A few weeks ago I spent the weekend up in Boston at the first stateside "Music Hackday". It was a fantastic event all-around... the organization, the facilities, the people, the panels (even though I was on the panel about "The Future of Music") and the hacks.
Being in the same room with all of these other folks meant that I could not-so-subtly plant ideas for other people's hacks that would support some use cases that I am interested in. Toby Padilla appeased me (thanks Toby!) by adding some support to his great Playgrub app to support scraping artist and track metadata from Twitter so that the content could be resolved using Playdar (or more specifically by the content resolver plug-ins for Playdar that I have installed).
★ artist name ♫ track name #playtapus (or any other hashtag/playlist name)
Then use the Playgrub bookmarklet and let Playdar to do the rest.
In short, we are just dealing with extracting and moving song metadata around and handing it off to Playdar (which runs on your local machine). Playdar takes it from there and figures out the best place to source the content from and fulfills the link/play action.
My chart looks pretty representative of my taste, even though if asked to provide the list editorially I would probably posture a bit by adding some albums that I think were good (although my actions didn't actually prove it out). The only real exception to my list above is that U2 album... I gave it a bunch of tries to get me on board but ultimately failed (I think it is pretty bad actually).
It would probably be pretty interesting to look at some music bloggers' and critics' charts to see how different their "best of" lists are from their "top played".
I have been a bit cagey over the past few weeks about what was next for me in a professional sense. Those you that follow what I am up to have probably noticed that my work on Playtapus has dropped off considerably, and I have been talking about moving to NYC. Well, today the cat comes out of the bag.... and I am very excited about it. I am moving up to Brooklyn tomorrow and will start my first day at Lime Wire the following day (July 1).
As you can imagine, there is a lot of exciting stuff going on over there, a massive worldwide audience and huge opportunities to do even more great things. I am honored to be able to join the team over there...
Lime Wire Adds Digital Media Exec to Oversee Product: "NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - June 29, 2009) - Jason Herskowitz has joined Lime Wire as Vice President, Product Management, it was announced today by George Searle, Lime Wire CEO. In this newly created position, Herskowitz will oversee Lime Wire's integrated product strategy, planning, design and management. Lime Wire's product teams will report to Herskowitz. Herskowitz reports to Lime Wire CEO, George Searle."
Herskowitz comes to Lime Wire from TotalMusic, where he held the position of Vice President, Product Management, managing a team of product managers, UX architects, designers, and QA engineers in the creation and management of music platform, products and services. Prior to TotalMusic, Herskowitz was Vice President at Strands, where he managed the Social Media business unit in the creation of holistic content discovery recommendation engine and critically acclaimed content sharing experience at Strands.com. Strands.com, music.Strands.tv, mystrands.com and the Strands Tracker software were all defined, launched and/or managed by Herskowitz.
Prior to Strands, Herskowitz was the Director of Music Products for America Online (AOL). While there, he defined and managed the product releases, and roadmaps and strategies for a range of AOL's digital media products and services. He directed product teams in the strategic and tactical definitions for a wide range of digital media products and services including AOL Music Now, AOLmusic.com, AOL Radio, SHOUTcast, and Winamp. Additionally, he spearheaded integrations of these experiences across a wide range of other AOL products including AIM, AOL Search as well as a host of connected media devices via partnerships with major consumer electronics and networking device manufacturers.
Prior to AOL, he was with Analog Devices. He joined as Director of Market Development of the company's Audio Rendering and Technology Center, and then was named Director of Product Marketing for their Media Platforms and Services Group. Earlier in his career, he helped launch DigiScents, a biotechnology offshoot that developed hardware and software platforms for incorporating scent into all forms of digital media including movies, music and video games. Prior to launching DigiScents, he was with video gaming giant, InterAct Accessories, which he joined as Director of Product Marketing and was subsequently promoted to Vice President-Strategic & Product Marketing.
He was President and founder of Prodigal Sun Records, one of the first record labels to provide streaming audio clips of artists online.
Herskowitz holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Science from Virginia Tech. He is currently relocating from Potomac Falls, VA to Brooklyn, NY, with his wife, Karen, and two children.
About Lime Wire LLC
Founded in 2000 by Chairman Mark Gorton, Lime Wire LLC (http://www.limewire.com) is a leader of innovative peer-to-peer software development and solutions in the file sharing industry. The company currently employs the largest number of expert Java developers at the forefront of the file sharing revolution. Its signature products, LimeWire BASIC and LimeWire PRO, run on the decentralized Gnutella Network and are the world's most popular peer-to-peer file sharing applications with over 70 million unique monthly users. The programs are downloaded 350,000 times every day and boast approximately 5 million active users at any moment. It is reported that up to 18% of the computers worldwide have LimeWire on their computer. LimeWire Store sells high-quality, DRM-free MP3 downloads a la carte and through low-cost subscription plans. Intelligent product placement, unique editorial content, and links within Lime Wire's ecosystem are utilized to market and merchandise its licensed music. Additional titles from established and developing artists are produced and sold exclusively through LimeWire Store. The Lime Wire team enjoys a dynamic work environment at company headquarters in New York City.
I have been going through a spring cleaning/purging for the past few weeks... a neighborhood garage sale helped me get rid of the numerous old PCs, routers, tape decks, video game consoles, cell phones and MP3 players I had accumulated over the years. But, one of the biggest space-hog culprits in my house has been the boxes of CDs (with jewel cases).
I went through the extreme pain of ripping all of my CDs probably 7 or 8 years ago (over the span of a couple weeks), and I have not bought a physical CD since that time. I don't know why I held onto the CDs for so long... I don't read the jackets and I don't look at the artwork. My CD player (along with my dual cassette deck and turntable) have been disconnected from my stereo for a few years. So, when it came to (spouse-mandated) de-cluttering, I started to do some research on the best way to get rid of them. To me, these CDs were no longer anything more than non-biodegradable packaging for the music that now lived on my hard drives and network. I didn't want to just throw them away... with them spending an eternity in a landfill somewhere. I gave some away to anyone that would come and take them but, given the choice, most of my friends would prefer to have them as MP3s on a thumbdrive. I could drag them to a record store that buys/sells used stuff... but to be honest, I don't even know where one of those is around me. The thought of listing them all on eBay, individually or even as "collections" (e.g. 80's Hair Metal), just seemed like way too much work.
Google led me to SecondSpin.com, a used CD/DVD/video game retailer (online and physical) based in California. So, I bit the bullet and went through and manually entered the UPCs for each CD (to see what each was worth). I then filtered out all the ones that were worth less than $1 (a lot of stuff is only valued at less than what it would cost to ship) and the cut-outs (those are accepted on an "as-needed" basis). I then had to do some re-configuring.... putting the "valuable" ones in jewel cases that weren't cracked and falling apart. After all of that, I ended up shipping around 250 of them (media rate via USPS was only about $15). A couple of weeks later, I got an email from SecondSpin saying that they have accepted about 2/3 of them - they rejected ones that I had written on the disc (a requirement if you have ever lived with roommates!).
All said-and-done, it was a lot of work to get $175... but if nothing else, it is a greener way to dispose of CDs than putting them in a landfill. And that $175 will go right towards more digital purchases. What about the CDs they didn't accept? I didn't ask... it is SecondSpin's trash to dispose of now.
I just extended my Playtapus Project to create MP3 playlists out of a users Weekly Top Songs chart from Last.fm. I have embedded the list into the sidebar of this page, and then let Streampad handle the playback of them (at the bottom of the page).
To get your your own MP3 playlist for Weekly Top Songs, go here: http://tr.im/mIkv then get as RSS.
After suffering thr0ough continued issues with Yahoo Pipes and other infrastructure pieces used in Mediaor (loosely pronounced "meteor"), I finally "reassembled" the music/technology news and views mashup. I think the new set up will be much more reliable, plus it lets me update, add and filter news sources easily and quickly.
There are some more improvements that I still would like to make to the front-end (www.mediaor.com) and the twitter bot (@mediaor) but wanted to get the backend sorted out first.
As always, if there are any other blogs or news sites that you think would make a good addition just let me know.
For heavy Twitter users, we are all seeing the communication platform being used more and more heavily as a viral music/taste distribution tool. In my last post, I showed the traffic numbers of some of the more popular music services. One of the fastest growing at the moment is Blip.fm. That information served as the inspiration of my latest mashup... I wanted to create an easy way to request recommendations to be pushed back to me based on a song that I "blipped".
So, a rainy weekend later I present to you the basic concept. Here's how it works.
just add the tag #recsplease to any "blip" (that gets published to Twitter)
the mashup monitors Twitter for blips that have the tag/recommendation request
from the Blip.fm URL I go and fetch/scrape the artist name for the song that was shared
this "seed" artist is then used to generate an array of similar artists
it constructs a tweet and replies to the requester with the list of recommendations
The next piece will be to link those recommendations off to a playlist, mix or radio station that includes those recommendations (in addition to trying to optimize the whole thing to be better, strong, faster). Maybe later this week. As always, let me know if you have any suggestions.
This week I became the proud owner of a Hackintosh (aka Dell Mini9 running Mac OS X). I needed a new laptop, and have pretty much become a complete Mac convert over the past few years, so my options were limited. Either spend $1000 - $2500 for a MacBook, or spend a 1/10 of that on a homebrewedHackintosh. For both the obvious reason of price, combined with the benefits of a small, light, fast (solid state storage) and long battery life, I went with the Hackintosh.
I was nervous for sure, but I knew a few people that had done it and said good things, so now I am paying it forward. Here's how I got a full-blow pseudoMacBook Air for under $200.
Redeem some of my American Express points for a Dell gift certificate (they best you can generally do with Amex points is 1 penny/point and this fit that bill). 20,000 Amex points = $200 Dell gift certificate (that's the max allowable)
Go to Dell.com and order and customize your Dell Mini 9 - the most compatiblenetbook for running OS X (and all of the device drivers seem to work). You need to upgrade to 16GB SSD (at minimum). I also included the webcam upgrade (higher resolution) and Windows XP. The total came out to around $390 (with 2 day shipping). You could get cheaper if you went Linux instead of XP (since you are going to install OS X over it anyway, but I wasn't sure whether I was going to do this so got XP as the backup plan). Enter your gift certificate number and voila... now you are billed only $190.
Wait for you Dell to arrive (mine took a couple of weeks - which they neglected to tell me until AFTER I paid extra for 2 day shipping). Boo Dell!
Dig up (or buy) a larger USB flash drive to use for the install (at least 8GB but 16GB is probably better). I found a 16GB online for about $30.
If you don't already have the RETAIL version of OS X (Leopard), you need to get it... the OEM version that ships with Macs won't work. I saw a special advertised the other day to MobileMe subscribers for $99. Luckily, I already had a copy so I didn't need to get another.
While you are still waiting for you Dell to arrive, get your USB drive ready for the install. Basically, you create 2 partitions on the drive where you copy a bunch of bootloaders and small utilities needed for the install on the small partition, and a copy of the OS X disk ISO image (.dmg) to the large partition. One of the files requires a Windows machine to execute/copy to the USB drive, but you could use the Dell when it arrives (if you got XP on it) or it will also work with Windows running in Parallels or Fusion on a Mac. The detailed directions (and links to required files) can be found here: http://www.mydellmini.com/forum/how-to-mac-os-x-dellefi-installation-t3925.html. There are multiple methods to install, but the single USB drive method in "Section B (New)" is what I followed.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not doing the "custom OS X install" (where I should have deselected all of the language packs, printer drivers, etc.) so that made my install take longer (over an hour) and eat up a lot of valuable storage space. So, now I had to uninstall all of the stuff I don't need to free up space (used a program called Monlingual).
Otherwise, I followed those directions and everything worked great. There was one part that wasn't completely clear in Step 7 (how to boot from the smaller USB drive into the Dell's SSD after install - I ended up having to hit ESC and then type "80" to get that option).
After I was done, everything worked out of the box except one minor issue with noisy sound output (sounded like some sort of interference). I read in one of the forums that if you encounter this just put the Dell into sleep mode and wake it back up. Sure enough, that did the trick. Everything worked right away... webcam, sound, trackpad, etc.
All-in-all, this seems like it is going to be a great travel machine for me. My only complaints with the hardware so far are that a) the vertical height of the screen is constraining... some windows are too tall to be able to get to the bottom of (e.g. system preferences) and it takes some finagling, and b) the keyboard takes some getting used to... the main keys are fine, but I am still having trouble finding some of the punctuation and secondary keys.
Now, my list of "must have apps" for your Hackintosh (after OS X install I only have a few gig of space left for apps).
SimplifyMedia - don't waste your limited space on music, just stream from your home library (I also put Playdar on this machine which can serve the same purpose, but that is still very alpha)
Firefox - I use a number of extensions that I really like (e.g. Delicious, Zemanta, etc) and have never gotten used to Safari
Skitch - I can't live without it, although I may see if Jing can replace it since it handles screencasts & image capture
Dropbox (or something similar) - online storage and syncing is a must for a small machine like this.
Tweetie or Nambu - Adobe Airs apps can be resource hogs, so I opted for a native Mac app instead.
Xslimmer - a small utility that will strip out all the bloat from other applications.)
OnyX - a utility that will help you tweak settings and manage resources
MobileMe Account - this makes things much easier when it comes to syncing everything between your machines. It also comes with iDisk remote storage/sync which could eliminate your need for Dropbox.
Skype - I forgot this at first. I actually prefer iChat/AIM for voice and video chats, but Skype is a must have if you do any international business.
I also put Microsoft Office on it for now, although I don't recommend it. I will probably start to use Google Docs more now for this, and other hosted apps for presentation creation, etc. Everything else you need comes with OS X (iTunes, iChat, Mail, Calendar, Address Book, etc.). That comes close to maxing out the on-board storage, but between the online storage solutions and the new 16GBUSB drive I bought for the install process, I think I should be good to go.
A while ago I messed around with the idea of a Twitter bot that, using hashtags, would rebroadcast anything that someone thought that others should know about (e.g. "check out this band they are great"). The idea wasn't that these recommendations were directed at anyone in particular, but instead played upon the human nature of people wanting to tell other people about something they think is great (see latest buzz on Susan Boyle video from Britain's Got Talent).
I only took that original project so far, but today I revisited it briefly and made some tweaks (influenced by the existing Twitter bot @new_music).
Basically, it looks at Metacritic's movie feed, scrapes the scores off the pages (since they aren't in the feed itself) and filters the results to only display the stuff that has an aggregate metascore of 65 or greater. When it finds one of those, it then hits YouTube to pull the trailer for the video. From there it shortens the URL and then tweets the results out at @uncovery.
I may also start to splice in music, DVDs and other content too... but will let this run a while to see how it feels. As always, comments and thoughts welcome.
Just because I have an endless need to tinker, I planted the seed of another idea today. It isn't much more than this so far....
xBetween: "How many times have you heard the phrase “it’s like a cross between…” when you ask someone to describe something to you? That most simple idea, and how it could be applied to the web to help other discover new stuff (or just have fun), was enough of a spark that I went out and got the domain names today for xbetween.com and crossbetween.com (as well as the Twitter name @xbetween).
I’m not sure what exactly, if anything, this will turn out to be. But, I think there could be some potential to create something interesting out of that simple idea."
I'm starting to formulate some more ideas about what this could turn into, but given the idea is still only a few hours old I'm sure it will continue to evolve. Ideas? Suggestions?
I'm not sure what the terms of the deal between the two where, but according to the Rolling Stone article linked above, it sounds like iLike was covering the streaming royalties on the 25 free streams a month the deal enabled and was hoping to make that back in bounties from subscriptions to Rhapsody they drove?
My take? There are many ways to classify these different approaches, and some can be considered subsets of others. But, in short there are more approaches than most can shake a stick at... with some of the more notable examples being (as I see it):
"Musicologist"/Expert Analysis - a hundred people with headphones on categorize songs on a few hundred different attributes (e.g. minor chords, upbeat, heavy piano)
Content-Based/Waveform Analysis - a computer looks at the sonic attributes of a song (e.g. tempo, harmonic range, etc) and then looks for other songs that posses similar attributes
Collaborative Filtering - people who listen to/buy/highly rate song X, also have a high correlation to buying/listening to/highly rating song Y
Editorial (e.g Bloggers, Pitchfork, Radio) - some one broadcasts their opinion... "hey, these guys sound like so and so and they are good. I give them 5 stars".
Semantic (e.g. tag clouds) - by matching tags, genres and sentiment keywords (either manually input by users or extracted from web articles)
Curator (e.g. playlist sharing) - community generated "top song" and "just listened" charts, curated playlists, TV/movie soundtracks. These could be actively curated lists of songs (e.g. playlists) or passively programmed by the curator (e.g. "just listened").
Shuffle - just a random selection of tracks from a fixed set of songs
Biographical - this artist you like was influence by this other artist or was also in this other band
Friend-to-Friend - the most common, one friend tells another... "hey, have you heard X? You'd like them".
For each, you generally have two sources of information which to base your recommendations on:
Implicit - input/feedback is collected passively/automatically (e.g. listening history)
Explicit - input/feedback is solicited and manually provided (e.g. user ratings)
Some of the approaches above are exclusive to one type of data input (e.g. "editorial" is explicit feedback only), but most incorporate both.
And, as we speak there are hundreds/thousands of Music Information Retrieval PhD candidates figuring out new approaches, there are new spins (and terminology) on the existing methodologies, and companies combining two or more of the approaches above. Having spent some time in the discovery/recommender space myself, my take is this...
There is no magic bullet.
We all discover content everywhere, and from every context.... friends, TV soundtracks, recommendation engines, radio, etc. In my opinion there is no such thing as a "better recommendation".... there is only a "good enough" (in that what I discovered was satisfying) or a "bad" recommendation. What is required in both cases is transparency as to why it was recommended. I say often when it comes to recommendations... "the why is usually more interesting than the what". That is because the "why" helps user identify the sources that they trust, can relate to, and can be turned to again in the future for inspiration. Sometimes that source may be a machine, sometimes it may be an editor, sometimes it may be a chart. They all have their value, and they all serve the same purpose.. to be one my personal "program directors".
I had a conversation this morning with J T. Ramsay where he told me: "[music] discovery is one of the biggest fallacies of all time. If people were so amped on discovery, radio would have been formatted differently." And I have to admit, I don't disagree.
What consumers have continually asked for is "programming", whether is be playlist builders, charts, "just played" data, recommendation engines, DJs, mixtapes or CDs. Basically, it just comes down to "don't force me to make a decision every 4 minutes about what I'm going to hear next". As music services continue to move to small UI devices where search and destroy is not a viable use case (mobile, car stereos, etc.), programming becomes even more essential.
The title of this post "Program Director > Recommenders" is not meant to imply that they are different and that one is better.... what I mean is that one is a superset of the other. Trying to pit them in a battle with each other is akin to asking... "which is better when you are hungry, a sandwich, a hot dog, or an apple?". The answer for me is, "they will all do the trick... it's just a matter of what temporal mood I'm in weighed against how much effort I have to expend to get each ."
One of my most recent posts discussed (and/or ranted about) "content resolution". In that post I mentioned a very compelling new open-source project called Playdar. This project was started by some of the folks from Last.fm, but is rightfully gaining attention of the digital music innovators very quickly. What is it exactly, and why is it so important?
Playdar is designed to solve one problem: given the name of a track, find me a way to listen to it right now.
It will search your local disk (iTunes library, MP3 folder etc.), it will search your home or office network (kinda like searchableiTunes shared libraries) and it will search other sources. You can write plugins for Playdar to enable it to search additional sources. It's fast. If a matching song is within reach, it can start playing in less than a second.
This is called Content Resolution. Playdar is a "Content Resolver" - it will take metadata (artist, album, track names) and resolve them to a location of a matching music file. This might be on your disk, or over the network - regardless, sources are always presented as URLs that point to your local machine. Playdar runs a lightweight webserver on your machine - this is how you talk to it, and it's how other desktop apps and web apps talk to it.
Websites can automatically put play buttons next to songs they reference.
Streaming services and music blogs can save bandwidth by playing you your own copy of a song instead of streaming it from a central server.
A lot of interesting web-app mashups are possible. Pull interesting music data from an API, and play people content they already have.
You could build an iTunes-Genius-like web app using Playdar and the Last.fmAPI, all in-browser.
You could build a playlist sharing site that shares playlists, not mp3s. Think muxtape, but it will only play songs found on your machines.
If you run Playdar on your laptop and desktop on the same network it will take advantage of songs on either machine.
Music on the web can be marked up so you can always take advantage of local content."
Sure, there are other remote access/webserver solutions out there that enable you to access your content (and your friends') remotely - see Simplify Media and Orb. And there are P2P clients and torrents that enable you download virtually any song available. But, what gets me excited about this is the single interface with cascading resolution logic that it enables - and how it can seamlessly integrate the (existing) web with local/network/free-range/streaming service content. In short, it keeps checking sources in priority order until it finds what it's looking for.
It fosters the development of sites and apps that can add value with context (editorial, informational, social) and discovery features without putting them in a position of having to deal with content licensing and streaming costs.
It has the potential to drastically cut costs of existing music services since they wouldn't have to foot the bill (both royalty and bandwidth) to stream content to users that they already have - thereby helping enable more viable economics around music discovery and sharing sites. Or perhaps lets existing music content sites exit the content licensing/streaming business altogether (some speculate that Last.fm's recent moves away from free streaming everywhere but US, UK and Germany are the first step in this direction) and instead focus on adding value *around* the content.
Sites and applications without their own music content could be marked up to support Playdar... adding click-to-play scenarios in Google search results, Facebook, Twitter (site and apps), IM clients, Wikipedia, news articles and more.
It promotes the use of standard markup to identify music content (e.g. hAudio, XSPF, etc.) that enables users to share content (links) and playlists across different service providers. You keep your provider of choice, I keep mine.
It could be extended to support comparison shopping of content across multiple vendors.... e.g. "just give me the cheapest MP3 provided that it is at least 256kbps".
It could tie into your existing social graph, giving you a single view and interface into all of your friends' local/network content. For example, you see in your AIM status that one of your friends is listening to a certain song... you click play. If you have the song, it plays from your machine. If you don't have the song, it streams to you from your friend's machine, if that friend doesn't have a local version of that song then it streams from another friend's machine that does have it. If none of your friends has a local copy of the song, then it finds it on the web. You don't need to know where the song is, Playdar does the work of finding the best source for you.
It could enable the darknet, where you can get access to all of the content on not only your and your friends' machines...but also the friends of friends (of friends). All unmonitorable and untrackable (unlike torrent sites) since each person only accesses content via people they trust - no one in the chain has knowledge of where the content originated from or where it terminated (see OneSwarm for more on this). Taken with the notion of "six degrees of separation"... you theoretically could get access to any file/song from anyone in the worlds in 6 hops or less.
There are a lot of directions this project could be taken and extended, which is the beauty of it being open-source. Have some ideas? Contribute.
In my opinion, this has the potential to be one of the most disruptive music/tech developments we've seen in a long time.
My hope is to get some more people involved - hopefully some that are far more proficient at writing code than me - as well as anyone else that has ideas or/or the talent to help those ideas to be realized. I'd love to see where a group of people can take this, and whether it opens all of our eyes to any new opportunities.
I am a closet brand marketer. I often create "brands" (OK, I make up words - usually by combining multiples that when pronounced sound like another existing word) that I think could be interesting or evocative. Over the past decade, I have kept a running list of potential brand names (or tag lines) for the most random things... from fictional band names to non-existent apparel companies to portajohns (toilets) to my own music/tech aggregator "mediaor" (pronounced like "meteor").
As backwards as it sounds, sometimes these words provide a spark for a product idea that I may explore in the future (yes, I have a separate list for those).
For the "brands" that I think have some real potental (or just amuse me) I will go grab the domain name for too. In my opinion, the most promising ones are the ones that express an idea or feeling ("Google", "Amazon", "iPod", "Twitter"), not a literal product implementation or feature ("Search.com","Toys r Us", "CDnow") .
What does this have to do with anything? Well, I have been struggling with how to refer to my latest projects (e.g. "friendP3", "meP3", "ambient signal".). The labels of the implementations were constraining the larger ideas around passive publishing, content resolution, data aggregation and portability, the social graph and sharing. I know some will say that is stupid... "why try to brand it at all?". Well, if you want people to talk about something then I believe you need to provide them a common lexicon to do so (it also helps people find and track the conversations on topic - see Twitter).
So, now that I have made a short story long, I come to my point. For now on I am going to be referring to the collective of my recent music/tech science experiments as "Playtapus".
Yes, it is a combination of "play", "tap" and "us"... but also more a play on the fugly yet lovable platypus. No one is quite sure what it's place in evolutionary history is, but if nothing else... it's at least interesting. Really all this project aspires to be...