Tomahawk does many things right

Not too long ago I first heard of Tomahawk at one of our Mozilla Monday meetings – they’ve been working with our WebFWD initiative which supports open web projects that are moving the web forward.  Tomahawk definitely fits the bill for what the future of the web should be: music just plays.  Social, distributed, easy access to tunes through all the open APIs available – I can’t even begin to say how happy I am to be finally able to use this software.

I say ‘finally be able to use it’ because when I first heard of Tomahawk and ran to their site to download it, I stopped in my tracks.

Their original logo was a stereotype cartoon of a North American Indian male, wearing headphones.  I’ll let you do your own research if you want to learn why such a depiction isn’t culturally sensitive because that’s not actually the point of this post.  The point is that the people behind Tomahawk did constructive criticism a solid.  When, as a potential user, I saw this logo and took action by emailing them asking them to consider changing this inappropriate and stereotyping imagery as their masthead and application icon they said other people had contacted them as well, so they were aware and they were WORKING ON A NEW LOGO.

They didn’t get defensive, they didn’t say “we don’t see a problem here”, they didn’t try to justify their choices and protect their precious artwork.  They were already working on a solution, continuing forward momentum, adapting as they went, and being civil about it to boot. Who knows how many people contacted them? I might have been the thousandth and yet there was no hint of snark or beleaguered engineer who just wants to write software and not deal with all this soft, people-facing stuff in the response I got from Jason Herskowitz.  Thank you for that, Jason and Tomahawk.  I really hope this level of maturity catches on in the startup culture.

To give you an idea of how quickly they rotated on this; I emailed on May 14th and the new logo went into place today.  That’s slightly more than a month to revamp their site and update their installer and god knows what else (maybe business cards? stationary? do people still use that?).  This change isn’t trivial, but neither is the impression that original logo makes about a company.  I will proudly go forth now and rally support for this product that I have no doubt is stellar. I’ve been using it for the last 10 minutes since getting the email that the new logo was in place and let me tell you: setup was a breeze. I can also share this experience as a positive one with regards to taking the time to contact a company and point out a culturally insensitive aspect and seeing effective, mature, and expeditious resolution on that issue.  This is still rare enough to deserve an entire blog post.  I look forward to a future where this sort of thing is a more common dialogue and is always met with positive change and continued forward momentum instead of stop-energy and defensiveness.

Here’s the plug now:  Get Tomahawk!  It’s open source!  It will work with many, if not all, of your current web music accounts!  Support the open web and companies that move it forward!

2 comments

  1. Jeff

    Hi there Lukas,

    Just thought I’d let you in on part of why the logo was the way it was in the first place — a globally distributed team! The original logo was designed and implemented by one of our German team members who was unaware of the charged nature of depictions of Native Americans here in the U.S. It was never intended to be exploitative (it may be a bit of a cliched look, but it’s nothing like, for instance, the Cleveland Indians logo).

    This actually led to one of the reasons it’s taken so long to change the logo — although those of us in the U.S. pushed for a change, the rest of the team viewed it as a fairly respectful depiction of the Native Americans most closely associated with tomahawks (the tools/weapons). We were at a bit of a deadlock.

    Feedback from people like you are part of the reason that eventually a change won over — we take user feedback seriously, and when user feedback stacked on the side of the U.S. developers, it made the necessity of a change clear.

    I’m really glad you like the new logo. We do too.

  2. Stuart

    Thanks for posting about this tool – it looks really awesome! I keep looking for a good, programmable or at least heavily user-tweakable, cloud-backed music player.

    Unfortunately, glancing at the website, there are a few key phrases that I don’t see that would be necessary for me to switch to Tomahawk. Specifically “Google Play” and “Android app”…

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