Wednesday, January 9, 2013

'space Exploration

Okay, the New MySpace is finally here. Well, sort of...

It's now just over a month since I was 'invited' to try out the not-yet-public, still-in-'beta' (or is it 'alpha'? I can never remember which is which) version of New MySpace. I definitely had my reservations before I started. The swish promotional video looked just fine and dandy and guaranteed to impress. But then promotional videos always do. My first impression was that it is going to make huge demands on the hardware. Only those with the very latest gear would be able to use it. It is clearly designed with touchscreen tablets in mind and has a strong whiff of Windows 8 in particular. All that sideways scrolling and the nursery school large font sizes? It's a dead giveaway really, isn't it?

I'm happy to report that I've had no trouble at all running it via Firefox on my 64-bit desktop Windows 7 platform. It's really stable and fast and has never once crashed (touch wood, or maybe silicon). On my Windows XP "Classic" partition running Google Chrome, things were not so peachy. It makes huge demands on the memory, so 'older' PCs (i.e.; IE, anything more than a couple of years old) would definitely struggle. If your internet connection slows down from time to time, then New MySpace definitely will. I would certainly imagine that the doggedly-non-compliant M****soft Internet Explorer would have a lot to squinny about, given that it still can't get basic HTML and CSS right after all these years ;-)

It was a step into the unknown then, but I wasn't about to draw a line under my beloved "Classic" MySpace and move lock stock and barrel to New MySpace without trying it out under another alias. As we long ago had set up a Johnson's Gridling Band MySpace profile, which had got abandoned (Shelfy lost the passwords), I decided that a new 'band' site, one that was representative of the whole history of our zany musical careers, was on the cards. This could be a project (we do like those, eh kids?!), which would, hopefully, result in something lasting and useful when all the experimenting was done with.

So... you've joined NewMySpace, what do you get? What does it do? What is it for?



It's dead simple to set up. You will need to upload a profile picture (1), just like the avatar you have now (Make the image square, for reasons that will shortly become apparent). You will also need to fill that big white space on your 'cover'(2) with something pretty. The image has to be a minimum of 1024 x 768 pixels, a suspiciously very specific number which just so happens to be the screen size of an iPad. Again, they are assuming that you have a machine fast enough to download an image that size to your browser without complaining. There is a little pencil icon in the top left of your screen. That's what you click on to set up your profile details - who you are, where you are and so on. There is a box that says "SAY SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF"(3). Well, you can, but you've only got 150 characters to do so. THIS IS CRAP!!! If I was an independent band or artist who wanted to promote themselves via MySpace (like we did in the good old days, remember?), then I would at least expect there to be somewhere to put a potted biography, or discography, or any kind of 'ography' really. This is supposed to be a 'music' site, right? Ah! yes, right... now... music...

For the first week of 'playing about' on NewMySpace, I was labouring under the misconception that there wasn't yet any music on the site beyond those commercial horrors that screamed at you on the promos. Search the site via the 'Discover' button at the bottom of the screen and that's all you saw - rappers, nu-soul divas, X-Factor contestants... Having uploaded a few photos, I'd run out of anything else to do, because it looked to me as if they hadn't finished that aspect of the site. "If that's the only kind of music that's here, then it's clearly not for the likes of me...", thought I.
Dear Diary - "A major handicap for a 'music' site is that I can't actually upload any of our OWN music yet. The button to do so is not yet functioning. All you can do is 'share' other people's 'music', every last item of which is currently CORPORATE X-FACTOR PLEBFODDER. I am not interested in 'sharing' playlists full of Hollywood-approved popkiddies who I don't know from Adam, so I can't personally see a way in which this format would help spread our OWN content... Where are the classical or jazz musicians, the avant-garde experimentalists, the outright weirdos, the ARTISTS? Not on New Myspace, that's for sure. At least not yet. Maybe with time, THEY WILL COME. But currently, if you press that "DISCOVER" link in order to find people to "CONNECT" with (they are no longer "FRIENDS", you will notice), there is NOBODY there who I would even give the time of day. Again I WILL give New Myspace the benefit of the doubt - maybe it WILL develop into a more diverse community eventually... I am aware that this is a PRE-LAUNCH version that I'm trying out..."
Then, all of a sudden, I found it! As I'd been peering at the site through a letterbox-shaped browser window, rather than the iPad shaped thing that I'm expected to use(!), I found that some of the buttons I needed to do the job were actually hidden off the edge of the screen! I'd been the victim of DOUBLE-SCROLLING! I'd spent a whole week telling myself and others that this was an unfinished 'beta' version of the site and that the ability to upload music wasn't there yet... but it had been there all along. D'OH!
Dear Diary - "Okay, hands up! Confession time! I've discovered that the reason that I "couldn't" upload any music ISN'T that I have an "incomplete" version of New Myspace. It's because I was not doing it right! You have to first locate (via the Myspace logo on the bottom player/toolbar thingy) a button called "MANAGE". From there you CAN upload songs. Once you've got some songs on your profile, only THEN does a "MUSIC" button magically appear on your homepage so that folks can see (and presumably 'share') the list of songs. A bit convoluted, but it DOES work... Ignore all that stuff I wrote previously about this being an "INCOMPLETE" version of New Myspace... I'm still learning!"
I stumbled over something else. The catalogue of music on New MySpace is not limited to the latest plastic pop sensations. The "classical or jazz musicians, the avant-garde experimentalists, the outright weirdos, the artists" are all there, along with anyone else who has ever posted their music on an 'old' MySpace profile (even the abandoned ones!). They might not have their own New MySpace profiles, but the music is still available. That's rather useful, because we as a 'group' have numerous incarnations (nearly 40 different 'related' sites) on 'old' MySpace. I had hours of fun picking the 'best' of our own back catalogue[s] and arranging them into playlists, as well as adding these to my 'connections' lists(4). But more on that later.

I was now able to upload music to the site itself, although, at first, I couldn't for the life of me see a way to organise the songs once I'd done so. I posted a message on the Help Forums for guidance (yes, they have those here, run by actual MySpace staff who will answer your actual questions and suggest ways of actually doing things! Remember those, OldSpacers?). Once again, I'd failed to find the appropriate buttons because they were off the edge of my browser screen! Rant alert!!!
Dear Diary - "My 'problem' with not being able to edit and move our songs about? I was the victim of HORIZONTAL SCROLLING! The little 'pencil' icon for song info editing WAS OFF THE EDGE OF MY SCREEN where I couldn't see it. Once again we're seeing mobile-compatibility issues being allowed to turn back the clock on THE ART OF GOOD GRAPHIC DESIGN. I'm coming across a lot of this lately - supposedly "professionally-designed" "modern" websites which involve the visitor having to resort to both vertical AND horizontal scrolling in order to see the extent of the page (This is partly because you can't anchor page elements in place through the use of FRAMES anymore. iPhones and Androids don't like it). THAT IS BAD WEB DESIGN!!! Make your pages FIT!"
So now we were getting somewhere... I'd uploaded some music, added a profile song(5), created a few playlists, posted photos and some links via the stream. I found the music player(6) itself to be a delight to use after the bolted-on-as-an-afterthought solution they have on 'old' MySpace. It happily plays entire albums at me undisturbed and without complaint. Hey! I even had a bunch of people 'add' us to their own 'connections' list. Admittedly, I don't know them from Adamski, so they're probably either MySpace staffers or young'ns playing the game of "Accumulate The Numbers". But it's a start!
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A GUIDED TOUR

So you've built your cover page now...



...scroll across and you will see your stream(14) - or do we now call it a 'wall' like they do on that F***book? You will still interact with the world via this, just the same as you do now. You can post hyperlinks to external content (because, let's face it, you can't put it here and it's got to go somewhere!) and you can tell the nice people all about your lovely adventures, providing you can do so in 150 characters or less! That will frustrate every wordsmith on the planet. I know it does me! If you want to write a blog... well, you can't, at least not here. You could do all your writing on a proper blog site like Blogger or Wordpress or LiveJournal (or on 'old' MySpace, if you insist) and then post a link to it, remembering to keep your descriptions to a minimum. You also upload your photos from here on the stream. Of that, more later.


The "SEARCH"(7) button is that little magnifying glass icon on your player. As you'd expect, you type in who or what you're looking for on a text entry box - except that on a 'normal' computer monitor it's the size of Wales! As you type, your text appears on the screen in an enormous 80pt sans-serif font. This confirms the fact that NewMySpace is designed with thumbtexters in mind and is intended for those who, for reasons that escape me, prefer to interact with the web on smaller and smaller screens... I personally still prefer the tactile sensation of a full-size mechanical keyboard and a decent sized monitor, but what would I know?


Returning to those buttons down the right hand side of your 'cover' page. The first one will say 'MUSIC'(8), providing you have already uploaded some of your own. You can organise your music into albums (either real ones, or just convenient bunches of related songs). You can upload album cover art to go with it. It's (currently?) much quicker and easier to do this than it is on OldSpace's rather clunky 'uploaded songs' interface. In fact, I found it's terrific fun, now that I know how it's done!


The next button says 'MIXES'(9) and you will have this one even if you're not uploading any music of your own. I personally think that 'mixes' is a silly (pseudo-hip) name - I'm going to call them 'concatenations'. They can be anything at all, in theory, and not just collections of songs. There are also three system-created mixes, where your images and stream-posted stuff are stored by default. You can create your own mixes, using them as playlists of other people's music (not unlike the 'playlists' on OldSpace... but this works better) and they can be public or private. The private ones are only visible to you and have a 'padlock' icon (see above). Again, lots of fun to be had here, once you dig past all the music they want you to like and find the stuff you do like! This is the central hub of what New MySpace is all about, so they've made this work really well.


New MySpace is no longer "A Place For Friends". You don't make 'friends', you make 'CONNECTIONS'(10). It's not dissimilar to the 'circles' idea on GooglePlus, but not quite as flexible. You make connections with other people (or albums, playlists or even individual songs. It's still all about the 'music', remember). And other people, hopefully 'fans', can make connections with you. Making for two separate lists. If they are 'friends' of some sort, you have to add them back to complete the transaction, but you're not obliged to. So far, as you see above, I've just used my own connections list as a sort of database of all our related music lurking there on OldSpace.


And now we come to the "PHOTOS"(11) part of the show... and this will not be to everyone's taste! You upload pictures via the stream and they, by default, are all bagged together in a 'mixes' folder called - you guessed it! - 'Stream Mix'. I have not yet discovered a way to organise them into themed 'albums' as before, nor do I see a way to make some of them public and others private. The thumbnails that represent your pictures are subjected to a really daft automated cropping process, which will result in a number of images of upper torsos with the heads removed (see example above). I have also not found a way of going back and editing picture captions (150 characters again!) once you've posted them. If you 'change your mind', you have to start again from scratch and upload the picture again (I might be missing something. I'm happy to be proved wrong, if anyone else has tried this. It's possible that, once again, the appropriate edit buttons are hidden from me off the edge of the screen, but I have done some exploratory scrolling and I don't see them.) None of this lends itself to using your photo folders as an archive of lasting memories. It is clearly aimed at teenage girls who take a picture on their phones and require the instant gratification of sharing it with their chums automatically without having to resort any tedious mucking about with photo editors. It will appear once on their stream (I guess 'wall' is more appropriate here) and be forgotten about the next day.


We are promised that all sorts of fancy VIDEO(12) integration is coming soon to NewMySpace (that will also test your technology to the limit, I shouldn't wonder!). Videos can be full screen and fill the size of your 'cover' page (so they'd better be fairly HD or they'll look crap on a big monitor). If you have a song in one of your playlists that has a video clip to go with it, then you will be able to link to it directly from a button next to said song. But not yet. If you click on the video button on anyone's profile, you just see the above screen.


The 'EVENTS'(13) page... I haven't used this at all, nor have I found anyone else who has, so I can't say whether it works or not. This is all you will see on this page for the most part.
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CONCLUSIONS OF A SORT...

New MySpace is a music streaming site and it does that very well, thank you. It's a vast improvement on the solution they came up with on OldSpace, which has "thrown together as an afterthought" written all over it and which has never worked properly. This one does work, because, sensibly, they built a completely new site from scratch instead of trying, as they've done in the past, to patch up the old one.

But it is a music streaming site that will suit 'fans' rather than the musicians themselves. It favours blind consumption rather than any meaningful interaction. As a so-called-musician myself, I would expect to be able to tell any potential audient a little about myself - a little potted history; maybe try to explain all those strange noises they will hear oozing out of my pages. But I can't, because the means to do so isn't there. I'm just a number on a jukebox along with everyone else. This might suit the purveyors of teenfodder who are already known to the public (well... their public anyway), but it won't be much good to the left-of-centre independents trying to operate outside the (failing-as-a-business-model) music industry.

I wonder who is going to pay for it? At the moment, I don't see any ads on the site. I'm sure all that will change by the time they go public.

When the present owners bought MySpace as a brand, what they were really acquiring was a huge catalogue of "free" music. And I do mean huge. Over ten years' worth of every song that anyone has ever uploaded to an existing MySpace profile ever (providing they haven't subsequently deleted it again themselves). And that includes all the songs on all the profiles that got abandoned during the Great Exodus, accounts that were never actually closed. They're all still there on a MySpace server to be shared. If you ever uploaded your music to MySpace, you have tacitly agreed for your music to become public domain property. I personally have no problem with that, but I know a few people who would prefer their music not to be shared in this way. Consider the ongoing debacle concerning other streaming sites and the payments that do or don't trickle down to the artists themselves.

At first I found it dumbfounding, then I found it rather boring, once I thought I'd reached its limits. Now I think I've settled in nicely. It's all a frivolous waste of time and none of it really matters in the overall scheme of things and it has no serious useful purpose whatsoever and it's never going to come close to replacing the Old MySpace... but I've actually had fun with it.

NewMySpace is a music streaming site first and foremost and, as far as that goes, it's jolly nice. But it is not fit for purpose as a 'social' network, not in the same way as OldMySpace. It is anti-literate, pro-twitterate. You can't do any of the things you do now on OldMySpace to anything like the same degree. I've found myself wondering whether they shouldn't have just given it a different name and be done with it?

COMMENTS FROM OVER THERE

EP - This is totally why you're one of the most refreshing sons-a-bitches in the whole damn cyber world, Minty! "CORPORATE X-FACTOR PLEBFODDER"!?! Sadly, the Plebfodder are the types who would demand an touchscreen type layout as well.
I am convinced your assumption is right, about the old spazzster servers containing the music being the motivation for this whole project.
Outside of posting it in the stream, is there any link pointing back [to] an old spazzter account, so a prospective new listener might be able to springboard from there and at least learn a few things about the style and the musicians themselves?
PP - I'm middle-aged, so I have a special licence to just stand askance and sneer at the teenyplebs and their fickle ways ;-)
re: Links - Yes, you can, sort of... You have the option of putting a hyperlink to ONE other external website on your 'cover' panel. This is probably meant for the famous person (or a representative of their record company who, let's face it, will be the ones who are ACTUALLY maintaining the site on their behalf) to connect you to their 'official' website. But it does allow you to choose a MySpace profile as your 'phone a friend' if you want. I've just tried it and it works.
CC - I am VERY afraid to read this...
PP - Be afraid, be VERY afraid... wuh-hahaha!
No, really, I hope I've been very non-partisan and balanced in my appraisal. Credit where due, I think NewMySpace has its merits... but it's not really "MySpace" at all, so don't jump in expecting it to be. And, most important, DON'T 'switch' your account if you want to try it out - open up a new one!

10 comments:

  1. Minty, for an added bit of irony I have linked this blog on Facefuck.... I guess I'll open up an account & 'Connect" with you there, but it seems like a waste of time. I'm imagining that eventually the NewMySpace will be nothing more than a glorified iTunes... Stellar work here!!! <3333

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    1. There's no scope for selling music on NMS, so it's hardly going to be iTunes. If you want to sell your music, you direct the audient to an external site... like, um... iTunes!

      Maybe teenyfans will love it (another way to NOT pay for their music), but musicians will hate it for precisely the same reason.

      Frankly my dear, I wouldn't bother if I were you, unless you're REALLY curious of course.

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    2. I think you're right... I won't bother. The confusion with log-ins, etc. wouldn't be worth it, although I ALWAYS love building a new profile! ;)

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    3. I can't even give you a URL for my new Gridling Band site so that you can see (and hear) for yourself... because, unlike OldSpace, you can't just visit folks' profiles WITHOUT logging in. That's several more marks against it as a way of getting one's "art" 'out there'.

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  2. http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/01/16/the-new-myspace-what-a-mess/?hpt=hp_t3

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    1. Thanks for that link, La Llori! Always interesting to read what the (non-MySpace) rest of the world thinks! I honestly believe that it wouldn't come under anything like that amount of flak if they hadn't decided to call it "MySpace" (which it clearly isn't). It's also interesting to learn that the perception of MySpace is still that it's 'mainly used by young people'.

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    2. I know... so pathetic, huh? No one understands who the demographic is that actually uses the site! Especially, not the Three Billy Goats Gruff along with Justin Shake&Bake...

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    3. (This particular blogpost is growing at an alarming rate! hahaha)

      Have you noticed too, that this comes at a time when the ever-evolving SOUNDCLOUD are now making their site a MORE 'social' experience? For musicians as well as the 'fans'. Surely THAT is the way to engender a broad appreciation of music, not just by pandering to a Cali-centric 'industry' and helping to spoonfeed their sickly broth to the undiscerning and fickle.

      GRATUITOUS PLUG(ins)... If you haven't already done so, take a look at the Soundcloud 'apps' store next time you're in. There's some nice handy (FREE!!!!) toys in there (it's not just for mobiles either - I've recently downloaded the superb freeby edition of Magix Samplitude to replace the aging version I had been using, as well as a couple of useful MIDI plug-ins)

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    4. Ahhhh..... yes! I think you nailed their target demographic! Soundclouders!!! Well, here's my url. I "connected" with you there as Cecilia Cruz: https://new.myspace.com/ccthinks

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    5. We Soundclouders are a far more discerning bunch, m'dear!
      You've shown me yours, so I'll show you mine;
      https://new.myspace.com/jgbfuture

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