SpotDJ Makes iTunes Better

About a week ago, we released an updated SpotDJ with a totally redesigned web site and without the invitation-required restriction we had previously used to keep signups under our close control.

The launch got a fair amount of attention. We were covered first by TechCrunch. My favorite part of Marshall’s review is when he says that he’ll keep SpotDJ installed even when he’s done testing. Coming from someone who must try out a hundred different new apps and services a week, that’s quite a compliment! The SpotDJ news was soon picked up by Wired.com, Folksonomy, and several other blogs. We were even on the front page of digg for a little while!

The feedback has been really great and it’s fun to see people use the service in new and interesting ways. We’ve hit a few minor snags in the last week, but the server hasn’t crashed (except when my logrotate script had a bug) and we’ve been able to resolve most of the issues that people contacted us with.

One of the interesting things I’ve seen in blog postings and responses is that people either immediately love or hate the idea of SpotDJ before even trying it (which, I suppose is a good thing — I wouldn’t want people to just be all “meh” about it). I think the reaction depends largely on the first thought you have after hearing the short description of SpotDJ.

We’ve been refining the way we describe SpotDJ ever since we started talking about it. When I told startup veteran David Weekly about what we were planning to build late last year, he said, “But aren’t radio stations all advertising that they have less talk?” Up until then, I hadn’t thought about the fact that depending on what comes to mind, the idea of having your music occasionally interrupted with someone talking could be terribly disconcerting.

In our Flash demo (on our home page) we give some quick samples of spots early on to convey the notion that spots aren’t the annoying talk that radio stations all say they don’t have, but instead are the useful tidbits and funny stories that make the radio experience more engaging than a static playlist. Of course, some people don’t get that far because the first thing that comes to their mind is “Just anybody can say whatever they want while I’m trying to listen to music?” I don’t blame them for the concern, and we’re working on how to better convince people that it’s the good kind of talk and that we have controls in place (ratings, time limits, audio post-processing, flagging, customization, etc.) to help ensure that we don’t annoy you.

Another big takeaway from the past week is that all the time that we (okay, mainly Grant and Chad) put into making the web site better was absolutely time well spent. When I first started coding the SpotDJ app, I didn’t think the web site would have more than 3 pages. You’d go there to download the app and then forget about it. Luckily, we didn’t go that route. Instead, we have a site that lets you build a public DJ profile, upload a photo, explore different DJs and spots without downloading anything, and customize your experience.

One of the features that we launched with the beta was the “30 Second Random Interview”. As a registered DJ, you can go to your profile page and answer 3 randomly chosen questions (e.g. “What’s the most embarassing song on your iPod?”). Once you’ve answered all 3, another one shows up. So you can keep answering questions, and the results of your interview are displayed on your public DJ page for other users to see. People love this feature! We have DJ’s who have signed up and answered all 20 or so questions (including, oddly enough, “What kinds of spots do you record?”) without even recording a single spot yet! I think it shows a Web 2.0 truism — you can build web sites that are simply fun to use. We could have made SpotDJ just a download site, but by adding some social features and cool things to explore, we made it a fun site to hang out on. (other fun sites: www.yelp.com and www.netflix.com)

Obviously we’re really busy right now taking care of beta-related issues, responding to feedback, and building the next set of features. If you haven’t done so yet, give SpotDJ a try and let me know what you think!

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