Note to innovators: translate technology to users

When I heard about the XHTML Friends Network, I kind of filed it away with FOAF and other technology projects that sound interesting but entirely too academic, since they often offer no immediate means to incorporate them into my sites/tools. When I noticed that XFN was a blogroll thing and that I recently started using some code to extract my favorites into a blogroll here on this site, I asked Jim if it was possible to incorporate xfn into the tool.

He launched it today and here’s a screenshot of the interface for one of my favorites. It’s dead simple, letting you click a few boxes and push a button to fill out your relationship info and eventually the info will percolate into my blogroll here on my site.

A lot of new technologies focus so much on the nitty gritty details of RDF, XML, etc and I think developers forget that people won’t or can’t use any technology until it’s got an easy-to-use interface. I know it’s important at some level, but I couldn’t care less about say, which RDF vocabulary FOAF will use, I only care how easy it will be to add FOAF stuff to my site (best is having something do it automatically) and what cool apps people can build off it.

I got 99 problems but copyright ain’t one.

I’ve been a fan of hip hop off and on since the 80s and the genre seems to work in fits and spurts. In between years of greatness you get years of the same old thing. In 1986 it was one single after another from LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee, and Big Daddy Kane all boasting who had the biggest dick and got the most girls. Then De La Soul, Public Enemy, and NWA came along and showed us you could rap about other aspects of life and change the sound of music in the process. In the early 90’s we had a rash of gangsta rap that never seemed to end, though Tupac and Snoop Dogg were highlights. These days hip hop seems to be all about the bling and it’s gotten boring once again. I know Jay Z’s just as guilty in that regard for bringing Big Pimpin’ to the big time, but I have to say The Grey Album is the first interesting hip hop project I’ve heard in a while. The Black Album it is based on is ok, and although the pairing with White Album samples sounds like a gimmick at first, the final output transcends it all. I’ve been listening to it for weeks and I can’t put it down. I can tell it’s going to be a classic I’ll be listening to for years.

Which brings me to the complete illegality of the project. It’s most definitely illegal art and although I can’t defend DJ Dangermouse for trying to sell 3,000 copies, I don’t see a problem with the mere act of having the music, playing the music, or sharing it with friends in a non-commercial context. The very concept of illegal art is absurd. The illegal art site is a great source for previous work by those bluring the lines of art with trademark and copyright and points out the problems of over-reaching intellectual property laws. A turntablist looking to make a buck certainly should do whatever is necessary before making a remix, but if profit isn’t the goal, I can’t see a problem building new music from previous samples with or without permission. Remix-ready vocal-only versions of The Black Album were released by Jay Z for a reason, and The Grey Album is best product of the remixes that have followed the original album’s release.

It’s in that vein that I share the Grey Album today with you today. I’m in no way benefiting financially from it. DJ Dangermouse doesn’t make more money from it. Jay Z doesn’t make or lose a dollar as a result. The Beatles don’t lose money when these songs play. But every one of us that gets a listen benefits in an intangible way. The rightsholders of the Beatles music want these files to go away, but it’s the most compelling hip hop album of the last few years and deserves to be shared with others, not silenced (at least for the next 24 hours).

Darn good music

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I really love every release of Steven’s Acts of Volition Radio. Since he lives on Prince Edward Island, he’s exposed to a whole lot of music I’m not and I consider him a tastemaker for Canadian indie rock.

It’s a bummer to think that offering one big music file is probably completely illegal, and kind of loses some functionality in the whole deal. It’d be cool if there was a way, or an app (there probably is), that let you share playlists like this, including the between track banter, as downloadable mp3s.

I love Steven’s whole series, and that the internet makes it possible for me to find this stuff. This is what radio used to be like, where DJs dug deep to find cool music you’d never find on your own, but that industry’s gone completely bezerk with payola and record label deals and FCC regs on what you can play.


Well, the server is back up and I’ve got a backlog of stuff I wanted to post about the last few days but I’m having trouble remembering it all.

The weirdest part was that I missed this site most of all. I kept kicking myself for not having a place to jot an idea down, or remind myself to look something up later.