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Last.fm play-listYesterday saw a fantastic (free) upgrade to the Sonos music system. They have significantly improved the internet radio support and added support for podcasts and last.fm, the first free music service for the UK.

I can say that now because I now know what last.fm is. But this rant is about what led up to my confidence. It is strange how so many internet services are so poor at drawing in new users. Last.fm is a case in point. The upgrade to the Sonos system came in automatically with some brief notes and it said last.fm now available. So? What’s that? It looked like a web address so I typed it into Firefox. Try it! What do you get? I found something that looked like a record store or the Amazon front page. So I looked around for some sort of indication of what it was, how it worked and what you could use it for. Nothing. At the bottom is a list of links called “Learn about us” and, skipping the job adverts and media stuff there is the “About us” link. There I found some features but nothing really basic for a newcomer.

Now, to be fair, the release notes for the Sonos upgrade announced

More free music: Last.fm is free on Sonos

Last.fm is a global music service that lets you play, share and discover new music. You can also create personal radio stations based on your musical tastes. With Sonos v2.7 you can play all your stations all over the house – free of charge and free of computers.

which told me roughly what I needed to know and I had come across Pandora before, but why couldn’t Last.fm do that for itself.

My point is that we hear about all sorts of things in daily conversation and in the news—just passing references to things that the speaker assumes the listener understands. That is inevitable, but if I want to find out what it is all about and if I should take notice then I would expect to go to the supplier and find out. They are doing themselves a great disservice by not engaging with these potential new customers. The same is true of the social networking sites—if you didn’t know what they were about and you went to the front page of, say, facebook, would you really be any the wiser?

I subscribe to the feed of Daring Fireball (see, I have just done it to you if you don’t know what RSS feeds are) because John Gruber links to interesting new developments in the Apple world, but when you use the feed you don’t get his introductions. Some of them leave me completely puzzled about what they are or do. Try Cruz for example.

Eventually I found a description by Which? consumer magazine—now that is just what I always wanted (subtle reference to last night’s concert.)

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