Archive: April 6th, 2005

Feed me

Molly’s been busy lately. Not only has she been interviewing the father of CSS, she’s also found time to put together a table of syndication link locations.

This is in response to the question, "Where is your feed?".

There are a number of issues here. One, of course, is the placement of the link. How visible should it be? What should it look like? Where should it reside on the page; the top, the bottom, the side?

The other issue is how much explanation is provided by the link. Is a certain level of familiarity with RSS assumed? Is the word "subscription" more accurate than "syndication"?

Funnily enough, I’ve been making some changes over the last week to how I deal with feeds on this site.

Up ‘till recently, I only offered an RSS feed for my journal entries. Since becoming a more active netizen recently, I’m now also offering feeds for my links, my Flickr photos, my Upcoming events and a FeedBurner mish-mash feed.

I’ve listed these feeds under the heading "Subscribe". I agree with Molly that this is a more widely-understood term than "Syndication".

I’ve added a title attribute to each link with the text "copy the location of this link and paste it into a newsreader".

The title text could be easily missed though, so I’ve added another step for anyone who clicks on the links. A little DOM script intercepts the click and cancels the default action (displaying the raw feed). Instead, a pop-up up window is spawned, giving a short explanation of RSS and newsreaders.

This solution isn’t as thorough as simply providing a link to an explanation page but it is nice and discrete. Visitors familiar with RSS will know what to do. Visitors unfamiliar with the format will soon find out.

Buying music

Mark Cuban believes the countdown to the extinction of CDs is about to begin. He bases this on personal experience:

"MP3 players are changing peoples listening habits. We don’t carry folders filled with CDs anymore. We carry our library in our MP3 players. We don’t listen to CDs. We listen to playlists that we adjust all the time. We don’t burn CDs anymore, it’s too time consuming. We copy all our music to our MP3 players so it’s all available at our fingertips."

Some will be sad to see the death of the CD. Dan says:

"One of my favorite rituals has always been going to the record store and buying a CD or two. The physical act of purchasing something, taking it home, opening it up, lookng at the artwork, reading the lyrics, etc."

Personally, I feel that this is an issue that can be addressed. It might be a non-trivial task but online music stores could provide artwork, liner notes, etc. in a digital format. Richard explains further.

For me, there is a deeper, more fundamental problem with music purchased online, at least in the way it’s being sold now. Mark Cuban hits the nail on the head:

"Do I want to always keep my subscription live? Do I want to store the music in a proprietary format that only a couple devices can use? Those are all tough decisions to make when the only thing I know with certainty is that the device I’m using as an MP3 player today, is NOT going to be the device I’m going to be using 18 months from now."

As he points out, that’s where the humble CD still proves its use. It’s a DRM-free, device-independent storage medium.

Personally, I use CDs purely for their back-up value. When I buy a CD, the first thing I do is rip it to MP3. I listen to my music almost exclusively on my computer and iPod. I rarely use my CD player. At the same time, I’m glad to have the CDs on hand.

Right now, the Digital Rights Management is keeping me from buying music at the iTunes Music Store. If I ever overcome this aversion, I imagine that the first thing I’ll do with my newly purchased digital music will be to burn it to CD. This is really just the inverse of what I do when I purchase music in a physical format, but with the important difference that I now I have to provide the back-up medium. It hardly seems fair that, if I want to secure my music for future use on future devices, I need to stock up on blank CDs.

While music is sold online in any kind of protected format, the extinction of the CD will be delayed.

I can also understand the pleasure that Dan and Richard get from purchasing CDs (or vinyl). Although, for myself, I don’t necessarily need to be in a bricks’n’mortar store.

I’m intrigued by the latest project from Coudal Partners. It’s called The Show. They’re selling limited edition live recordings of bands. They’re selling these recordings on CD.

The marketing and packaging is clearly an important selling point. I clicked through to the page of Dead Can Dance recordings and I got suckered in by the beautiful looking cases and artwork (combined with the knowledge that Dead Can Dance are a great live band). Within five minutes, I had finished the PayPal payment process for a limited edition recording made in Dublin a few weeks ago.

When the CD shows up, I will rip it to MP3, of course. But, for once, I might be treating the packaging as more than just something in which to keep my plastic back-up.

Custom checkboxes

A truly excellent piece of DOM scripting by Steve Chipman that replaces checkboxes with images.