Old-school DRM and new-school analytics

Piracy isn’t the threat; it’s centuries old. Music Science is the game changer.

Download our new free report “Music Science: How Data and Digital Content are Changing Music,” by Alistair Croll, to learn more about music, data, and music science.

350px_Stephan_Sedlaczek_Mozart_am_SpinettIn researching how data is changing the music industry, I came across dozens of entertaining anecdotes. One of the recurring themes was music piracy. As I wrote in my previous post on music science, industry incumbents think of piracy as a relatively new phenomenon — as one executive told me, “vinyl was great DRM.”

But the fight between protecting and copying content has gone on for a long time, and every new medium for music distribution has left someone feeling robbed. One of the first known cases of copy protection — and illegal copying — involved Mozart himself.

As a composer, Mozart’s music spread far and wide. But he was also a performer and wanted to be able to command a premium for playing in front of audiences. One way he ensured continued demand was through “flourishes,” or small additions to songs, which weren’t recorded in written music. While Mozart’s flourishes are lost to history, researchers have attempted to understand how his music might once have been played. This video shows classical pianist Christina Kobb demonstrating a 19th century technique.

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A Web without ads

Ad blockers won't destroy the Web, but they might bring us back to the Web we intended to build in the first place.


You might have noticed a small dustup around ad blockers over the last few days. Someone on Twitter asked how this came out of nowhere in three days. Well, it didn’t. It’s been building. Apple kicked it into overdrive by adding ad blocking capability to iOS, but there’s nothing really new.

I recently started using an ad blocker: just Adblock Plus, and just on Chrome. While I’m an ad-hostile person, I’m not aggressively ad-hostile. For the most part, I’m content to ignore advertising. But some site (I don’t remember which) just went too far, probably with mouseover popups that obscured what I wanted to read, and I said “I’ve had it.” You can waste my bandwidth, but don’t prevent me from reading articles.

So, with that in mind, here are a few observations.

If you’re in the ad business, don’t make the experience worse for the readers. Seriously: you ought to realize that if you’ve just annoyed someone, they’re not likely to click on your ad, let alone buy your product. Doc Searls (@dsearls) wrote absolutely the smartest thing I’ve seen on this controversy: “If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them.” And if people are telling you, “we don’t want you, go away,” you’d best figure out why, rather than whining about it. (Searls’ entire series on advertising is excellent, and you should read it. The last post, Debugging adtech assumptions, lists all the prior posts). Read more…

Comments: 5

Are there some students who can’t learn how to code?

Change tactics or give up: It's a crossroads many teachers face when students don't understand the code.

I can never forget an evening late into a semester of my Introduction to Python course, during which I asked my students a question about user-defined classes. Here’s the code I had put on the board:

As new information for this particular lesson, I informed them that every time a new MyClass instance is created, the __init__() method is called implicitly. In other words, the code above calls __init__() twice, and in executing the code in __init__(), the variable MyClass.var is being incremented — so this is also happening twice.

So, I asked them: after the above code is executed, what is the value of MyClass.var?

The hand of this class’ most enthusiastic student shot into the air.

“One!” He answered proudly. And for a moment my mouth stood open. Read more…

Comments: 10

Big data and the music industry: Where’s the romance?

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Amanda Palmer on music industry survival techniques.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast to track the technologies and people that will shape our world in the years to come.


In this week’s Radar Podcast episode, author and entrepreneur Alistair Croll talks with musician and performer Amanda Palmer about the current state of the music industry and how she’s navigating her way through new platforms, crowdfunding, and an ever-increasing amount of data.

Here are a few snippets from their chat:

I’ve always approached every Internet platform and every Internet tool with the suspicion that it may not last, and that actually what’s very important is that the art and the relationships I’m building are authentic enough that even if the Internet disappeared tomorrow, or even if Facebook collapsed, or Twitter collapsed, or what have you, or all of our email went down, I’m not so reliant on the Internet itself that I couldn’t somehow piece things together.

I kind of had to come to terms with the fact that the machine still feeds what people listen to, whether it’s radio, or what gets licensed to films, or what music is playing when you walk into a shop. The ability of an artist to actually really get over that mountain, if you decide not to play the game, your hands are still pretty tied.

[Zoe Keating] was saying that an album for her is, she wants to make it all at one time and make one big statement and put it out, kind of like you would put out an opera. I’m deliberately trying to detach myself from that, and just say, ‘I wrote a song. I have this Patreon. I’m just going to put it out.’ At some point, maybe I will collect everything together so the mainstream media people of the world can have an Amanda Palmer record. But maybe that format really is dying. Read more…

Comment: 1

Big data is changing the face of fashion

How the fashion industry is embracing algorithms, natural language processing, and visual search.


Download Fashioning Data: A 2015 Update, our updated free report exploring data innovations from the fashion industry.

Fashion is an industry that struggles for respect — despite its enormous size globally, it is often viewed as frivolous or unnecessary.

And it’s true — fashion can be spectacularly silly and wildly extraneous. But somewhere between the glitzy, million-dollar runway shows and the ever-shifting hemlines, a very big business can be found. One industry profile of the global textiles, apparel, and luxury goods market reported that fashion had total revenues of $3.05 trillion in 2011, and is projected to create $3.75 trillion in revenues in 2016.

Solutions for a unique business problem

The majority of clothing purchases are made not out of necessity, but out of a desire for self-expression and identity — two remarkably difficult things to quantify and define. Yet, established brands and startups throughout the industry are finding clever ways to use big data to turn fashion into “bits and bytes,” as much as threads and buttons.

In the newly updated O’Reilly report Fashioning Data: A 2015 Update, Data Innovations from the Fashion Industry, we explore applications of big data that carry lessons for industries of all types. Topics range from predictive algorithms to visual search — capturing structured data from photographs — to natural language processing, with specific examples from complex lifecycles and new startups; this report reveals how different companies are merging human input with machine learning. Read more…


Design for the greater good

The O’Reilly Design Podcast: Gretchen Anderson on designing for social impact.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Design Podcast, our podcast exploring how experience design — and experience designers — are shaping business, the Internet of Things, and other domains.

471px-Holy-grail-round-table-bnf-ms_fr-116F-f610v-15th-detailIn this week’s Design Podcast episode, I sit down with designer Gretchen Anderson. Anderson is the author of the free O’Reilly report Designing for Social Impact and a program committee member for OReilly’s inaugural design conference, where she is also moderating a panel on designing with data for social impact.

In this podcast episode, Anderson talks about design as a force to improve our lives and about approaching design as an inclusive discipline.

Here are a few highlights from our chat:

Forget the color palette conversations. Stop trying to make everyone understand the craft of design any more than they want to — just take your seat at the table. Greg Petroff talks about how designers can be a little bit paranoid by nature. I think that comes with the territory. There can be a lot of ‘us and them’ — I think it’s important to really drop that way of thinking. Not everyone does what you do, but that does not mean that you aren’t part of a larger ecosystem; you want to foster that creative part of bringing everyone together.

Design is about finding and testing and being able to hold a point of view on what people need and want, whatever your mission or enterprise is, and being someone who can reconcile constraints into something awesome, not just the sad compromise of everyone’s democracy. Have the bravery and the skills to hold that and the relentless passion and patience for refinement of an idea, even the bad ones sometimes.

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