Boris Smus

interaction engineering

Jam Hunt: friendly jam sessions

Ever wanted to join a band? I bet you have! Why? Because collaborative music making is an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding experience. But the barriers to entry are high: not only do you need to have baseline musical skills, you also need considerable managerial talent to find and bring together disorganized musicians. To find partners to jam with, people use craigslist and band matching sites to try to establish relationships with randoms. Why not leverage our social networks for this purpose?

Okay, now that you're fully convinced that there's a huge opportunity to tap into this friend-jam space, let me introduce Jam Hunt. The idea behind Jam Hunt is to allow you to manage your musical profile by specifying a list of instruments you are skilled at and a list of songs you know how to play. If your friends also maintain such profiles, Jam Hunt can look across the social graph and discover friends to try jamming with. Thus, the application enables spontaneous flash bands (in the spirit of flash mobs) to form brief, friendly jam sessions.

I developed a Jam Hunt prototype for SAUI class while pleasantly stranded in Pittsburgh as a result of Eyjafjallajökull's eruption. The assignment stipulated that I implement a Facebook application, which was initially distressing to me, due to the walled-garden nature of the platform. I was slightly mollified when I discovered three things:

  1. that there is a way to use django to develop Facebook apps.
  2. that the average Facebook user has a whopping 130 friends.
  3. that there is a potentially bright future ahead for Facebook

My prospects for having fun while developing something useful, and potentially viral, and not entirely evil, were on the rise.

As it turns out, developing a django application for Facebook is no cakewalk. Firstly, python is not an officially supported language for Facebook development. As a result, there are a number of semi-abandoned open source projects to bridge that gap. Coupled with Facebook's outright disregard for API stability, calling Notifications.send and Stream.write were next to impossible from python. But surely writing PHP applications must be a breeze, right? Well, during the week that I was developing Jam Hunt,, one of the most indexed resources on Facebook API questions, was consistently down. The sorry state of their hybrid documentation-wiki system was just icing on the cake.

Anyway, enough bitching! If you have some spare cycles and a Facebook account, please try Jam Hunt. Whether you find it interesting, appealing, pointless, ugly, or just outright broken, let me know.