Yesterday we received Gimbal proximity beacons. These beacons – or iBeacons as Apple calls the technology – have a small battery and submit a low energy bluetooth signal. This signal can be used within apps to detect if someone (a smartphone) is close (proximity) to a beacon. The app can trigger actions based on the signal.
I’m not sure if Bitcoins are “the future of money”, I’m pretty sure they aren’t the only future and that there is a need for digital money with the freedom that we know from coins and paper money.
Bitcoin is a system that can perfectly co-exist with current systems out there. Although it can use some user experience enhancements. It is still quite difficult to understand and you pay with long strings you can’t understand, complex applications and QR-codes. Bitcoins could use a bit of Square Register to make it really work.
Some sketches I made a while ago to illustrate what I think a web-based twitter client could look like. I really like the Tweetdeck application, because it integrates lists in the most obvious way, showing all the posts like a dashboard. I think the basics of Tweetdeck could be very well made into a web-based dashboard.
The Eclectro Last.fm lovewall is an interactive installation that uses bluetooth to scan for mobile phones. Visitors are asked to change the bluetooth name of their phone into their Last.fm username.
A laptop scans the room using the open source Roomware software. It connects to random visitors and searches the Last.fm database for similarity. It then shows the similarity on a big screen by showing the profiles. A percentage and five artists both have in common.
The installation worked well and I got a lot of very positive feedback by enthusiastic visitors. A few things I learned.
It is possible to have a zero percent match but still have artists in common.
Similar artists are often Gorillaz, U2, Muse, Air.
It is very easy to join, people see something happen and they think it’s too difficult to join. If you tell them that all it takes is changing the bluetooth name of their mobile phone they are really surprised.
Explain, explain, explain.
People like seeing their avatars on a screen. Only showing avatars would probably make a successful application by itself.
Make the screen dark. I used grey photographs and still the brightness of the beamer lightened up the entire place.
The internet connection at public places is almost always difficult (unstable/low signal).
This saturday we have the first Eclectro party in De Unie in Rotterdam (which itself is pretty amazing). It’s the first offline event for something (a group of people blogging) that until saturday does only exist online.
To Eclectrofy this evening we started thinking about doing something extra with the location. How can we make the place visually and interactive exciting as well. Without making it too difficult to use or showing computers.
What I’m making for this saturday
Basically Roomware turns my Mac into a server that is able to read bluetooth names and convert this data into xml. We will ask people at the party to change the bluetooth name of their mobile phone into the username of their Last.fm account. With these Last.fm names an application searches the Last.fm API and extracts data about two random visitors and tell them how much Last.fm similarity they have and which artists they have in common.
Meet new people
The project autorepeats and makes new random matches with names of people that are actually in the room. The results are projected on a screen. Showing public information about people is a gimmick, but it might encourage visitors to meet new people.
Things to do before this saturday
All the technology works. What’s left is finding a beamer, finishing the design and the timing of the interface. The application doesn’t need much time to load, but I’m thinking about adding finctional timing to make it more exiting to watch.
For example first show one player. Show the second player a few seconds later. And finally show the bar (hearth) that indicates the percentages. And maybe add some hidden messages when people have 0 or 100% Last.fm similarity.
Based on Twitterpoll by Erik Borra I made this visualization. The animation is created form filtering tweets on content. If someone says he or she voted for Obama or McCain this information is stored and turned into numbers. This creates an election poll based on tweets.
You can say Twitter is pretty much in favor of Obama. To update the results refresh the page.
A point goes to Obama if the regular expression /vote.*?obama/i succeeds, it goes to McCain if the regular expression /vote.*mccain/i succeeds, else it is undecided / unrecognized.
A second version of the first experiment. In this window you can sort Twitter messages on certain words. Try to work with two words or use the more obvious words like McCain / Obama if you want to use more words. Otherwise you won’t get any results.
I’m a big fan of public databases, the live web and storytelling. I think they all give new opportunities for interactive and online storytelling. Twitter itself a very interesting database. Because it tells you what is going on and the API is very good.
About “I voted”
The next days American citizens will vote for either McCain or Obama. My guess is a lot of Twitter users will say on Twitter when, and on who they voted. This Flash application uses Twitter Search to see who voted on who. The animation automatically updates with the most recent tweet.
Eclectro tries to be a blog with a positive vibe about electronic music. By using the tools the web offers we try to connect producers and listeners in a way that everyone benefits and has a great time. For me the most exciting experiences with the blog are those where an artist we follow (and who follows the blog) get to do new great things.
I think for what Eclectro is doing in the music scene there is also some space for a Dutch blog about (electronic) art, clothes, architecture, photography DIY, and more with a focus on Dutch upcoming artists. We have enough blogs about internet and marketing we could use some positive and easy to read blogs about art.
Just do It, think later
So I started it. Just to try out the idea. It’s a beta version, not in any technical way, since I can use the Eclectro templates.
It is a beta from content perspective. I started posting short articles to see if I there are enough interesting things to write about. And if the collection makes something that is adding something to the Dutch blogosphere.
I also started reaching out to some people with different interests and background to ask them if they are interested in sharing things, thoughts and knowledge.
For me right now the only reason not to continue the adventure is time, everything new costs time. And starting a group blog is incredible time consuming. But it is for the greater good!
While waiting for Murcof at the airport we asked Jimmy Edgar if he would like to improvise something on an old Casio keyboard. Recorded on the roof (full recording) of Schiphol (Amsterdam airport / AMS)
The festival was a great success. Exhausting, but really great. During the festival we made around 400 posts on the special microblog.
Mobile services worked very well. Sending a photo through Mobypicture and directly sending an audio file through Gabcast give a really strong storytelling experience. Twitter messages are like SMS. Great to keep context in the timeline without actually having ‘to produce’ something.
I think our idea to connect everything you post to an avatar (like Twitter), and make the coverage as personal as possible really helped keeping it clear for our viewers. At least for how much this is possible given the enormous amount of information produced. Organizing it on time gives a very good overview of what was important or special during the festival.
Microblogs are really strong live applications. Afterwards they are less exciting to watch. You can use it as a collection of material where you can search items for articles elsewhere.
The WordPress XMLRPC is wonderful. From the 400 posts we have published almost none of those was made on the website itself. The posts were created using other websites and automatically posted to Eclectro.nl/live. Making publishing really easy.
What didn’t work
Video is difficult. Or at least uploading video is difficult. if you record a video it is still difficult to upload. When we recorded a video in high quality using a mobile phone (N95) the files get easily close to 10 Megabytes. If you want to upload/e-mail these files using UMTS you’re not only giving your battery a hard time, you’re also making it impossible to upload anything else during this process. Wifi often wasn’t available and when it was it was too unstable to upload or e-mail video.
I think services like Qiktv or Seesmic Mobile are interesting because the web-server is recording instead of your camera. Unfortunately those services can’t directly post a recording to a blog, yet.
We used a photo camera for recording video as well. This worked very well, the quality is good and Flickr is a great service for distributing files shorter than 90 seconds. The files recorded with the 8 Megapixel Sony Camera are around a 100 Megabytes. Uploading a 100 Megabytes in size. This requires you (or your laptop) to spend at least a few hours on a restaurant Wifi. Missing out on the festival. In the end we uploaded most files at night or in the morning.
We recorded the interviews on DV camera. This worked perfect, since there is no urge in getting the longer interviews directly on the web.
My idea was to maintain two blogs. The Eclectro blog and the Eclectro Live blog. /Live would be about us, a personal story about how we experienced the festival. The main blog would present interviews and reviews. This was just too much. We simply couldn’t make all this in a weekend and have a good time.
Ideas for live blogging / micro blogging
You need a central spot with a computer and good internet connection. A central spot on the festival where you can empty a camera and upload a batch of files.
Think about what you want to do and if this is possible. Think about how you keep it clear to your audience what they are looking at. Most people don’t know what is happening and they have to understand what it is and why you are publishing. We explained it with a short introduction movie.
A few people asked me to add more structure to the website and make it easier to scan what happened over time. I think we need even more timeline based structure in a next version.
If you are telling a story make sure to tell everything. Tell what you expect and afterwards tell if your expectations were right or wrong. Make returning jokes / running gags. Keep it personal and keep your audience informed.