Saturday morning is for discovery. Multiple browser windows point me in multiple directions and I wander until I discover a thing to consider. The key to Saturday morning is not direction, the key is association. I am free associating myself across the internet looking for… something.
Turntable.fm used to be key to this experience. This now shutdown service was my soundtrack for free association Saturday mornings. Turntable.fm allowed you to jump into a virtual room where a small handful of DJs were playing music they selected. These DJs were simply users who chose to share music rather than hang back and listen.
Rooms were given titles that would give you an idea of what you might hear, but enforcement was sketchy. Most of the pressure to stay on theme was social. Playing Britney Spears in the dubstep rooms was hilariously frowned upon. My Saturday morning move was to find a room with a moderate sized population and an interesting title. Electro-house themed rooms were a favorite with their combination of energy and lack of distracting lyrics.
Whether inspired by Turntable.fm or another browser window, the Saturday morning moment I’m looking for is a moment of discovery. It’s a unique state of mysterious familiarity. I am presented with a song, image, or text that I instantly know is important, but have never heard, seen or read.
The essential varied systems that scale the internet are incentivized to capture your eyeballs because your attention means monetization, which when achieved allows these systems to fund their growth. They want your attention and they’ll do whatever is necessary and legal to capture it because they must do so to survive. This is their core motivation is to provide you precisely what you are searching for because doing so bring you back.
While these services are important, this is not what I’m looking for on Saturday morning. I am looking for mysterious familiarity, I am willing to head out in a seemingly random direction with belief there is value out there, but no actual evidence. I am choosing the risky path of discovery.
Turntable.fm shut down at the end of last year. They couldn’t figure out how to monetize, but in late 2011 Turntable.fm had discovery dialed in. Sometime around Christmas 2011, I was huddled in a dubstep room sweating through my second cup of coffee and someone played this. This is great. I immediately jumped into iTunes to find the artist – nothing. Wait, wait? A Google search revealed the artist known as OVERWERK had no website and was offering his music on a pay what you can model. Huh? This amazingly talented artist was a virtual unknown, he was giving his music away, and I’d somehow found him. I’d discovered something new.
The daily tools and services we’ve surrounded ourselves with are incentivized to satisfy our urgent need for instant gratification – to make the precious moments we send on them as useful as quickly as possible. I’m on the lookout for something different. I need more tools and services that encourage serendipity as their primary function because I know how to search for what I need, but what is to discover what I do not know.