I have a bit of a thing for trying to fix broken social networks (see Diaspora-x), so when I recieved an invite to friend someone on Myspace, it jogged my memory that the company is up for sale, so I thought I’d make my list of 5 things the new owner could to to stem the decline and maybe even compete with the #1 social network.

Become a flat engineer-oriented organisation

From reading this reddit iama, it seems that the engineering teams aren’t communicating effectively. Given the glacial speed of improvements to the site, I imagine that the development process is pure corporate-bullshit, where any improvement or tweak must go up through a layer of bureaucracy before being built.

Instead, let engineers discuss a feature with their team lead, build it and deploy it in the same day. The same way facebook does. And make the default answer to be ‘yes do it’, not - ‘uhh lets think about that’. Companies fail because the employees can’t innovate, not because the employees fuck up.

Become design and user experience focussed

The myspace user experience is poor when compared to Facebook. It’s hard to tell where you are in the site, it’s hard to find information, it’s hard to work out how to do simple tasks. The biggest things that need fixing with the UI right now:

  1. Myspace style guide. All myspace pages, from the developer guide to the front page to the sitewide UI should obey the same style guidelines for consistency.
  2. Focus on page load time and browser stability. Deprecate flash, promote and develop html5 solutions for the current widgets. Don’t autoplay any media.
  3. Add summaries of profile sub pages on the main profile page (show top 3 photo thumbnails, links to the top 3 tracks on the music page, create a summary field that shows the user / artists most recent activity) to encourage users to explore deeper into the profile and not just hit ‘back’.
  4. Add more explorability. Make record label links go to a ‘label page’ that shows other artists. Make the ‘location’ field a hyperlink that shows a page with all public profiles located in that area.
  5. Hire pixel-perfect designers. You don’t have the facebook ui template library, so make developers forward a screenshot of any new UI (be it a ‘you are logged in’ alert or a ‘changes saved’ interstitial) to your design team, and give the design team a mandate to sit in with developers and show them how the pixels should be moved around until everything lines up.

Galloping baseline, overlapping elements, multiple colors, inconsistent spacing, no avatar image.

Become more open

Myspace should move their APIs over to the opengraph and do a staged deprecation of their current APIs. The focus should be on letting third party developers access the myspace data. Creative commons licences should be promoted and liberal licences should be granted to myspace data. Users should have control over their privacy, but anything that has been elected to be public should be shared freely and instantly, no more summary-only rss feeds, no obfuscated URLS, all public content should be freely and easily available.

Make better tools for bands

The tools for bands to edit their tour schedule, keep in contact with the fans or maintain their page should have a UI overhaul. A nice, simple, ajaxified design that lets them get in, update their tour and music and then get out again. The bands data should be made available through APIs if the band decides too - so that myspace becomes the central location they manage their social media presence. For example, their myspace page should have a podcast url, their tour data should be syndicated out to upcoming, last.fm, they should be able to set creative commons (or other) licences on all their media.

Start a dialog with your community

Most people think that Myspace is fucked. You need to start communicating on the myspace blog, often and always, and show the work that is being done to make Myspace a better place. You need to point out where Facebook fucked up and you did it right. You need to be seen to respond to users concerns about spam, about it being hard to delete profiles. You need to post screenshots of the new nicer user interface you’re working on (here’s the new inbox! here’s a video of how the profile editor works).

Finally, I don’t know how the MySpace revenue model works, but they should invest in their advertising technology so that they can provide the best possible solution to their existing advertisers and attract new ones. The site needs to be profitable and strong on it’s own account and that should be by high quality, targetted and effective advertising that doesn’t detract from the user experience of the site.

So that’s my thoughts on building an a more agile, more profitable and more enjoyable Myspace. Competition is good and MS has the best opportunity of sticking it to FB.