Quotes of the Week: SoundCloud’s Exemplary Comments System

To close out the week of SoundCloud.com-focused coverage, it’s useful to take a look at the conversations that occur within the web community of music-makers and -appreciators. Not the website’s forums, mind you, though those are informative. No, each track posted to SoundCloud allows for individuals to comment at any place along the given track’s timeline, matching comments to horizontal coordinates on the track’s waveform. It looks something like this:

Most of these comments, of course, are thank-yous — as when, above, watsonsound (aka Frank Rose: soundcloud.com/watsonsound) at the 39-second point in “11 15 09m” by map~map (aka Marcus Fischer: soundcloud.com/mapmap) takes the opportunity to say, simply, “beautiful.”

Or when an unspecified member of the 2eq Records label (soundcloud.com/2eqrecords), at the 2:18 point of a track titled “Lapidarium” by Michael Banabila (soundcloud.com/michel-banabila), record his impression: “very nice.”

But that’s just the beginning. The timeline comments in SoundCloud also allow for conversations between musicians and listeners, which yield explanations of how the tracks were constructed. Take this back’n’forth between Mark Harris (soundcloud.com/mark-harris) and musician Stephen Vitiello, at the 4:06 spot of Vitiello’s track “Dolly Acending”, which Vitiello had described as “A long track, based on a remix of a live recording of Dolly Parton singing Stairway to Heaven made in 2004-2005″:

Harris: is this all from a dolly parton singing?? – amazing! Vitiello: it is but stretched and stretched and processed some more. Thanks for asking! Harris: what did you use BTW SoundHack?? Vitiello: As I remember, it was a combination of Soundhack, Pro Tools and Live

Here’s the Vitiello track in question. Though for some reason the comments aren’t appearing in the widget here, they do at the track’s page on soundcloud.com:

SoundCloud is not a closed system; as evidence suggests, the tool allows for somewhat fluid communication with content systems outside its architecture. For example, there’s a track titled “Kitchen Song of Storms” in the collection of Sarah Brown (aka esbie, at soundcloud.com/esbie), and the annotation she attached to it was fairly basic (“I was humming this in the kitchen the other day”). But meanwhile over at her blog, esbie.blogspot.com, she’d commented at length about its production process. Brian Biggs (of soundcloud.com/dance-robot-dance) took up the subject of esbie’s reflections within the SoundCloud interface, six seconds into the piece’s brief, 33-second length: “Responding from your blog post, no no no it’s the way it should be. A click track or Ableton would have taken the funny funky away. Glad you left it alone.”

And, using the comments for another purpose entirely, for episode three of his “Signal Drift” series (at soundcloud.com/the-land-of) of mixtapes, The Land Of (aka Justin Hardison) used the comments tool as a way to note when the song changes to a new track. See the rat-a-tat-tat series of icons along the comments field here:

As always, I’m at soundcloud.com/disquiet.

2 thoughts on “Quotes of the Week: SoundCloud’s Exemplary Comments System

  1. Thanks, Julian — that is a cool example, the Sherburne mix. I realize there’s likely a breaking point at which comment-overload might set in. But right now I have confidence in the SoundCloud crew. They really seem to have this service’s software upgrading at a good pace.

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