It’s already the week *after* DemoCampVictoria01!

April 8, 2008 at 12:09 am | In DemoCampVictoria, democampvictoria01, victoria, web | 2 Comments

Good grief, how time flies — I promised another update, didn’t I?

I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t come across more blog posts, other than those by Mark Lise, Tris Hussey (great photos, Tris!), and Boris Mann (and the earlier posts from those same folks, see my April 4 entry for details) that discussed last Thursday’s first-ever Victoria DemoCamp, considering the sheer number of people there. But I guess most of us are consumers in the first instance, which means there’s always a reason not to produce stuff that someone else might consume.

I know that the web wants to be fed, too, however — promiscuity rules here, and it’s the way of all evolution, after all. So let me provide some cross-fertilization…!

So… I’ll start with the two people who decided to present somewhat at the last moment, which was great. Gels (one of the very few women at the event) decided to present on the spot. She spoke about a project she’s working on at UVic’s ETCL: Electronic Textual Cultures Lab, which is currently under development. It immediately reminded me of what Diigo does, except that Diigo of course works with web pages, whereas Gels’s project involves taking archival text documents held in university (and private?) collections, hitherto inaccessible (unless you visit that institution’s archives or print room), digitizing them, and then making them available for scholars to work on collaboratively (or not).

For anyone who has ever worked in archives (ahem) or print rooms (ahem), this is fantastic. Forget about the white cloth gloves, the “no pens!” rule (pencils only), and the letters of introduction before any archivist will unearth some archival-regulation container from the bowels of double-locked storage for you perusal …during opening hours (typically, for European institutions, from 9-12 and from 2-4 or some ridiculous schedule like that!)…. Forget the airplane tickets. No, this way you can access the material online, and scribble all over it (digitally, of course) to your heart’s content. Cool. (That said, it is fun going to the archives in the flesh — like so many other things that are fun to do in the flesh! But it’s good to know that we’re moving toward online access, and collaboration, too.)

The other person who decided at the last moment to present was Dylan Leblanc, founder of Skyscraperpage.com. (Here’s a nice photo of Dylan, courtesy of Tris Hussey.) I know Dylan through VibrantVictoria, and made sure those guys were aware of DemoCamp. Well, I think Dylan really blew some people in the audience away when they realized that big old SSP was Dylan’s Victoria-based brainchild ten years ago, and that it now commands what must be one of the biggest databases or information storehouses concerning all things “skyscraper.” Globally. And they sell posters.

Some presenters were too technical for my limited understanding, but I’m willing to bet their work is interesting. Admittedly, Darren Duncan, who will be speaking at OSCon this July, made me feel like I was once again an undergraduate at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich, participating in a pro-seminar about Alfred North Whitehead. Darren develops database software through his company, Muldis Data Systems: A Multiverse of Discourse — and that’s all I’ll say before I embarrass myself. To learn more, click through to his site!

The guys from Flock presented a totally freshly-tweaked (or “turbo’d”) version of their browser — I didn’t make a note of the main guy’s name (sorry!), but when he said he would demo this beta-beta-secret/brand-new version, mock groans of agonized anguish arose from his development team sitting at the back. I gather they felt it really wasn’t ready to go public, but I thought it looked pretty nifty: there was something about dragging and dropping your contacts and friends from various applications and feeds right into the browser environment, so that you don’t need to use tabs to switch between, say, Facebook and Gmail and Flickr and Twitter and what have you. That looked pretty cool.

[Update (4/8/08): Business Week just published a really great article about Flock.  See In Browsers, Flock May Lead the Flock, by Arik Hesseldahl.  Check it out!]

What else? Steven (“Stevo”) Bengston presented Songbird, which he billed as a kind of open source iTunes. This looks like an interesting application, too, although I tend not to have any music playing when I’m working on the computer. That probably shows my age, but it’s my personal barrier to embracing music sites. They make me feel that I need to pay attention, if only to “discover” new music. Hmm, it occurs to me that this speaks volumes (pun) about my driving habits — everyone’s driving habits, I guess: I don’t mind the distraction when I’m in the car. Eeks.

Online music sites often have lots of interesting visual aspects in their UIs, as does Songbird, which has a clean, elegant look to it. But because the visuals are so information-rich, I really do feel that they demand my attention, and like all these new apps, there’s a blog to keep up with, too. Just yesterday and today, I went back to playing around on Fairtilizer, which I joined last Fall, and realized that for me the biggest barrier to engaging fully with online music sites is the time they demand. Well, d’oh, you’re probably thinking. Of course music takes time, d’oh, d’oh, and d’oh again. But there you go: time is the stuff of the attention economy…

Now, on the topic of online music sites, it’s a good idea to read Fred Wilson’s recent post, Something Important Is On The Horizon In The Music Business. On music streaming, Fred (with his VC hat on?) writes:

These services are coming to mobile phones, probably in the next year we’ll all be listening to pandora or last.fm in the gym on our phone instead of our limited library on our iPod. That’s when this new form of listening is going to explode. And that’s when Apple is going to wish it had thought more about streaming and less about file based music. But you can’t feel too badly about Apple because a good number of people will be listening to pandora or last.fm on their iPhones.

Two things happened this past week that may be important to this emerging market. First, MySpace got in the game. They cut deals with most of the major labels to allow them to offer their own streaming service. It’s MySpace, and as Bob Lefsetz points out, they have their own set of challenges with technology and user experience. But music is a HUGE part of the MySpace experience and they have over 100 million people a month coming to MySpace, often for music, and that’s a much bigger audience than anyone else has for a streaming service. And they’ve been in the business of streaming for a long time, not in a particularly easy to use way, but they play a lot of music to a lot of people every day. So I think MySpace will be a meaningful player in the emerging streaming music business.

The other thing that happened is Ian Rogers left Yahoo Music where he had been leading the charge for the past couple years and joined a small startup in LA that has some ideas about this emerging market. Ian is a super smart guy, one of the few people I’ve met in the web music business who really gets where this is all going.

What Ian knows is that the fans are the most powerful distribution points for music. He gets the power of mp3 blogging. He understands that the Hype Machine has built a terrific new age radio station by aggregating all the music that is being posted onto mp3 blogs and he understands that further enabling that kind of behavior, where the fans are the ultimate arbiters of what gets played and what gets popular, is the end game for all of this.

(…)

Here’s what we need. We need someone to create an easy to search streamable library of all the recorded music in the world. We need to be able to grab a track and embed it on our blog. We need to be able to see how many people played it. We need others to be able to crawl these user pages with the embedded music and create algorithms based on who posted it, how often it was played, and how often it was reblogged and linked to. The services that do all of that need to be able to play the music that flows out of these social algorithms in the same way. This all has to be licensed and legal and it has to result in money flowing to the artists. If you put the music on your blog, you should have two choices. Allow the ads to be served into your music or your page or both by the service you got the music from. Or deal with the monetization yourself and pay the royalties you owe. Most people will do the former but some will do that latter.

When this platform is built and served up, a million flowers will bloom. Everyone who wants to be a radio station will be one. And it will be simple to do it. And it will be legal. And we’ll be able to listen in our homes on our home stereos, at the gym, at work, at the library, and some day in the car.

That’s the future of the music business. And we’ve made a lot of progress in the past year getting there. I am excited as a fan, a listener, a technogeek, and an investor.

It’s a long quote, but worth keeping in mind. Whoa. The other thing that I find intriguing is how this can be morphed and mashed into local flavors — mixed and matched, “indie” music and your city, your street. To whit, consider Digital Urban’s post from April 1, ipod City: Audio Bubbles & Journeys. Along with a pointer to Here are our journeys, they post their own YouTube video, introduced like this:

A while ago we put up a couple of posts examining the impact of the ipod/walkman revolution on how we perceive and experience the cityscape. Audio devices are standard wear in the city and with them the user is immersed in a ‘MTV World’ where the city is the video and the traditional experience of urbanity is lost to a dub beat or a guitar riff.

To illustrate this point is our walk this afternoon down Tottenham Court Road while listening to Utah Saints…

Ok, back to DemoCampVictoria01…

Need money? But dislike banks? Jay (hope I got that name right — presented a fascinating application called Fortuno, where you can (if you’re in Canada anyway) engage in P2P lending and borrowing. Yup. It’s sort of like Kiva and other forms of microlending, except in this case the lender and borrower find each other, sort like people do on other social networking sites. Keep an eye on Fortuno — it’s just crazy enough to work. As their site explains:

Earn Money as a Lender

For people looking for an innovative way to invest their hard-earned money, Fortuno will give you an extremely safe alternative to more traditional investments such as Canada Savings Bonds, GIC’s, and high-interest savings accounts. The return on your investment will be significantly higher than these traditional products. Plus, your investment will make a meaningful difference and help improve the quality of life for fellow Canadians!

A Cheap New Way to Borrow Money

For people looking for an innovative way to borrow funds, Fortuno truly is the winning alternative to high-interest credit cards, personal loans, and lines of credit. Fortuno helps you put money back into your own pocket with lower interest rates oBuyLatern loans as lenders compete with each other to drive your interest rate downwards.

The Fortuno Alternative

We don’t like making the “big” banks even bigger by contributing to their bottom line, and we’re here to change all that by providing real value to all of our lenders and borrowers. If this sounds too good to be true, let us show you otherwise!

I wish I had more information for Matt’s presentation, which was about a wearable device that measures movement and transmits the data to an application on a computer. Who is this for? Athletic coaches, in the first instance. If I find out more about this, I’ll post later…

Ok, and last but decidedly not least, the most lickety-split fast and force-of-nature frenetic presentation was probably Joshua McKenty‘s description of how, over a 4-hour or so period of coding, he came up with BuyLater. As the site says, almost laconically:

Adds a button to Amazon.com webpages, sending you email or tweets when items come back “In Stock”, or the price changes…
Great for Wiis, Kindles, or watching for unannounced “sales” on big-ticket purchases.
Save money and time, while shopping online…

Everyone loved his story, which he started by describing how he practically went broke pursuing what he thought was his best idea (see BountyUp), then building the BuyLater application almost as a lark, and finding that LifeHacker and others thought it was great — and now he’s actually making some money with it. Meanwhile, the brilliant idea of a lifetime continues to languish, but there you go: that’s how the cookie crumbles (sic transit crustulum, or something like that!)

2 Comments

  1. Yule,

    Very good summary of the event! It was great to see so many people there and hear about some of the fascinating ideas that are being hatched here locally. And yes, you got Jay’s name right with Fortuno 🙂

    Cheers,
    Jesse @ Fortuno

    Comment by Jesse — April 8, 2008 #

  2. Hey, Jesse — thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! Did you know that Doug Ransom of ScotiaMcLeod was in the audience? He was there as an investment manager, but I bet he heard more than he bargained for when you guys did your banking2.0 thing, haha! Although he would probably be an interesting source for information and feedback.

    Comment by Yule — April 8, 2008 #

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