Archive for April 2008

We tell stories

April 30, 2008

I mentioned in my last post that Bit Torrent was awash with eBooks among the music and videos. Authors have dabbled with the Web as a medium for their work before – Stephen King famously released a book one chapter at a time and even that was pirated.

We hear repeatedly how the music industry must add value to digital product to make it attractive to buy rather than download. Well enter Penguin with an example of how to add value to books in the form of digital fiction. Experimental maybe, but a bold move nonetheless.

The Penguin experiment, called We Tell Stories, involved six authors writing a work inspired by a classic piece of literature and the work being delivered to the reader via the Web. All six stories were constructed differently and the result was a bold staarting point for these new evolutions for narrative.

The 21 Steps was written as short bursts of text with the action unfolding over a Google map. The writing was not great but the map was a nice idea and I liked the sense of motion it induced. WHen I read it there were a few technical issues like the map not displaying for some areads but you could get a sense of the possiblity or representing environment and movement.

I really enjoyed Slice. It was short, mysterious and very well executed. I was drawn in quickly by the authenticity of the child’s blog. The flickr photos were a nice touch and more spooky cos I live in one of the areas depicted. Simple, short and sweet.

Fairy Tales was a perhaps the weakest idea. It reminded me of then books we had  at school which allowed the reader to choose routes through the story – e.g. If you want to fight the dragon turn to page 30, if you want to run away turn to page 45.

Your place and mine was simple enough in form but with a nice twist at the end. I wish I had read it as it was being written at 6:30 each evening. It would have added a vibrancy to a narrative I found compelling even reading it after the event.

I thought Hard Times was a bit more of a literary joke than anything with it’s endless lists of facts, like those so beloved of the character in the Dickens novel. Strickingly presented but not memorable.

The (former) General was suggestive of potential – again in the form of offering the user the option to do this or that. With more depth it might have convinvced me. The writing was in places evocative and engaging but the narrative didn’t really go anywhere – perhaps I made poor user choices.

Anyway the reason I write about this is because in addition to questions of new narrative form you can also see some of the potential open to publishers/writers to counter the piracy of literature. A worthy experiment and I will be looking out for more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s on ?

April 23, 2008

eDonkey has been on the receiving end of much music industry legal action in recent months. Last September a number of German eDonkey servers were taken offline after a court issued an injunction against them. User numbers halved – temporarily. In January this year the Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN won judgement against an eDonkey hashlinksite, Shareconnector.

Would the file-sharing community miss a lot if eDonkey went down? Well some recent research from iPoque gives interesting indications of what people use eDonkey (and Bit Torrent) for.

Across the regions looked at – Germany, Southern Europe and Middle East – patterns of usage vary. the most popuilar BT and eDonkey music downloads are in the form of discographies (i.e. more than one album at once). In ME and Southern Europe over half of the top 75 audio was discogs. Neither the top BT audio nor the top eDonkey audio downloads closely reflected the charts and in Southern Europe much of the top downloads appeared to be local language.

BT video downloads are primarly movies, with some pornography featuring in the Top 75 for Germany. On eDonkey on ther other hand every region is sharing porn. A cursory look at the titles and one can make the generalisations that Southern Europeans like anal, Germans like lesbians and the odd animal, and the Middle East has more specialist and suspect interests like shemales and children.

When it comes to eBooks English is the prevalant language with Sat Nav data being particularly in demand in Southern Europe.

Mp3newswire reports on a new Digital Music News research report which shows continued rapid growth in use of Bit torrent and increased consolidation in P2P client apps so maybe eDonkey will get killed by IFPI/MPAA anyway and users migrate. 

 

Recommendation engines

April 21, 2008

Music recommendation engines have a long long way to go.

I never liked Pandora – repertoire was too US centric and the academic model for recommendation (e.g. you chose a synth rock song in a minor key with prominent guitars, therefore here’s more synth rock in a minor key) was lamentable.

I have been an occasional user of last.fm for a couple of years but it seems to perform worse with age. The logic of recommendation based on scrobbling what people actually listen to seemed like such a good idea but last.fm now returns such poorly worked out recommendations that I do not believe scrobbling is at the core of it.

It seems to stay in very poorly defined grooves. So if you picked a well known 80s pop band it will feed endless well known 80s pop band even if you are constantly skipping tracks.

Choose an unknown band and it only feeds you unknowns. No one listens to music in this way. That’s why scrobbling was a cool idea. Could it be that it doesn’t work as a way of making good recommendations? Certainly, in comparision, the certainty of a known album or the ‘editorial voice’ of a good radio show or dj mix beats last.fm.

Over 50% of tracks I skip within the first minute. What a waste of time and it makes it impossible to get into the flow of the music.

At this rate I will go back to listening to albums!

But not before I check out TheFilter.