Monday, November 26, 2007

Oink If You Love Community

Holiday shopping time is upon us. Which brings up the question of what presents to buy folks. Or what, if anything, to ask for. I was talking to a friend the other day about updating our Amazon wish lists and we were both having trouble coming up with present suggestions. One option is to look at the automated "people like you like" suggestions on Amazon. But do you really ever use those? They often make me scratch my head and wonder why some algorithm thinks I would like band x or movie y. I'm way more likely to find stuff I like through various online boards, blogs, and forums where actually, real, like minded humans are talking about what they are into.

This was the point of an article in last week's Chicago Reader about the now-defunct bit torrent site Oink. I wasn't all that familiar with Oink, but it was an invitation only site for hardcore music snobs, for lack of a better word. And that community aspect, along with consistent tagging and file quality, was what drove people to use the service. The article argues that there is a lesson to be learned by major online music retailers from the community model of Oink:

"Microsoft has recently started hiring experts to help round out the Zune Marketplace’s low-traffic departments, like folk music. It would’ve been more cost-effective for the company to take a hint from Oink—if it could connect a bunch of brilliant music freaks with an appreciative audience for their comprehensive knowledge of vintage Turkish psychedelia or obscure Japanese noise or insane Bollywood soundtracks, the Zune Marketplace might start looking more like Amoeba Music and less like Borders."

Right on! That lesson can be applied across online retailers, and really to any 2.0 type service. Its all about community.

And speaking of Amoeba Music and Zune, when I was in San Francisco I picked up the latest album by the Oakland band Rogue Wave at the Haight Street Amoeba. And then discovered that one of the songs, called "Lake Michigan" for some reason, is in a Zune ad. The Zune ad that doesn't feature the female singer who sounds like Cat Power but isn't. The album is relatively hit and miss, like their past two releases, but is worth checking out for some fairly solid, interesting indie pop stuff. And not one, but two, songs that reference Chicago.

In fact, I listened to Rogue Wave on the bus from Lincoln Square back to the 40 last Sunday. And then proceeded to enjoy a yummy Gouden Carolus D'Or - Cuvée Van De Keizer* at the Hopleaf while reading about Oink in the Reader. The D'Or is a very nice, sipable wintery beer with mild spice and fruit undertones. Only about half the people I've recommended it to like it, kind of like Houblon Chouffe, but those that do love it. So give it a try.

*Beer Advocate requires registration to search beers but it's free, so go ahead and register now. We'll wait.

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