Featured Playlist Development

Perhaps this belongs in another thread, but part of the motivations behind the playlist competition was to do transparency, participation, and ownership. The current way of picking the items on the featured playlist had rather low participation, this was an effort to engage more people in a transparent, participatory way so they/we could actually feel meaningful ownership of the platform.

If this is the wrong way, and participation / ownership means something else, then it would be nice for it to be made more explicit to reduce efforts in the wrong direction.


In terms of presentation, @boopboop and I are happy to rename it. We never had strong feelings for calling it a competition.

Let’s make a firm separation between presentation and process.

In terms of process, what we are proposing here is a process for members to choose the featured playlist each month for the front of the resonate player. Folks make nominations, folks vote to show support for nominations, the one who has the most support becomes the playlist – there’s even a term limit of one month.

If this sounds familar, it’s because its an election process. Whether we are electing a playlist, a person to a role, etc, this is fundamentally a democratic process. It’s a limited one – there are many other processes available for making decisions together which are more refined. We can experiment with different things, but this particular format is a start.

So let’s take a moment to acknowledge that the process being proposed is more democratic than any process which has happened in the past years of Resonate concerning how artists are featured.

Up until very recently, the featured playlist “Staff Picks” has always been determined by resonate’s volunteers on a do-ocratic basis, with an overall goal to make the playlist diverse. There were Staff Picks where I called on volunteers to submit picks, few were submitted, I ended up having to pick most of the playlist myself. It was a lot of work for me and others who at other times found themselves curator, and terrible from a transparency and participation standpoint.

So this new process is a step forward. For presentation on the player and newsletter, we can state “The featured playlist for next month will be voted on by members. Try out the new playlist tool and submit your own.” – something like that. We are introducing folks to playlists as a feature on Resonate – its brand new! And I don’t think we need to stress to ourselves to “focus on discovery”. The whole catalog is discovery for most of us!

If we want people to be able to participate, both in the voting and in the playlist creation, we need to keep the rules and creative limitations as minimal as possible.

If we want to open a working group to explore the questions you raised above, let’s do it. I think it would be a great discussion, but what’s the timeline and what would the group do other than discuss? Let’s have a clear sense of that first. How does someone join the group? What do they make decisions about? Transparency must apply here as well.

All of these discussions will be ongoing ones. Broadly, we need to move to more transparent, responsive, and iterative processes throughout Resonate rather than treating such big questions as things we will have a perfect vision for before acting. Smaller cycles. Make small steps, reflect on them – “was this in the right direction? yes? did it cause any problems? no?” – then we do more of it.

To quote the sociocratic questions: “Does this do harm?” “Is it safe enough to try?” There was a wise objection that calling this a competition could do harm. That removed, is this experiment safe enough to try? @melis_tailored @richjensen @LLK


Great ideas here. We can start working on these designs bit by bit.

Let’s not mistake as intentional the outcomes of our current technical and labor limitations. Many things at resonate simply are the way they are and we must make the best of them – improving them in small steps.

It may be easier than I know for us to build out these features, but we are still very limited by our capacity. Resonate can feel big, but all of us who are active here could probably fit in a cafe. The developers could all fit at one table.


I wish I could help more with that kind of stuff. I think @melis_tailored 's idea of a sort of “multi-playlist ethos” landing page where we try to showcase different approaches (in a way I’d see it presented a bit like a news outlet website landing page) would help not put the focus on any one particular kind of playlist and either people would go to the kind they’re interested in or even better maybe that could incite them to try different kinds depending on the day and what’s being showcased.

Also : agreed the word competition needs to disappear, it’s the kind of word that just makes me want to run away and never look back, like, I have a very very strong problem with it in any context that isn’t Sport (ie. That doesn’t have an artificial set of rules meant to define an archetypal and artificially designed “best” in a narrowed down field that’s just symbolic).

To be even clearer, in any situation where there isn’t a clear and pragmatic definition of what is “best” (here who can tell with absolute certainty what’s the “best” playlist?) agreed upon by all participants, the word competiton doesn’t apply.


Here’s where we can start making a wishlist of features for the Browse Playlists Page. @boopboop has been independently doing a lot of cool work on this theme!


Reminder that an embedded playlist or album will only allow people to listen to the first 45 seconds of each track. Want to make sure that we are on the same page about that!

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Is there no way to have a system similar to Bandcamp where an artist can give a link to an integrated embedded player for his/her release that only works on a specific website which allows for stuff like press exclusive to display the song / album on their page? At least for releases. Playlists are another set of issues and a bigger can of worms.


Let’s continue that convo here, @LLK.

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There‘s a big difference between multiple ppl being given the opportunity to contribute to a single playlist, of multiple tracks, with clear guidelines to further diversity - aka staff picks (which we planned to rename community picks in november). vs a competition to find a single playlist to highlight.

even if the process is democratic, the outcome isn‘t. it‘s a competition - and i‘m surprised we‘re going down that route given the labours undertaken over the miniscule details if everything else we do. also, art as a competition is literally against our manifesto, whether you use the word or just the process.

staff picks was working pretty well - i wasn‘t aware it had become a huge labour for you @Hakanto - happy to take that back off your plate.

the playlist browser page is hugely important - in that we have the chance to change how an entire industry functions & presents curation! this is a huge topic that needs many different perspectives & brains - i can share some of the thoughts story team also had in this area earlier in the year. essentially, we should be aiming for revolution not status quo (in all things).

i‘m still confused how some things of huge importance can seem to be decided & actioned with so little research/wider input, but things that are widely discussed, simple & agreed, don‘t happen cuz of some random thing buried deep in the rule book.



you ever get the feeling that there‘s too many different groups & threads to follow & maybe that‘s putting people off participation & engagement?

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If you feel that this experiment isn’t safe enough to try and will do harm then we should pause. I don’t want move ahead with it until you feel heard and we all have this discussion, @melis_tailored.

I’m also noting references to other things like the Rulebook, expectations around how groups make decisions together, and how we discuss topics in the forum and elsewhere. Would you like it if we paused this situation and took a moment to all get on the same page?

That said, this chat doesn’t need to be done immediately. Enjoy the weekend, all of us!

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organization and transparency

It may seem cumbersome to have more threads rather than fewer, but I would hate for great ideas to get lost in a long thread with an unrelated title. Splitting out discussions allows space for ideas. That said, I hear the concerns. There is a lot going on in this forum. I’m sure the amount of text generated makes it hard for folks.

At the same time, I’m glad these conversations are now happening in a common workspace that all members can participate in. The forum has come a long way in the last year for the better; our work is much more transparent and accessible from when everything was happening in Basecamp.

user stories and product owners

All our feature wishlists are saved with the #story tag across the Platform category. These are our reference points for specifying each feature that we want for our different products: Player, Dashboard, etc. In my role as product owner, I am tasked with listening to what folks want us to build, creating #story topics to define those features, and then prioritizing them.

The role isn’t about “ownership” per se. It’s about facilitating a conversation between members and developers. We are currently trying a minimalist version of Agile practice to bring much needed structure to our development work. That’s where these terms come from.

spreading out the work; defining roles

I don’t think it is ideal that I am the product owner for three products at Resonate, nor that I be doing that in addition to my work as chairperson. It’s a lot of influence consolidated in one person and I would prefer that distributed. It’s also a ton of work.

I ended up as product owners for the Player, Dashboard, and Forum because the role needed to be filled. I had broad knowledge of how things fit together at Resonate and I was willing to take it on. I’m no expert, so expect mistakes. If anyone at Resonate is interested in becoming a product owner for one of our products, I would love to have a conversation about it.

@angus and I will add descriptions for these roles to the Handbook. We had planned to in the past, but things have been so busy that it was forgotten. This is a good reminder of the importance of that.

relationship between roles

We have some new teams that have recently formed until @angus’ guidance: The Development Team, Community Team, Communications Team. Finally, we need to do some clarification about what the relationship between product owners and teams is.

:heart: To that.

Since it’s a topic I’ve probably missed a lot about, is there somewhere I can read your propositions or some documentations about ideas for playlists that you had or that you felt were interesting?

I agree Playlists are a crucial question in a Playlist driven music ecosystem, and we shouldn’t treat that lightly, as often with music I don’t know what our legal limits are, and I’m aware there’s also the limit of our business model for embeded players which would require people to connect or otherwise the songs are streamed for free and that could be a major loophole.

But yes, let’s keep this topic alive and let’s figure out how to make, not really better Playlists but more rewarding ways to make them, listen to them, spread them and avoid playlists to cannibalize the rest of our platform habits (ie. A big issue with playlists : that it pushes “the player” before “the maker” by making artists just a line in a list of “content”).

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Yeah, as a means to discovering music, there are a variety of ways we’ve experienced that playlisting can be toxic. Let’s define what those anticipated harms are, whether they are applicable at a co-op, and steer in a new direction.

The reason I say “whether they are applicable at a co-op” is because we are so used to being in environments where stuff happens and then there is nothing we can do about it. We should have foresight, but can’t avoid making any mistakes. As a co-operative, if we end up doing something awful, we should be able to fix it – whether it is implementing a toxic feature on the player, electing the wrong guy to be chairperson, anything. To me, that’s part of what is exciting about building a democracy; we are less fragile than we may assume.

If we are too cautious about doing experiments, we’ll end up a different bad place: an environment where no one feels like they can take initiative, waiting for the perfect plan to be ready. I wonder how many good ideas would never be shared, because folks fear their ideas aren’t good enough for us. But if this is a place where we try things, reflect on them, and then change them – if that’s what we’re good at – I think that is the process that will feel like co-operation. I think that will show people that we are a learning culture.

I expect that with some of the most beautiful places we discover, we may not know they are beautiful until we are standing in them.


so to be 100% honest, I’m very confused by this discussion. Not the parts about the merits or not of having playlists as a feature and how they should be treated and which should be encouraged vs discouraged, but more the part that treats the playlist list and featured playlist as something that has to be discussed before it’s created.

The part that confuses me is that from my point of view, “featured playlist” and “playlist browse” already exist?

From what I can tell, there’s been a featured playlist for a long time (it definitely exists on the wordpress version), and there’s also playlist browse functionality on the non-wordpress player. I even made a little app to reimagine it.

Aside from having an issue with my password, the only other reason I had for even coming on the forum was to ask for permission to use the API to browse the playlists through the API, which - technically - I didn’t have to do, and several people replied to encourage me to do so.

Perhaps it would be productive to take a step back to first principles?

From what I understood @melis_tailored was concerned about replacing staff picks with a user playlist chosen from a competitive community selection process. I wasn’t picking up a dislike of playlists per se (?).

Perhaps we could re-purpose this effort to be a “community playlist” that appears below the “staff picks”? i.e. have both? The community playlist could be chosen via a democratic process in the community, voting for tracks in a combined playlist rather than selecting a single user’s. We could then show the avatars of all the folks who voted in the player itself.

We could also have an adapted version of @boopboop’s proposed rules, which I believe were aimed at the same goals @melis_tailored was advocating, i.e.

Something like

  • The same artist can’t appear two months in a row
  • There’s a genre quota in each list
  • There’s a diversity quota in each list

Keep in mind that truly algroithmic discovery based on user choice is not easy to do. Spotify still does this imperfectly. Resonate’s community is something that makes it unique. We can include that unique element in our player too.

Nothing against playlists - they’re a hugely useful tool for discovery and curation.
I am against competition in art.

Playlists are a tool for marketing as well - which is why we have to be careful with how we highlight them, so as not to work against our own ideals as a coop.

And if we want to do something as a “competition” it needs to align with our ideals. To highlight the undiscovered, create community and “wealth/value” for those who do not have it over and above those who already do in the DSP/playlisting space.

Algorithmic discovery as spotify is a shitshow of payola, popularity and advertising. Doing the exact opposite of everything they do would be a good starting point.

Bandcamp do it a better way - on their front page is a rolling ticker of everything that’s bought. Then under each release, is the picture of who bought it - you can click through to peoples profiles to see what they’re buying, listening and playlisting. Something like that would be wonderful for our community, add colour to the pages, value to the cooperation experience.

I’m all for experimenting with ways to foster community and engagement - but they do need to follow our core values. And we have to remember that right now we have a beta website & player, with limited catalogue, so we have held off advertising/communicating to the community and wider world in the run up to the renewal, because we didn’t want to bring in a whole new audience before we were ready.

I think renaming staff picks > community picks would be great. The “staff” are the community and it would remove the final vestiges of hierarchy from this playlist.


This is the point of view from which I’m coming:

the beta platform needs more completely naive / new beta testers

Currently maybe 4 people regularly make public playlists. With this few people actively using this feature, it’s certainly scary that when the floodgates open, as it were, there’s going to be users turned by some annoyance and potentially not enough time to fix it. Inviting some early adopters to create playlists and report back before the “big reveal” would shine a light on issues that maybe should be in the process of being fixed before the platform is broadcast to the world. The poll / voting / competition format, which involves having yet another subset of beta testers listen to the playlists, adds another layer of testing and feedback.

algorithms are reflection of the people / priorities who made them

Algorithmic generation of track order / playlists on other platforms prioritizes ad revenue because that’s what the owners of the platforms told the algorithm to prioritize. Right now, the algorithm on Resonate prioritizes those artists with the greater number of tracks, but spreads the plays so thin for them to see any payout unless they have devoted fans on Resonate. If I didn’t know better, I would assume this is on purpose so that the revenue from the “spread too thin” act like a loan to the platform since those artists will never make it past the payment process fee threshold.

The Resonate platform algorithms should prioritize whatever the people behind this platform want it to prioritize - If the platform’s people wanted to prioritize “increase number of artists getting paid each month” or “have certain % of plays each month be to artists on a particular continent / set of countries / tags”, that would be doable, and honestly not that hard to implement.


Lots of good ideas here. I think there’s enough overlap between the different perspectives here to add community involvement in some form to the “discovery” section of the player, which is the primary thing we’re talking about here (lots of other related things).

Based on what folks have said so far, the three main goals of adding community involvement in the discovery section of the player would be:

  • improve the discovery of tracks in line with our values;
  • testing and improving the player’s functionality; and
  • encouraging engagement

We have a community meeting tomorrow. We’ll discuss this and determine the next incremental step we can take here. All are welcome to attend the meeting, and we’ll canvas wherever we land with the broader community afterwards here in the forum before going ahead with anything.


Why only one featured playlist? Why not offer a multiplicity, a divergent field of playlists?

In general, I think we should measure the co-op’s health by the spiciness and range of its pluralisms and polycultures. With playlists, some people should find a particular playlist sublime while others tremble at it with revulsion or suicide-inducing boredom. This would signal a healthy community.

We should support high energy states in contradictory directions. We should not try to predict or manage which directions will spike. This is the Artist’s job, finding new ways to build and signify from their intuitions about the conditions and structure of their milieux. We should always be surprised.

(This is why legacy genre tags seem so deadly and ahistorical to me. How are tags updated and complicated when, for example, new artists return to pick at the carcasses of prior works and styles? But that is a discussion for another day.)

I think it is fair to question whether any credible stewards (the co-op’s role according to the manifesto) could run art through a popularity contest. Wouldn’t any contest produce more losers than winners? That would be a bad outcome.

I tend to think the path to the Co-op’s strategic cultural advantage is as an assemblage of niches and vast minorities. While we can’t compete with the corporate hegemony’s brute quantities, we can win with liveliness and care.

Maybe there is a design solution for this problem?