Tag Archives: Internet

Artists Must Innovate (a response to David Byrne)

David Byrne posted an article today about his thoughts on the current state of music consumption and what that means for artists. In it, he talks about how music consumption is changing from a model where people buy music, either by way of physical media or downloads directly from the artist or via a third party, to a model where people use streaming services to listen to music. He’s mainly concerned with on-demand services, like Spotify or Rdio, rather than internet radio services, like Pandora. He discusses how little money artists/labels receive with each listen from these services, especially since they tend to offer a free, ad-supported option that does not require a subscription.

I can understand his frustration with this. However, his solution has nothing to do with the artists themselves, who continue to allow their music to be streamed via these services. His only solution is that these services must change their models. First, he says the services need to pay artists more. I’m not going to argue with that. He also says the services should drop their free, ad-supported option in favor of a Netflix-style monthly subscription. Heck, he even says they can offer a one-time fee for unlimited listening. I’m not going to argue with this, either. In fact, this would get consumers used to the fact that music is not free. It helps consumers understand that artists are trying to make a living off of it and not just give it away for free. I won’t argue that, either.

My argument is that Byrne ignores one important factor. Streaming services are here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future. They are businesses just like the artists who are trying to make a living off their art. Their goal is to make money, just like the artist’s goal is to make money. The streaming services make money off the service. The artists make it off the art. Byrne does artists a serious disservice by suggesting that the problem is the streaming services and the consumers rather than even hinting at the fact that an artist who wishes to make a living off their art is now a business. Unfortunately, many artists lack business and marketing skills. That’s the catch. That’s also why record labels exist. They provide those services to the artists, but it often comes with a major fee.

I fully understand and feel for artists trying to make a living off their art. The problem, however, is that Byrne should be encouraging artists to learn to market themselves. If you are trying to make a living with your art, you have become a business. You must adapt and come up with innovative methods to get your name out there and make money from your art. It is not up to the services you choose to allow to have access to your catalog to change their ways (as nice as it would be). In fact, I just read about this band who suggested all their fans play an album they “wrote” on Spotify on repeat while they sleep. The album is silent. They’re then using data retrieved from that to plan tour in the areas where they have the most listeners. They’re using the funds from Spotify to fund the tour of free concerts. Yes, you read that correctly. They are playing free concerts because of this. That’s pretty awesome. It’s also highly innovative.

If you’re going to sit there and whine and not innovate your business model, then you deserve whatever it is you get. As I said above, this is the reason major record labels exist – to handle the business and marketing stuff which artists tend not to know how to do themselves. If you want to remain independent, you gotta figure all that out on your own. It sucks, but that’s how any small business works.

Speed Up Your Internet Connection

I came across this article on Lifehacker recently. It got me thinking. I had been using the OpenDNS servers and then Google’s Public DNS servers for a while now because they both advertised that it could speed up your internet experience. Now that there are so many location-based services and location-based load balancing, it seems that they may not necessarily be faster. So I tried the tool, Namebench, mentioned in that Lifehacker article. It turned out that if I switched back to Verizon’s (I’m a FiOS user) DNS servers, I could, in fact, speed up my internet. In fact, Namebench told me it would be about 500% faster by switching. So I switched my DNS servers in my router and will hope for the best. Keep in mind that you may not notice a huge difference, but when it comes to large downloads from services that use location-based mirrors determined by the DNS lookup, those might actually be noticeably faster.

xkcd: Server Attention Span

xkcd: Server Attention Span.

Just wanted to point this out. This is so true. There is nothing worse than clicking a link on your smartphone to go to a certain page or article and getting redirected to the site’s mobile homepage. While I appreciate sites having a mobile version, all links should work properly, meaning they should point you to that article on the mobile site or just bring you to the full site for that article.

Also, if you have a mobile site, have a link (a prominent one) for your full site somewhere. That way if I didn’t want the mobile site, I can find what I’m looking for on the full site.

The Power of Social Media: The Story of the Phish Twibe

This topic came up today on Twitter, sparked by a tweet from @JennyMack. My response was Twitter, hands down, for one major reason, the Phish Twibe. I have probably discussed the Twibe here before, probably several times, in fact. But I don’t know that I’ve ever talked about how the Twibe formed and grew into what it is now. So here it is! It’s a great story of the power of social media.

Continue reading The Power of Social Media: The Story of the Phish Twibe

How Technology Brings Us Together to Change the World

This post is in response to a post written by Erin Scott, aka The SMiChick. Her post, titled “What would you do if…” explains her views on how technology has forever changed, oftentimes for the worst, interpersonal relationships. It also goes into our dependence on technology. While I agree with quite a bit of what she has to say, I disagree with some of the basic premises she puts forth.

Erin starts off by saying we are dependent on technology. That we have lost touch with the each other and with the world. Part of that dependence, however, is necessity. Technologies that Erin doesn’t mention (automobiles, trains, and planes) have moved us around. She mentions a simpler time when people basically lived off the land. What she fails to mention is that in those times people did not travel. People stayed as close to a home base as possible. Sure, they wandered off in search of supplies, but only as far as their feet or horse could carry them. Would I like to see more people paying more attention to their local environment rather than worrying about what’s going on in the rest of the world or venturing off to far away cities to have fun? Of course I would. In fact, I think everyone should be doing that. However, technologies have allowed us to travel and travel we did. People never lived an hour drive away from work. They didn’t live a 2 hour train ride from their office. Instead, they lived within walking distance of the trolley or bus or even their place of employment. They lived within the same city, sometimes in a streetcar suburb just outside the city. But with the travel came a need for more technology to keep in touch with family and friends that were far away.

Do you see payphones anymore? I don’t even know where I could find one now. I used to always know where there was a payphone when I was out and about by myself. Now, they’re hard to find. That explains the dependency on cell phones and why parents get them for their kids (I’m still of the opinion that I will never pay for a cell phone for my kid, if he wants one, he can pay for it himself). My car broke down back in 1999 on my way to RI to pick up my brother for Thanksgiving break. I had no cell phone. I walked down to the commuter lot at the end of the exit ramp and used the pay phone to call my parents. It didn’t work. I took a ride with a random dude to a gas station even further away and found one that worked. I stayed there until my father was able to pick me up. Having a cell phone in that situation would have been helpful. I may have been crazy for taking the ride, but he looked like a nice enough guy (actually, he looked like a Phishhead).

I have heard people say that we have become out of touch with the world and each other because of technology. I disagree with that. I have a few personal anecdotes to explain my reasoning. I have met lots of people on the internet. When I first moved to RI, I didn’t know anyone. I went on a few dates through Craigslist and ultimately met my wife through that site. I made some friends through online postings. I met people in Providence through local forums. Since joining Twitter, I have met a bunch of people interested in Phish. We met up at shows in June. In fact, I am going on a trip to California to see Festival 8, a 3 day Phish festival around Halloween. I’m flying to Las Vegas, meeting 6 other people from Twitter, and we’re all renting an RV together and driving the 4 hours to the festival together. The Internet has brought us together. Finally, one of my closest friends was met online. I have never met her, but we met about 12 years ago in a chat room on AOL. I know it sounds super sketchy, but we have stayed in touch ever since. We have gone through ups and downs in our lives together. We have helped each other through rough times. It’s a relationship like no other, but it would not exist if it weren’t for the Internet.

People have come together to become more in touch with the world because of technology. Look at the phenomenon of flash mobs. Look at all the people who joined together to support the problems with the Iranian election or those who came together for the people of Darfur. Sure, most of that was meaningless gestures, like changing your Twitter avatar green. But there are many people who have actually made a difference because of it. Look at what social media did in our own elections. Barack Obama would not have won such a decisive victory if it weren’t for his creative use of social media.

Technology has changed the world. Sure, some of that change is not good. It has caused people to become more isolated. However, I think that it has brought more people together. It has led to meaningless gestures to show support for some issue, but it has also brought “doers” together to actually make change. It has helped people (to be super cliché) to be the change they want to see in the world.

Do I think we should all join the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps and travel the world to help others? Not at all. In fact, I believe we should start right at home with our own communities. I believe that change must start locally. I believe in the “think globally, act locally” sentiment. If everyone did just that, the change we should see in the world would happen. In fact, one of the things I use the Internet for is local issues. Technology has helped this movement.

Perhaps I’ve missed the point of Erin’s post, but it said 2 things to me. The first is that we have become too dependent on information technology (I disagree with the spirit of that statement, but not with the statement itself) and the second is that we need to step away from these technologies to experience real life, to learn to be happy without them, to really have a personal relationship (again, I disagree for the reasons listed above). As for that first part, look at dependency on older forms of information technology (they were technological for their time) – newspaper, radio, television. The computer allows us to experience other things that we wouldn’t normally experience in our lives. Not everyone is given the chance to visit other countries and see other cultures. Heck, many of us can’t even visit other parts of our own country. The computer and Internet allows us to travel without leaving our home. I have never been one to believe that to be cultured, you have to travel. I believe there is plenty to discover in your own backyard. You just have to seek it out, and technology can help you find it.

A Few Months with FiOS

As I posted a while back, I ended up switching from Cox High Speed Internet to Verizon FiOS. There were many reason for that switch, but here’s my thoughts on FiOS so far.

First, I’ll start with my bandwidth. I have more bandwidth available to me than I would have with Cox. It’s a tough judgement here because it’s noticeably faster, but part of that is because it should be. I have 20 mbps downstream and 5 mbps upstream. It’s quite convenient, but difficult to compare to my Cox connection because it wasn’t supposed to be as fast. However, I will say that my connection has been more reliable with FiOS than it ever was with Cox. With Cox, I had been through 3 cable modems (granted I’ve only had FiOS for a few months now) and always had a problem with dropped connections. I suppose it could’ve been my router (which I plan on trying to use with FiOS as I’ve heard there’s a way). Now their router, while it works well and does what I need to (and even seems to give off a stronger wireless signal than my Linksys that had 2 antennae) has a really crappy interface (warnings everytime you go into an “advanced” setting, even after you’ve confirmed a change in an advanced setting). The advanced settings shouldn’t be called advanced. People should be able to set their wireless encryption to WPA or WPA2 without having to go into an advanced area (that scares them away). I can’t change the DNS server (I used OpenDNS on my old router) and if you mistype an address, you go to Verizon’s error page/search engine (a little shady if you ask me, I’d rather get a “page cannot be displayed” message). However, I need to use their router because it grabs the on demand and guide for the set top box.

The TV service is also good. I like having HD service, though I’ve noticed that I can only get 1080i (my TV does 1080p). I don’t know if I have something configured wrong, if I have a crappy HDMI cable (came from Verizon and Gizmodo says it doesn’t matter), or if HD cable service only goes as high as 1080i. It really shouldn’t matter because based on the size of my TV and the distance it is from where we sit, I shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between 1080p and 720p. However, I can’t really compare it to my Cox service as I didn’t have HD with them. From time to time, I do notice some digital pixelation, but that can happen with any digital cable service.

The DVR, however, sucks ass. It had to be said. There are 2 reasons I’m using their DVR. The first is because I can’t afford a Tivo HD. The second is because even if I could afford a Tivo HD, I wouldn’t have the Verizon guide and I wouldn’t be able to use any of the on demand features (I may even lose out on the music channels, but I’m not sure on that). That being said, Tivo’s interface blows away the Verizon DVR. I’d also get a whole lot more storage from a Tivo and better multimedia capabilities without having to pay an extra fee (as with what I’d have to do do get those from my Verizon DVR).

So it’s not all roses over here in FiOS land, but it’s better than my experience with Cox. Cox’s support system was a whole lot better. They have phone numbers listed for easy access on their webpage. They had realistic hours (Verizon stops answering their phone at 6 pm). But the extra bandwidth and reliable service make FiOS better for me.

Update: Apparently, after doing a little research, the set top box is only capable of 1080i.

Internet Videos

I came across some great videos yesterday and thought I’d share them. The first is a roundup of the 100 most iconic videos. The list starts with “Bad Day” (the guy who beats the crap out of his monitor) and goes through some of the greatest videos on the Interwebs. I won’t spoil the list, but #1 is almost a given considering the number of remixes.

Many of these videos brought back memories of college (some were about 10 years old, the students here had never heard of  them, including the #1 video).

The 100 Most Iconic Internet Videos [urlesque.com]

In addition to that, I came across a great video called “We Didn’t Start the Flamewar”.

I Chose FiOS

Now that I’m in my own house, I was finally able to make a choice between Cox and Verizon for my Internet/cable TV/landline phone needs.  I chose Verizon FiOS (though it has yet to be installed).

While Cox offered me a better deal, there are a few reasons I went with Verizon.  The first is that I screwed up when I chose Cox.  I didn’t have them fix some of the coax wiring in the house so that the splitter was inside the house.  There’s probably a good reason it’s outside, considering the house was built (and the walls haven’t been renovated) in 1935.  It just made it difficult for me to go in and hook up a new cable drop when I got the new TV.  I should have re-thought my plan for the TV when I moved in.  But regardless, I was able to hook up the new TV.

The main reason I’m switching to Verizon is because of the alarm system that will be installed.  They need to connect to the main phone line in the house.  With Verizon, that’s at a main junction in the basement.  With Cox, it’s wherever they put that cheapo cable modem with battery backup (which is upstairs in our office).  I don’t want the ADT installers drilling through floors and ceilings if they don’t have to.

I’m also going with Verizon to get the cable re-done to the new TV (I did a totally ghetto job terminating the coax).

It’s more expensive, but I’ll have faster internet speeds (I went with the 20 Mbps down/5 Mbps up package) and I’ll actually have HD service on my TV (had to go with the more expensive package so I could get more HD channels than just the regular networks).  Cox would have given me HD service, including HD channels for every channel I had that already had an HD equivalent and a DVR, for $25 more than I pay now, including taxes.  Verizon is gonna cost me about $135/month before taxes, but the DVR is free for the first 6 months, so it’ll be $120 before taxes, likely being cheaper than Cox for the first 6 months.  I also have the added benefit of unlimited long distance on the landline (not that I need it with my cell phone).

Once it’s installed and I’ve had time to play around, I’ll post again about my thoughts.  If they can give me a more reliable internet connection, I’ll be happy.  Cox has been spotty recently (unless it’s my Linksys router that’s dropping the connect, but I’ve never had a problem with it before).

Thoughts on Chrome

I’ve been using Google Chrome as my main web browser on my home computer, which runs Windows XP.  While I will say that I really like it, there are some features I miss from Firefox.  I miss my extensions and plugins.  That’s the one nice thing about an established browser, even if I do have to add on to it.  I have that option.  Specifically, I miss the Gmail notifier.  I suppose I could just download the one from Google to run in Windows, even when the browser isn’t open, but that’s one more thing running and I like to keep as little running as possible.  I also miss Twitterfox, my Twitter client, though I have downloaded Twhirl, which seem to work pretty well, though I find it to be a bit more than I need.  I like the simplicity of Twitterfox.  Other than that, I don’t really regularly use the other extensions I have installed (web development stuff, FireFTP, etc).

I love the homepage feature of Chrome, showing the most frequently visited pages.  I also like the speed.  It seems very streamlined and small.  I like the multi-threading with a new instance for each tab.  That makes buggy sites easy to kill without killing the whole browser.  It’s a promising browser. That being said, it can be a little buggy and sluggish at times.  For the most part, it’s quick.  I like that it uses Webkit, because Gecko just isn’t as standards compliant as I’d like it to be (for instance, my blog looks noticeably better with a Webkit browser than a Gecko browser).

I hope Google keeps up development on Chrome and that it becomes more mainstream with support for extensions or plugins.  I wish there was an option to open or save certain files (Quicken files for example want to be downloaded and not opened directly).  I like how it uses Windows Media Player as a plugin right inside the browser.  It could be a real contender and it’s kind of fun to have browser wars starting up again.  Now if only they’d release a Mac version (as I type this in Firefox on my MacBook Pro).

What is it with music sites and RSS?

The title should be “What is up with music sites and lack of RSS?”  I’m in the process of extending my regular web reading material outside the beer/Providence world and since I do have a thing for music, I was hoping to add some feeds to Google Reader.  I started with phish.com and clicked the RSS link they have on their news page.  It brings up a blank page.  I wrote to the webmaster to have it fixed because I want to be kept updated on any new developments in the Phish reunion thing.  I then went to Jambands.com as there are a couple columns there that I enjoy reading.  No sign of RSS at all.  To continue down the Phish reunion thing, I checked the Phantasy Tour Phish page for the news and rumors links and again, no sign of RSS.  Finally, I went to Relix (knowing they do have feeds) and subscribed to their daily news and rumors feeds (the others just point to articles that are actually in the magazine, which I get at home).

Why is it, in this day and age of information flying at people, that some websites, posting constant updates, don’t have (working) RSS feeds?  Can someone answer this for me?

Are there any music feeds that I should start reading?  Things I enjoy… Phish, new bands, Providence/RI area bands, or just about anything (see my music links on my Links page for a good idea of the type of music I like).