Maxforlive.com 2010 Updates

by Clint on December 21st 2010

In January of 2009, Ableton, Inc announced several new things that blew me away. A dedicated (and affordable) grid/button controller for Ableton Live and a new product called "Max for Live" that would allow users to create their own Ableton effects and Instruments that included the ability manipulate fundamental aspects of the Ableton Live using an API. This was more than I had hoped for from the collaboration between Ableton, Inc, and Cycling74 that had been announced. It would change everything about my work, and set a new bar in the music software market.

Oddly, one of the first thoughts I had was to buy a domain name with the intent of using it in some way to support this new product. On January 15th 2009 I bought maxforlive.com and maxforlive.org. Unsure what I would even do with them (forums? blogs?) I posted a number of surveys to the Ableton forums. It became pretty clear that what was missing from the announced product was a dedicated resource for sharing Max for Live devices like Reaktor users had with the "Reaktor Library". There would be Max for Live forums and blogs all over the place. Forums already existed on ableton.com and cycling74.com. But device sharing sounded like a big need. It also helps that I had always been interested in OpenSource software and online collaboration in general. The original concept for synnack (then syn-nack.org) was to create an online platform for users to collaborate on music. Though I never realized that vision, maxforlive.com was a perfect replacement for me as a way to both support the Ableton community, and help to drive OpenSource methodologies into an artist community.

On October 7th 2009 the first version of maxforlive.com was launched. Before Max for Live was even released I was part of the beta testing program and spent literally a month writing code every night for the first version of this site. It was a little rough around the edges, but hey, it worked (mostly). For the past year I've been mostly maintaining it, and fixing bugs as users report them. It's a lot of work maintaining a site like this. Even if only 1% of users have an issue, that's a bunch of emails. And I try to respond to each and every one, and fix the issue on the same day it's reported.

Recently, I realized that my actions were not always aligned with my words. On different forums, I would always say that maxforlive.com is not MY site, but OUR site. That it was a community resource. Yet, I hadn't really integrated many of the features that regular users were asking for. I'm pleased to announce that after about another month of coding, the next major group of features are enabled and live on the site as of tonight.

Check out the details on the new major features:

Download without registration or login: Many users argued that you should not have to register, or even log in to download a device. Originally I was against this idea because i wanted as many people to register as possible to incent them to participate, comment, and rate devices. Now with over 10,000 users´┐Ż i think it's time to open it up. This feature is more complicated than it sounds. The technical issue is that anonymous downloads seriously mess with download counts. My server is hit by spiders/crawlers all day. Someone could easily write a script that downloads their device thousands of times to manipulate the count. I had to do all sorts of insanity under the covers to keep the download counts (relatively) sane.

Ability to post ABOUT a device, without the device itself: Many people told me the reason they would not share their work on the site, is because they prefer to drive all the traffic to their own sites. Many of the more "pro" users have their own blogs or bands that they hope to help promote by offering free devices and driving traffic to them that way. So now on the site, I created a feature called "references". You create a "reference" by clicking "share a device" and clicking the checkmark that says "Reference only?". This way you can drive all the traffic to your site, but use the reference on maxforlive.com to promote your work.

Support for uploading .zip files: Many users wish to include other types of files with their amxd files. Or even multiple amxd files that are created to work together. There are many technical reasons why this is challenging for me to implement in a safe way that I won't go into now. But I implemented a new feature which allows me to have different "user levels". There are specific user levels which allow you to upload zips instead of just a single .amxd file. Currently to get one of these levels you need to reach out to me to request it (see the contact page). It's not something yet that I would enable for every user. But for professional developers or regular, and trusted users of the site, now they can upload zip files! It's useful to note though, that even without zip upload access, now you can just host that zip file somewhere else, and point to it using the "Reference" feature I talked about above.

Those are the 3 major changes. There are bound to be bugs. Please contact me if you find any. Outside of these 3 major changes, below is a series of new smaller features:

(*) Search on home page

(*) Search now defaults to "any"

(*) Beta "Work in Progress" tag - use this tag to share something that maybe isn't ready for primetime to get feedback or collaborate with other people.

(*) link to report bad reference links

(*) Hide "beta" devices - don't want stuff that may not work? just hide them in your view

(*) Hide "references" in the library - only want to see stuff that you can actually get the device from the same page? hide references from your view

(*) Most recent 15 new devices on home page

(*) Top Rated devices on Library landing page

(*) Top Downloaded Devices on Library landing page

(*) Monthly "featured device"

(*) Improved look/feel, download buttons more obvious

(*) Bug fixes - in some cases form errors would appear multiple times for each error.

(*) Bug fixes - in some cases forms would report misleading errors, like when it complained it couldn't delete a screenshot, yet you never uploaded one in the first place...

(*) Ability to recover your username with "Forgot Username" (honestly this was probably THE most requested feature)

(*) Ability to specify Max version used

That's all for now. Next up I plan to upgrade the bandwidth to the server. There's a hard cost for that though. I'm thinking about selling maxforlive.com t-shirts to raise some money to beef up the server and get it on a faster connection. That explains the image above you were probably wondering about. :-D

To stay current on feature upgrades like this, you can add the site on facebook at facebook.com/maxforlive or Twitter at twitter.com/synnack or subscribe to the site news RSS feed at feeds.feedburner.com/MaxForLiveComNews. Of course there is an RSS for this blog too where I talk more about my actual use of Max for Live than the actual maxforlive.com site. You can subscribe to my blog at feeds.feedburner.com/synnack/blog.


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