Tastebuds.fm sets itself out as “The Music Social Network”, focused on meeting new people, chatting with them, and discovering new music.
In reality, it operates predominantly as a dating website. When I joined, I was careful to make it clear that I was ‘not dating’. In spite of this, my default settings were set to “All women aged 18-40”. I also had to go back in and edit my profile in order to identify myself as “in a relationship.” If you scratch around their blog posts, it becomes clear that it’s all about meeting a life partner.
Once you’ve joined, they employ some interesting tactics to try and engage people and get them to subscribe:
– Following the lead of LinkedIn, you get a link to the profile of everyone who has viewed your profile
– There are picture links to profiles everywhere (“People who’ve just joined”; “People who like Radiohead”)
– There’s a navigation item called ‘Get Lucky’ taking you to a random profile.
– They also send emails every day with lists of people who’ve just joined who have an artist or two in common with you.
So really clicking on a profile doesn’t indicate very much – just that someone is kind of nosey. But this is then presented back to you as a list of pictures of people who’ve shown some slight interest in you. It’s very clever – the simple act of putting these people into an ordered list with their picture somehow draws you in and makes you feel like there’s something special about it!
The natural next step is to click on the profile of one of these people who has viewed yours. There, you’ll see several single-click interaction buttons on each profile like ‘Play jazz flute for her’, ‘send her a mixtape’. I didn’t try these, but experimenting with two innocuous looking ones led to some unintended consequences:
– “Chat” When you click this button expecting to type a few words, it instead sends a flirtatious chat message of their choice (perhaps they assume you’ll be so mortified you’ll pay some money so you can write them a message and put the record straight!)
– “Send a song” When you click this button expecting to be able to paste in a YouTube link, it instead chooses a track at random from the ‘liked’ artists of the person who you’re writing to! It also doubles up by telling the user you’ve “liked” their profile. When this song is sent to the user, it’s presented as if you’ve hand-picked this song especially for them! They also seem to select deliberately flirtatious sounding songs, although that might obviously have been a fluke. Here’s what I was sent:
I’m sure there are some other deceptions I don’t know about, but I’m not going to stick around to find them! It’s like living in a virtual world where someone else controls what you’re saying.
It’s a shame really; while the site has potential, their approach is very off-putting to me. While their homepage is welcoming and inclusive, the site is actually a bit of a minefield to visit if you’re not looking for love (since every interaction is presented as a flirtatious gesture!)
The site is also missing some really important features. I don’t just want to know if I ‘match’ – if I’ve listed 100 artists, I’d like to know how many of those 100 match, and rank with the people who have the most artists in common at the top! And I’d like to just match people who want to play music, or go to gigs. If these things were in place (and they have the data and technology to achieve it), I’d consider paying a last.fm style fee (2-3 pounds a month), rather than deactivating my account…
So what does this tell us about online interactions? The main conclusion for me here is that there’s an analogy with the free market – if an interaction can be put in place and can be seen to have an effect, then effectively, interactions = clicks = revenue. Whether or not the interaction is actually meaningful is completely secondary. We have of course seen this played out similarly on Facebook and LinkedIn, to name just a couple of examples.