Nick Mango

The Userblame Game

As many of you know we removed user account sign ups from Limited Pressing this past sunday. It was a huge change to, not only our service, but also our outlook on the future. Dropping user account sign ups when we’re growing this fast, is basically us saying they’ll never be coming back. The reason being is if we stop now, and then decide 6 months from now to bring them back, we’d lose 10s of thousands of sign ups. So essentially, user sign up is dead, and it will stay dead.

In the blog post we did on sunday we said, in no uncertain terms, that the reason we had kept user account sign ups is because we thought there was a possible future in social networking within the LP community. Whether it be messages boards or even pushing the followable news feature further. But as we thought about it more and more, we realized that we’re just an ecommerce service. No one is going to use us as a social network, because our competition isn’t a social network. We compete against other ecommerce services, and that’s what we’re good at. This brings me to what actually sparked the removal of user accounts. We decided a month or so ago that we’d do it, but we thought we’d couple it in with a future upgrade. Maybe later this summer. I had completely put it out of my mind until a twitter debate between Bryne Yancey from Punknews and Thomas “Hightower” Nassiff from AbsolutePunk & P+P, made me think otherwise. It all started when Bryne tweeted the following:

Ouch bro, that’s rough. But hey, give the dude credit, he called them out right there, he didn’t hide behind a locked account. So here’s some background: Bryne is commenting on the fact that AP.net was requiring people to sign in/up to listen to music streamed by their site from bands and labels. For a news site, this isn’t common practice. In fact most news sites don’t even have their own user authentication system. For commenting, most sites will use Disqus or Facebook. Mashable just recently developed their own and replaced Disqus with it. I can get down with that. I personally like Disqus, but we’re doing a custom commenting system based on twitter/facebook, for this new site we’re working on, so obviously I’m not opposed to commenting outside of Disqus. Well I guess Thomas follows Bryne, and saw that tweet. This caused a raging debate where many punches were thrown, but no KO was delivered. One interesting point from Thomas was this:

To which Bryne replied:

Strangely enough though, not more than a few minutes later, Bryne made this comparison:

Hmmmm very sneaky. Thomas didn’t pick up on this double standard argument. But hey, more power to Bryne for his slick debating skills.

Personally though, I thought Thomas’s point about having to sign up for Facebook, to use fucking Facebook, was a good one. But that’s because I understand where Thomas is coming from. He’s coming from the Jason Tate school of what AP.net is trying to model themselves after. I’ve been following along with all JT’s posts on what the new site will look like when it launches. Not really sure when it will, but it’s fun to read about it. I’ve heard him mention traffic and saying how he knows it’ll never be a Facebook. Interesting comparison. Why not say Pitchfork? Well cause AP.net is not trying to be solely a news site. It’s trying to be a social network that mostly revolves around music. And there’s a big difference. Bryne doesn’t see this. He’s thinking in terms of a news site, that’s only trying to publish content from bands and labels to get more readers, and not an ecosystem trying to get more users. In fact, it’s not even remotely like a traditional news site. A traditional news site uses content and their core view(pro this or that) to get readers. That’s first and foremost. Yes they also do some social interaction like commenting, to get people to come back. But in reality, commenting was originally used by traditional news sites to increase pageviews on the actual act of commenting. Meaning between previewing, and posting, and going back to see if your comment is there, a site can get a bunch of extra pageviews from the simple act of commenting. Readers coming back to read replies and more comments, was a secondary windfall for internet news sites. They didn’t understand social networks back in the day. But my point is, and this is not a knock on AP.net, but content is not what they use to draw users. Their view/focus(pro pop punk) and the social aspects of the site, are what get people coming back. This point is proven by looking at the size of their comment box, compared to the size of their story box. They’re the same size. Meaning they are of the same importance. Punknews on the other hand is the complete opposite. Their stories are very large and will rarely run without a good large photo. Comments are thin and clearly secondary. With AP.net, the stories are more of a talking point. Photos are optional, but when they are posted, guess where they post them? In the comments! So when Bryne looks at AP.net and says, music publications shouldn’t do that, he’s not realizing that AP.net wants to be a social site first, and a news/content site second.

But that’s not the real question is it? The real question is, is it ethical or not? Well it’s a great freaking question. I personally don’t know the answer. If I did, the subtitle of this blog would be “I Have an Answer For That”. Here’s what I think though. When I look at AP.net I see a social network that revolves mostly around music. I don’t think of it as a news site. I think you can get your news on it. But I don’t think of it like a traditional news site. So when you think of it like that, the fact that you must sign up to listen to content provided by the site, doesn’t seem that terrible. If you want to get married in a church, the chruch requires you to do certain things to have that privledge. Since we’re talking in terms of punk music, I should probably come up with a better example, but it’s hard. It’s hard cause this is not normally done in this circle. Maybe a better example is a fraternity. If you want to attend a fraternity party, you usually need to be a member of that fraternity. Or you need to come to the party with a fraternity memeber. Basically, they set the rules cause it’s their party. This is AP.net’s party. And they’re not blasting the music for the people down the street, they’re blasting it for the people at the party. You want to listen to the music, then sign in or sign up. That’s the rules of the party. Now look, do I agree with it? I’m not sure. If the band/label knows that’s what’s up, then I guess I don’t have an issue with it. But it’s new, and it’s different, and it’s tough to think objectively about things, no ones ever tried before.

So what’s the point behind this story and how does it relate to LP getting rid of user account sign ups. Well after thinking about this debate long and hard, I realized that needing a user account to participate in something only available from your service, is something a social network would do. LP provides stores to labels, bands, toy designers, artists, etc, and to require their customers to sign up to make a purchase, is like saying, “If you want this product, you need to join my ecosystem.” And we’re not an ecosystem. We’re not a religion or a fraternity or even a party. We’re just a really good service, for a really good price. That’s what we do, and that’s what I like. So after I came to this conclusion, I emailed Tom and asked him what he thought about taking them down, and not waiting. Incredibley he was thinking the same exact thing. I had emailed him this debate between Bryne and Thomas, and I guess it sparked the same thoughts as I had. A days worth of work later and boom it was done. Never to return again.