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
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 12:53

Somewhere in the 7digital.com web site infrastructure there are classes that override the default controller and view factories (it is an ASP MVC project). Why did we do this? In our opinion, the default project layout is a hindrance to code readability.

The idea is explained by Uncle Bob in his concept of “screaming architecture”.  i.e. if you glance at the program's folder structure, what is the most blatant thing about it, what is it “screaming about”?

If there's a folder full of controllers, and a folder full of views, and another for models, then it's screaming “I am an ASP.Net MVC project! I do ASP MVC things!”. If there's a folder called “Artists” and another called “Genres”, each containing controllers, views and other classes related to that feature, it's instead saying “I am a music catalogue on the web”.

I personally feel that “screaming architecture” is a very poor name for a very good concept. The architecture isn't having a crisis. It's not running around with hair on fire shouting “aaargh!!!”.  Maybe Uncle Bob has more positive associations with the word “screaming”? With his meaning of “screaming”, every architecture is screaming about something, but what is the important thing. 

sharri.morris@7digital.com
Friday, January 4, 2013 - 10:11

 

We’re primarily driven by meeting 7digital’s goals and objectives

  • Everything we do should be driven by clear business goals and objectives. Where they are lacking we should go and find them.
  • We expect business needs to be provided as problems that need solving with clear expectations and measurables without prejudice towards the implementation.

Release Early and Often; Fail Early and LOUDLY!

  • It’s essential we can respond quickly to changing business requirements. The best measure of our effectiveness in doing so is via frequent predictable releases through a steady rhythm of working. Things need to be easy to change (maintainable) and delivered at a sustainable pace.
  • It’s far more preferable to get something in production as soon as possible and develop iteratively based on feedback than to get bogged down in speculative analysis or a fear of not making all the right decisions up front (be that regarding technology choices or requirements).
  • Failures are expected, and welcome. When projects fail, we learn about other routes that might work. When software fails, it tells us about invalid assumptions we’ve made. The earlier and louder the failure, the more valuable that information is.

The best solutions come from everyone working together

sharri.morris@7digital.com
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 09:51

Overview

Servicestack is a comprehensive web framework for .NET that allows you to quickly and easily set up a REST web service with very little effort. We already use OpenRasta to achieve this same goal within our stack, so I thought it would be interesting to compare the two and see how quickly I could get something up and running. The thing that most interested me initially about ServiceStack was the fact that it claims out of the box support for Memcached, something we already use extensively to cache DTOs, and Redis, the ubiquitous NoSql namevaluecollection store.

Getting cracking

I set myself the task of creating a basic endpoint for accessing 7digital artist, release and track details. Whilst taking advantage of ServiceStack’s ability to create a listener from a console window so I didn’t have to waste time attempting to set it up via IIS:

sharri.morris@7digital.com
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 16:40

Over the last month we've started using ServiceStack for a couple of our api endpoints (go to the full ServiceStack story here) . We're hosting these projects on a Debian Squeeze vm using nginx and Mono. We ran into various problems along the way which we'll explain, but we also managed to achieve some interesting things; here's a summary. Hopefully you'll find this useful.

Nginx

We're using nginx and fastcgi to host the application. This is good from a systems perspective because our applications can run without root privileges. For the communication between mono-fastcgi and nginx, we are using a unix socket file instead of proxying through a local port. This makes configuration much easier, as you map applications to files rather than port numbers, so the convention rules for this are much more straightforward. (Besides, you may be hit by a memory leak if you don't use unix socket files.) Furthermore, using files instead of ports has made our life easier for automated deployments because: