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Reflections and musings of folks @ 955 Dreams Inc.

Recently, Josh Elman, Product Guy Extraordinaire and Principal at Greylock Partners wrote this fantastic article about metrics. If you get a chance to bend Josh’s ear about product or scaling a product at any time please take it. It could change your perspective on things forever. Anyways, the article itself is a must-read.

We had been thinking about metrics for some time at Band of the Day HQ and we made some changes internally about 2-3 months ago to try and focus on a few that mattered to us while we embarked on a pretty ambitious redesign of the product.

We would be evaluating our execution based on some results that we could clearly measure after the new version was out. Product changes focused on results sounds pretty simple and obvious, but, in reality the entire process of executing towards it while maintaining a product with millions of users is absolutely non-trivial. Why change something that clearly is working already? What are the risks involved in drastic product “enhancements”? How would existing users respond and react?

Ask digg. (they were at a different scale, but, I do empathize with what they may have gone through). Massive product changes are scary and nerve racking to execute.

Before I discuss our learnings (in another post): here’s a brief glimpse at our results. I’ve hidden out the specific metric/s since that’s not the interesting bit of learning here…

 

[to give you some reference, the numbers were in the high 10s of thousands before and now are in the higher 100s of thousands a day. We are outperforming our most optimistic of estimates by an order of magnitude and we appear to be gaining or staying in sync at these new levels]

It felt like a slap across the face.

I picked up my phone and read the email a second time to try and comprehend the words, trying to take away something from this email that was positive and actionable.

Wow. You’ve ruined this interface. It looks like it was designed by monkeys instead of humans. How could you fuck this up? This is still the best app to discover new music so, I’m still going to use it, but, you are stupid. God Help You.  I’ve sent detailed feedback on how to make this product better and I’ll be updating my review only when you fix the app with the changes I have requested…

Waking up to an email like this from one of your product users is hard. That morning after having read a full page of product tweaks requested by Joe, I started thinking about “Product Owners” and their roles in building consumer facing software products.

Who really owns these software products? Is it the product and dev team responsible for building them or is it our users?

Mobile Software

Mobile software is inherently different than any kind of product that has come before it. You touch, poke, prod and pull at these things with your hands, and the emotional resonance that these products create in its users is inherently different from any other kind of product. The software reacts to your touch, and the content is malleable because of it. It becomes Yours.

Over time, unlike other physical products these products do not get old, staid, dirty or boring because the content is constantly changing with use and the payoff over time for continued usage keeps increasing. ie, the more you use it, the more value you derive from it. This is true of some desktop software, but, the personal aspects of mobile computing amplify the feeling of the software becoming Yours.

Product Owners

Products go through phases and evolve into their true potential over time. Initially, as a product is being conceived, the product owners are the team members that are building the product. It is important to have a product minded person who can make certain overriding decisions about the product strategy and features and help keep the product ethos in balance – maintain its point of view so to speak.

Over time, as your product becomes successful and starts seeing adoption the role of the team is still that of owners and they are completely and totally responsible for the features and direction that the product must follow. At critical mass (of a few million users) something strange begins to happen: users that have invested their time and effort into the product start claiming ownership of the product, and rightly so.

This process may be amplified in products with an emphasis on user generated content and community, or products with a strong daily voice like Band of the Day.  I’d like to explore the intensity of ownership and  causes of this shift in a future blog post, but whatever the reasons for it may be, it’s powerful stuff.

We never realized how powerful and scary this stage can be until it actually happened to us with Band of the Day. With well over 3.5M downloads (iOS only) and a seriously engaged and active user base, we’re now in constant dialogue with them about the product. Not every one of these users are placated by the product changes we execute, but, the dialogue helps them be a part of the change. I’d highly recommend reading The Cluetrain Manifesto where the authors discuss various strategies to create this honest and open two way dialogue with people that are using your products.

Human beings have an inherent tendency to categorize themselves into groups and this “us vs. them” tendency can either be used to catapult your product to the next level by allowing users to participate in the product direction or alienate them by shutting the door on the conversation.

UPDATE: Here’s a new version of this image, was too awesome not to post. Happy election day everyone!

 

Just a few more days until the election everybody! Our fabulous designer Brad Talbott made this incredible image, get out and vote!!!

Speaking of the mixtape (see my post from yesterday), we’ve unfortunately discovered a bug in the mixtape. If you try to access the mixtape shortly after downloading/updating, the app will crash. We’ve been working double time looking for the cause and looks like we’ve fixed it, so we should have a fix up in the app store as soon as possible!

Thanks for your patience, and if you guys ever find any other bugs we may have missed we’ll love you forever if you get in touch and let us know. You can always email me: tobias@955dreams.com, use the feedback feature in Band of the Day , or hit us up on Get Satisfaction https://getsatisfaction.com/955dreams.

I hope you’ve all had a chance to check out the new version of Band of the Day, we’re super excited to get it out into the world! As you may notice, the mixtape has changed drastically. Instead of a static list of songs, it’s now a much more fluid thing that draws from the highest rated tracks in the app, creating a listening experience on the fly that lasts for hours. We think it’s better for a lot of reasons, most notably the fact that’s it’s now much longer and changes every time you open the app, rather than when we got a chance to update it, which wasn’t nearly as often as it should have been.

However, we do recognize that some things were lost in this new format, particularly the bonus songs, and would like to apologize to our users who are upset that the songs they earned through sharing have dissappeared. Bonus songs were a feature we had on day 1 of the app’s launch and are proud of, but with all the craziness of maintaining BoD’s editorial schedule and working to improve the app, we only updated the supply of bonus songs once since launch over a year ago. It’s a feature that deserves more love than that. We want to bring it back in future versions, and do it right, and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that in this first release.

There’s a ton of opportunity and cool stuff to implement with this new version of the mixtape from bonus songs to thematic groupings to more direct user input, so thanks for your patience, and look forward to the mixtape getting even more awesome with future updates!

It’s hard to believe it was just over a year ago that we were in the office until seven in the morning, trying to get in all of our last-minute bug fixes to officially submit Band of the Day to the App Store. We were delirious from lack of sleep and too much caffeine (seriously, watching stupid cat videos on YouTube became the funniest thing ever), yet utterly excited to finally show off our baby to the world. We’re a small team of dreamers, and to be honest, we didn’t know what to expect once Band of the Day hit the App Store. Would people pay for it (Band of the Day, now free, originally started as a subscription service at $0.99/month)? And if so, what if they didn’t like the music we featured? How were we going to find bands for every single day of the week, month, year, and beyond?

Over the past year, we’ve learned a lot from our users:

1. No, people didn’t want to pay for it. Well, some people did (thanks!) but not enough to warrant continuing on as a paid service. Like it or not, we’re in an era where paying for music/music services isn’t acceptable to the majority of consumers. In the end, we felt like the right decision was to open up Band of the Day to everyone, which resulted in our user base growing exponentially (in just over a year, we’ve grown to 3 million+ worldwide users).

2. There is an extraordinary amount of value in making it easier for people to discover new music. With Band of the Day, we strive to feature unique bands from all over the world, across every genre you can think of. We know not every band will resonate with every single user every single day. But overwhelmingly, we’ve had users around the world, young and old, get in touch telling us that they’ve fallen in love with a new band that they just wouldn’t have come across if it wasn’t for our app. Our featured bands have even written in to us, telling us how they’ve gathered new fans around the world that would’ve otherwise never heard of them.

Band of the Day: The Update

Today, our latest iteration of Band of the Day went live in the App Store.

For some of our users, who’ve been longtime fans of the app, this might seem like a dramatic change, especially in terms of UI. For instance, you might have noticed that our menu navigation is now a robot icon. Why the robot? What does that have to do with new music? Well, we just wanted to be prepared for the inevitable robots-as-our-overlords scenario…or, y’know, because we just thought it would be a fun and quirky new way to navigate throughout the app! We actually toyed around with the idea of a robot character called Tuno, and having him (or her?) become the official mascot for Band of the Day (Band of the Day is quite a mouthful to say, so we nicknamed it “tuno” at our HQ). What do you think? Yay or nay?

We’ve also added the music player into the calendar view section, to make it easier to enjoy new music right when the app launches, as well as a brand-new mix tape section that plays a continuous stream of the top-rated songs in the app. Just pick a song, sit back, and enjoy the uninterrupted stream of music!  Though we’ve removed the bonus songs feature, we now have way more (nearly 60!) songs in the mix tape than before.


We’ve also implemented a similar bands feature. Now, once all of the featured songs finish playing for any band in the app, the music player will automatically start playing a similar band from the app. Mmm…delicious, nearly-endless streams of free music! The update might seem a bit drastic, but we’re doing our best to try and make the app easier to use in the long run, to add new features, and to help you discover even more new music! So what do you think of the new update? You can share your thoughts with us here, or at feedback_bod@955dreams.com

www.bandofthedayapp.com has a new avatar and we’re really happy with the way version 2.0 turned out. There’s a lot more to browse and listen to here. With the new and web-only Radio feature we’ve taken an exploratory plunge into what BoD might look like on the web.

We remain completely and wholly committed to new artists/music discovery and we’ll use the best of all technologies available to provide a great stage for these artists to shine.

Give the site a whirl and share it with your friends. It’s completely free and we hope you have fun listening to hours of music while on your computer screens.

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