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Cassie Plunkett
Cassie Plunkett

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Beats By Girlz International Web Monetization Design Sprint — Progress Report #1

a diverse group of women and nonbinary people smiling in front of a mural of the Roland 808


Beats By Girlz is a US based 501c3 with a global footprint whose mission is to empower the next generation of women and gender minorities through music and technology. We’re committed towards giving our community the tools, resources, access, and opportunities to reach their full potential and we do that work in full partnership with our chapters and chapter leadership all around the world. We wanted to explore the full potential of web monetization and the Interledger Protocol in helping us achieve this mission. So, we proposed a 3 phase plan where our global staff and leaders would learn, explore, collaborate, and decide on a project that implements web monetization to help us achieve our mission.

Our process consists of 3 phases:
Phase 1 - Exploration & Education
Phase 2 - Design Sprint
Phase 3 - Compilation & Development

Project Update

We have now completed Phase 1 and 2 of our project, and are preparing for Phase 3. Phase 1 was in some ways the most challenging part, considering that web monetization and Interledger were foreign concepts to much of our community. We spent most of our time the last few months building a basic understanding throughout our group by meeting and discussing with each other, sharing resources, and assigning past projects to research and teach back to the other participants. Our hope was to walk away from this phase with a very clear understanding of the tools and functions associated with the technology, as well as a model for how to teach them back to our community in ways that are easier to understand. Our results varied, with some participants having a deep understanding and others left with lots of questions.

Luckily, we were able to get everyone on the same page and fill in any gaps during Phase 2. Phase 2 took place April 18-24 in Madrid, Spain in collaboration with one of our local chapters. 8 core participants from our US-based staff and our chapters in Malawi, Turkey, and El Salvador (plus leadership from our Madrid chapter) took part in a 4 day Design Sprint. Interledger also graciously sent Lawil Karama to participate in the first few days of our Sprint, providing an invaluable perspective and resource to our group. Over the course of our trip we explored the goals and barriers of our organization and of web monetization (especially post Coil), discussed past initiatives, explored ways to simply explain web monetization to our global community, individually sketched out potential solutions, voted on a core solution to test, and then tested out the efficacy of our solution on a small group of Beats By Girlz students, educators, program directors, and partners in Madrid. We're very excited by the results of the Design Sprint and look forward to entering Phase 3.

Progress on Objectives: Phase 1

One of our key objectives and outputs from Phase 1 involved producing 1-2 page case studies about past grantee projects and presenting them to each other, with the goal of furthering our team’s understanding of the technology and the ways it could be implemented. However, after reading more about the GV Design Sprint process, it became clear that the formality of this activity might not serve our larger goals, especially since several participants still needed help understanding key concepts behind web monetization.

We ended up changing our Case Study approach to an adapted version of Lightning Demos, where team members give “three-minute tours of their favorite solutions: from other products, different domains….” to be presented during the Design Sprint. While we didn’t restrict our version of this exercise to three minutes, each person informally presented their project for roughly 3-5 minutes, followed by an open discussion and exploration of their models, processes, reports, outputs, their implementation of web monetization, and ultimately where they succeeded or failed in their objectives. For example, after the presentation on Erase All Kittens, we pulled up the game and tried it together. We then discussed the areas in which this project was effective, where it succeeded, why it worked. This left us with some ideas about interactivity and engagement, which became key components of our final project. While each person presented we took down notes, ideas, and questions on sticky notes. Later we used these notes to help inform our sketches, and ultimately come up with a stronger project.

Here you can find a list of each project discussed

the group sitting and smiling while at work during the Design Sprint

Progress on Objectives: Phase 2

The Design Sprint was a huge success. Other than the solution itself, one of the most exciting things to come out of this project was better connection, understanding, and communication with our global community. Just the ability to be in person with staff members and leaders from throughout the US, Malawi, Spain, El Salvador, and Turkey greatly impacted the success of our project, and hopefully of many other global initiatives to come. Having these key community members be a part of this from the beginning brought light to major factors and issues that might have been overlooked otherwise and ultimately would’ve yielded a less effective solution. For example, access to technology, language barriers, etc. We believe this process and the project we came up with meet our objective to engage our global community with web monetization.

Here is our Design Sprint Schedule (updated for accuracy post-trip)

In our grant proposal, we stated that our goal was to create a project that would help educate our community on web monetization. During Day 1 of the sprint we explored simple metaphors to help explain the technology. First we discussed the similarities with ILP and the Midi Protocol, however we found that only a niche group within our community would understood that analogy. Eventually we came up with a few that we found to be more widely understandable, including WhatsApp and universal power adapters.

Despite successfully coming up with these analogies, it became apparent that it wouldn’t make much sense to solely focus on education while the tools for implementation are largely in flux. It also came to light during the Project Presentations that many past projects had not yielded the best results when they tried to engage communities in web monetization solely through education. However, we did find that the projects who funded the initial investments and then created incentives for web monetization, projects like Snake Nation for example, seemed to yield the best results. We came to the conclusion that the best way for us to encourage wider implementation was by incentivizing adoption through methods like lower price points or premium offers. If we were able to successfully implement web monetization in a highly engaging and valuable project for our community, we could also organically increase curiosity and engagement about our process and the technology behind it, thus yielding wider implementation. This philosophy helped us come up with stronger sketches that directly served our wider community.

Here is a link to all the Sketches

Through an elaborate voting process we eventually decided on one project which evolved into “BBG Spaces” (working title) - a browser based music making and learning environment created by and for the global community. Designed by gender equity activists and educators, Spaces aims to make music technology more equitable and accessible. Spaces will be available on any device with an internet connection and a web browser, including all mobile devices, lowering the barrier to entry as much as possible. Access to music technology resources, education and communities is not equitable. Barriers to entry include variables which are economic, cultural, linguistic, and socio-political. Additionally there is a lack of tools and resources that are inviting, inclusive, easy to use and serve the global community. Through BBG Spaces our mission is to create an accessible, interactive model that is timeless and flexible. The model will invite people to learn and produce globally innovative music regardless of their age, experience level, or financial status.

Spaces consists of two main components, as well as expansion content.

LEARN - based upon Beats By Girlz' core curriculum, the LEARN space will teach you the basics of music production through an interactive and gamified experience

CREATE - a global digital music making environment, the CREATE space is a powerful yet simple piece of technology that invites you to play music. With just enough functionality to get you into the flow but not enough to overwhelm.

EXPAND - expansion content provided by our global BBG community

For example:

BBG Malawi Expansion:
Lessons on how to sequence and produce Amapiano
A sample pack featuring vocals in the Bantu language and sounds from Malawi such as Chichewa, Tumbuka, Yao. While gifting the world diversity in sonic reference, this will be a creative and employment opportunity for local artists and musicians allowing more access to wider audiences.
Collaborative sample packs with rising producers and artists such as Kim of Diamonds, Merchah, Chawa Beats, Honcho etc.

LEARN & CREATE are a free product which are available with a membership signup. However, we'd like to implement a paid premium subscription model that incentivizes adoption of web monetization through a digital wallet payment option at a lower price point. We're also exploring the possibility of users earning access to premium features (or even deposits in their digital wallet) by completing a short course about Web Monetization tools, for example. The premium version of Spaces would include branded site skins, additional cloud project storage, the ability to collaborate, partner devices, and all of our EXPAND content.

Here is our working document where we fleshed out the ideas for Spaces

DAW-Yeah!, the original sketch behind Spaces was pinned as a browser-based learning tool and highly truncated DAW (digital audio workstation). Largely inspired by Ableton's Learning Music and Learning Synths sites, we scheduled a zoom meeting with Dennis, one of the creators behind Learning Music. Our intention was to get further clarity on the process of developing something like this, as well as some early feedback on our idea. We were surprised and elated to find out that Ableton is in the process of creating a tool and resource that would greatly simplify the development and execution of our project. We are now planning to discuss this project and partnership opportunities in further detail, and have the beginnings of an outline for further development.

Here is the final presentation we shared with the small group in Madrid

After presenting to a small group of students, teachers, leadership, and partners in Madrid, we confirmed that this tool would be extremely useful to music educators both within and outside of our community. Unlike the many intro to coding games and languages that exist, there is currently nothing like this in the music & technology space. This project would help reduce that barrier to entry. The group had questions regarding the development of the project including translations, space & speed, collaborative features, gamification, etc. all of which will be considered as we begin Phase 3.

Project Impact & Target Audience(s)

Spaces is built for both the internal and external BBG community. We are a diverse, intersectional, and international community representing many different cultures, languages, economies, and gender identities around the world. Beats By Girlz has a footprint on 4 continents in over 15 countries and is run by a diverse group of femme and gender queer individuals. We are specifically intending this project to impact women & girls, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, especially those with limited access to technology.

Our goal is to provide an equitable, accessible, and inclusive tool for learning and creating music. By offering web monetized premium features, we will be able to pay and engage our chapters and entice people around the world to create digital wallets without sacrificing economic and technological accessibility.

Communications and Marketing

We are planning on releasing a blog post, social media post, and newsletter about the Design Sprint. Our founder Erin Barra also live-shared her entire experience over social media. However, the majority of our marketing for the project as a whole will happen after Phase 3.

What’s Next?

Our next steps are to further refine and develop our project idea, compile any materials created during the process, summarize our findings, and create a proposal for further development and implementation.

Development of Spaces will be made possible by:

  • Leveraging the existing tools, content, resources and experiences of the BBG Global Community
  • Technology developed by Ableton
  • Freemium model that leverages Web Monetization
  • Interoperability - users can interact with Spaces with any device and any browser
  • Simplicity - the interface and the backend will be designed for users who have limited internet access and limited knowledge about music technology
  • Gamified, interactive learning principles
  • Globally minded inclusivity & accessibility!

Community Support

If you have any ideas or experience you’d like to share with us, or even want to join the team let us know! We’d love to tell you more about our project, our process, and connect with anyone who wants to help us make it a reality.

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