Perhaps it is a bit unfair to compare Sam and James to the CEOs of the Big Three in Detroit, but I cannot help but appreciate the parallels between a few men who ignored the ongoing trends toward greener and more gas-efficient vehicles, and a couple of designers who rendered themselves deaf to the pleas for the maintenance—and reinstatement—of the game they built their site upon.
I have been a member of TheSixtyOne for less than a full year—which makes this all the more troubling, given that there are people like AnnieB who have been there basically since Day One; but in these few short months, I watched something beautiful, elegant, and unique get reduced to an unoriginal face in the crowd.
How many music sites are on the internet? More than any of us can name, I am sure. How many game sites? How many social networks? But, for the real kicker, how many sites combine all three in a package that's as addictive as it is impressive? For the fun, for the music, and for the people—for a moment, TheSixtyOne looked like the future of the music industry, in the same way Digg and Reddit are often looked upon as the future of news.
So what happened? Maybe it started with the ban of KosmikRay. Maybe these events were set in motion from day one and could never have been avoided. But look where we are now: A complete site redesign without forums to even report glitches, let alone to express members' concerns. I have to laugh at the fact that the designers had the nerve to include a section called “zeitgeist” after going to such lengths to ignore the people who tried to make this once magical place their home on this crazy world wide web. Sorry, you can't post anything but bugs in these forums. Sorry, you can't post on that person's wall anymore. Sorry, you can't post anything on this site but blips... on the walls of the people you already know. Sorry, no more tuneboxes. Sorry.
Yes, I recognize that this site is the baby of a couple of college kids who had a vision one day. I recognize I have no obligation to return there, and just as I would not want someone to tell me how to raise my own children, I recognize I have no place to tell them what to do themselves. And yet, there is something so disheartening about watching a parent forcing their kid to be something it's not.
So, to all of the people who have dedicated hours of their lives to advancing themselves on TheSixtyOne—to all the AnnieBs, the dalryaugs, the SallySilveras—all of your work and dedication amassing more points than the people who never had the love you did for this site, Sam and James want you to know that you're not anymore appreciated than the guy who signed up yesterday, bumped a couple of times, ran out of points and didn't come back. All of your progress reduced to a partially filled bar.
I hope one day, I stop by to observe that this has all been reversed. I hope the channels of communication are reopened, and Sam and James can compromise some small bit of their as-of-yet indecipherable vision in favor of restoring the glory to what was once the cutting edge of music and web design. I hope I'm reading too far into all of this. But ya know what? I feel most for the artists. The people whose success was attributed not to their talent, but to “groupthink”, and people bumping because they were playing a game that the creators themselves saw fit to implement. You take away the game, you take away our desire to bump, and this just becomes a listening party. The sad news is that there are better places on the web for that; and everything that made this site great has been sacrificed in favor of a layout that hurts your eyes if you stare at it for too long.
This isn't Detroit. You're going to be fine without me, or any of the likeminded groupthinkers who will leave this site as a result of the “improvements”. But next time your loyal members are expected to Digg something to help you guys out, don't be surprised if we just go ahead and pass. I watched you deconstruct this site piece by piece over the last few months, and I've sat back and tried to get over all of it. Though I'm sure I won't be particularly missed, and though I may not have convinced anyone of anything with this post (Even if it gets deleted for being completely against the spirit of MaxBumps), I felt this all needed to be said. Good luck with your future endeavors—it was fun while it lasted.
// UPDATE: 12/17/09 //
First off, I want to thank everyone for the comments and support. Glad to see I'm not alone here.
Secondly, I want to address lankysob's very valid concern. While a number of us mentioned supposed alternatives to TheSixtyOne, none of us gave anything concrete. That's my reason for this update.
CherryPeel is like Digg for music. I'm sure you've heard that claim before, but this is as direct an imitation as I've seen. Artists submit music, users vote it up *OR DOWN*, and the most popular stuff makes it to the forefront.
Sorry, there's not a point or achievement system in place that will fill that particular void. If TheSixtyOne was all about the game for you, it's still the only place on the net for that. However, this place will offer you something different: A sense of community.
It's still in the early stages of development, but I sent some feedback to one of the site admins earlier today... and I received a response. As utterly mindblowing as that might be to anyone who's ever attempted to contact James, I've got even more goodies for you. Not only were my suggestions addressed, in the way of a forthcoming mini-feed and even forums (Remember those?) are coming, but Andrew had something very intriguing to say in this e-mail.
"I'm curious as to what The Sixtyone admins did that hurt the site. Would you mind giving me more details? We don't want to be making the same mistakes over here."
Amazing right? Feeling like your opinion and advice is actually worth half a damn? I know.
In closing, I'd like to say that the site still has a few interface bugs. The good news is that I brought one up with an admin, and it has already been resolved. I think this place has great potential, and I urge you all to check it out. Lemme know if you do!