Turntable.fm Smells Like Team Spirit
By : Eliot Van Buskirk , June 29,2011
Like many Turntable.fm users, I remain in awe of this new service, which has taken certain music nerd parts of the world by storm even as it has restricted users to the United States. A group listening web app, Turntable.fm (invite only via Facebook) lets people DJ to each other and rate each other's choices, and everyone is represented by cute little avatars. That's about it. So why are so many people so excited about this? For starters, let's talk about the neat way communities are behaving on Turntable.fm so far. Granted, I haven't seen it all, but people seem to be selforganizing and self-policing the thing in a way that puts other social forums to shame. Whoever sets up the room gets to boot other people out if they misbehave but there doesn't seem to be much of a need for that. The music fans using the service, who tend towards the "active" end of the spectrum (they're not the type who say they "just like whatever I can dance to") seem to be getting along just fine.
For example, Turntable.fm lacks a way to let DJs line up to spin tunes, but some rooms have developed a convention for dealing with that, by setting up DJ queues in the chat rooms. The room owner (or their appointed person) decides how many songs each DJ gets to play, and DJs rotate through in an orderly fashion (see top screenshot). This is pretty remarkable, because it relies on everyone else in the room not clicking the Play Music icon when it appears, but instead, letting whoever is next on the list take their turn. It's a nice bit of crowdsourced crowd control, or whatever you want to call it. In fact, we even witnessed someone take the DJ spot waiting for someone else, but they politely left when they realized their gaffe. Where else do people act like that online? If you try to use Turntable.fm while doing something else, you'll soon notice that it's way more distracting than, say, Pandora. We propose a hardware solution. However, at least one thing is missing from Turntable.fm that would make it even better: a three-button hardware thing for the Lame, Awesome, and Mute functions. Sort of like the big Pandora Like/Dislike button for the office that we turned up earlier, this would allow people to use this thing while doing homework, work work, or trying to write articles about Turntable.fm for that matter. This button would connect via USB to a computer or maybe to an iPhone, when the inevitable Turntable.fm iPhone and Android apps come out. And, of course, it should have an open-source software component, so other music services could use it.
What do you think? Can someone please make this? On Etsy or something?
But really, this hardware idea points to a problem with Turntable.fm, albeit not a serious one: it takes lots of time and attention. If you want to move past wallflower status and DJ some songs, you'll need to pick some great songs that fit the room and will probably have to monitor the chat feed diligently to see when it's your turn to DJ.
We expect one variant of the Turntable.fm model to include the ability to DJ passively, using one's preferences, rather than selecting individual tracks (in fact, we've already seen this in at least one other app), and to line up to DJ rather than watching the chat feed to see when it's your turn. (See our other Untapped Apps ideas here.) Pro DJ Tip for Turntable.fm-ists: Occasionally the music stops within Turntable.fm, but only for you. This means you're lagging. If you refresh your browser, you'll stop lagging, but you could lose your spot on the DJ stand. As Turntable.fm user Blirbis said, "Proper way to refresh without losing the stand or time in the room: Copy and paste URL into new window, start there, close old one." He or she continued, "This [does] not constitute an endorsement or guarantee," but we tried it, and it works great. Another Pro Tip: If your DJ queue keeps getting scrambled, try selecting your next song using the "Top" button, rather than dragging and dropping.
A group listening web app, Turntable.fm (invite only via Facebook) lets people DJ to each other and rate each other's choices, and everyone is represented by cute little avatars.
This is pretty remarkable, because it relies on everyone else in the room not clicking the Play Music icon when it appears, but instead, letting whoever is next on the list take their turn. It's a nice bit of crowdsourced crowd control, or whatever you want to call it.