Music streaming killed the three minute radio song

Thursday, 4 May, 2017

Music tracks may become shorter than the current kind-of-standard of three minute duration, as musicians find that broadcast by streaming opens up the way for them to change the way they write and compose music.

Frank Ocean isn’t the only artist finding the conventional three minute song structure increasingly superfluous. With traditional radio being replaced by online streaming as the dominant source of music, new artists are discovering that many of the old rules don’t apply.

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There are 150 million reasons not to date through social media

Wednesday, 3 May, 2017

When lonely hearts meet via social media, where – we are told – 150 million fake profiles now reside. The concluding twist to this short film, by Mexican film production company WabiProductions, is unsettling to say the least.

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Will edible water vessels help eliminate plastic water bottle waste?

Monday, 1 May, 2017

While some people baulk at the prospect of buying bottled water, sales thereof are causing all sorts of problems for Coca-Cola’s Australian operations.

Last week the soft-drink manufacturer issued a profit downgrade, and cited increased sales of bottled water among competitors as one of the factors.

Soft drink consumption has waned in recent years, as consumers have turned towards beverages they feel are healthier, or in the case of drinks like Coke, appear to be sugar free.

Yet there are those who see no sense in buying water in a bottle, especially in places like Australia, where tap water is deemed safe to drink.

To them, buyers of bottled water are pouring perfectly good money down the drain. And then there is the issue of the waste plastic generated by this consumption.

But while people mightn’t be dissuaded from buying water in a bottle anytime soon, one company is hopeful it can eliminate some of the plastic bottle waste by-product, by selling water in sphere shaped vessels that are edible.

I don’t know if the idea will catch on, but I’ll say one thing for the edible containers, they look appealing. I hope they taste just as nice.

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Anna-Maija Nyman, bank worker by day, pole dancer thereafter

Friday, 28 April, 2017

Bank worker by day, pole dancer the rest of the time, that’s the life of Stockholm resident Anna-Maija Nyman. Her dancing is the subject of a short film, Spin Dreams, by Francesco Calabrese. Leave any preconceptions about pole dancers at the door.

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The software application as an artist, and an artist’s representative

Wednesday, 26 April, 2017

While artists’ representatives may fear for their jobs as digital technologies and artificial intelligence ascend, I’d have thought artists themselves would be quite safe.

It looks like I was wrong. Here’s news about a software application, a kind of robot I guess you could say, that creates an artwork, and then attempts to sell it.

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There are ten types of friends, some close, some not so close

Tuesday, 11 April, 2017

Just about everything you could possibly want, or need, to know about friends, and friendships. For instance, your acquaintances are spread across four tiers, from closest friends, to strangers, and within that cluster, there are ten types of friends.

Tier 3 friends – your Not Really friends. You might grab a one-on-one drink with one of them when you move to their city, but then it surprises neither of you when five years pass and drink #2 is still yet to happen. Your relationship tends to exist mostly as part of a bigger group or through the occasional Facebook like, and it doesn’t even really stress you out when you hear that one of them made $5 million last year. You may also try to sleep with one of these people at any given time.

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Standing on both sides of the escalator, the revolution is coming?

Monday, 10 April, 2017

The convention of standing on one side of an escalator, and walking, or running, as the case may be, up the other, may be coming to an end. Experts in the movements of people going up escalators found there was less congestion overall, if people stood on both sides.

Consultants at Capgemini Consulting in London explored the efficiency question by timing themselves over several days walking and standing on an escalator at the Green Park station and then using that data in computer models. They found that walking up the escalator took 26 seconds compared with standing, which took 40 seconds. However, “the time in system” – or how long it took to stand in line to reach an escalator then ride it – dropped sharply when everyone stood, according to a blog post by the researchers.

Anyone travelling during the commuter peaks will be familiar with this, a scrum of people, who wish to stand on one side, waiting for everyone to file onto the escalator, while the other side is usually quite empty, save for those running late, making a dash for it.

I saw the practice of having commuters stand on both sides of the escalator being trialled at Holborn, a tube station in London, in the documentary series The Tube: Going Underground. Needless to say, breaking the habits of a lifetime was not easy.

Hapless staff at Holborn even resorted to asking people to be “part of the revolution” in an attempt to have them change their behaviour. Conducting the trial at one station would have been confusing though, as walkers forced to stand would revert to walking at another station.

While possible, effecting such a change across an entire network would be an enormous undertaking. Those who like walking, or running, up one side of the escalator, myself included, whether I’m in in a hurry or not, won’t have to worry for now.

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Gig economy workers benefit from the flexibility of their work

Thursday, 6 April, 2017

According to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, in the US.

While the Uber relationship may have other drawbacks, Uber drivers benefit significantly from real-time flexibility, earning more than twice the surplus they would in less flexible arrangements. If required to supply labor inflexibly at prevailing wages, they would also reduce the hours they supply by more than two-thirds.

I may be wrong, but I’m taking surplus to mean the amount of money drivers make. Uber operates on a surge pricing model for their fares, meaning the busier it is, the more a ride will cost. So drivers who have the flexibility to be available during peak periods stand to earn more.

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Is the like button forcing bloggers to write content they dislike?

Wednesday, 5 April, 2017

Online publishers talk about engagement. They want to know how many people are reacting to the content they post. The option for readers to “interact” with content, be it an article, photo, or video, through simply clicking a like button, offers publishers such an insight.

But is clicking a button really engaging with the content, or the publisher? In the days before the like button, readers might have to make a comment, or start a discussion about something they’d seen in a forum, or even write a response on their own website, which was almost the only option in the late 1990s.

Has the ability to simply say you like something, before you hurry along to like something else, in fact reduced engagement? Is conversation no longer the preferred method of engagement? Further, is the desire to gain likes, influencing the sort of content people are producing?

Once other people start telling you what they like via Like buttons, you inevitably start hewing to their idea of what’s good. And since “people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests,” the stuff you publish will start looking a lot like the stuff that everybody else publishes, because everybody sort of likes the same thing and everybody is fishing for Likes.

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Driving while in labour? All in a day’s work for a gig economy worker

Monday, 27 March, 2017

Uber, Fiverr, AirTasker, Lyft. A handful of so-called “gig economy” employers, whose workers take on one-off jobs such as driving passengers from one place to another, or doing a variety of odd-jobs for individuals, or companies.

Here you might be doing anything from designing a logo, fixing a home appliance, or buying and delivering takeaway food from a popular hamburger restaurant, usually on a weekend evening, for people who’d rather not leave the house.

Some workers make a few dollars a week from this sort of employment. I’m guessing a determined, flexible, and organised, gig-worker could pull in several hundred dollars a week. I’ve heard of an AirTasker worker in Sydney earning up to four thousand dollars per week, though I suspect that is an exception.

For a lot of people though, the work can entail long hours, and comes with few, if any, employee protections or benefits. In that regard, this story about a Lyft driver working in Chicago, by Jia Tolentino, writing for The New Yorker, is an eye opener, to say the least:

Mary, who was driving in Chicago, picked up a few riders, and then started having contractions. “Since she was still a week away from her due date,” Lyft wrote, “she assumed they were simply a false alarm and continued driving.” As the contractions continued, Mary decided to drive to the hospital. “Since she didn’t believe she was going into labor yet,” Lyft went on, “she stayed in driver mode, and sure enough – ping! – she received a ride request en route to the hospital.”

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