Archive: December 16th, 2008

The tragedy of The Commons

When Flickr announced The Commons at the start of this year, I made no secret of my enthusiasm for the project. Since then it has gone from strength to strength with more and more institutions adding their collections; the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and many more. That growth has largely been as a result of the tireless work of George Oates.

George has been fired. It beggars belief—it certainly beggars mine.

The Commons is not just one of the finest achievements on Flickr, it’s a shining example of just how great the web can be. If the project dies because of the idiotic actions of some short-sighted bean counters at Yahoo, it will be a great loss for you, me and our culture.

My trust in Flickr has been shaken. I’m beginning to think that entrusting Flickr with my photos, my data and my memories might prove to be an ill-judged decision.

Steven Pemberton was right.

Hacking Huffduffer with Last.fm

The took place in London yesterday. Much nerdy fun was had by all and some very cool hacks were produced.

Nigel made a neat USB-powered arduino-driven ambient signifier à la availibot that lights up when one of your friends is listening to music. Matt made Songcolours which takes your recently listened-to music, passes the songs through LyricWiki, extracts words that are colours, passes them through the Google chart API and generates a sentence of cut up lyrics (Hannah’s was the best: love drunk home fuck good night). The winning hack, Staff Wars, is a Last.fm-powered quiz that allows people to battle for control of the office stereo—something that could prove very useful at Clearleft.

I knew I’d never be able to compete with the l33t hax0rs in attendance, so I cobbled together a very quick little hack to enhance Huffduffer. I hacked it together fairly quickly which gave me some time to hang out with Hannah in the tragically hip environs of Shoreditch. My hack has one interesting distinguishing feature: it doesn’t make use of the API. Instead, it uses two simpler technologies: microformats and .

  1. Microformats. User profiles on Last.fm are marked up with . If a URL is provided, the user profile also makes use of the most powerful value of : rel="me". If that URL also links back to the Last.fm profile with rel="me"—even if in a roundabout way—that reciprocal link will be picked by Google’s Social Graph API. I’m already making use of that API on Huffduffer to display links to other profiles under the heading Elsewhere. So if someone provides a URL when they sign up to Huffduffer and they’re linking to their social network profiles, I can find out if they use Last.fm and what their username is. The URL structure of user profiles is consistent: http://www.last.fm/user/USERNAME.
  2. RSS. Last.fm provides users with a list of recommended free MP3s. This list is also provided as RSS. More specifically, the RSS feed is a podcast. After all, a podcast is nothing more than an RSS feed that uses enclosures. The URL structure of these podcasts is consistent: http://ws.audioscrobbler.com/2.0/user/USERNAME/podcast.rss.

So if, thanks to magic of XFN, I can figure out someone’s Last.fm username, it’s a simple matter to pull in their recommended music podcast. I’m pulling in the latest three recommended MP3s and displaying them on Huffduffer user profiles under the heading Last.fm recommends. You can see it in action on my Huffduffer profile or the profiles of any other good social citizens like Richard, Tom or Brian.

This isn’t the first little Huffduffer hack I’ve built on top of the Social Graph API. If a Huffduffer user has a Flickr account, their Flickr profile picture is displayed on their Huffduffer profile. When I get some time, I need to expand this little hack to also check for Twitter profiles and grab the profile picture from there as a fallback.

None of these little enhancements are essential features but I like the idea of rewarding people on Huffduffer for their activity on other sites. Ideally I’d like to have Huffduffer’s recommendation engine being partially driven by relationships on third-party sites. So your user profile might suggest something like, You should listen to this because so-and-so huffduffed it; you know one another on Twitter, Flickr, Last.fm…