Rainbow Day

Wednesday 10 October 2007


I wasn’t originally going to talk about Radiohead today.

It seemed a little too obvious. But sometimes you just have to go where the world takes you.

Today has been all about Radiohead. It has been all about Radiohead everywhere. Since about 7:10 this morning there’s barely been more then a few minutes where I haven’t been able to hear ‘In Rainbows’, whether directly via my iPod or speakers or from another room or on the radio. At any point today when I’ve walked through the office it’s been on in every room; a simple trip to someone’s desk compromising a nice 30 second preview of each track along the way.

Everyone on Twitter I follow seems to be listening to it. Everyone on iChat has had the track names flicking past as their status all day. My Facebook news feed has 11 references to it from people’s status updates.

Radiohead have made recorded music exciting again.

In fact, I think this is the most important aspect of this whole thing. Forget the whole ‘pay what you want’ thing – which is a very interesting experiment, but an experiment none the less (and one which will only work with certain fan demographics). No, by far the best piece of the whole thing is the digital release date – one date, to everyone (including press) with the physical coming later.

It’s made it the most exciting album release I can remember for the last 5 years at least.

Since downloading became a reality there hasn’t been this sense of ‘everyone’s getting it right now’ that you used to feel on a Monday morning when you used to nip to the shops to buy the album you’d been looking forward to for months. These days albums just trickle out, appearing on the internet with little or no fanfare, probably with a mp3 on some blogs and maybe a couple of tracks on the inevitable MySpace. It’s all so unexciting.

The album?

Probably the best thing released this year. Better then Hail to the Thief. Obviously better then Pablo Honey. Possibly better even then Amnesiac.

It is a truly beautiful piece of work.

On a different note, it’s interesting to look at how they’ve delivered the digital release. They obviously have no regard for the medium – which goes hand in hand with the almost throw away ‘pay what you want’ device – as it comes as a basic folder of 160kbps MP3s, with no artwork or any other extras. You could take it two ways really: either they hate or have no respect for digital (which is probably the correct answer) or they want the focus to be solely on the music. That’s all they’re giving you; just the music, nothing else.

It’s a statement I quite like. All the carry through from physical releases like artwork and packaging are in many ways superfluous these days, but without them the music is still perfectly adept and standing up on it’s own. However, for those of you that like your artwork have a look at this post by Jon Hicks for lots of fan made user generated versions to use with the download.



Tuesday 9 October 2007


Tally ho, chaps!

Welcome one and all to all you Rissington Podcast listeners – it’s sure nice of you to stop by!

It all of you regular readers who don’t know what I’m talking about, the Rissington Podcast is a new Podcast by Jon Hicks and John Oxton about all sorts of things; normally with a web/online bent, but the latest episode has a firm Radiohead bent and hence they brought me on to share a few opinions on the whole thing.

And as anyone will tell you, once you get me rabbeting on about music, it might be slightly hard to get me to stop…

I’ll be honest, the whole interviewing process – having not really done one before – was far less painful then I anticipated. I had always previously assumed that it would be horrible, akin to whenever I try and talk to any large group of people – getting stage fright, clamming up etc. Luckily enough it seemed to all go quite well, no doubt in part down to the hosts interview technique (which was mostly an attempt to get a word in edgeways).

I would like to point out at this juncture however, that my voice does not sound like that – I’m not sure what effects they’ve used, or whether they got someone to overdub it, but my voice is infinitely less camp then that.

Also, for any of you intrigued by this whole “sending people CDs” talk, take a look at this post here for a little background information. It’s an on-going experiment, and has already had some interesting effects so if any of you are interested let me know.


Music on your face

Monday 8 October 2007


If you were paying attention to my last Friday Links post you’ll see that I linked to a post about the possibility that Facebook might turn into a MP3 store – a fully fledged iTunes and Amazon rival.

It turns out, though, that they may be doing something much more interesting.

According to this post Facebook is not working on a iTunes rival, but a fully fledged platform for musicians and record labels. So, they’re not going after Apple at all…

...they’re tying to kill MySpace.

It’s funny, and quite typical of the pace of the industry (that can be so easy to forget sometimes), that a year (maybe even 6 months) ago the idea of a credible competitor to MySpace sounded pretty laughable. Sure, there were plenty of other networks milling around trying to get a slice of the pie (Tagworld, Haystack, iMeem et al) but none of them ever seemed like they would catch on (and it turns out they didn’t).

The big difference previously between MySpace and Facebook has been the absence of music, and in fact it doesn’t seem to have made much if any dent on Facebook’s popularity. It’s a pretty good indicator of how relevant the music aspect of MySpace was to its success: not really at all. People came for the music, and stayed for the social interaction. You would have thought this migration to Facebook would have been a bit of a wake up call to the music industry – “Hey, all those friends on your MySpace might not have been genuine fans” – but no-one really seems to have cottoned on yet.

At the moment there’s been no natural outlet for a band of label on Facebook – do you set up a new person to represent an artist, or a group, or maybe even an application? – so it will be very interesting to see what kind of effect the new additions have to the spread of music. Facebook commands a huge amount of power and influence and it certainly has the power to take word-of-mouth promotion to a whole new level. Or, on the flip side, it could be completely un-organic and rely on the deep pockets of the major labels to get good coverage on the music pages – at this stage it really could go either way, all though obviously I’d prefer a level playing field.

Finally, on the original rumour that Facebook are coming out with an iTunes competitor: sure, I bet they are, in as much as the Snocap stores on MySpace are an iTunes competitor. Now that the DRM walls have mostly fallen, expect to see a whole raft of MP3 stores crop up in places you wouldn’t normally expect them. A lot of them will be white-label powered (probably by people like 7digital) and none of them will do massive volume, and hence none of them individually will topple iTunes. However, I can see that really quite quickly in aggregate they could start toppling iTunes – the long tail and all that – and then the digital music landscape really will be quite different.


Friday Links XXXIII

Friday 5 October 2007

I can very much associate with this.

Designing for a security breach
If you’re making something with any decent number of users it inevitable that there’s going to be some security breaches – be prepared.

Rsizr: Groundbreaking Image Editor with “Seam Carving”
Oooh – nifty!

TechMeme Top 100 is ‘Top 100′ of what, exactly?
I’m still not sure exactly what a blog is – the line between a news site and a blog can be pretty blurred. Whether there should be a line or not is a completely different question…

Microsoft in London
Steve Balmer: It’s unclear who benefits more from the current patent regime; the small company or the big company. Probably the small company – Sorry, what?

iPhone: Context over consistency
I love the way the download icon points down to the iPod icon.

Flash Player 10 (Astro) Sneak Peek at MAX Chicago 2007 Keynote
I like the look of the 3D features, and the idea of doing really nice typesetting in Flash is quite intriguing…

Proposal: Multipart Web Requests
Nice idea.

Video Proof: Halo DS Was Real
I really wish this was released – it looks great!

Microsoft’s new Zunes: officially in 80, 8, and 4GB sizes
Still not interested. The WiFi syncing I find pretty uninteresting, as you have to charge up the thing by plugging it in anyway, and they’re still wrapping DRM round sounds that you wirelessly share.

A lovely bit of site design.

Sony BMG’s chief anti-piracy lawyer: “Copying” music you own is “stealing”
What a jackass.

Ballmer on Facebook: Bunch of Features
It still amazes me that Microsoft hasn’t cottoned on to the fact features are actually fairly meaningless. Anyone can make features, it’s what you do with them that counts.

IE7 Update Available for Download
Good to see IE7 being made available to more people.

Halo maker parts from Microsoft
This is surely a good thing – well done Bungie.

Facebook to Launch iTunes Competitor
Interesting. More on this next week, but expect to see lots of new download stores spring up now that the DRM hurdle has been (mostly) cleared.

Lock up your data
What a lot of people forget when doing mashups and the like that use data from places like Flickr is that most people don’t realise their content can get reused in this way. And they may well not like it…

Sony Bravia Bunnies
Love the bunny animations.

Sony Bravia Ad Concept Stolen From Artists Kozydan?
While their is obviously some similarity, it’s the animation that really makes the advert. The Sony one could well be inspired by the cityscape, but that’s as far as it goes.

The Phenomenon of Rigid Song Structures in Pop
I thought they all sounded the same…

CSS Eleven
This sounds promising.

If wishes were iPhones, then beggars would call

Trillian Astra Coming to OS X
I really like the idea of another good multi-network coming to the mac, but the interface looks pretty terrible. What’s up with those little lines between the window controls?

Lastly, here’s the rather brilliant video for the new single by Scout Niblett:


Font Face

Thursday 4 October 2007


The biggest browser news this week comes – as is becoming ever more frequent – from the WebKit team, as they’ve announced support for the @font-face CSS rules. The @font-face CSS rules allow web developers to specify fonts other then ones included on the users computer – which are a pretty restrictive set – so this is a great move, and perfectly timed just before Mac OS X 10.5 comes out. Hopefully this will ship near the end of the month with this addition intact, and they’re roll it out to Mac OS X 10.4 and Windows in the form of a final Safari 3 release too.

Web developers have long fought long and hard against the brick wall that is the limited font set that can be guaranteed to be on a users computer – you’re pretty much limited to Arial, Helvetica, Times, Courier, Verdana, Georgia, Comic Sans, Trebuchet, Arial Black and Impact. The most common way of getting round this limit is to make text as images in an image editor, but obviously this looses all sorts of things like being able to scale the text, easy editing and obviously causes problems with accessibility.

Another slightly more sophisticated solution that is becoming quite popular is sIFR, which allows you to use any font you like, embedded in a Flash file, then works some Javascript magic to replace text on the page with Flash versions in your specified font. It’s a nice solution for any text that is dynamic – and hence not able to be an image – but can be quite tricky to implement, and obviously relies on the user having Flash installed.

So, all in all this is a great thing, right?

Some people don’t seem to think so.

If you think this kind of argument sounds familiar, that’s because it’s exactly the kind of thing the music industry comes out with in regards to online sharing of music. It’s an incredibly short-sighted viewpoint, as there’s no way that download-able web fonts isn’t going to happen – web developers have been crying out for it for years and the wind is finally blowing in the right direction.

The font foundries are now going to go through exactly the same process the record labels have, including all the silly machinations around DRM and probably a bit of suing customers too. They’re going to have to face the fact that this is the reality of the world we live in – people can and will share your work without paying for it – and adjust their business model to fit. They’ll still be able to get paid by professional design agencies and the like, but maybe a move towards working for and closely with the big software houses like Microsoft and Adobe would make some sense.

Digital Music Awards @ Camden Roundhouse Digital Music Awards @ Camden Roundhouse Digital Music Awards @ Camden Roundhouse Digital Music Awards @ Camden Roundhouse Digital Music Awards @ Camden Roundhouse Digital Music Awards @ Camden Roundhouse Digital Music Awards @ Camden Roundhouse Digital Music Awards @ Camden Roundhouse Digital Music Awards @ Camden Roundhouse Digital Music Awards @ Camden Roundhouse