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Hot on the Web

More MySpace thoughts

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on June 9, 2006
(Issue 2423, PC Games and the Industry)

A few weeks back, we visited (if somewhat belatedly), the cultural phenomenon that is the hot destination on the 'Net. After setting up a new account and fiddling with it for a few days, I was pretty taken with it.

Now, a few weeks later, I'm still taken with MySpace – but after spending hours and hours on there, I'm also finding there are certain features it doesn't have that would make it immeasurably better if it did.

In my case, I'm mostly using MySpace to keep track of local, San Diego-based bands for my job as arts and entertainment reporter for the North County Times newspaper. There are several thousand bands from San Diego to be found on MySpace, and if all of them aren't active anymore, and others are little more than friends practicing in Mom's garage, you gotta figure there are still a couple hundred really solid outfits.

San Diego's music scene is vastly more active than when I was in college and first discovering the local music some 25 years ago. Back in the early 1980s, you might get a dozen or so local bands issuing an album every year. This year, I've already gotten several dozen CDs from local bands to review (most of them being quite good) and there will easily be more than 100 by year's end.

I don't get out on the town the way I used to, and far more bars and restaurants feature live music today than was true 25 years ago (plus San Diego is just much larger than it was a quarter-century ago), so MySpace has been a godsend in terms of getting my finger on the pulse of local music.

For instance, even if you're out clubbing, musicians and their fans still tend to self-segregate by style. You have your rap/hip hop contingent, your punkers, your metal heads, your rockabilly ducktails, your bluegrass, your mainstream rock and who knows what else. Only rarely do the folks at one of these shows know anything much about other styles.

MySpace allows you to search for bands by ZIP code – which makes building an initial list of bands worth keeping an eye on fairly straightforward. It's the limitations of that list once you build it where MySpace could use some additional functionality.

Not so feature-rich

When you find a band you want to remember (or anyone else on MySpace), you've got two basic options: Add them to your Favorites list, or request to be Friends.

The Favorites is the easiest, as it is controlled solely by you. You add them, only you see the list – and you can delete them later if you want with no hurt feelings. With the Friends feature, they have to approve your request to become Friends (or you have to approve their request); if you later decide to trim the list, you risk offending someone, no matter how inadvertently.

But that's it – there is no way to further categorize or sort your Favorites or Friends lists. I've just passed 200 friends, nearly all bands with a few assorted friends – but not all the bands are local. It would be really useful to be able to sort my Friends and/or Favorites lists by category ("local," "non-local," "non-musician," etc.). And when I see some of the more popular bands with tens of thousands on their Friends lists, how useful would it be for them to be able to sort their friends by ZIP code when they're out on tour?

For now, I've worked around this dilemma by only adding local, San Diego-based bands to my Favorites list. That way, when I'm trying to get work done, I'm not sifting through some bluegrass band from Norman, Okla., that wanted to be friends and had a really cool song on their profile. forums

In an effort to give our readers more of an opportunity to have their voices heard, ComputorEdge is adding a forums area to our Web site.One of the topic areas will be the Hot on the Web column – where you can suggest future topics, ask me questions about a past column, or bust my chops over any mistakes I might make.

We used to have this functionality years ago on the ComputorEdge BBS, a dial-up service in the early 1990s. It's good to see this kind of interaction with our readers back.