08 August 2007

ccMixter quick tips 1

ccMixter is refreshingly different than - and in my opinion superior to - many of the cookie cutter social networking sites on the web these days. Here are a few quick tips for new ccMixter users (note: some advanced features require registration - it's free and easy).

Searching and finding stuff (people, songs, samples, keywords)

  • It's pretty straight forward with one caveat. In the ccMixter databases, in terms containing spaces, these are converted to underscores. For example, the term "a minor theory" becomes "a_minor_theory".
  • Don't overlook the small link to an "Advanced search" just above the main search box on the top right hand side of each page.
Listening to music

On pages where you can listen to remixes on ccMixter, you will find one or more buttons:
  • Pressing the little speaker icon next to "Play", will play a song (or sample) in a little flash player applet inside your browser.
  • Clicking on the "Stream" button will begin playback in the default media player of your computer/browser pretty quickly.
  • Clicking on mp3, WAV or FLAC, will typically download a song before playing it.
  • Very cool: a larger blue button "Stream This Page" will stream all of the items on that page.
  • Ultra cool: To grab a podcast of the collection of songs on a page, open iTunes and then drag from the orange "Podcast" button on the ccMixter page onto the "Podcast" menu item on the left hand pane of your iTunes window. In iTunes, click on the little triangle to the left of the newly listed podcast labelled ccMixter to expand the list of individual songs, and then click on the little GET ALL button - and voilĂ , you are a a whole bunch of songs richer! You can now copy the songs of your choice into your main iTunes library.
One of the shining aspects of ccMixter is the myriad of ways you can find and organize remixes to listen to. Here are just few to get you going:

Newest Songs can be found under the "Remixes" main tab and then the "Latest Remixes" tab. Try the "PLAY this page" or "STREAM this page" buttons on the left hand side of the page. If you don't like a song, just use the regular controls to skip to the next one.

Remix Radio is found under the main "Remixes" tab and is a quick way of creating an instant randomized playlist of remixes from selection criteria.
  • Quick tips: Editor's picks are only very few - they get you to a quick list of songs that are pretty decent, but there are tons of great songs that never make the Editors Picks. Don't rely on star ratings either, since ratings are a weak indicator of quality at ccMixter (and at every other site I know). There's no way to program a fair and easy to use rating's system, because it's more of a social issue, not a software one. I could rant on about the difficulty to create decent ratings systems - effectively a voting system, which is a better topic for political science scholars - but I'll spare you the boredom. :-)

Favorite Songs
list keeping is another stellar feature of ccMixter (for registered users) via the concept of "Playlists". You can make many playlists - and your playlists are visible to others and vice versa. On pages containing remixes or lists of remixes, there is a button "Add to Playlist", which gives the option of adding a song to an existing playlist or create a new one. After creating a new playlist, you can rename it on the page for that playlist.When playing a playlist, the feature to open it in a separate window will keep the music going while you are browsing to other places.
  • Very cool: Since the playlist feature works for sample files as well, remixers can create playlists of sample files, essentially creating a bookmarking system for files they may want to come back to.
  • Ultra cool: Even if you are not a remixer, you can become a creator and maintainer of great playlists which other people can link to or subscribe to. If lots of people subscribe to your playlist, it will show up under the main "Playlists" tab in the "Hot Playlists" tab. If you've always dreamed of being a Radio DJ or station manager, here's your chance.
  • Fun: Record and upload your own "station identification" as a short sample and put it at the beginning of your playlist, and possibly a couple of other places, but not so often as to be annoying to your listeners. (Listen to ccMixter's own "Remixer Radio" for examples of that).
Friends type of relationship management is implemented philosophically differently (in my opinion much better) in ccMixter. It's not reciprocal, but when you are on a person's profile page (and are logged in as registered user), you can click on the link "Add ... to your favorites" at the bottom of the page or a bit higher up is a link next to Notifications "Get Notified About ...", which allows you to get emails when the person has uploaded a new remix and/or has been remixed. So you can keep track of other people remixing the same materials as you as well as keeping track of your remixers. So it's really easy to keep track of relevant happenings at ccMixter without even having to go there. Since ccMixter doesn't have an interest to always suck you to their site and click on ads, it is much more gentle with your time than commercially motivated social networking sites. And that's a good thing!
  • Very Cool: clicking on the Publicize link on a user's "Profile" page gets you to a page of html code snippets to include in your own website or myspace or similar sites. There are a number of different options - one of my favorites can make it look like this (yes, this player [invisible in some RSS feeds, though] is really included and piped in from ccMixter):


Private Messaging is implemented differently as well (philosophically and technically). Again, since ccMixter does not need you to click on advertising, it doesn't need to suck you to their site for every little thing. Registered users can send an email to a fellow registered user, by going to that member's profile page and clicking on the [email contact] link next to their name. That will send a message to the email account of that member. Note, that this will reveal the email address you have registered with ccMixter to the other person. So it's not private messaging like on some other sites, but facilitates making off-line connections.


There's quite a bit more, but you'll get the idea. Next time I'll try to mention a few ccMixter features for sample providers and remixers.

Happy ccMixter listening, and as always, comments and corrections are appreciated!

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