279 Spore skeletons
Using the Spore API and Processing to draw Spore creature skeletons
Eclipse | EcoArtTech
Online artwork that alters images of US National Parks based on the current air pollution. Nice idea though the image corruption could be more interesting
Guardian API Maps
Cute geocoder for Guardian articles, developed by Stamen...
...and a prototype article tagger built on the new Guardian Open Platform which uses Freebase for lookup and disambiguation. The problem with both of these is that there's no motivation, apart from the goodness of their hearts, for people to tag.
Very lightweight Ruby web framework...
...and Rails hosting in the cloud
Wall Street on the Tundra | vanityfair.com
"Iceland’s de facto bankruptcy—its currency (the krona) is kaput, its debt is 850 percent of G.D.P., its people are hoarding food and cash and blowing up their new Range Rovers for the insurance—resulted from a stunning collective madness. What led a tiny fishing nation, population 300,000, to decide, around 2003, to re-invent itself as a global financial power?"
About that Vanity Fair article
Good rebuff from an Icelander pointing out the more fictional parts of that Vanity Fair article.
Queen’s student gives twitterers ‘new voice’
A hacked radio that "...allows fans to listen to Twitter messages posted on the website in real time so they can keep up to date with friends, celebrities and even complete strangers. Mark uses an old fashioned radio to receive the tweets..."
More at http://delicious.com/tristanf
Friday, March 13, 2009
279 Spore skeletons
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Haven't done this for a while so this is a somewhat random selection of recent interesting links...
A Flickr group for photos of "things that have been translated into code. images must be split into inspiration and outcome. real thing on the left, coded thing on the right."
melka » Soundscapes
An ambitious series of visualisations of music from Messiaen to Pink Floyd using the EchoNest API to analyse the MP3 and then translating the results into a PCR/DNA-like diagram
In search of the click track « Music Machinery
Also using the Echo Next, but this time using the remix Python library to work out which drummers use a click track (or can keep time)
Good Radio Club
From Jem and Steve - "Its like, social listening. ie: its a bunch of fellow radio4 fans tweeting along in real time listening to a 30 minute radio show chosen in advance. Its live. We thought about doing Listen Again but went for an old fashioned scheduled broadcast. Its 8.30pm. This Thursday February 26th on BBC Radio 4."
"You make a bucket on Amazon S3, filled with MP3s. When someone visits your S3 Radio station, it builds a playlist from the contents of the bucket and starts streaming it to the listener, in a random order." - easy internet radio from Tom Taylor.
The Curious Cook - Do You Need All That Water to Boil Pasta? - NYTimes.com
"My rough figuring indicates an energy savings at the stove top of several trillion B.T.U.s. At the power plant, that would mean saving 250,000 to 500,000 barrels of oil, or $10 million to $20 million at current prices"
More at http://delicious.com/tristanf
Over the last year or so I've been giving this presentation in various altered forms, various places and various times. It's about Radio Pop, a social listening site, Olinda, a future radio concept, and how we're trying to take radio into the future. I've finally got round to uploading it to Slideshare and include the full talk below. I hope it's useful to someone. Apologies for the zeitgeist-riding title, (it might be his fault).
[1. TITLE SLIDE]
"In a world where social networking is all the rage, where does radio fit in? How can broadcasters help manufacturers develop new products, and help listeners discover new programmes, new music and new stations? Includes a practical demonstration using cutting-edge technology; and everything you need so you can take this idea and use it for yourself."
I'm Tristan and I work for the Future Media & Technology team at BBC Audio & Music Interactive.
[2. WHO ARE WE]
We're the people that bring you the technology behind bbc.co.uk/radio/ and bbc.co.uk/music/ websites, Listen Again on the Radio Player, BBC podcasts, digital radio, our interactive TV services, our mobile sites and lots more.
I do Research & Development (R&D) within our team, working on innovative ideas and building prototypes. Much of my R&D work involves leading teams working on prototypes, mainly on web-based applications and sites. And this forms a basis for this talk, what I'm going to show you are working prototypes. They are real but they are for the illustration of ideas, for experimentation and for scoping how a real solution might work. But they're probably not quite ready for release to the public.
[3. THREE THINGS]
I'm going to be looking at three things today, three talks in one in fact
I'm going to be talking about consumers and audiences, a social networking site for radio and a new radio.
[4. GENERATION C]
First I'm going to talk a bit about audiences and consumers.
Generation C is something described by a Trendwatching.com report, it's a marketing term, but useful as a framework. They identified Generation C as not defined by age but defined by activity. Those activities are lots of things beginning with C!
They create things and generate content, they form communities, they like control over things and like to customise things and they're connected with the internet, other technologies and devices and each other.
Generation C like communities, in real life, on the internet and in the overlapping of the two.
Look at how much people use SMS, how kids use it as a kind of gift-giving, behaviour seen in many cultures.
And websites, particularly those Web 2 point 0 sites (sorry) are really good at creating and supporting communities. Sites like last.fm and Flickr - generally known as social software.
Generation C like to create things. And they like to be involved in products, they want to help form the next device. And they want to adapt them, customise them, put stickers on them
They also have options, and if a product is no good then they'll adapt it, do or use something else or just make it better themselves. Think how the TV broadcast infrastructure has been completely reinvented with BitTorrent or how the music industry is struggling to deal with P2P music downloading.
Generation C are used to being connected and they're also used to their devices and services connecting to each other.
Flickr is a photo sharing site and one thing it does well is provide services for other websites to get to your photos. Because they provide these services (or APIs) then other companies can sell services like printing your photos, or turning them into stickers. Or users can download screensavers that show their friends' latest photos, direct from the web. The API enables a commercial ecosystem to develop around Flickr's product.
Or look at the connector on the bottom of an iPod - that lets you customise your MP3 player with all sorts of things from radios to voice recorders to electronic pedometers! There's a whole additional market.
So there you go, a bit about Generation C, an interesting sector of the audience.
[8. SOME YOUNG PEOPLE]
I'm going to have a break from talking now by showing you a video. These are a few Voxpops from some research done by the BBC around the use of new media and technology by teenagers, what they called "Wanabees"
Sorry about the mention of TV at the end. But that was Facebook, MySpace, Facebook, MySpace etc etc! You get the idea.
[9. ACTUAL RADIO FOR FACEBOOK]
So here is some actual radio for Facebook.
This is the BBC Radio Listen Live application for Facebook, developed by one of our software engineers. You can add this to your Facebook profile to make it really easy to listen to your favourite BBC Radio stations from within that site. I think we've got around 8000 users now, and that's with no promotion, just word of mouth. Quite interesting.
OK, that was a bit of a diversion into some of the kind of audiences and consumers that are out there. What could we, the BBC, and the radio industry, build for them?
[10. SOCIAL NETWORKING FOR RADIO]
We're developing something we call Radio Pop. Radio Pop enhances your radio listening. Enabling you to create a personal record of the radio programmes you like, and see what your friends and everyone else is listening to.
I think it has two key aspects...
* Social networking for radio - see what your friends are listening to, track their favourite stations, get notifications when they are listening etc.
* Attention data for radio - it tracks and stores what radio you listen to - i.e. data about what you are giving your "attention" to.
Well, radio listening today is a very solitary activity, at least we don’t often sit as a family and all listen to the radio together like we used to. Or listen to the radio with our friends.
So we wanted to create something that would show a sense of liveness and community, some things which are really important to radio. But we wanted to reflect these on the web.
But how do we get people to use a site like this? Ideally we want something that doesn't really require the listener to do anything much extra than they do already. Let me talk a bit about communities and participation.
[13. CREATION AND COMMUNITIES]
Bradley Horowitz, who runs product strategy at Yahoo!, has suggested that communities on the internet have a pyramid-like model of how people participate. 1% of a group might create something - start a messageboard thread or upload a song, 10% of a group might actively participate - contribute to the thread or comment on the music, but 100% of that community benefit from all the activity above - they all read it, listen to it, watch the video whatever.
[14. CREATION AND COMMUNITIES]
You can also look at the pyramid by the type of activity. Here's some activities that could apply to radio and radio websites, or indeed media in general...
At the bottom we have listening - just listening to the radio is participating (in the broadest sense) and is contributing something to the experience of the radio show.
Up from that we have "like"; showing an interest in something, whether it's a song, a programme or an interview, like a thumbs-up.
Then "rate" - bit more than just "liking" an item, you can explicitly give it a rating. i.e. like the star rating of a book on Amazon
Then "tag" - describing something using one or two words or tags. You might be familiar with sites like Flickr ,delicious or last.fm which allow you to tag photos, bookmarks and music respectively. When you do this you're helping create a user-generated taxonomy - a folksonomy as it's known.
Finally "create" - "user-generated content" whether it's sending in photos, posting on messageboards or remixing radio programmes. This is at the top of the pyramid needing a fair amount of effort and motivation from the user. And this corresponds to the smaller percentage of people that do this.
I would propose that more people will do the things at the bottom of the pyramid, maybe not the 100% of Bradley's pyramid who are just part of the community of visiting the site but certainly closer to the 10% of people who participate.
[15. CREATION AND COMMUNITIES]
So to encourage participation and for a low barrier of entry to our social networking site for radio we've built Radio Pop to support the two lowest layers of the pyramid - Listen and Like. The system tracks and stores your radio listening in a database - which requires no more participation than just listening to your radio - and you can express an interest in something on the radio; like it, bookmark it.
[16. LEAN BACK]
There's another way of thinking about the distinction between modes of participation and interactions with systems like this. Lean back and Lean forward.
Lean back - something you can do while leaning back in your comfy chair. Not literally, but something you can do without actively concentrating on it, or while doing something else. An examples of lean back activity like this would be listening to your radio whilst cooking.
[17. LEAN FORWARD]
Lean forward - what you do when you're interacting or concentrating on something. So examples of this this might be checking out your Facebook page on your laptop or sending someone an SMS.
And people will switch between these modes at will, but one will generally be more appropriate for a particular situation.
So for Radio Pop leaning back would be listening, and leaning forward would be expressing an interest or liking something.
OK, now a third metaphor - we've had pyramids and chairs. Now supermarkets.
We've talked about how we can encourage people to use the site and how we track and store data about listening.
You can think about tracking radio listening as a bit like a supermarket loyalty card - all the data about what consumers consume (or what listeners listen to) can then be mined for all sorts of interesting information about the people or the products which can then be used for targeted promotion, personalisation, audience analysis etc.
[19. LOYALTY CARD]
What might a BBC loyalty card look like? Hmmm...Probably not like that!
[20. WHAT DO WE GET?]
What could we do with this lean back (listening) and lean forward (liking) data about people's radio habits in real-time? We could build many products and services.
Personal data on your listening - Diaries of what you’ve listened to - maybe print out an annual report of your listening, the ability to import and export the data from and to other related services.
Community data showing what everyone is listening to right now, or over the past week. what are the fastest growing programmes?
And we could visualise of the data and get instant feedback all over the web.
[21. RADIO POP]
So let's have a look at the prototype site we've built, Radio Pop. I've done a movie of it in action because it's never good to try a live demo, something will go wrong...
[22. HOME PAGE]
[23. SCREENCAST DEMO - just starts]
We thought around the branding quite a bit and ended up with the words - "you, tap, buzz and pulse" to represent you, tapping into your friends, the buzz of everyone and the pulse of gathering and distributing the data. These terms meshed nicely with rounded, circle and bubble-like graphics. This was also at the time when the BBC radio networks rebranded, and the new consistent circular logos work really well with this graphical style and are used in some of our infographics, animations and graphs on the site.
"Pop" was used as the term for liking something, and also as the name of the service - Radio Pop. OK, it might not be appropriate for a real service, with its suggestions of pop music, but it's good enough for now
This is the homepage if you're not signed in.
However if you've signed up then you get this page when you visit - the "you" page. This is the page for your data - I'll come on to how we get the data in a moment, for now just assume we can collect radio listening data.
We've got 3 infographics on this page. At the top is your listening for the past 7 days - there's a stacked bar chart showing your listening by network for each day and there's scaled logos representing your total listening that week.
Next is your all-time listening - a bar chart by radio programme and a pie chart by network.
Finally there's a list of when you have "popped" - ie. when you expressed an interest in a song or a programme - it shows you when and what network you were listening to.
Oh, and there's also an RSS feed of your recent events, which you or your friends can subscribe to.
So how do we get the listening data to create this?
Ideally Radio Pop would track your listening through the BBC Radio Player - both Live listening and Listen Again. But Radio Pop requires you to be signed in to the service, so it knows who you are, and we don't have a sign-in facility in the radio player yet. In the time we had we weren't able to integrate Radio Player listening directly into the prototype. Instead there is a "Radio" page from where you can listen to Radio Player live streams while it tracks your listening and lets you pop the interesting bits.
Let's listen to something (i.e. lean back). Sorry, there's no audio in this capture.
(select Radio 1)
And, leaning forward, we can pop if we've heard a song we like we'll bookmark it
Lets go back to my page
(back to you page)
So we can see, at the bottom, there's the thing we just popped on Edith Bowman's show.
The next page on the site, "tap", tapping into your friends. You can add friends just like any other social networking sites and if you've accepted a friend request then their data appears on this page, aggregated with all your other friends.
At the top are a list of your friends and controls to let you add or remove friends.
But then it's very similar to the You page - except the infographics show the aggregate, collective data of just your friends. So you're seeing your friends' favourite radio programmes and networks.
But from here you can also click through to your friends' personal pages and just see their data.
(Click through to FridayForward)
this is chris, the software engineer who wrote most of this
So that's his radio listening
And finally, completing the trio, is the "buzz" page. This collects everyone's data and displays the favourite networks, most listened programmes and pops from everybody that is using the site.
There's an animation that scales the radio network logos to represent how much each network is being listened to. OK, so we haven't many active users yet! See how the new network logos work really well here?
So this is the aggregate listening data for everyone that's using the Radio Pop prototype.
The final part of the site, the "pulse" page provides a number of extras that you can download. Shown here is a widget for Macs which lets you listen to live 1Xtra from your desktop while tracking your listening and includes a "Pop" button if you like something you hear. We've got that installed, let's try it...
(Call up dashboard)
(Start playing 1xtra and then pop)
So that's another way to listen.
That's it - a quick demo of the Radio Pop site.
[24. YOUR DATA]
[25. THEN ADD FRIENDS]
[26. EVERYONE ELSE]
[27. WAYS TO LISTEN]
[28. GETTING IT OUT THERE]
It's Zane Lowe.
We think it would be important to make this listening data available in lots of places, not just on the BBC or the Radio Pop site.
People like to display data about themselves, particularly with music and media - it's part of advertising their identity. Just look at peoples' profiles on MySpace and Facebook or the success of sites like last.fm
[29. GETTING IT OUT THERE]
So we allow users to display their data publically by putting a widget on their blog or MySpace page - this one sits on your site and then changes to show when you are actually listening to Zane's show.
[30. GETTING IT OUT THERE]
Remember I talked about Connectiveness for Generation C?
Well we've got APIs too!
We make the listening data available as RSS for people to subscribe to. All the data is available through an API so other people or companies can build it into their sites or create new products that we haven't thought of. An API is just a way of defining how other websites and computer programs can get to your data. Making your data available openly on the web can be a very powerful thing.
As we take this project further we would also aspire to making the data portable - so you can take it away and use it with other similar sites.
[31. HOW IT WORKS]
Don't worry, I'm not really going to tell you how it works. Just that Radio Pop can support lots of different inputs and lots of different outputs.
On the left are the Inputs which feed listening data into Radio Pop. This could include the BBC Radio Player, the Facebook radio player or the 1xtra widget I showed you earlier.
And on the right are the outputs, things that can use the data in Radio Pop. I divide this into two sections.
Presentation of your personal data; user pages, widgets for blogs, items in your Facebook minifeed.
And the presentation of public, anonymous, mass data; how many people are listening on Radio Player right now, charts and graphs, most popular programmes on a radio station etc.
And in the middle is Radio Pop
[32. RADIO POP QUOTE]
There are loads of things that we didn't get time to include in the prototype.
Certainly everything should link up to songs that were played. It would be interesting to see a list of all the songs that you've heard to on the radio recently or be able to use the "pops" as a way to bookmark favourite or new songs. And similarly with speech programming you should be able to bookmark interviews, news stories or articles that you were interested in.
It would be fairly simple to use SMS so that listeners could "pop" something on Radio 1 just by sending "pop" in a text to 81199.
Privacy - it's a big issue. Will people mind that we are tracking their listening, obviously it's an opt-in system, but how many people will be comfortable with this? We make all the data public by default at the moment. There is a setting to make it private and visible only to you, though by doing so you detract from the overall utility of the site for you and for others.
We'd like to make the prototype public and try it out, though this needs a bit of work - using open standards where possible and re-working the site so it is reliable, scalable and fast. Oh, and making it run on the BBC's web servers, which is another talk entirely!
----------Onto part 3
[33. OLINDA - A NEW RADIO]
I'm going to talk about a radio we've been building, it's called Olinda. It's got a number of really exciting features which I'd like to talk about.
[34. PHYSICAL PROTOTYPING]
Physical prototyping - A starting point.
Building working electronic devices has become much easier in recent years for both individuals and small companies. There are a number of kits around that enable anyone with a minimal knowedge of electronics to just plug things together and write code for them. Which started us thinking.
But why would we want to build a new radio?
1. Physical things make people think differently and can help them better understand new concepts - like social networking maybe
2. The DAB market is fairly mature and very successful but there is not a huge amount of innovation at the moment, we think there might be room for something that will help stimulate that market.
3. Online radio is great but people still like to listen to the radio through actual radios. Could we design a radio for Generation C?
[36. BUILD A FUTURE RADIO]
Inspired by this trend towards easier prototyping we decided to kick off some exploratory work to build a future-looking radio. We commissioned a design and technology consultancy called Schulze & Webb to build a real, working, physical, innovative DAB radio.
I was hoping to have them here today to talk about it themselves, but unfortunately they weren't available.
These are the features that the radio will have and what each might mean...
“Radio devices can look better and work better to support home listening”
“Modular hardware is achievable and means devices can be customised for specific functions”
“Even small social features go a long way to support discovery and conversations”
What could we do with licensing to stimulate the industry?
Schulze & Webb proposed that the project should be named Olinda - it's both a city in a novel by Italo Calvino and a real city in Brazil.
Let's go into these features in more detail
[38. FORM AND INTERFACE]
The radio should be visually striking and there should be some novel interaction design.
First lets use some of the lessons of datamining from the web, and derive the presets. There'll be an automatically-generated dynamic favourites list.
The stations that you listen to most will be really easy to find, in fact they'll have their own tuning knob.
And let's make the radio suitable for its situation. So there'll be two screens. There will be a large forward facing screen for viewing information like LiveText from across the room and a secondary, smaller screen for when you're standing over the radio interacting with it and tuning.
[39. FORM DEVELOPMENT]
Schulze and Webb talk about a product being shelf-demonstrable - meaning that even sitting in a box in shop, a product can explain itself to the customer (or at least tell its simplest story in a matter of seconds). This means that it can be hard to be ambitious in the design of products and in the end some of the visual ideas have had to be compromised and the radio is going to be relatively visually conservative. This is partly due to cost and partly because we didn't want to take anything away from the concepts and new ideas by making it look different and completely unlike a conventional radio.
Here are some of the concepts and the development of the form of the radio.
[FINAL ONE] This is what it will look like
Back to the Generation C aspect of things being extendable and customisable. The Olinda radio will have an open, standardised hardware API - with defined connections and defined protocols for the data. It's a bit like the expansion port on an iPod, and this makes the radio modular.
This hardware API enables add-on modules to be plugged in. And these modules can use the API to find out information like which station the radio is tuned to and the current LiveText, and lets them control the radio.
This enables anyone; the manufacturer or third parties, to create add-on modules which should all work with any radios implementing this API. And we think this could create a secondary market for DAB add-on products which will benefit manufacturers and consumers.
The picture shows some of the physical interlocking mechanisms looked at for the add-on modules - as part of the device's connectedness it should be obvious that it is extendable. I think the final mechanism is going to use magnets.
[47. WHAT MODULES?]
There we go, magnets!
As part of the project Schulze & Webb are building a single kind of module - which will use the hardware API and prove that it works.
[48. THE WIRELESS]
And this additional module? It's a wireless, literally! That's a bit old school isn't it? It's a social module which includes wi-fi wireless networking. And the idea is to integrate radio listening with someone's social network.
When you get the module you configure it to connect to your home wireless network and then you set it up with your friends, at least those who have similar radios. You'll notice in these sketches that there are slots for your friends - these will have wipe-clean spaces for writing your friends' names or windows for putting in photos. So each slot on the wireless is customised and configured to represent one of your friends.
Then whenever they are listening to the radio their slot on your radio will light up. That's quite cool isn't it?
And when you push the associated button your radio will show you what they are listening to. And if you want to listen alongside them?
Just push select and it tunes to the station your friend is listening to.
So this will provide a sense of community around your radio, harking back to the times when families and friends used to gather around the radio to listen. But providing this in a glanceable, non-intrusive manner. And it will start to support conversations around radio programming and the discovery of new shows and stations. Social networking for your radio.
[57. OPEN SOURCE HARDWARE]
We've agreed with Schulze & Webb that the IPR, intellectual property, for the device; the idea, the functions and design, will be made available under an attribution license, a bit like open source software. It means that any manufacturer, a third party, anyone, can build one of these radios or an expansion module and all the BBC requires is some attribution. What we want this to do is stimulate the potential market around Olinda, similar DAB radios and the modular add-ons.
What we're NOT doing is building something for the BBC to sell!
[58. BUILDING IT]
The prototype radio is being built at the moment. The actual construction is being outsourced to a model-making company. The electronics were prototyped by Schulze & Webb and the PCB is being built as we speak.
[59. OLINDA - A NEW RADIO]
Unfortunately it's not quite ready yet, I was hoping I might be able to demonstrate it today...sorry!
I've talked about consumers and audiences and Generation C. A social networking site for radio and a new radio with social features. Where does this get us...?
[60. LOOK! THEY JOIN UP!]
Well, they join up. That's not an accident is it?
We've got an emerging set of consumers and listeners that spend their time on social networking sites and expect to be able to customise and connect their devices.
We've got the Radio Pop website that enables social networking around radio. And it's got an open API for getting data in and getting data out.
And then we've got an actual radio, Olinda, that includes a wireless module with social networking type functions.
Maybe we could join them up?
[61. OLINDA + RADIO POP]
I mentioned earlier that with the wireless module of Olinda you can configure it with your friends. Well, that configuration will happen on the Radio Pop site. When you first turn on your Olinda radio you will be given a unique code for that radio. You can enter that code on the Radio Pop site to associate that particular radio with your account. From then on, whenever you use Olinda to listen to the radio it will update your Radio Pop account with that data. And when your friends listen to their Olinda radios, their data will be sent to Radio Pop and then on to your radio, causing those friend lights to turn on.
But, obviously I guess, it's not just other Olinda radios that this will work with. Anything compatible with Radio Pop will work with Olinda and vice-versa. So if your friend is listening through the internet then their button on your radio will still light up.
What are we going to do next?
Well, talking here is a start.
Because it shouldn’t just be the BBC...something like Radio Pop might work if it only supported BBC Radio stations but it wouldn't work particularly well. Really it needs to support all radio stations.
Now, we don't really know how this would work - who would run Radio Pop? Maybe there would be a Radio Pop equivalent for each broadcaster, but they all inter-operate? Well I'd like your help - let me know if you're interested.
We can work together to make it a common platform and then compete with our content.
And radios as well. Do any of the radio manufacturers out there want to look at using the concepts in Olinda? Like I said, it's all under an attibution license - so you can.
Finally, very soon we should be in possession of a working Olinda radio. Well, two actually, otherwise it would be a bit hard to demonstrate properly!
That's our team's new blog - Radio Labs - and my email address.
Thanks to Schulze and Webb for all of the Olinda sketches and photos used.
And that's it, thank you for listening. Any questions?