• "Jones said how most open city games tend to come with about 100 licensed tracks, but that they realised that most players would far rather listen to their own mp3 collection. But this is an online game. So they’ve done a deal with Last.FM to use their technology in such a brilliantly imaginative way. If you’re listening to a favourite track in your car, and drive past some other players, should they have the same track on their hard drive the game will find it, and they’ll hear it from your car as you go by. Should they not have it, the game will find a track that’s similar and play that instead." Just that quotation alone is remarkable, but it really does sound like APB is something special; let's just hope it's a success.
  • "…there are an awful lot of excellent reasons for ending a blog, and that many blogs which do end are by no means “failures”. Social media coverage in general should focus a lot less on the things people do or don’t “achieve” via these tools, and more on the fact that conversation, writing, collaboration and suchlike are pleasants thing to do in and of itself. Reclaim social media for the flaneurs, is I guess what I’m saying!" Tom Ewing is right.

So we listen to music on speakers – not headphones – quite a bit in the studio. Or at least Jack does, because they’re in his batcave.

And sometimes, I’m not sure what’s playing from next door, but I know I like it – and it’d be good to know what it is. Fortunately, Jack mainly listens to last.fm radio (and even if it’s not radio, his iTunes would still be scrobbled).

So I wrote wotlisten.rb. You can see it (and get it) as a gist on github. It doesn’t use audio recognition, or the last.fm API, or RSS; it uses plain-old screen-scraping.

(Somewhere near the top of my list of coding tools is Hpricot, because it’s a lovely HTML parser that you can scrape with as fast as you can think. Or, at least, as fast as you can write selectors. That was the case here.)

So: you throw in a username, and wotlisten.rb tells you what they’re listening to. Or what they were last listening to. It doesn’t distinguish between the two – and why should it? This is Situated Software at its most useful: I assume you can hear the music that’s playing, and that you know the last.fm tag for the user playing it (and: until very recently, I assumed that person was Jack Schulze; this updated 2.0 release lets you pass in any username).

It’s unremarkable code in the extreme, but notable for the fact it took ten minutes to bang it out; it came out as fast as I could think it. I’m getting to the point where, especially with Hpricot and similar, this kind of tools is second-nature to write. It’s taken a long while to get there, though.

The script proved useful upon several occasions that day. More to the point, it paid for itself handsomely a few hours later, when we discovered that Schulze was playing Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero.

New look last.fm

09 August 2005

last.fm redesigns. It’s lovely – clear, sans-serif, white goodness, with a pleasant deep red as highlight and a beautiful, curvaceous logotype. Plus, the rounded bar-charts on the user home pages kick ass. Love it!