Tuesday, January 29, 2008

QR Codes - not just big in Japan?

Until a couple of weeks ago QR Codes were very much on the periphery of my attention radar. Then some of my colleagues working on the BBC Programmes BETA hit on the ingenious idea of automatically generating a QR Code for every BBC programme (just add /qrcode to the end of any programme page URL to view - more from Tom Scott).

Since then, QR Codes seem to be everywhere I turn. First I caught up with the news that The Sun newspaper has notched up 11,000 registered users for its mobile QR service, launched on the 5th December in The Sun's inimitable style (see below image). Then, today, Silicon Valley Insider revealed that Google is planning to sell newspaper ads with QR codes. Whilst only a fraction of handsets currently have the requisite decoding software installed, Google have a convenient Trojan horse in the form of Android (The Sun is directing readers to download the i-nigma reader).

You can generate your own QR Code of a URL, phone number, SMS or using free text (up to 250 characters) here. The above QR Code is of this blog's URL.

Image: The Sun

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Torchwood ARG

Have been enjoying playing around with the BBC's new Torchwood ARG, another example of the BBC treating the web as a creative canvas (disclaimer: I work for BBC Vision Multiplatform, although wasn't directly involved with this commission).

Whilst I'm not sure if it wholly conforms to the received wisdom on what an ARG is, it plays nicely off the broadcast narrative, makes good use of embedded video (clip below) and weaves in a constellation of satellite sites (e.g. New Eden Tech, Venus Clinic and Dark Talk, which also has a MySpace page).

The only downers are the rather clumsy disclaimers (see screencap from Matt Jones) and the rights limitations which mean that you can't view the main content outside of the UK (international visitors are redirected to this page). Google for 'Torchwood ARG' and you'll see that much of the discussion is around the geo-blocking rather than collaborative problem solving, which feels like a shame.

Monday, January 21, 2008

My Top 20 Albums of 2007

Belatedly following on from My Top 25 Films of 2007, below are the albums released in the UK last year which most tickled my musical fancy.

It wasn't a vintage year for albums imho (hence only 20 rather than the customary 25) which is perhaps unsurprising in a year when only three of the artists in my Last.fm Top 20 released studio albums (Radiohead, The Arcade Fire and Kaiser Chiefs), although there were still a few gems...

Neon Bible
The Arcade Fire

Standout tracks: Keep The Car Running, Intervention
Release The Stars
Rufus Wainwright

Standout tracks: Do I Disappoint You, Going To A Town
Yours Truly, Angry Mob
Kaiser Chiefs

Standout tracks: The Angry Mob, Everything Is Average Nowadays
Person Pitch
Panda Bear

Standout tracks: Bro's, Comfy In Nautica
The Bees

Standout tracks: Who Cares What The Question Is?, Love In The Harbour
Because Of The Times
Kings of Leon

Standout tracks: Fans, Knocked Up
The Reminder

Standout tracks: 1234, My Moon My Man
Under The Blacklight
Rilo Kiley

Standout tracks: Smoke Detector, 15
Wincing The Night Away
The Shins

Standout tracks: Turn On Me, Phantom Limb
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Standout tracks: Don't Make Me A Target, Eddie's Ragga
Grand Drive

Standout tracks: The Skin You're Living In, Plain Sailing
The Shepherd's Dog
Iron & Wine

Standout tracks: Boy With a Coin, The Devil Never Sleeps
We Can Create

Standout tracks: You Don't Know Her Name, Back And Forth
The National

Standout tracks: Fake Empire
In Rainbows

Standout tracks: Nude
Myths Of The Near Future

Standout tracks: Golden Skans, Two Receivers
Once (Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
Standout tracks: Falling Slowly, Say It To Me Now
The Good, The Bad & The Queen
The Good, The Bad & The Queen

Standout tracks: History Song
Raising Sand
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Standout tracks: Killing The Blues, Please Read The Letter
Icky Thump
The White Stripes

Standout tracks: You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You're Told)

Related posts:
My Top 25 Albums of 2006
My Top 25 Albums of 2005

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lily Allen take-away widget

Building on the success of Seven Ages of Rock's embeddable video and adhering to number five of the BBC's Fifteen Web Principles ("Treat the entire web as a creative canvas: don’t restrict your creativity to your own site"), I'm pleased to note the launch of the below take-away widget in support of Lily Allen's forthcoming BBC THREE show. The widget offers a choice of video, a form to register your interest in getting involved and an opportunity to vote on which of two bands get their UK TV debut on the show each week. The widget is also available as a Facebook app (natch).

Full terms and conditions

Also noteworthy is the way in which the programme's production process is being opened up to the public via a deliberately work-in-progress website (described by Lily on her MySpace blog as "a bit crap at the moment, but we'll be updating it more and more everyday, and it's going to be amazing soon"), a Production Blog (written by the team at Princess Productions) and a YouTube group (inviting users to upload stuff that will make Lily laugh).

It's going to be interesting to see how all of this new activity dovetails with Lily's existing online presences such as her official EMI site and her MySpace profile (473,000 friends and 10.7 million profile views at the time of writing...)

Related posts:
Why Seven Ages of Rock rocks
Interesting times for the BBC online
2007: the year of the widget?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Personalised music magazine from your attention data

Thanks to Tristan for alerting me (via the BBC's Radio Labs blog) to the ultra-cool idiomag, which creates a daily personalised digital music magazine based on your listening preferences. The homepage invites users to enter either their two favourite artists or, more excitingly, their username from one of a host of popular online music services (Last.fm, Pandora, iLike, MyStrands, MOG, MySpace and Bebo are all supported) from where it pulls in details of your musical proclivities.

I opted for Last.fm as the primary custodian of my musical attention data and I have to admit that I found the resulting magazine pretty compelling. My first 'issue' served up Billboard.com news articles on Eels and Radiohead (complete with embedded video), a Junkmedia review of a Beck gig, a Wikipedia article on Indie Pop, a Ben Folds photo gallery (sourced from Flickr) and a LOSINGTODAY review of Kaiser Chiefs' single 'Loves Not a Game (But I'm Winning)'.

Presenting the content in the style of a print magazine (complete with page turns), is a smart move on the part of idiomag as it makes the personalisation much higher impact. We have become used to personalisation in the digital space but personalised print media has a residual novelty value (example) because the cost of print runs was once so prohibitive.

Throw in some standard Web 2.0 functionality (Love it, Bin it, Archive it, Email it to a friend, Share it on Facebook etc.), a couple of revenue streams in the form of interactive advertising and links to buy (from 7digital) and the obligatory Facebook app and your looking at rather a slick package. Time will tell whether the content is consistently compelling enough to warrant a daily visit although today is unlikely to be my last. Nice job guys.

Related posts:
Next generation music discovery
New (to me) music apps
New (to me) music apps - part two

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My Top 25 Films of 2007

Yes, it's that time of year again when Dan makes lists. First up is my Top 25 Films of 2007 (pared down after last year's rather excessive 30). As always, only movies released in UK cinemas during the last calendar year are eligible (hence no There Will Be Blood or No Country For Old Men - early front-runners for my 2008 list). First, a bit of preamble...

All said and done, 2007 wasn't a great year for mainstream Hollywood, with the box office dominated by a procession of lacklustre threequels (Ocean's Thirteen, Spider-Man 3, Rush Hour 3, Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End), over-hyped gross-out comedies (Superbad, Knocked Up, The Heartbreak Kid) and an unwelcome second serving of 'torture porn' (Captivity, Hostel Part II etc.)

It wasn't all bad of course - some of Hollywood's biggest hitters turned in some pretty fine films. Ridley Scott (American Gangster), David Fincher (Zodiac) and Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum) all acquitted themselves admirably and The Simpsons' first big screen outing was way better than widely reported. There were also a couple of modest US indie gems in the shape of Waitress and Half Nelson.

However the real cinematic gold was mostly to be found on this side of the pond, for 2007 was another golden year for European cinema and drama in particular. Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Ireland and the UK between them account for ten of my top fifteen films. Australia also punched above it's weight with Ten Canoes and the haunting Jindabyne, adapted from the Raymond Carver short story 'So Much Water So Close to Home'. It was a strong year for adaptations in general with Atonement, The Last King of Scotland, Tell No One, The Counterfeiters, Blame It On Fidel! and Zodiac all making successful transitions from page to screen.

After a couple of outstanding years for documentary film-making, pickings were slightly slimmer this year, although In The Shadow Of The Moon proved thoroughly engrossing and Michael Moore was as watchable as ever in his latest polemic, Sicko.

Biggest cinematic disappointment of the year for me was David Lynch's Inland Empire. As a huge fan of The Straight Story and an admirer of The Elephant Man and Mulholland Drive, I had high hopes, especially after reading Damon Wise's five star review in Empire. Unfortunately it's 3 hour running time felt more like 6 as one overly portentous scene followed another. The man is clearly a genius but a bit of discipline in the editing room frankly wouldn't go amiss...

In terms of performances, my Best Actress shortlist would have to include Laura Linney (Jindabyrne), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) and Julie Christie (Away From Her). Best Actor would be between Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises), Forest Whitaker (Last King of Scotland) and the now sadly departed Ulrich Mühe (The Lives of Others). Best cinematic debut would be between the contrasting but equally brilliant Jodie Whittaker (Venus), Markéta Irglová (Once) and Ai Qin Lin (Ghosts).

So without further ado, here's the list:

1The Lives Of Others
(dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
(dir. Ray Lawrence)
(dir. John Carney)
(dir. Joe Wright)
5Tell No One
(dir. Guillaume Canet)
6The Counterfeiters
(dir. Stefan Ruzowitzky)
7Eastern Promises
(dir. David Cronenberg)
8The Last King Of Scotland
(dir. Kevin Macdonald)
(dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
10In The Shadow Of The Moon
(dir. David Sington)
(dir. David Fincher)
12Blame It On Fidel!
(dir. Julie Gavras)
(dir. Nick Broomfield)
142 Days In Paris
(dir. Julie Delpy)
15The Science Of Sleep
(dir. Michel Gondry)
16Amercian Gangster
(dir. Ridley Scott)
17The Simpsons Movie
(dir. David Silverman)
(dir. Michael Moore)
19Half Nelson
(dir. Ryan Fleck)
20Blood Diamond
(dir. Edward Zwick)
21The Bourne Ultimatum
(dir. Paul Greengrass)
(dir. Adrienne Shelly)
23Black Book
(dir. Paul Verhoeven)
24Ten Canoes
(dir. Rolf de Heer & Peter Djigirr)
(dir. Roger Michell)

Related posts:
My Top 30 Films of 2006
My Top 25 Films of 2005
My Top 20 Films of 2004