research design laboratory


Calling the Voice-O-Graph was a musical project by Owen Chapman, an DJ, producer and academic who sometimes goes by the moniker O-Positive. Chapman released his music for free online with one small request: in order to get a free track, you had to leave a comment. It was a fun project for us to work on, both in developing the concept and finding a way to make it happen, but we were so focused on the concept itself that we ended up with a big problem in our blindspot: spam. In an effort to encourage participation, we created an environment that was susceptible to and targeted by spammers. And while the idea of requiring a comment for free music seemed good at the time, it created a problem: we were valuing the quantity of comments over the quality of comments. Lesson learned: don't be a bully and try to force the user's hand - just be thankful for the comments you get. After all, didn't someone's mom once say "if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all."