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 Last.fm 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.

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