Category Archives: media

Tom’s Best of 2012 Indie Mix

Diamond Rings Live San Francisco 2012

I’ve been sitting on this one for too long. Well not so much sitting, as bopping in my chair. The dog’s been looking at me funny. You will be too. I mean the bopping, more than the looking funny. You are beautiful. I swear.

So much good music this year. And I just have to keep the tradition alive (search this blog for music mixes going back to 2006). I know you guys need you fix of the yearly music mix. enjoy!

01.    Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros     Man on Fire
02.    The Lumineers     Ho Hey
03.    Electric Guest     This Head I Hold
04.    Miike Snow     Bavarian #1 (Say You Will)
05.    Passion Pit     Take A Walk
06.    Stealing Sheep     Shut Eye
07.    Crystal Castles     Plague
08.    alt-J     Matilda
09.    Grimes     Oblivion
10.    The XX     Angels
11.    Tycho     A Walk
12.    Washed Out     Amor Fati
13.    Yppah     R. Mullen
14.    Now, Now     Dead Oaks
15.    Islands     This is Not A Song
17.    Bat For Lashes     Laura
18.    Beach House     Myth
20.    Diamond Rings     I’m Just Me
21.    Hot Chip     Look At Where We Are
22.    Sea Wolf     Old Friend
23.    Joel Plaskett Emergency     Harbour Boys
24.    Skinny Lister     If The Gaff Don’t Let Us Down
25.    Chromatics     Kill for Love

Two good options, download the whole thing as a big-ass-zip-file here: Tom’s best of 2012 zip file
Or if you Rdio, you can follow me and stream [almost all] the playlist here: Tom’s best of 2012 Rdio Playlist

pictured: Diamond Rings, San Francisco 2012

Why the hell don’t all cameras have SIM cards in them yet?

girl cam

It’s been half a decade or more since phones started getting cameras, and yet cameras still don’t have cell phone connections. WTF? To me this is classic case of industry disruption. An entrenched industry refuses to take seriously a disruptive new technology. Holding their noses high, no serious Photographer (with a capital P) would shoot on a “device” let alone share their pictures with the plebes before hours of painstaking processing back on the home PC.

Well obviously that’s not the way the world works anymore. Mobile devices still have tiny/crappy optics and whatnot, but they have rapidly become good enough for a large swath of the reasons people actually want to capture images. Mostly to share those images with other people, preferably right now when those images could be a lot more relevant that hours or days later. What the hell is wrong with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus etc. for not doing some basic deals (aka Kindle, aka iPad) with some carriers and embedding 3G in every device.

I don’t think it’s an engineering problem. The baseband chips and electronics required are not that expensive. Put some 3G hardware in there, put some basic post-processing tools on the camera and get it done. What’s the hold up? Again, the smartphone makers have had it figured out for years.

When I leave the house I look a my lovely but beastly DSLR and think I bet I could take some lovely pictures with that. But in today’s world of in-the-moment social media, what’s the point if the DSLR has no way to post to twitter. Even Flickr now seems so 2006, like “hey everyone, come look at some stuff i was seeing a few weeks or years ago…”. I mean, beyond archiving and the artistry angle, what’s the point uploading old pictures?

I just don’t understand how the current generation of iPhones, Androids and Blackberries are not just going to steamroll the entire consumer segment of the camera industry.

photo credit: flowertrip

Where the heck is the ad-free “pro” version of streaming sports?

pro version

Let me say this. I love being able to stream big events like the Olympics, the America’s cup or the world cup over the internet in HD. As someone who has dumped subscription cable years ago it is a godsend. Occasional glitches/hiccups notwithstanding, HD streaming is fantastic. And it feels like the future.

But omg the ads. This world cup is better than the olympics as the CBC has been at least reluctant to air ads while the match is in play. And inevitably, the same ads over and over again. Considering what possibly could they be earning in CPM of me. I am pretty sure that I’d be willing to pay 2 to 10 times that amount for the convenience of whatching the whole games or whole worldcup ad-free. And I think that amount would still be cheap.

Ads are an increasingly tough way to make money online. If they are going to survive, the broadcasters and content producers need to get on the ball of monetizing their viewers directly. Especially in cases where those viewers are literally brandishing their credit cards at the screen lamenting why won’t you bastards take my money?

Will Tablet Computers Save Us From Vampires?


I don’t know what to say about the state of publishing anymore except to tell you that Penguin sent me (I’m on their blogger list) a list of 10 of their hottest titles for summer 2010. 40% of which concern Vampires.

Blood Oath (Christopher Farnsworth, May 2010, HC): The ultimate secret. The ultimate agent. The President’s vampire. Zach Barrows is an ambitious young White House staffer whose career takes an unexpected turn when he’s partnered with Nathaniel Cade, a secret agent sworn to protect the President. But Cade is no ordinary civil servant. Bound by a special blood oath, he is a vampire.

I can’t make this stuff up. Though if I had, it sounds like I might have landed a sweet advance out of Penguin.

So of 40% vampires. I don’t know what’s worse. the thought that A) packing the shelves with bodice-rippers and vampire tales is what’s what’s left to keep the major publishing houses afloat. or B) while we still live in a world of mostly-print distribution, that publishers remain the last of the gatekeepers between us and the multitudes of apparently less publishable works that we know flood the industry’s slushpile every year.

So the perennial question is will tablets and ebooks save the publishing industry? or save us from the publishing industry depending on your point of view?

Ebook readers have yet to set the world on fire. I think it has something to do with static, unconnected, essentially-lifeless pdf-type electronic books read from expensive, low-contrast screens, that need charging… are not quite enough of a delta from the regular printed word to bring that much value.

But the iPad experience starts to change that, From Xeni’s review:

Remember The Periodic Table of Elements series of books we featured here at Boing Boing? There’s an iPad version ($13.99 in the app store, screenshots here), and it’s dazzling — it makes science feel like magic in your hands. I called the guy behind The Elements, Theo Gray, and asked him to put into words the UI magic that iPad makes possible for creators of books, games, news, and productivity tools.

“The Elements on iPad is not a game, not an app, not a TV show. It’s a book. But it’s Harry Potter’s book. This is the version you check out from the Hogwarts library. Everything in it is alive in some way.”

Indeed, the elements in this periodic table seem very much alive. The obvious way to examine static objects — say, a lump of gold (number 79) or an ingot of cast antimony (number 51) is to rotate them, to spin the specimen with your fingertips. And that’s exactly what you do here.

Book reading as a passtime has been under ruthless assault in recent decades by all manner of shiny distractions of the digital age. So any new mass-adopted gadgets that also has the possibility to re-invent books has got to be helpful, and a sign of hope for bibliophiles.

And I like this idea that books have the opportunity to evolve into a whole new medium. This animated, live updating, “harry potter-esque” magicification books would be great for all kinds of categories like: reference books, cookbooks, travel books…

But not so much fiction or literature. I don’t know yet if the iPad will save us from Vampires.

Things you can learn from Google on how to redesign your industry for the web

Have you ever heard Google’s [VP of Product Design] Marissa Mayer talk about product design? Great stuff. From a recent interview with Michael Arrington at this year’s Le Web. Pay attention to this question (about 12min in) about google news and redesigning journalism.

If we invented news today as a delivery channel for journalism, through the web from scratch, what would that look like? and we like to ask questions like that, what would [ a product google wave, google news] look like if you invented it from scratch for the web. I think it would look very different.

Of course this the right question to be asking. Asking this question is how google manages to disruptively up-end industry after industry on the web with products that are actually pretty simple but work just-right for the web. But so often we don’t.

In the real world it’s not what I hear often enough from companies or industries looking to make the jump to the web, or to social media, to mobile or [insert disruptive new channel of moment here].

What I hear most often is, how can we take all our existing business model and dump ourselves unceremoniously on this channel. Or, lets think of how we keep on doing what were doing but sprinkle some of that magic web/mobile/social pixie dust on things and call it a day.

Which is fine, I suppose, if you want a quick win you can sell your boss today, and if you don’t mind if google/amzon/apple/netflix/some startup/file sharing/the-web-in-general might completely blows up your whole industry sometime tomorrow afternoon.

But if you don’t want to get steamrolled, what Marissa is asking you to think about, and really think hard about is this:

Ask not how your business fits on the web, ask instead, if your business were really made for the web, what business would you be in?

And a moment later gem:

I basically think whenever a media changes over to a new delivery vehicle, it puts pressure on the atomic unit of consumption. It happened with iTunes with the album moving to the song. It happened with YouTube with long-form standards of video to short-form. Now it’s happening with news. People can come in and read one story from the source and then move on. That’s the atomic unit.

When music went to a web there was much consternation that people would buy singles instead of albums. When newspapers go to the web editors are shocked that surfers want to read articles, not sections, not whole bundles of sections.

But this is a great insight. When the medium changes so does the atomic unit of consumption. There are certain economies of scope and scale when bundling a whole bunch of more/less unrelated newspaper sections into one printed package, delivered with one swing of the arm of the paper boy. And from a demand perspective, there’s effective cross correlation of demand, someone in the household will buy the weekend paper for the sports, someone else for the style section. In the totally personalized digital world, that kind of paper-world content-bundling doesn’t make any sense.

When it comes to a new medium you can either let these behaviour changes surprise you, or think of how to take advantage.

For example, atomicity can work both ways. I could see a shift of atomic unit (book) to a bundle (this book and others by this same author) being a win for e-book publishing. When you don’t have to print it, and when shelf space isn’t limited why not generate all sorts of bundle offers. Chances are if I want to read an author, I might want to read all of that author’s books. In the digital space, a publisher that does this really well is Valve the video game publisher. Their orange box being a famous and spectacularly successful example of bundling a hot current title for, just a little bit more, a whole pile of new and old content from the archives. When it’s all digital, it can be just as easy carry home an armload as a single item from the store.

the music industry is only a $22 billion or $23 billion business worldwide. You can easily calculate how much it would take for all users to raise enough money in the network to pay for this.


I’m torn about this, the future of old old media in the digital world. What should we do with all the old and wonderful dead forms of media, culture, journalism that we used to print on flattened wood pulp, or encoded as 1’s and 0’s but shipped around by truck(!) on laser engraved spinning and brittle little plastic discs.

Should we let the chips fall where they may? Let all media adapt or die the way it always has? Are there some, however, we’d hate to do without? I worry, for example about professional journalism, I worry about books and long form fiction. Some folks who’s name rhymes with “CRTC” are also worried about some idea called “Canadian Content” (what does that even mean anymore?).

Of all the media, music has been the first to go. And in some ways it’s the easiest. For all the fuss, do you realize that music is actually a pretty small industry? The creation of music hasn’t slowed down a bit mind you. But if what we’re worried about is the industry of music and fairness of compensation to creators, what could we do?

23billion isn’t a lot on global terms in the scale of telecom. If there was, as some have proposed, a way to tax telecom you could pay for Canada’s entire music industry for not that much impact on your monthly bill. Bear in mind that the total size of the music industry in Canada (about 600M CRIAA, 2006).

I almost like this idea except for a few quibbles: What is the magical means by which said money would be redistributed in a way that would be both fair, and culturally productive? If we do it for music (which by the way is already making not such a bad go of it online, and we’re still early days) what about about all the other media?

Does everybody deserve a digital bailout? I don’t think so. It’s already but only 2009. We need more time to find out who makes the leap and who doesn’t.

Title from this conversation on the Ecomm interview blog: Media Futurist Gerd Leonhard on Telcos/ISPs and Content 2.0.

Of course, except that this system doesn’t work. Clearly, the faster and the cheaper that people connect on mobile devices; this kind of sharing of content is going to absolutely explode. That’s actually a good thing. But, if nothing else can be built on top, then you won’t see any way of monetizing this outside of the network, itself. I always say, “Essentially, the future of content is the crowd and the cloud”. In other words, it’s the people using it and the cloud where it sits. If we can’t interconnect the two and create, essentially, a new logic of how the whole thing turns around, like Google has created their own advertising logic and Twitter will probably create their own logic, as well. If we can’t do that here, then the value just drops dead, left and right of the system.

Smartest idea they’ve had in a while

Reliable data IBM guy

The Motion Picture Association of America has tried any number of tactics to fight piracy, but its latest scheme might actually prove useful to movie consumers on the Internet. The group is supposedly working on a new website that will offer information on how to find legit sources of movies so that users won’t have to resort to copyright infringement.

The site, which does not yet have a name, would allow users to search for film titles, and in return it would provide links to places to buy movie tickets, to locations where searchers could buy or rent a DVD, or to sites where they can buy or rent a download from an online source. All of the major movie studios are behind the initiative, an anonymous movie studio source told Variety, and all legit “partners” would be linked on the site.

I’ve long argued that if the movie and music industry spent half as much energy into competing with the “pirates” as they do trying to criminalize their customers they’d be much further ahead. If only rights holders would make their content digitally available, findable, in a reasonable/usable format (this almost always means DRM-free) at a price that’s affordable, and not just available in the US we’d all be better off.

Business idea #63. Go build a for-profit version of this service for the music that lets user discover and price shop DRM-free sources of music for any band wherever they live. Hypemachine sort of acheives this. But not really.

Link: MPAA planning site to offer legit movie links

And then there was one, Warner Music drops DRM

home taping is killing the music industryFollowing EMI, and Universal, Warner is the next and now second-to-last major label to drop digital protections and offer it’s whole catalog of digital music DRM-free though the Amazon media store. This is a big win for Amazon and one wonders if Itunes will follow.

The lone holdout? Of course, the company that practically invented the term incompatibility, good old Sony. No doubt Sony will smartly abandon DRM sometime just after the last Blueray is prised from their cold dead fingers.

The other elephant in the room: Is this just a desperation play by Warner? While independent music is flourishing in the market like never before, the majors are all getting killed by the internet. So who cares about major labels business models anymore? Well those back catalogs are certainly worth something, and somebody’s got to do the hard work of marketing and promoting top40 “artists” to the slower, possibly bulging, end of the bell curve.

Meanwhile Kudos to Warner Music’s execs on this call. You can clearly tell a hawk from a handsaw. You might just make it yet. [and please slap some sense be talking to your friends across the hall in Warner’s television and film divisions kthx.]

Link: 3 down, 1 to go: Warner Music Group drops DRM

Goodbye DRM, you won’t be missed

The slow death of digital rights” – The Economist

Radioheads success is just the latest signal that DRM is dying a welcomed if unanticipated early demise.

iTunes Plus DRM-free tracks expanding, dropping to 99 cents” – Ars Technica

There’s now no reason to buy any other kind of music. I just thought I’d point this out.

And of course, there’s always been eMusic who’s been selling flat rate drm-free indie music for the better part of a decade now.

Highdef and DRM-free TV and movie distribution is only a matter of time.

And the crowd says Yaaar. How Hollywood is losing the War on New Media

On Monday, it started with a few scattered pranksters shouting Arrr at the opening screen of the film premiers at this year’s Toronto International Film festival. By week end the meme had caught on. I just caught the best part of it mid-yarrr, but I love this piece of film I shot, of the screen you can’t record or capture, here is the entire capacity of Ryerson theatre (500 or so?) almost as a unified chorus shouting YAAAAR and other pirate noises, followed by rolling in the aisles. We kill us.

Two or just one year ago, the industry’s anti piracy sermoning was met with a mix of either incomprehension or guilty staring at the feet. Not the case anymore. Public sentiment has clearly turned against Big Media. Maybe the common ticket buying public, the 99.99999% that didn’t bring Cam’s to the theatre are sick of being pointed at like criminals. Maybe their just tiered of the silly analogy that sharing media is somehow a crime on par with pillage, rape and theft at the point of a cutlass.

The war on piracy has turned into a rout.

Dear Hollywood: we’re ready for our new media now.

When are you going to step up and distribute your fare at any price, in any format or distribution scheme half as sensible and practical as bittorrent?

Please consider as creative commons licensed. Feel free to copy and distribute this footage as much as you like.

oh and the film? Nothing is Private. Quite good. It will be out soon. I’d recommend you go buy a ticket…

Owen Wilson & Media Sensitivity

Not business or tech related, but I am amazed at the MSM/tabloid coverage of Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt. The metro today paper yesterday in the celebrity BUZZ (buzz in huge letters) section, the headline read along the lines of Owen Wilson SUICIDE attempt confirmed. With the word SUICIDE called out in giant pink letters complete with drop shadow. Like a children’s birthday party invitation.

While Metro is not oft esteemed for journalistic integrity, this is the first time I have actually seen the tabloid sink to the depth of grossly insulting individuals [comma, anyone with sentient intelligence and any functioning sense of empathy etc.] purely through the expedient of typeface selection. Meanwhile…

Frontpage headline of the Sun today “TEARS OF THE CLOWN”

Man, if the guy wasn’t suicidal before…

Speaking of dead media, except in exceptional circumstance mainstream media, as rule, doesn’t report on suicides. This due to the both unusual and unsettling fact that suicide is socially contagious.

I don’t know that there is legitimate evidence that teenage pregnancy is contagious.

The Robotification of Usability Design

1998-2000 Human to web interaction, Web Usability, Human factors. The great bubble of Web-enabling networked databases and applications – like Online Banking,, lets sell pet food online etc. (eBay never heard of usability)

2001-2005 Website to robot interaction design, the golden age of Search Engine Optimization

2004-2006 Human to Human and social web interaction, funny how no one thought of this sooner. Web 2.0 and all that.

2007- Robot to Robot web interaction, Microformats, CAPCHA’s and RSS the carrots, sticks and duct tape of mashups. APIs and widget sandboxes of Facebook, Salesforce and google/yahoo/OSX desktops where our applets do our browsing for us and play -maybe- nice with each other. RSS made interacting with websites redundant, now robots will read our RSS for us too, sometimes with the aide of the ‘community’ acting as the proxy of intelligence.

In this scheme we’re somewhere between users and used. Human-mediated robot interaction etc. Which part of Artificial Artificial Inteligence (google it) becomes an oxymoron? It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Welcome to Web3.0.

Has Facebook killed blogging?

Have you noticed the blogosphere growing quiet? The pros and the a-listers and the corporate blogs are still at it as strong as ever. But tumbleweeds blow through the empty feed folders of personal friends. Flickr too is fading away. Maybe it’s just summer and we’re all outdoors, as we should be, instead.

But I think it’s Facebook, first twitter, but now much more powerfully Facebook is sucking all that personal stuff, all that social presence and ambient intimacy behaviour and desires (usecases for you techies) out of the blogosphere and in to it’s fearsomely purpose-designed boxy blue and white world.

There’s a flavourshift in the blogosphere. The olde flavour of blogging is leaving us.

When you think of it, (personal) blogs never really caught on anyway.

Compare this one data point, my blogroll: 21 my FB Friendlist: 249

Blogs as dead media. At least as we once (hardly) knew ye.

Blogs are for pros, facebook is for friends

blogs dead. long live blogs.

The Science of Hits and why you can’t pick them

New research shows us the old adage “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” – is just not true. We don’t know much about art -or- what we like. A recent study shows that intrinsic quality of a work (in this case a song) is at best a 50% predictor of it’s future popularity.

Can’t remember if I pointed to this article before but it is enormously important.

…predicting hits is not only difficult but actually impossible, no matter how much you know about individual tastes.

The reason is that when people tend to like what other people like, differences in popularity are subject to what is called “cumulative advantage,” or the “rich get richer” effect. This means that if one object happens to be slightly more popular than another at just the right point, it will tend to become more popular still. As a result, even tiny, random fluctuations can blow up, generating potentially enormous long-run differences among even indistinguishable competitors

This article seems to keep coming up in everything I’m looking at these days. It also influenced my think around flavour as in the line between how much of the flavour of our modern world is deliberately arbitrary vs how much the result of the uncontrollable chaos of snowball effects, tipping points or butterfly wings in the amazon? Alternately if we are building social media platforms – or content – how we can harness, or at least make the best of, these effects.

I strongly believe these affects are fundamental to all mediums affecting everything from fashion, to technology adoption to political ideas.

That memes (or mediums) can be popular just for being popular. Who would ever have guessed.