Canadian TV Alert

If you’re in Canada (or close enough to get Canadian TV reception), I’ll be participating in a panel discussion on The Agenda tonight about socializing online. Episode description: “How do we socialize online … and how does being online changes the way we socialize?” Presumably there will be a video podcast to follow. I’ll post that link when it’s up. The Agenda airs at 8 PM on TVO.

Video is now up – click March 4 link on the left. You can also download it as an audio or video podcast from iTunes. Very good 45 minute discussion. 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).

What Makes Me Feel Icky

I’ve spent a lot of time advocating for the idea that fans are not insane — that we are perfectly sensible people who are generally quite capable of recognizing the differences between, say, characters and actors, or rock star personae and the people who wear those masks.

So it troubles me no end when people try to post comments on this blog that confuse the fact that I have written ABOUT someone with the illusion that the someone about whom I have written is either behind this blog or likely to be reading it.

This happens a lot with … I fear to use their names lest they generate even more misguided search hits than they already do, so I’ll just say… a really big British pop star whose fan site manager I interviewed and a youtube teenage sensation who’s happy to take credit for having gained his success online.

It makes me wonder what is going on … are these people totally internet illiterate and really don’t understand that a comment on my blog will never ever be read by the person to whom they’re addressing it? Or are they just throwing comments up everywhere figuring eventually he’s going to see one somewhere? Messing with me? Just not paying attention? Or what?

I just don’t get it.

Actually, now that I think about it, it also happened when I wrote about that really beloved racehorse whose name I won’t use but whose fan community became an activist community following his death. I got all kinds of creepy comments submitted on that one, as though the horse’s trainer were reading the comments, in which case I’d have hoped he was standing by with his lawyers cuz that was some ugly stuff they were trying to do through me.

Strangely, it never happens when I write about people (or animals) who aren’t really famous. Guess it’s some sort of natural law — the more fans you get, the more likely you are to get some who can’t tell from

It makes me want to institute universal internet literacy education in grade schools throughout the world. Because if they’re confused about that, what else are they confused about?

Any other bloggers want to tell weird-comments-i-delete-that-aren’t-spam stories?

Online Music Fan Community Powerpoint

At by:Larm a number of people asked me to share the powerpoints of my talk. In it I argue that the internet has transformed fandom because it expands fans’ reach, transcends distance, supports archiving, provides group infrastructure, enables new forms of communication and lessens social distance. As a result, bands, fans and labels need to work out less hierarchical relationships in which fans are seen as equals who, when treated with trust and respect, will delight in spreading one’s gospel to more of the many corners of the internet than any one person can visit. I make the case through lots of examples drawn primarily from Scandinavian music fans, bands and labels.


One friend warned me to “never give away your powerpoints” but I’ve decided if I’m going to preach the ethos of free, I’d best be enacting it as well. I had a look-see at some of the slide sharing applications and none seems to be able to show the notes section as well as the slides and since that’s where most of the content in my talk was hiding, I opted for saving the Powerpoint notes page as a PDF file instead. You will have to imagine the sparkling live delivery filled with explanatory ad libs and examples missing in this version.

I hope you find it useful and all feedback is always appreciated.

Fan-Driven Reunion

I am just back from the Norwegian music festival by:Larm where I had such a good time I am now running on super-powered joy (which is good cuz heaven knows I’m not running on sleep!). There’s much to report from the event, but let me share quickly one of the best online fan stories I heard from Anders Odden who played guitar with the reunited “extreme goth” metal band Celtic Frost.

Apparently the band, which is considered pretty legendary in death metal circles, had broken up before the web took off. When the web got big, some fans bought the domain name and created a fan site. Apparently when the band members saw how much loving was still out there for them on this site, it inspired them to reunite. The site is now the official band site.

Among the other things fans do on there is post pictures of their Celtic Frost tattoos. I couldn’t find the page that has them (if you know it please leave the link in comments), but he told me there are something like 100 photos and that the band actually now has to think about how good a tattoo their images would make when choosing them. The cover of their last album featured a graphic of the singer’s face fragmented and one week after its release they met a fan whose arm was tattooed with that image.

He also said that although they are known for being extremely mysterious, they also spend as long as it takes after each show to sign every CD a fan wants signed, sometimes as long as 3 or 4 hours of signing.

Note the contrast between their encouraging fans to post pix of their tattoos and Prince trying to shut his fans down for doing so.

If you read Norwegian, there are write-ups of my talk here and here.  I have no idea what they say, but get the impression that the first is pretty much a summary and the latter adds some interesting examples. If any of you do understand them, please let me know the gist of them.

For those interested in by:Larm’s music, my write up of the bands I saw is here.