Brian Eno – surfing on entropy

Posted in ideas, music, Online by solle on 28/12/2008

Attention recently has been drawn towards Kevin Kelly’s interview with Brian Eno from the May 1995 edition of Wired.

Entitled ‘Gossip is Philosophy‘ the interview (a mix up of face-to-face, telephone and email) is full of suggestions that it could easily have taken place just yesterday. The conversation is so full of enlightened thinking and foresights that on occasion you read in wonder at its breathtaking scope.

Frustration with personal computers and their limitations continue to dog our use of them. Eno’s explanation: “The problem with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them”.

He continues:

“If you want to make computers that really work, create a design team composed only of healthy, active women with lots else to do in their lives and give them carte blanche. Do not under any circumstances consult anyone who (a) is fascinated by computer games (b) tends to describe silly things as “totally cool” (c) has nothing better to do except fiddle with these damn things night after night.”


Here are a few more worthy snippets:

Obviously his thoughts regarding how music will evolve are particularly interesting. You just about get a “Brian Eno box” with 77 Million Paintings. Obviously this is just a start and when watching/listening to it you get an idea of what is possible down the line. And yes you can pretty much “order an evening of music over the Net” – Last.fm will dance that trick.

And design:

13 years later and has the latest version of Photoshop really changed design? Maybe not as much as you would expect: “The answer is generally that, as with all computer-based things, the technology filters out most of the interesting people, and forces them to wait.” But how long do we have to wait?

This exchange between Kelly and Eno regarding algorithms and heuristics I think perfectly encapsulates the experience of interacting with the modern browser:

“Artificial life researchers talk about surfing the wave of increasing complexity. A very complex system gets close to a certain edge between rigid control and utter chaos – that’s when the whole thing can surf to the next level of complexity. They see this in evolutionary systems. Some go as far as to say that’s what life does: surf on entropy.

I like that. Metaphors involving the sea are very powerful to me. You have this interesting conflict – a sense of direction, a need to get somewhere, but in a medium that has its own, probably different, sense of direction. You can use the piggyback power of that medium, but you have to keep paying attention, making your own adjustments. Unless you really do want to go with the flow.”

The highlights above barely scratch the service. What is required is a follow up interview to catch up on the insights, ideas and thinking from 1995 and how they bare on the cultural experiences of today particularly the relation to ‘online’.

More will follow but for now please read Gossip is Philosophy

“History is changed by people who get pissed off”

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List of online music players and the like

Posted in music by solle on 24/12/2008
online music players

online music players

Lists are good and everyone has their own. What I haven’t seen is a stab at a list of online music players. Many appear and then disappear (Muxtape), obviously falling foul of copyright and have to make a new plan to reappear, some only exist within certain shores (Pandora – US) and some just keep on going (Favtape). What the future holds for new entrants like Tunesbag who knows (you could spend hours uploading your iTunes library and the wake up in the morning and the site has been closed down).

Please add any that I’m not aware of – thanks.

Here’s my list of online music players:


Last.fm v YouTube mashup



From the basement







Favtape Discovery


Muxtape and Mixwit (both should return soon but not quite sure what as)






Pandora (Install Hotspot Shield to access from outside US)


Wolfgang’s Vault



The Black Cab Sessions

There are definitely more out there. Any of them any good? Who knows. All a bit here today, gone tomorrow about it. Maybe I’ll try an online radio list next.

Please add any good ones that I’ve missed.

UPDATE: Found a couple of new ones, haven’t tested them: Just Hear it and Streamdrag and Simplify Media

UPDATE: Awdio live music stream from more than 60 clubs, Deezer, The Sixty One, One Llama, Jango, SoundCloud, Goom Radio, JamWee

UPDATE: Mixcloud Re-think radio (in private beta at present but get on the invite list by visiting the homepage.

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In defense of the Financial Services Authority

Posted in Business by solle on 20/12/2008

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) continues to receive a lot of criticism ranging from being ineffectual in its remit, incompetent in charge of great responsibility, being knee deep in middle managers and having preposterously lengthy guidelines and manuals – and the condemnation has been especially vocal during these trying and difficult ‘credit crunch’ times.

Now some of this opprobrium might be correct but I believe things would be a darn sight worse without them. I mean what a job to attempt to keep some of the most wealthy and powerful people and companies in line.

It’s almost the impossible job.

Everyone is going to hate you, moan about you, criticise you, and generally bemoan your very existence. And then when you do act and serve up some unpleasant regulation and investigation medicine everyone is going to accuse you of being one step from the Third Reich.

It’s a battleground out there.

It seems that many people in the City hark back, with almost tearful sentimentality, to the regulation bodies before the advent of the FSA when guidelines were squeezed into slim ‘brochureware-style’ publications advocating that everyone “act responsibly” and encouraging self-monitoring.

Now that’s fine and dandy for the handful of responsible and honourable operators in the City and beyond but really it doesn’t do for the majority. How does self-regulation protect Mr Smith et al?

It doesn’t and never has and never will.

At least the FSA is trying to protect Mr Smith et al. For this they should always be supported. They also protect firms that fall under its regulation (obviously the ones that play by the rules – and the rules really aren’t that problematic for honest firms just a little buried in reams and reams of paperwork).

In a world of Bernard Madoff, Lehman Brothers, Matthew Devlin (seems like there’s a new one everyday) and the subprime mortgage crisis who really believes anything but the strictest regulation will do.

I really believe it has come to pass. There is no other choice and you really cannot have one rule for some and other rules for others.

It may seem like a dissident voice (and I’m neither a compliance professional nor a financial services professional) but I offer my support to the Financial Services Authority.

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Visualising data – a catalogue of resources

Posted in content, Data by solle on 10/12/2008


There’s a continuing stream of tools and resources for visualising all kinds of data. After coming across quite a few sources myself and from other sources (including Journadism’s excellent list,  the extensive article – Data Visualisation: Modern Approaches from Smashing Magazine and a recent presentation by Max Gadney of the BBC for the Information Design Association) I thought it would be useful for anyone who reads this post (and myself) to make another list. Please feel free to add to it:

Online tools

Doodlebuzz – create typographic maps of news stories

Wordle – popular tool for generating word clouds

Wordcount – tracking the use of words and language across the web

IBM’s Many Eyes – data visualisation tools

New York Times Visualisation Labs – tools for visualisation of New York Times data (powered by IBM’s Many Eyes)

retrievr – search Flickr by sketching

Xtimeline – Explore and create timelines

Visualising Delicious.com

RSS Voyage: Visualise your RSS feeds (beautiful & graceful)

Quintura: visual search engine by way of clouds and explanations

Twitter visualisation with screensaver: Twistori

Google Visualisation API

Pachube – monitor and share real-time environmental data from sensors that are connected to the internet

Visual Thesaurus: Interactive dictionary and thesaurus (costs but free trial available)

Swivel: making data useful. Upload, share, explore

TreeViz – fast interactive visualization of large data structures organized in a tree

Dabble DB – create and manage online databases

FeedVis – an interactive tag cloud tool for RSS feeds

Gapminder – tools for viewing a fact-based world

Revealicious – graphic visualisations of your Delicious account

Offline tools

Touchgraph – work with Excel data or visualise Google search results

The R Project for Statistical Computing – statistical computing and graphics

Prefuse – download the software toolkit to create complex data visualisations

Processing – open source programming language to produce images, animation and interaction

Inspiration: People

Information Architect’s Web Trend’s map – seminal ‘map of web movers and shakers’ updating every year

Shan Carter’s work at the New York Times

Feltron – creator of the Feltron Annual Reports and for Penguin, We Tell Stories: Hard Times

Chris Jordan – His photography project over the last few year’s Running the Numbers

Ben Fry – author of Visualising Data for O’Reilly and creator of an excellent portfolio (associated with Processing above)

Karl Hartig: Data Visualisation – charts, diagrams, information graphics

Mandelbrot on Twitpic – finance-related visualisations

Well Formed Data (Elastic Lists) – Moritz Stefaner’s work

Munterbund – graphical visualisations of text

Concept Maps from Dubberly Design Office. Including visualisation maps of the creative process, a model of play and a model of innovation.

Inspiration: Websites

Silobreaker – news aggregator

Maptube – a free resource for viewing, sharing, mixing and mashing maps online

Daylife Labs – news aggregator

GPS Drawing – Drawing with Global Position System technology

Digg Labs – various ways of visualising high level of activity on Digg

World Mapper – a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest

Getty Images’ Moodstream – images still and moving tuned to your mood (based on what you select)

Newsmap – visualisation of world news by country (similar in layout to Oursignal)

Oursignal – visualisation of data from Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Hackernews, Yahoo Buzz

Stamen Design’s Travel Time Maps for MySociety

Financial Times Global Micromaps Track global market indices and global currencies on an interactive world map.

Threat Meter on Newsweek (powered by Daylife) is an intelligent content services platform, is a brilliant interactive tool that allows you to assess and rate the ‘heat’ of a list of issues.

Facebook Visualisation

Breathing Earth – real-time simulation of CO2 emissions, birth & death rates by country

Twitter Venn – the relationship between words on Twitter

Indianapolis Museum of Art Dashboard

Helsinki live bus monitor – check where the bus is, what time it’s going to arrive (hopefully coming to a city near you soon)

Online news and resources

Information Aesthetics

Flowing Data – data visualisation and statistics

Infographics News


Visual Complexity – “intends to be a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks”.

Periodic Table of Visualisation Methods

Info Design Patterns

10 Best Free Chart APIs


Smashing Magazine Diagrams: Tools and Tutorials – a list of tools for drawing diagrams, charts and chart-flows

(thanks to Cameron Chapman) Web traffic visualisation – Click Density, Click Tale, Click Heat, Crazy Egg

Read Sarah Perez’s article from ReadWriteWeb last year for a great list of ways to visualise your social network data including Amazon, Last.fm, Flickr, music, search engines, web traffic: The Best Tools for Visualisation

Here’s a couple of examples:

Last.forward – An open source software for analyzing and visualizing social networks (good with Last.fm).

Fidg’t Visualise: Play around with data from your network whether that be Flickr or Last.fm tags.

Excellent article from Semantic FoundryDynamic Visualisation: Introduction & Theory

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Please reset your email notification settings

Posted in Uncategorized by solle on 01/12/2008

Saturday morning received an email with above subject line. Looked like spam but obviously came from Facebook.

Here’s the message body:

“Unfortunately, the settings that control which email notifications get sent to you were lost. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.

To reset your email notification settings, go to:


The Facebook Team”

I don’t seem to be alone but that doesn’t stop me being mighty annoyed with Facebook. To be honest I’d have closed down my account a long time ago apart from the fact that I have connection to an app on the platform.

Read this series of postings on the Facebook Developer Forum

The excuse then from the FB dev team:


This was an error event, and Facebook sent these emails as an alert to users who were affected. We apologize for the inconvenience. 

Platform Developer Operations & Support”

And as one poster mentions was it a “fake accident” to “level the field for post-platform2 launched apps” so that they could email everyone to high heaven again?

Whatever it was it wasn’t clever and Facebook continue to position themselves as an organisation that you shouldn’t trust any important or personal data with.

Login now and scramble all your personal data is my advice (that is if you still decide to use the platform).