First, Flock. Bills itself as ‘the social web browser.’
What this means is that it integrates itself into your social media. You log into Twitter using Flock, and it imports the people you’re following. You log into Facebook, and it pulls in your Facebook friends. It also grabs any media streams for sites such as Flickr or public photos in Facebook. It tells you when there’s an RSS feed for a site, and makes your public bookmarks on del.icio.us as immediately accessible as any private bookmarks on IE or Firefox.
So it presents the social media resources you may have available without even realising it.
It’s based on the Mozilla open-source code of Firefox, so despite being Flock v1, you can pretty much use it with as much confidence as Firefox. In other words, it works.
Is Flock needed? It’s an ‘app above the apps’ in that it gives you a central, standard way in which to treat your social media. It will evolve much more quickly than IE because it’s open source, and will attract people who are into social media to make it a truly social media browser.
But is the social media element enough to make people – ahem – flock from IE (which most non-web-savvy use because it’s there) or Firefox (because it does a perfectly good job of web browsing anyway)?
Probably not. But it’s an interesting approach to web useage. It acknowledges that we are browsing less, and looking at what other people we either know or have something to say that we are interested in, more. That’s why it’s a social media browser. If you find Google more useful, stick with IE or Firefox. If del.icio.us or Digg or RSS are more your thing, then check it out.
Second discovery: musicovery. Free, streaming audio based on your preference.
I recently wrote about how devastated I am to be locked out of Pandora due to geographical misfortune. Let’s face it: Pandora’s stuffed. It has no way out. But by God, it found music I wanted to listen to. Let’s take an example: I love Nick Drake. So, if I typed Nick Drake into Pandora, its genome approach to music would give me seemingly endless male vocal with solo guitar, all night. Perfect.
The alternative, Last FM, gives me music that people who Nick Drake like, like. So it can all too readily cut into whining female vocal with power guitar – Alanis Morisette – or saccharine American balladry. I don’t like this. I am not the same as some of the people who like Nick Drake.
Plus, if I really want to use Last FM properly, I need to download and install something. This is not right. One day we will look back at such a concept and laugh.
But what I really don’t like about Last FM is also what I don’t like about its – and many other social sites such as Facebook – interface. It’s fiddly. I can get immediate gratification with music, it’s true, but then there are *so many more options*. It’s too much. I just want music. I want a site that does one thing, and one thing well.
I remain astonished that such social media sites succeed. I await the day someone invents a social media site with a decent interface – by which I mean one that draws people in with BIG buttons, graphics, smooth animation and so on. It’s important. I know this, because I used to design interfaces.
Enter musicovery. OK, so it might follow a user-reference algorithm (I suspect strongly that it does but the site doesn’t give me enough information to say whether or not that’s true). So, it’s like Last FM in that respect. You can also select by genre (ie tag) like Last FM. But it seems to have a Pandora-like approach: you say whether you want slow or fast tempo, and whether or not you like a track, which is sort of Pandora-ish.
But it also has an exciting innovation: how you feel. Do you feel, or want to feel, dark, energetic, positive or calm. And it seems to work. I’m listening to dark, calm music at 1:30 am in the morning, and it suits me. I could work to this music tomorrow (and probably will). For me, its algorithm is better than Last FM’s.
And perhaps this is because its interface is better. It asks the right questions. And it also present the possibilities graphically. It presents me with the music I’m listening to, *and* its musical neighbours. I can quickly cut between them, through point-and-click (remember that phrase?).
Musicovery offers graphically what Pandora did. It’s attractive. You’re intrigued the moment you get into it because it’s immediate and obvious. And I’m sure that music and good graphics get closer to emotion than text and menus ever could.
That’s emotion. Rationally, where it could succeed where Pandora failed is that it offers a music quality that is just below what you would want to listen to on a hi-fi – but you can pay 4 US dollars (ie next to nothing) to get really good quality. I’m currently ‘unwiring’ my flat so that I can integrate music, video and web – basically, everything digital – across every outlet, such as TV and stereo. I may well pay musicovery to give me its intuitive way of accessing decent quality music in my lounge. That’s its proposition, and I buy it.
Musicovery is also charming in that it features Anglicised copy. You can find ‘more infos’.
So there you go. One day, two discoveries. Lots more to come, I’m sure, but like the compulsive discovery monkey that I am, I love ’em. Until something better comes along.