blip.fm

Very first thoughts of blip.fm, and therefore not a proper review, and based on first impressions, not research.

blip.fm is interesting but so far for me has proved a little frustrating in understanding how to get the most out of it.

[For reasons not clear to me I have dumped my thoughts as bullet points (which would have worked just as well as sentences, but can sometimes make it more readable).]

  • blip.fm doesn’t seem like a ‘set it going and leave it to play’ website. which I guess is what i’m most interested in.
  • it has been described as a cross between twitter and last.fm, which I agree with.
  • on signing up, it suggests you enter three bands you like, and then adds 30 people (DJs) to your feed.
  • You then see a realtime feed of what your favourite DJs have been listening to, you can then start listening to this list.
  • Though I want to discover new music, many of the songs in the list (from people in my automatically created favorites) were of no interest. However it is easy to skip songs (though, this is just one element of the ‘needs your attention’  I described above).
  • Now i would guess that for most people, creating a list of favorite DJs based on three artists will produce some matches with people who on the whole you don’t share music taste with, and one of the first things they will want to do is refine the list and their preferences…
  • So you’re listening to the music, and skipping the ones you’re not so keen on. How can you refine this list? Well you can remove a DJ you don’t like a song of. But this may be just one bad song from what is generally a good mix of music. So I’m reluctant to this. Plus, to remove a DJ you need to follow a link to their page to remove them…
  • Which leads me to an annoying quirk. Almost anything you do leads to navigating away from the current page and therefore the music stops. You have to constantly remember to right-click links to open a new tab. Very Annoying.
  • Another oddity, one time I tried it, it seems no one from my DJs were currently playing anything (I’m in the UK and I’m guessing most of my regular blippers are on the west coast US or similar). So the first page of ‘what my DJs have recently played’ stayed static (most recently played song first, just like twitter). It was dominated by two people and most of the songs were crap. lots of skipping meant i soon got to the end of the list. but instead of moving me to page 2, or something like that, it just took me to the top of the list again, to play the same crap as the first time round.
  • You have two options next to each track,: ‘add it to playlist’ and ‘give dj props’. The former, urm, adds it to your playlist. However this does not mean it will show up in the list of tracks played by me (i.e. if anyone is following me as a DJ, or on the homepage ‘all’ feed), it really does just get added to to a playlist page for me, and doesn’t do much. The second option will use one of my ‘props’ credits to this DJ, a basic way of saying ‘hey, i like your stuff’, though not total clear how this meter of popularity differs from the ‘number of followers’ metric which blip.fm seems to promote more (ie in user’s pictures/aviators it shows roughly how many people follow that person’s playlist).
  • However, what i really want is a way to say ‘I like this’ or ‘not for me’ (props are one way of showing you like it, but they are in short supply). basically a thumbs up/ thumbs down. some way for me to tell blip what i like over time. based on this it could probably build up a much better list of DJs for me to follow.
  • This is what I don’t get, I’m guessing people will be hearing songs for a first time and want a way to record if they like it or not. For example, I mentioned earlier that removing DJs was difficult (or at least I am reluctant to do) because you are making the decision based on what that person has just played, rather than whether they have played good/bad stuff over time. Flagging songs good/bad would then allow the site to show the amount of good/bad points you have given each DJ over time, so you can either manually see those who you have on the whole given thumbs down to the songs they have played, or even it can suggest which DJs should be removed (based on thumbs down), and perhaps some who should be added (based on the artists you are giving a thumbs up, and those DJs with the best match).
  • Ok, so that’s the listening ‘read-only’ side, but what about the other side of the coin, your own stream of tracks which others can listen to?
  • At the top of the page is a text box to enter the answer ‘what are you listening to?’.
  • At first this seems like an odd question, duh, what ever is blip.fm is playing for me!
  • However, if you ignore this and enter what you WANT to listen to, enter an artist say and then select the track. It will then prompt for a twitter-like short message which will be displayed with the track. If available it will then play the track.
  • This is cool, and a good way to hear a specific song you have in your head.
  • But it stops whatever you are listening to originally.
  • In fact I can’t see how a balance of listening to the songs of others while adding in some of your own could work, as each time you add your own it will stop the playlist (you can avoid this with a keyboard combination), it would be good if it just played it once the current song is finished.
  • Anyone who follows me will only see those i have manually typed in myself. This seems almost a waste, I may listen to several hours of music, and add to my playlist several songs i love which others have played on blip, but these will not show up in my stream, so while someone following me may well love the ones I have flagged, they will not hear them unless i then manually search for the very song I am listening to on blip fm and blip it myself (which will then play it again for me, which I don’t want as I’ve just listened to it). Cutting the current song/artist from one part of its display to post in to another, to answer the question (what am I listening to) which it itself knows because it is the very thing playing it to me seems odd. Though as I said at the beginning, I may yet to master how to use blip.

Coming back to what I said at the start, it requires your time, to skip crap tracks, to add your own (but only when a track is just finishing – unless it is an aforementioned crap one – to avoid it being cut off), to keep an eye on who is playing good stuff (so you don’t remove them) and who is playing rubbish (so you can remove them if they keep it up!), to move to the next page of music once you have played the first page in your list, etc. This need for constant attention wouldn’t be so bad if it lead to some long term good, i.e. it helped build up a preference profile of what I liked (eg I don’t mind spending time adding ratings to my itunes library because I can use those ratings in the future)

While removing DJs is possible once you have identified whose music tastes don’t match yours, adding DJs is not so simple, as you are basically starting from scratch. What songs you’ve played, the songs you have added to playlists, the DJs you having given props to, all mean nothing, you just type in two or more artists names and it will suggest some DJs from what appears to be just those which include those artists.

This seems simplistic, and wouldn’t be so bad if there was an easy way to gradually weed them out or perhaps rank DJs so their music took a lower priority. The latter suggestion would alter the whole model, at the moment it works like twitter, you either follow someone or not, by only half following someone, or by giving their music a lower priority, say for example, if their songs only show up in your feed if other DJs you prefer are not playing much, or perhaps only the songs they play which have a good match to the sort of music you like.

I’ve been quite negative hear, look it is a social music listening site, and is worth playing with, but what I wanted to get down was why it doesn’t seem to fully work for me. Maybe you need people you know on it, so you can follow them and stike up more banter?

[here is a gap in time]

Amazingly I played about six songs myself (and therefore they, and they only appeared in my stream that anyone else can follow), and I now have four followers. This instantly gave me a pathetic ego boost and suddenly I went from trying to make blio work as something to listen to, to full blown how many listeners can I get. This involves playing a lot of cool music and doing nothing else, and carefully timing it so the next one starts as the previous ends (otherwise annoyingly it plays the song before last again). Now this is a different use, but now I’m enjoying myself. I’m listening to no one else’s music (and so not discovering anything new) and not getting anything else done. but my god my music taste is damn good! current listening to the long version of I Am The Resurrection – The Stone Roses. poptastic.

UPDATE Feb 2009

The above was written just after I started using the service. I’m not a heavy user of blip, but do use it every few days. The ‘interactive’ (ie, it needs your attention) is still true. But this is very much like twitter. You get the most out of it when you are blipping music and listening and responding to other’s music.

You do get familiar faces and people you respond to, especially if you are a frequent user. However this ‘conversation’ element is not – for me – as great as Twitter, where you are following people you know or have similar interests, with blip you are following because you like their music, so conversation doesn’t extend much more than this (though blip comments such as ‘listening to this as it reminds me of Berlin’, for example, might get people discussion from those who have been there).

Blip works best when, like twitter, you are working away on your computer and are happy to switch back to blip every so often to play something new / slip a song your not keen on / reply to someone etc. I originally pondered on the idea of blipping a number of tracks at once so you can line tracks up to play in a row, rather than constantly going back as each song ends to find the next one. I’m now less sure on such an idea, the point of blip is its real-time qualities, people are playging these songs now, and the comments they leave with each blip are – like twitter – are current, not batched up when they first logged on.

Blip really is the Twitter of music playing, right down to no one really being sure of their business plan. It works. It is social music in a way that last.fm and similar can never be. Good stuff.