Want to run a bar? VivID Lounge

Autumn BBQ

I’ve enjoyed having VivID Lounge right below where I live. It was like having a local pub (I assume) but it was a European styled lounge. However there were problems right from the start and it looks like its the end of the road for this current version of the lounge.

This will be a very difficult blog post to write and I’m going to leave out peoples names and dates because its not really fair. Its also worth noting I’m not really in a position to be talking because I’ve never opened a bar or ever run an physical establishment. So really this is the thoughts from a outsiders view. I’ll probably get peoples backs up but, hey I’m doing it for the right reasons I believe… and I would happily say most of the same stuff to the previous owners of VivID lounge…

VivID lounge was one of those jokes for the longest time. Some of us believed it was a hoax by ISIS to get interest in the space. However it turned out to be real soon after I moved into Islington Wharf, with a paper survey through everyones postbox. Months after, things started happening. First a council application for food and alcoholic drink then one for a late night licence. It was clear it wasn’t a hoax after all. Then finally things started happening in the glass space, including a call for employment.

Due to open in July in time for the Ice Cream Festival, it didn’t quite happen and it was another 3 months before it actually opened, missing most of summer. It also opened with no big fanfare or announcements. The owners said they didn’t want a big opening.

So for months, people have walked past it and seen its open but haven’t gone in. Don’t get me wrong sometimes it was busy but generally its quiet and there 1-5 people sitting reading the news, enjoying a coffee. Why…?

There’s a whole host of reasons I believe… but here’s my thoughts…

  1. Engagement with the residents and residents committee…
    I’m on the committee and also form the social committee and although we had a very successful night for the residents just recently (pics you can see here)… It wasn’t enough. I had planned to do feedback sessions to the residents about whats going on but got busy, and it didn’t happen. Ultimately I would suggest that more work needed to be done to engage residents. Not just sticking flyers through there post boxes, but actually banging on doors and massive discounts just to get people through the door everyday. This seemed to fall between the cracks of the owners and the residents committee, I can only suggest if we had known things were going so badly we would have got involved far earlier
  2. Get Decor
    Yes named after a favorite tune but ultimately the decor of the lounge was very uncomfortable and unfriendly. Plastic white chairs with white tables and only one sofa (next to the toilet). What it really needed was to take a note from places like North Tea Power, NoHo, Apothica, Common, etc. Simple cheap sofas with simple cheap wood tables. It would feel a lot more friendly with all those wood/earthy tones instead of stark white/orange colour scheme. Its a lounge… and the décor just didn’t quite match what you think about when you think European Lounge.
  3. Environmental factors
    VivID always struck me as very light and breezy due to the massive amounts of glass throughout but at night it always had the lights on very high… It was always a mood killer and although they had tea lights, they were over powered by the heavy lights throught-out the space. They really could have done with killing most of the nights and using many more candles (but there might be other reasons for this)
  4. Taking feedback on the chin
    In the early days, it was mentioned many times by many people that it would be great if VivID lounge would do a cooked breakfast on the weekends. VivID would only do healthy/hearty breakfasts containing porridges and muesli… The excuse was sometimes “the kitchens not big enough…” “We don’t want to be a greasy spoon” “If we gave everyone what they wanted… we would be bankrupt.” It was so bad, that people would come to me and moan to me about it! So in the end I ended up telling them again on behalf of others. If I had known things were so bad earlier, I would have been much more forceful at the very start.
  5. Celebrate every moment
    VivID missed its original opening date by a few months, but even when they opened it never did a launch event… This is a crying shame because many people didn’t know it was open for a while and even if they did, there was no real reason to go and check it out. I could mention social objects here but I won’t… People like an excuse to be there, thats why the quiz nights worked. Lastly there was no closing party (from what people tell me). There wasn’t even a “thanks everyone for supporting us type thing” (I wasn’t there on the last Saturday, so I’m going on hear-say), instead there was a message on the facebook group. So much for celebration…
  6. Its not just about us…
    Islington Wharf wasn’t the only flats in the area. Yes it was right underneath but actually there was Chips, Quantum, Millerners Wharf, Piccadilly Basin, etc, etc.. I don’t personally know how much effort went into engaging with those people but theres been a estimation that at least 1200 other people are a short walk from VivID. Even if they could convince 10% to come in regularly that would be great for business. VivID is also on the way to the Manchester City ground and the couple of times they tried selling things to the fans, its been very well received. I guess what I’m saying is, I believe there is enough footfall and someone will make a killing
  7. Whats on the menu?
    The menu was a mess of new and old items. Some of the old ones were no longer sold and the new ones you had to ask for. On top of that, there was only a few choices in certain categories. For example, only one black tea (my own bug bear) but about 4 different types of fruit & a green tea… Many times I wanted a earl grey but couldn’t get one. Near the end I learned they had them but it wasn’t on the menu or board! Seriously… This is systematic of the problems with the menu as a whole. When dim sum was added to the menu I was excited and told people about it, but later when a friend came in for dim sum, they couldn’t see it on the menu, so was disappointed. This is the same case for the fried breakfast… I understand the menu was fluid but they really needed paper menus to reflect this.

Autumn BBQ

There are many more but these are the main ones…
Of course it would be wrong of me to just highlight the negatives… It was a centre piece in the islington wharf community and the amount of people who we met there was great. As I said before I imagine its like a old town pub which all the locals hang out and socialise. In actual fact VivID lounge was the social object. It was the reason why people left there flats and chatted to each other. Its the reason why I spent a ton of money at VivID lounge even though the coffee and tea wasn’t as good as they could have been (North Tea Power can sleep well). The staff were generally friendly (specially some of the women, who were very cute), and the people you found hanging around were always cool and friendly. I’m sure there were many friendships which were formed via Vivid and as it seems will out live VivID.
Once again its a shame and to be fair its a difficult time for all independent coffee shops (Outlet closed down a while ago too) and you’ve got to be prepared to not make any money for at least 2 years it seems. Real businesses are a total different game from what I’m use to and I have total respect for the people involved in making vivID lounge…. I hope there not too hard hit and they will bounce back very soon…
Of course if your interested in taking over VivID lounge, do get in touch… I’ll happily pass your details on to the owners. I’m very confident with the right understanding of the mistakes above, enough money and once the new tram station and marina opens it will be a killer coffee bar

Films you might have missed recently

I watch a lot of films (and that doesn’t even include the ones in the cinema)… So in my usual style, here’s a list of ones you may have missed (also made a Top10 list), which are certainly worth watching… I’m adopting part of the Simon Lumb approach to film reviews

  • Entitled
    More twists and turns than a spinning twitter… Will have you thinking and scratching your head for a while. Its smart and clever, if you like smart films with plenty of twists and believable characters this one you will like. If you like well written dramas like Cracker, Dexter, etc. You will enjoy this one.
  • The Ledge
    I saw this film and then later saw a trailer for a film called Man on the Ledge. I thought they were the same film renamed but after a little look on imdb, I discovered they were different in everything but concept and plot. Maybe its this years Liberty stands still/Phonebooth, Armageddon/Deep Impact, etc, etc. Either way, the ledge is a gripping film which surprises and delights. Say its a heist movie gives away too much. You will certainly like it if you like Liberty stands still or Phonebooth, you will also enjoy it if you like heist movies like Heat and Takers. Don’t watch it if you like cheese…
  • Trust
    The story about a girl who is groomed online by a older man, and the reaction from the parents. It starts simply enough and you think well Clive Owen is going to smash someones face in at some point. But then comes the real emotion that the girl doesn’t feel like she wasn’t raped and the other half (the interesting half) is how the family deal with this. Expect a lot of shouting and slamming doors… If you liked Hard Candy, this isn’t for you. Its gritty and takes its matter very seriously.
  • The Perfect Host
    This film is very surprising… You think you have its back then it transforms into something more align to a scene in American Psycho. Once again, you think its a simple plot and easy to follow but it gets very very dark. To the point where your wondering where things took a turn for the worst. If you enjoyed the Last Supper then you will enjoy this. Don’t watch it if your after action and love your Fraser heart throb.
  • Middle Men
    The tale of two men who stumble across a way to make serious money off the new media porn industry . Its very adult in nature and frankly a bit of fun till it all goes wrong as different people get involved and they end up ripping each other off. If you liked the Social Network, August or Startup dot com or work in the field of online, you will like this film a lot.
  • Soul Surfer
    This one is the tale of a lady surfer who over came amazing disability to carry on doing what she loves. Its a heart felt tale and knowing its a true story elevates it in to this list. I’m a bit of a sucker for these kinds of a story and who wouldn’t be? Inspirational and touching. Something for those who like real stories and don’t mind a little teenager emotion. Its a cheesy in part but its held together by the real life story
  • Wrecked
    Very much like Burried but more like 127hours where not everything is so focused on one single scene. Things do happen outside the one scene and are shown on the screen for all to understand what happened. I don’t know if I would recommend it over 127 hours but I certainly would recommend it over Burried. If you like either, you will like Wrecked.
  • The Veteran
    This is a broody guts and all type movie. It feels like gangster number one, but lacks the polish. Its gritty and a bit cheeky in parts but a good watch and worth seeking out if it comes across your scope.

 


If you liked these recommendations, theres even more dotted around my blog. [1][2][3][4]

Self Confidence: How to be interesting…

Jyri Engeström quote

Simon Lumb and Aden Davies shared Russell Davis’s post about how to be interesting

He makes two assumptions…

The way to be interesting is to be interested. You’ve got to find what’s interesting in everything, you’ve got to be good at noticing things, you’ve got to be good at listening. If you find people (and things) interesting, they’ll find you interesting.

Interesting people are good at sharing. You can’t be interested in someone who won’t tell you anything. Being good at sharing is not the same as talking and talking and talking. It means you share your ideas, you let people play with them and you’re good at talking about them without having to talk about yourself.

And assuming the above… here’s his recommendations (obviously there quite computer related but they don’t have to be)…

  1. Take at least one picture everyday. Post it to flickr
  2. Start a blog. Write at least one sentence every week
  3. Keep a scrapbook
  4. Every week, read a magazine you’ve never read before
  5. Once a month interview someone for 20 minutes, work out how to make them interesting. Podcast it
  6. Collect something
  7. Once a week sit in a coffee-shop or cafe for an hour and listen to other people’s conversations. Take notes. Blog about it. (Carefully)
  8. Every month write 50 words about one piece of visual art, one piece of writing, one piece of music and one piece of film or TV. Do other art forms if you can. Blog about it
  9. Make something
  10. Read
I like the list quite a lot and it really got me thinking, what would I put in this kind of a list?
So I wrote my own… (please note this is all in my own opinion, you may disagree but that’s what comments are for…)
  1. Tweet at least everyday and make sure its public
    Tweet, microblog, blog, what ever… Being open and public will improve your confidence, interface you with other peoples opinions and ultimately make you a better or more rounded person
  2. Start a blog and update it regularly!
    blogging or sharing your thoughts are still very important and really helps when referring to points in arguments. Its still what I recommend to many people who ask me where to start. Like above, the interchange of ideas with other peoples thoughts will make you a more interesting person. Also make sure its regular, otherwise you will loose the momentum or build it up too big in your mind.
  3. Keep a note of conversations, ideas and dreams in a scrapbook, notebook or just somewhere shareable
    I personally use Evernote to document everything I find interesting. I can later on share it with people and thats been very handy for communicating a idea or whats going on in my brain.
  4. Follow and read articles/retweets from people you follow on twitter
    I only tend to follow people who say interesting things, and every once in a while I just scroll through links and retweets from people I follow. Generally I’ve found them very useful and they usually end up in my readitlater or instapaper. Once again, although not directly
  5. Start or be on a podcast/videocast
    I hate the sound of my voice but forcing myself to do a podcast, has got me use to the sound and how I sound to others. How this helps with being more interesting, I’m not quite sure but its certainly something you can talk about and share with others
  6. Talk to someone new at least every week
    What have you got to loose? Someone new may unlock a whole new lifestyle choice, a new found friend or be your next partner… You just need to hold a conversation for at least 2mins. Generally if your exploiting number 9, this will be very easy…
  7. Once in a week sit in a great tea/coffee shop and just listen without your headphones
    Nothing better than to over hear human concerns. Yes most of them will be mindless stuff to you but it doesn’t matter, listen to the metadata. Passion, tone, etc… They all give a different aspect to the human voice… I already mentioned before about how I tend not to use my lift with headphones on for a similar reason.
  8. Every month, tweet an observation about human life
    I loved Seinfeld because of its observation of human life, and in actual fact someone pointed out to me. That most comedy is a observation of life. Theres two ways you can take this…
    1. Being funny is always great
    2. Having a detailed understanding of life means you can later hack it :)
    And don’t just sit on that knowledge, share it!
  9. Take advantage of your understanding of social objects
    Talking of hacking life… If you don’t understand the concept of social objects and how they enrich our lives, nows the time to learn… I would start Hugh Macleod’s 101 thoughts on Social objects then check out Jyri Enstrom’s post, then more links from Hugh Macleod including Jyri’s video at London Geekdinners a while back. Don’t quite understand this relates to being more interested? A shared experience is a powerful key to being interesting to other people. For example, on the train as I am now, I could turn around the lady across the table and say “nice drawing, how did you learn to draw like that?” The social object would be the drawing… Hugh has better examples
  10. Learn
    Life long learning, what more is there to say? Always be learning…
The general theme is about openness, human contact, sharing and self improvement… Being more interesting isn’t a thing you just throw on, actually its about being confident in your own abilities and the way to do that is to be comfitable in your own skin. The rest will come naturally… As Nic ferrier said “get our of your comfort zone once a week…” Which I think is right but actually its more involved than just once a week, its about a change in the way you look at life.

Manchester Werewolf Chapter with Larkin about at Barcelona bar

Manchester Werewolf chapter

Wednesday we had a very successful night of werewolf

I didn’t have my DSLR with me, so I only captured a few low rez photos of the action. Almost everything just worked…

Working with Larkin About (remember that ARG) was a great success and I’m sure the reason we got different players is simply because they were involved. The Location was great because the bar owner really wanted to help make it a successful event. He (Mike) even said next time he will happily do service to the circle, so people don’t even have to leave the game to get drinks. Its also staged happy hour when we’re playing, so cocktails start off at 2 for £5 and rise to 2 for £9 a few hours later. And to be honest the cocktails are actually not bad at all. I was drinking Cosmopolitans (as I do) and they were actually much better than average. Not quite the quality of NoHo, Scho Rehab or Aphotica but not far off.

Barcelona bar is a great venue with the slightly raised platform where we were playing werewolf and the space around it for people who were dead (as such) or just people not playing… The raised platform isn’t exactly round but its good enough to fit a good number of people looking at each other.

Playing the Thing to start the proceeding was a inspired thought, because it meant as people joined us, they could also just join the next round. In the end we played the thing then 2 different games of werewolf.

Everyone really enjoyed themselves and we played till bar closing time…

Werewolf closing stages

Only two slight negatives

  1. Not having food and consuming a ton of lovely cocktails (yes someone had to do it). Barcelona bar is due to start doing pancakes, and I had thought they were doing them already. So assuming I would be able to grab a sandwich somewhere I thought a savoury pancakes might work. Next time I’m sure they will be up and running in this area
  2. A lot of the regular players from MadLab, BarCamps, etc… didn’t turn up, which was a shame. However we did have a ton of new people and we even roped a couple in for a small drink, into the game actual game.
Anyway we’ve decided to do Werewolf on a bi-monthly schedule. So look out for details of the next game in January 2012… Thanks to everyone who turned up, and remember I am never the werewolf…

Techgrumps live! from VivID Lounge

We (me, josh and nathan rae) did our first live Techgrumps on Sunday 20th November… Live from VivID Lounge

Its also a Manchester only affair, as you’d expect with it being LIVE… Ian,Josh and guest Nathan eat breakfast while waxing lyrical… about exploring Sci-Fi elitism and a concept to replace the Royal Mail with UAVs all live on Sunday 20th November…

You can download it in Mpeg3 or Ogg Vorbis

Feel inspired by, I am, I do…

The Hodge ping’ed me on gtalk today and pointed me at a hack He and Caius had done for Honda Hack day

Its called I am, I do…

What is this?
I am, I do is a user edited database of stories, advice and inspiration of people following their dream. We started by asking people we knew who are doing what they love to answer a few questions and put them in a nice database for you to read, sort, store and share but we now want to open it up to everyone who is doing what they love, it doesn’t have to be working for yourself, if you love your job then let us know! You might inspire others
Why did you do this?
I’m inspired everyday by the people in my social circle, when I have a question or want to try something new, I can reach out for advice and one of them has probably done something similar before, we think there are a lot of people in similar situations who want to do something but are just missing a bit of inspiration
Anything else?
We would love schools and job centres to point people at this website and show the stories of people who have switched jobs, careers, countries to do what they want and that if your dream is reasonable, your dream is possible, you’ve just got to work at it

Its a simple but a great/noble idea… No fuss, fill in the questions and attach it to your profile (which is tied to your Twitter account). I spent about 30mins filling out about 8 questions, and you can see the result here.

It weirdly reminds me of something like the early days of OK Cupid when you would fill in questions about yourself. Of course the aim was very different in that case, it was all about getting a date but underneath that, it was about defining yourself. The aim of I am, I do is purely to inspire others. I do expect if it became bigger, some would use it as a place to show off but why? There’s nothing to gain from lying or showing off… This is good!

Some will dismiss it, as pointless because it doesn’t have badges or scores but I say excellent… Its simply a place to read inspiring stories from people you may or may not know.

As I was saying previously, we are all amazing and opportunities to learn a little more about each other should be the end point. Its the richness of life…

Great work Dom and Caius… don’t be tempted to add achievements, metrics, scores or anything else like that… You only have to look at the mess something like Klout has gotten its self into.

On the question: What has been your biggest achievement to date and why was it special?

I don’t care to count my achievements by size… Some of the tiny discussions I’ve had, have changed peoples directions. It might only be one person but that person might do something incredible and become something they never thought they could be in the past… I’m happy that I can help inspire others to be the best they can be. Some of this might be through London Geekdinner, BarCampLondon/Manchester, my work at BBC Backstage including Hackdays, etc, etc. I expect there will be many more chances to inspire in the future.
I really mean it, our fascination with size and instant impact is like a drug (I guess it also feeds the ego). I’d certainly welcome quality over size in some cases.

Poll: On the first date who pays?

On the first date, who pays? My Qriously poll

For those who can’t read the poll, 100 people answered from around the world via Qriously the question of who should pay on the first date? Something I talked at length about before.

60% said the man should pay on the first date, 27% said the woman and only 13% said go dutch (thinking I should have put split it instead of go Dutch, to avoid any language misunderstanding). Yes the man should pay is the number one option but what totally surprises me is the small amount of votes for going dutch?

I didn’t tweet the poll and to be honest I forgot to change it because it was meant to be part of the Leeds ignite talk I was going to give on the 15th November. This has now been put back to early next year…

The Insight
60% (60) people are in favour of The Man (Top Geographies are United States, United Kingdom, India)
13% (13) people are in favour of Go Dutch (Top Geographies are United States, Thailand, India)
27% (27) people are in favour of The Woman (Top Geographies are United States, Spain, Chile)
The poll was answered by 46% Female and 54% Male and the average sentiment is strongly towards The Man
There was 100 Answers and 2,963 Views over only 18mins uptime, not bad for a first time without any additional push from myself.
I will run it again during my talk at Leeds Ignite and change the “go dutch” note and focus it on just the UK and maybe Europe?

 

 

The Circus House in Ancoats

Theres quite a bit of things happening to the retail park right next to New Islington… But someone clued me into a new venture called the circus house which started just 2 days ago.

The Circus house is the embodied dream of Owen, Alex and Sian; three Circus performers with 10 years teaching experience. One day whilst having a moan about the lack of circus training space in Manchester a light clicked on….and The Circus House was born.

The Circus House is a Community Interest Company – all profits go back into the company to buy new equipment, produce shows and pay for top quality professionals to come and share their skills.

Anyone is welcome from beginners to professionals looking to train daily, and anybody in the middle too! There will be weekly classes, one off master classes, free training and space hire.

We aim to be affordable and to offer storage space for equipment. To run inclusion classes and to reach out to not only the circus community but the wider communities of Manchester —and beyond!

Of course I’ll be checking it out very soon, because frankly all the other circus skills places are in south Manchester

The secret of luck or the richness of life?

derren brown

Derren Brown isn’t a household name outside the UK, no idea why… but he recently did a excellent show in the conclusion to his experiments series…

In the show he slowly convinces a town that a statute in a local public garden it might be lucky. Through a series of other activities and press attention, people start touching the statute more and more over the months. But where it gets interesting is when he tries to find a person who by the end of the show will bet a huge amount of money on a roll of a dice. So convinced he might just be lucky.

What Derren is proving is the power of the mind… Something I’ve seen long understood from my time in hospital and afterwards. To be honest it was one of Derren’s best ever shows and something I love about his style… Unravelling some of the more complex mysteries of life.

The secret to luck is opportunity

If you take the opportunities you will make more human connections, gain more experience and feel more lucky… (Roughly)

Its something I’ve become very versed in recently.

Opportunities are there for the taking… When you understand this, your world is your oyster.

I was trying to explain this blog entry on the train to Tim Waters who I hopefully didn’t bore to death between Liverpool and Manchester. I used the tale of the Japanese lady on the train story to explain taking opportunities. Its very easy to just stick your headphones in your ears and ignore the world of opportunities which are served up to us everyday… I personally don’t put my earphones in my ears when going to work till I get out the front door of the apartment I live in. Why? Because I’ve had some fascinating conversations in the lift with people (yes and some of them are lovely woman).

For example once I got in the lift and the lift went up a few floors and stopped. Doors open and a woman gets in wearing PJ’s and fluffy sleepers.

It could have been easy to ignore her and stare at the glossy silver lift doors but instead, I couldn’t help myself. “So, sleepers…?” *big grin*. She smiled and said “…well you know their all the rage now…”

There’s plenty more I can say about this but seeing how I’ve had this blog entry open for a good few weeks, I think its best ended with a vague reference to social objects mixed with opportunities…

Maybe luck actually feels like the richness of life…?

Occupy everything?

Occupy London, 9 November 2011

I’ve said nothing about the #occupy movement…

The last #smc_mcr was all about #occupy and raised a ton of interesting debate, which I’ve seen played out elsewhere.

One of the best observers of the occupy movement I’ve seen is from Media Theorist Douglas Rushkoff, he’s his piece on CNN of all places

To be fair, the reason why some mainstream news journalists and many of the audiences they serve see the Occupy Wall Street protests as incoherent is because the press and the public are themselves. It is difficult to comprehend a 21st century movement from the perspective of the 20th century politics, media, and economics in which we are still steeped.

One of the biggest problems have with occupy is the lack of a coherent and mass adopted message. Rushkoff is right, this notion is very 20th century and our media isn’t setup to deal with these new type of movement/message. I made the comment at #smc_mcr that in the same way the terrorists adopted a decentralised method to bomb there targets, also made it extremely difficult (some would say impossible) to find and stop them.

I know comparing the occupy movement to a suicide bombers is a leap and half, plus its not ideal but the idea of a decentralised movement is scary to the powers that be.

People are very upset, be it the 99% upset with the 1%, wall street, rising unemployment, rising oil prices, the lack of helium, whatever. Its enough to make people stand up and say there simply not happy.

Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.

How they say there not happy is another story of course…. But it reminds me of pay it forward in nature. Simple rule set in which you can frame your own movement.

Take shelter or Occupy? Thats the question, as we head into 2012 and a collapse of our man made systems and way of life.

…in the process, they are pointing the way toward something entirely different than the zero-sum game of artificial scarcity favoring top-down investors and media makers alike…

Which Desktop Environment?

Aplicaciones

OMG!Ubuntu is running a poll on what desktop environment linux users are using

The results are actually quite surprising on two counts…

  1. Gnome 3 is actually quite high with over 28% of the vote (over 4000 users). Even though you have to install it separately in Ubuntu 11.04 and 11.10.
  2. Gnome legacy is surprisingly low (lower than XCFE and KDE) for all the fuss about moving forward…
I know its not anything scientific but its a good sign… not quite sure what it says about Unity?

Stem based mixing coming your way soon?

Dj Challenge in progress

One of the killer ideas which came out of the Mozilla Festival in the Dj challenge was the idea of Stem based mixing

The idea is great and I think there’s plenty of momentum behind it. Daniel James and Fin Stamp worked this idea through and now there’s a post on the Mixxx forums. Here’s the details of the post…

At the Mozilla Festival in London last weekend, I took part in a Hack the DJ workshop, looking at ways to take digital DJ’ing to the next level. One of the ideas proposed was stem mixing, using multichannel files in DJ applications. A proprietary implementation of this idea is Fireplayer but this app is built with the intention that users will buy remixable versions of (a very limited number of) well-known songs from an in-app store. I would like to work towards a new open standard for stem mixing, something that is compatible with sharing our mixes on the open web – legally, of course – but could also be used by record labels that sell tracks to DJs.

For example, eight channel Ogg Vorbis files where the first two tracks are a stereo mix of the drums, third and fourth stereo bass, fifth and sixth stereo vocals, and seventh and eighth tracks everything else. This means that you can mute or solo individual stems in the mix, giving you the versatility of four-deck or eight-deck mixing but without the problems of keeping many decks in sync, since the stems within a single file are locked on the same timeline. Also, it makes using the mixer a lot simpler than for many-deck mixing, because you don’t need to keep assigning the crossfader to the various different decks.

Of course this means that the eight channel .ogg file has to be prepared specially for DJ’ing, but this is already possible in Audacity. So we have a file format, and an editor, but what we don’t yet have is full support for stem mixing in open source DJ applications. Sweep supports scratching on eight-channel files, but it doesn’t have a mixer. Mixxx has a mixer, but doesn’t support multichannel Ogg files (yet), as far as I can see.

So, what do you think? Is stem mixing a genuinely useful feature that will allow DJs to be more creative, or will it fail if the best music continues to be available in stereo only? Please add your comments below

I like to think this could be massive thing because although you might be able to get the Stem’s of a tune if your a international superstar dj and have contacts in high places. But if your just a bedroom dj or even play out quite a bit but not a popular name, getting access to the stems of a tune is near impossible.

In fact what were trying to do is standardise the format, so it means the bedroom producers and the massive music businesses can compete on a level platform. This might strike fear into some but when the stereo track is no more and everyone is expecting the Stems of the track as standard, then you will have to go along with it.

Ogg Vorbis is a great starting point and knowing it can support up to 200+ tracks is great for future capability. There are a ton of questions of how it works for a Dj but its certainly a challenge which will be fun to have. I just hope we can stay away from the logic/alberton type interface…

Can’t wait to mix with Stem’ed Ogg Vorbis files…!

The real elegance of Steve Jobs?

My last blog post about the late Steve Jobs caused quite a stir but to defend my thoughts just this once… I’m not the only one saying could be seen as unpopular things about the late Jobs.

In the The Tweaker (The real genius of Steve Jobs) by . He points out some of the more interesting pieces of his biography…

The angriest Isaacson ever saw Steve Jobs was when the wave of Android phones appeared, running the operating system developed by Google. Jobs saw the Android handsets, with their touchscreens and their icons, as a copy of the iPhone. He decided to sue. As he tells Isaacson:

Our lawsuit is saying, “Google, you fucking ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off.” Grand theft. I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death, because they know they are guilty. Outside of Search, Google’s products—Android, Google Docs—are shit.

In the nineteen-eighties, Jobs reacted the same way when Microsoft came out with Windows. It used the same graphical user interface—icons and mouse—as the Macintosh. Jobs was outraged and summoned Gates from Seattle to Apple’s Silicon Valley headquarters. “They met in Jobs’s conference room, where Gates found himself surrounded by ten Apple employees who were eager to watch their boss assail him,” Isaacson writes. “Jobs didn’t disappoint his troops. ‘You’re ripping us off!’ he shouted. ‘I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!’ ”

Gates looked back at Jobs calmly. Everyone knew where the windows and the icons came from. “Well, Steve,” Gates responded. “I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

Jobs was someone who took other people’s ideas and changed them. But he did not like it when the same thing was done to him. In his mind, what he did was special. Jobs persuaded the head of Pepsi-Cola, John Sculley, to join Apple as C.E.O., in 1983, by asking him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” When Jobs approached Isaacson to write his biography, Isaacson first thought (“half jokingly”) that Jobs had noticed that his two previous books were on Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, and that he “saw himself as the natural successor in that sequence.” The architecture of Apple software was always closed. Jobs did not want the iPhone and the iPod and the iPad to be opened up and fiddled with, because in his eyes they were perfect. The greatest tweaker of his generation did not care to be tweaked.

Frankly I’m not a fan of Bill Gates but he’s very right in his statement and Gladwell is also right.

There are a bunch of things like this which can be found in the biography, but for now I’m done with the subject to be honest…

Banging the drum for Media Freedom and the Web

I was very excited to invited to the Mozilla Festival which this year was in London. Not only that, it was in South East London.

The Mozilla Festival use to be the Drumbeat Festival but got a rename. The event is something between a un-conference and a hackday. A whole series of challenges which people can duck in and out of. Challenges ranged from Data Journalism to Disc Jockey hacking (ironically both DJ).

Dj Challenge

I headed up the DJ (disc jockey) challenge which was first formulated quite some time ago on behalf of BBC R&D and FutureEverything.

The challenge was to reinvent or at least evolve dj’ing. We started the challenge on Saturday afternoon and it kicked off with a little stimulus from myself and others in the form of a modified presentation. On top of that, we pointed to the Google Doc, which was an aggregation of thoughts from not just myself but many others including BBC staff.

That list is still available if your interested in getting involved in the challenges.

Andy

But what came out of the challenge were 2 very strong ideas…

  1. Can we create a format which supports tracks or layers in songs, then build Dj software which takes advantage of them.
  2. Can we build a club environment which makes use of sensors to feedback to the Dj and Vj in real-time through meaningful visualisations
More were talked about but these were the strongest ones, and these are the ones which will be taken forward hopefully into the Future Everything festival next year.
The theme for the conference/hackday was around media & web freedom and there was a question how does the Dj challenge fit into this? Well I gave the example of my pacemaker…

Dj Challenege

A few of us were looking at the problem of what you do with mixes once there finished? Actually one of them was from Mixcloud.com and we were exploring the idea of licensing, etc but we started to think what other ways can you experience mixes? One idea was to map locations to places in a mix.
On my pacemaker, I’ve done mixes walking through locations such as the wrong end of irlam mix. Imagine if it had GPS, so you could map sections to a location. When the mix is uploaded, it could lead people through an artificial version of my journey. So you could experience that moment when the bus streamed past and almost knocked someone over :) How exactly this works, we don’t know, but that’s the challenge…

Hugh

This for me is the effect of the web on Djing, perfecting fitting into the media and web freedom ethos.
The challenge asked a lot of the people who did attend and frankly if I was to do it again I would size down the challenge down to a few core areas and work on things which can be done in the 90mins we had. Mozilla did allow us to run over 2 days and we have some ideas did run through-out them.
Moving away from the Dj challenge for now, I didn’t get much of a chance to attend the other challenges, but they sounded great. There was a real feel of excitement in the air and the location of Ravensbourne added another layer to it all.

Mozilla Festival

Here’s some of the other stuff which looked very interesting to me…

This Javascript library is looking very impressive and the documentary combining Popcorn with WebGL was impressive. I can only imagine what Adam Curtis could do with this… I’ve made a note to check it out in detail soon. I also think it could be useful in the area of Perceptive Media.
Its another one of those Javascript library’s (seems to be a trend). This one is a nice gaming framework, its still in alpha but it slightly crosses over with the BBC R&D universal control spec from what I saw in the demo.
Hyperaudio links written text with the spoken word. This means you can edit a audio file like how you edit text. Its quite magical when you see it, and would make a great tool for remixing
Teaching young people through standard web technologies how to change the web and make it there own. I think of it like One Laptop Per Child’s Sugar but less programmatic…
Although this wasn’t in the event, I found them from one persons suggestion and then when I went to look up the Eatery I found it again. Its like Creative Commons for privacy, interesting…

Mozilla Festival

Unlike Hackdays where everyone gets a chance to demo there hacks to everyone else, the Mozilla festival had the challenge leaders stand up on stage and give a brief overview of the best ideas and prototypes. On the Saturday night there was keynotes from a whole bunch of people including Tim Hunkin. Everything was good till a guy from the Tech City commission or something started going on and on… Wrong place and wrong time to do a pitch for how great silicon roundabout and techcity are… Frankly I would have liked to have thrown a popcorn.js rubber toy at him because it was so out of tune with the rest of the event. Of course I didn’t do that… but it was bad. Honestly if I caught his name, I would be naming and shaming…

Luckily all the rest of the keynotes and presentations were actually good to excellent.

The event finished with the Dj challenge taking control, because we didn’t have anything built I Dj’ed on my pacemaker along with the Alphasphere guys putting on a performance on stage. If we had thought about it a bit more, we could have Jammed together but alas maybe another time? Maybe at the Future Everything festival…

Congrats to the Mozilla crew, it was great and certainly a highlight. Mozilla’s mission is a good one and something we can all get behind. I was surprised how many people I know from Yahoo, Ebay, etc who are now working at Mozilla. Although it was very adhoc it kind of worked…

I look forward to next year…. Excellent work Michelle, Dees, Alex and a whole host of other cool Mozilla people. It was a honour…