cares? It was fun, with some real socialising done too. Until next time #smc_mcr.