Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

The emergence of an online encyclopedia of common people and organizations

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

These days private people and representatives of organizations use the Internet’s general (Google) or sometimes specialized (Pipl) search engines to find information about each other, with phone books and the yellow pages quickly becoming relics of the past. The leading online “encyclopedia of everything” Wikipedia currently functions as a central website where widely-scattered public personal and organizational information gets integrated by using a wiki. The resulting more or less coherent and comprehensive (illustrated) articles portray a valuable more objective outside-view on the more subjective about-texts on personal or organization websites.

But not everything gets included on Wikipedia: there are a lot of people and organizations that don’t get covered. For a person or organization to be included in an encyclopedic entry on Wikipedia,  a certain degree of notability must have been established.
It is therefore interesting that till now (apart from this 2010 proposition for the creation of an Inclupedia) there is still no serious contender to Wikipedia, that is, another large central online encyclopedia containing high quality user generated content allowing its vibrant community of amateur and professional users to include data about common non-famous people and organizations.

Of all online encyclopedias, the online wiki-based encyclopedia Citizendium is really trying to be a contender to Wikipedia by being different (We aren’t Wikipedia / We aren’t Citizendium). The notability principle of Wikipedia was considered undesirable with its currently overruled “maintainability principle”. It now states in its December 2010 guideline on inclusion (Article Inclusion Policy) there must be willingness of multiple users to write a strong article which helps a project gain importance. This (although different from my own radical inclusionist proposal in 2006) seems like a rather reasonable guideline, and quite open to common people and organizations for getting an encyclopedic article on Citizendium. Unfortunately the project has not yet sufficiently grown significantly enough to fulfill the role of a serious challenger with regard to Wikipedia’s central position.

No, these days personal and organizational data grows around profiles on social networking sites which have emerged from online chat rooms and forums of the past. Sites like Six DegreesLiveJournal, Blogspot, Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, Last.fm, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ in various degrees of ambition all endeavour(ed) to contribute to the creation of an online encyclopedia about common people and organizations by giving their users options to fill in their own personal and organization data in profiles and blogs. Unfortunately this data is rather subjective, created by the user him/herself and not tested against information others have about the user.

But there are ways in which users can contribute to gathering and structuring relatively more objective encyclopedia-like information about other common people or organizations. Tags (category names) and channels for example have become mainstreamed in many sites and allow users to share new topics or classify the scattered data on the site. On Facebook, for example, people or organizations can tag photos of people/organizations or quote other users on Facebook. These photos and quotes can then be added to the other user’s private profile which their contacts (”friends”) can view. Twitter allows users to re-post (”re-tweet”) other user’s (”followers”) microblogs (”tweets”), allowing more users to notice them. On LinkedIn one can write public recommendations about other people or organizations. Last.fm does have a wiki integrated into their site, allowing the community of users to write biographies about each musician that is listened to on the site: this allows last.fm to be the first to notice new upcoming acts.

Another aspect of social networking sites is that they allow you to link to other users. E.g. on LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook one is encouraged to link to all contacts you have, all users you know in real life plus ones you may know. The site Last.fm allows users to connect to “neighbours”, recommended contacts based on a shared music listening behaviour.

These social networking applications are helping to create an online common people/organization encyclopedia but they are not all publicly available, fragmented, and therefore not easily accessible for big mass audiences. Only people in organizations with resources can do such intelligence assessment, not yet common people or organizations.

So far, therefore, the creation of a central online encyclopedia of common people and organizations is still emerging, but in the end it will no doubt become a reality. In the near future Wikipedia may, by popular demand, become less strict with regard to their notability principle and become a true encyclopedia of everything.

Another probable trend of social networking sites will be in the direction Last.fm headed with social and musical data: tagging (photo-tagging, quoting) of people and organizations, the whole of your shared social behaviour (cf. Last.fm’s listening behaviour), creates “neighbours” (more than just “you may also know this or that person/organization” but people/organizations with whom you share certain selected profile(-related) data) and a co-created globally recognized wiki (”grwiki”? cf. Gravatar, the globally recognized avatar, or NNDB) about a person/organization.

But is an online encyclopedia of common people and organizations a desirable development? It has become an occupational hazard of popular people and organizations in mediagenic areas to be written and gossiped about, but what if common people and organizations get filed and scrutinized as well? What if the load of speculation and factual data about people and organizations are becoming an identity threat? The (de)publication of this web of personal and organizational data about and by our selves or others does change our perception on what should remain private and what should become public. What part of our personal or organizational history should be included or rather excluded from such an encyclopedia? Who decides on this inclusion and exclusion, the user him/herself or other users? Should a person or organization ignore or comply with its particular reigning political correctness when creating or censoring data? Do some people in corporate or governmental organizations have too much (control over) information about people and organizations? Does, for example, competitive intelligence not lean towards corporate espionage?
These questions are serious and pressing indeed and will need to be asked and acted upon if we are to prevent a life with too few privacy, too few secrets and surprises.

(PS: Most probably, the advent of the post-human entity will keep us on our toes, filling our lives with new exciting secrets and surprises)

The unfolding musicalization process - the listener

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Current developments in technology are changing the way we experience and make music. Building on the shoulders of the previous generations of music producers and consumers, we will now be confronted with radical changes in the musical landscape that increase the musicalization process of humanity. How far are we? Let’s start with music consumers.

Discs

In the West music consumers listen a lot more to recorded music than that they attend live musical performances. Since the beginning of the 1980s we increasingly listen to our selected recorded music by playing physical discs called compact discs on CD-players, next to our home computer. In the 1990s we got to play them inside the computer’s CD-ROM drive and in portable CD-players as well. The Internet superhighway was beginning to unveil rich amounts of text and imagery, yet our computers had little space for audio. Since there was only limited Internet bandwidth available, the exchange of big files and software was generally an offline activity involving transport of a variety of storage media: sending digital music files online was too time-consuming and audio-players online were buffering for ages before they could play the music. The beeping small MIDI-file tunes that auto-played on websites could certainly not satisfy music lovers.

Quality deterioration

Fortunately music compression technologies by that time had already advanced to a level that digital files from compact discs could be efficiently reduced in file size. The German Fraunhofer Gesellschaft had developed the MP3, which became a big success: one MP3 is enough to make a piece of music available on an infinite amount of locations. The format caught on, despite the fact that the quality of these music recordings is worse. Generally music consumers don’t seem to hear the difference in quality, as they play their music on computer speakers or cheap headphones.

The end of the album

Singles have become increasingly more exchanged than whole music albums. This trend was initiated by music radio stations, but it was recently further reinforced with the advent of the MP3 and the continuing small bandwidth of the Internet. This contributed to an increased realization of the public that a lot of songs can be listened to individually, without the context the album offers. Concept albums and mix albums should be listened to as a whole (and often are distributed as one big file), but there are quite a few albums featuring only a handful of defining tracks - with the remaining tracks (intentionally) functioning as mere fillers. A lot of listeners are therefore rejecting the album experience as intended by the musicians and listen only to the songs on the album that most appeal to them.

Mass download

The compression of music files and the fragmentation of the album - a decrease in music quality and a destruction of carefully constructed track orders on albums - and increased internet speed plus hard disc space (and faster computers) enabled quicker music distribution among people. All recorded music is increasingly available in MP3-format to download and listen to in MP3 stores (iTunes music store (website), eMusic (website)) on free MP3 websites (notably the MP3-blog aggregators elbo.ws and The Hype Machine (website)) and on peer-to-peer file sharing networks (Soulseek (website)), providing instant sonic gratification to music listeners world wide.
People started to listen to (tens of) thousands of MP3s on their media players. Also portable MP3-players (most notably the white iPod) emerged and became loaded with MP3s.

Exploring musical data

Knowledge about music of music consumers has broadened and deepened due to previously mentioned and more recent technological advances. People first digitized their own CDs they had collected, based on the advice of a circle of friends and family, music reviewers, writers, radio DJs, music television makers, concert organisers and music shop owners. But by exploring music genres online, one can increasingly gather a lot more and elaborate opinions and information, especially about independent music artists without a record deal: music community websites (last.fm (website), MySpace Music (website)) bundle a large amount of music taste data of aficionados worldwide and music databases (All Music Guide (website), Liveplasma) and elaborate review websites (MetaCritic (website), Pitchfork (website)) show interlinkages between the different musicians and their music.

Webtop music

A lot of Internet users are currently in the process of transforming their (portable) computer desktop into a webtop, meaning they will to some degree no longer download music but rather listen to (customized playlists of) songs streamed by online music players. They increasingly entrust website owners to continue to store music files on server farms, available on demand. This means a further decrease in music quality and fragmentation of albums.
This transformation started with an explosion of web radio stations (Live365 (website), Icecast (website)), followed by music podcasts/DJ mixes and music recommendation sites (Pandora (website (United States only)), last.fm). People could listen to music channels featuring their specific taste. But listeners also want to select songs by themselves, as each person has a particular taste in music.
Abovementioned websites (notably MySpace Music and last.fm) feature previews or whole songs you can choose to listen to. The website last.fm even has become an online jukebox, allowing users to select and listen to songs contained in a big database - with or without the aid of algorithms creating playlists of songs you like and might also like. Combined with a user account this means whenever and wherever users are, they can listen to their online stored personal interconnected selection from the recorded musical landscape.

Business strategy

With the expansion of webtop music a new phase has started in the evolution of the business model of the music industry. A lot of record companies now have softened their war on MP3 sharing, as they now finally realize the digital music revolution can not be stopped. Instead they now choose the try our extensive music catalogue online before you buy approach. They know there’s still a considerable demand for high(er) quality music and related merchandising: the webtop jukebox is therefore offering a deliberate inferior musical experience which is missing out the details and the overall sound of the original recordings and has no further extras.

Music lovers

The music industry’s clients are the group of genuine music lovers who can either instantly buy and download the better quality sharable (i.e. without DRM) MP3 file or buy the physical (improved) CDs, music DVDs and records. Despite the current digital era, storage discs are still popular because of their package (box, booklet with cover and further artwork, music videos, videos of live performances et cetera), the ritual of playing a record, the desire to have an artistic product materialized for yourself and others to see and because people like to listen to a near-studio quality piece of music or an album, from A to Z, on their high-end hi-fi set, to fully experience the music as the artist intended.

Quality can wait?

But most of You currently seem still patient as far as demanding higher musical quality is concerned, i.e. spend a lot less on music products than in the past: their audio rendering equipment is relatively inaccurate but still considered sufficient to listen to the great variety of mesmerizing available musical treasures online. They are patient enough to wait for cheaper but improved sound cards, amplifiers and speakers and simply await the future increase of server farms and new compression techniques to allow online streaming of music close to studio quality. The music business won’t be pleased, but this will eventually happen in the very near future. Simplify media already provides webtop streaming of your own and friends MP3 collections, and plenty of other new inventive developments are on its way which will make this goal a reality.

To be continued..

Two desks

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

p>As a result of the Writers Guild of America strike the public was (again) made aware that television talk show hosts in the United States aren’t improvising their utterances on TV but are actually acting a scripted role.

(what do you expect, it’s a show)

Television talk show host Conan O’Brien, i.e. the team creating Late Night with Conan O’Brien with currently writer Conan O’Brien replacing the striking group of writers for an indeterminate period of time, produced a show episode on the 2nd of January 2008 revealing he actually has two offices: one frontstage in the studio with a complementary mug and one backstage with a desk-chair-computer and memorabilia.


Lists

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

The list - a genre concerning the enumeration or compilation of a set of possibly anything - is normally not on the top of my list to think and write about, but right now it is. This time of the year shows a peak in the popularity graph of thinking and writing (about) lists in the Western world (and increasingly worldwide). In random order:

1. We’re reaching the 31st of December, the last date on the worldwide adopted Gregorian calendar. After that date, it starts all over again. Our paper agendas have reached their end, or often may have some more (condensed) space for the months of January and February by popular demand.
2. The winter solstice, midwinter, takes place on the 21st/22th of December. The winter’s cold fronts in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere then have arrived and make life more tough for plants and warmblooded animals like us. We’ll have to bitterly wait for spring to come and/or enjoy our current - to various degrees - inevitable experience of the cold (the heat-less).

The winter solstice, together with the ending calendar, makes us collectively feel contemplative and think back about the past annual period between January and December.
We ask ourselves about our personal growth/personal decline:
What did I (not) harvest this year?
Which events defined my year the most/least?
logo International Day of Peace
It’s also a moment we think about other people: there are several cozy December observances near winter solstice. Christmas is for example increasingly chosen to serve as a moment of peace, e.g. Christmas truce (in the year 1914, out of which grew United Nation’s International Day of Peace on the 21st of September) or Christmas charity events. In the arts, December songs are melancholic and/or full of engagement, December films are released and deal with family and/or love themes in wintry landscapes (see the IMDB keyword Christmas).

I’d suggest to generally:
1. be contemplative about yourself, other people and life
2. write down your thoughts and/or remember them
3. consult and write (non-)enumerated lists or any other genre
4. do all of the above more often and randomly

Live.

Lists online
*Listology
*Wikipedia Lists of Topics

The “In Rainbows” release and reception (2007)

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

On the 10th of October 2007 the band Radiohead released their 7th album In Rainbows in digital form (MP3) for a non-specified amount of money via the official In Rainbows website. For reasons of convenience, many people downloaded the album as a torrent though.

Order In Rainbows via Radiohead website

Tracklisting of In Rainbows
01. “15 Step” – 3:57
02. “Bodysnatchers” – 4:02
03. “Nude” – 4:15
04. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” – 5:18
05. “All I Need” – 3:48
06. “Faust Arp” – 2:09
07. “Reckoner” – 4:50
08. “House of Cards” – 5:28
09. “Jigsaw Falling into Place” – 4:09
10. “Videotape” – 4:39

The album has dominated the charts of the 14th of October of Last.fm, indicating a lot of people on Earth are actually listening to the album at the same time and apparently listen to the album as a whole - not just some songs. The latter shows the fragmentation of the music album due to their MP3isation is not a necessity.

Last fm Chart October 14 2007

:-) & :-( (2007)

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Emoticons

(The smiley and frowney are depicted as emoticons in respectively the traditional yellow colour and the complementary colour of yellow, purple. If not declared previously I hereby declare purple to be the official colour of the frowney.)

Happy and sad birthday :-) & :-( ! Today they are a quarter of a century in our midst. I remember how I wondered about the strange interpunctions in some of the first e-mails I received from a friend of mine, :)))))))) ::)) :)! and the like. A bit later “my quarter had fallen” when someone remarked you had to turn your head 90 degrees (i.e. 25 per cent of 360 degrees (a full circle)) counterclockwise..which resulted in me experiencing a proverbial Aha-erlebnis and my initiation in the world of emoticons.

(-: & )-: (which reveal themselves when turning your head clockwise) are used less often somehow, which is may be related to the fact that this text is read from left to right. In the Arabic writing system (to be read from right to left) these emoticons could be intuitively more suitable?
It could also relate to how faces are “read” by people: first look at the eyes, then the nose and finally the mouth or the reverse.

Asian emoticons are not tilted & are focussing on the eyes instead of the mouth (e.g. ^_^ & O_O (and o_O & O_o, o_o, -_-) and sometimes even omit the mouth (e.g. in case of Harō Kiti).

:-\ & :-/, respectively the post-:-) & post-:-( emoticons, were invented a bit later, and are the valued versions of the fundamental :-| emoticon with a vertical bar, symbolizing indifference.

Boredom/Supervoids (2007)

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

WMAP ColdSpot

Ironically enough it was boredom that lead to the discovery of the supervoid in the WMAP cold spot:
Lawrence Rudnick stated: “One morning I was a little bored, and said, ‘why don’t I look in the direction of the WMAP cold spot’” He pointed the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico top the area and he and his team were suprised to find a supervoid of 280 megaparsecs (nearly a billion light years) in diameter.

Müller-Lyer illusion/comments (2007)

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Müller-Lyer illusion

Illusions are evidence of the (current) innate limitations of us humans in the perception of reality. At the same time illusions give an indication of the gathered skills people have in perceiving reality - some people are more easily fooled than others. The Müller-Lyer illusion provides an elegant example of a distorting illusion. It’s the first depicted illusion (three lines with different configurations of arrowhead(s)/arrow tail(s): an “angles in” (arrowhead) and “angles out” (arrow tail) configuration (and a third mixed configuration)) in the illustration above. The lines don’t look equally long but actually are (as indicated in the 2nd image) equally sized.

(Draft version)

World Population / Light density (2007)

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Light density
World Population / Light density (2007)
Click on the image above to see the gradual shift from human made light density (November 2000, NASA) to population density (2004, Center for International Earth Science Information Network). With currently already half of the Earth’s population (approx. 3.35 milliard of people) living in highly human-populated urban areas, public lighting (lights from private homes, public buildings, street/waterway lights, advertising) will further increase: i.e. the city dwellers generally want/demand their public/private security enhanced by more street lights, more and more people work at night and most people allow (or haven’t thoight about) the existence of lighted public advertising (see my post on new trends in public advertising).

 

Black video I (2007)

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

The words “black” and “video” seem to been to be in contradiction, since black is absorbing light and video implies one can see something (video is derived from the Latin videre, to see, and means “I see”) i.e. when light is reflected. In practice black video is not all-absorbing, one can still see a black video.

Black video is used in post production of video productions. E.g. Adobe Premiere, an video editing programme, has the option to make a black video section of five seconds.
Black video instruction of Adobe premiere

On YouTube some people use black video (instead of a fancy self made video or photo slide show) to be able to post music. One entry had an interesting comment section below the black video.

Comments on a black video