Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Decoding the Music Genome

In 2000, a group of individuals developed the Music Genome Project, which up to 400 distinct characteristics of a song are captured by trained music analysts. These attributes not only include the musical identity of a song, but many significant qualities that are relevant to understanding the musical preferences of listeners. Librarians call the capturing and assingnment of attributes metadata. The database is built using a methodology that includes the use of a controlled vocabulary, a consistent frame of reference, redundant analysis, and ongoing quality control.

The music genome team has now created an interface called Pandora™ to make the metadatabase available so individuals could use musical 'connective-tissue' to discover new music based on songs or artists they already know. Pandora does not use machine-listening or other forms of automated data extraction.

Enter the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and the system scans its database of analyzed music to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice. You can then stream the songs over your PC. Licensing restrictions limit the number of songs that one can skip over per hour, so at times you have to listen to songs you do not like. Linkes to Amazon and iTunes provide licensing opportunties.

Users can create streaming "stations" of songs similar to your favorites. Much like with TIVO, you can thumbs-up or thumbs-down a particular song. Stations can also be shared among other Pandora users. Each station gets better the more you tell it what you like, or don't like. Sometimes it doesn't work as one would think. For example, I do not see what common thread Frank Zappa and Billy Joel share.

Hopefully by giving Billy a thumbs down means he will not show up ever again when listening to my Zappa station (he can show up in my 1980's pop music station if he wishes). Sphere: Related Content

Monday, February 13, 2006

Is Microsoft Pushing BlackBerry Aside?

For weeks now BlackBerry users have been asking themselves what are the alternatives if their services are forced to be turned off. However, what they should be asking themselves is even if BlackBerry avoids a shutdown, will the service survive?

Over 900 wireless companies are in Barcelona this week showcasing their latest mobile products, services and solutions at the 2006 3GSM World Congress. The undercurrent at this years show indeed revolves around the problems besetting Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry. The company's patent fight currently being played out in a U.S. court is the topic that many attendees’ are discussing.

BlackBerry provides the only "push" wireless e-mail on the market. This means that the e-mail server sends e-mail to the device as soon as it arrives. The BlackBerry has been popular, but because of the cost most users have are professionals.

Well, Microsoft announced on Feb 13th that they will release a new e-mail software that also pushes messages from a corporate server out to the phones. The new software mimics the speedy delivery of the BlackBerry without requiring the additional costly software and service fees.

The software is being offered as a free upgrade to those licensing the latest versions of Microsoft's Exchange Server and Windows Mobile software. This means no server just mobile e-mail and no license payments to third-party providers are needed. On that cost basis alone the service is going to attract the attention from IT managers.

Motorola and Hewlett-Packard are among those making phones with upgraded Microsoft e-mail technology. Service providers, such as Vodafone and T-Mobile, will add the phones to their lineups

If the Microsoft venture is successful it could bring down the cost so much that companies could offer push e-mail services to all their employees. In an instant the market for wireless e-mail may have become a lot bigger. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, February 06, 2006

Talk Smack Back with YackPack

E-mail is a great coomunications tool for reconnecting and keeping in touch. It allows one to reconnect with an old friend, catch up with relatives, or to meet professional colleagues. Just today I received an email from an old roomate, one whom I have not communicated with for about 15 years.

A study by Buckner (2003) indicated that people consider email correspondence to be instrumental in forming social contacts through frequency of communication and facilitation of contact with people who tend not to be easily contactable in other ways. The study suggested that email is used for shallower but more frequent chat that may be personally valuable while other communication channels (phone and personal letter writing) are used to express greater depth of feeling and/or emotion.

True enough. Text on a screen fails to display any emotion. In fact, I am sure many have experienced having to explain (through even more e-mails) what was meant in a message when an incorrect intonation was applied by the reader. In some cases the writer and reader get upset with one another because of the series of messages (lacking accurate emotion) that follow.

YackPack is another way to stay connected to your family and friends. Yackpack is a web service which has taken founder BJ Fogg two years and over $100k to develop. YackPack is simple, web-based voice messaging for groups. The site states to "Think email, but with voice."

After logging onto the site the user sees a visual depiction of their YackPacks. and send an audio message to one or to all members of a predefined YackPack at once. Then is is a simple click, record and send. Since the system is asyncronous and requires the other YackPackers to log into the system to retrieve the audio "blast" message. A three minute tutoral is available to guide users through the creation and use of the system.


Buckner, Kathy and Mark Gillham Using Email for Social and Domestic Purposes: Effectiveness in Fulfillment of Interpersonal Communication Motives. Presented at H.O.I.T 2003. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Victorian Internet Shuts Down

On May 24, 1844 Samuel Morse sent out his first message over a telegraph line. His four-word message, "What hath God wrought," was sent from Washington to Baltimore. The telegraph communicated by a binary code system of dots and dashes. Author Tom Standage called it the Victorian Internet.

Western Union began in Rochester, NY as the New York & Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Co., changing its name to Western Union in 1861. It created the first coast-to-coast telegraph service at the height of the Civil War. Western Union was one of the original eleven stocks in the Dow Jones back in 1884.

Western Union quietly ended its telegram service in the United States on January 27th. The company web site posted a simple announcment stating "Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services."

The company introduced a stock ticker, money transfers and international services. By the 1920s, it had 10 cables under the Atlantic Ocean with a fleet of ships designed to service them. In 1914 Western Union offered the first charge card for consumers; in 1923 it introduced teletypewriters to join its branches. Singing telegrams followed in 1933, intercity fax in 1935, and commercial intercity microwave communications in 1943.

In 1958 it began offering Telex to customers. In 1964, Western Union initiated a transcontinental microwave beam to replace land lines. Western Union became the first American telecommunications corporation to maintain its own fleet of geosynchronous communication satellites, starting in 1974.

Today, it is difficult to imagine the change that telegrams brought before the invention of the telephone. Some some respects, this would be similar to reading a news headline sometime in the future stating that Microsoft has just shipped its last copy of Windows.

Some of the basic principles of telegram does live on in the form of text messaging. Like telegrams, test messaging forces people to write messages that are brief and has spawned a new vocabulary of space-saving abbreviations, such as "c u l8r." Sphere: Related Content