Saturday, November 05, 2011


soul music

Koowall is a new online site that I like. I'm in love with the idea of online collaboration. As it turns out reality is quite different from my imagination of it. For example I think wikis are wonderful for collaboration, but over the years I haven't been successful in convincing anyone or any group to contribute to a wiki I've made--I've made plenty. I'm not sure what creeps people out about wikis.

As sort of a negative example of how collaboration is hard to master, I'd point to my bad habit of "blogging" on other people's blogs in their comments. I'm not too hard on myself about that because I think we're all trying to figure out what sorts of customs make sense for online communication. And I'm surely not alone in wanting to collaborate online.

A friend asked me a while back what the easiest way was to put up some links and resources to a workshop she was presenting. I told her that Tumblr and Posterous were super easy. I was pretty sure that was true, but at the time I hadn't actually used either of them. So I tried them out just to make sure.

Tumblr uses a Dashboard, which is a little like the newsfeed at Facebook and a little like the Twitter feed. I thought to get a handle about what Tumblr was like I needed to have a Tumblr blog and subscribe to a few Tumblr blogs to see what it's about. Without thinking much I thought to post three links. Setting up a blog is incredibly easy, at least if you don't try to customize things. Honeslty in fifteen minutes I'd set up a blog and provided my first three links. Here's a link to my blog Three Good Links.

My blog is solo, but my experience of Tumblr is through the dashboard so the experience of Tumblr feels quite social and collaborative. Part of the success of it as a platform is how easy it is to control your space. I don't have to contend with jerks like me leaving long and ponderous comments on my blog. But another reason it's so successful is it provides easy ways to engage with other Tumblrs through the dashboard.

At Facebook, well, I'll use myself as an example, I put up some political stuff. As it turns out people disagree. It's funny how strongly I react when someone disagrees with me on my Facebook page: fiercely. There are lots of places online where fierce arguments are appropriate. For example arguments in Facebook groups might be quite acceptable, and arguments on Twitter seem so to. Of course everywhere arguments are acceptable only to a point. But I don't think I'm alone in not wanting arguments to go on too long on my Facebook page. Part of the reason for that is what I put up is something of a personal profile. People can look at my links, find them interesting or boring, still it's something of a profile of me that I want to maintain a higher degree of control than in other settings. Tumblr makes this sort of control pretty easy without shutting down channels for communication.

Koowall is more than a social bookmarking site, but it has that capacity. They call it a "Collective Jamming platform." I think it has that potential. When I first found the site I contributed to a few Koowalls and made a few Koowalls myself. I tried to choose subjects for the Koowalls I made that were of general interest so others might contribute to them. Musical genres seemed a safe bet. The first widget is Soul Music, I think you may be able to click the arrows to see more of the wall. (Update Yes indeed, you can scroll on the wall by clicking the arrows. And clicking on "Shout Here" will take you to the site.

I love soul music. While I have posted mostly older songs, I had it in mind that younger people would post Neo-Soul. At least that was what I was hoping. The trouble with the platform is that in most cases people seem to treat the Koowalls as the possession of someone--that the Soul Music Koowall is mine. The good manners was the opposite problem from what I expected. I expected the walls might be like certain telephone poles which get plastered with every damn thing and with a slight intention of vandalism.

The Koowalls that show collaboration from many people seem mostly ones from conferences. I've seen pictures where the Koowalls are being projected on to real walls in physical space where people are congregating. That's very cool.

I made a Koowall that seemed silly enough that I thought it would engage some collaborators. I named it Creative Hairstyles. It seems to have garnered so little attention to have disappeared. But it still can be found by searching "hairstyles."

creative hairstyles

My Monster Music Blog wall has had a couple of posts by others and is up front and easy to find. But I'm not sure what will spark mass collaboration there. Perhaps when more people sign up that will happen. I anticipate that when people do start posting on walls, when the spark light a fire, then there will be some epic battles of wills. I don't really look forward to that, but think the social rules for online sites mostly come about from an organic process where a few people testing the limits are important.

Tumblr isn't perfect. There's Spam, which I'll hasten to offer Tumblr does address. But it is impressive how the developers embedded a few technical barriers to keep bickering to a minimum.

The social aspects of online social networking sites are not simple. It's nice to see that various approaches to making online social engagement possible. I think Koowall has some kinks, but is a useful new tool.