Work in Progress

100DB • March 17 2019

100DB was a music discovery project I started. This is part of a series of posts I wrote to explore the thinking behind it.

A necessary goal for this project is to plant some stakes in the ground – what are the parts of music discovery that I care about? What kind of systems need to exist to support those outcomes?

Spotify has undeniably created its own gravity field in this space. A lot of my conversations about what 100DB might be – and my own thinking on the matter – have revolved around “recommendations”, which is certainly interesting but isn’t “discovery”, a larger boundary-drawing into which more ideas can happily fit.

In terms of the meat and potatoes of discovery itself, a lot of my mental framing around this project deliberately includes human curation and human feedback, not just algorithms. This is both a desire for weird taste-driven suggestions that no computer would ever make, and the suspicion that human-driven behaviours will yield something lacking in current offerings.

I’ve completed the first cut of a UI which feels clunky and not well-formed, as most first takes tend to. Part of my hesitation, or struggle, now that I’m actually in a ‘creation’ and not just ‘inspiration’ mode, is that the first version of this certainly can’t reach the goals I’ve been talking about. I mean: obviously! Of course it can’t! But I think the desire is inherent in any product-building process to design the ‘ultimate’ state. Pruning away all of the wishful thinking to get to the nugget of baseline functionality (and even then, to be unsure you pruned ‘correctly’) is part of the delight/anguish in building digital products.

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” — Reid Hoffman

By necessity, the first version of this tool will be the smallest thing that can express any amount of utility. I think it’ll still be interesting and fun to explore, but I honestly have no idea where the smarts in this system will emerge, or what will drive them. I need to set the table for interesting results, not to try to reach them directly.

The other goal for this project is simply to write more, to try to communicate my ideas and motives in a way that resonates with other people. Establishing a weekly (ish) posting schedule has made me acutely aware that I’ve gone a month without sharing progress. I think this awareness is good! I’m building a habit/muscle around sharing and documenting which I hope to keep up. More soon, more regularly.