Turntable.fm co-developer Yang Yang has been with the company since it was just an idea kicking around the StickyBits offices — well before Turntable.fm launched in stealth mode on May 19 (see our May 24 post). It’s still unlike just about any other service.
Earlier this week, Yang appeared at the NYC MusicTechnology Meetup earlier this week to demonstrate the product, tell the assembled crowd of digital music hackers, coders, and entrepreneurs about it, and answer questions.
Building on our earlier story, “20 Things You Didn’t Know About Turntable.fm,” here’s a round-up of items of interest from this latest presentation.
Crowd Control Is Key
“We’ve seen a lot of really viral interest,” said Yang Yang, who likes to hang out in the classical room. “Most of the past four months have been, sort of, scaling up to meet the users’ demands.”
In addition to scaling up the servers, Turntable.fm has made it easier for users to find listening rooms. Instead of one big list, you can now check out only rooms that need DJs, your favorite rooms, and your Friends’ rooms as determined by Facebook. As always, each room maxes out at 200 people.
It’s Really Important that the ‘Avatars in a Room’ Take Up Much of the Screen
“When we were designing the app, we had a choice between a plain regular web UI and this thing, where the visual representation of the room takes up the vast majority of the page, and we decided to go with this because people hadn’t really explored synchronous listening.
“When we first tested it with users, people didn’t really understand what was going on. They were like, ‘Are we all listening to music at the same time?’ This was to really drive that point home. We actually have this scene of this nightclub with a bunch of listeners and DJs, to show that you’re listening when you chat, you see bubbles pop up besides the avatars.
Gaming Elements Are Crucial to Social Elements
“It’s fairly important to have the game elements, because the game is a good metaphor for these types of activities. If you log onto an MMO like World of Warcraft, you’ll be hanging around with your friends in real time and chatting.”
It’s Also for Artists
“We had artists come on and do listening parties with unreleased music, to sort of gauge the reaction of people to the music. One of the record labels [from] San Francisco, they had a bunch of people tweet out ‘Hey, I’m going to do a listening party for this record that’s coming out tomorrow. Everyone hop in.’ And it’s a new way for users who haven’t heard of them to see if they like it or not.
“It was a pretty unexpected moment. We didn’t thing that real artists would want to be on the service, especially DJs, because they want to have real control over how music is played, and they want to fade in and everything, and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re just streaming MP3s.’ But for the listening parties, that seems to be working really well.
The Nerd Stuff (Partially Inaudible)
“When we started off, our stack was basically Python and [inaudible] — Python running in Tornado in one process, and it eventually became just too much for this one machine to handle so now we’re splitting it up by rooms. We have two chat servers, so depending on what room you’re in, you’re directed to a separate piece of the [inaudible]…”
“We communicate between the client and server with Socket I/O… tons and tons of persistent connections… the number of connections has not been the bottleneck. Right now we’re probably doing several thousand concurrently. We have had a lot of stability issues, but those are not related directly to the number of connections, so I’d imagine we could do a lot more.”
Turntable.fm Watches TT Dashboard
“They [TTDashboard] used to stick bots in, I think, every room, and then it became that there were too many rooms for them to track, so they put bots in the largest rooms, and they would track everytyhing that happens in a room. They had a database with who’s got the most points, the most fans, the songs that they liked, disliked and played, and the most popular songs. It really seems like a good way for people to gauge what is popular and not popular…
“We’re still thinking about how to use this data. It obviously is a lot more data than we ever expected, through the number of users that are on the site.”
Only DeadMau5 Can Wear the Deadmau5 Hat
“For the thousand-points avatars, we used to have a big gorilla and Deadmau5, with the big red ears, and yeah, his manager actually contacted us and said, ‘Hey, it would be nice if we could reserve this avatar for the real Deadmau5, when he comes on the site.’ So far, he hasn’t shown up.
“We have a lot of celebrities requesting that we make custom avatars for them — sort of like Twitter’s verified accounts. So we do that.”
Audio Fingerprinting Is Coming
Users can upload whatever MP3s they want to Turntable.fm right now, and Turntable.fm uses whatever metadata is in those files, but it could add audio fingerprinting to obviate the need for uploading in some cases, or at least to make sure people are playing what they say they are playing (crucial for paying SoundExchange licensing fees).
“We do eventually want to do audio fingerprinting. Right now, we’re sort of relying on the user’s metadata, and adhering to DMCA’s non-interactive rules as best we can based on that metadata.”
To Become a Super User, Don’t Ask, Do.
“The people who become Super Users are not the people who ask to become Super Users. They are the people who are already doing Super User-y duties… basically, we just hang out in rooms, and whenever we see someone who is not just being a really good DJ but actively trying to make the community better by asking other people to be nice or reporting trolls, they might be a good Super User. If they turn out to be a bad Super User we always have the option of demoting them.”
People Still Rickroll Each Other
“One of the songs that’s always in the top ten is Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Let You Down.’