Q3 Star Mix – Out Now!

Every quarter I scrape all of my commonly listened-to music into a Spotify playlist of its own, before moving on to totally new music and repeating the cycle. It’s a ‘slash and burn’ process which I detailed right here a few weeks back, and now it’s time for my latest release!

Star Mix ☆ Q3-12 (balearic, progressive, vocal)

Spotify Star System™

For the last couple of years I’ve been using Spotify as a paid-up subscriber. It’s £10/month in the UK, which is a strong cost:value ratio for the time and various means by which I use it, such as:

  • At home, blasting out tracks on my Sonos S5
  • At work, where social features & discovery apps help me find new stuff
  • On my mobile, where offline playlists provide the backdrop to my travel

And since I no longer play physical CDs, nor use iTunes or other media player (barring web apps such as SoundCloud, Hype Machine, Mixcloud etc.) Spotify has become the main hub and jumping-off point for whatever type of music I’m after.

Spotify leaves it to its users to build, subscribe to and share playlists, their primary organisational schema, however they see fit. But with millions of tracks and carte blanche to curate a personal library of preferences comes a unique challenge: how should one filter, organise and archive their preferences with access to the worlds biggest music collection?

There is no self-populating iTunes-esque ‘smart playlist’ feature, no editorialised ‘recommended playlists’ feature, and until recently there was no way to search playlists without third-party involvement. Users have to come up with their own organisational approach, and I use my patented Star System™. Here’s how it works:

  1. Play whatever music you want
  2. Star the tracks you particularly love
  3. These self-populate a ‘Starred Tracks’ playlist
  4. Set this playlist to ‘Available Offline’ and they’ll download automatically
  5. Carry on jamming, removing stars from any tracks if they get boring
  6. After a period of time, move all starred tracks into playlist of their own
  7. Release this playlist to the public to critical acclaim!
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 with a blank slate

So without further ado, here are my Star Mix Playlists for your listening pleasure, along with some tasting notes.

And finally, my current star mix. Subscribe to this one if you only want my new stuff in your earholes. Happy listening!

Oops, Forgot To Blog…

Er, yeah, sorry about that… Here’s what I’ve been up to instead though!

  • Sharing loads of great links on Twitter – Trunkly has all of these
  • Trying out Google+ to see where the value lies (hmm…)
  • Looking for a place to live with Sarah  (any suggestions?)
  • Playing with my new Kindle (I’m reading Neuromancer)
  • Eating & drinking at some awesome places / seeing friends etc
  • Reconfiguring all my Google Reader feeds (more on this soon)
  • Watching movies: X-Men [8], Tree of Life [8] and Bridesmaids [9]
  • Testing Subscription Options v0.8 (v. cool gradient shit)
  • Reading The Authority by Warren Ellis, which is amazing
  • Listening to some brand new music, c/o Spotify
  • Working my balls off and all that…

Meanwhile, Brand Republic goes and published The BR 200 which is a list of “the best advertising, marketing, media, PR and digital blogs.” They stuck me in at #153, which is cool! Thing is, I haven’t blogged that much, have I? I’ll sort that out, sorry.

The BR 200 (OPML Feed)
BR 200 (OPML)

Meanwhile, as a mark of respect to the others on the BR 200, and to any remaining readers out there, I’ve compiled an OPML list of all the blogs on that list, which you can import into your RSS reader of choice.

There ya go, people! Enjoy all those proper bloggers. Hehe.

30 Day Song Challenge – Week Six

Day 26: a song that you can play on an instrument

Bonobo – Black Sands (album)

I can’t play any instruments, but this is the album I like to play about with on Djay, mixing software for iPad

[hr]

Day 27: a song that you wish you could play

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

Voted best guitar solo ever, so get ready for a face-melter! Thanks to Andrew for the hookup.

[hr]

Day 28: a song that makes you feel guilty

Chemical Brothers ft. Richard Ashcroft – The Test

Hmm… no comment.

[hr]

Day 29: a song from your childhood

Leftfield – Melt

I remember this blaring out over the kitchen speakers as I began to develop a taste for music.

[hr]

Day 30: your favorite song at this time last year

Way Out West – Only Love

These guys were the soundtrack to my summer last year – nearly that time again!

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So there we have it, people – thirty songs that mean something to me in (at least in some small way). I hope this has been at all enlightening, it’s certainly been fun to put together. Don’t forget, you can always submit new music to me by adding to my collaborative Spotify playlist.

Happy listening, Tom x

The Ultimate Android Homescreen

I recently upgraded to a brand new phone, the Samsung Galaxy S2, and let me tell you, her beauty is a thing to behold.

This is my second Android device, my first being an HTC Hero, whom I loved like a little brother. But I love my Galaxy like she’s a sexy robot from the future, trained to be awesome.

Given I’ll be spending the next couple of years with her, it’s important that I maximise all that awesomeness. For me, that boils down to the following areas:

  • She needs to look attractive
  • She needs to let me do my thing
  • She needs to last ’til at least midnight
  • She needs to be constantly surprising
  • She needs to feel like she’s all mine

It’s quite possible to achieve these things from your Android device: it just requires a bit of time to work out your priorities, and sometimes the advice of a few well respected sources. Ultimately, it’s experience that leads to a happy relationship. By the way, yes, I’m still talking about mobile phones.

With all of this in mind, I think I’ve found my ultimate Android setup, the perfect relationship, if you will. So without further ado, I present to you my Ultimate Android Homescreen, a perfectly-tuned combination of sexiness, usefulness, battery life and entertainment.

At just three screens, she’s the most efficient I could conceive of – the product of several hours hard thinking!

  1. The ‘Immediacy’ Screen – stuff you need right now
  2. The ‘Entertainment’ Screen – stuff to feed your head
  3. The ‘Productivity’ Screen – stuff to get shit done

A couple of things glue this all together: Tasker, and LauncherPro. I also advise JuiceDefender, but like all of the apps listed below, it’s not an essential. After all, this is more a ‘what worked for me could work for you’ article (like this one).

(click the graphic to view in fullscreen)

Whether you follow this exact recipe, or you choose to develop your own ultimate Android homescreen, I hope you’ll be very happy together, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

My Personal Blogging Ecosystem

Hello! Before we get down to business, here’s just a quick announcement: This weekend I launched a new WordPress plugin called Foursquare Map – any readers with your own blogs, please check it out and let me know how it goes!

Another thing I did this week was to set up my own GTD system with a fresh Moleskine book. I’ll be using this set of icons to help me manage my growing to-do list. First on that list was to follow up on a note to “Map the Digital Cortex Ecosystem“, so *tick!*

What does that entail? Over the two years the site has been running, I’ve tried and tested loads of ways to syndicate content, drive traffic and grow my following. I think I’ve just about maxed-out on the optimisations I can make, and expect further growth to come solely from publishing interesting content. So what does my so-called ‘optimal’ set-up look like? Thanks to Paint.NET you can see for yourself (click for full-screen):

Some tips for building your own blogging ecosystem:

  • Try StumbleUpon – it shows me the coolest stuff every day because I’ve spent time telling it my interests, and then fine-tuning the system with thumbs up / down. I use it about 50 times a day.
  • Get Read It Later – when you don’t have time to give a site the attention it deserves, click the ‘RIL’ button and it’ll sync to the cloud, for reading at a later date. I’ve racked up so much cool stuff this way.
  • Use Delicious Effectively – it’s immensely powerful when used in the right way, and I use it to write one sentence descriptions, along with loads of tags, that publish to my Tumblr each day.
  • Start a Side Blog – some stuff is too cool not to blog about, but sometimes that stuff doesn’t warrant a full blog post (esp. when you’re busy). That’s where Tumblr comes in, and mine is now the fifth largest referrer here, after just two months!
  • Don’t Cross the Streams – sure it’s fun to publish everything everywhere, but it’s sensible to apply a bit of intelligence: what’s really the most appropriate content for that channel? That’s why only blog content goes to my Facebook fan page.
  • Twitter is WIN! – It’s an amazing tool for bloggers, both for content discovery and for content syndication. It’s especially powerful when paired with Tweetmeme buttons on your site (like below). The same is true of the Facebook ‘Like’ button.

There’s probably more to structuring a blogging ecosystem than this, like the ‘star system’ with Twitter/Spotify/Google or the X-Marks approach. There’s also the big question of how you go about measuring any of this stuff, and no word has been made of an actual content strategy but hey, that’s the eternal battle, eh bloggers?!

That’s it from me, hope you enjoyed this post. Let’s discuss tactics… Go!

The Future of Love

Love is here to stay

Human beings are hard-wired to love. As babies, we rely solely on the love of our parents for our survival. As adults, our instinct to love keeps us producing those babies.

So what is the future for love?
Guest blogger Lindsey Mountford investigates:

Love is a drug.

The state we call the “honeymoon period” is known as being in limerance, and there are specific things going on in our brains (darling, when I look at you my ventral tegmental area lights ups with the power of a thousand suns and my caudate nucleusis floods with enough dopamine and norepinephrine to fill a thousand seas) when this happens.

The pharmaceutical industry will cotton on to this and produce pills to keep the spark of love alive. We already take vitamins, Viagra and Prozac by the bucketload to improve our standard of living, so why ignore this incredibly important aspect of our emotional lives?

If Big Pharma is clever it will market the drug as a health supplement.

Heart Beat
Prescribed Love?

Worried that it’s not ‘real’ love? In the future the lines between what we think of as real, virtual, enhanced or fake will be more blurred anyway. We won’t mind.

Prenuptial agreements will be accompanied by brain scans which will ‘prove’ we’re marrying for love. Marriage counselling could take place in the EEG/fMRI scanner, with new versions of neurofeedback therapy helping us get our relationships back on the right track.

Love is good for your health.

Once we’ve all given up smoking and we eat well and exercise, what’s next on the agenda? We may be seeing NHS leaflets encouraging us to go speed-dating. We may even be prescribed the Love Drug described above.

More likely, we will be offered more education about love, which starts in schools and continues at the GP. It’s happening already. Interpersonal psychotherapy is an evidence-based talking therapy which helps people with relationship skills. The benefits are improved mental and physical health, which last a lifetime. The NHS is already investing more money in IPT, and will continue to do so.

Love is big business.

There are thousands of dating sites out there, catering for more niches than anyone knew existed. (Geek lover? Got a Stashe Passion? Zombie looking for love?) This diversification won’t continue.

The truth is, there are lots of unconscious things going on when we fall in love. We are not always good judges of our own characters (and we can’t help lying in our profiles.) We’re not good judges of characters of others and we often don’t have a good understanding of we should be looking for in a partner that will make us happy.

OKCupid are doing some very interesting things with the data they’re gathering from their millions of members which finally gives us real data about what makes a good match. When Google gets involved, things will get interesting and result in love.google.com

We won’t need to spend several hours writing our profiles trying to sell ourselves.

A Google spider will find all the things we’ve ever written online (On Buzz, Twitter, blog, social network profiles etc.), then text analysis software like Alceste will scan it and suss you out based on:

  • keywords (i.e. I mention ‘books’ a lot on my blog)
  • frequency of keywords (I mention books a LOT)
  • moods (i.e., I complain a lot, especially in the mornings)
  • thought patterns (i.e. I can get overexcited and Tweet a lot)
  • sentence structure, grammar (i.e. I’m an informal writer, but I don’t use three exclamation marks in a paragraph and I don’t write LOL.)

Then Google Love will look at all that juicy data it has about us as individuals:

  • film/TV/music preferences (Lovefilm, Spotify etc.)
  • interests (browsing history)
  • food and household purchases (Tesco clubcard)
  • travelling and going-out habits (Oyster card)
  • sociability (activity levels on social networks)
  • relationship history (on social networks)

Google Love will gather an overwhelming amount of data on millions of people and track the course of their relationships. Using all this knowledge, eventually Google will be able to create a Love algorithm to find the ideal partner for everyone.

The Google Love algorithm will be big and beautiful, and it will work.

Marriage, sex and robots.

Most visions of love in the future involve a lot of casual sex (thank you male sci-fi authors.) As sex becomes safer with improved contraception, people will be doing more of it. Google Love won’t care if you’re unavailable, if your data is there then you can be ‘headhunted’ by a love interest. If you were told you had a 98% chance of falling in love with someone wouldn’t you want to meet them?

Roxxxy Sex Robot

‘Traditional’ marriage is a crazily outdated concept. In what other area of life would we accept a contract that we sign when we are intoxicated (see ‘Love is a drug’ above) that is binding until death? As life expectancies continue to increase, marriage must have more flexibility. Perhaps similar to a mobile phone contract – minimum of 10 years with a rolling annual contract afterwards.

There’s definitely a place for the robot girlfriend and BritneyBot. The BoyfriendBot version will be sophisticated software only, programmed to send romantic/loving messages and emails throughout the day to satisfy her need to feel adored.

Love is a meme.

That instinct for all-encompassing love from an all-powerful, benevolent, omnipotent being we have as babies never leaves us just because we become adults, so we invented God to fill the gap. For a long time, religious love was seen as True Love.  We evolved to believe we’re the centre of the universe and it’s a heady feeling to be told that God loves us.

But now the philosophers have dug a God-shaped hole in our heads, what replaces it? Look at the popularity of the Twilight Saga to see what is happening already. The fantasy of romantic love and our instinct for religion meet in stories like this, and the result is 85 million books sold worldwide.

Stories about love (seen in films, books, magazines, perfume adverts, family and friends) propagate the love myth and make it stronger. The supernatural love meme will become stronger and more powerful. Vampires aren’t going anywhere.

If music be the food of love, play on.

For your listening pleasure, here is a a collaborative Spotify playlist of love songs.

Thanks for reading! It would be very romantic of you to leave a comment below.
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