Don MacKinnon has been a busy man as I recently wrote about his work with Ken Burns and Big Spaceship to launch very cool Ken’s new iPad app. It seems he is at it again with the launch of new social media network that became available to the public earlier this week called MILQ. I know most people think the last thing the world needs is another social network but after using it for a few months I think it that solves the two most common problems people they have with social media networks – curation and collaboration.
Once you set-up your MILQ account you need to learn a few things to understand how the site works. The site resolves around ‘beads’ which are made up of a question and then content from YouTube, Vimeo and SoundCloud that try to answer or illustrate the question. Beads can be public or private so you can just post the content you like and no one else can add to it or you can just pose the question and let the world answer the question for you on what they think about it. An example of how all of this comes to life would be if we look at a bead called ‘CRAZIEST CROSS-GENRE COVERS?‘ with a short description that reads ‘it’s not that unusual. Jazz is essentially old pop borrowed to make a new genre from it. And there’s a special, lovely, mind-bending, defamiliarizing THING that happens when a classical tune becomes pop, a rock song becomes jazz, etc.’. you will see that this is a public bead and there are 67 posts from people who are trying to answer what are the craziest cross genre covers with their favorites. The part that I love is that MILQ lets you turn all of those posts into a playlist so you can actually play the content in the bead to watch videos and listen to the longs just like a playlist you would have in iTunes or Spotify. If you find someone who is creating a lot of beads you really like then you can ‘follow’ them just like you would in Twitter and they will appear in the ‘MY FEEDS’ section of the site.
Another interesting aspect of MILQ is that they have added a layer of curation and specificity to the site that I haven’t seen before. When you create a bead you will see that it has to be around the topics of Music, Film, Comedy or Sports. I know this is going to be a controversial decision for a lot of people so lets spend a minute so I can explain why I think this is a really good idea.
I have said for a while that I think the future of a lot digital experiences, especially for big brands, is going to be all about curation and their ability to surface information people want above all the digital noise people have in their daily lives. Let’s use Pinterest as example to illustrate what I am talking about. I have seen most people I know quickly drop off the Pinterest because the site requires you to bring your own structure to how you want to use the site. This means that if you don’t have your boards set-up in a way that you like and that gives you a structure that forms the foundation of how you curate the content you find on the site then it all becomes too confusing and people just stop using it. For instance, I have a lot of my design teams who don’t use Pinterest because they feel like it is too much work or they just don’t have their board set up a way that would help their creativity instead of becoming yet another distraction from really creating. When I spend a few minutes to show them how I use the site and how I have my boards set up they always say “if I did things like that then I would use Pinterest all the time”. So while a lot of people may think that MILQ having these categories as the foundation of their structure may be too limiting but I think it is essential. I think about it like how the worst clients a designer can have is the one who says “do whatever you want” with no direction of structure. You need to have some constraints to really have some idea of where to start your design and not just flail around trying to hit on something that works for your client. This same principle applies to social media sites like this because without some structure you see that most people can’t provide for themselves and the site will suffer for it.
But the part I love the most about the site is that it encourages collaboration through something as simple as the fact that every bead is a question. I personally have grown tired of everyone on Facebook just taking at each other not with each other, everyone on Twitter trying to see how profound they can be in 140 characters and everyone in Instagram taking photos of the snow. There is no collaboration in any of these sites as everyone is only concerned about how they are creating their image in these channels. I even had high hopes for the community experience on Spotify where I thought it would be a natural for people to want to share great music I had never heard before but the functionality is so hidden that no I know uses it. This is where I think MILQ really shines because it encourage participation and has an incredibly smart machine learning system that will promote the people who post the best content to let their content rise to the top. This means that if there is a bead about Philly Soul that you could see a teenager from Nebraska have the same level of influence in this site as someone like Questlove.
It will be interesting to see how people use MILQ and if it finds wide-spread success. I think it is solving a lot of the unspoken problems that have been keeping note people find integrating social media into their daily lives in a more meaningful way. Head over to MILQ.com to check it for yourself and let me know what you think.