recognizes user creativity

Last April I noted that “several users have developed means of taking music-listening data from the site and generating all kinds of interesting things.” I linked to the front page of the stats group where a user was compiling and maintaining both a listing of these tools (visualizers, badges, mainstream and eclecticism calculations, etc) and a space for their developers and users to discuss them. I concluded that post by saying:

And let’s hear it for the fans who are creating these programs. If I ran, I’d be trying to get some of these things incorporated into the site instead of leaving it all to clever fans to run on their own.

Well, I suspect that the riproaring success that is Facebook Applications was more of an incentive than my exhortations, but just did this by creating Build — “Free tools built by the community to extend your experience.” Except for that little thing about a business model, the concept is much like FB Apps. If one looks more closely, however, most of what they have done is to take the work users C26000 did on the stats group page and MrSmithey did with tools, and given it an interface that looks more like a page.


I commend for recognizing and encouraging this kind of fan activity — it’s a great demonstration of how fan enthusiasm can benefit both fans and developers. I suspect that this will result in more stats geeks figuring out fun ways to play with the data.

At the same time, though, it’s a shift that walks that fine line between supporting and appropriating. I don’t think are guilty of exploiting here — they are not taking any credit for the tools and they are bringing them much broader notice. On the other hand, in contrast to, say, Facebook apps, there doesn’t seem to be any model to give back to the fan/developers other than “we think this is so cool we’re linking to it.” Now, for many that may be more than enough. When they’ve written some of these up in the blog, people have been deeply flattered by the official attention. But they will need to be mindful of the potential for such official recognition to make free labor start seeming more like work than play to those who do it.

The person who runs the stats group has expressed mixed feelings — he likes the official page but wonders whether it leaves a space for the group he’s been overseeing. The one response in his thread as of this writing is — YES, it gives us a place to discuss it. Which I find doubly interesting since does a much better job of things like incorporating fun tools than it does at supporting community discussion. But that’s a topic for another post.

I must suppress a giggle that the tool that appears in the upper left corner (ExtraStats) prominently features a beautiful colorful river graphic display of my own charts (its developer loved the visual effect of my obsessive listening habits almost as much as I love the graphic).