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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



New Adventures In Mobile (CSS)

March 15th, 2009 · Comments Off

Screen grab of the opera mobile demo from opera.comSo, for the last couple of days I’ve been working on a mobile version of this site. It’s the same site, same pages, just the design is tweaked to make it look better on a mobile handset. It’s easy enough to do, using CSS. CSS stands for ‘Cascading Style Sheets’, and is a way of labeling elements on a web page, and then controlling the way that everything that has that label is formatted. But because the machine you look at a web page on can be identified as a computer or as a mobile, you can have a different stylesheet for each type.
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Tags: Geek · site updates · tips for musicians

Social Media first principles for Musicians Pt 3 – going Mobile.

December 12th, 2008 · Comments Off

Steve Lawson and his N95 as taken by Benjamin Ellis. Finally… part 3! The timing is prescient for two reasons. Firstly, last Monday I was invited to be a panelist at a discussion hosted by Mobile Mondays (MoMo) on the whole area of Mobile tech and Social Media.

Secondly, it’s because today I’m heading to Leicester to De Montfort University Business School to help put together a social media toolkit that small businesses can use. (In case you’d let it slip your mind, being a pro or semi-pro musician IS a small business – makes for a great case study, in fact…)

So, cutting to the chase, our two Sesame Street-esque words of the day are:

Mobile‘ and ‘Transparent‘.

As I said to the lovely suits at MoMo, one of the big problems for non-uber-geeks using mobile social tools at the moment is the lack of transparent interface.

What the hell does that mean? OK, if you take a picture, click a button and quietly in the background it then uploads to Flickr for you (or to Facebook, Ovi, or if you want to post it to lots of places at once, Phreadz), that’s transparent. If, however, you take a picture, scroll through 100 menus, click a button, tell it to upload and then have to watch the screen for 5 mins because the connection keeps dropping and your phone might crash… that’s what I like to call ‘Not Transparent‘. That’s a pain in the arse, and unless you have a dedicated Social Media monitor (like a library monitor in school, but with cooler toys), it makes it very difficult to be spontaneous.

And spontaneity is key to the value of mobile for a musician. If you’re touring, all kinds of fun and crazy things are happening all the time. Lots of them (the ones that aren’t borderline illegal), when photographed, filmed or recorded, have enormous shareability. They’re funny, engaging, interesting and easily become part of the narrative. Even more importantly, they are something free you can GIVE to your audience, expecting nothing in return. You’re just inviting them into your world, to see a glimpse of the life you live on the road. Or in the studio, out shopping for music gear, or – if you’re comfortable with it – bits of your day to day life.

So where are we up to with the tech? Well, it is, not surprisingly, getting better and better. Hardware-wise, the front-runners are the Nokia N95 (my own smartphone of choice) and the iPhone… I’m not a huge fan of the iPhone, but I do appreciate the feature set it has, and it is a great device for playing around with mobile social media.

My reason for loving the N95 is that it’s as close to an all-in-one tool as I’ve seen yet
. The camera – and more importantly, the video capture – is the best I’ve come across in a mobile phone (even the world’s biggest cynic about such things, PhotoMonkeySteve, was impressed by the quality…). It has wifi, 3G and a whole slew of great apps developed for it. It’s a pretty good media playback device (if you rip films in the right format, you can even use it as a portable DVR, hook it up to your TV and watch films on the big screen…)

For me, being able to record gigs (I’ve currently got about 3.5 hours of Lobelia and I playing house concerts on the phone, waiting to be edited and uploaded to YouTube…) stream little bits of my daily life and upload photos direct to flickr (or, using TwitPic, to Twitter) is really cool. I can even blog direct to this WordPress blog from the phone.

The connection your audience will feel with what you’re doing is multiplied by a pretty large factor when you talk to them ‘in the moment’
– not ‘last night I played a gig’, but ‘I’m about to go on stage, wish me luck!’ – I posted that very message on Twitter last night before I played with Lawson/Dodds/Wood and got LOADS of replies from people who wouldn’t drop in to say ‘hey, really glad you had a good gig’ on my blog, but feel all warm and snuggly, and again, importantly, ‘like they’re missing something’ because I tell them what I’m doing right then.

So here’s what you need to get going with your Mobile social media life:

  • A Nokia N95 (or N82, or iPhone, or any other smartphone that has the features listed above)
  • A twitter account (twittering on the go makes bus and train journeys so much more fun. Most of the members of Jars Of Clay are now on Twitter, and their tour-banter is a lovely glimpse of life on the road)
  • A flickr account (you should have one of these already – I’ll post more about flickr soon…)
  • A youtube account (be warned, if you get an iPhone, the current version does NOT do video. I know, it’s insane, why the hell not?) – you can upload directly to your youtube account from the Nokia N series phones, via the youtube app. Same goes for Seesmic and Phreadz.

You can also post to Facebook, Myspace and a raft of other social sites from your phone.

Bottom line, you can double your social media footprint and quadruple your connection with your audience by going Mobile.

What’s more, it’s only going to get better from here. Be warned, a few of these things have a bit of a learning curve attached, mainly to get round the foibles of the hardware and software (by far the best feature-set of the upload apps is ShoZu… it’s just a shame that it makes my phone impossible to use when it’s running… I met the VP of Marketing at Shozu at MoMo, so will report back on my communication with her soon – she’s eager to help…)

4 years from now, social networking is going to be predominantly mobile and very much driven by rich media (photos, videos, audio) – get in there now and you’ll have a bigger slice of the audience, have made all your mistakes while most people don’t even know what you’re doing, and be in a position to innovate as soon as the tech comes along that lets you do it.

So, off you go and upgrade your phone (just don’t forget to recycle the old one…)

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Nokia Open Labs Pt 3 – The future of Entertainment…

September 20th, 2008 · Comments Off

Steve Lawson at Nokia Open Lab 08 by http://www.flickr.com/photos/gisuser/Session 3 (session 2 for me) was the Entertainment one outlined in this post. The discussion about games was actually rather interesting – it can be very illuminating when you get people to think outside of their chosen specialism, throw in some friction and see what comes out. I was scribe for the first part, but handed over to the very lovely Phil Campbell to talk a bit about the social aspect of games that Sleepydog are involved in, and some of the advances in technology that they are working with to make the world of games less insular (sleepydog are the developers and inventors of the ‘Buzz’ games – quiz-show type group games. About the only things I can ever imagine playing on a games console.)

We talked a fair bit about what makes up ‘a game’

  • the competition,
  • the chance,
  • the risk,
  • the skill,
  • the rewards,
  • the adrenalin edge

…and how those manifest themselves in a lot of our other online interactions. How many of us use social media platforms in a very game-ish way. So we looked at how we can mash-up gaming and social interaction… Someone (possibly Rob Evans? not sure…) talked about some really interesting stuff to do with using ‘games’ of a sort to ‘teach’ computers to recognise certain things – labelling and tagging-based games, with a social payoff in that you get matched up with people with whom you share a lot of results… (one of the recurring themes was that the dating side of social media – from the gentile to the deepy seedy – was clearly one of the avenues where money could be made.)
The last question posed to us in the session was about coming up with new business models where money could be made, but we really didn’t give it much thought… it seemed like an out of place question, given the kind of discussion we’d had. So we left it.

Meanwhile, as mentioned before, a whole discussion was going on about the music industry that I missed out on. One of the interesting things about the weekend was the degree to which just being in at atmosphere of ‘thinking about mobile’ helped me to pull a whole load of thoughts together about how independent musicians can use mobile technology. I’ll report back on all that later

Til then, if you feel like commenting, do chip in on what you think are the ‘game aspects’ to the indie music biz, as it pertains to recording, marketing, selling music, doing gigs, entertaining people, maintaining integrity/autonomy, networking with other musicians, dipping into the ‘mainstream’ to our advantage?

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Back from Italy… Finland-bound..!

September 10th, 2008 · Comments Off

grapes, selva capuzza, italyGot back from Italy yesterday, having had a fantastic time. Check out the photos on Flickr or my latest video on Qik for more on that – a lot of the photos were uploaded direct from my N95 phone, via wifi, and the Qik post was streamed direct to the site from the phone, leaving me feeling like I really don’t need to take a laptop with me on trips like that anymore – I was checking my email where possible (wifi access is pretty sporadic in Italy – next time, I think I’ll buy a local sim card), updating twitter and collecting lots of groovy photos and videos. Lobelia took LOADS of great video, which hopefully she’ll get uploaded soon (rather than streaming the lo-res versions to Qik, she recorded at hi-res, so hopefully she’ll put them up on Vimeo or some other service like that v. soon).

And tomorrow I’m off to Helsinki, to The Nokia Open Lab organised by Nokia/WomWorld all about this mobile social media stuff. I got back to find a Nokia E71 waiting for me. I’ve been using the Nokia N95 8gb since Greenbelt, and
LOVE it. It really is the ‘laptop killer’ for most daily use. Email, photos, video, even short-form blogging on it is a treat. The screen is big enough for reading long emails, blog posts, news etc, and with the TV-out you could even carry ripped films with you to watch on a TV wherever you were going… I’m a big fan of T9 predictive text, so have little problem typing about as fast on a T9-enabled numeric phone keypad as I can with one hand on a normal keyboard (I can touch type, so the ideal for me would be a bluetooth portable keyboard, but we’ll get to that eventually).

So to the E71 – first impressions aren’t great. It’s a ‘blackberry-style’ device, with a mini-qwerty keyboard, designed for lots of writing, emailing etc. I’ve never been a fan of that kind of interface, and while the design of this is better than any other that I’ve tried thus far (the raised keys and layout mean it’s fairly quick, but still WAAAAY too small for my bass-playing fists). The camera is not up to the N96/N82 standard, and so far, the web-browsing experience doesn’t match up. It’ll be great to get to talk it over with some of the other geeks out in Helsinki. I’m REALLY looking forward to checking out the N85 too – sounds like the business.

At least as interesting as the hardware stuff will be the conversations about the future of mobile, both social media applications and what it means for musicians (I’m not sure if this is built into the program, but I’ll be talking about it, blogging about it, streaming video about it, and generally making a noise about it :) ) – there are some great people going, including James Whatley and Phil Campbell.

So, there’ll be lots of mobile chat here over the next few days, hopefully some fun stuff to look at and listen to for those of you who couldn’t give a shit about the geekness of it all, and THEN some new music… (I am SO overdue getting the Lawson/Dodds/Wood album up online for sale – the thought that it would get lost in a flurry of geeky-stuff is terrible, given that it’s such a fantastic album… Will focus on that lots ASAP, I promise!!)

Tags: Geek · Random Catchup