Categories
Accessibility

Playing with Fonts

I’m playing with Google Webfonts and Webfonts from fonts.com. It’s really easy to use and this will finally make typography on the web a thing. This really is a big step in interface design.

Only 16 fonts are similar on all different operator systems. If you wanted to make a user and computer friendly website you had to choose one of those fonts. Well not anymore…

Nice.

Categories
Accessibility Featured Notes Social Classification The Social Web Usability

About Long Tails, Distributing Gadgets and Statistics

The Long Tail

The Long Tail

Beyond links
Our information culture is changing into a networked culture. Distributing is changing how we publish from the traditional one-to-many into many-to-many.

photo
For example. If I make a picture of people ice skating and publish it on Flickr. Than Flickr is a traditional one-to-many distribution system. Everyone can be a publisher.

I’m also re-publishing this same picture on my blog, because this is what we can do with data, a duplicate is the original. And beacuse Friendfeed checks my Flickr account, the picture will also appear on my friendfeed page.

Out of control
This makes three places to view this photograph. My blog, friendfeed and my Flickr page. Those platforms have some similar visitors, but most are different. These platforms, Flickr and friendfeed have also full article RSS feeds or API’s that are being aggregated and republished. There is no control about what happens after we publish something.

We like things to have one place. We are used to physical objects that can only be in one place at the same time. This is how we order and structure information. This is how we control the amount of information. This is structure, instead of chaos.

The emerging web with API’s, feeds and social networks is chaos, its networked. The more instances or copies are distributed the more people you reach.

To be a successful publisher on todays web you need to work distributed. Work with websites and integrate with communities instead of creating them. A gadget is one way of doing this.

Voting gadget
The Eclectro election for the best dance record of 2008 is finished. This election took place in a gadget. Over the past weeks we had 68.049 votes and 184 placed gadgets on blogs and social profiles.

The gadgets versus the amount of votes show a power law / long tail. Only a few websites collect the majority of the votes. The web is a networked environment, but not all nodes are equal. In this case the tail of the graph should have been four times as long to make up the amount of votes generated by the hoster of the gadget, the Eclectro website.

It’s difficult to spread gadgets. We had a continues flow of spreading, but there was no self-reinforcing effect. The tail did generate part of the votes, and reached a new audience.

In an ideal situation you want the nodes in a network to be more equal, a better distribution.

The actual amount of votes versus websites
Full tail
See the full graph: https://www.wilbertbaan.nl/images/long-tail-van-het-stemmen.gif

Pageviews and votes
In the image you see stats of every time the gadget was loaded or a vote was made versus all the websites that published the gadget.
Full tail
See the full graph: https://www.wilbertbaan.nl/images/pageviews_eclectro_gadget_stemmen.gif

Votes a day
votes a day

The winner: Ane Brun – Headphone Silence (Henrik Schwarz remix)

Dutch press release

Categories
Accessibility Featured Notes Service Usability

How Last.fm distributes your favorite MP3s, to you, for free

Last.fm Recommendation Podcasts
Recently the Last.fm website had a redesign. With video and images more prominent presented they made the website look more visual appealing to first time visitors. More focus on music and a little less focus on people.

Personalized Podcast
I’m not sure if the personalized podcast page was already available on the website before the redesign. I have never seen it before. What is great about this option is that you can subscribe to a stream of free MP3s that will be automatically delivered to your computer through the podcast-distribution-model (xml with enclosures).

A Long Tail with free things and high quality service
Last.fm delivers you the music you might like based on your personal profile, and it delivers the files for free. The music delivered might be from your favorite artists or from artists you have never heard of. This is how you are able to get to know new music that is very likely to be interesting to you.

For artists the group their music is send to is a smaller group, but this group is more likely to like or love the music, and thus distributing free content this way is more cost effective.

For me this podcast is an example how you can add more value to the content through smart distribution. You discover something new, and there is less noise in discovering it.

Mujuice, electronic music from Russia
In my recommended downloads there are a few tracks by Mujuice. I don’t know Mujuice, but if I like the tracks (I probably do, since it is a recommendation) I might search for more, buy MP3s or visit their next, or first performance in the Netherlands.

For the band there probably isn’t any direct business or value, there is only the start of something new by giving something away for free, a new connection or customer relation. And as you might know, all you need are a thousand true fans.

Categories
Accessibility Featured Journalism The Social Web

The news article as an object

Meta information and tags
Since we started with the concept of EN we had a certain idea of what it would be like. Now we have the first working version the possibilities seem endless, but what is the killer application or function? What is it that gives new options to the things we do with news?

In this post I’m just thinking out loud and writing down some thoughts. Please share your ideas or fallacies you see in my thoughts.

In News presentation we see the article as an article. It’s a finished story. On a news website, newspaper or television broadcasts we present a collection articles and items. These articles are also objects. Finished stories presenting a near live experience, but not live.

For the presentation and sorting of these objects news media are using a few options.
1. We show it by editorial selection (the far most popular by newspapers, television and news websites).
2. We show it sorted on time (often combined with the first)
3. We show the article list sorted on popularity (often somewhere on an extra page or column)

This works very well. We are used to see a pre-selection made from all the information and from this selection we choose the things we like. News reading is scanning through a pre-selection made by editors.

But the object (article) itself has a very interesting set of meta-information. This is what we potentially know about, and can extract from an article on EN.nl.

Tags, time published, pageviews, updates, incoming links, comments, votes (1-4), urgency levels (1-3), edits, editors, editors popularity, dateline (geocoordinates), related articles, favorites, pictures, videos, hyperlinks

This is information we know about each article. It is metadata connected to the object. What can we do with this information? Obviously presenting the news is critical for a news website, but the added value is in the selection made by editors. Why do these selections work so well? A selection by editors is based on the values of the presenter (newspaper) and often focus extra on certain aspects of the news. Left, right, popular, politics, celebrity, sports, art…

Most news media present the same facts. Is it the hierarchy and presentation that really counts? Is it what you show or don’t show that adds value? Is it what you’re friends read and what you can talk about with them? Do you go to certain websites for coverage about certain items? Are it the extra stories that add value? Are it writing skills? Is it the fast coverage?

Adding relevancy and new value
How can we make the selection and the sorting of objects (articles) more relevant to your needs? Should we ask you what you like? Should we track what you read? Should we ask you social profile? Should we ask your social network? Should we do things with your location? Should we read the tagging you did on your blog, del.ico.us, flickr and youtube and use this to determine what you like? Should we make your music taste count, the weather or how you feel today?

I think news is social by itself. We want to be able to talk about it with friends. Serious news, but also weird or funny news, sports and celebrities. Every real-life social network connects to certain news media. Your friends are often reading the same newspaper or same websites.

Would you be interested in what news your social network reads? Or your favorite bloggers? If you look at articles as if they are objects with metadata you can think up a lot of new ideas and possibilities. But what does really add extra and new value to presenting the news?

Categories
Accessibility Featured Music

Are we all broadcasters?

Hello spring
Last week the BUMA – a company that collects money and pays musicians for their airplay – started sending Dutch non-profit blogs a notion (in Dutch) that they were violating BUMA-rules because they embedded YouTube videos. Blogs are re-broadcasting the material (even through an embed) and thus they have to pay a license fee for embedding material. The same way a radio station or a venue does.

It doesn’t matter if the artist himself put his material online for embedding and sharing, since he doesn’t control the rights. Obviously BUMA doesn’t care about the fan. They don’t even specify what information is placed ‘illegal’, which artists are connected and which aren’t. They just want to sell licenses to small groups of fans and non-profit blogs.

After some buzz was generated around it in Dutch online media BUMA responded by saying it was a ‘premature response’. Case closed, for now.

Are we all broadcasters in a distributed environment?
It’s an interesting way of thinking, since the near future of the web will mostly be about sending/broadcasting, aggregating and social networks. Our presence online often exists by re-distrubuting content. Today’s website is more often a collection of data from other places. A manually aggregated hub of information.

Are you a broadcaster when you write something on your Facebook, collect links in a public del.icio.us and share your Netvibes as a public universe? Are you as a blogger a broadcaster? Everyone sharing something (photos, text, thoughts) online is broadcasting in the traditional meaning of the word. Semantics and laws never worked out very well.

Should we regard this as traditional broadcasting? I don’t think so. It’s freedom of expression. It’s sharing the things we like. We’re not uploading or adding illegal material we’re just creating our online identity by embedding and linking. Media represents us.

When are you a broadcaster on the web? Once you make money? Or when your audience reaches a substantial level. Is this blog a broadcasting? Or is it a personal outlet.

I think there is no such thing as an online broadcaster, since everyone is broadcasting and publishing. You can’t ask people to pay for this, like you don’t ask people to pay when they whistle your song in the street. Be happy with the publicity.

If you are an artist and connected to these kind of companies. I’m sure you need or like the money they collect and you deserve it all. At the same time they are taking away bits of your freedom. Think about what the effect is when you give up certain rights and alert those companies about the effect. Technology and culture often change much faster than the people looking backwards to decide what the future should look like.

Here’s a release by NEST, you can download this album for free because it is released into the public domain. It’s also beautiful and needs as much attention as it can get, because I really would like to see them performing live someday.

Nest Artwork
Nest is the collaborative project of Otto Totland (Deaf Center / Type Records) and Huw Roberts (Serein). The two started working together after forging a strong friendship as former members of the Miasmah label. This self-titled EP is their first work publicly released, so it is a great honour that we are able to offer it to you here.

Both pianists, there is little wonder that after exploring a plethora of musical styles, the two find themselves most at home writing traditionally structured pieces, with the ivories a major element throughout. The EP demonstrates clearly the innate ability the two have for song writing, borrowing from the world of film soundtracks and contemporary classical composers to craft delicate instrumental compositions.

Alongside their favoured instrument can be variously heard the plucked strings of the Welsh harp, violins, woodwind instruments, field recordings, percussion and a heady dose of mind wobbling effects. From the time Nest began writing together, one purpose was clear; to produce beautiful music free of pretense, and they do it exceptionally well.

Photo: spring is early on Flickr All my photos on Flickr are under a Creative Commons license, this means that some rights are reserved instead of all. You are free to use my photos for anything you like, although if you would like to use it for a commercial project you just have to ask me.

Categories
Accessibility Featured Music

Why Google has everything it needs to disrupt the music business

Google Holiday Logo 250th Birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - January 27 2006
Since the record music can be played everywhere without actually having to transfer the musician. This changed how we consumed music. A complete industry was build around transferable music, the ‘record industry’.

The web is not just a network connecting computers anymore. The web is a virtual layer of information accessible almost everywhere, anytime via broadband, UMTS, wifi and cable. The availability of this network and its role as real-time meta information network will only grow.

The web is already changing how we consume music. The availability is like radio, but the tunes you can listen to are personal. Technically you could listen to any song you like at any time you like from any place you like.

The only thing we need is a library of music and a business model. This is where Google comes in. When a website grows as exponential as Google did you need a serious hardware model to support the demand. You need servers and broadband connections around the globe. The hardware structure and back-end Google has (in combination with YouTube) is probably one of the most advanced in the world. The amount of data they send up and down the lines of our network connections makes them a very import player in data exchange.

Amazon build a new model on top of their original business. With S3 and Ec2 Amazon started to sell hosting and computing, a smart move since they already developed an enormous infrastructure for amazon.com. This infrastructure equals a value that makes it a serious hosting competitor in price and service.

Why Google for music? Google has experience with indexing large amounts of information and they know how to retrieve meaning from information. Google has experience with web-players, mobile platforms, plug-ins, widgets, trust and a payment model. They sit on all the required knowledge. All they have to do is mixing the components together.

The future of music won’t be about files or discs, it will be about listening your favorites, your friends favorites or songs recommended by websites and smart collectives. Music still has value, it doesn’t have to be free. I think a subscription model could work. You pay $20,- to $50,- a month to a company (Google in this example) and you are allowed to listen any music you like. With this money Google pays artists based on listened percentages. It’s all about micro payments and since everyone is an artist nowadays, everyone should be able to upload its files to the Google Music directory.

On top of this Google could include its adwords system related to what you are listening. A system that has a proven effect in giving advertising power to the niche.

There is already a Google Music player. Just find someone to connect the dots.

Categories
Accessibility Experiments Featured Live Web Music

Building a party calendar with Last.fm, Yahoo Pipes and Google Calendar

Yahoo
Eclectro is a website about music. Having a calendar is a great service for such a website. It is often a popular service, but unfortunately also a very labour intensive one. When searching the web to find an easy way to solve this problem I noticed the solution could be found connecting different webservices.

from Last.fm
For promoters and venues Last.fm is the place to reach the right audience. It’s a music marketing sweetspot. Most websavvy promoters know they have to add their schedule to Last.fm, because here is where the fans are.

Unfortunately it would take a lot of time to collect all the data and copy it into an Eclectro agenda. Last.fm uses Audio Scrobbler to control all feeds in and out Last.fm. A lot of Last.fm data is public available.

to Yahoo Pipes
Yahoo Pipes is an online data-aggragator that enables drag and drop programming. You can add feeds from other services, group and remodel the data from the feeds into a new feed. It is a web-based visual programming interface.

Everything you make on Yahoo Pipes is open source. This means everyone can clone your code en learn from it or build upon it. I found some Last.fm examples and adapted it for 15 Dutch venues. The Yahoo Pipe I build scans those venues on Last.fm for events and combines the data into one large iCal (calendar format) feed.

Now we have a feed with a lot of information, interesting but it has a lot of events in it that are irrelevant to the Eclectro audience. They want to know about electronic music.

to Google
Next stop; Google. Google has a calendar function that let’s you share calendars in public or assign multiple owners to the same calendar. The Yahoo Pipes feed with Last.fm information is loaded into Google Calendar. There I’ve created a second calendar called Eclectro.

Copy to Google Calendar

And here is where the ‘human’ selection and thus the added value comes in. An Eclectro editor filters Eclectro related events and we end up with a simple calendar with very good information. We will add other events to the calendar as well, but the information from Last.fm is a perfect base.

You can even subscribe to this ‘human’ filtered calendar with Google, Apple’s iCal or XML/RSS. Or use this information as a buildingblock for a better calendar.

Wwwww, dddddjjjjjjj duh?
I hope you’re still with me, it is a kind of geeky description for a simple solution. What it actually does is transferring information from one system to another. Making use of several open web applications. It shows what can happen when we use open standards and systems that can easily export and import data. You don’t need to have access to a web server or be a programmer to build something like this. This is the future of information. Free to move and easy to alter.