Why I Created GETSEEN. - A Short Tour of the CHILLFILTR Workflow.
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posted 26 Jun 2022 by Krister Axel
Email is broken. And a series of anonymous Airtable forms will only get you so far.

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This is simply meant as an informal explanation of how GETSEEN came to be. After years of brainstorming and about six months of development, I am finally launching both a successor and complement to this blog platform. It's been more than four years since I launched the CHILLFILTR profile on Submithub and I've learned a lot about myself and the marketplace of ideas that exists right now on the web. Creating new things is one of the great joys in my life, and now that I'm taking a break from songwriting it becomes even more important for me to continue to push new ideas forward. GETSEEN.app emerged very organically from some of the roadblocks I've encountered in my day-to-day workflow, so for anyone interested I am going to lay that out here as plainly and succinctly as possible.

In the Beginning There Was Submithub

It feels so very long ago that I applied and was accepted as a blogger on Submithub in early 2018; even then, there was a process of application and a bar to jump over, so to speak, and I would imagine that now four years later and after much success for the platform, it is much more difficult to get started with them. Even then, I understood how arbitrary that was. Sure, they can't just let anyone join, but at the same time, it seemed overly dramatic. If a blogger can't make money, how can they succeed? And if they can't succeed, how can they make money? That being said, I have nothing but respect for Submithub as a platform and the people that run it. They are smart, capable, and doing their very best to steer the ship in a way that feels logical for them. But, to be sure, with a platform that is as curated as theirs there is inevitably a group of creators that are shut out for whatever reason—maybe they are still working on their business model, maybe they haven't found their market yet, but they still need technology to help them get there. This is the first problem we are solving: GETSEEN was built specifically as an open platform that anyone can join. There is no membership fee, and getting set up is really easy.

Email is Broken

After a few years of success with my Submithub profile, I began to understand myself a little bit more. At first I was obsessed with writing, but as the volume of submissions grew larger, it was clear that I needed another outlet. So I started CHILLFILTR Radio, and the idea there was that I would be able to become quite a bit more picky in terms of the music I decided to write about, but would also have another avenue for featuring music that I loved. In short, there were way too many great songs coming across my desk that I wanted to do something with, while there were not enough hours in the day to write a feature about all of them. I wanted to open up a channel to encourage fee-free submissions on my website, so I added a contact form to my web site. That was quite successful, and to this day there are a handful of publicists and indie musicians who regularly send me music via this website, and I'm grateful for that. But in the last year or so I've had a lot of problems with spam filters and unsolicited emails. Some emails just get flagged as spam for no reason, so it's at a point where I cannot reliably say that I am reading every email that is worth being read. Also, my info has been leaked to publications like 'The Indie Bible,' and similar, so now I spend far too much time every day deleting emails that are clearly sent in bulk and just not worth my time. Also, because having a hard copy of the song is very important to me, cluttering up my inbox with large file attachments was not a feasible long term solution. So I engineered a solution yet again.

Airtable is Good but Not Perfect

Enter Airtable—contact forms, just better. I replaced all of the contact forms on my website with embedded Airtable forms, and at least the song files were collected offsite in a way that I was easily able to come back to. Up until today, that was the workflow: artists and publicists fill out the contact form, I am pinged via email about it, and periodically I'm able to log in to Airtable and review the submissions. That was a decent solution, but here's the missing piece: Airtable forms are meant to be anonymous. Honestly, at first this felt like a plus to me, because asking a user to login before they submit is a friction point that could cost me volume. But after almost 2 years of this, I'm seeing other issues that I think are even more important. One, is that duplicate submissions happen enough to be a problem. Because the user is anonymous, they have no way to see previous history. So two or three weeks later they may send me the same song again because they just don't remember having done it already. And secondly, perhaps most important, is that being able to make contact with that user regarding their submission is a pain point for me. I need to find the record in Airtable, copy the email address, move over to my client, paste it in, and send the email; and because of some of the spam issues I've been having, inexplicably my outgoing emails are often flagged. So I cannot reliably say that the emails I am sending are even being read. Not good.

GETSEEN is the Answer

So this is when I started asking myself: maybe I need to build something to solve this problem. It needs to be free to sign up; the site needs to load quickly, and uploaded files need to be saved in a secure location. Users need an easy way to look over their submitted files. When a decision is made about the submission, the user should be notified via email, the email should be automated and sent from an industrial-grade, system account that has total visibility. With Amazon SES, I know the email went out. No more having to guess. So that's where the name comes from: at its core, GETSEEN is simply a facilitation between artist and creator—it functions as a contact layer that guarantees one entity (the artist) is seen by another (the creator). It does this by avoiding the common pitfalls of personal email accounts, anonymous web forms, and unreliable architecture. We are running on Amazon Lambda, files are saved to a secure and private S3 folder, and emails are delivered via Amazon SES. We also added 'Team' functionality: you can invite other reviewers to be part of your team, which will allow them to review submissions in your queue; and you can create an unlimited number of Teams. So one account can administer any number of submission flows, while the form accepts both media and music attachments. That means GETSEEN can be used by any entity that reviews art, music, or written work. From university presses, to photo contest admins, to music bloggers and everything in between: GETSEEN takes a little bit from Submithub, Airtable, Submittable, and Picter, and mashes it all up into something both free and empowering. For now we are limited to free submissions, but within just another week or two we will be processing payments via our partner DROPP.

I will be using GETSEEN moving forward as a contact point for general submissions, bug reports, and everything else. I hope this short piece answers any questions you may have about the platform. Another good place to find info about GETSEEN is linked here.

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About the Author

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Krister Bjornson Axel

Ogdensburg, New York

Paris, France. Madison, Wisconsin. Los Angeles. Ashland, Oregon. Ottawa. I write music, I write about music, and I write code. See also: photography, prose, podcasting. I have 1 gorgeous wife, 2 amazing kids, and many interests.


Recent Awards: 2020 ND (Photo) Honorable Mention, 2020 Accenti Writing Contest Finalist