Posted by & filed under MA Online Journalism.

Since last semester I’ve been thinking about designing a game called Spaghetti Junctions.

Following a few experiments in other areas, including trying to wrangle with Ruby On Rails, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and attempted to get a prototype running on WordPress.

I’ve adapted the platform for my needs, without much technical knowledge. Credit for using WordPress must be given to Jon Bounds who suggested the idea. I had been concerned that I might be giving away too much by letting people ‘behind the scenes’ but I didn’t realise how much control I could have over what I can display and what options are available to users.

I’ve installed various plugins which have allowed me to enhance the experience. Firstly I’ve put Ultimate Google Analytics in place so that the back end doesn’t get bogged down in the built in stats. Secondly, I’ve installed a Countdown Timer so that I can create round times and therefore maintain interest through levelling (for the purposes of this test period this isn’t set). And I’ve installed WP-Tables Reloaded to create a scoreboard.

At the moment this score board is a manually updated CSV, Excel sheet with the calculation boxes deselected. It’s uploaded but I don’t think it will take too much trouble to make this more ‘live’ by running this through a more automated Google Doc. At the moment I’m having some issues with it being able to correctly parse this data. If anyone has some tips it’d be much appreciated.

I’ve also tried a lot of mapping plugins. The easiest for users to use in a post is WP-Geo however although I can activate polylines I want to be able to use them to display specific Spaghetti Junctions. This is one of the main points of the game. I’ve got a feeling I might need to delve into JQuery. One alternative solution I thought of was exporting the everything into my own Google Map and then manually adding. Is this possible?

I’m now using a very versatile plugin called Geo Mashup which allows me to add polylines it by marking it in the categories. I can also download the KML. However it still fairly manual.

“Manual” is a keyword here. And this is my main obstacle to overcome if I was to make this in anyway scalable. If there was some way of automating the review process so that the facts or myths could be approved via rating might be some solution to having an all seeing ‘Chinnmaster’. Also I need to work out a way of further automating the score process. I suspect the answer might lie in Ruby On Rails. At least I’ve made a start!

So here is Spaghetti Junctions. Please play it and let me know what you think so far.

Posted by & filed under MA Online Journalism, Multimedia, Production Labs.

As mentioned in previous blogs I’ve been doing a consultancy placement at Village Underground. I spent Monday and Tuesday in residence and two very different events were covered. On Monday we had a gig featuring TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone Rain Machine project, with Marques Toliver in support. On Tuesday I was able to catch the ‘get in’ for Collaborative Dance Experience’s debut production Out Of Time.

I took with me 2 Kodak Zi8s and a Flip, my Dictaphone and an SLR camera. I was very happy with the material I shot. My first catch was Marques Toliver performing In The Cab. We were able to grab him between soundchecks and take him to the drivers cab of one of the tube trains on the roof. After his interview he performed an exclusive song. I shot this on all three cameras but put a quick rush on YouTube.

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Posted by & filed under MA Online Journalism, Production Labs, Social Media.

Village Underground, Shoreditch, London

Following a meeting with Auro and Clément at the beginning of April, I managed to sort some dates to come down and cover activities at Village Underground. Before I came down it was important to have some social media networks more sorted.

Village Underground now has a Twitter Account, a YouTube channel, and a Flickr site. I’ve also been overhauling their Facebook and Myspace presence. At the simplest level this has meant using all the logos and backgrounds so branding is carried across all elements. It also means effectively pulling content from elsewhere and thinking about re-distribution.

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Posted by & filed under MA Online Journalism, Multimedia.

Following my audio map blog Woices contacted me and offered me the infospot for free for a year. You can download the iPhone app from here. I’d love to know how you get on with it. Hopefully they have plans to develop an Android version soon.

I was also talked through the early stages of Ruby and given a book on Rails by @budhhamagnet whilst at Ruby In The Pub. Although I know I’ve got a steep hill to climb I think I might be able to develop something even better.

In preparation for International Dance Festival frolics Chris Unitt has alerted me to the possibilities of playing around with augmented reality app Layar. Keep an eye and ear out for more developments…

In the mean time you may not have spotted the enhanced podcast, with pictures in iPod or iTunes or just a nice sound tour for everyone else. Download the enhanced podcast here. Or the normal MP3 here.

Posted by & filed under Multimedia.

Putting the Created In Birmingham shop in the Bullring in the centre of Birmingham means that we’re proud of our art.

A bug bear I have about Birmingham is creativity occurs on the fringes of the city, and often this can make us appear self deprecating. It’s almost as if were embarrassed by our artists so we push them to the outskirts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m behind the redefined Eastside. In fact I wrote the brochure’s main copy. But where I struggled was working out how to make art accessible and appealing in description, without appearing to trivialise or belittle ‘the art.’ A picture paints a thousand words, I just wanted people to visit Eastside and make up their own minds. Hopefully, many will this weekend.

The great thing about CiB shop’s centrality is that people can check it out, with very little effort. If this shop was based in Digbeth, for example, they wouldn’t have a fraction of the footfall. Take a look at this large and diverse mix of people in this 30 minute sample (recorded by me at 11am on a Thursday).

Okay, Pete Ashton in particular acknowledges it’s “in a shopping centre” so there are a few pieces that might be too leftfield for this consumer-centric audience. But its strong centre-stage presence is great exposure for all artists adorning the walls and shelves. And intrinsically Created In Birmingham features independent artists creating original pieces.

Besides wouldn’t it be great if when the City Of Culture judges get off the train and the first place they pop into is this shop?

Posted by & filed under Multimedia, Production Labs.

For my first Multimedia Assignment I’m experimenting with video. But even putting out short chunked segments takes a while to edit, and even longer to upload. In my Production Lab work there’s been a lot of discussion about which platform is better, Vimeo or YouTube. Certainly from a time perspective, YouTube is much quicker to upload. It took me a few hours to get three three-minute clips up last night. With Vimeo I had to leave the first clip overnight, the second took two hours this morning to upload, and I’ve given up on the third after it kept on dropping out.

The thing is I know Vimeo is generally considered the better platform, especially for aesthetically sensitive designers but it appears my allocation only allows me to upload on HD package a week. And besides YouTube now offers unlimited HD. For standard Vimeo there’s a cap at 500Mb. Here’s the two clips together, see if you can really spot the difference. For extra fun play them together.

Posted by & filed under MA Online Journalism, Production Labs.

For my MA Online Journalism I’m conducting a Production Lab placement with Village Underground, London. Following the last group Skype meeting, I thought it would be useful to do a case study on a venue that already has its online presence sorted. I managed to arrange a face to face meeting with Maryam Ashgari from the Barbican, a 28 minute edit of the meeting can be listened to below.

[audio: http://dandavies23.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/barbicanedit.mp3]

But if you don’t have half an hour to spare here are my conclusions.

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Posted by & filed under Audio, Multimedia.

When I started producing my Silver Skins podcast, I was often asked whether I’d cleared the music copyright. My argument was far from comprehensive, usually involving an explanation that I always talk over the beginning and end of my tracks in traditional ‘Radio 1 Top 40’ style. I also mumbled that much of my music is new material which is benefiting from exposure to a niche ‘older but still cool’ audience.

Silver Skins is a receptacle for music that I am passionate about. The intention behind the podcast was to appeal to a generation who, like me, still loved music and refused to be knocked into any kind of middle-age music box. The passion part also has a lot linked to my ideas behind Blowback: this isn’t cycnical aloof abstraction about music industry trends but genuinely wanting to play the best music I experience – and pass on that experience. I’ve had fans of the podcast contact me, claiming that since listening to the show, they have gone out and bought the album, or seen the musician live. I’ve recently discovered this opinion is shared by UK Podcasters Association and was backed up by The 2008 MCPS-PRS Podcast License.

For a while I’ve sided with Andrew Dubber’s view on copyright, musicians should benefit from exposure rather than try and claw back the potential money they might have been lost. Nevertheless, in a world where people are illegally uploading and downloading entire movies or albums I very much doubt PRS would be interested in the one compressed track that I rabbit all over. But if the request does ever come, I will take it down.

In the mean time, I might be able to offer one further justification. I was inspired by Mixmag’s excellent podcast which provides enhanced capabilities. The fact that you can click on an image if playing in iTunes, (or possibly even on iTouch or iPhone – yet to test) you could buy the track in full from the store.

With my Enhanced Silver Skins, these are all bitly short links, so I will be able to measure how many people click through to the store as a result of listening to my podcast. Hopefully my case will be strengthened by recent reports that paid for downloads have boosted music sales.

There are other enhanced treats aswell, so have fun downloading and let me know what you think of the tweaked podcast. At the moment I realise that this podcast is a bit Apple-centric so if you have any idea of how I can reproduce the same effect in PC and on other audio devices then please let me know.

You can download the enhanced Silver Skins 3 by right clicking here.

Or you can subscribe to the RSS via my archive site.

Posted by & filed under cycling, MA Online Journalism.

For my MA Online Journalism assignment I chose to focus cycling, I tried to map some cycle data but then realised I was losing my audience. In the second phase I got back on track but still wanted to do good with my data. Especially when I noticed that my Birmingham Cycle Map had received over 1,100 hits.

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