Introduced with a huge fanfare last year, Ping was described by then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs as “for social music discovery”. In essence, that’s all it does: it lets you follow your favourite acts, allows artists to promote their work and enables you to keep an eye on what music your friends are buying.
“You can follow people and you can be followed,” Jobs explained. “Most artists will say: ‘You can follow me.’ People are also able to approve who they allow to follow them.”
To use Ping you need iTunes 10. You can also access Ping on your iPad or iPhone using the iTunes app. Critics complain that the service lacks certain key social features, but Ping is easy to understand and after this tutorial you’ll be able to fully explore the service to decide if you like it.
1 Creating your profile
To use Ping you need to set up an Apple ID and a Ping profi le. The Ping profile page gathers personal information, including your nickname, gender and location, as well as three music genres and an image. This can be one from your own collection or a snapshot taken using your iSight or FaceTime camera.
2 Choosing the image
The image you use for your Ping identity will appear next to all the reviews you have written using your Apple ID. You can choose the image in the Buddy Picture dialogue, and apply a range of image effects. Ping will gather and report data about you, including music you buy, reviews you write and items you like.
3 Privacy choices
When you set up Ping you can confi gure its Privacy Settings. These let you allow anyone to follow you, learning about your likes and dislikes. You can also demand the right to approve those who want to follow you, or even stop others from following you at all, though you still get to follow them.
4 Music matters
If you don’t want to broadcast your music purchases to everyone, Ping also lets you decide how much personal information you are willing to share. This dialogue lets you display all the music you like, rate, review or purchase. You can also share data on some or none of these actions on your profile.
5 Welcome to the machine
Once past the setup, you’ll enter the Welcome screen – your name appears in the top-right corner, with shortcuts to various Ping features below it. Search for people and artists, follow artists and invite friends from Twitter or from your contacts book. Just click an artist’s name to follow them.
6 Find friends elsewhere
You can fi nd friends using email or through direct integration with your MobileMe, AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo! address book. Click on the Import Contacts option (or the Invite Friends by Email option) to contact your existing chums. You’ll be asked to supply your webmail address and password.
7 Following the music
Apple wants bands to use Ping to speak to their fans. Finding bands is easy – you can search for them in the Ping search box, look at Apple’s Featured recommendations (above), or fi nd them via the iTunes Store. Ping isn’t perfect – you won’t fi nd key independent artists inside Apple’s social service.
8 Artist profiles
When you fi nd an artist or act that you like, you can visit their Profile pages. These show you other acts that they like, how many followers they have and the most recent news updates they’ve sent out to their fans – although these are usually only updated when a new album is about to be released.
9 Sharing your music
There are lots of ways to share music with your Ping people. In your iTunes library, just click on a track and a Ping/iTunes command will appear beside the track name. Select Post and this box appears, which lets you write something about the track which will be read by your followers.
10 Give a little love
Music is about listening and sharing and singing along. Ping makes it easy to share your musical taste – select Create a New Playlist in the third box down (Ping Playlists) on the right. Enter a playlist description, then select your songs using the Add Songs button in the lower-right of the music box.
11 Sharing a playlist
Once you’ve created a playlist, you can share it with your followers by using the Post button. This means that you and your following Pingsters can play 30-second previews of the songs. When iTunes launches full song-streaming services you’ll be able to share the lot at the click of a button.
12 Ping for iPad and iPhone
Ping is available for all iOS devices. You’ll fi nd it inside the iTunes App on the iPhone or, in this case, the iPad. You can watch the recent activity from people and bands you follow, check your Profi le and keep an eye on People. Plus you can Like and Comment on artists, people and posts.
BONUS TIP: Ping isn’t for everyone.
When you’ve spent some time with it you might find you don’t want to use it any more, so how do you switch it off? To do so, launch iTunes, visit the iTunes Store and click on the little arrow which appears when you hover your cursor over your account email address. When the menu appears, select Account. Enter your password and navigate down the page until you see Ping On. Click Turn Off and in the next dialogue box click Turn Off. Scroll down the Account page and click Done, and you’ll Ping no more – so your Ping followers won’t know when you buy the new Wiggles album.