Uke News

Long-time readers here will have been aware of my plunking and warbling, but I’ve only recently been coming out of the ukulele closet more widely.

My seesmic fun has been well-received but before all that started, I did an audition for a busking licence on London Underground and yesterday, I heard that I passed :)

I know it’s not to everyone’s taste, so I just wanted to warn those who are uke-averse that shortly (just waiting for my police check) you won’t even be able to escape by going underground…

Scaling Seesmic

Yesterday, I saw Loïc make a plea for people to come in & make video quickly to show to a journalist, Erika Brown, who he was talking to over breakfast.

So we piled in with gusto, naturally. This is not new. I’ve seen people ask for irc contributions, blog comments, blog posts using tags, tweets usually from the stage of a conference or a demo they’re doing somewhere, to show the network effect – that the net is alive and full of people and doing stuff all the time. I still think it’s cool.

Apparently later (according to Loïc’s daily summary) she was asking why we do this stuff – what’s in it for us. Good question. Don’t know the answer, but don’t think I’m not thinking about it. (BTW – I worry though that when someone outside the group asks “what’s in it for the people in this group?” they’re actually asking “and how can I exploit it in some way?” ie “What’s in this phenomenon for me?” but that’s a whole other lifetime’s blogging)

I have been thinking though about what happens when they try to scale seesmic up. Right now, there are two interfaces essentially – one is the public timeline with every post in it (though it can be filtered for friends and for my vids too) and the other is twitter which announces new videos if the user has provided her twitter details. I’m following this by tracking</a “seesmic” in twitter, so I see everyone regardless of whether I follow them in twitter or not (keep up!) *and* I see every other reference to the word “seesmic” too. Clearly I’m obsessed.

Now this is something we’ve seen before. What starts as a little trickle, becomes a steady stream, becomes a mighty torrent of unmanageable information. Weblogs.com started out like this but was in stream/minor tributary mode when I first saw it. Ah me, I used to love to sit at audio.weblogs.com late in 2004, CTRL+F5′ing to see what was new. When I joined twitter about a year ago I had about 10 friends and some of them were in way different time zones – minutes would go by without an update – now I have it running in my im window and it’s like a constant ticker tape – in fact it’s now going too fast.

Seesmic will (probably) follow the same pattern in terms of the increase in the number and rate of contributions. What I’m interested in, is what happens when seesmic becomes like audio.weblogs.com today. Now at the beginning, although there were some podcast directories, audio.weblogs.com was the best place to go because you could see everything and everything was worth at least a glance at the title. So what happens when the public timeline is whizzing past as fast as weblogs.com? What about when my friends list whizzes as fast as twitter. Well, I’ll miss stuff, that’s for sure, I’m missing stuff on twitter and in my feed reader right now because I’m writing, but the other problem is that while twitter can be scanned, if I want to find out what a seesmers just said, I have to click and open a video. The only way I can see is RSS (with enclosures, I think too – gulp!). This is why I’ve made a feature request for (at least) my feed, a feed of my friends and a public timeline feed. I also want to see feeds for particular tags. We can’t see this metadata at the moment, but I’m filling it in (are you?). And then I want a big tag cloud so that I can follow the zeitgeist of seesmic and dip into a feed based on tags. So I’m expecting that I will then subscribe to certain feeds and go to seesmic from time to time to dip into stuff that I’m not subscribed to. Oy! I think I might like to keep seesmic down to a manageable little community of 150 diverse international shiny new toy freaks :)

Now, this brings us back to Erika’s question: “What’s in it for us?” Why do I do this? Why am I obsessed with shiny new toys like this? Because I like being part of this little group – just like podcasting was 3 years ago. And I want everyone to have the chance to have this experience. Why do I choose some and not others. Well a big differentiating factor is in the previous paragraph – I’ll repeat it – I made a feature request and I’m sure it will be considered and may get somewhere if it’s thought a good idea by the community. Why am I sure? Because I made the feature request that we should have voting on feature request, and it was implemented. So now we’re voting on what things we’d like to see. That’s what’s in it for me, a small bit of satisfaction that an idea I had sitting at a screen in London could ping around the world and get created before my very eyes *and* I believe that I’m not special, if it can happen to me, it can happen for everyone, if they want it.

No screenshot to go with this, can’t be arsed to edit – is there a skitch clone for Windows?

How many kinds of cool

no publicityI’ve been a bit of a Matt Jones fanboy since about 2001 when he was at the BBC and running networking events for people interested in IA. His was one of the first blogs I saw, and didn’t even know it was a blog, just thought it was really cool. At the top it said “measure twice. cut once.” and I swooned.

I’m not such a stalker that I’ve been following his every move since then, but his presentation at Interesting2007 kicked ass too.

Last night I saw him wearing this t-shirt that says “wearing my twitter shirt”. He very kindly posed for a photograph, even though he must have known it that this stance would reveal his third ‘lady’ arm that protrudes from his right arm-pit.

Early days on Seesmic

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Really enjoying “pre-alpha” access to seesmic.com the new kid on the lifestream block courtesy of Loïc LeMeur. It’s a closed group for the time being and feels nicely diverse and international which makes a good change from the usual West Coast dominance. Halley Suitt’s french cracks me up as much as it did at the first Les Blogs.

The basic premise is like twitter, only in video – there’s a public timeline of new clips. Some are long and dribbly, some are short and snappy. There are lots of tests and mumbling into mics and stuff – good wholesome early day play stuff.

What Loïc’s done that’s really smart is that the outputs can leak even though the actual application is not available beyond 150 of us. So I can share a URL with you – here’s me & my ukulele. In fact, when I post a new clip this happens automagically through my twitter stream as I’ve shared my details with them. His other masterstroke is to do a daily video summary – how hard its this and how much buzz does it generate? Why don’t more startups do it? Why am I not doing it?

There are 3 options for providing video – you can share a YouTube clip, you can record using a webcam, or you can supply a .flv file. My webcam stuff has been frustrating because I can’t get the sound to work particularly well. I sound as if I have a serious lisp – whereas you all know that I actually have quite a trivial little sibilance problem… The audio ain’t great from the great MacBook iSight unwashed either, so I’m imagining it has something to do with the encoding at seesmic’s end.

So the uke clip was an experiment in getting round this by making a quick video on my camcorder capturing straight to my hard disk, quick editing & encoding as .wmv, uploading to blip.tv and then taking the resulting .flv and uploading to seesmic. Any suggestions on shortcutting this that don’t involve me buying new hardware or software are welcomed – I haven’t had a good experience yet with Riva the .flv encoder that is supposed to do the job of converting from .wmv to .flv I want to be able to do it quickly – that’s kind of the point.

There are some annoying things in the interface still. Though they’re getting fixed by the hour. I just saw Loïc twitter for example that profile pics are now working properly and sure enough they are :) I had some initial difficulties because I chose a weird user name – it all got sorted very quickly and patiently by Johann the tech guy.

Also as it’s such early days I don’t know what should work and what shouldn’t. Of course I’m willing to put up with pretty much anything. I can’t get YouTube vids to work in the seesmic screen, I have to watch them on youtube.com and some .flv uploads have stalled for me too. The buffering settings seem to need tweaking – it doesn’t download enough before starting to play so that it stalls too frequently.

It brings home for me again that you have to use these things to really grok them. If you just see someone else’s outputs, whether it’s seesmic, twitter or blogs it’s quite difficult to understand what’s going on. Let’s hope it’s open for more people soon. The really interesting behaviours will emerge I’m sure when we’ve loads of people playing. We’re still regularly finding new applications for twitter for example and I’ve been on that for nearly a year.

Café Audioscrobbled

So here’s an idea for members or regulars at the London Social Media Café.

You make LSMC a friend of yours on last.fm. When you come in, you swipe your card so our central electronic brain knows that you’re there. From here you’re in a group and the sound system plays radio from last.fm based on type of music favoured by the group of people who are in the house today.

Does last.fm work like that? I’ve never been able to listen to music and do computer based work at the same time, so it’s kind of passed me by.

To Let

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Had a little wander around a little bit of Soho on Wednesday to see what I could see that might be of use to someone thinking about a London Social Media Café. I only covered Brewer St, Wardour St, Dean St & Berwick St and the thoroughfares in between (you know the places you’re most likely to trip over Charles Frith at 5am… allegedly)

I took some pics of the ad boards from commercial property agents. Lots of upstairs offices. One or two boarded up or broken down café type spaces including one with a To Let sign in the window.

Left me wondering whether LSMC could operate in what is existing office space. Obviously you’d lose the passing trade, non-social-media traffic but still not sure how much that would be anyway. Also, don’t know if that sort of thing means a change of use and therefore requires some government interference, or looking at it in a more practical way, what you can get away with without upsetting Westminster CC.

And so farewell, New Piccadilly.... <sniff>Bonus pic: Before I got that far, I went and snapped the New Piccadilly which is now closed and boarded up. Anyone (Russell?)have any pointers to stories or info on whether the signage or any innards have been preserved?