Thursday May 31, 2007

The slides and the audio for my JavaOne talk about Search Inside the Music are online at the  JavaOne online site (you may have to register as a Sun Developer to get to the site).  The SITM talks is on the desktop track.  The slides are here (pdf), and you can watch synchronized slides with the audio here.

I've noticed that they've compressed the audio, removing all of the silence. It makes the pacing a bit unnatural, but still it is nice that they put this all online (and with a transcript too!). 

Update: yep, the slides are somewhat broken... the javaone site admins are 'working on it'.

Robert Kaye (back)
Originally uploaded by wmf.

If you are in London tomorrow, head on over to Queen Mary, University of London. Robert Kaye, founder and mayhem master at MusicBrainz is giving a seminar at the Center for Digital Music at Queen Mary. Friday 4pm, June 1, Electronic Engineering Department, Mile End Road, E1 4NS. Rumor is that Robert will have his hair shaved to form a map of the entire London Underground.

Maybe after that Robert can head on over to to convince the guys there to finish the hookup with MusicBrainz with all that nifty new CBS money.

Update:(via Steve Welburn)  Here's a nifty abstract for the talk:

GraceNote has built a walled garden of music metadata by stealing data from the commons. Music metadata holds the key to efficient communication about music on the internet; locking up this data in a walled garden hampers the further evolution of the music industry. Robert Kaye will talk about MusicBrainz, and open source/data project to build a music encyclopedia that actively works to create a music metadata commons on the Internet. The seminar will cover the future of MusicBrainz and MetaBrainz Foundation and how MusicBrainz aims to establish a Lingua Franca for unambiguous communication about music. Find out how MusicBrainz and MusicIP create a level playing field that allows everyone to participate in efficient communication and classification of music.

Update 2:

This talk is now available online at

Wednesday May 30, 2007

The recent acquisition of by CBS has me a bit worried. is a totally cool company that really gets the whole social web thing (in fact they are one of the defining web 2.0 sites out there). They harness the wisdom of the crowds to hook people up with content.  They have amassed a set of taste data that they use to give music listeners high quality recommendations. They use social tags to give new ways for users to explore, browse and discover music.  They've provided web services to let others access and use this data in all sorts of novel ways.  Even their name "" indicates that they are the new way of doing things, they are the last radio station you'll ever need.  

So when I heard that CBS was buying I had some very mixed feelings.  Certainly, I'm very happy for the folks at  They've done something special and deserve to be rewarded (and I hope all the money isn't going to the investors).  However, I'm more than a bit worried that CBS, with its old-media ways may screw things up for  We've seen it with web 2.0 acquisitions before, even with companies like Yahoo! that should understand these things. Remember when Yahoo! purchased Flickr  and they almost destroyed the community by pissing off their users?   Social web sites like Flickr and are all about the community, and it doesn't take much to piss off a community.  Luckily CBS says that they'll leave Martin, Felix and RJ in charge at - nevertheless I worry that the old media guys will do something stupid with  Some advice to CBS. Please don't:

  • Surround with ads and promos such that it is hard to find the site. (like you see at Yahoo! Music)
  • Disable or cripple their webservices
  • Eliminate ties to other sites such as Amazon and Youtube that may be competing with CBS
  • Require legal approvals anytime they want to push a new feature  (I've always been amazed at how fast RJ can push out new web services features).
  • Piss off your users by doing stupid things like changing their logins or spamming them with ads
  • Mix artist promotion with artist recommendation
  • Switch the focus from music to video

Please do leave Martin, Felix and RJ  in charge and let them do what they do best, which is to make a really cool music 2.0 community. I've heard from folks inside say that they have been ensured that will continue on the path it is on.  RJ posts in the brand new blog that:

  • The team stays put in London.
  • We will continue to execute our world domination plans – our focus is still music and the surrounding ecosystem. The founders (myself included) are still at the helm.
  • We have more resources at our disposal now, and more clout when it comes to negotiating licensing deals etc.
  • OH NOES UR SELLIN MY SCROBBLES!!1!! — Don’t panic. The openness of our platform and our approach to privacy won’t change.

That is good news.  I hope it is true.

For $280million dollars.  More at the BBC. (via Hamish)

Bruce Johnson, tech lead of the Google Web Toolkit posts that the GWT 1.4 release candidate is now available for download.  Highlights in this release (from my point of view) are:

  • Size and speed improvements - the GWT are doing everything they can to reduce the startup time, including using ImageBundles to reduce the number of http requests needed to fetch static images.  There goal is 300ms maximum for an application  load time.
  • Some new widgets - RichTextArea, SuggestBox, PushButton, DisclosurePanel and Splitters.
  • Support for mouse wheel events
  • Lots of bug fixes (although I've yet to encounter a GWT bug).
See the release notes and the complete list of enhancements.

Tuesday May 29, 2007

10 years ago today, Jeff Buckley drowned in Memphis TN. Sigh ...



I'm a sucker for visualizations of music data.  Rocket Surgeon has a post highlighting more than a dozen ways to visualize your data.  Neat stuff.

Monday May 28, 2007

Another Amazon recommendation ... this one associates Snakes on a Plane and World Trade Center.  The only thing these movies have in common is the release date.


I'm reading and enjoying the book, Everything is Miscellaneous but I thought I'd check out the movie too.  This is a Google talk by author David Weinberger.

Originally uploaded by blakeemrys.
If you like the Chronicles of Narnia you may want to trim those nose hairs (or ear hairs).

Amazon apparently has discovered a statistical correlation between purchasers of C.S Lewis's classic and purchasers of the Panasonic Nose and Ear Hair Groomer. (I'm guessing that it was Mr Tumnus who skewed the curve).

Friday May 25, 2007

Here's a screenshot of a recommendation made by Amazon's wonderful book recommender.  This shows the classic collaborative filtering (CF) algorithm at work:  "Customers who bought the Da Vinci Code also bought these items ... " It is a great way to get recommendations, but sometimes it can go awry.  Here we see three recommendations. The first two recommendations seem quite reasonable: Digital Fortress is a book by the same author as the Da Vinci Code, Holy Blood Holy Grail is a book about the same subject matter as the Da Vinci code.  The 3rd recommendation - the 5th Harry Potter book, seems rather strange.  It is a book written for a completely different demographic - middle schoolers and young adults, it is a fantasy about school kids and has very little similarity to an art history thriller such as the Da Vinci Code.  So what gives? Is the Amazon recommender broken?  Nah ... it is doing it's job just fine.  The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince do have one thing in common.  They are both very popular books and they happened to be very popular at the same time.  When mom would go to Amazon to order a copy of the Da Vinci Code, she would also pick up a copy of Harry Potter for the kids.  This was repeated thousands of time, and the Amazon recommender duly noted the correlation.   From a shopper's perspective, it is probably a pretty good recommendation.  Amazon knows that if you buy this book, based on its data, there's a 5% chance that you'll pick up the latest Harry Potter as well.  However, from a book reader's perspective, this is probably a poor recommendation, the books have little in common. 

A recommender for shopping is not the same as a recommender for discovery.  If you are shopping for books, Amazon is the place to go, but if you are looking for a good book to read, you may want to use a recommender like LibraryThing that recommends books based on who has read a book as opposed to who has purchased a book.


Thursday May 24, 2007

Brutal Death Metal is an extreme form of death metal filled death growls  (Cookie Monster vocals),  gore-filled lyrics and  down-tuned, hyper-fast guitars. Brutal Death Metal bands have names like  Disgorge, Deeds of Flesh, Devourment, Disavowed, Krisiun, Nile, Skinless, Suffocation, Vile, Wormed, and Cannibal Corpse.  This video of Krisiun captures the essence of brutal death metal:

At, there are hundreds of band that have been tagged with 'brutal death metal'.  They tend to have rather grim names like  Cryptopsy, Aborted, Dying Fetus, Decapitated.  However, there is one artist that has been tagged with 'brutal death metal' more than any other artist. This artist is the king of the brutal death metal hill, being tagged with 'brutal death metal'  a hundred times more than the #2  Brutal Death Metal Band.   This  artist is none other than Paris Hilton.   Here are the tags for Brutal Death Metal:

Paris Hilton is keeping strange company, perhaps she's trying to toughen up her image before she heads to prison. (And Barney the Dinosaur  is not too shabby at #18 in the list).

We all know that no matter what we may think of Paris Hilton, she is not a Brutal Death Metal artist.  What we are seeing here is the result of social tagging vandalism.  I can imagine some 14 year old kid getting a laugh tagging Paris Hilton with Brutal Death Metal, knowing that sooner or later someone will be listening to's Paris Hilton radio and be surprised and shocked to hear Cryptopsy. Of course, this goes the other way too.  If you listen to Brutal Death Metal tag radio, you are very likely to hear Paris Hilton (ouch!).  (Go ahead, give it a try)

Social tagging vandalism is the Web 2.0 equivalent of writing graffiti on the bathroom wall - its a way for the meek to lash out while hiding behind the veil of anonymity.  But social tagging vandalism does have a real impact.  Tagging vandalism, if unchecked, can devalue the entire set of tags.   Of course you can expect noise in your tags, there will always be the off-topic tags such as lazy eye, but when the errant tags dominate (such as we see here with Paris Hilton)  all of the other tags applied to Paris Hilton mean less.  Sites like that let you do all sorts of interesting things with tags (such as listen to tag radio), have to protect their data otherwise the value of the tags will be lost.   Just like we need to occasionally paint the bathroom walls, tagging sites need to occasionally clean up their tags.

Wednesday May 23, 2007

This little announcement has appeared on the Webjay site:

Announcement: Webjay will be closing at the end of June! Click here to learn how you can back up your playlists and keep your player running smoothly.

This isn't too surprising.  Lucas Gonze, the man behind Webjay, has been busy on other things, and development on Webjay seemed to have stopped a while ago.  I hope they make their data available for the research community. 

If you are looking for an alternative playlist sharing site, check out the review that DJ Alchemi wrote a few years back.  He compares 7 playlist services (although he neglects to mention my favorite: MusicMobs).   (Via Rocketsurgeonblog

Last night, Pandora unveiled their new 'Pandora on The Go'.  For $3 a month (in addition to your data plan) you can bring listen to your Pandora stations on your Sprint phone.  Pandora is putting the full Pandora function on the phone.  You can create new stations, rate tracks, learn more why a song was played.  No word yet on the sound quality or bit rate.


Pandora also announced that Pandora will now run on the Sonos Digital Music System.  For $36 per year, you can get Pandora on your Sonos.  (Isn't it already free on your  Squeezebox? )


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