Microsoft has launched the beta site of their new electronic music community called Crossfader.
From the about page:
Crossfader is an online community for the global electronic artist. We are building this tool to help you connect with people who share your love for creation, great music, technology and modern culture.
The site is divided into three main content areas:
1. The Booth with a features section and forums for discussing electronic music genres. Current music genres include Hip-Hop, House, Modern Global, Techno, Trance, Breaks, Drum & Bass.
2. The Knowledge again with a features section and forums where members can share info on key music topics.
3. The List provides access to community members information, blogs and photo galleries. The page can be filtered to show members by region, for example New York or Europe.
Each member gets a profile page, a photo gallery and a weblog service. Membership is free you just need a user-name alias to get started. Make sure you’re happy with the alias because that will be your visible community name listed in the members directory. Once logged in, the ‘My Stuff’ link takes you to your content management tools. You can create a public profile, manage your blog and photo galleries.
A community streaming media player appears at the top of all pages. Members can submit tracks for inclusion on the playlist.There’s also a search engine for community searching of Crossfader.
The blog feature lets you create multiple blogs with tools for posts, articles, feedback and links. Two modes are available for the formatting of posts.
- Design mode is a WYSIWYG editor for easy formatting of headings, fonts, colours, links, highlighting and tables.
- HTML mode allows direct input of code.
Both run side by side so you can switch quickly between modes. Each blog has its own name although at the moment only one theme is available. A section for CSS overides enables you to override any of the current theme properties and/or settings.
Categorized link lists (blogrolls) are easily created using the link manager. The order of categories and links can be changed to create a customized sidebar.
Each blog has a RSS feed and the latest blog posts also appear on the community group blog page. The group blog has RSS and OPML feeds.
The look and feel of the site is a mixture of music industry news meets underground music maker. It’s a merge of corporate clout and organized chaos with endorsements by industry professionals and street level content from community members. The site design is remarkably similar in look to Music Dish.
I like the uncluttered design and the ability to get straight to the information without sensory overload and the distraction of adverts all over the page. Making product endorsement a main page feature seems an honest enough way of informing users of noteworthy products as long as those products serve the community’s need. In general the site is easy to use and navigate and I think this level of usability will gain users.
Overall the blogging tools are more powerful and feature rich than those at Microsoft’s other weblogging service MSN Spaces. It will be interesting to see if any of the extra blog formatting options eventually make it into MSN Spaces.
I’m not keen on the way you have to come up with an alias for your user-name straight away. The alias is what other people in the community know you by and is an important decision for most users. This is especially important when building sites that deal with the perceptions and egos of people actively engaged in creating music. Perhaps music communities could find a user friendly way to develop these personas. It would be nice to develop an alias after you have registered if only to speed up the registration process. Although the registration process is simple, these types of stumbling blocks give the impression of being locked outside and can become more of a problem as the community grows. Already at this early Beta stage I had problems with registering certain aliases. Anyway this is something for the developers to ponder and it’s a minor observation, perhaps they’ve done it the best way possible.
On the other hand this may have something to do with the low key Microsoft branding. At the moment there seems to be little in the way of MSN integration. The registration avoids the need for an MSN passport as you get with MSN Spaces. This obviously has a bearing on things like the commenting system and other forms of access and communication.
Crossfader is not a mass media type of operation like MSN Spaces. It’s designed to appeal to DJs and electronic musicians. Microsoft appears to be developing a range of products tailor made to compete in the key ‘cool’ tools market. Weblogs, digital music, antivirus, instant messaging, search, are just some of the new developments to be announced recently. Somewhere amongst all this, Crossfader plays a part in Microsoft’s community building program. It will be interesting to watch this community grow.