Thursday, July 05, 2007

JimVentions Redux - GRAZER

You may recall my JimVention of the "get me out of here" pager service. Here's another JimVention for you:

Around 2 years ago, I was writing back and forth with my friend in Seattle, Paul. We were batting around ideas for "Web 2.0" concepts that might lift us up and out of our day jobs into the fun and excitement of venture capital fueled startups. He had started with an idea of a web image aggregator - something that took a feed from "Amihotornot" and played them in a little window on the side of the screen. Strangely, I didn't flat out tell him that was ridiculous - I can be quite indulgent.

But I thought - what about if you took those images, but then could at a moment, link directly to where they came from? Or what if we built in something to automagically track your preferences for pictures, and served up more pictures in the vein of what you liked?

Now - as I write this, you are probably thinking I am describing something with adult entertainment as its target market. With the Great Spirit as my witness, throughout this whole thing that was never the goal or even thought of: The idea was for something you could have in a window while at work... so raciness just wasnt in there. I just wanted to say that.

Anyway, why stop with pictures? I said ANY media could work this way: You start tagging things you like, and the browser... the Grazer brings you more of what you like. Music, cartoons, pictures. But the secret has to be in these TAGS - you'd need to have a totally extendable set of tags attached to the media.

Then, a file could have not just the name, and some tags describing it for your preferences, but it could have embedded links to take you to the artist's website, or some tags for similar artists - if you like this, you might like...

Well, you can't just cram an infinite amount of data into the spare spaces inside of a media file: At some point, the file will be too bloated. Also, you'd run into the version problem: One file of a song might have a few tags, another of the same song would have a bunch - there'd be no consistency. And what if you got a file with some INAPPROPRIATE tags attached - like a link to a virus site?

So what if you took an idea like Wikipedia - a public "contribution site" for a global set of information: Artist links, reviews, things like it you might like, biographical info, additional artwork, links to where to buy it, where to see him/her live... all in a user-moderated context... and the file only has a single tag that refers to this online repository? A single GrazerTag?

So then you're in iTunes, playing a song, and there's a Grazertag embedded: You click on a "find out more" button, which contacts the nearest GrazerServer, which points you to the proper archive for this work, which then downloads the appropriate content down into your viewer... like a website.

And similar to a Wiki, there could ALSO be a PRIVATE, COMMERCIAL aspect to this: Some files would have a grazertag that points to Sony, or Getty Images, where the additional information is moderated by the content owners, where the experience could be more controlled. That's where the idea could actually make some money for the people doing it! But you start the thing as a non-profit, something to build a community around, so that the geeks adopt it first, build the content, and only THEN can the private side appear (much as there are Corporate Wikis out there). I had a plan to entice the BoingBoingers, and THEN actually make a little money.

Now, this is just the very high level view of the idea: I wound up with a marketing plan, detailed technical designs, and a much more geeky level of explanation of how it works. So why oh why would I be putting this out on my Blog, people?

There are a few reasons: First, as we put it together, it because obvious that outside of the technical architecture, the hard work here is that of being a LIBRARIAN. And to be successful, you'd need to moderate the heck out of it, and over 90% of the content would be stuff I just don't have the passion for. Oh, yes, I could have created a KILLER Grazer library for 1980's synthpop. But I would have stopped well short of Michael Sembello, and even Real Life. I'm too much of a snob to even review those entries.

So the way to do this would have been to employ/engage a lot more people, and to do that would have involved a lot of work. Let's put it this way: I could have built the hotel, but I would not have been able to run it... and in short order, it would have been a smoldering ruin, laid low by Russian hackers intent on placing corrupt links to nastiness in corners of data about Kim Wilde and Alphaville. Not my idea of fun.

And fortunately, it DOES appear to be somebody ELSE'S idea of fun: The MetaBrainz foundation (with BoingBoinger on board) has a project called MusicBrainz, which is almost exactly the Grazer concept - restricted to music of course. They have a proprietary browser, and are inviting people to help them tag media. Their commercial angle has already emerged, with a partnership with BBC... I'm not sure how far along they are, but when I read their press release, I said "ah, someone's doing Grazer". Absolutely no hard feelings - as I said, I dropped the idea almost 2 years ago with no intention of pursuing it, so I'm just glad it's out there getting done. Plus, they have some MASSIVE investors, which I just didn't have.

It's further proof to me that sometimes there are just ideas flying around, and our minds can be antennae picking them up. And if we don't act on them, someone else may be listening in on the same transmission... and might just act.

And so, thank you again for visiting the mind of Jimmy. Please come again.

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