is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Spotify’s Found Them First is a clever, web-based tool that mines your streaming music play history to show you the artists that you “discovered” before they hit it big. It’s a terrific idea showcased beautifully with an impressive, slightly over-the-top video background that does its best to make up for the fact that Found Them First is not quite deserving of having its own site.
To be clear, I’m of the mind that this is the kind of functionality that Spotify and similar services need more of. As I argued almost two years ago in this essay, if streaming music is becoming a commodity (it is) then robust metadata is the best way for services like Spotify to distinguish themselves. A few weeks ago I wrote about the company’s excellent Discover Weekly feature, which automatically generates an uncannily well-tailored playlist for each user once a week, based on patterns that the company’s Echo Nest technology derives from analyzing listening habits.
Found Them First is another worthy contribution to this genre of tailoring music libraries specifically for individual users, but it should be built right into the main Spotify app. It’s a shame to strand it on a web site, no matter how beautifully designed, as most users are unlikely to ever visit it more than once.
Moreover, once integrated, Found Them First should notify me whenever an artist I’ve listened to has crossed various thresholds of fans following them and plays counted. What would be even better would be to show me which artists I discovered before my friends did, because relatively few people will ever discover artists before they get popular. You could extrapolate from there a whole raft of similar ideas that would make the listening experience at Spotify a lot richer: artists that my friends discovered before me who have not yet hit critical mass; friends who discovered the same artists as me at roughly the same time; artists that the artists I follow discovered on Spotify, etc. There’s a world of interesting data that could be unearthed here; the potential is only limited by our ability to turn data into meaningful insight for humans. While I’m encouraged by Found Them First and Discover Weekly, I’m eager to see Spotify—or Apple Music, or Rdio, or whomever—really take the plunge and create the next major evolution of the way we listen to music.+