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Remembering liveplasma and discovering musicovery

musicovery charts an interactive radio station for your listening pleasure!

musicovery charts an interactive radio station for your listening pleasure!

If you want an example of an excellent presentation layer and user interface, you have to look no further than liveplasma.com. I remember someone recommending it to me years ago as a way to find similar/associated bands and artists. What’s great about it is the visual map that it provides. You enter your desired search term and it goes and finds a selection of related artists and speedily draws you a nice interactive diagram. You can zoom in and out and progress to view other maps from the related artists simply by clicking on the circle they appear in. The London Underground map is often used as an excellent example of the skill of abstraction – it fulfils a functional purpose but reduces what you see into what you need. Well liveplasma is a contender for the Underground map of the music world. The original site audioplasma progressed to become liveplasma which allows searches for films by actors and directors and provides links to shops from which they can be purchased.

 

I could go on about what it offers a user, but what is really interesting is how sophisticated the application is considering when it was released. Though contrary to what you may expect I come across very few people who already know of the site. This may be due to a number of factors I could explore.

 

But instead lets talk a bit about the technology behind it. While analysing the site from a user perspective it was clear to see it contacted some kind of database holding a huge amount of music and films, and a reasonable amount of data related to them. The interface is quite easy to identify as being presented in Adobe Flash (probably at the time still Macromedia owned). On closer inspection you may notice, the links to purchase the music and films are all for Amazon.com. This is because it uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) – now a massive player in the web services field. Amazon provide a range of services, from ‘renting’ computing resources to database connectivity and payment services. The core aspect of their offering is access to their own product database. The competition of web development platforms and tools is highly active now more than ever. I personally believe there is a point beyond which additions to such platforms unnecessarily clutter the lifecycle of web development. But any competition is a healthy thing even if it is only major corporations that have the visibility and commercial upper hand. For example you can develop web applications that communicate with AWS both in Sun’s Java and Microsoft’s C# and quite possibly any other language you may choose to use.

 

Liveplasma tries to go beyond simple connections between products on the Amazon database – the developer says it also uses links such as influences and relationships between the artists and bands, and films. My view is the site would have greater success if it focused on delivering maps based on well known links between the items, perhaps a ‘Web 2.0’ style interaction with users would be advisable. Liveplasma may have been more successful if users could influence the way relationships were represented. There are a lot of people out there with the vast knowledge about certain artists and films, it would have surely been beneficial to make use of this?

 

The developer of liveplasma has teamed up with another developer to produce a new service called ‘musicovery’. This is a very similar but even more creative site that is a self-professed interactive radio station. I’m impressed by the features – you can select music by genre, ‘mood’ and age of the music. I urge anyone who likes music and has an internet connection (so a large portion of the population) to check it out:

 

http://musicovery.com

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