Thursday Jan 22, 2009

We've all seen Rocketsurgeon's logos of web 2.0 montage:


But I think I prefer this image of 'logos' of music 1.0.:

Click through to see the full size version on Flickr.

(Photo by forwardfluidmotion)

Wednesday Jan 21, 2009

Here's my desktop this evening, using my SXSW Artist Catalog to browse The Raveonettes, seeing photos of them on Flickr, and listening to them on Spotify (with the help of Alf's supercool greasemonkey script). Everything I need for SXSW music discovery.


I've done a few more updates to the SXSW Artist catalog. I've spent quite a bit of time working on improving data quality - trying to make sure that we maximize the chance that an artist will be resolved properly. Most of the problems had to do with dealing with international characters, HTML entities and encodings. After a bit of work, I've reduced the mismatches so that we can now resolve 1136 of 1168 artists (> 97%).


I've added a 'Newest' page that shows artists that have been recently added to the list by SXSW. I've also added an artist patch up mechanism that lets me easily fix data for an artist if it is wrong. I've already used it too - the band The Hot Kicks send me some updated info that I was able to apply with the patch mechanism. And finally, I've added a link that will show you Flickr images of the artist.

Monday Jan 19, 2009

Sten has a pretty nifty JavaFX Visualizer for social tags. Sten's experimenting with the animation frameworks. It's pretty neat.


Alf has written a greasemonkey script that will add Spotify links to my SXSW Artist Catalog. The script adds a little (and so unobtrusive that I thought it wasn't working) Spotify link to the catalog. It's pretty neat: HubLog: Spotified SXSW Catalog
Today, I added another option to my SXSW Artist Catalog. In addition to browsing artists by popularity or tag, you can now browse artists via a Google map. Artists are shown on the map as markers - clicking on a marker shows you details about the artist and lets you listen to the Artist on or Youtube.


The map shows just how global the SXSW music festival really is, with bands coming from all over the world. There are bands from as far north as Iceland, and from as far south as New Zealand. There are artists from Iran, Uganda, Nigeria, the Canary Islands, and a hundred from the NYC area. I find that it is fun to explore for music in this way. I'll see a band in some far flung place like Laramie Arizona, and wonder what kind of music I'd find there.

This was my first time using the Google maps API. I never realized how powerful and flexible the API is. One of the tricks that you can do with the API is to use a MarkerManger to control how many markers are visible at any particular zoom level. Without this, I would be trying to display over a thousand markers at once, which will hobble many browsers.

One issue, we only have city-level resolution for artists, so when you look at a city like London or NYC, there may be 100s of artists at a single point. To deal with this, I randomly dither the lat/longs for artists that collide with others, so each artist appears at a distinct location. The downside of course, is that some artists will appear in strange places like the Hudson river (and as far as I know, the only artist who has actually appeared in the Hudson is Emma Sophina, and I don't think she's going to SXSW). Despite this, the dithering works pretty well - here's a zoom in on the NYC area. Without the dithering, you'd only see one marker.


There are a few errors - for instance the band "paté de fuá" appear in Maine and not Mexico city - this is because the band is listed as being from "Mexico City ME" on the SXSW site - and believe it or not, there is a Mexico Maine. Probably over the next few days, I'll add a patch-up mechanism to make it easy to fix these sorts of errors.

This has been a fun little project - I really enjoy playing with all of these APIs to build something that might be useful for others. I'd love to hear feedback and suggestions - so feel free to send them my way.

Saturday Jan 17, 2009

5A075252-1581-4C1F-BF53-61269BC88346.jpgI'm excited to be able to go to SXSW this year (I'm giving a talk on music recommendation). I'm especially looking forward to seeing and hearing some of the thousand-plus musicians and bands that will be playing this year at the festival. This week, the SXSW organizers posted the official list of 2009 artists with 1200 or so bands with links to their home pages. Here's the head of the list:


I found the list incredibly daunting - I had not heard of most of the artists - how would I figure out which ones I wanted to see? I could imagine me sitting in a hotel room all week in Austin paralyzed by the many options.

I decided to deal with this problem directly - I just needed to add some context to this list - some photos, a little bio, some social tags, links to music and videos. If I had all that I could more easily pick the bands that I wanted to see. And so that's what I did. Using's and Youtube's web services, I've created my own version of the SXSW Artist catalog that fills in all of the missing context. With the catalog, I can browse the artists alphabetically, by popularity and by tag. Here's an example:


Now, with the catalog, I can, for instance, find all of the bands that have been tagged with "math rock" (there are currently 14 of them), audition them, look at their videos and decide which ones I want to see (Ecstatic Sunshine looks interesting).

Building the catalog was fun. I decided to keep it as simple as possible, just a set of static HTML pages that get updated offline. No AJAX, no servlets, nothing but HTML. By keeping it simple, I was able to create the whole thing in a day. Getting all the data was pretty easy too. It is amazing what you can do with the web services at places like and Youtube. It would have been impossible to build this sort of site 5 years ago.

I've put the catalog online - perhaps others will find it useful too. Feel free to check out Paul's SXSW Artist Catalog.

Friday Jan 16, 2009

Oscar points me to this upcoming event in Amsterdam:


Recked is an informal event for engineers interested in recommender systems. This technology has proven its success for businesses like Amazon, Google, and Netflix, and now new startups are using it to shape their products.

Held on January 26 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Recked will focus on how to implement collaborative filtering for your product in a manageable and practical way. Three experienced speakers will give you all the real-world use cases and solutions you'll need to start building your own recommendation platform.

Thursday Jan 15, 2009


Wednesday Jan 14, 2009

The folks over at have added an experimental event mapper that will show nearby events that you might be interested in on a google map. Since knows what kind of music I like, they can map upcoming shows of artists that I've listened to on map. It's pretty neat - here's my map:


I really like this and I hope they extend this into the long tail. It'd be really neat if they could improve their event recommender to find the long tail artists that are playing in my neighborhood that I would like. It looks like their event recommender is only showing artists that I've already listened to (but I could be wrong). It'd be really helpful if their event recommender would point me to artists playing locally that I haven't heard, but might like.

Sten sent me this link to auditorium, a music-based puzzle game. It's fun and soothing at the same time.


Tuesday Jan 13, 2009

This visualization of heavy metal band names has to be part of some PhD thesis somewhere:


In their final year project, Monitoring and Visualizing, Christopher Adjei and Mils Holland-Cunz use data from to create visualizations that help identify new music trends as they spread around the world. This is one of the more stunning sets of visualizations of data that I've seen.




More visualizations with (German) descriptions of their procedures and stages of development are available here.

Via Visual Complexity

Monday Jan 12, 2009


Hmmm.... Bloodsport was a pretty savage movie ...
Via the Failblog

Friday Jan 09, 2009

Go to and search for tag emo and will happily show you that the top emo bands are Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Jimmy Eat World, Brand New, Death Cab for Cutie and Taking Back Sunday. Pretty easy right? Next, go to the Wikipedia and look at the List of Emo Artists - they have a list of 75 or so bands that have 'been referred to as, or had their music described as emo'. Again, that seems to be pretty straightforward. But emo is not so simple. Just take a look at the Wiki discussion page for the list of emo artists - you'll find a debate as vigorous and vitriolic as the great emacs vs. vi debate of the 80s, the paper vs. plastic debate of the 90s and the Gervais vs. Carell debate of 00s all put together.

Some excerpts:

  • Emo is chaotic music. Emo is a form of hardcore punk. Emo is closely related to screamo. Pop rock is not. Who started this whole emo thing? Rites of Spring. Neon White, go listen to Rites of Spring. Tell me the difference between them and Panic! At the Disco. They just don't sound anything alike. I like all music, and pop rock, but I have enough sense to know that their is a huge line between emo, and mainstream music. Therefore, Wikipedia itself, is unreliable
  • hm.... im a bit puzzled here... the article is named "list of emo band", yet there's not a single emo band in the entire list....
  • My Chemical Romance is not emo. Alexisonfire is not emo, Fall Out Boy? just posers. Real emo music is emocore emo violence, screamo, emopunk, indie/emorock
  • all Out Boy May not be emo but they are not possers
  • THREE DAYS GRACE not!!!! emo!!! they are POST GRUNGE!!!!

And the discussion just goes on and on. People can't agree what emo is.

Photo (CC) by Feel the Fever.

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