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Twilight Sparkle ✨

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Blog Entries posted by Twilight Sparkle ✨

  1. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    It is now possible to Pony.fm track in a post right here on MLP Forums! This is how it looks:
    Much like the rest of the site, the embedded player is not in its final design. It will be redesigned along with the rest of the site once the site is a bit closer to beta. But hey, it works!
    Artists, you're welcome to share your Pony.fm uploads here on MLP Forums in Octavia's Hall or anywhere else using the embedded player. Using it functions exactly like embedding YouTube videos - just paste the URL to your track into the editor...

    ...and it will automagically become a Pony.fm player. The [media] tag is also supported, should you prefer to use that.
    If you have your own site you'd like to embed a Pony.fm track on, this is what the HTML code looks like:
    <iframe src="https://pony.fm/t1/embed" width="100%" height="150" allowTransparency="true" frameborder="0" seamless allowfullscreen></iframe>
    Just replace the "1" in "/t1/embed" with the ID of the track you wish to embed, and its embedded player will come up.
    Finally, have a teaser: a feature for embedding tracks on sites that don't have built-in support for Pony.fm (like MLP Forums now does), or allow you to use custom HTML, is coming soon!
  2. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    Pony.fm has a beautiful genre index.

    But, while randomly selected track covers are certainly nice to look at, they lack... flair. The QA team agreed that a consistent cover to represent each genre would ultimately create a more uniform branding.
    Now, a few days ago, Dawn Rider put forth the idea of getting an offical Pony.fm mascot, which received a lot of support from the rest of the team. But when the question became whether one pony could possibly encompass the diversity of every single musical genre, RayFriedh had this to say:
    The idea resonated with the QA team, so in direct response to user feedback, Pony.fm will have a "genrepony" mascot representing every genre on the site.

    Ray was all too eager to hop on the job of creating a whole bunch of original characters to be Pony.fm's genre mascots, and his first concept is already up! Please head over to his forum thread to see the full picture and provide all the feedback you can - even if all you have to say is a simple "this is awesome just the way it is!"
    The ponies he creates will become an integral part of Pony.fm's design and branding, so this is a prime opportunity for everyone to get a say in part of the site's future.
  3. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    Let's be honest with ourselves: 24-hour days suck.
    So, now that I'm off of school for spring break, I've moved onto a highly productive 31-hour schedule. Booyeah! Progress on Pony.fm has been lightning-fast as a result, and the main reason you haven't seen me blogging much about it lately is because I've been so focused on pushing out all the code I can.
    Today, I'd like to take some time between the coding to talk about a fundamental Pony.fm feature you'll run into a lot: the user profile.
    First things first: where do you physically live on Pony.fm? It couldn't be simpler:

    How much better does it get?
    Keeping the URL's so short and simple makes them stupidly easy to remember and share. Meeting with a friend and want to tell him where to find your pony tunes? He'll probably remember "pony dot eff emm slash your name here" a lot better than "pony dot eff emm slash user slash four six nine seven two four one" or something else with an account ID in it. You're a human, not a number, and Pony.fm's profiles reflect that.

    Pony.fm's profiles are divided into three sections: you, your content, and your social circle.
    The header is all about showing people who you are, at a quick glance. With a huge avatar, your name front and centre, and a 250-character blurb to express yourself, it's truly your space on Pony.fm. Here are a few headers from the alpha testing team:

    Your Content
    The cutest avatar means little for an artist's profile page if there's no content for potential listeners to enjoy. So, Pony.fm profiles put the stuff you've made on the left half of the page, in full view.

    Albums are up top. As they're larger and rarer than single releases, they receive a large, unmissable tile. Beneath them, you'll find a complete set of a user's tracks, in reverse chronological order and ready to listen to without even leaving the page.
    Your Social Circle
    One misconception I've observed as that Pony.fm is only for artists. Nothing could be further from the truth. With a central commenting framework, a meticulously designed notification system (it's better than the one here on MLP Forums), user-curated playlists, and more, Pony.fm comes battery-loaded for social interaction, and future development will only increase the richness of the experience.
    To that end, the right half of every profile is dedicated to your social presence on Pony.fm.

    The users you follow and that you are followed by are shown in tabbed grids. Simple name/avatar blocks save space on your screen, and a paginated wall of profile comments appears below (currently, a page is created every 10 comments). Leaving a comment on someone's profile sends them a notification, but you won't receive one for leaving a comment on your own profile.
    The Future
    Web applications are never truly "complete", so there comes a point when I have to put the keyboard down and publish something for the world to see. However, that doesn't mean I can't keep making things better afterward; as a developer, I just need to set some priorities for what needs to make it into the MVP, and what I can procrastinate on while I hope it magically drops out of existence leave in the task tracker for later.
    So, here are a few ways in which I intend to improve profiles in the hopefully not-too-distant future:
    Ability to upload a background image for your profile header.
    Limit the number of tracks and albums shown straight-up on the profile, and push the full discography onto a dedicated page or two (ie. https://pony.fm/feld0/tracks).
    Make tracks on profiles a little less "samey" by displaying their cover art (if they have any) beside their inline players.

    Please remember that, as this is software development, intentions are not and cannot be treated as promises or guarantees that something will be implemented. However, all development begins with some form of intention, and these are three features I feel pretty sure about at this point.
  4. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    In direct response to user feedback, I've implemented the ability to disable track downloads. Just click the slick new switch in the track editor, and your track's downloads will be blocked off!

    Tracks that have their downloads disabled will, as you'd expect, be excluded from playlist and album downloads as well. So, if you download an album that has a "gap" in it, this is why.
    There are plenty of good reasons to both allow and bar artists from disabling downloads if you read through the feedback thread, so I'm curious to see how people will make use of the feature now that it exists.
  5. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    Pony.fm opened to the general public about two days ago, with a mass email I sent to the 1000+ people who signed up to be notified when the site was ready to roll.

    HTML email... it can be pretty, but horribly messy to make it so. The table layouts and inline CSS make me want to skin a furry critter.

    The site isn't even 48 hours into beta yet, and the reception has been excellent. The Pony.fm forum - fed by the on-site feedback system - has exploded with activity, with lots of great ideas and discussions springing up that I'm already working on implementing into the site.
    Since beta began, 178 tracks have been uploaded, of which 66 are already published. The word has gone viral on Tumblr, a thread has popped up on My Little Remix, and we received a post on Brony Musician Directory.
    Suffice it to say, on-site activity is way up. Have a graph of track plays going back to halfway into the alpha:

    The site has been remarkably stable with the increased traffic, too. The server hasn't so much as blinked, and save for a few isolated cases that I've ironed out, uploads have been coming in by the gigabyte, smooth as butter.
    Special thanks to Flutterwhat for getting the Tumblr ball rolling, Freewave for plugging Pony.fm on his blog, and everyone who's taking a part in spreading the word about the new brony music site on the block! I'm humbled to see so much enthusiasm for my not-so-little coding project, and I look forward to continuing to build it out into a thriving musical community.
    Keep the music, comments, and feedback coming, and be sure to take some time to play with all of the site's social features like playlists and notifications!
  6. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    Pony.fm is more than just a place for artists to dump their music for download hosting. It is a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan site, and as such, poni is baked right into the core design of the site's functionality.
    Today, I'll take you through some of Pony.fm's taxonomies. As pony fan music is the only kind of music allowed on Pony.fm, cataloguing and organizing it all for easy retrieval and discovery is a unique and interesting challenge. In a more generic music site like SoundCloud, an open-ended tagging system is often the sanest way to deal with the crazy explosion of genres, styles, and categorizations the world's musicians have created.
    But unlike generic music sites, Pony.fm is designed to serve an extremely specific niche of the musical community: brony musicians, and bronies interested in finding pony music to listen to. This opens a unique opportunity to tackle the issue with a curated approach.

    Let's begin with the one-stop discovery tool available from every page on Pony.fm, located prominently in the nav bar: the Browse button.
    Hovering over the Browse button opens a large flyout menu that gives you, at a glance, a little bit of everything on Pony.fm:

    In addition to a few meta links, the flyout gives you instant access to many of the taxonomies on Pony.fm. With a single click, you can reach listings by genre, type of track (more on this in a bit), publication date, popularity, and even a totally random assortment. While this doesn't encompass the full range of data Pony.fm has on every track, it is pretty nice to have available on every page, at all times.
    But what if you have something more specific in mind? Or you want to string multiple search criteria together to create your own selection of tunes? That's where the Track Browser comes in...

    Feld, the buck were you thinking? Did your 31-hour sleeping schedule lead you to the wrong cider barrel? I can get a search box at YouTube/Google/SoundCloud/[insert random website here]!
    This ain't your daddy's search box. As a matter of fact, you can't type anything into it. Honest question time: how often, when searching for new music, do you know exactly what you're looking for, to the point where you know the exact names and artists to query for?
    Unless you're some kind of supernatural oracle capable of predicting your own future (in which case, what are you doing here?), probably not very often.
    So, how does a search box you cannot type into actually work?

    Clicking it drops down a deluxe-size flyout that contains tags for Pony.fm's taxonomies. They are as follows:
    Track Types
    With the choices of "Original Song", "Official Song Remix", "Fan Song Remix", and "Ponified Song", these choices should be fairly straightforward, but they are nonetheless a powerful taxonomy you simply won't find anywhere outside of a fan site.
    Music comes in all sorts of genres, but brony music can be narrowed down to a few key ones. To make searching as easy as possible for listeners, I've compiled a curated list of brony music genres with the help of my alpha testers (special thanks in particular to Freewave, who has done extensive research on the brony music scene for his site, Brony Musician Directory - go check it out ). Artists can choose one, and only one, genre to represent their song when publishing it. While this was a controversial design choice with a few artists, the consensus was that avoiding...
    ...would ultimately be for the better in the long term.
    Show Songs
    At this time, this one's only relevant to remixes of official show songs. However, if you're looking for show remixes, this taxonomy will probably be one of the best things to ever happen to you. With a complete record of the official show's songs in its database, Pony.fm is able to organize tracks by the songs they are a remix of.
    This is but a simple taxonomy right now, but I have future plans for a much larger community feature revolving around the show songs.

    By combining these taxonomies, and any future ones I add, my hope is that Pony.fm will become the home of the most powerful pony music search engine on the 'net.
    Feel like listening to metal, rock, and house remixes of Winter Wrap Up, Babs Seed, and Becoming Popular?

  7. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    I'm looking to build a dedicated quality assurance (QA) team to be Pony.fm's alpha testers and shape the site's direction in its earliest stages.
    At this time, I'm looking for people who:
    create (or have created) MLP:FiM fan music
    are interested in uploading their fan music to Pony.fm
    will report bugs they run into
    will provide feedback on what's good, what isn't, and what's missing
    enjoy trying new things!

    QA staff will have access to a private forum where they can communicate directly with me and their fellow testers to share their experiences, request features, and directly influence the development of Pony.fm.
    If you're interested in joining the QA team, let me know in a comment on this blog entry, send me a private message, or email me at feld0@mlpforums.com, and I'll add you to it.
  8. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    Being able to upload tracks and share them all over the ponynet with features like an embedded player and fun stat tracking is pretty sweet.
    But you know what's sweeter? Being able to organize all these tracks into albums. By popular demand from the alpha testing team, I've enabled the album code on Pony.fm and have gotten to work polishing the feature to be as useful as possible. Let me give you a short tour!
    Here's an example album, compiled by .

    Each track in the album gets its own player on the page. The layout was inspired partly by a mockup included in a feature request and partly by SoundCloud. The cool trick here is that once you start playing a track, the next track will play automatically, and so on until the end of the album. Moreover, attempting to start playing another track before the current one has finished will automatically pause the current one before beginning playback of the new track.
    Album downloads are beautiful, too. Designed to make keeping your music library as organized as possible, they come in a zip file with the following directory structure:
    <Artist Name>
    <Album Name>

    Inside the album's folder, all of the album's tracks await in your selected format, joined by a text file containing a tracklist and the artist's notes on each track in the album (in a later revision, I plan to make this a fully-formatted Markdown file ). Have a screenshot:

    Pay close attention to the directory path in this one:

    Pony.fm makes maintaining an organized music folder as simple as:

    Download the zip file in your favourite audio format.
    Extract the contents of the zip file into the base of your music folder.
    There is no step 3. You're done! You can delete the zip file if you want, though; it isn't needed anymore.

    That's it! No need to fuss with creating directories, dealing with mismatched tags, renaming files, or even choosing a folder in your library to put an album in. It doesn't get much simpler than dumping the contents of a zip file into your music folder and letting the directories merge themselves.
    Back to the web app, using albums is also a great way to increase listener engagement. In addition to providing a no-nonsense way to group related tracks together, any track within an album gets a bold link on its track page directing viewers to go check out the rest of the stuff in that album:

    Albums also get a special visual layout on user profiles:

    (ignore the lame-o tracks list on that page; that's still being worked on)
    The cover art of the first track in an album, if present, is displayed as the album's cover in all relevant places around the site. If an album lacks cover art, its track players simply expand to fill the space, as seen here:

    That about does it for the basic tour of albums. I'll be rounding them out with a few additional features to make them easier to work with and share, but their core programming is in place and fully functional (getting track numbers to sync up correctly when reordering the album or removing tracks from an album was real fun).
  9. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    One of Pony.fm's key features is that it will share accounts with MLP Forums - meaning, your username and password on MLP Forums will double as a Pony.fm account. Pretty awesome, no?

    I'm pleased to announce that this functionality is now fully functional! If you head over to http://pony.fm/ right now, you will be able to log in using your MLP Forums credentials and come to the screen above. If you change your password, Pony.fm will be aware of this and will use the new password as well; you're welcome to play around with this.
    Although account syncing now works, however, most of Pony.fm's features will continue to remain disabled until enough of the site's core functionality is in place to open it up. Even then, be aware that it will be in a bona-fide public alpha state, where anything and everything will be subject to change and improvement.
    ATTENTION ARTISTS: If you haven't joined the early alpha team yet, space is still available!
  10. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom is pretty amazing, if for no other reason than that it creates stuff. A lot of stuff.
    Paintings and plushies, applications and animation, stories and stained-glass windows, comics and conventions, websites and whatnot - you name it, we make it.
    All this content needs to go somewhere, of course. But not everyone can put a website together or have the resources available to keep their work online should it ever become popular. That's where SaaS (software-as-a-service) platforms come in - an SaaS provides a service, like blog hosting (think Blogger or WordPress.com), that lets you focus on creating and publishing content without worrying about the technological challenges of doing so or keeping it available during high traffic.
    Pony.fm is an SaaS for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan music. The site's purpose is simple - to provide an easy solution for brony composers, arrangers, and otherwise musically talented individuals to get their music online and get it out there.
    Bandcamp, YouTube, and SoundCloud are currently the most popular venues I see pony music being released through. While there's nothing inherently wrong with that, they're not exactly ideal. For one, they impose limits on free downloads (with the exception of YouTube) - this alone creates a great deal of annoyance for many artists, since most of them release their music for free. YouTube does not impose such limits, but as a video-sharing site, it's hardly even appropriate to begin with - as a matter of fact, it doesn't even offer downloads.
    The other key disadvantage is that these large SaaS's interfaces and feature sets are not specifically tailored for our fandom. Building an SaaS for bronies brings with it the unique opportunity to create a truly special resource for sharing and discovering content, like organizing content using taxonomies based on the show. That's something that no general-purpose SaaS can get away with.
    As Pony.fm nears the alpha testing stage, I'm excited to begin sharing some concrete updates and information on its progress. I'll use this blog to write about new features, reflect on my experiences as a developer, and keep track of project milestones over time.
    Follow it if you want to keep up with news on the pony music hosting site!
  11. Twilight Sparkle ✨
    It's impossible to overestimate just how important feedback is for me as Pony.fm's lead developer.
    While I do have a certain vision in mind for Pony.fm, at the end of the day, I'm building a site for an entire fandom to use. The alpha testing program has proven hugely successful so far, with feedback coming in through the Pony.fm forum and Skype group.
    However, the Skype group won't scale once Pony.fm hits open beta (sorry! I have no interest in another encore of the "large community chatroom"), and heading all the way over to MLP Forums to request a feature or report an out-of-place icon is something I don't expect anyone other than a dedicated tester to have the patience for.


    Introducing the Pony.fm feedback form.

    Clicking the "Submit Feedback" link in the navbar immediately brings up the feedback form:

    It's nice and simple, to maximize my chances of users actually bothering to fill it out. The title field is optional, and the form is submitted via AJAX, so the page doesn't even get reloaded.
    But Feld, I see forms like these on YouTube and every other multinational corporate site I go to. When I submit even the greatest of essays, for all I know, my beautiful words that any self-respecting webmaster would care about might be getting covered in frosting and fed to Pinkie Pie!
    Ah, but that's where Pony.fm's feedback form is different! It is different because it is accountable.

    After submitting the form, you'll be presented with a giant green checkmark and a link.... to a topic on MLP Forums?!
    Yep, that's right: all feedback submitted through this form gets posted in the Pony.fm forum (which will be made public as soon as open beta begins), where I and anyone else can review what you had to say, comment on it, and get a discussion going. And, because Pony.fm and MLP Forums are both part of Poniverse, you don't even need to maintain two accounts to have access to both!

    As Pony.fm's owner, you have my word that I'll personally read through every post made in the forum and make an effort to reply to everything I can.
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