I won't tell you who told me but I'll tell you what they said. And if I find I can't log in tomorrow, I've got this article saved...
Let's unravel the mystery, shall we?
Let's start with CBS, one of the largest radio and television networks in the United States with a great portfolio, now including Last.fm. As a business, they need their assets to perform whilst at the same time meet their needs. So it was that at some point last year, a new release was promised by Last.fm, one that would fix all of CBS's problems.
What might those problems be? Let's make some intelligent guesses and arrive at some assumptions:
* improved advertising
* new business, ie attract more users, ie target mainstream audiences
* better incorporation of CBS data, ie their back catalogue
* better promotion of artists (CBS artists?)
* a more up-to-date look
* room for future growth
* CBS and Last.fm senior managment probably signed off a vague paper which wasn't more than a list of ticked boxes. The 'creatives' would do the rest.
What came next was a year's worth of mismanagement and ignoring of 'creatives' on the shop floor. Writing code which wasn't going to be released for 8 months was a recipe for disaster and a disaster it was. The silver bullet promised by Last.fm senior management didn't work. Understandably, after waiting a year, CBS wanted to see results. What was taking so long? Get it done! And so it was an unfinished beta was released to over 21 million users worldwide.
It's the old story, isn't it? You have senior management who make all the decisions; middle-management who are effectively the go-betweens; and the shop floor who do all the work. It's people on the shop floor who always have the closest relationship with a company. And it's senior management who are the most disconnected. The go-betweens can work for good or evil, depending on the point they want to make. We all have our stories...
The new look Last.fm went live on Thursday 17 July 2008 at 4.45pm, British Summer Time. There was no announcement or forewarning but that's not unusual, I have never known them to make a big announcement prior to a new release in all the years I have been here. There was an immediate backlash and staff on the shop floor were left to cope on their own, without any guidance or support. I noticed throughout beta testing, whenever they put a foot wrong or revealed a little too much to us, they were punished, yet the vague directions they had to go on weren't fleshed out. If communication between Last.fm and users was lacking, it was even worse back at base. If you think we impassioned users don't like it, imagine how heartbreaking it is for those staff who have been there for years.
Where do we go from here?
Effectively, what we have right now is an open beta, which means the site is being built and tested whilst in use. We are testing the new site as we go along and it is up to us to report bugs as we find them; remember to mention which operating system and which browser you're using, and don't forget to mention if you have a disability and are using any additional systems. We can request new features for consideration in the final version. Staff are going through all our feedback. It's exciting to see them go through. Recommendations on the Music landing page? Mine. Claimed! (at least, I think it's mine...) With only one site to look after and with any luck, it should be a much smoother process than when trying to maintain two.
To find out known issues and what Last.fm teams are working on, go to the Forums (at the bottom of the page), and in particular this thread: Site Update: KNOWN ISSUES (Updated 21 July). Frequently asked questions are answered here: Site Update FAQ. To find out what will definitely be added in the future, go here: Previously Suggested Ideas 3 (!). To leave your feedback and suggestions, go to the Feedback and Ideas forums. To report bugs, go to Website Support.
Some users are working on 'survival guides'. I will add those journals to this one as and when I find them. If you are writing one and want me to add it, please give me a shout.
Well, I feel much better. I have been sitting on this information for a little while and I look forward to sleeping soundly and not dreaming about beta bugs or drowning in my Library.
Hope I can log in tomorrow...
Babs My Gang
* Journal: 4.45 - beta goes live
* Journal: I can't believe it's not beta...!
* News stories bookmarked by me: StumbleUpon
* The thread to read: this one