Monday, September 29, 2008

The First Sound

Professor Whittle at the University of Virginia has put together the first sound every created: that of the Big Bang.  The sound file and a very full and insightful description can be found here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

YouTube and New Music: Not a Solution

I did not blog too much after the first day at ISMIR because Paul Lamere was doing a very good job, so you can check out his details here.  However, there was one article I saw on CNN during the conference on YouTube being the next showcase for new music.  Personally, I hope not.  True, millions of people use the site daily and it is a great resource in trying to find music if you know exactly what you are looking for.  However, try using YouTube to discover new music, especially if you are also discovering new bands.  Currently, you'll have to enter in the artist name or song title to find anything.  But what if I want to find something that's like something else, but that I've never heard before?

The difference between the two concepts is ultimately the difference between retrieval, recommendation, and discovery.  The old "Google search bar" paradigm is great for retrieving something if I have a general idea of what I'd like.  However, it's still very object based.  By this, I mean that I need to know the thing I am looking for.  In recommendation, the focus is on the idea of what I might like.  For example, collaborative filtering notices that I've bought Carl Sagin's A Demon-Haunted World and will recommend James Randi's Flim-Flam! since people that buy Sagin's book also buy Randi's.  Currently, YouTube does have both, but their discovery technology is a lacking.  A great quick look at the difference between discovery and recommendation can be gained here, but ultimately discovery is learning why I like something, which is actually much harder to do.  What is it that I like Sagan's book?  Is it because he's a great science writer?  Is it his research?  Is it his involvement in the skeptical movement?  The three have dramatically different answers.  If it's writing,  then I'll probably want Dawkin's book on scientific writing.  If it's his research, then I'll probably want another book by Sagan about astronomy.  If it's the skeptical movement, then Randi's just one of many great selections.

Currently, YouTube does not really support discovery and would probably need to be redesigned to get it right.  I've literally listened to hundreds of artists on YouTube since I use it to play guitar.  However, there is no recommendations for new music based on what I've listened to in the past.  If I want something, I've got to first find an artist I know, and then continue to click "related" videos until I finally find something cool.  The process is long and there is a good chance that I'll get stuck in a cycle or worse, get way off target.  For the artist, this means that generating new listeners will be difficult and still have to come by word-of-mouth rather than automatic recommendation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Unable to get outlet

I was unable to get an outlet until after the panel discussion, so there was no live blogging during the panel.  Sorry about that, but I guess that kind of speaks against live blogging, doesn't it?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

ISMIR 2008: Day 1 - Tutorials

I really should get more rest before ISMIR, but even with only three hours of sleep the night before, I was rivoted by the tutorial on social tags given by Paul Lamere and Elias Pampalk.  I was a bit curious as to what the new content would be since tags was a central theme in the tutorial last year on music recommendation by Oscar Celma and Paul Lamere.  I was happy to see that Lamere and Pampalk discussed their recent findings on how tags are used in general and, in particular, demographics.  Eventually, I hope that it is possible to get more information on how tags mean different things to different groups of people.  Such findings would help in "tag adaption," where someone's tag profile will reflect their own interpretation of tags and not influenced as much by the average definition among the community.

I think the overall highlight, however, was the discussion on tags from a signal processing and machine learning perspective.  These fields can greatly help with the cold-start problem, vandalism, and popularity bias, but there are a few questions that need to be addressed.  Anyway, that is all the time I have to write on the conference tonight.  I have to get slides ready for a presentation I need to give Friday to Dr. Sagayama when he comes to visit Georgia Tech.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Cowbell!!!

While waiting for final simulations to run before I write up a paper, I saw the most awesomest website ever:  Sounds like they are using some kind of beat tracking and music segmentation program.  Not sure what algorithm they use, but it does a fairly good job.  The transitions are very good.  I have included a couple songs below:

 Make your own at 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Signal Processing Series!!!

I do not know if any of my former students read this blog or if there are any new students who come across this, but I found a blog on MATLAB pointers.  Currently, they are doing a series on signal processing, and even though I have only read today's post on sampling, it seems to do a pretty good job describing the sampling theorem.

This does raise up the good point of teaching in the 21st century.  I had a teacher last fall that stated in his syllabus that we were not allowed to use materials outside of class.  Why?  The point should be whether or not I retained the information in class.  Hearing him talk about the "evils" of the internet made me wonder if he was going to yell at me to get of his lawn.  Ugh, maybe I'll write a blog post on the way teaching should change while I'm at ISMIR next week.

Anyway, to my former students: follow your teachers' rules, but after the class, please go back and try to understand the material.  A grade only helps in that first job and after that, it's recommendations and professional accomplishments.  These entirely depend on your knowledge base.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Technology Causing IP Problems Everywhere

As someone engaged in music recommendation research, I am constantly hearing about the latest arguments from both sides over music intellectual property (IP) rights. I was a little surprised that college football is currently having issues over IP rights. Specifically, the issue seems to stem from live blogging, which is a very inefficient way to give live updates. It seems the NCAA views bloggers as a threat to TV and Internet coverage rights. It also appears that since the NCAA rents venues for private events, First Amendment Right issues may not come into play. Yes, it is true that the First Amendment is a protection from the government, not other people or organizations (at least, the way it is written).

However, I have hard time believing that live blogging is a threat to TV and Internet coverage revenue. Who really says, "hey, I could watch(or listen to) the game, but I would rather continually hit refresh on my browser and read what is going on!"? The truth is that live blogging is more than likely going to enhance people's enjoyment of the event. Apparently, the NCAA is against the idea of interactive media and (like the music industry) prays we stay in the 20th century.

Even more importantly, how in the heck is this going to be enforced? As I said, pulling out a laptop and posting to a blog repeatedly throughout a game is inefficient. I could do the same with my phone using Twitter's services, and I have the cheap-o free Samsung that I got for renewing my contract with my cell provider! Technically, anyone can microblog about the game. Is the NCAA really going to stand around every section in the stadium and look for people texting? They cannot even stop the frats from sneaking liquor into the stadium and get blind, stinking drunk!

Maybe, just maybe, we should really evaluate whether a new technology indeed trully is an infridgment on IP rights and whether that will translate into an actual revenue loss before we start over-reacting.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Feeding popularity or getting paid to buy

I just saw that a new website, Popcuts, is paying users to buy albums. Well, not quite. Basically, you pay 99 cents, like iTunes, to buy a song. However, if more people buy the song AFTER you purchase your copy, then you get paid (currently by credit to future purchases). The goal is to encourage people to buy music quicker.

Overall, I think this is a failed business model because it encourages people to buy before really evaluating music. This reminds me of a used car dealership distracting the customer with a lot of gimmicks so the customer does not focus on whether the car meets his/her demand. After the user feels pressured to buy a song they grow to dislike, I doubt they will return for more of the same.

One of the hopes that Popcuts has is that people will "invest" in experimental purchases and that independent bands will have a forum to increase listenership. I remain skeptical. Overall, people are likely to learn what makes a succesful hit to increase their revenue and still largely purchase that. For example, let's say I see that new Fall Out Boy song that is so catchy that it is probably one of the few videos that MTV will actually show. Even if I hate that song (and I most certainly will), I am probably guaranteed that I'll get over 99 cents in credit and be able to get more songs for free. Even if I am not one of the first, I will still make a good bit of money since hits can remain hits for quite a while. For example, Back in Black by AC/DC came out in 1980, going platinum. In 1990, the album was 10.00x MULTI PLATINUM and by 2007 was 22.00x MULTI PLATINUM.

Potentially, they could put a cap on the amount that people get for a certain purchase, but this limits the overall "investment" feel that the creators are hoping for. Another point is that this type of behavior would contribute to more sales anyway. That is, until users become dissatisified and eventually leave as I stated earlier.

However, this would be interesting to see how the long tail and short head wage war for area under the curve.