Spotify and Shazam hook up: logical like ABC

What do you get when you combine a highly successful mobile music discovery service (Shazam) with an equally acclaimed music stream service (Spotify)? A “Play in Spotify” feature in Shazam that links directly to Spotify.

How does it work?

  1. Use Shazam to discover music – With a Shazam app on your Android, Blackberry or iPhone you can recognise a track.
  2. Direct link to Spotify – With this new “Play in Spotify” feature, Shazam will take you directly Spotify where you can listen to the track in full.
  3. Hold on, you’ve got to be a Spotify Premium subscriber – The direct linkage will only work for those users who pay for Spotify Premium access.

Main learning point: this is a very logical tie-up between two fast growing companies targeting the same audience. Speaking of a win-win situation definitely sounds far fetched in this situation; Shazam has about 100m registered users, interested in recognising and discovering new music and Spotify currently boasts more than 10m users who use its music listening services. Enough said.

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Quora: making Q&A incredibly popular

Today I learned about Quora. Quora is an online Q&A service which launched publicly in June 2010, and provides a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited and organised by its (expert) users. I had heard lots of people raving about it, so I just wanted to see for myself whether it was worth all the hype.

My answer is: yes, Quora is definitely worth getting excited and evangelical about. Not that Quora is trying to change the world but I do think that it could be very effective in achieving its lofty aspiration of creating “a database of knowledge (…) with almost everything anyone wants to know”.

The basic concept is simple: users can post questions and answers or select specific users, topics or questions they wish to follow. Once you’ve selected a topic (e.g. through linking up with the “likes” in your Facebook profile) relevant info will be highlighted for you.

It’s not so much this ‘filtering’ aspect that makes Quora stand out for me. I really like  the way in which Quora has implemented the ‘live engagement’ aspect of many good social networks and features:

  1. Vote on the quality of answers given – Users can vote up and down on the quality of the answers given. It’s interesting to see the votes rolling in on particularly engaging questions.
  2. See who else is answering a question whilst answering – I really like the live engagement display that shows who is answering a question while they are answering it.
  3. Suggest edits to improve the quality of answers – There is a clear collaborative component to Quora, users can suggest edits to an answer and almost any public space can be edited by other users.

I guess the main challenge for Quora is twofold. Firstly, to keep up the quality of the answers provided. Ultimately, this is what will drive users to engage with Quora, learning from quality answers to their questions or a topic of interest. Secondly, will Quora be able to stave off competition from the likes of Yahoo’s Answers and Facebook Questions?

I like to think that Quora stands a very good chance of carving out a scalable niche in this area, focusing mostly on the more detailed and ‘intellectual’ answers, provided by a designated group of knowledgable and dedicated users.

Main learning point: Quora is an exciting new tool. I love the idea of it creating an “online knowledge market” and I can see lots of people benefiting from the information provided and from the interaction with other (expert) users.

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Open data: it’s beautiful!

One of the things I love about the web is the ease and the speed with which it creates transparency and the way it forces institutions to open up and share. A great example is WikiLeaks where the recent release of secret cables from US diplomats caused a massive media and diplomatic storm. It draws attention to to the fairly recent phenomenon of “open data” which I learned about.

I guess “open data” is all about opening up government data, providing the general public with easy access and enabling them to use this data in whichever way they like. The information thus shared could potentially vary from the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan to understanding how local councils are spending tax payers’ money.

Open data ‘champions’ such as Tim Berners-Lee, Nigel Shadbolt and Heather Brooke continue to make a strong case for all public bodies to open up their data. Not only is there a growing focus on transparency and accountability of public bodies but also a large increase in the number of people with the technical skills to make good use of these public data.

As a result, both the UK government (through and the US government (through its “Open Government” initiative) have been directing a lot of effort towards making government much more accessible to the public. I’m particularly interested in the (re) use of of publicly available government data with people creating useful applications which clearly serve a greater good. Good examples are a London cycle hire app and FixMyStreet which enables people to “view, report or discuss local problems”.

The opening up of previously ‘hidden’ data is an exciting recent development. The main things I’ve learned about open data thus far:

  1. Open data is inevitable – The web has both caused and facilitated an increase in government accountability and a general need for transparency.
  2. How will the data be used and reused? It will be interesting to see how the datasets released by governments and public bodies will be (re) used by the public. There are some interesting examples out there of apps that technology-savvy people have created and which make good use of publicly available data.

Main learning point: I guess the main challenge with open data is to convert raw and seemingly boring public datasets into accessible, useful applications. Ultimately, the more people (re) using these data will help to create even greater transparency and open up more data.

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