Tag Archives: English people

Pure Web 2.0 – Music Collaboration

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Via one of my musicial heroes,  Thomas Dolby, here’s a great example of how Web 2.0 really works—for musicians.

A very timely piece of software has become available for me to use on my album. It’s called Virtual Glass and it’s a plug-in you download from a web site/service called eSession.com.

The subscription-based eSession site handles all administrative aspects of auditioning, negotiating with, and recording with, a huge number of top professional musicians, all without leaving the comfort of your own home studio (or in my case, DIScomfort as it’s not finished yet!)

It ticks all the Web 2.0 boxes—free for basic services, allows users to find other like-minded users, and enables them to collaborate together online. In fact, I can’t really think of a purer encapsulation of the Web 2.0 vision.

Here’s how Dolby describes using it:

[I]t enables me to do a recording session with, let’s say Kevin Armstrong, who lives in London which is several hours away from me. Kevin has his own studio and uses the same software as me. So we can connect, open the same song, and Kevin can overdub guitar parts. We can discuss them, agree on retakes and so on, while hearing each other in real time. His face and/or his studio appear in a video window on my screen, and we have a ‘talkback’ system. The experience is actually not very different from me being in the control room and Kevin out in a booth. I can hear a low-res version of his part, then once it’s done he just drops the new recording into a bin online, and I update it on my end in hi-res. The software can keep track of the time we spend and even issue an invoice based on a pre-agreed fee.

Then let’s say I really need someone to play a jaw’s harp. I do a search for that keyword in the eSession talent profiles, and find out that Tony Levin as well as being a killer bassist is an ace jaw’s harpist (?!) and right now he’s got a mid-tour day off and he’s sitting in a hotel room in Nashville, Tenessee. I approach him and fix the fee. We can work together using Virtual Glass in real time over ADSL, or he can just work on it in his own time and send me a few takes to peruse offline.

Thomas Dolby’s Blog » Blog Archive » eSession rocks

User Generated Discontent

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I know in my previous post it sounded like user-generated content isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it has its place. Like this one, from iTunes Store, where Ricky Gervais’ new show is available as an audiobook for 10 quid. The description is the usual blurb-like drivel written by an intern and proof-read by someone on their toilet break:

Ricky delivers hilarious and insightful observations on the nature of fame, and in the process displays his talent as Britain’s foremost comedian to the fullest extent yet.

I’ll leave copywriters and editors to paw over that particular bit of prose. But what I love is the Customer Review below:

Ricky Gervais seems to have convinced the majority of the British and American public he is some sort of genius. Take away that stupid dance [and] the inane grin and what are you left with? An average …. More

I know the More … bit is just part of the way the web page truncates the review, but it seems somehow apt.

I’m not knocking Gervais, who did exhibit some genius with The Office (the UK version), but I find it amusing that the iTunes store, such prime real estate and so carefully designed, allows such prominently displayed counteropinion.

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That’s the true power of user generated content, in my view: A counterblast, a breath of fresh air, a guy standing at the counter when you’re about to part with your cash who nods towards the DVD clutched in your hand and murmurs in your ear, “load of crap, that. Waste of money, frankly.”

Talking About Two Generations

 Nothing captures the intersection between the old and the new worlds, as well as the ambivalence many of us must share about the direction, than this NYT piece (there’s a version in the IHT, but they edit out several key bits for space) about the tension between the remaining members of The Who, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey (bassist John Entwistle died in 2002, original drummer Keith Moon in 1978):

Mr. Townshend, always interested in new technology, announced that the concerts would be Webcast, only to retract those plans a few days later at Mr. Daltrey’s insistence. Eventually, the band made a deal with Sirius Satellite Radio to broadcast the shows as part of an all-Who channel that will continue throughout the tour.

“I don’t particularly like the world technology has created,” Mr. Daltrey said. “Has anything really gotten better with the computer, or are you just doing more and more of less and less? I’m incredibly paranoid about it, especially after what happened to Pete. I think the Internet is just an advertising device of very dubious returns.

Daltrey is referring to Townshend’s arrest on charges of possessing child pornography. Daltrey could easily be characterized here as a reactionary Who Doesn’t Get It (that could be another album title, perhaps) but it’s more complex than that. Daltrey was never the creative engine of the band but there’s no denying his personality and voice are integral to its legend. But he also has a business acumen that doesn’t always sit well in this new media world, but cannot be ignored:

“Also, I haven’t got the luxury of throwing the kind of money at it that he can,” he continued, referring to Mr. Townshend’s songwriting revenue. “I haven’t got the publishing, I’m just the singer. So I have to look at it much more hard-nosed as a business and ask if I can put a million dollars into it, and the answer is no.”

Townshend, the artist (and presumably comfortably provided for with decades of publishing revenue under his belt) can afford to be the modern visionary:

Mr. Townshend responded: “Roger likes things that are finished, and with the Internet, everything is a work in progress. I try not to bludgeon him with this stuff, but I can’t help it; it’s my passion.”

Impressive that these two guys managed to stay together this long, and testament to both of them. But I guess is what is most interesting is that both guys have a point. I feel caught in both camps — I still think of artists as those who labor away in garrets, cellers, studios or mansions creating something of genius, something that really lifts us out of our time and age, before delivering it to us adoring and wowed fans.

This is no longer the case with new-media influenced art, and the contrast is nowhere clearer than in the perceptions of The Who’s two remaining men about their latest offering, Endless Wire:

For Mr. Daltrey, “Endless Wire” closes a door for the band that was left open after the death of the high-flying Mr. Moon (about whom he is developing a film project, with Mike Myers committed to the role). “We were ill equipped to deal with Keith’s problems at the time,” he said. “If we’d known then what we know now about rehabilitation, we wouldn’t have lost him. So it always felt that if that had really been the end, it wouldn’t have been right. With this album, now there can be an ending. I don’t want it to be, but it can be, and I’m at peace with that.”

Mr. Townshend, characteristically, disagreed with that assessment. “It doesn’t feel like closure; it feels completely new,” he said. “Closure implies that we couldn’t do it again, couldn’t do another album with the same quality and dignity.

Townshend is as impressive as he is combative. Perhaps he’s right. Or maybe while his passion is the impermanence of the Internet, Daltrey’s passion is that of a man looking back and seeing something that has gone, never to return.

Update: More On Word Orders

 Further to my posting yesterday about how we recognise words, here’s something from Mike Masnick, who runs the excellent Techdirt blog:
I saw your other post on the mixed up letters, which I agree is absolutely fascinating.  I had posted something similar about a year ago. Which also didn’t have a source associated with it, though, it appears to come from the same basic idea.  Someone posted a comment on that post recently, saying it was written in a letter to New Scientist.
 
At the time, I also wondered if such things could be useful as a sort of  Turing test to fool a computer, but still have a human know perfectly well what you were talking about.
 
Randomly, I also sent it to my parents when I first came across it.  When I  was a kid, they were very concerned with the way I learned to read, since I apparently would just look at the first two letters of a word and its length and then “guess” at what the word was.  Apparently, that might not be so weird…
Thanks, Mike. I reckon we’re definitely onto something here. Sadly, the only use I can think of for it so far is for spammers, who already misspell words to fool spam filters. I can imagine their pitches: Wroreid aobut szie? Dpesresd by prferaomcne? Ok that took me a couple of minutes to do. This took me two seconds: Werorid by szie? Depersesd by prcaremfone?  Courtesy of a funky site called Lerfjhax which lets you type in text and get a scrambled version out. Watch out for another wvae of sapm.

News: Psst! Wanna Buy a Segway?

 It’s the modern crime, and the modern sting. The Register reports on the “first, known Segway sting operation” when police in New York arrested a 24-year-old student on felony scooter theft charges.
 
 
Yili Wang entered a Starbucks in Queens, hoping a Segway expert he met on the Internet could help get the gizmo going. Wang apparently forgot to ask about the keys for the machine when he purchased it for the, uh hem, bargain price of $75 off a man in East Harlem. There’s even a video of the arrest (no the picture above isn’t from the video. That’s my mum talking to the delivery man).