The following is a Q&A interview with David Noël of SoundCloud
Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us about SoundCloud.
A: My name is David, and I lead the Community & Support team here at SoundCloud. We’re headquartered out of Berlin, Germany, with small outposts in London, San Francisco and LA.
An easy way to explain SoundCloud is to think of it as a Flickr for sounds. It’s a community of almost four million sound creators, from musicians and record labels to audio bloggers, field recorders and anyone wanting to capture sounds that matter to them. Our platform allows everybody to share the sounds they create across the web.
Another cool thing about SoundCloud is that the developer community can use our API to build their mobile, desktop and web music/sound-creation apps. We now have over 150 apps published in our App Gallery.
Q: How did you start yamming?
A: I watched David (Sacks) pitch Yammer on the TechCrunch50 live stream in 2008 and immediately thought: “Twitter for companies: genuis!” I signed up for the beta and introduced it to the startup I was working for at the time. When I joined SoundCloud, Yammer was already being used by the then six or seven people strong team.
Q: How do you use Yammer?
A: The main use for us is to share interesting things happening inside and outside of the company. This can be a positive news article or blog post about SoundCloud, industry news, an interesting user case, or general sharing of knowledge. We also use it to coordinate product launches and follow up with feedback from users, blogs and the press. Occasionally you’ll also find today’s “must-see cat” or LOL content.
Last Friday was a perfect example: for April Fool’s Day, we released a small feature that would let you customise your SoundCloud profile with ridiculous-looking GIFs – Geocities-style. We coordinated deploy and communications on Yammer and posted the funniest reactions from our users and the press. Our Product Manager also posted a shout-out to the team members who made this happen; there was a sense camaraderie when other members jumped in leaving kudos.
We also make use of groups: one group updates us of deployments (new features, bug fixes, etc). There is also an Ops group for site status updates, and an “Undevelopers” group for non-technical staffers to share industry-specific news and articles.
Yammer has helped us to feel and stay connected across teams and locations while keeping the amount of internal group emails low enough to focus on day-to-day tasks. While there are a lot of things happening every day, which involve internal and external email, it’s nice to stay focused on core tasks while at the same time feeling informed and connected via our company Yammer feed.
Q: How do you make Yammer part of daily life? Do you make it part of onboarding for new hires?
A: My Yammer desktop client is open all day and just above my Twitter client; this way I can keep an eye on external and internal streams throughout the day. The nature of my role requires me to stay on top of things and places, so the Yammer feed is a great way to see news happening without too many distractions. We can also use it on the road; the iPhone app makes me feel like I’m still at the office. Always open, always on
Whenever a new member joins the team, we ask them to introduce themselves on Yammer, adding a few fun facts and a picture to make for an easy welcome.
Q: Tell me about your team; where is everyone located? How many people in each job function and office?
A: The largest part of the team is located in Berlin, home of product development, engineering, operations, marketing, admin and community. Our content team is based out of London, and the platform team is based in of San Francisco. Our web ninja for special projects is in Los Angeles. We’re currently 50 people.
We also run a “SoundCloud Evangelist” network for outside community members who organize local user meetups around the world. We started the network last year for our first global meetup project; using Yammer turned out to be a great way for organizers to feel connected not only to us, but also with one another. Feeling that you’re part of something global with a shared interest and goal sparks new ideas. We plan on expanding this network in the next few weeks, and it will act as a forum for guidance, information and knowledge transfer.
Q: What’s “Global Meetup Day”? What’s its mission? How does it work?
A: Global Meetup Day is a Community initiative we started last year, where SoundCloud users around the world organize local user meetups to connect with new people, exchange ideas, talk about best practices and even meet to create sounds and music in a group. We use Meetup.com for organizers and attendees to connect, and the response has been amazing. In January, thousands of SoundClouders around the world got together to create locally, and share their creations globally across the web. We believe that face-to-face interactions can strengthen relationships formed online.
Most meetup organizers said that they joined to: 1) connect and meet new people in their city, 2) be part of something global and 3) because they love SoundCloud and its community. I think it’s a pretty magical thing to see strangers meet on all sides of the planet because they care about the product we’re building and about the people who use it.
There were countless great stories from the day, and we’ve posted some highlights on our blog. I personally attended the Brooklyn meetup and it was fantastic to meet users in real life. For them, meeting someone from the team was an unexpected bonus and literally every single attendee told me how much they love SoundCloud. For me, things like that make everything do real. People see that we care, and we see that they care.
Q: So the offline element is also important to your digital community building?
A: Meeting people face to face is such a powerful thing. With Twitter or Tumblr, it’s common to consider someone you’ve met ‘online’ a friend after interacting for some time. But nothing beats finally meeting that person in real life.
I believe this applies to a lot of online communities. Meeting people in real life reinforces relationships built online that can eventually turn into ongoing friendships. The fact that in the past few years we’ve gotten more and more comfortable using our real persona online has certainly helped.
Q: What’s next for the SoundCloud Community?
A: We’re expanding the team and have new members joining soon (get in touch if you’re interested). We have some exciting larger and smaller projects lined up that we can’t announce just yet but one interesting little project I’m working on right now is to put together the largest collection of voice recordings of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, recorded by SoundClouders around the world. Thee next Global Meetup Day is scheduled for May 25th, and it will be bigger and better than the last one. These are exciting times and I’m extremely lucky to be working with amazing people, creating amazing stories people every day.