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Internet services I have loved and lost…

After thinking about the closure of ThisIsMyJam, I started to think about what services I truly miss after 15 years+ online. And it’s a surprisingly short list.

 

Homestead: It turns out Homestead is actually still in operation. But having used it as a free website builder back when it launched in 1998, I could have sworn that it closed down existing sites at some point fairly early on. It’s certainly changed hands a few time, whilst the design examples don’t seem to reflect modern websites. It introduced me to concepts like blogging and creating websites without learning about HTML and databases, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the most valuable way to do things. Certainly my early projects like a listing and review service for pubs might have been more viable had they evolved into something like FancyAPint, rather than an early WYSWIG rival to GeoCities. And it means I have no archive of those early days, compared to my blogging on Blogger, which was then imported to WordPress and the archives of this and my main business site.

 

The Loaded Magazine Chat Room: At the end of the last century I went to live in America to study for a year. And discovered relatively fast university internet. As a result, I suddenly became a far heavier web user than when a 56k dial-up connection was my only link to the world (and was again when I returned to the UK).

But while cool internet veterans refer to their time on Usenet, Listserv and ICQ, I somehow ended up hanging out in the chat room of the Loaded Magazine website. It was a link back home, and a place to hang out and talk about all sorts of things. I had some friends and made some great new buddies in America, but when I needed to vent, and I couldn’t think about the cost of phoning the UK, it was perfect.

I can’t remember exactly when it closed, as my time there slowed down a bit when I relied on an AOL dialup account at home. But it introduced me to the concept of online communities, which informed my work at places like MCN, where managing the chat rooms and forums were an early task. And a couple of years ago, I spotted a familiar username on a videogame forum, which turned out to be one of the Loaded friends from 10+ years earlier.

 

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Possibly a little too melodramatic, but still…

Google Reader: Now we can finally jump to this century. Plenty of time and services had been and gone – but although losing them was an inconvenience, it wasn’t something that stuck with me.

Not so Google Reader.

I was never sure that RSS would catch on with a general audience. But it was invaluable to most of the people I wanted to connect with online. For work and learning, it was a great way to keep up when most people were actively focused on blogging as their prime way of sharing. And the social features were incredibly important to that.

Several of the people I valued most on Google Reader were people I wouldn’t have necessarily been friends with on Facebook. Twitter launched a year later, Facebook hadn’t added the ‘Follow’ option, and I didn’t really want to stay in touch socially with all the people I connected with on Google Reader. I just wanted to be able to learn what they were reading and cared about enough to share. And that was perfect.

Alternatives have grown, such as Feedly, but the rise of social networks and drop in blogging and RSS for many people means that it hasn’t caught on in quite the same way. And the social side of RSS readers seems to have lost critical mass forever.

 

ThisIsMyJam: See the link above, but slower paced sharing and the focus on music means it’ll occupy a similar place to Reader in allowing me to see what songs were most important to people who I may never want to connect with elsewhere.

 

I’d be really interested to know what services you miss? And what services you’re currently worried might disappear? I’m currently wondering about the future of social bookmarking, especially Diigo and Delicious, for example.

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Sadface as ThisIsMyJam closes

I can totally understand why projects close. People encounter changes in their lives, the internet and mobile are constantly evolving, and the ideas, services and APIs something relies on may not be something that’s actually sustainable.

I remember when microblogging was all the rage, and when the likes of Rejaw and Pownce shut down. Or when videogames I played closed their online services. Or when Google inevitably closed another experiment in social and collaboration – Reader, Wave, Orkut, etc. This blog has been going longer than some of those services lasted – and my real introduction to the internet and the world wide web started around the same time as Google. So it’s rare that a service closing really affects me. The last time I was sad about something closing was when Google Reader ceased operations – despite some of the alternatives that have since launched, it felt like both the use of RSS and the social side of the service weren’t going to make a comeback, and it’s proved right.

So I was a bit surprised at how sad I felt to see an announcement last night that ThisIsMyJam is closing.

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It’s being done in the right way. The creators have explained the reasons for the decision, the content is being archived rather than taken offline, and the challenges around APIs and streaming music are fairly well known.

And yet I’m still sad, and I wanted to explore why…

  • Slow sharing is great. As much as I enjoy using Spotify, the desktop client gets more and more bloated with every new feature, which hurts on a crappy connection. And the social side is just way too overwhelming to follow more than a handful of people. ThisIsMyJam allowed me to actually connect with a decent number of people over the course of a Sunday night listening session and get to know their tastes over time.
  • It was great for discovering new music. Having really got to know people by their tastes, it wasn’t surprising that when they listed something I hadn’t heard, I generally enjoyed it. By contrast, I generally end up using ‘Related Artists’ on Spotify or their new Discover/Fresh playlists, which seems to be much more hit and miss, and far more time consuming.
  • It encouraged far more considered sharing. Generally I posted 1 track per week when reminded, or sometimes less. But it meant I carefully considered what song really mattered to me at that time, compared to the endless cycle of updates on every other social network.
  • It’s an effective memory collection – Last.fm and scrobbling collects almost everything I listen to, which is a huge mess of data occasionally corrupted by sharing listening with family and friends. While it’s nice to know I listen to a lot of Pearl Jam, it’s more memorable to see when I picked a specific track and the reasoning behind it. Since 2011, a lot has changed, and it’s interesting to see how my music choices reflected that.
  • Sharing to other services was also easy. I don’t want to bore everyone by streaming every song I play to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr etc, but I enjoyed sharing one song a week and seeing what reactions it got.
  • In some ways it feels less personal than similar services. For instance, a site called Tastebuds also allows music sharing, but it started as more of a music-based dating and social network. I don’t have to like someone to like their taste in music.

 

I can honestly say I’m going to miss ThisIsMyJam, and the music I discovered. I’ll particularly miss those people who I followed solely on TIMJ, as we were purely musical friends. And I’m not sure there’s anything to fill the gap – Last.fm is undergoing a redesign, and Spotify, Apple Music, Rdio, Pandora etc all seem hell bent on blending algorithms, human curation and bloating the experience with as much extraneous stuff as possible.

Farewell, ThisIsMyJam. You were great while you lasted…

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ThisIsMyJam: Dinosaur Jr ‘Start Choppin’

A few reasons for picking this. Firstly we visited the Natural History Museum recently to see some Dinosaurs. Secondly I’ve just found out that Dinosaur Jr are playing the Hop Farm Festival near my hometown in Kent. And thirdly, I always loved the weird mix on Channel 4’s The Word, which seemed to delight in picking semi-obscure (at least in the UK) grunge acts to play to a crowd picked from a local High Street nightclub. Which normally led to some confused shuffling around.

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This is my jam: ‘Blue’ by First Aid Kit

Folky Swedish songwriters to coincide with the first sunny weather promising the hint of Spring on the way…

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This Is My Jam: Pearl Jam ‘State of Love and Trust’

A favourite song of mine for about 15 years+, it always fires me up and inspires me…

 

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ThisIsMyJam: DropKick Murphys ‘Going Out in Style

A track which seemed appropriate for the end of a year, and the beginning of a new one… Sadly sharing via ThisIsMyJam suffered a bit of a hiccup, as it appears the official video couldn’t be shared via the service. And yet, I’m able to embed it here just fine…