by Alan Hannaway, 7digital Product Owner for Data 

We often ask ourselves How different do you think our listening experience will be in the next ten years? It’s a difficult question to answer, but a great one to ask. Serving an industry where there is constant change, the question brings us right back to where we should be focused: the way people experience music and radio.

Having powered music and radio services for over 10 years, 7digital knows how to deliver listening experiences that delight millions of people. We regularly reflect on what works, and what doesn’t. Sometimes it is clear what works well, and if you have a culture where you fail early and loudly (we do; it is part of our tech manifesto) you can sometimes see exactly what you did wrong. It’s not always easy though, and when the reason for something happening is not at all clear, finding out why it happened is difficult. How can you make sure the reasons you say something happened, are because of the reason you have identified? Correlation does not imply causation.

When we think about the future, we need a way to look back, and with confidence and accuracy, inform our plans on what to do next. For this, we use data, as a tool. Like any tool, the way you use it determines what you get from it. Data is a difficult tool to use correctly, but if you learn to put data in its place, it becomes incredibly effective. It raises your confidence when making decisions. It helps you reflect accurately on what you’ve done and it validates your thoughts. You learn from it.

When it’s possible to measure everything, you run the risk of over-analyzing the wrong things. So how do you ensure the data you are looking at tells you something that you can trust in order to make a confident decision? The answer for us is context. Specifically, data context (not to be confused with current trend of using the word context in music).

To help with the description and adoption of this idea, we developed the 7digital Music Data Context Map.

 

Music Data Context Map

There are three core elements to providing a digital music and radio service; Music, Audience & Service. With any one missing, you don’t have much left. At 7digital, we have deep reach to all parts of each. We have a music catalogue of over 32M tracks, served to an audience of millions of people, through a brilliant variety of services

 

 

Each of these core elements have many dimensions. For example;

 

 

As a tool, we place the reports and insights that we use in our decision making on this map.

Consider a report that provides insights on subscribers’ skipping behaviour on streaming services. Before analysing the data, and attempting to derive insights, we put the report on the context map. It resides somewhere between Audience (subscribers) and Service (streaming).

 

With the aid of the map, we can quickly determine the report’s value. We know what it tells us, and don’t get distracted by wondering where the value lies.

The context map also serves a second benefit. It helps you maximise value from any given data point, or collection of reports. This is important, as preparing data can be expensive and time consuming. 

For example, the above report becomes valuable to more people when you add further dimensions to it. You gain greater insight into music consumption if you look at the same behaviour across different genres of music that people stream. Likewise, greater insight into the audience is possible if you consider where the music was discovered, and enhanced service insight is gleaned when exploring the same behaviour on hybrid streaming/radio services. 

 

By adding more dimensions, the value of the data increases. As a strategy internally, we strive to always improve map coverage. Any given report, or series of reports that are developed, are placed on the map, and careful consideration is given to ensure we are able to accurately describe the data we have. When things converge near the center of the map, we know we’re doing a good job at delivering maximum value, to the greatest number of people. This benefits our own plans, and those of our partners. Ultimately, it focuses us and we do a better job for the listener.

For more updates on the role that data plays at 7digital, including reports sharing insights on music, audience and service, follow us on twitter, connect with us on LinkedIn, and bookmark our blog.

About the author:

Alan joined 7digital as Product Owner for Data in 2015, with a responsibility for ensuring the company are extracting value from and developing a line of data products. Prior to 7digital, Alan worked in a variety of roles, most recently, providing data to the entertainment industry through his own startup. Alan started his career working as a researcher in computer science, focusing his interests on the application of technology to measure the scale and distribution of content consumption on large Internet networks.  

Tag: 
Music Data
Digital Music
Future Planning
Data
sharri.morris@7digital.com
Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 17:28

Astro Malaysia held it’s annual GoInnovate Challenge Hackathon on the 10th-12th October at the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC).

Hopefuls from all over Malaysia massed together for an exciting challenge set by Astro - to build a radio streaming demo. The demo product was meant to redefine the way we watch, read, listen and play with content in two unique hacks to be completed within a 48 hour deadline. Astro offered substantial rewards to those whose ideas that came out on top!

Day 0: Demo - Friday evening

Attendees ranged from junior developers to start-up teams, so long as you’re 18 years old, you can take part!

To begin the Hackathon, entrants were fully briefed and given access to the APIs of both 7digital and music metadata company, Gracenote.

7digital’s lead API developer, Marco Bettiolo, flew in to act as Tech Support for the hackathon.

This photo shows Marco presenting a demo of a radio style streaming service he had previously built.

Day 1: Get Building!

According to the brief, hackers had to choose one of two innovative challenges:

sharri.morris@7digital.com
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 17:43

Managing session lifecycle is reasonably simple in a web application, with a myriad of ways to implement session-per-request. But when it comes to desktop apps, or Windows services, things are a lot less clear cut.

Our first attempt used NHibernate's "contextual sessions": when we needed a session we opened a new one, bound it to the current thread, did some work, and unbound the session.

We accomplished this with some PostSharp (an AOP framework) magic. A TransactionAttribute would open the session and start a transaction before the method was called, commit the transaction (or rollback if an exception had occurred), and dispose of the session after the method had completed.

It was a neat solution, and it was very easy to slap the attribute on a method and hey presto - instant session! On the other hand it was difficult to test, and to comprehend (if you weren't involved in the first place), and to avoid long transactions we found ourselves re-attaching objects to new sessions.

These concerns made us feel there was a better solution out there, and the next couple of projects provided some inspiration.

sharri.morris@7digital.com
Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 16:04

Last year we published data on the productivity of our development team at 7digital, which you can read about here.

We've completed the productivity report for this year and would again like to share this with you. We've now been collecting data from teams for over 4 years with just under 4,000 data points collected over that time. This report is from April 2012 to April 2013.

New to this year is data on the historical team size (from January 2010), which has allowed us to look at the ratio of items completed to the size of the team and how the team size compares to productivity. There's also some analysis of long term trends over the entire 4 years.

In general the statistics are very positive and show significant improvements in all measurements against the last reported period:

sharri.morris@7digital.com
Friday, July 19, 2013 - 14:55

Blue and green servers. What?

As part of the 7digital web team's automated deployment process, we now have “Blue-green servers” It took a while to do, but it's great for continuously delivering software.

This system is also known as “red/black deployments” but we preferred the blue-green name as “red” might suggest an error or fault state. You could pick any two colours that you like.

How it works is that we have two banks of web servers – the green servers, and the blue servers. Other than the server names, they’re the same. Only one of these banks is live at any one time, but we could put both live if extra-ordinary load called for it. A new version of the site is deployed to the non-live bank, and then “going live” with the new version consists of flipping a setting on the load balancer to make the non-live bank live and vice-versa.

Why?

Why did we do this? Mostly for the speed. The previous process of deploying a new site version was getting longer. The deployment script would start with a server, upload a new version of the site to it, unpack the new website files, stop the existing web site, configure the new website and start it. Then move on to the next server and do the same.