Friday, March 06, 2009

Content (Resolution) is King!

For those of you that know me, you've probably heard me ramble on for years about how we need to decouple media content and the service from whence it comes. At the drop of a hat I will often start spewing off the same tired example...

Imagine your music service of choice is Rhapsody and mine is iTunes. Or your use iLike and I use You use Spotify and I use Imeem. Or you use Blockbuster and I use Netflix. I should be able to follow your tastes, history and recommendations without having to join your service (or vice versa). We are now starting to see some lifestreaming apps/aggregators that solve the first piece of that puzzle.... I can see what you what media you are consuming without having to join your service.

But, currently when I see that you've played a song that I want to check out, the link takes me to your service provider, not mine. Sure, this is in your service provider's best interest (page view, conversion opportunity, etc.) but certainly not in mine. Now, I have to copy the info, got back to my service provider, and manually re-enter to find and acquire.

The way it should be (IMHO), is that the consumer of the media should get to decide what service provider fulfills it. Basically, it's a massive translation layer that can take content in from anywhere and map it back out to anywhere else.

This is what often referred to as the "resolver" problem. Back in 2007, there was a thread between Lucas Gonze, myself and a couple of other people where we talked about this issue... and who should take the lead in solving it.

In the absence of these "portable music identifiers", people that are passionate about greasing the wheels of taste and content sharing are forced to the lowest common denominator... MP3 search engines. This has been the basis of the projects I've been done recently.... mapping multiple services play history down to free-range MP3s (or at least what it could find). Of course, the rights-holders are not big fans of this approach (see "world vs. seeqpod" suits) - and the consumers are often frustrated by bad files, dead links and just poor overall quality of content delivery.
I've recently been vocal about the idea that the solution to this problem is an API platform that any/all services could use in lieu of MP3 search. Conceptually, an advertising/commerce supported (ok, subsidized in the near term) free-streaming catalog provider that most music could be mapped to - a fully licensed central digital music catalog(more on this later). Granted, this is a rather grandiose idea and anything in this industry that upsets the status quo is often met with resistance (at best) and endless lawsuits (at worst).

So, my rambling has finally led me to my point... content resolution. If there is no central catalog that everything can be mapped to, then what we need is that translation layer that lets content links be mapped back and forth across endless catalogs. Grandiose? A bit, but seems accomplishable without buy-in from the existing establishment. In fact, there is the very early stages of an open source project called Playdar whose goal is to provide the framework that lets content be mapped from one source to another - from the web to your local library, to your other networked devices, to your friends' machines, to music service providers, to search engines.
I'm pretty excited by the idea - I think it could enable some very compelling consumer experiences that the community is empowered to enable on their own.

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Dan Kantor said...

What about MusicBrainz?

jherskowitz said...

Granted, I'm still not as knowledgeable about MusicBrainz as I should be. But it seems that it could be a piece of the solution (in terms of having common identifiers), but that requires that every service support MusicBrainz IDs (or mapping to their IDs). I'm not sure that you can't get "good enough" in the near terms just by writing plugins for each service that bounces keywords off of their existing APIs?

Then there is also the client-side logic and user preferences that handles "when I click on a song link take me to the resource in X's catalog". For example, I'd love to a consumer of the content be able to specify their priority order of where it tries to get fulfilled from. E.g....

1. Local
2. Remote Access to other machine
3. Imeem
4. Rhapsody
5. 30 sec sample from iTunes, AMG, Muze

Also, it could be interesting to include an idea of cascading logic for "buy" links as well. Personally, I'd love it if I could
hit a "buy/get" action and have it first...

1. Check eMusic
2. Check Amazon
3. Check Amie Street
4. Check iTunes

Perhaps at some point there is even a price comparison feature in
there.... "just give me the cheapest MP3 provided that it is at least 256kbps".

Anonymous said...

The word is grandiose.

And the idea is not grandiose. A computer with sufficient AI on every front to be able to scan my video files and tell me their plot -- now that's a grandiose idea.

But I don't have to be that that extreme. Such AI is a problem composed of many, many other problems, each of which is more grandiose than your idea.

You're talking about getting computers to understand something that IS designed to be understood by computers -- just different ones from the one you're using.

You're talking about devising a workaround for a system that's been designed differently from how you would have designed it. It was designed that way deliberately, and will be designed a different way tomorrow. Your idea will not be applicable to anything, and this page will be incomprehensible even to most nerds, in 5 years time.

What you're definitely not talking about, is solving any of the really hard, really worthwhile technical problems that were out there already, and didn't need us to invent them.

Grandiose -adj.
Impressive because of uncommon largeness, scope, effect, or grandeur

If you haven't seen it already, I thoroughly recommend the 'Human Cent-iPad' episode of South Park. It explains far better than I could why it is that this is not a grandiose idea.

I'll have one more go... Maybe I can phrase it right...

You want to use the current technology from a few different corporate players that don't cooperate with each other, who have basically produced the same thing with a few different interfaces, and you want to make them talk to each other when they're not designed to. That's nothing new. This particular time, it's the sharing of multimedia through social networking that's bugging someone in this way.

On the list of my daily struggles, it's not right up there. What 'compelling consumer experience' do you refer to? Am I myopic? Are you more imaginative than me? I suspect you're guilty there, of the text equivalent of hand waving.

okay I'm bored now bye

jherskowitz said...

Thanks for finding the 3 year old typo of "gradiose", I have now fixed it.