Thursday, 30 April 2009

Garrick’s SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists Picks

5 Stars

  1. Cable TV by Fol Chen
    Poppy beats and seductive vocals about doing absolutely nothing. Except watching cable tv. An prime example of the oft overlooked SlackerRock genre.
  2. Nothing At All by Madi Diaz
    Like chasing a butterflies through a field on a summer day.
  3. Winona by Totally Michael
    A love song to Winona Ryder as sung to ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’.

4 Stars

  1. Up And Down by The Chesterfield Kings
    A classic blues rock tune, recalls Lynyrd Skynard.
  2. Tall Green Grass by Cory Branan
    Great for that picnic you have after you’re done chasing butterflies.
  3. 14 Arms by Crash Kings
    An screamy, energizing track – perfect for getting the blood flowing on a dreary day.
  4. FLEX by Doomtree
    It’s Doomtree. I like Doomtree.
  5. Crown of Age by The Ettes
    I dig the sound of female-fronted punk groups, this one reminds me of Joan Jett.
  6. How We Exit by Gentleman Reg
    Despite the horns and non-vocoder vocals, I get a poppy, electronica vibe from this.
  7. Strictly Game by Harlem Shakes
    Made the list for the motivating, timely line: “This will be a better year”.
  8. Gettin’ High for Jesus by Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs
  9. If You Should Ever Fall On Hard Times by The Iguanas
  10. Dag by In Stereo (perCeptie & Kapabel)
    Dorky Dutch hip hop, in the vein of Die Fantastischen Vier-esque
  11. Steel On Steel by J. Tillman
    A big, heavy, melancholy blanket.
  12. Bank Song by The Johnstones
    A celebration, though I get the sneaking suspicion it’s about something less than pleasant.
  13. My Derlirium by Ladyhawke
    A highly danceable, electronica track, produced by Blondie.
  14. Zero Machine by Le Castle Vania
    A Depeche Mode + Smashing Pumpkins mash-up, without the mash-up.
  15. Wake the Sun by The Matches
    Play this the next time you’re walking home after singing karaoke “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow” into the wee hours.
  16. Honey, Let Me Sing You A Song by Matt Hires
    I’m guessing Matt Hires opens for Jack Johnson, or enjoys causing “mix-ups”.
  17. Cannibal Queen by Miniature Tigers
    Dorky, bouncy, pop – like Tullycraft. “I’m coming for your heart like a cannibal” wins for best song lyric of SXSW 2009.
  18. Down in Electric by Operahouse
    Another excellent example of oft-overlooked Spy rock genre.
  19. Little Brass Bear by Rachel Goodrich
    This song will get you dancing, the kinda feeling badly toward the signer, and then…kazoos!
  20. Offbeat Feeling by The Resignators
    Ska. Just the way I like it; big horns, mostly angry lead vocalist, well-dressed men jumping straight up and down – but only a few inches.
  21. You look at me by Rokhsan
    A poppy, love song that consistently gives me a big, corny smile.
  22. Bad Choices by Shout Out Out Out Out
    I’d like to nominate this song for 2008 Financial Crisis Theme Song. It even sounds like a storms rolling in.
  23. Behind Me Now by The Silos
    Conversely, this one’s good for 2009.
  24. Hologram by Ten Out of Tenn
    If there’s a remake of Lost in Translation as stop-motion animation, this is on the soundtrack.
  25. Bag Of Hammers by Thao With The Get Down Stay Down
    An un-break-up song with a bag of hammers is being used as a threat. It’s a nervous, nervous smile.
  26. I’ll Play What You Want by Toy Horses
    If Stiff Little Fingers were poppier and happier..but not as poppy and happy as Squeeze.
  27. Idunno by Ungdomskulen
    You know I how much I dig electronically, distorted vocals.
  28. Trains I Missed by Walt Wilkins
    The stereotypical country song version of, ‘when god closes a door he opens a window’.
  29. Birds of a Feather by We Were Lovers
    Sugary Sweet Vocal is protected her older brother, Bass Guitar.
  30. Amateur by The 757s
    Another un-break-up song. This time from the guys side.

3 Stars

  1. On My Kees by Aqualung
    Don’t let him back, don’t let let him back. So, did you let him back?
  2. Caroline by The Belleville Outfit
    An fun, fun track invoking the post-Swing vibe (a la Squirrel Nut Zippers)
  3. You Won’t Be Able To Be Sad by The Break And Repair Method
    The opening song to the next John Hughes teen production.
  4. Imitation of the Sky by Bryan Scary and The Shredding Tears
    Sounds like all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club wrapped into a single song.
  5. Still Have My Heart by Caitlin Crosby
    She’s either in love with an imaginary person or she’s a stalker.
  6. Hail Destroyer by Cancer Bats
    After years of listening through SXSW Showcasing Artists, I finally found a Scandanavian Canadian death metal track I enjoy.
  7. A little wiser now by Choo Choo
    I generally dig songs that happily admit historical stupidity.
  8. 9999 (Ways To Hate Us) by The Clutters
    It’s fantastic that a group of nasal-signers found each other and started a band.
  9. R.I.M.L. by Codebreaker
    This song might be a joke. Like an SNL skit. I’m not hip enough to know.
  10. Will I Stay by Colin Munroe
    Colin’s pretty whiny. Thankfully the band drops such big beats it can be over looked.
  11. Kamikaze rock’n’roll by Dead Sexy Inc
    British Invasion rock + harmonicas.
  12. I’m Not Crying. You’re Not Crying, are you? by Dear and the Headlights
    A leisurely stroll through the woods…until you step in a beehive.
  13. Capture and Develop by The Details
    Just under 3 minutes of longing guilt.
  14. That Sinking Feeling by Emma Lee
    The chorus completely melts me.
  15. Boom! Boom! Boom! by The Everyday Visuals
    Wins for best use of the title within the song.
  16. DARTS by FLiP
    It’s in Japanese – except for the English chorus. And yes, that just confuses me more.
  17. Bugguts by Gavin Castleton
    Reminds me of the teen car accident pop songs from the 1950’s.
  18. Goes Cube Song 57 by Goes Cube
    A good, guitar-driven, grunge tune – like a Soundgarden or early Foo Fighters.
    Female Japanese vocalist + distorting vocoder = delicious noise
  20. Walk Through Fire by Indian Jewelry
    There might be instruments and vocals in there. Somewhere deep below the sea of distortion.
  21. Single Fins & Safety Pins by The Japanese Motors
    A catchy, fun-lovin’ beach tune.
  22. Happy Birthday You by Jay Jay Pistolet
    Remember Marilyn Monroe’s signing of ‘Happy Birthday’? This is opposite of that.
  23. Over You by Jay Nash
    A sincerely sweet Country tune featuring Jim Croce’s guitar,
  24. Gloom Doom Buttercups by Kittens Ablaze
    I’m not confident everyone in the band is playing the same song…and that’s why I dig it.
  25. Sushi by Kyle Andrews
    A synth-pop tune reminding me of all my favorite Top 40 songs from the 1980s.
  26. Posidonia by La Habitacion Roja
    This could be a stereotypical Latin pop tune. It still holds up to heavy rotation.
  27. No Generation by Lions
    Like White Zombie or RAGTM without the annoying parts.
  28. Punch and Judy by Little Thief
    Solid, simple drum, guitar, and vocal work.
  29. Lalita by The Love Language
    Your favorite fleece jacket – as a song.
  30. days in universe by Maren Parusel
    Maren Parusel could be singing directions from Google Maps and I’d be enthralled.
  31. Diseases Of Yore by MC Frontalot
    If you can’t learn medical history from geekcore rap – what good is it? And I think Jonathan Coulton opens the track.
  32. Don’t Be On With Her by Miami Horror
    Another delicious synth-pop 80s track.
  33. Bus Stop Lovers by My Federation
    A great track for you run mix – especially if you use public transit signs as landmarks.
  34. Cuando, Cuando by Nina Dioz
    Extra-tough Latin rap. I don’t know Spanish but I think she’s saying something about using my head as a pinata.
  35. Greyhound Bus by Oh Susanna
    There’s a stereotypical Country song about a man with a broken down truck and a runaway dog. This might that stereotypical song for women.
  36. Call and Response by Or, the Whale
    A couple years back there were a bunch of songs at SXSW about losing New Orleans. This one is about rebuilding the city.
  37. Broken Heart Land by Owen Temple
    Made the list immediate after I hear the opening line: “How did your past get stuck in a pawn shop?”
  38. 123 Stop by The Postelles
    The Monkees with dirty guitars.
  39. The Waves by Princeton
    Maracas and disillusionment.
  40. I Couldn’t Make It by Randy Weeks
    Lou Reed, post-Velvet Underground, and a little bit Country.
  41. Ornamental by Scissors for Lefty
    British people get so excited sometimes.
  42. King Bolo by Scram C Baby
    King Missile-esque storytelling with better instrument work.
  43. she creatures invade by The She Creatures
    When GWAR finally makes that movie, the sequel will star The She Creatures.
  44. Slow Club by Slow Club
    A great example of a SlackerRock duets.
  45. Hit the Wall by Song Island Revue
    “I hit the wall… / I painted a road on it” is much more poetic than that tired phrase about lemons and lemonade.
  46. You say GOOD BYE by SpecialThanks
    Japan does American female-led rock really well.
  47. Grass is Green by Sweet Water
    I think in the 90s, this band was called, The Fall.
  48. Pacemaker by Teenage Bottlerocket
    Can’t be the Ramones, the track is a full 2:30 minutes long,
  49. This Mission by This Is My Condition
    A Discord Records-esque D.C. Hardcore-style track by way of Lawrence, KS.
  50. It’s Not Too Late by Triple Cobra
    The soundtrack to “That Thing You Do” if it was about a Goth band.
  51. In The City by Tunnel Clones
    Digable Planets-style hip hop.
  52. Get On With It by Val Emmich
    You heard the man.
  53. Drown Them Out by Viva Voce
    Sirens. Calling me into the rocks.
  54. This Is Our Perfect Crime by The Von Bondies
    The 21st Century version of Skid Row’s ‘Youth Gone Wild’.
  55. I Go I Go I Go by Wave Machines
    Comparisons can be made between this song and REM’s ‘Shiny Happy People’. Parts of them would be right.
  56. Safety In Numbers by The Wax Museums
    Punk kids discussing recruitment tactics.
  57. Let Me Drive by Winter Gloves
    Last year I was big on clapping, I think that’s why I included this one.
  58. Death or Radio by Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer
    “Let’s hold hands and listen to shitty bands…” – is exactly how I imagine SXSW.
  59. Soft The Hard Way by 18th Dye
    The chorus keeps getting stuck in my head and caught by the spam filter.

Stream the entire playlist [m3u]

Kindle 2.0 USB Cable Died, Not Charging

My Kindle‘s been dead since yesterday. My initial thought was that maybe it no longer liked being charged from the USB hub. I plugged it into the wall and the charge light didn’t come on.


Thankfully, it’s USB so I’ve got plenty of cables lying around to test.

I grabbed the USB cable from my Nokia e71, and the Kindle’s charge light is orange.

UPDATE May 06, 2009
I’m on the phone with Amazon’s Kindle Customer support right now. It’s not as immediately friendly and helpful as the “It would be easier to help you if you called us.” email made it sound.

Even before I described the issue, I had to justify who I was (irrelevant to starting the conversation) – that’s always off-putting and opposite from how people actually interact face-to-face.

Now I’ve been transferred to a Kindle Specialist (I thought that’s who I called originally). Once she picked up – it was resolved very smoothly in less than a minute.

Nice work Amazon.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009 – Extra Short Stories

There’s lots of silly URL shorteners.

Some of my favorites – not just because of their silliness, but because they offer some interesting potential;

  1. GiantURL – takes a regular URL and transforms it into a multi-line, unreadable, hash. Potentially, the information you’re sharing could be encoded into the hash, rather than redirected. Hmmm. what’s the difference?
  2. Similarly, Which takes advantage of Cullect‘s custom domain URL shortener – again shows us that URL shortening is like packing peanuts for sending those special nothings.
  3. and of course, still makes me smile – and still shows me that if you limit namespace, you can offer time.

Tonight the Wege added another non-URL shortener to the list.

DickinsURL takes your url and applies a sentence from one of Charles Dickins’ works as the key.

“Enter an ugly URL above and hit convert button. Soon you will be faced with beautiful words of Charles Dickens.”

Unfortunately – if you take a close look at the URLs it generates – the Dickin’s lines are optional!

@highwind – if you drop the numeric key, I’ll give you the #2 slot. 🙂

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Relevance Continually Trumps Timeliness

There’s lots of push lately in the tech community to chase the dragon of real-time.

I do see real-time it most valuable during events that I’m not able to attend in person (the recent IgniteMpls event comes to mind immediately).

Even then, there’s always delay.

Each second delay brings an opportunity to filter for relevance. That’s the biggest win of our increasing use of online services for social interaction. We trust and filter each other [1] [2] [3] [4][5]. While these processes take time, they magically transform a firehose of information into an energizing conversation over a couple of beers.

A friend of mine has opted for a 48-hour delay on his incoming stream. Two days is about how long it takes for daily drama to dissipate. And if it doesn’t – it’s significant, if not relevant.

I was reminded of this earlier today when I received a forwarded email. The email was terribly partisan, terribly incendiary, terribly xenophobic, terribly incoherent, terribly panicked about the economy and the changing face of their community. They even invoked Godwin’s Law2 completely out of the blue.

I received it today.

So I assumed it was written recently – say within the past couple days.

Not at all.

August 2008 it says.


On second read: apart from a sentence or two, it could have been written in August 2001. Or August 1981. Anytime when significant changes in the American zeitgeist were afoot.

Quite a bit has happened since last August. I can only assume a significant percentage of the people this diatribe was directed at are no longer in positions of power. Do these issues reflect anything 9+ months later?

If this were realtime – no.

Yet, I received it today, and the author’s name has 18,200 Google results2 – all pointing to this identical rant.

Whether or not it reflects the current feelings of the author or their community, this rant has continued to inspire a portion of the American populace to share it with each other.

1. I’d much rather people invoked Steiner’s Law instead.
2. As a comparison, my name has between 18,700 and 32,100 results depending on spelling.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Sunday, 26 April 2009

More Usable URLs:

URLs are consistently the least usable aspect of our interaction with web-based information services – which is terribly unfortunate considering their prominence in how we access, share, and interact with these services.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how Twitter’s URLs could be more usable – by either being more logical, more readable, more share-able, or a combination of all 3.

Here’s a standard Twitter URL:

Let’s break this apart:
The person’s Twitter account we’re interested in – very clear1.

I’m not sure what ‘status’ is – seems like a very system-centric term. For the sake of this conversation, let’s assume it’s a synonym for ‘note’, ‘message’, ‘news’, ‘memo’, or the collection of things I publish at Twitter.

This is the individual ‘status’ identifier. Presumably, it’s the primary key ID of this ‘status’ within all the ‘statuses’ in Twitter’s database – making this ‘status’ ID global – not nested within ‘garrickvanburen’. Again, very system-centric and kind of backwards – if we assume URLs should go from largest logical entity to smallest nested entity.

A RESTful URL structure would dictate the following:
/Plural Version of Resource Name
/Individual Resource Identifier
/Plural Version of Sub-Resource Name
/Individual Sub-Resource Identifier
/(et. al.)

If we mapped Twitter’s existing structure against this model we’d have:

We can see, Twitter’s URLS aren’t exactly RESTful, and since they’re not – let’s look at some ways to make them more logical.

Proposal 1: Logically Long text-of-the-tweet-in-the-tweets-permalink.
This is the most usable and readable for both people and machines. It has the huge benefit of having the entire message in the URL (the mind reels with possibilities). WordPress does a great of making legal URL strings out of a weblog post’s title.
Benefits: Highly-readable, logical nested structure, great for search engines
Detriments: Long (though Twitter’s built-in limits provide a maximum length)

Proposal 2: Globally Short
This is akin to my WordPress URL Shortening Hack
Benefits: Short
Detriments: Almost no information provided makes this the least usable and equivalent to the shortened URLs you find throughout Twitter.

Proposal 3: Personally Short
Where 5954 is the number of the individual message in the pool of all my messages.
Benefits: Short, encourages numerically navigating through a person’s messages.
Detriments: Numbers are always less usable than words.

The great thing about these proposals is they’re not mutually exclusive. In fact – different URL structures bias different usages and contexts. In the same way different formats (HTML, RSS, XML, Text-only, etc) providing different presentations of the same webpage to different devices are more usable – different URL strings pointing to the same webpage are as well.

1.’s URL structure doesn’t include the person’s name [example]- making the number less confusing, but the URL itself less usable.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

A Proposal for Shorter Google Maps URLs

I was adding a link to a Google map into my iCal and noticed Google is encouraging me to share the the map URLs in email and IM.


But there’s a problem with the Google Maps URLs.

They’re +/- 155 characters.

Here’s the full URL:,+plymouth,+mn&fb=1&split=1&gl=us&cid=1854680882426337660&li=lmd&z=14&iwloc=A

This URL is neither short, nor easily memorable, nor easily guessable. Which means it’s a completely un-usable – and barely shareable URL. Plus, something tells me this breaks both email and Twitter’s box.

CampaignMonitor says we don’t even get to the geocode.

Really Google!?

Even something like this is more share-able (in that it’s short).

For the exact same character count, we can make it more guessable and more memorable (therefore more usable).

Yes, this is the exact same complaint Dave Winer had 5 weeks ago in Solving the TinyUrl centralization problem. Hell, if I’m only 5 weeks behind Winer, I’m cool with that.

How To Cache Highly Dynamic Data in Rails with Memcache – Part 3

In part 1 and part 2, I laid out my initial approaches on caching and performance in Cullect.

While both of them pointed in the right direction, I realized I was caching the wrong stuff in the wrong way.

Since then, I tried replicating the database – one db for writes, one for reads. Unfortunately, they got terribly out of sync just making things worse. I turned off the 2nd database and replaced it with another pack of mongrels (a much more satisfying use of the server anyway).

Cullect has 2 very database intensive processes: grabbing the items within a given reading list (of which calculating ‘importance’ is the most intensive) and parsing the feeds.

Both cause problems for the opposite reasons – the former is read and sort intensive while the latter is write intensive. Both can grind the website itself to a halt.

Over the last couple weeks, I moved all the intensive tasks to a queue processed by Delayed_Job and I’m caching the reading lists’ items in database table – rather than memcache.

Yes, this means every request is pulled from the cache, and a ‘update reading list’ job is put into the queue.

So far, this ‘stale while update’ approach is working far better than the previous approaches.

BTW, as this practice confirms, the easiest way to increase the performance of your Ruby-based app is to give your database more resources.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

My Long Bet Against Mobile Carriers: Update 1

Late last year, I extended my T-Mobile contract 2 years.

When I signed it, I had a hunch it will be the last time I’m locked into an agreement like that.

Now, I’m confident – so confident that if I was holding any mobile carrier stock, I’d start shorting.

A couple weeks back, we got a great deal on a 5-day trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We booked it, made arrangements for the kids and packed out bags.

I left the laptop and my Nokia at home – taking my iPod Touch and the Kindle.

Wifi was everywhere – in the airports, Starbucks, probably more places as well – all along the way. While the hotel was only confident of their wifi covering their lobby, coverage was fine in our room.

I was able to check email, Twitter, Cullect, and we used Skype to talk with everyone back home. All on the iPod Touch all over the hotel’s wifi.

When we returned home this weekend, my Nokia greeted me with.

0 messages
0 missed calls

Short URLs Re-defining SEO

It’s conventional search engine optimization wisdom that URLs should contain words, separated by either dashes or underscores. This approach improves the readability of the URL – making it more usable for people while simultaneously giving internet robots something to work on.

But with people sharing URLs within places – like Twitter and Facebook (and … and … and …) – places with a default social context, we’re seeing a URL’s context trump its readability as a significant usability factor.

Who is sharing and how they describe what they’re sharing is more important than the readability of the shared URL itself.

Leaving the search engine robots blocked out completely (disallow, nofollow, etc) or piecing together a pile of redirect URLs (which may or may not exist tomorrow, e.g. RE07.US).

Additionally, the share-er’s pays for each URL with their social capital. ‘Good’ URLs (as deemed by each individual follower) raise the share-er’s capital while ‘bad’ URLs lowers.

Throw in the proliferation of other difficult to index assets like images and video – and we’re talking about an internet that’s not Search Engine Optimized, but Social Engagement Optimized.