One of my absolute favorite songs turned into a beautiful book, filled with optimism that only makes the song that much more heartbreaking. The book, like the song, really isn’t meant for children, but both are gorgeous works of creativity and storytelling.
Knowin’ What to Throw Away and Knowin’ What to Keep
It’s time for another installment of the State of the Hostile Web, a series that I’ve never officially started, yet have many entries examples of user-antagonism to highlight.
This time it started with a simple goal – I wanted to craft a clever reply to a Twitter post by my buddy Chris Bailey (@chriscognito):
I don’t know about you, but for me, I immediately heard Kenny Rogers. Maybe that’s because I was born and raised in Texas, but that’s besides the point. This was a crystal clear opportunity to blast the Internet with a reminder of the awesomeness that is The Gambler.
To ensure I got it just right, I did a quick search for the lyrics, and the first site to pop up is called LyricsFreak (they don’t get any link love from me – you’ll see why), which displays the words in all of whiskey-soaked glory. But when I go to cut-and-paste them (you can call it lazy – I call it efficient), nothing is selectable. At all. The normal click-and-drag to highlight doesn’t work and the right-click menu is taking the day off.
I was perplexed. I was annoyed. But I also know a little bit about these here Web pages, so I figured that I would just view the page source to disable the code that was blocking me, or I might copy the lyrics from there.
…and I stopped dead in my tracks, confronted with this:
On a warm summer 's evenin' on a  train bound for  nowhere,
That’s the very first line of the song: “On a warm summer’s eve on a train bound for nowhere”.
Beyond disabling all of the standard methods for copying a bit of text, Lyric Freaks encoded every single character of the song.
Part of me understands that their goal is to not have other people copy their database in bulk. Assuming they paid for the transcription, it has value to them that they want to protect in order to make some money . I get that. I’m a happy little capitalist myself.
But this practice has instantly made the site useless to me, when there is a sea of lyric sites available. Beyond that, any developer can tell you that this won’t make the least bit of difference to someone specifically scraping the Lyric Freaks site to snag their content. None.
So, the people who actually use their service, see, and hopefully click, their ads and tell others to visit are hamstrung.
Luckily Sing365 made it easy for me to reference The Gambler Lyrics.
Which I used oh so cleverly in under 140 characters:
This is a very long blog post that boils down to the fact that LyricFreaks has lost site of what’s important, hurting prospective users before they even have a chance to turn them into fans. All this in an attempt to protect something, using a method that won’t work, making the Web a little less friendly and a little less usable.
User-hostile practices do not work on the Internet. Your site or service is one among many competitors, and it won’t take long for a competitor to eclipse your work, so do yourself a favor and build solutions that reward the user for visiting instead of making their day harder in an attempt to protect a castle made of sand.
A project to recreate Wu-Tang album art in the classic Blue Note style. via @photomatt
Dropbox + iTunes 9 = Automatically add songs to a remote copy of iTunes
It’s been a couple of years since I wrote about my favorite podcasts, but a recent discussion with Jonathan has nudged me to document my current recommendations.
(in no order…)
Radiolab focuses on a single “Big IDea” per episode, using the medium of sound to the fullest extent possible. It is indescribable, so I will simply say that if you subscribe to nothing else on this list, you must experience Radiolab.
The International Spy Museum’s Spycast
How can you beat a show hosted by a man with over three decades of experience in espionage made up of interviews with “ex-spies, intelligence experts, and espionage scholars.” It is a truly fascinating glimpse into the shadows.
This American Life
Most people reading this have likely been listening to This American Life for a while, but just in case you haven’t experienced what is quite possibly one of the best shows to ever ride the radio waves, I list it here.
The History of Rome
Being the history geek that I am, I love this series, which traces “the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with Aeneas’s arrival in Italy and ending (someday) with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire.”
In Our Time
This BBC podcast covers an amazing array of topics under the banner of discussing “the history of ideas”. Isaac Newton, the samurai, genetics and the philosophy behind Communism are a small sampling of the topics you can hear each week.
The Moth is a series of storytelling events held in several cities around the US, from which they take some of the funniest and most poignant to place on the podcast.
More Awesome Podcasts
You should get these too. They may not be in my top five, but the fact that I listen to them still speaks highly of their value – I’m pretty brutal about cutting out shows that aren’t amazing.
The Engines of Our Ingenuity
John Lienhard’s stories and perspective on the history of our technology and its impact on culture are inviting and informative. It’s a nice short podcast, every episode of which teaches me something.
NPR: Sports with Frank Deford
While I like to watch some sports (football and boxing for the most part), Frank Deford can hook me no matter which sport or aspect of the business of sports he decides to talk about. He is an amazing story-teller who truly cares about the subject and the people who play.
On the Media
Yet another NPR show that fills my iPod. If you care in the least about how the media works nd its impact on those of us who consume it, you need to listen to the show. On the Media ‘explores how the media “sausage” is made, casts an incisive eye on fluctuations in the marketplace of ideas, and examines threats to the freedom of information and expression in America and abroad. For one hour a week, the show tries to lift the veil from the process of “making media,” especially news media, because it’s through that lens that we literally see the world and the world sees us.’
The ATX Web Show
While this is a bit of a niche, Dave Rupert and friends put together a great show highlighting the Web design and development community here in town. It’s a great way to keep up with the future.
60 Second Psych & 60 Second Science
Exactly as their names imply, each of these podcasts come in bite-sized chunks, ready to make you smarter and help you understand how things truly work in the world at large and the world in our brain.
12 Byzantine Rulers
Lars Brownworth’s love of the subject is clear from the first minute and will quickly attract anyone interested in history. As noted on the site, Mr. Brownworth’s “passion for Byzantine history has taken him on travels from the furthest reaches of the Byzantine Empire right into Constantinople, (present day Istanbul) the very heart of Byzantium. He has traveled and studied Byzantine history extensively and produced this lecture series giving us an overview of Byzantine history as seen through 12 of its greatest rulers.”
Another great history podcast from Lars Brownworth, starts with the humble beginnings of the Normans traces the path of the Normans over the two centuries that they “launched a series of extraordinary conquests, transforming Anglo-Saxon England into Great Britain, setting up a powerful Crusader state in Antioch, and turning Palermo into the dazzling cultural and economic capital of the western Mediterranean”.
What am I Missing
What are your favorite podcasts?
The Beatles, Radiohead and Our Musical Tastes
Michelle has posted a great wrap up of Tim Westergren’s speech at Pandora’s Get Together here in Austin. Pandora sent me a number of reminders about the event, but I chose not to go, which is a shame because it sounds like it was fun.
Michelle’s post reminds me of the Ultimate Music Recommendation Smackdown panel I attended the last day of SXSWi ’07, which added a lot of interesting pieces to my understanding of music consumption on the Net as well as how the comparisons and matches are made. The most interesting takeaway from that panel was the fact that four of the five services (Pandora, Last.Fm, iLike and I believe Bryght (site may be down)) had to add filters to their systems after discovering that their services were recommending The Beatles and Radiohead for almost every other song or artist. “We see you like Hank Williams, we think you would like Creep from Radiohead”.
That’s pretty damn interesting if you think about it. People are naturally ranking Radiohead at a level of interest as high, or higher as The Beatles by their natural listening habits. Some of this should be attributed to the average age of people using their services, which I assume skews to the younger side, but that’s still a major point when you think about the popularity of the two bands, and the legacy of Radiohead.
The other interesting point I took away from that point of the conversation is the fact that in order for those two connections to be made listeners included the two artists amongst a wide variety of bands and genres. A quick view of my own listening habits and those of many of my friends provides some reinforcement, but I can’t wait to see the types of connections being formed world-wide. It would be amazing to have a “map” or some other form of visual analytics of these musical connections.
Thanks for sharing the experience Michelle!