I think I’ve had a conceptual breakthrough. I’ll let you know, if it lasts 48 hours — known as “Doug’s 48-Hour Rule for Conceptual Breakthroughs.”
The breakthrough is that SpokenWord.org isn’t really about the content as much as it’s about the connections between the people. (Duh. That’s why they call it “social networking.”) I’ve been focused on submission of programs, creating playlists, etc. Sharing has been based until now on old-fashioned ideas such as “mail to a friend.” The concept of ratings has been applied to programs, feeds and playlists, but I learned years ago that you have to be extremely careful when you actually rate people. It works on eBay, but that’s rare. Saying “good” or “bad” about a person is fraught with problems. But you can rate a person by “voting with your feet” and that’s the starting point of the breakthrough. It’s eBay+Twitter, and we have Twitter to thank for showing all of us the idea of “following” one another. You don’t have to explicitly say you like or don’t like someone. What you need to do instead is to “follow” someone and to be able to see who’s following whom and how many followers and followees someone has.
It clicked for me when Stephen Hill sent me a link a few days ago to lala.com. I urge you to check it out. And don’t just visit — register and add some songs to your collection so you can see how it works and understand this discussion. The folks at lala.com recently made some major improvements to the site and it has some terrific features.
If this survives Doug’s 48-Hour Rule, I think I’ll start by adding general support for the concept of following. I’ll make it easy to follow someone who seems to be promoting content you like. The content you see will then be that which has been rated highly by those that you’ve chosen to follow, and the content will be identified by those sources. “Number of followers” will become a reputation metric, much as it is on Twitter, but I think it will be less polluted by the “star” factor simply because SpokenWord.org isn’t going to appeal to such a general audience. Eventually you may even be able to adjust the weight of the opinions of those you follow: Some people’s opinions would carry more weight than others.
Also like lala.com, I’m considering the concept of “influencers” and the associated point system. I need to think this through in more detail, however, and consider what’s working on other sites like StackOverflow. Twitter is so beautifully simple and lala.com is already s bit confusing. It took me some time, for example, to understand the difference between my collection and my playlists. (Do I really need both?) Maybe following is all we need. TBD.
Once again, the strategic discussion of the future of SpokenWord.org is happening on our Google Group. You’re welcome to join if you want to help us figure this out.