Pandora Gets Social

Pandora has now added the social features it promised a few months ago.

… as of today users can now list bio information, leave comments, bookmark other users and create artist lists.

…While the focus of Pandora hasn’t radically shifted, the new features do put some additional emphasis on Pandora users and community, rather than just services.

All the new profile features come with privacy controls, users can set their profiles public or private and turn comments on and off. It would nice if Pandora had an option to control the privacy of comments rather than just turning them on and off, for instance perhaps an option to allow trusted users to comment but block everyone else. Unfortunately that isn’t currently possible.

In addition to the new profile features, there’s also a couple of new search possibilities that let you find other users with similar tastes. When you find another user with a station that fits your musical taste, you can add that person by clicking the blue “bookmark this person” button on their profile page (assuming their profile is public).

Good stuff.

This adds Pandora to the growing list of music-based social networking sites, along with, MOG, iLike, ProjectOPUS, Finetune, Goombah, Lala, Haystack, MusicHawk, ReverbNation, Bandwagon

And to think that just a few months ago it really looked like had no competition.

My ambition (well, one of them) for the new year is to spend some time exploring these sites and figuring out just what they have in common and where they differ. If you know any others I should add to the list, or have opinions about any of the ones I’ve mentioned, please leave mention in the comments.

People of the Year

So as you’ve no doubt heard,Time has decided that the Person of the Year is the users of Web 2 apps who are, uh, revolutionizing the world as we know it or something like that:

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I’m not going to watch Lost tonight. I’m going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I’m going to mash up 50 Cent’s vocals with Queen’s instrumentals? I’m going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

Sure, why not, (though I kind of liked Muhammad Yunus)?

The LA Times, for their part, have offered Ten moments the web shook the world which, like the Time story, struck me because although it doesn’t make it explicit, it shows what a big chunk of this ‘revolution’ is fan-driven:
They start with Snakes on a Plane:

No, “Snakes on a Plane” did not go on to challenge “Titanic’s” box office record, but it did become the first studio release entirely championed, developed and, for a time it seemed, directed by film fans on the Internet. The moment when the movie’s cast and crew went back to the cameras for Internet-ordered, gore-boosting re-shoots will go down in history as the first time the Web grabbed the production reins away from movie producers.

Then they trash the promo site for the movie Running Scared:

the studio created a game that allowed visitors to take on the role of hero Joey Gazelle, played in the film by Paul Walker. Players could dive into the game to shoot it out with bad guys, drive fast cars … and perform oral sex on Gazelle’s wife, with an interactive guide showing to how to do so more effectively. After a few raised eyebrows in the mainstream media, New Line removed the game.

Lonely Girl shows up next (” The most riveting entertainment story of the year was neither the Mel Gibson nor Tom Cruise”), along with a number of other ordinary folks who became web stars through these new platforms. MySpace, which has transcended being a fan space, but still uses fandom as a major point of similarity-assessment, gets a paragraph.

They include a dose of politics (George Allen’s Macaca moment) which could be interpreted as a move by a Webb fan to discredit Allen (and which is very reminiscent of the Two Gallants arrest in Houston fan vids on YouTube).

All of which is to say that in the big picture of ‘ordinary people are becoming media producers’ narrative, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’re seeing a new mainstreaming of fandom and a shift that makes it easier for ordinary folks to become objects of fandom. If you tell the “Web 2″ story and don’t talk about the centrality of fans, you’re missing a huge piece of the plot.

IKEA Fan Sites

A couple of years ago, the fabulous Nina Wakeford gave a keynote address at the Association of Internet Researchers. She began by musing on what kind of named chair she would like to have were she to have one. I can’t do her performance justice, but she said she’d decided she’d like to be “an IKEA chair” — offering simple brightly colored theories that you could take home but which never fit together quite as well as they did at the store.

Love it or hate it, IKEA’s got allure, and like Trader Joe’s, it’s also got some serious fandom going on around it. See for example this site which violates every design principle for which IKEA is known (but which sure shows the love!). Or this one for fans of the stores in Ohio.

What does it take for a store to get a fan phenomenon going on around it? Both Trader Joes and IKEA seem to have a distinctive ethos — a value system that they are consistent in pursuing. For Trader Joes it’s cheap, healthy, food from a variety of cultures. For IKEA it’s cheap, bright, simple, and cheerful aesthetics. Both of those are qualities that people can think “I’m the kind of person who likes…” These stores know what they do and they do it consistently. They’ve got their own style, and they’re easy to identify with.

Zeromind’s Social Network Website

Metal band Zeromind have put out a press release claiming they are the first band with their own social networking site. I’m always skeptical of claims to be the first anything, but I don’t know of any other band sites like their’s (if you do please tell me!).

They’ve got the usual stuff about them — videos, news, forums, etc — but they’ve also got it set up with user profiles, user blogs, and are generally doing an ace job of putting the focus on the fans as individuals.

I’m of 2 minds about this. Heaven knows I can get as obsessive about a band as anyone. Just ask my 10 year old son who would be happy never to hear Madrugada again as long as he lives. But how much of your online identity construction do you really want to invest in one band’s space? The beauty of something like MySpace or MOG or Last.FM is that you can have your music-based profile where you show off that you’re in love with that one band the most, but you can construct yourself a music-based identity that is wider than that slice of your taste. What do you do when Zeromind put out a record that you don’t like? Or break up?

At any rate, the proof is in the pudding, and they’ve certainly got a lot of action going on there so it’s probably a model worth watching. If they really want it to take off though, they may want to speed up its load times. And be warned if you go investigating that you’re gonna get a really loud blast of their music out your speakers as soon as it does load.

Sick n Busy

I’ve got the cold to end all colds and a workload piled higher than I am tall, so forgive me if my postings are infrequent for the next week or two. I’ve got lots of goodies to write about as soon as I’ve got my energy and time back so don’t forget about me!