Thursday Jun 07, 2007

Continuing  are look at the workspaces of the Music 2.0 companies, here's a few images at Guitar Hero day at Pandora:

In these shots you can't see the work areas too well, but it appears to be standard office fair: drop ceilings, florescent lighting, and cubicles.  The large shared space is nice, and it looks like they have fun playing pool or guitar hero.

 Here's a photo from an O'Reilly article on Pandora showing the music analysts at work.  This looks to be more like a war room - little desk space, with  barely enough room to move a mouse.


Wednesday Jun 06, 2007

Media and Culture writer Chris Dahlen is liveblogging the passing of a 3mm kidney stone. He's a funny guy:

I have two drugs: Percoset for the pain, if it gets that bad - and it will - and some nausea medication that comes in suppository form. Makes sense to take an anti-nausea drug some way other than orally, but then again, have you ever tried to shove a pill up your ass while you’re puking out your guts? Through the power of WordPress, I will take you there.


Here are the Odeo digs:

Here's the space before they moved in: 

And here's what they've done with it:


Another Odeo space ... looks like a dungeon to me (no windows except on the workstation)


Off of the main dungeon are the Nooks:


(Note that I don't think Odeo is developed in these offices anymore, this team has moved on to develop the extremely popular Twitter and sold Odeon to an NYC-based company). 

The iLike office is shown here.  This was a pretty new space for them when they took the photo, so it doesn't have the 'lived-in' look that I'm sure it has now.  I like the open space and huge windows.  The bare lightbulbs are a bit funky.  I'm guessing everyone is near an edge of the room because that's where the power and network cables are.  No sign of a whiteboard.


 This space looks pretty cool - brick, plants, non-fluorescent lighting.


Some nice brick here (the tin foil is not standard issue), but the air conditioner worries me a bit - loud and too hot unless you are sitting right in front of it, then ... too cold).  I believe this is the first iLike office (described on their blog as a 'dark, dank, cave')

(Thanks Greg for the pointer)

The Facebook 3rd party application platform is barely a week old - but even so it is getting hard to keep track of all of the cool music apps available for Facebook.  Thus FacebookMusic.

FacebookMusic is a directory of  facebook music related informatoin and apps.  Currently they are listing about 20 different music-related facebook apps, with a short description of each app.  Hopefully they'll expand their site to include reviews of the various apps as well.  (Thanks for the tip, Greg).

Tuesday Jun 05, 2007

Continuing our tour of the various Music 2.0 offices, we move on to MyStrands

MyStrands is split across a couple of continents.  The US headquarters, in Corvallis Washington Oregon are in a converted building (I think I remember one of the MyStrands crew telling me it used to be a hospital).  The digs look pretty nice - high ceilings, nice lighting.  The cubicals don't fit too well though in the classic space.  A bit of a clash ...


 Clearly much of the fun stuff is happening at the Barcelona office ... hardly any workstations, everyone has a laptop or an iMac - lots of chances for serendipitous communications, but keep the ear plugs nearby if  you are going to need to concentrate.  Watch out though, one spilled coffee could take out three macbooks.


There's a whiteboard and very minimal decor (just a single movie poster ..)

It looks like a fun, and highly productive space. Definitely no hiding here.  (Thanks Justin for the tip)

Your typical day at the office
Originally uploaded by fritzon. offices seem a bit cramped (perhaps this is taken before their move). No tablecloths, no curtains - but lots of whiteboard, natural light, no possibility of spending all day goofing off in this space.

Update:  Elias sends some photos from the new Last.FM digs:


And more in the Flickr pool

Action in The Rainbow Room
Originally uploaded by Rsms.
The rainbow room at Spotify - it's in the city, has natural light, nice whiteboards, funky curtains and a tablecloth. This has a nice European feel to the space.

Originally uploaded by jkoshi.
This looks like a fun space = lots of natural lighting, lots of wood, signs of vegetation, some whiteboard - but perhaps a bit cramped. Where would I put my stack of O'Reilly books?

Originally uploaded by unixville.
Here at Sun, we've been thinking a bit about our office space. Much of it was designed in the midst of the dot com boom - where offices had doors, there was desk space for one workstation and barely room for a single visitor. Maybe this environment isn't really the best way to foster an interesting and productive collaboration among team members.

I've seen lots of photos of interesting workspaces for the Web 2.0 companies. These companies are small, have shoestring budgets, are staffed mostly by young, energetic types. I think some of the offices of these companies may be interesting models for what our team space can look like at Sun.

So with that, I may be posting a few images of Music 2.0 companies that seem to have some interesting office space. And if you think your office is particularly interesting, toss a photo or two on Flickr and send me the link.

Monday Jun 04, 2007

A month ago, it was a pretty miserable time for Music 2.0.  The Copyright Royalty Board had decided to raise fees on internet radio, threatening to put all of our favorite online music providers from Radio Paradise to Pandora out of business.  But Online music received a stay of execution unto July 15th, while the RIAA tried to figure out the best way to decapitate the future of music.  So the month of May started out pretty bleak for digital music - but since then all sorts of really good things have happened:

  • Amazon announced that they were going to (for real this time) open a digital music store to compete with iTunes (remember, competition is good, split infinitives are bad)
  • Bills have been introduced to Congress to nullify the CRB decision (Tim Westergren of Pandora has been leading the fight, Thanks Tim)
  • Apple started selling DRM free tracks on iTunes (lets ignore the fact that Apple is embedding your email address in the 'DRM-Free' tracks for now.)
  • Pandora announced its new Pandora on-the-go products - moving internet radio onto portable devices and into the living room
  • MusicBranz started running there database on a Sun server. W00t!
  • Slacker received VC funding of $40 million (!)
  • CBS Buys Last.FM for $280 Million!!!!!!! (one '!' is worth $40 million nowadays)
  • All the cool Music 2.0 people have a party on Facebook
  • Net, Blogs and Rock and Roll gets a cover.
  • A million Facebookers start using the iLike plug-in, MOG has trouble keeping up with all of their new Facebook members
  • The Apple iPhone gets a release date
  • Pandora, Last.FM and Slacker get good mentions in the main stream press

That's a whole lotta good stuff happening.  I think we really are at some magic tipping point here.   Soon it will be a normal thing for casual music listeners to use a music recommender-driven internet radio.  It's starting to happen now! So stop playing Desktop Tower Defense and start coding the next killer Facebook music app. 

Saturday Jun 02, 2007

As you all know by now, the audioscrobbler is a music player plugin from Last.FM that keeps track of what you play.  When you play a track, the scrobbler scrobbles the play data back to where it is added to their massive taste database.  The word 'scrobble' really is a great word.  It is fun to say, and in some odd way seems to be descriptive of my taste data being stuffed into a database.   I've wondered if the word was a made up concoction of RJ (the guy at Last.FM who wrote the first scrobbler) or if the word was an English-ism that every UK resident uses every day ("Children, help me scrobble the blood pudding into the wardrobe").   I asked RJ about this - he says that he has always thought that the word was a made up word without any previous meaning.

Funny thing is, I encountered the word in the wild and not in the context of Music 2.0.   I was reading the book called "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman.  In this book there is a passage of dialog between two characters (Vandemar and Coup) where they talked about 'scrobbling' a girl  (which likely meant that they  would do something nasty to her). This book was published before the birth of the Audioscrobbler, so I asked RJ about it. He said he never read it.   I also asked Neil Gaiman where he got the word from, but he has yet to reply.  And so in the end we have a new word to add to the dictionary with perhaps at least two meanings.   (I'm scrobbling some weezer right now).

The blogosphere has been filled with posts lately about Facebook, especially with their new Facebook Platform. At TechCrunch,   Mike Arrington posted about how iLike has become the most popular Facebook app, with 10,000 users in just the first 10 hours of service. joined the party late, but is gaining steam.  

At the same time, I've been hearing from my kids (3 teenagers + 1 tweenager) that Facebook was the cool place to be now, "MySpace is so old and tired".  My son who leaves soon for his first year in college has already made lots of college friends through a facebook group for freshman entering SUNY Plattsburgh. 

So it seemed,  I should learn more about Facebook. I signed up and explored a bit.  Almost instantly I got 'friend request' from Toby of MusicMobs - he was starting up a Music 2.0 Facebook group along with Jason (MuSick in the Head).  I joined the group and have been really amazed at how quickly the group has grown. A testament to all things viral.  In the past week, the Music 2.0 group has grown to over 30 members including principals and technical staff from companies like, iLike, Pandora, Goombah, MusicMobs,, GarageBand.  It is pretty neat to see all these people in one space - it is interesting for  instance to see that Tom Conrad, CTO of Pandora likes 'The Office' and has an active Last.FM music profile.

I'm not exactly sure where this group is going or what will happen with it, but there's certainly a potential that I've never seen before, with everyone (potentially) from the music 2.0 space in the same 'room'.   If you are doing things in the Music 2.0 space, feel free to join. Send me an email or leave a comment and I'll send you an invite.

Friday Jun 01, 2007

In the video Music Intelligence: 2012, Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Blink), interviews Mike McCready, CEO of Platinum Blue.  Platinum Blue is a company that has a "hit predictor" as well as a hybrid music recommender (using social and 'mathematical similarity').    

I must admit that I've always been quite skeptical about hit predictors, and after watching this video I am even more skeptical.   Here's an example that set my bullsh*t detector off.

First we see a visualization of a music space:


Then, Mike shows us the same music space with all of the non-hits removed,  this leaves a plot that shows just the hit songs:


It is rather amazing isn't it how well the hits cluster -  and the clusters have such nice sharp boundaries too.  It's almost too good to be true - no wait, it *is* too good to be true.

Platinum Blue claims that their hit predictor is 80% to 85% accurate.  That's nothing, I can build a hit predictor that is 99.9% accurate.  No matter what song you give my hit predictor it says "not a hit".  If you run the 500,000 songs released last year through my hit predictor, it will only get about 500 of them wrong (the ones that actually became hits).

Listening to this interview makes my skin crawl - I just don't buy it, and I'm rather disappointed with Malcom Gladwell just accepting this without showing any skepticism.

There's an interesting article in the Washington Post called 40 Years Ago Today, by psycho-musicologist Dan Levitin about why the Beatles tunes are so memorable and seemingly timeless. (Thanks John)

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