Musical matters to cheer the soul…

I admit to feeling a bit down when I got home from a reasonably pleasant day in the office last night. Not only had my car self-destructed at the end of my road, causing me to have to push it for 5 minutes to my house at the end of a long day, but then my internet connection decided to start playing up.

Still, two stories did brighten my evening considerably.

Bono enjoying a holiday

Bono enjoying a holiday

Brian Solis has a great write-up of what in reality is fairly inconsequential to the world at large – but fairly important to someone who protects his image and uses his fame to promote good causes. I do love the way the original Mail article tries hard to align his charity work with the scandal of being around teenagers, one of whom lists being a fashion party organiser as her occupation.

Riffworld

Riffworld

On a less scandously, and brighter note, when I wrote about the music industry recently (Behind the music, and ‘Why record companies are really screwed‘), I can’t believe I didn’t pick up on Riffworks. Fortunately there’s a good post about it on the Wikinomics blog by Anthony D Williams, which has a great quote about the free downloadable recording and software,  the Riffworld collaboration tool, and how it means guitarists can find ways to play together without having to advertise locally and carry their gear around in an old car or van.

Online collaboration isn’t always an easy option…

There’s a tendency to look at User Generated Content and online collaboration as an easy way to create content, products and services without some of the hassles of a traditional business.

And it’s easy to understand why: No ground rent, no equipment or infrastructure costs, no limitations on who can be involved etc. And no need to necessarily pay contributors.

But it isn’t an easy option, and there are several major risks to any online collaboration which requires more than one or two people:

Trust: How quickly do you place your trust in people to deliver on their promises, to deliver them on time, and not to take good ideas elsewhere?

Management: Is there some kind of leadership or guidance to keep things moving, and to clearly articulate the vision and strategy etc – which may have been decided democratically. How do you keep momentum going and inspire people to continue even when things can be tough?

Politics: How do you deal with disagreements? Infighting? Rivalry?

Reward: How do you supply a justifiable return to contributors for their time? Financial or otherwise?

Communication: How do you keep people updated, and make things simple and easy to contribute?

Those are just the first few problems off the top of my head. The reason they come to mind is that I have basically decided to cut all responsibility for Disposable Media, leaving only the possibility of contributing the occasional blog post or article at some point.

It’s been a lot of fun, particularly when I was given the honour of being Editor, and we had a fast growth in audience – all from a group of people working for no financial reward and contributing articles, designs etc via a forum. In my time on DM, I only ever met two of my colleagues in real life in the space of two years!

But having realised that I don’t have the time and energy to drive DM forward, I stepped down to take a back seat and a more advisory role. And what then happened was quite painful to watch, as some infighting and sabotage began, communication became worse, trust was lost, and many people started drifting away.  I don’t place all the blame on the Editor who replaced me, as there have definitely been people who have used a period of change for their own agenda.

Hopefully it will rise from the ashes, as over the years it’s had some very talented people, and some great articles and content. On the bright side, it’s shown me that although I was far from perfect, and made several mistakes, I did achieve a lot in keeping things going, and always trying to drive more organised and efficient systems to make life easier for everyone – and it also highlighted the need for communication and rewards, which will hopefully help me on other projects.

To be honest, the real risk to online magazines isn’t just the problems of collaboration – it’s also the arrival of new aggregated delivery services in a magazine format – i.e. systems that take your favourites from services like Last.fm, and then produce a custom magazine around them, like Idiomag. It plays on a simple philosophy of mine which is becoming more and more realistic and reinforced – ‘The most effective targeting of an individual, is the targeting they do for themselves