Archive for May, 2008


the spirit of the game

Seth Godin recently posted an observation regarding those who get ahead by gaming the system vs. those who work the system to get ahead. The post is called “Spirit of the Game,” and it’s called that because Ultimate Frisbee has a tenet by the same name.

I think the point of his post, that there is a difference between beating the system and working the system is generally sound. I would quibble, instead with the analogy.

As a 20 year veteran of Ultimate Frisbee, I’ve always found that the “spirit of the game” claim is nothing more than marketing that serves more to make ultimate players feel their game is superior to other sports.

Nearly all sports, except ultimate, have referees. However, ultimate hints at superiority over other sports because they’re all level-headed and fair enough to call their own rules transgressions. The only problem is that though the sport may claim those things, it is still played by human beings… the same humans who compete in other sports – and in business.

My experience has been that show me a competitive ultimate game, and I’ll show you a call made by a player that leads to a game-stopping, ill-will driving (and possibly entire-team-involving) delay. Whereas other sports would have an impartial referee call infractions so the game can stop, reset and move on, even the highest levels of ultimate can devolve to a pick-up game level argument that interrupts the game.

Systems evolve due largely to human behavior. Ultimate Frisbee, instead, adheres to the belief that they can use an outdated system that has long since been discredited by those who game the system.

Seth’s analogy also falls apart because many players learn the rules simply so they can use them against the other team. Take this example:

I played in a tournament in which one of our players caught the frisbee in the endzone for a point. There was no disagreement that she was in. However, our player didn’t know she was in, so she threw it to another of our players who was “more” in. That player let the disc hit the ground because he knew the point had already scored.

The opposing team called us out on a little known rule that said if the player doesn’t know their in, then the point doesn’t count. This was 11 years ago, so I’m not sure if that rule still exists.

So, which is a greater display of “spirit” – to learn the most obscure rules and use them against a competitor or to allow a point that was scored legitimately and without incident to count?

There’s a fine line between gaming the system and working the system, and NewTunes hopes only to play within the system. There are a lot music discovery websites out there – Pandora, Musicovery, to name a few. We’re not afraid of them, nor are we trying to beat them.

Music discovery is a big space, and we’re pretty sure there’s room for all of us – and then some. There are enough musicians and enough fans that I think we can all enjoy success in this industry.


Roll your own

There’s been a decent amount of alternative or indie pop posted here in the past few weeks, but we haven’t really indulged our DJ side too much here. However, this past week, I came across Tripswitch and fell in love with it.

Tripswitch is Nick Brennan, a musician from the UK who’s been playing various instruments since the age of 5. Later in his musician career, he moved toward spinning and now incorporates his guitar and piano abilities into his trance sound. The sound is like trance Thievery Corporation or King Kooba.

Tripswitch has only released one full-length album called Circuit Breaker. Brennan released some harder hitting music under another name, Codemonkey, and is working on another full-length album as Tripswitch.

There are a few videos for Tripswitch out there – most notably for “Roll Your Own.” Interesting that the video seems to use graphics straight from the iTunes player, which while it seems obvious, I can’t say I’ve ever seen it before.

This is “Roll Your Own” from Tripswitch…


looking for a good time?

My colleague Joe and I are headed off to New York next week to meet with some of our partners regarding the site architecture for NewTunes v1.0.

Sure, there’s work involved, but when you hear you’re going to New York, don’t you immediately put thoughts toward your nightlife?

So, a few days ago, I got on the Googles and tried to find a site that would give me the most options for next Wednesday night. Before I tried a general search, I went to Village Voice, which I thought would be the obvious and reliable choice.

To my surprise, the Village Voice only gives you listings for 7 days out. Since I was looking on Wednesday, it only gave me listings through next Tuesday. At first glance, I thought they must be doing it according to their publishing cycle. But today, I see that their listings are through Thursday.

Prior to today, though, it was surprising that New York, of all cities on this earth, had no prominent and reliable source for nightlife if you were looking out further than a week. Ok, there may be such a site, but if so, it is not coming up prominently on Google.

If I were going to San Francisco, I could point you to at least three such sites.

Maybe its because all the web developers are in the Bay, and all the finance people in New York just don’t know how to put together a good listings site?


Sunny Day Set Fire

There’s a lot of indie pop out there. One could easily argue, too much. It really all depends on your perspective. If you need to find and own it all, you don’t stand a chance. There’s entirely too much for that.

But if you just want constant exposure to new music, then there are enough bands that you could stumble upon a new one every day. I used to be firmly in the own it all camp. But the realities of time and money have caused me to settle for the latter.

One of the bands I have recently settled upon is Sunny Day Set Fire. They’ve got some singles out there, but their first full length album – Summer Palace – comes out in July of this year. If you head on over to their myspace page and listen to “Stranger,” you’ll get a good sample of what to look forward to on their July release.

Here’s “Wilderness,” also on the July release. The song has a good hook, and I really am drawn to the video. Check it out, and set aside $12 for July…


Dollar car rental steps up and satisfies a customer (the conclusion… really)

Brief recap: I left my CD case in my returned Dollar car and it was stolen by an employee. Up to now, Dollar had not taken any responsibility and responded poorly… up ’til now, that is. For more detail, go here, here and here (in order).

Yesterday, I left a message for the CMO of Dollar, and that call seems to have jump-started the response I was originally expecting.

I just heard from their head of customer service, Lynn Turner. She was extremely professional and friendly. But most importantly, she got it. She understood this situation for the opportunity that it is. In fact, she shared some insight that I had not thought of – that the lost and found area is near to her heart because it presents the greatest opportunity to turn occasional customers into loyalists.

Lynn and I agreed that the situation was ultimately my responsibility for leaving the CD case in the car. But, more importantly to me, we also agreed that Dollar is responsible for its employees and the theft of the case.

To reconcile the matter, she offered me an apology for the theft and a check for $50 to put toward the CDs. This, to me, is an excellent, above and beyond response that will definitely have me renting from Dollar (this Tuesday, in fact, when we’re in NYC). As an aside, it seems only right, at this point, to donate that money to charity, so I’m giving it to my friend Zach’s AIDS ride.

Yes, this story wouldn’t have been so awkward if that were the initial, spontaneous response. But my suspicion now is that it went the way it did due to nothing more than luck of the draw. If I’d reached a more helpful customer service person, like Miyoshi at Dollar, who I spoke with yesterday, then it would have been resolved properly the first time.

Dollar and I are now in agreement… case closed.


Remembering Nikki

Music fans familiar with Prince’s “Purple Rain” album (and you all should be, to some degree, whether you wanted to be or not) surely remember the song “Darling Nikki”.

Thanks to our friends at Gorilla vs. Bear for pointing us toward Love Is All’s rendering of the classic song.

While this clearly has to be the worst remake of “Darling Nikki” ever done, there’s something strangely entrancing about it (in kind of that car wreck sort of way). Check it out here… for as long as you can stand it.


More on Zappos

I recently wrote a post that included a story about Zappos customer service – and how insanely great they company is to its customers. Here’s a clip from the original Zaz LaMarr post, which has since gone down due to high traffic (guess that’s what happens when I link to another site).

“When I came home this last time, I had an email from Zappos asking about the shoes, since they hadn’t received them. I was just back and not ready to deal with that, so I replied that my mom had died but that I’d send the shoes as soon as I could. They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn’t have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That’s going against corporate policy.Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist delivery man was just leaving. It was a beautiful arrangement in a basket with white lilies and roses and carnations. Big and lush and fragrant. I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I’m a sucker for kindness, and if that isn’t one of the nicest things I’ve ever had happen to me, I don’t know what is.”

It seems that they’re entirely consistent and very for real, for their customer service philosophy seems to extend through every aspect of their business. Friend Steve emailed this post from Jason Kottke (which he found at here)…

“It’s a hard job, answering phones and talking to customers for hours at a time. So when Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company’s strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. People get paid their full salary during this period.

After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

Why? Because if you’re willing to take the company up on the offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture—which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick—and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)”

This, to me, is brilliant. It is exactly the kind of place I would like to work. And since I seem to have some sway over the work environment at NewTunes, it probably will be.

May 2008
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