[Air-l] Facebook protests/last.fm

Nancy Baym nbaym at ku.edu
Thu Sep 7 13:56:59 PDT 2006


I too love what last.fm is doing, that's why it frustrates me no end to see them drop this ball. I understand that they are young and that they are computer scientists. To their credit, they've engaged in discussion about these issues that I've raised through that site. I know that they are aware that their communication with users could be better, though I'm not sure they're aware that their understandings of them could be improved. I don't know their business model, but I can't believe that any business founded on users voluntarily giving over tons of data and getting personally invested in its site would not function best with systematic study of its users (especially prior to implimenting big changes) and continuous proactive systematic communication with users. Yes -- their users will socially shape the baby they dreamed up in their dorm room, and they need to understand what's going on that they did not envision or control and how to make the most of it. Another thought on that is that it is very reminiscent of fandom dynamics where fans are so into a text and then a character gets killed off and they're furious that this happened to THEIR story. But I think it's more significant in this context where social networks are becoming technologically-dependent. 

Short version: I believe last.fm would make more money with social scientists/people who specialize in communicating with users on staff and am sad that I've failed so far in my efforts to convince them that it is an investment in the best interest of their long-term financial well being rather than a cost they are too small to afford.

For the interested, my critique of last.fm's communication shortcomings with respones from their developers (and primary communicators) is here:



-----Original Message-----

> Date: Thu Sep 07 10:04:40 CDT 2006
> From: "Martin Garthwaite" <marting at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Air-l] Facebook protests
> To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
>... I have
> had a meeting with last.fm guys. Not surprisingly the CTO is very young as
> are most of his team, they developed the idea whilst at university. We
> absolutely love what they are doing!
> So they are computer scientists, not social scientists. This is a very
> important distinction, what you have described is a classic example of
> unintended consequences  / social shaping of technology.  These guys only
> have their perspective through which to try and understand what it is their
> users want, but they are not social scientists. If only they and other
> social networking sites had a trained social scientist on staff!

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