Thursday, 6 December 2012

Starbucks and lower prices

I had this idea the other day over lunch, a frothing at the mouth libertarian Ayn Rand kind of thought about multinational companies and tax, and the sanction of the victim.

The idea was that Starbucks, instead of giving the government a voluntary donation of £10 million, should instead reduce their prices by whatever the amount that they are being accused of avoiding. So the money stays in their customers pockets and the HMRC, the taxman is cut out of the equation. I thought it was a fine idea.

Besides, don't businesses usually expect something in return when they give the government voluntary donations? It seems a bit corrupt if you ask me, there should be no place for it in government.

Elsewhere, a Times journalist called Alexi Mostrous claimed that it was "One Reuters story yields £10m to UK taxpayer..." somehow equating paying money to the tax man was the same as paying money to the taxpayer. I had a bit of a rant at him, the taxpayer is the complete opposite of the taxman. Alexi has it completely the wrong way round, money that goes to the taxman is explicitly not the taxpayers, it ceases to be the taxpayer's money as soon as it is paid. That's what tax is, money that no longer belongs to the taxpayer.

Anyhoo, cast your mind back to my second paragraph, maybe this is what businesses already do, they keep their prices as low as possible, to keep money in people's pockets as any excess money, profits, would go to the taxman, and thus be of no use to the business.

Businesses strive for perfect balance between prices, turnover, profits and tax. If any of these things chance then the business becomes unbalanced.

Anyhoo, just to very carefully remove any doubt from the reader's mind, I believe that businesses (and people) should pay the exact amount of tax they owe, and not a penny more, nor a penny less.

And there hangs a problem.

For personal banking I don't have an ISA savings account, I just have a regular savings account. So I pay tax on any interest I receive. If I moved my money into an ISA then I could avoid some tax, but that would be morally wrong.

I have a free choice here, and I choose to pay all the tax that I owe.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The neverending awesomeness of Indiepop Eyespy

Days have past, hundreds have died elsewhere in the world, but still I keep on hammering away at my keyboard. I keep on pushing, keep on fighting for something I believe in, something I've fought for for years, and that is Indie Eyespy.

Here try this
London Indiepop Eyespy

What you've got there may look pretty basic, but under the hood I've pushed the envelope of my skills. Its got html, JavaScript, php and MySQL.

It even looks pretty good when you view the source.

The list of bands and band members comes from a database that's 5 Normal Form, so the same person can be worth more points depending on what band they're in.

Now I just need to add a few more bands, and use the magic of CSS3 to make it look pretty.

And also do something slightly different for dealing with scenesters, promoters and DJs who aren't necessarily in any bands.

And then maybe I can work on adding a highscore table, and maybe a page to add new bands and band members, and then a special thing that looks up how many listeners each band has on and splits them into divisions based on how popular they are.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Order of the day

I've given some thought to what order to have the bands on the London Indiepop Eyespy website, this is another form over function problem.

Its got to be easy to use, easy to find the scensters that users want to claim points for.

This suggests alphabetical order for all the bands. This wouldn't be a problem if there were only two pages of bands. But if we're listing band members, that would be less than ten bands in total.

Besides, from my experience with the Skilmo site, people don't really want to work through a long list of bands, it puts people off using the site, their attention wanders and I've lost a scenester.

Back in the dusty days of Glasgow Indie Eyespy, the hundred or so bands of the Glasgow indie scene were split into about half a dozen divisions based on popularity, so in the premiership you'd find Franz Ferdinand, the Belles, the Obscuras, the Mogwai, in the first division you'd find the Felt Tips, The Plimptons, Wake The President etc. Scenesters could intuitively know where to look for the bands.

Which divisions the bands were in was a carefully calculated algorithm based on, technorati and MySpace data, but those vectors aren't really appropriate this decade for the twenty or so London Indiepop bands.

Sure I could work out some kind of popularity rankings, but having bands in divisions doesn't look nice if all the band members are listed. Alternatively, the site could list the bands and then expand to list the members once you've clicked on the name, but that's not very satisfactory.

I'm having real doubts about the viability of the website at this stage, I can't envisage people using it.

Doubts aside, if we look at the sort of sites I'm hoping to ape, like and Songkick, they don't have alphabetical lists of bands, they intuitively know what band names you want to see, they don't have lists that you have to wade through.

So, with the tools I have available, what would Phil Cowans and Gideon Bullock do? What would Russ Garrett do?

Something like this?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Getting all Fifth Normal Form on your ass

I've been reading up on database normalisation and thinking about how the London Indiepop Eyespy website would work.

Data normalisation is incredibly interesting, but not quite as important as what the site looks like, form dictates function here.

In the original pub game of indie eyespy, you'd spot a band member then look up how many point they are worth.

There's Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian, four points!

As many of the bands are quite obscure, it would be less likely that you'd know the names of band members, but you could still get points for identifying the person.
There's wassisname the drummer from Camera Obscura, would be worth the same as correctly remembering his name was Lee. Although, if playing indie eyespy competitively with friends, the person who get his name would claim the points.

So here we have the dilema for a website, what should it list:-

  • Check boxes for each band member by name for each band
  • Check boxes for numbered members for each band
  • Text box for number of members spotted and leave the rest to banter

With the limitless possibilities of computing power, I'm tempted to go for option one, and make life easier for folk who can't remember names

As bands evolved and lineups changed so did the way points were allocated, for example spotting Gav from Camera Obscura would get you three points, but if you instead noted it was Gav the bass player from Stabiliser, it would be five points. However, you couldn't then claim eight points for identifying him as playing in both bands. You only get points for one person once.

So the website would need a way of dealing with the same person in many bands.

With the Skilmo website, this sort of problem was easily resolved when it processed the checklist page, each skill was only logged once, for example tunisian crochet only counted once if you clicked it in both the textile arts category and the crochet category because the program ignored categories when logging stuff.

But with indie eyespy, because of the different points values this isn't possible, and rather awesomely, this is precisely in what 5th Normal Form is about in database normalisation theory.

On the database side of things I'd need three tables:-

  • List of people and their nominal point values
  • List of bands and their points values
  • List of which people are in which bands

Then every time the website is accessed a list is constructed by SQL of bands and their members and points values.

Then with PHP an html page is generated which displays this list, with form checkboxes and also generates so neat JavaScript which greys out people who play in different bands when you select them.

Then submitting this form should post a list of people and their points values.

The next page would get a list of the people in the database, and run through the posted data, tote up the score, and log the score.

That seems to work in my head.

Of course the list of names will be normalised with id numbers to cover for there being more than one person with the same name, and same with the list of bands.

The list of bands also needs a status column for whether a band is currently active, on haitus or split up. Cos, of course, active bands are worth more points than bands that are on haitus, but not as much as a band who split up in 1989.

And the list of which people are in which bands needs a column indicating former band members. Because, as I'm sure you understand, spotting the original guitarist from Pocketbooks is worth more points than the current guitarist.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The mind-boggling complexity of a London Indiepop Eyespy Website

After the frankly unremarkable failure of my last website, despite our best efforts, I'm unable to persuade people to sign up, I've decided to devote my labours towards creating a dynamic London Indie Eyepsy website.

I don't need to remind you that the basics of London Indiepop Eyespy involve awarding yourself point for spotting well-known Indiepop music scene people at gigs and concerts in London.

At first I figured it would just be a static list of bands and scenesters with check boxes and I could re-use the old php code from my skilmo website. I know where I am with php and a nice MySQL table.

But the more I think about it, the more mind-boggling it gets.

Part of the joy of the original game was that extra points could be gains using various multipliers, for example you get extra points if the person you've spotted is wearing a hipster stripy top, or if they're shopping in Lidl, or double points if you assault, sleep with or have sex with the spyee. There could be different point value for people depending on which band you identify the spyee with, for example, Dan Chapman from Pocketbooks may only be worth 2 points, but Dan Chapman from Hot Booth would be worth 5 points.

So, to do a dynamic check-list where extra lines appear for checking off several band members, or with the stripy top and sleeping with multipliers as more check boxes or radio buttons  this would use JavaScript, which looks straightforward. I've never used JavaScript before, but after a cursory glance at online tutorials it doesn't seem too challenging. A little challenging maybe, but not too much.

However, my mind boggles when I try to figure out how to create a webpage that behaves correctly with Dan Chapman. How do I make it so if you claim your points for seeing him in stripy top as Pocketbooks bass player, you then can't claim points for him as Knickers bass player, or Hot Booth, One Fathom Down. I'm going to need to use php to generate JavaScript that creates check boxes that behave as radio buttons across almost the entire length of the page.

Or maybe the check boxes remain as check boxes but become greyed out when you chose one or other of them.

Then again, maybe starting with a list of bands and scenesters is the wrong start point, and instead the site relies on a list of people, and their band affiliations is on a separate table.

I'm uncomfortable with this.

Even back in the pre-London days of Glasgow Indie Eyespy,  where the scene was much richer and more diverse, the game was pretty much a stalkers charter, where the proximity of creepiness and fun on the indie eyespy spectrum could be easily laughed off or obscured. In London Indie Eyespy, the scene is different, whilst Dan Chapman is a ubiquitous figure in the scene and a great example a few paragraphs above, actually mapping all the bands that various people called Emma are in so that anyone can stalk them in supermarkets makes me uncomfortable.

Imagine, if you will, that I recreated Facebook, not all of it, but your Facebook newsfeed and that of most of your friends, and I did without any input from you. Its clearly at the wrong end of the creepy/fun indie eyespy spectrum.

And so likewise creating a list of people and then mapping with bands they're in, and have previously been in, thats still drifting towards the awkward end of the spectrum. Especially on the lowest levels where playing on stage at The Wilmington Arms is a small step from playing in your bedroom.

Very easily someone could take it the wrong way and demand their details to be removed from the site. There's no way to take into account people's desire for privacy if you're starting from individuals rather than starting with bands.

Back in the early days of and Songkick, there was correspondence online of bands complaining that they were listed on the sites despite having not signed up themselves, and it had to be patiently explained that if you're in a band with music to be listened to, then the listening experience belongs to the listener, whoever they maybe.

With Indiepop Eyespy, getting points for spotting Dan from Pocketbooks is one thing, but getting points for spotting Sandy in the supermarket is another matter entirely.

I was at a gig the other night, at Power Lunches, and I saw Katesby, she's a popular scenester. We go back a long way, about 420 miles and half a dozen years, but being a shy sort of chap, I didn't say hi or anything, I just lurked in a corner listening to the bands on stage and concentraing intently on my Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE. I just didn't feel comfortable saying hi, I don't think she saw me.

Maybe that makes me anti-social and a little bit creepy, or maybe its an inherent character trait that's made me the man I am today. Its the same thing I referred to the first paragraph of this blogpost, and its the inherent fallacy in constructing a London Indiepop Eyespy website.

Never the less, I'll have to go and read up and fifth normal form database normalization and see what works.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Your vote counts

So I've been working hard on my awesome internet startup websitey thing, adding new functionality and cool stuff.

I've now got pages for each photo that's been uploaded for each skill and you can upvote and downvote photos just like on Reddit. And its' kind of neat too cos on the left side of each photo it shows the top votes photos from the same person and other top voted photos for that skill.

So say you uploaded a photo of some awesome piece of knitting you'd done, and some awesome photo of an awesome bit of chainsaw carving you'd done, and an awesome photo of you looking awesome playing bass guitar in some band you were in five years ago. Then when folk were looking at your knitting photo, on the right there'd be pictures of other people's knitting and on the left would be photos of your other awesomey things.

The main problem with this cool websitey thing, is that I'm the only person to have uploaded any photos of anything so its just me gurning and things I've knitted out of Sainsburys carrier bags over the last five years.

Still, the website is here, anyone can sign up and upload photos, please do, cos I'm not quite sure if it works right.

To register on the site, you'll need to go to this page, check off some of the crafts, hobbies and skills what you can do, then come up with some user name, then from your profile page you'll be able to upload photos and stuff.

Let me know if you have any problems, if for some reason you get logged out randomly, and if you have a retina display device, let me know what it all looks like.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

I am a female Goffin’s cockatoo

Thrilling progress is being made on my awesome internet start-up website thing.

This is the main page, this is my profile page and this is where you can register all the skills what you can do and open an account.

Elsewhere on the internet a parrot in captivity has started to manufacture its own tools. Its pretty awesome as we already knew that crows and jays could fashion tools out of bits of wire, but this is the first time its been seen in a parrot.

The bit that interests me most in the story is about Heidi, a female cockatoo in the same cage:-
Heidi, the bird in question, attempted to insert sticks into the enclosure, as she had seen Figaro do. She did not, however, adjust their sizes or attempt to manipulate them once they were on the same side of the wire mesh as the nut. Perhaps if she had been given more time to observe Figaro at work (he chased her off), she might have had a greater sense of how to use the sticks.
Me, I love watching people do things I can't do, and then having a go myself. Its just in my nature to want to try everything.

The past days and weeks have been fraught with the website. I've been learning how to do stuff in php, then once it works, I show it off to my nearest and dearest who just don't seem very impressed, and I don't understand why not.

For example, the checklist page was a huge list of all the skills on the database, I could image people slowly working through it checking off everything they could do, bias knitting, chainsaw carving, programming in FORTRAN, getting little stabs of joy when they learn about the existence of a new skill that they've never heard off before, like punch needle embroidery.

I couldn't understand why no one was registering on the site, why no one was working through the list of 300 or so skills?

Luckily, thanks to some good constructive feedback, I've changed the checklist page so all the skills are in categories, and you can just pick the one you're interested in. Rather than having to read through dozens of random ones that you're not interested in.

Its so obvious, but it didn't occur to me the first time round.

Me, I'm like Heidi, learning new skills. But I'm better than her, with a bit of practise I get better and get it right.

So, the next bit of the site that I'm working on is how it deals with images that have been uploaded by users. I'll let you know how I get on. Awesomeness all round!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

On National Insurance and Child Benefit

There's recently been coverage in the media of a thing called 'The Living Wage', that is a wage upon which people can live comfortably, a somewhat higher wage than the current minimum wage. By a quirk of statistics, the Living Wage is within a few pence of what the take home amount of the minimum wage if it wasn't taxed. That is, if people on minimum wage didn't pay income tax, they'd be taking home the living wage.

Fiscally, I'm a big fan of raising the income tax threshold to £16,000 or so, enough to take the minimum wage earners out of the tax system. And then, with feelings of generousity, I'd raise the threshold to the median wage, so the poorest half of the UK paid no income tax, and the rest pay the rest of it, at whatever rate balances the books.

However, I'm not the chancellor, and I have doubts. There's the whole concept of National Insurance, which I still believe is an insurance scheme and not just a different name for tax. I feel that all earners, no matter what their income, should be paying national insurance, like putting away a little bit each pay day, for when they fall ill, or become unemployed or otherwise fall on hard times.

And here we land at the problem with Child Benefit. Within twelve months, those earning £50,000 or more will not receive Child Benefit. Whether or not this is fair depends entirely on whether that money comes from taxes or national insurance.

If its from the National Insurance Fund then it ought to be a universal benefit, paid for all children regardless of their parents' income. Imagine if you paid for insurance on your car or your house, and then when disaster strikes, the insurance company turned round and said, no, you can afford to repair or replace without the insurance money so we're not paying up. In which case, I imagine you would do your damnedest to ensure that the insurance company never received a penny from you.

But if Child Benefit is paid from tax, then fair enough, deprive the rich of it benefit, as they are paying for everyone else's services anyway, its part of the package, part of the deal you sign up to when choosing how closely you comply with a country's tax regime*. The tax rates vary regularly anyway so any gains or losses are transient rather than long term.

It appears that Child Benefit is not paid from the National Insurance Fund, and is administered by HM Revenue and Customs and so is paid from tax.

In order to hold views such as this I try to indulge tax avoidance as little as possible, I don't give money to charity, I don't use GiftAid, and I don't keep my savings in an ISA.

*Its widely believed that only the rich can take advantage of tax regimes in different countries to maximise their wealth. I believe this is untrue as I've worked for minimum wage in factories where the vast majority are workers who've travelled thousands of miles from far off lands to work for minimum wage and then send a proportion of their earnings back home to ensure their families have a higher quality of life. This is the same package as Sir Philip Green's wife living in Monaco receiving the benefits of the Arcadia group in the UK.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Its alive!!

Crikey, I gotta say I'm surprised, but it was only a few hours ago that I'd figured out why my first forays into php had failed and now, now my skills website thing works.

Its all functional. It even has a background color!! I know!

Its still a work in progress, so don't get your hopes too high. At the moment it consists of two sections, the skill directory and the checkbox page.

The former is a crappy encyclopedia of skills, crafts and hobbies which are all linked together with tags, you can start navigating around from this page. If you click on Graphic arts, it'll take you to a brief description of the category and a list of the various types of Graphic arts, then if you click on one of those you'll get a more indepth description and a list of other associated tags.

The checkbox page is a list of all the skills in the database, you can check of the ones that you can do, then when you click the button at the bottom of the page, it logs all your selections with a random ID and counts them and presents this as your score.

There's still a long way to go, but it works, and I'm so proud, feel free to play around, its pretty robust.

Please don't tell other people about it yet.

Here's a list of features and pages I need to add:-
  • statcounter code in the page footers
  • sort out header and footer in all pages
  • a home/index page with statistics (most popular, least popular, untried skills, average score, median score)
  • an about page with me rambling
  • descriptions for all the the skills
  • statistics about your score
  • better ordering of skills on checklist page so its more intuitive
  • most popular skills on taginfo page
  • my own photos for skills
  • auto re-size photos
  • discipline page which calculates which tag are subdisciplines
  • scoring system based on popularity of skills
  • your score for each discipline
  • page to add new skills and tags
  • page to delete skills from all tables
  • page to delete photos
  • page of database errors like skills without descriptions, tags without skills, etc.
  • logos and stuff
  • amazon affiliate links to instruction books for each skill
  • links to tutorial websites for each skill
  • recommendation engine.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Further adventures in php and GeekSkills or whatever

Something unseen grabbed my throat and dragged me to google, my fingers danced over the keyboard and searched for php tutorials. Before me, on my screen, the aborted php script for my websitey idea appeared and my eyes were drawn to a typo.

I had spelt html wrong.

No sooner was it corrected, and ftp'ed across to, and it worked, a few lines of my database appeared in my browser, summoned from MySQL by my php script.

And so it began once more, resurrecting my ambitions and dreams of winning the internet with an arty, crafty, etsy, songkicky website.

I came up with a new name for it too, instead of GeekSkills. I needed something that wasn't in any dictionary, a new word that sounds a little like arts or crafts or skills. I came up with 'SKILMO', like more skills, but also like half hearing someone call my name.

Anyhoo, here are three pages I've crafted for the site:-

List of Skills - this is a list of all the skills on the database, there are hundreds of them
Skill information - this is the description and associated tags for one of the skills
Skills with a specific tag - This is a list of all the skills that have a specified tag

I want it all to work first, all the php, sql and MySQL stuff working together before I try to make it beautiful.

My next task is to make it so when you click on a Skill on the first page, it brings up the Skill information page for that skill.

And then some kind of form page where you click checkboxes for all the skills you have and crafts you can do, then it gives you an arbitary score and secretly saves your skillset.

Thick Creamy Podcast 12-10-2012

Here's the latest Thick Creamy Podcast, bands playing live at a gig the other night, and me talking

Instead of using SoundCloud or whatever it was I used to use, its up on my own servery thing, which is kind of neat, but alas there's no streaming player thing so you'll have to right click and save as...

The gig was a Odd Box Records night at The Tipsy Bar in Dalston featuring City Yelps, Fever Dream and September Girls.

It was a bit of a struggle to find the venue, and I'd set off a little late, and the venue was really dark, so I only caught the last two songs of City Yelps. They were noisy, but fun. I dunno whether its just my small palette of band descriptions or Oddbox's taste in music, but I thought City Yelps had that post-punk late seventies Liverpool sound, maybe Joy Division too. I wish I'd caught all of their set.

Second band were Fever Dream, who are awesome. They sound a little art school, really well assembled tunes.
Fever Dream at The Tipsy Bar
Headlining the night were September Girls from Dublin, they were dressed as The Bangles, and played a neat cover of The Clapping Song.

September Girls at The Tipsy Bar
On the way home from the show I tried to record all my talkie bits for the podcast whilst I was drunk and wandering through Ridley Road Market. But when I listened to it in the morning there was this water pouring noise in the background which sounded like I was pissing, and I'd mangled one of the band names.

Its possible to subscribe to these Thick Creamy Podcasts on iTunes so they download automagically every time I put up a new one.

Simply go into the 'Advanced' menu in iTunes, click 'Subscribe to Podcast' and then paste in this rss feed

and that should give you all the podcasts, forever.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Thick Creamy Podcast 28-09-2012

Here's the latest Thick Creamy Podcast, bands playing live at a gig the other night, and me talking

Instead of using SoundCloud or whatever it was I used last time, its up on my own servery thing, which is kind of neat, but alas there's now streaming player thing so you'll have to right click and save as...

The gig was a Odd Box Records night at The Buffalo Bar featuring two of my favourite bands and two other bands who I'd never heard before who were also pretty ace.

First up were Flowers. I loved their soaring guitars, sounded a bit like a teenage My Blood Valentine practising in their bedroom and a lovely warbling girl sounding like the eighties, Kate Bush, Julee Cruise, Cyndi Lauper.
Flowers playing at The Buffalo Bar 28-SEP-2012
Also, they finished up with a song where the wee girl was playing a one-string bass guitar. Back in '95 when me and Pnos were still learning our instruments, we were tempted by such a thing, but never followed through. Good work Flowers!

Next up were The Choo Choo Trains, who looked pretty cool. I got distracted in their set and didn't get any photos and my recording of it has lots of me talking about bus stops and streetlighting design which isn't quite as musical as the band.

The penultimate band were Town Bike, I hadn't seen them for years, they were awesome.
Town Bike playing at The Buffalo Bar 28-SEP-2012
And then headlining were Tender Trap who fans of my podcast will remember featured in a this podcast from March

Amelia from Tender Trap playing at The Buffalo Bar 28-SEP-2012

Its possible to subscribe to these Thick Creamy Podcasts on iTunes so they download automagically every time I put up a new one.

Simply go into the 'Advanced' menu in iTunes, click 'Subscribe to Podcast' and then paste in this rss feed

and that should give you all the podcasts, forever.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Thick Creamy Podcast 08-09-2012

For possibly the second time ever, legendary Glasgow band The Plimptons played London. I was at a bit of a loose end last Saturday night, so I happened upon The Buffalo Bar in Islington and popped into to catch the Guided Missile night.

I had my recorder with me so I've put together a podcast of the gig. The four bands playing were Summer Hunter, The Plimptons, Keith Top of the Pops and his UK Minor Indie Celebrity Band and Dream Themes.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Awesomeness all round then. The first act were Summer Hunter, two girls from Shrag and a chap from the Fire Dept, that's a female band there. I only caught their last two songs, but they were pretty exciting sounding, lots of reverb on the vocals, you can never have too much reverb on the vox.

The Plimptons were on second, the Buffalo Bar was packed to the rafters which was quite a relief cos they were getting a bit worried. They were absolutely electric, the songs thoughtful pieces examining the drinking and music culture of their home towns of Glasgow and Motherwell, illustrated with cartoons, costumes and set pieces that had to be seen to be believed.

I was recruited for videographer duties so I didn't get to take any photies, not sure when the video will surface, but I have faith.

Next were Keith TOTP and his UK Minor Indie Celebrity Band, who were up to their usual high standards. Some might say that three guitarists is one too many, but Keith cranks it up to levels not seen since the Reindeer Section played the QMU with a mighty six guitars, only one bass player though. Maybe they could get together with FreeBase and it would all balance out.

That said, its quite possible that the fifth and sixth guitarists weren't plugged in, how would anyone know?

And headlining were Dream Themes. You know that episode of the IT Crowd where they go to the underground Countdown place, well, Dream Themes play live covers of popular TV theme tunes, and they rock. Highlights would be the Addams Family, Blockbusters and of course the sawing epic vistas of Bergerac.

Anyhoo, after spend around three hours trying to upload the podcast to SoundCloud, I gave up and went with another podcast provider, you should be able to download the mp3 from here with a trusty right click and save link as...

About 1 minute and 50 seconds in you can hear Martin from the Plimptons asking where the toilets are. Rock and Roll!!!!

Thursday, 13 September 2012


So yeah, I was at the #Londata meetup this evening, it was all about Big Data. I was a little out of my depth.

My depth being those job vacancy posts I did in 2009, those libor posts of 2008, and the London rents posts of 2012, all lovingly scraped by hand. Rather than the api-driven professional affairs of tonight's audience.

Anyhoo at #Londata a company called Bloom were showing off some pretty network diagrams illustrating influence on twitter. They look like dandelions and help companies identify who to engage with. Its all to do with who passes on specific messages on twitter and expands the reach of a client's campaign.

One thing I took away from the presentation was that I ought to change my profile details on Twitter to more accurately represent my interests. Or maybe not, maybe I can opt out of being a marketeer's pawn by having my interests as guinea pigs and Dutch politics, things completely incongruous to the content of my tweets.

Anyhoo, I was wondering how Bloom's networky authority stuff could apply to the indiepop music scene. Allo Darlin were playing at Kings College tonight so its kind of topical, and Allo Darlin are both the sort of band who's members go to lots of other gigs and are also the sort of band who played on a train platform at the seminal Indietracks 2008 festival.

There's a handful of bands and a handful of people who all go to the same concerts. Sure some gigs are full of other people and some people go to see other bands gigs, but there is a hard core who are key to the scene. This we already knew.

Maybe if they were diagrammed as nodes, each node is a person, the lines reflect going to gigs, the colours have no relevance.

This diagram is just to illustrate the concept, Alice from The Cosines has probably been to Moustache of Insanity gigs, Bill From Moustache of Insanity has probably reciprocated and Hannah from Owl and Mouse must have been to a Moustache gig at some point too. And Trev OddBox, he puts on most gigs within the scene.

But can twitter be used more intelligently than just spamming the usual suspects, and target people better than just me tugging on people's sleeves?

Information about who goes to what gigs used to be more freely available on songkick, you could look at anyone's gig history and filter it and easy build up an idea of who liked what gigs and who your gigmates are. But now this information is less visible and it takes minds greater than mine to extract it.

Hmm, I'm not quite sure what the point of this blogpost was, just a ramble I guess, with links.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Gender inequality at Indietracks: There I fixed it

Following on from yesterday's internet entertainment and also today's discussions on the Anorak forum, I thought I'd use the spreadsheet I made up of the past few Indietrackses as a force for good.

I have compiled a fantasy Indietracks lineup featuring all bands that have played there before, but carefully selected so as to be completely balanced by gender.

First a brief note as to what I mean by 'balanced by gender'. Rather than all acts being 50% male and 50% female, I've tried to figure what the make up would be if males and females were randomly distributed. So there are some all male bands and some all female bands. Considering we want about 55 acts to play in total, the mix would be as follows:-

All male 9 bands
Mixed mostly male 14 bands
50:50 bands 10 bands
Mixed mostly female 14 bands
All female 9 bands

With this in mind the lineup would be as follows:-

Disasteradio, Emmy The Great, Foxes!, Frances McKee, Helene, Kevin McGrother, King of Cats, Labrador, Loyal Trooper, MJ Hibbett (solo), Oxo Foxo, Roy Moller, Ste McCabe, Allo Darlin (2008 lineup of Elizabeth and Virginia), Berlin Brides, Burning Hearts, Everybody Was In The French Resistance.. Now, Lets Whisper (2008 lineup including Elizabeth Morris), Marshmallow, Kisses, Modular, Paisley and Charlie, Poppy & Friends, The Cannanes, The Lovely Eggs, The Middles Ones, Zipper, Gordon McIntyre (2012 lineup), Haiku Salut, The Just Joans (2008 platform lineup Dave, Katie, Rowan), Betty and the Werewolves, Teenage Fanclub, The Specific Heats, Art Brut, Butcher Boy, Cola Jet Set, Friends, La Casa Azul, Rose Elinor Dougall, Stereo Total, Tender Trap, The History of Apple Pie, The Red Shoe Diaries, The Smittens, Hong Kong in the 60s, Very Yours Truly, Stars of Aviation, The School, A fine Day for Sailing, A Little Orchestra, Withered Hand, The Loves, Little My.

This gives the following gender stats:-

Total female performers 90
Total male performers 90

%female performers 50.00%
%male performers 50.00%

All male 9 bands
Mixed mostly male 13 bands
50:50 bands 11 bands
Mixed mostly female 10 bands
All female 9 bands

Which is close enough to ideal.

You're welcome.

The list of bands was a little half-arsed, so here's the lineup by stage

MJ Hibbett (solo)
Allo Darlin (2008 lineup of Elizabeth and Virginia)
Tender Trap

Main Stage
Butcher Boy
Betty and the Werewolves
Everybody Was In The French Resistance.. Now
The Loves (2011 festival lineup with dancing girls)
A Little Orchestra
A fine Day for Sailing
The School

Indoor Stage
Emmy The Great
The Lovely Eggs
Hong Kong in the 60s
Gordon McIntyre (2012 lineup)
Little My
The Red Shoe Diaries
Berlin Brides
Haiku Salut

Church Stage
Roy Moller
The Just Joans (2008 platform lineup Dave, Katie, Rowan)
Ste McCabe
Very Yours Truly

Oxo Foxo
Paisley and Charlie
Loyal Trooper

Main Stage
The Smittens
Rose Elinor Dougall
Teenage Fanclub
La Casa Azul
The Specific Heats
Stars of Aviation
Cola Jet Set

Indoor Stage
Art Brut
Stereo Total
Poppy & Friends
Withered Hand
The Middles Ones
The History of Apple Pie

Church Stage
Lets Whisper (2008 lineup including Elizabeth Morris)
Marshmallow Kisses
Burning Hearts
The Cannanes

King of Cats
Frances McKee
Kevin McGrother

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Sexism in indiepop band selection and Indietracks

Earlier today Daniel Novakovic and Jennifer Reiter posted an awesome blogpost on the So Tough So Cute blog about gender inequality of performers at Indietracks 2012.

Twitter erupted, Facebook erupted as band members and promoters denied their sexism. And cos Daniel and Jennifer had used statistics to make their argument it was all a great heap of awesome.

They had analysed the male/female/x make up of all the bands listed as performing at Indietracks 2012, then categorised the bands into being male, female or 50:50
This is how we counted performers at Indietracks. The process is based on the Ladyfest Malmö method.
  • A female act is an act where the majority of band members are female
  • A male act is an act where the majority of band members are male
  • A 50/50 act is comprised of half females and half males or equal members of males, females and trans people
and with the help of lovely polkadot pie charts summarised the findings as
  • 56 acts were booked in total.
  • 38 were male acts
  • 7 were female acts
  • 11 were 50/50-acts
Clearly since 51% of the population is female there must be sexism at work.

Similarly for individual performers at Indietracks 2012
  • 159 were male
  • 64 were female
  • 3 trans or genderqueer.
It doesn't really represent the population.

But how badly should indiepop promoters feel about this? Is indiepop particularly sexist compared to other musical genres? I've always felt that indiepop is a broad musical church, inculsive of all genders and sexes. Compared to pop, punk, rock and metal, there are far more people in skirts in indiepop bands.

Anyhoo, So Tough! So Cute! only looked at the data for Indietracks 2012. Which could just be a blip, so I've poured over the old festival guides for Indietracks 2009, 2010 and 2011.

For performers, without investigating the privacies of trans and genderqueeriness

Total female performers75585964
Total male performers138143120159

%female performers35.2%28.9%33.0%28.7%
%male performers64.8%71.1%67.0%71.3%

Its roughly 70:30 male to female, how much variation were you expecting? About that much?

2009 2010 2011 2012
Female bands 7 5 7 7
Male bands 40 43 35 38
50:50 bands 13 11 11 11

That is remarkably consistent, considering all the thousands of indiepop bands who could possibly play, more often than not there's always 7 female bands and 11 50:50 bands

Personally I think there's something a bit off about calling Allo Darlin' a male band, since without Elizabeth Morris, they wouldn't be half as successful.

So, as I have access to the raw data, we can categorised them differently, thus:-

2009 2010 2011 2012
All male 19 17 17 15
Mixed mostly male 21 26 18 23
50:50 bands 13 11 11 11
Mixed mostly female 3 3 2 4
All female 4 2 5 3

Thrilling stuff that doesn't really change the argument much, except that if promoters were being sexist in their selections, there would perhaps be more 'All male' bands.

There are, of course, flaws in the methodology here. Flaws such as Dan and Jonny from Pocketbooks who as a mobile rhythm section play bass and drums in a couple of different bands, most of them featuring female members, when considering Indietracks, do Dan and Jonny only count once or multiple times or as fractions adding up to whole people. Likewise Remi from Electrophonvitage/Sunny Street and as a solo artist, the Colin Clary/Lets Whisper/Smittens, and Simon Love, cos he's worth ten normal men.

On the female side there's Emma from Knickers, Owl and Mouse and Darren Hayman's band who's trying to make up gender inequality single-handedly.

What's to do?

I can only propose that all women in general are forced to form bands and get on stage even if they don't want to.

Any musically talented women must join at least five bands.

I don't know.

As mentioned earlier the original piece didn't cover other music genres outwith indiepop, so I thought I'd venture into other worlds...
These are the details for The Didmarton Bluegrass Festival 2012

Total female performers 28
Total male performers 118

%female performers 19.18%
%male performers 80.82%

All male 19
Mixed mostly male 14
50:50 bands 5
Mixed mostly female 1
All female 3

So thats most imbalanced than Indietracks, with overwealmingly male bands.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Thick Creamy Podcast 20-07-2012

The other days I went to a gig, the last ever Which Way Is Up show at The Wilmington Arms, so I've recorded a podcast from the night featuring some awesome bands like The Cosines, Downdime, Haiku Salut and Ace Bushy Striptease.

At the bottom of this blogpost you file some of the photatoes I took at the show, I think that last one of Ace Bushy Striptease is the best gig photo I've ever taken ever.

I wonder, is my podcasting career underperforming? I'm averaging only 25 listeners per podcast, am I doing something wrong or is that punching above my weight?

For the first couple I was getting thirty or forty listeners, and for the last few they've only been getting twenty or so. Is it just I'm not pimping it so hard and spamming twitter, Facebook, and all the messageboards, or is it just its a poor idea?
The Cosines

The Cosines


Haiku Salut

Ace Bushy Striptease

Thursday, 19 July 2012

My videos of Indietracks 2012

I went to a music festival the other weekend, Indietracks 2012. Its like twee indiepop and steam trains at the same time, and this it had parrots and owls too.

Anyhoo, at these things I usually shoot a few videos, I'd like to present them all to you here in one blogpost.

This is a short 4 minute taster of the whole weekend

This is Darren Hayman and The secondary Modern playing a cover of The Bee Gees' I started a Joke

 This is The Just Joans playing a cover of Kenickie's Come Out 2Nite

 This is Fulhast playing Prison Pizza

 This is Allo Darlin' playing a cover of The Just Joans' If You Don't Pull

And this is Elizabeth from Allo Darlin's encore, their classic Tallulah

And for those of you with plenty of time on your hands this is a 30 min compilation of the weekend.

On reflection, I should have titled it up with the name of all the bands. That would have taken an hour or so, and I was in a rush to get it online first, not sure why.

I think with these videos for me it is a popularity contest, can I get more views on YouTube than I did the other year. The quality isn't great, but it's good enough for YouTube, and what do you expect with a Canon IXUS 50 from 2005 (it used to be cutting edge, I could have been a contender...). For the past few years there's been folk mincing about at Indietracks with professional cameras, whole film crews, and I'm never sure what happens to the footage, a five minute local news item perhaps, or a limited release indie movie, who knows.

This year a band called The Birthday Kiss had a video up pretty quickly here, although I've got to say, eight seconds in the commentary contains what could be a tribute to the end of my 2008 video. Good research there chaps, appreciated.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Go Compare - Go Fuck Yersel

Just to be clear, the point of this piece is that I want to live in a world where anyone can freely graffiti billboard adverts without fear of prosecution for vandalism or hate crime. We are bombarded by outdoor advertising with no choice as to whether we see it or not, if people could freely amend adverts as they see fit, marketeers would be forced to take into account the views of local communities.

It makes me gag with frustration, there are actually people out there who think that this is a spontaneous eruption of hatred and vandalism against one specific car insurance comparison site, and not just a slightly edgy marketing job.

I'm genuinely concerned that people think that out of all the things in modern life that a spontaneous uprising of graffiti could be about, it would be about one TV advert.

Not the Aleksandr from compare the meerkats, or Churchill the disagreeable/agreeable bulldog or that dapper Admiral. lot of people think that its genuine amusing vandalism, then so be it.

What I think would be awesome if if some lads with spraycans went out and cranked the Go Compare graffiti up a notch and added their own unauthorised graffiti. "Go Compare - Go Fuck Yersel", "Go to Compare the Meerkat", "Go back to Italy", "Go anorexic you fat fuck"

If this is the reality that folk think they live in, then embrace it. I eagerly await the same graffiti creeping into other adverts, a wholesale takeover of billboard advertising by lads with spraycans, inspired by Go Compare.

Especially around the Olympics

That would be awesome.

Any advert that annoys you or rubs you up the wrong way, just grab your cans, don't say it, spray it. If anyone stops you, tell them you have implicit permission from the PR company to purely and genuinely express the feelings of the local community towards advertising.

When I used to stay round Shields Road in Glasgow, an area with a large Muslim community, whenever the clothing companies put up posters of scantily clad women wearing £4.99 bikini tops, a few days later the skantily clad woman would find herself covered up. Someone had been out with a ladder, a tray of black Dulux and a paint roller, and covered her modesty.

This happened a few times until the advertisers got the message that you don't do scantily clad women in some areas.

I guess in a sprawling metropolis like London, it doesn't matter if an advertiser pisses off a large section of the eyeballs.

A few weeks ago the same thing happened in Walthamstow (and Tower Hamlets according to the Evening Standard), with this year's H&M £4.99 bikini tops adverts. By Blackhorse Road underground someone had tried to paint over the skantily clad women and failed miserably, only one of the four ladies was covered.

Our awesome MP tweeted about it, we have different views on this. I think its a pure and genuine expression of a community's distaste for advertising that's vulgar in their culture, and she thinks its a hate crime. Some people feel threatened by it.

I was tweeting about it yesterday and received this

I don't really want to invoke Venn, but it is possible for graffiti to be both vandalism and hate crime, and also for vandalism to look like hate crime when it clearly isn't, in much the same way that a marketing job can look like vandalism when it clearly isn't.

One person's hate crime is another's censorship. If you're going to mush all these concepts together to match whatever your worldview is, then you'll find me up a ladder painting beer bellies on posters of Olympic Team GB and complaining that they're already airbrushed to unrealistic perfection and encourage the youth of today to develop eating disorders.

Anyhoo, the Go Compare graffiti campaign is a rather sweet anachronistic affair, harking back to a time when people did things differently.

We don't use ladders to deface adverts now, these days we use software, like on MyDavidCameron and the anti-terror hotline remix

 Alas, if Go Compare created a macro generator website, no one would use it, no one feels strongly enough about their adverts to actually go out and vandalise them.

Only in the dreams of marketeers.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Thick Creamy Podcast 12-06-2012

Its been weeks and sweeks since this gig, but here's a podcast of The School, Just Handshakes (We're British) and Knickers gig at The Queen of Hoxton, from 12-06-2012

It was the first time I'd been to The Queen of Hoxton, just a few blocks away from Liverpool Street Station, maybe five minutes walk. The place was one of those cool, dark neon lit places that you'd imagine were created by The Mighty Boosh.

Although there were posters up advertising the gig, I couldn't find where the bands were playing until I asked the barmaid. There's this big staircase in the middle of the room with a sign clearly marked 'Toilets', then there's this big octagonal room, its like something from dungeons and dragons, there's like eight doors, two of them lead to certain toilets, and only one of them leads to the venuey band playing bit. It was dark but I could just about find my way.

Of course I'd arrived a bit early so there was a good deal of standing around, and I wasn't quite sure which band was on first, I hadn't seen the Just Handshakes (We're British) since Indietracks last year and I didn't want to miss them, on the other band I see Knickers more often than I watch the news, so it could easily nip out to get my dinner when they were on.

So Knickers kick off the night with an awesome set featuring favourites My Baby's Just a Baby, and A Thousand Miles and some of their more obscure b-sides such as  Wowie Zowie.

Just Handshakes (We're British)
I found a fish and chip takeaway a few blocks away, although I have to confess, technical difficulties meant I couldn't clock in on FourSquare. The football was on, I saw Blaszczykowsk's goal. just as the man asked me if I wanted a sausage with my chips. 

Moments later Just Handshakes (We're British) took to the stage.

They were alright.

They'd played in Newcastle a few weeks before and much of their between song banter was based around Byker Grove, that was cool, but does it say something about the age of the audience, I mean, it hasn't been on TV in over five years, and Geoff's been dead for over a decade.

The School
Headlining the evening were The School. The first couple of songs were beset with technical problems as the mixing desk died, so songs became acoustic numbers halfway through, but it was all taken graciously.

They played a long set of track from their first album 2010's Loveless Unbeliever and their new album Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything

And so it was that I skipped home through the warm Hoxton streets.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Phone Box Library #37 Little Hadham, Hertfordshire

So we were tootling around Hertford again, with time on our hands, so we headed to the tiny village of Little Hadham. Not to be confused with the larger Much Hadham a mile or so to the north. And there just round the corner from Hadham Forge, we found the 37th telephone box library book exchange.

It is an awe-inspiring four shelf affair with an additional set of shelves on the floor, home to 136 books.

Dan Brown's Angels & Demons was present
I left a copy of Ian Flemming's Casino Royale that I'd previously acquired from Henham, but been unable to read due to Gormanghast committments, and grabbed myself a copy of The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. Dice Man had a dose of mildew, probably as a result of its stay in the phone box, the protection from the elements provided isn't the best for books, but I guess its adequate compared to the pulping if it was thrown away.

A notice on the wall of the phone box hints that the keeper of this phonebox book exchange is a councillor called Geoff Williamson
The verge home of the phonebox could do with being cut back as  nettles were encroaching. That said, maybe it has been strimmed at the start of the summer and grown rapidly in the recent good weather, its not easy to stay on top of these things.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Plants and stuff: Definitive listing 2012

Roughly a year ago I did a blogpost listing all the plants that we were growing in out back garden here in Walthamstow. In the pre-ramble I was pondering whether in the years of going to gigs I'd actually seen 1,000 bands. Sadly, over on the gig listing site, Songkick, that sort of quantity information just isn't visible.

Anyhoo, back to gardening, with a year's worth of experience, learning what works in our garden and what doesn't, its all blooming right now, and I thought it about time do do another role call of what's growing
  1. Apple - cooking
  2. Basil
  3. Basil - red
  4. Beetroot
  5. Blueberry
  6. Butternut squash
  7. Chives
  8. Cornflower
  9. Cottage Pink Iced Gem
  10. Dead bathroom tree
  11. Irises
  12. Lavender
  13. Mint
  14. Oregano
  15. Parsley
  16. Parsnips - one variety
  17. Parsnips - another variety
  18. Peppers
  19. Poppy
  20. Potatoes
  21. Pumpkin - Atlantic Giant
  22. Pumpkin - dwarf
  23. Random red tree stolen from work
  24. Raspberry
  25. Rhubarb
  26. Rosemary
  27. Sage
  28. Sweetcorn
  29. Thyme
Crikey, twenty nine different types of plant, the same number as this time last year, but a different mix, still enough for a decent balanced meal.

No tomatoes this year as we seem to have late blight in the soil which just makes the them rot. Late blight also affects the potatoes, but if I harvest them before September, they should be okay.

The parsnips won't be good to eat until next year, and likewise the sweetcorn won't have any cobs until next summer, but its nice to watch it grow.

The apple tree is doing better than last year, the fruit are bigger and more numerous. I'm not sure whether they'll grow big enough to eat, but it still an improvement over the falling foetal buds of last  year.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Phone Box Library #25 Henham, Essex

The other week during atrocious weather I found myself cruising the winding roads of the Essex / Hertfordshire borders, the rain was coming down torrentially when my wee car pulled up in the village of Henham to check out phone box library #25.

I'd read about this one a few months ago in an article which also covered the phone box library in Arkesden, seven miles away on the other side of the M11. I was somewhat confused about the photo in the news source it was unclear which phone box it was of.

The Henham phone box library was established in mid September 2011, and is still going strong. You can't miss it, slap bang in the middle of the village, huge verges on all sides, pairs of puddle ducks waddling past enthusiastically.

Inside there are four shelves bolted onto the back panel, about a hundred books in total. Shamefully there is no Dan Brown, but making up for this shortfall there are half a dozen Stephen King books, most of his Dark Tower series.

I'd say it was a tiny bit untidy, a couple of books piled on top of rows of books, but at least there were no piles of books on the floor.

I exchanged a copy of my own novel in return for the first of Ian Flemming's James Bond books, Casino Royale, an edition from 1978 with a boobie lady on the front cover.

The rain lessened off a bit, so I ventured out of the phone box to return to my car, taking a few photies of the fine looking duck pond, sign posts and villaginess of the village.

The phone box book exchange in Henham is well worth a visit if you have a spare forty minutes around Standsted Airport and if you love the windy country roads of Essex.

View Phone box libraries in a larger map

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Thick Creamy Podcast 21-05-2012

Its been a wee while since I did one of my critically acclaimed Thick Creamy Podcasts. This latest one features tracks from two different gigs, the last Which Way Is Up at The Wilmington Arms on Friday 18-05-2012 and one at The Lexington on Monday 21-05-2012.

Sadly I was late getting to both gigs and missed some bands what I really wanted to see, like Fireworks and The Cosines. I am a bad punter. I got distracted watching TV and having dinner and under estimated how long the undrground takes to get to Kings Cross and how quickly I can run to venues from there.

Actually for the Lexington gig I'd been out running before I went out, so I was so knackered I could barely stand up. I'm not quite as fit as I used to be.

Anyhoo, on the podcast there are tracks from Poppy Perezz, Local Girls, Knickers and Still Flyin'.

Feel free to download it, also I discovered that its possible to subscribe to these Thick Creamy Podcasts on iTunes so they download automagically every time I put up a new one.

Simply go into the 'Advanced' menu in iTunes, click 'Subscribe to Podcast' and then paste in this rss feed

and that should give you all the podcasts, forever.

Local Girls

Poppy Perezz

Still Flyin'