Love this Flickr set of the world's most geotagged cities. The images features all the major cities, and some smaller ones, with the locations coming from the public Flickr and Picasa search APIs. Top stuff.
I've been working on
a prototype for Top 40 for what feels like forever. I'm delighted to say I
can finally share it with you. Have a play with it.
Before I start I just want to put to bed a myth. There
is a common misconception that the Top 40 is no longer relevant to young
people. This couldn't be
further from the truth. The fact remains that the chart pages on the Radio 1
Website are the most popular by far and the Chart Show on Sunday is still a massive
The Top 40 is hugely important to the network and the website, so for this reason we
should always innovate around it. I'm not saying we should rethink it because clearly
it is not broken. People who like pop music love the chart, and though it is not broken in
their eyes, we can offer them more than they are getting. What I am saying
is we should always look at doing interesting things with the data from the 40
tracks/albums that make up the chart, rather than just accepting that what is
doing well in terms of listeners and unique users is good enough. It's not.
The idea of the
prototype is to offer chart data in a new and interesting and more playful way. Ever since the
chart was first published in the NME in 1952 very little has changed in how we
display chart data, or what data we include.
Look at the first chart and then
look at any chart from around the world and you'll find that it is simply a list
of tunes featuring the one with most sales sitting on the top of a pile of tunes
that sold less. There is one and only one story to tell here, that being 'Who
sold the most'. So, we thought there was a great opportunity here to do something fun with the data.
With a history of
using digital spaces to tell stories Six To Start were invited to pitch for the
build. I don't think it's unkind in describing them as a wildcard for what is
essentially a data visualisation job. Though they had little previous experience in visualisation, data is all about telling stories and this is a field they have
excelled in. They smashed it with their pitch and built us something quite
outstanding and beautiful. In normal circumstance this is applaudable, but given
the ridiculous time restraints I put on the job, the difficulty of the build and
height of the expectation I set, what they have achieved is nothing
short of remarkable. On the Radio 1 side of things Chris Johnson, Robert Issit,
Patrick Sinclair, Tom Spalding and Vibha Nigam did all the real work whilst I
stood there moaning and drinking tea.
So, the chart got
really interesting a few years ago with the introduction of downloads sales. The
ability to impulse buy via online stores such as ITunes created interesting
chart stories. A track's journey through the chart was no longer just in high,
down, then out. Tracks would appear from nowhere, triggered by an appearance in
an advert or a movie. Also, artists would have multiple tracks in the Top 40, regarless of what the record company had planned for 'release'. They
would move up and down, then up again and stay around longer. After spending
almost a year in the Top 40 King of Leon's 'Sex on Fire' flew back up the charts
due to Michael McIntyre making a joke about it on his show one random weekend. There is
an interesting flow to tracks as they journey through the chart and we wanted to
demonstrate that somehow. Rather than offer just 1 week's worth of data we are
offering 10 weeks and by highlighting a track you can see the journey of that
track over time. You can also select multiple tracks and compare their journeys. All this can be tracked on the 'Chart
Social spaces are
also really important so we wanted to give our audience the chance to 'love' or
'support' tracks via their social spaces. When I was younger I built my musical
identity by scribbling 'Human League' on my school bag and books, or I'd walk
through the playground carrying a 12" album under my arm for everyone to see.
Now you just write it as your Facebook status or you share a video. By giving
the audience the chance to 'love' a track we can really understand the music
they love whilst giving them the option to share their 'loves' via their social
spaces. Clicking on any track will take you to the 'Track View' where you can
love and share to your heart's content.
The 'Love View'
represents love for tracks via the size of the bubble. The bigger the bubble the
more love it has. If you see a flutter of hearts around a track in the 'Love
View' that means someone somewhere in the world is giving that track love. It's
a bit like in 'It's A Wonderful Life' when Clarence says 'every time you hear a bell
ring an angel is getting it's wings'... Only it's not an angel, it's probably
Dizzee or Gaga. I really like this view and in time it should tell us lots about
to loves of our audience in a very simple way.
I forgot to say...
This isn't just for singles. You can see the album chart in the same way
So, going forward
the plan is to try it out with the audience, discover what bits of it they like
and don't like, then begin integrating bits into that official chart pages. We
can then continue to innovate, look at possibly introducing new data sets to the
prototype, tinkering with it, testing, integrating and so on and so on. It's
quite sad that little has changed in the way we display the Top 40 in its 58
year history. I hope this is the first step in the continuing evolution of how
we visualise the Top 40.
The simplicity of mashing date with maps has seen them popping up all over the place recently leading to "Google Map fatigue" amonst many of us. This was a great session on how we can continue to be creative and innovate around map design. The panel looked at how we move beyond the simple pin-dropping style and demoed a compelling range of mapping innovations. Typically Michal Migurski from Stamen had all the best tricks up his sleeve.
One of the most interesting areas of discussion was around how we can deal with changes to location on maps over a period of time. Migurski showed off the London 2012 Olympic Map that he’s been working on. He dealt with the problem of mapping an area that will change dramatically due to construction by adding a timeline at the bottom. Dragging the timeline will show the stadium as it is being built with photos as and when they are added. Viewing the map in 2012 and and dragging the timeline back will show the stadium being 'unbuilt'.
There was also a really nice map on mysociety.org showing 20km round the BBC Television Centre. By adjusting the sliders you can see areas within varying travel times to work mashed with varying house prices then merged into zones in a way that you could never do with a load of pins. The dragging of the sliders and the merging of zones was a strangely pleasant experience when compared to many of the maps we see today.
I really liked the areyousafeatlanta.com iPhone app for it's simplicity. The app lets you see how safe you are at all times based on your location within the city. A quick tap displays a threat meter of your safety level
along with hyperlocal crime data broken down by type. Great for getting up to the minute crime data (updated dynamically) visualised in a really simple but effective way. What I also like about this, which wasn't really mentioned is that it mashed location and data without actually displaying it on anything that resembles a map. I'm sure that you can but threat meter is cool alternative.
If you want more examples of maps discussed in this session you can find them all tagged sxsw+neocartology on delicious.
I've been thinking a lot recently about different ways of telling stories and where we can go with them given the wealth of tools we have at our disposal. Ever since cavemen chalked images on walls we've experimented with
story telling tecniques that have taken the story from the walls to
books to stage to the big screen etc.
Earlier in the year the genius Hon brothers at SixToStart dropped We Tell Stories on the world. If you missed it We Tell Stories was a project for Penguin Books in which they explored how the 'interactivity, connectivity and immediacy of the internet can enhance and evolve storytelling'. It was superb, groundbreaking and a real eyeopener.
Whilst Shakespeare, Tarantino and Dylan made the stage, screen and song their canvas Johnathan Harris is using the web to tell stories as well as any of the aforementioned Gods.
From We Feel Fine to Universe,10x10 to The Whale Hunt Johnathan'sexperiment with the new interface for storytelling makes him one of the greatest storytellers of our generation. Many of his projects comprise of feeds visualised in a beautiful way that allow the user to explore the variety of emotions raked in from blogs. Breaking from tradition with The Whale Hunt he swapped places with the computer by going out into the real world to collect the images himself. He joined a group of whale hunters in America's most northern point and documented the whole experience taking a photo every 5 minutes. By increasing the frequency of photo's taken during the more frantic moments of The Whale Hunt, and displaying them like a medical heartbeat in a timeline, he has added tempo and tension as the dramatic events unfold in pictures. It's stunning!
A theme of simplicity and emotion runs throughout his projects and tributes to his work such as Twistori strips his method down to the bones. So I started thinking about where the line is drawn between what is a story and a simple line of text? And when we look at ARG's I wonder where is the line between the story and the game? Are Lynetter's Flickr slides stories?
No one tells stories about our brands better than our audience and with so many ways of interacting with them the challenge is how to take their 'stories', mash them with our content, then create something somewhere near as wonderful as the examples above. Answers on a Twitter to Radio 1 Interactive please.
Then you've got to check Upl8 by Poke NY. I stumbled across this courtesy of Russell Davies' great post on Watching The Internet. As a 2-laptop-per-producer kinda guy I'm a shocker for having YouTube running on my mac as I work away on my PC. It's music player of choice these days. As a video player the ambient glance-able nature of Upl8 is what makes it so wonderful. I sent the link around to the team and many emailed my back saying they wished they could twist the knobs or push the buttons. I was shocked. If you want to push buttons try this or this. The real beauty of Upl8 for me is that you can't push the buttons... you just type in the url and let it flow - ambient nonsense till the cows come home. There is some functionality but you'll have to go to Iain Tait's Crackunit.com to find out how to load it with clips of kittens.
As anyone working in radio will tell you glance-able content will play a massive part in the future of radio, but there have been 2 occasions in the last few years that hammered home how important it is already, and has been for sometime. The first occurrence was in 2006 when I asked my teen son to cast an eye over the Radio 1 website and tell me what liked most. Expecting him to talk about the wealth of video, incredible event coverage or superb music content I was stunned when he pointed to the 'track now playing' feed at the top of the homepage. When I asked why he replied 'Because if a tune comes on I like I can switch off the music I'm playing and turn on the radio'. I assumed nobody would choose to listen to radio this way and put it down to him being a lovable crank.
I totally forgot about it until I did a 'meeting the public' session early 2007 where I talked to a couple of Radio 1 lovers about listening to radio via their TV. I was pretty pleased to find out that it was their favourite way of 'listening' to Radio 1 until they explained that listening via TV allowed them to turn off their own music and turn up the radio when they see a track they like appear on the 'track now playing feed' on screen.
I always thought the real value of tracklistings was aligned to music discovery or compiling your own playlists, something that would augment the experience of listening to the radio rather than a reminder to switch the radio on for the next 3 minutes.