When I ran into an idea with no easy implementation solution on Wednesday, I went the way so much web problem-solving runs these days: first to the crowd, then to the cloud.
As part of many meetings toward redeveloping our website, I met with one of our more engaged and engaging music faculty and, after some brainstorming we thought: Wouldn’t it be cool to take recorded work of our faculty and students and embed an interactive playlist? We have plenty of original and accessible work in the rock, pop and jazz spectrum, and having a playlist of this material seemed a great way to promote the college to prospective students.
But how? A Google search on building playlists came to this Mashable article, but Mixtape.me, 8tracks and Grooveshark fell way short in one key way: Forget trying to upload original music onto them. If I wanted to build a playlist of Eminem or Snoop Dogg or Lady Gaga, I would have been fine, but those sites have no love for musicians who aren’t famous.
So next I went to the crowd and asked around on Twitter. Some earnest suggestions there, including iLike, which I learned has partnered with MySpace. And as you would expect when two social-media platforms with some of the worst usability merged, the directions and “help” led me in circles that made me abandon all hope.
Finally a Twitter conversation with a recently graduated musician bore fruit when she enlisted the aid a bandmate, another recent alum. He recommended SoundCloud. On the free cloud-based system, you can upload any music onto it and create embeddable playlists. The free version is limited to two hours of music, but I think that’s more than enough. So after a few minutes of fiddling, here was the result:
One drawback of the solution is that it’s Flash-based, which we’re trying to move away from on the new site. But it will do for now, as the crowd-sourced question also brought a suggestion of jPlayer which, since I’m not a coder and my developer is way busy with our overall web project, we can explore down the road.
But this is less about the solution, the destination, than the journey to reach it. Problem-solving in the 21st century is a lot more social, a lot more collaborative, than ever before. Which makes it, in a way, even more enjoyable.