FediVision 2022:
Conclusions and Lessons

by Zatnosk (@zatnosk@mastodon.art)

FediVision Song Contest 2022, a square logo with stars and the V in FediVision as two glowing legs in a five-pointed network symbolising the fediverse.

FediVision is a music competition inspired by Eurovision Song Contest, held in the fediverse by and for musicians. This year was the second time we held it and it went way above my expectations. With 36 song entries and 224 votes in total, I consider it a huge success.

The bot

Just like last year, FediVision was arranged in cooperation between myself and @TQ@weirder.earth (TQ). Last year started as an initiative by TQ and then I volunteered to write a mastodon-bot that could receive votes and count them to find a winner. This became the @fedivision@botsin.space bot that also underpinned the event this year.

For the technically interested, the bot is written in Python and uses Mastodon.py to interact with the botsin.space instance.

The website

Last year I asked the contestants to host their songs in whatever way they could and then give me a link, so that the bot could tell people where to listen. This year, we upgraded with a whole website.

TQ bought the domain fedivision.party and eventually built a nice wordpress-based website. That let us have a playlist of all the songs in one place, and also have a central place for signups for the artists and general information about the event.

The livestream that wasn't

When I started brainstorming how and when to hold FediVision this year, I had the notion that it would be awesome to make some kind of livestream out of the whole thing. I tried looking into Owncast to see if I could sign up somewhere and stream from my laptop. But I couldn’t find any easy solutions, and my attention to that part of the project quickly wavered.

Only later, in late April or early May, did I see that someone had offered to sponser an Owncast server, but by then it was too close to the event to plan properly. We had already decided against having a stream, because it would be too big a hurdle with too short a deadline. After all, we are only two people doing it in our spare time with plenty of other creative projects too.

Mistakes made and lessons learned

And that leads me to the first and biggest mistake I made during this year’s FediVision: Starting Too Late.

I had planned to start preparations around March, but life happened and I didn’t get anything prepared before TQ kindly messaged in late April – less than four weeks before we ended up holding the event.

At first, this resulted in only eight days between our announcement of the competition on May 2nd and our initial deadline for participants on May 10th. After fast (and kind) feedback we pushed the deadline a week, to give the musicians just over two weeks time, and even this was very obviously a tight deadline.

Lesson 1: Give artists more than two weeks to write songs, ideally a month.

The short preparation period also directly or indirectly contributed to the shape of the website. I’ve already mentioned a few points of what I liked about having a website this year, but as everything else there’s room for improvement.

One thing we didn’t have was individual pages for each song. We didn’t have automation to turn the submitted signup forms into pages, since automating wordpress like that is more than I can pull out of thin air in the time I had available. And my ideal solution - a custom website with everything built in – would have needed to be started on at least in March if not earlier.

Lesson 2: Get the website finished early, i.e. before opening signups. Write the texts, guides, and announcement templates up front, and automate as much as possible.

A third consequense of the too-short-preparation was our lack of detailed schedule. We had a rough schedule of dates when we announced the event, but even those got changed. And there wasn’t any strict plan for how to do the reveal of the songs, how to present the info we had asked for in the forms, or how it was all going to flow. Everything was ad-hoc and solved the day before if not last minute.

This led to what I think was a suboptimal order in what happened. We revealed the playlist a day before voting was ready, and I did see a few early birds trying to vote during that period. And the thread announcing the songs, the countries, and the interviews ran at the end of the event – after everyone had had days to listen to and comment on their favorite songs.

Lesson 3: Give access to listening, present songs, and open for votes simultaneously.

The long gap between revealing the playlist and presenting the songs also lead to strongly inadequate accessibility. The playlist wasn’t accessible enough to easily find the voting codes for each track, and the fediverse thread with that information more accessible wasn’t available until the end.

There were also requests of song lyrics during the event to help understand the songs prior to voting. Some artists graciously posted lyrics themselves, but I don’t know whether everyone did. In any case it would have been preferable to have lyrics included in the data collected in the signup form.

Lesson 4: Accessibility is essential. As much as possible available in text in addition to interactive media.

The last hurdle I’ll mention here is the hosting of the songs themselves. Last year, as stated before, we linked directly to whatever hosting the artists provided, which gave us a mix of soundcloud, bandcamp, youtube, mastodon media attachments, and various other strategies of hosting.

This year we asked for a download link and bunched all the songs together in a random spot, so we could give a more uniform listening experience – a single playlist. Unfortunately, we weren’t aware of the hotlinking limits in Dropbox, which we quickly ran our heads against when people started listening. With some gracious outside support TQ managed to move to a server provided by a fediversian so the listening could continue.

Lesson 5: Make sure the hosting is stable with many listeners, and ideally prepare a mirror as backup.

Next year and beyond

Okay, I’m not going to talk about ”beyond”, but it looks nice in a title.

In case it’s not already clear, TQ and I are both set on running FediVision for a third time next year, but we’re also open to expanding the team a bit. For me personally, the keyword for next year’s event will have to be ”organization”. I want it to be more organized, better prepared, and – if possible – split the workload a bit more.

Where are we now?

The above text was written at the end of may 2022, shortly after FediVision 2022 finished. I had a few notes for continuing on about my plans and ideas for the 2023's edition, but momentum on writing this text fizzled out. I've picked it up now, in december 2022, and turned it into this HTML page that you can read in your Web Browser of choice.

Some of the intentions mentioned or hinted at above might have moved, but most of it stays the same. I'm currently in the process of winding up and preparing for FediVision 2023, and I hope many musicians and listeners will want to participate in May.

Deadlines and information for musicians, who wish to participate, will be announced later. Follow @fedivision@botsin.space to receive updates.

If you're interested in contributing to the planning and preparations, find me on the fediverse, I'm active on many instances: wheretofind.me/@zatnosk