Friday, July 9th, 2021
Saturday, October 3rd, 2020
Every day I’ve been recording myself playing a tune and then posting the videos here on my site.
I’m pretty pleased that I’ve managed to keep up a 200 day streak. I could keep going, but I think I’m going to take a break. I’ll keep recording and posting tunes, but I’m no longer going to give myself the deadline of doing it every single day. I’ll record and post a tune when I feel like it.
It’ll be interesting to see how the frequency changes now. Maybe I’ll still feel like recording a tune most days. Or maybe it’ll become a rare occurrence.
If you want to peruse the 200 tunes recorded so far, you can find them here on my website and in a playlist on YouTube. I also posted some videos to Instagram, but I haven’t been doing that from the start.
I’m quite chuffed with the overall output (even if some of the individual recordings are distinctly sub-par). Recording 200 tunes sounds like a big task by itself, but if you break it down to recording just one tune a day, it becomes so much more manageable. You can stand anything for ten seconds. As I said when I reached the 100 tune mark:
Recording one tune isn’t too much hassle. There are days when it’s frustrating and I have to do multiple takes, but overall it’s not too taxing. But now, when I look at the cumulative result, I’m very happy that I didn’t skip any days.
There was a side effect to recording a short video every day. I created a timeline for my hair. I’ve documented the day-by-day growth of my hair from 200 days ago to today. A self has been inadvertently quantified.
Friday, June 26th, 2020
We got a headstart on the lockdown. A week before the UK government finally stopped dilly-dallying (at the expense of tens of thousands of lives), Clearleft became a remote-only company. At the beginning of this stay-at-home time, I started recording a tune a day. I wasn’t sure how long I’d keep it up, but I’ve managed to keep it going the whole time.
Yesterday I recorded my 100th tune.
It’s funny how small efforts can build up into a satisfying corpus. It’s not like I’m attempting anything ambitious, like Matthias, who is doing 100 days of writing. Recording one tune isn’t too much hassle. There are days when it’s frustrating and I have to do multiple takes, but overall it’s not too taxing. But now, when I look at the cumulative result, I’m very happy that I didn’t skip any days.
One hundred is a nice round number, so this could be a good time to stop. I could quit while I’m ahead. But I think I’ll keep going. Again, despite what the official line might be from the UK government (who have lost all trust), I reckon I’ll be staying at home for a while yet. As long as I’m here, I may as well keep playing. I have plenty more tunes to play.
At some point, the daily streak will end. But even then, I think I’ll continue to record tunes like this, even if it becomes more sporadic.
Friday, May 1st, 2020
- Which jig will be next?
- What instrument?
- What shirt will he wear next?
- Will a shirt make a repeat appearance?
- Will he shave his wiseman beard?
- Possibly a haircut or trim?
Monday, April 20th, 2020
Saturday, April 4th, 2020
A bit of Blarney
No, my life’s work is connected to Irish traditional music. Not as a musician, I hasten to clarify—while I derive enormous pleasure from playing tunes on my mandolin, that’s more of a release than a vocation.
My real legacy, it turns out, is being the creator and caretaker of The Session, an online community and archive dedicated to Irish traditional music. I might occassionally mention it here, but only when it’s related to performance, accessibility, or some other front-end aspect. I’ve never really talked about the history, meaning, and purpose of The Session.
I’ve been huffduffing episodes of this podcast for quite a while now. It’s really quite excellent. If you’re at all interested in Irish traditional music, the interviews with the likes of Kevin Burke, John Carty, Liz Carroll and Catherine McEvoy are hard to beat.
So imagine my surprise when they contacted me to ask me to chat and play some tunes! It really was an honour.
I was also a bit of guinea pig. Normally they’d record these kinds of intimate interviews face to face, but what with The Situation and all, my chat was the first remotely recorded episode.
I’ve been on my fair share of podcasts—most recently the Design Systems Podcast—but this one was quite different. Instead of talking about my work on the web, this focussed on what I was doing before the web came along. So if you don’t want to hear me talking about my childhood, give this a miss.
But if you’re interested in hearing my reminisce and discuss the origin and evolution of The Session, have a listen. The chat is interspersed with some badly-played tunes from me on the mandolin, but don’t let that put you off.
Saturday, August 10th, 2019
Myself and Jessica joining in some reels and jigs.
Thursday, February 11th, 2016
An examination of how sites like The Session are meshing with older ideas of traditional Irish music:
There is a very interesting tension at play here – one that speaks directly to the design of new technologies. On the one hand, Irish musicians appear to be enthusiastically adopting digital media to establish a common repertoire of tunes, while on the other the actual performance of these tunes in a live session is governed by a strong etiquette that emphasizes the importance of playing by ear.
There’s an accompanying paper called Supporting Traditional Music-Making: Designing for Situated Discretion (PDF).
Friday, August 7th, 2015
You can now subscribe to my dConstruct 2015 podcast directly in iTunes so you can have my natterings with the lovely speakers delivered straight to your ocular orifices.
Sunday, June 14th, 2015
100 words 084
Cobh really has become quite the tourist town. Today we—myself, Jessica, and my mother—took a boat over to Spike Island and enjoyed strolling around the fort and taking in the magnificent views. Then we went back across to town and had lunch where the White Star Line office used to be, sitting right next to the pier used to load goods and passengers for the Titanic.
We finished the evening in a pub listening to some great tunes (once the bodhrán player got the hint and left). Plenty of sunshine and plenty of pints. A really nice day.
Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
100 words 009
Monday, June 4th, 2012
The way that Chloe has catalogued her music over time is fascinating. It’s like the Long Now opposite of This Is My Jam.
Friday, September 10th, 2010
A nice description of how to use Huffduffer to manage newly found music.
Thursday, August 26th, 2010
Zoot alors! Mon book is high in the iTunes Store Français. Quelle surprise!
Friday, September 12th, 2008
Apple have gathered all their resources about accessibility into one handy site. I sense the work of James Craig.
Friday, March 14th, 2008
A short video Q&A I did with New Riders. The camera does not flatter.
Wednesday, September 26th, 2007
Amazon is selling MP3s. Right now it’s US only (and I’ve got a sneaky US account on the side) but hopefully this will reach foreign shores before too long. Straight out of the starting gate, they’ve got about 2 million songs on offer. Every single one of those songs is encoded at 256kbps with no DRM. It’s that last detail that makes this such a big deal.
I’ve never been able to get my head around the justifications for DRM. In the past, I have been literally sitting in front of my computer with my credit card in hand, eager to spend money on music I love. But rather than greet me with open arms, services like iTunes instead treat me with suspicion, demanding that they get to call the shots about how I can use music that I’ve bought.
For a really egregious example of where this can lead, take note that Virgin Digital is shutting down:
All tracks used Windows Media DRM, and therefore were only playable under Windows and on WMA-compatible devices. The site now advises its customers who have purchased tracks to back them up, as they will not be able to download them again once Virgin Digital has closed. It’s unclear whether the purchasers of individual tracks will be able to access their songs without burning them to CD and reimporting them as MP3s, but it’s better to be safe than sorry if you’re one of those customers. And naturally, subscribing members will lose access altogether once their subscriptions lapse.
DRM-crippled suppliers treat me like a criminal. That turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. It’s precisely because of the DRM that I resort to using peer-to-peer networks or other illicit means of music acquisition.
Make no mistake, the design of the iTunes music store trumps Amazon on just about every level. For most of the purchasing process, the user experience is far superior on iTunes. But the user experience doesn’t end with a financial transaction. The user experience of interacting with the purchased song continues long after leaving the store.
I haven’t bought anything from the iTunes music store because of the DRM. I have used it though: I’ve been given gift certificates for iTunes downloads. This is what I have to do after completing a download:
- Pull out the read/write CD I keep just for this,
- Burn my new music to the CD,
- Rip the music back as MP3,
- Erase the CD in preparation for step 1.
And that’s perfectly
legal *. But I can’t just convert from DRMed AAC straight to MP3—that would be illegal.
Now, it’s pretty clear that this kind of “copy protection” isn’t going to get in the way of anyone who seriously wants to make copies of the music. All it does is place frustrating stumbling blocks in the path of legitimate customers who want to listen to their purchased music wherever they choose.
I hope that the launch of the Amazon MP3 store is a sign that record companies are finally beginning to realise that people who want their music to be open and portable aren’t criminals—they’re music lovers.
John Gruber puts it best when he says:
Given the Amazon MP3 Store’s audio quality, prices, and user experience, I can’t see why anyone would buy DRM-restricted music from iTunes that’s available from Amazon.
In a wonderful twist, the current number one bestselling song on Amazon is 1234 by Feist— the very song that Apple uses to promote the iPod Nano. And why not? iPods and MP3s have always been a great combination (it always frustrates me when I read reports by lazy journalists that contain statements such as “only songs purchased from Apple’s iTunes music store can be played on the iPod”). I suspect that the vast majority of iPods are filled with un-DRMed music, mostly ripped from CD. Now, thanks to Amazon, there’s also an easy way to fill them with un-DRMed music downloaded from the tubes of the internets.
* Matthew points out that
back-ups, archiving, shifting format, all currently illegal in the UK. Here’s the petition to change that. Even the government agrees that the current situation is pretty stupid but the law hasn’t changed.
Sunday, January 14th, 2007
The Best Songs I Acquired in 2006 Ever
Richard has published his annual round-up of the past year’s music available, as usual, on CD for anyone willing to reciprocate. It’s a great idea that always reminds me of Thurston Moore’s essay in Wired magazine on the subject of mix tapes:
Once again, we’re being told that home taping (in the form of ripping and burning) is killing music. But it’s not: It simply exists as a nod to the true love and ego involved in sharing music with friends and lovers. Trying to control music sharing — by shutting down P2P sites or MP3 blogs or BitTorrent or whatever other technology comes along — is like trying to control an affair of the heart. Nothing will stop it.
Inspired by my esteemed colleague’s example, I hereby present a short list of songs from some of my favourite albums of 2006. To say that I bought all these songs would be stretching the truth beyond its elastic limit.
- Forty Dollars from the album Powder Burns by The Twilight Singers
- Off The Hook from the album Cansei de Ser Sexy by CSS
- Britney’s Massive Hole by Divide and Kreate
- Map of the Problematique from the album Black Holes and Revelations by Muse.
- Way Out from the album Show Your Bones by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- Black Swan from the album The Eraser by Thom Yorke
- Honey Child What Can I Do? from the album Ballad of the Broken Seas by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
- O Mary Don’t You Weep from the album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions by Bruce Springsteen
Thursday, September 14th, 2006
Jonathon has found some circumstantial evidence of an API for searching the iTunes music store. That could be really interesting. It might be fun to mash it up with Amazon's API.
Tuesday, June 13th, 2006
Podcasts and the Internet Archive
I needed someplace to host the audio file — nothing will increase your bandwidth bills quite like audio or video files. I thought about using my .mac account. There’s plenty of room there but I think there’s still a cap on the amount of transfers allowed per month. I’m also concerned about what might happen in the future if I decide not to renew my subscription.
Then I found the ideal solution. On Pete’s recommendation, I downloaded ccPublisher with the intention of adding licensing metadata to my MP3 file. As well as allowing me to do that, the software also provides an option to upload files to the Internet Archive. “Why not?”, I thought. It seems like a good place to host media files. No bandwidth charges, no subscription charges, and it’s more discoverable.
By the way, the RSS feed for the articles section of this site doubles up as a podcast. If there are any audio files linked in an article, they automatically get added as enclosures in the RSS feed. I’ve also added some iTunes specific tags to the feed. If you want, you can subscribe to the podcast directly from iTunes.
If you’re a podcast producer and you’re publishing under a creative commons license, the Internet Archive might be the perfect host for your files.
Oh, and don’t forget to provide transcriptions if you can.