Monthly Archives: December 2011

On Data 2.0

I’ve been thinking lately about what is—for want of a better term—sometimes called Data 2.0. My thoughts have been triggered by internal discussions at my workplace Unico about the direction of our Designer Analytics™ solutions. Caveat: I’m not a content, data, or even database specialist or architect.

Thinking about what could be termed tactical analytics leads to a bunch of follow-on thinking about where that data comes from, what it is, how useful it is, how much there is, how to present it, how to trust it, and so on.

Taking a cue from Michael Porter, my mental model of analytics is about building a value chain, with the following steps:

  1. Capture from data sources such as sensors, logs, feeds, and events
  2. Aggregation; involving filtering, transformation, compressing, often lossy
  3. Storage and indexing into large repositories such as data warehouses, relational databases, key-value stores, and content management systems
  4. Query and retrieval
  5. Analysis, perhaps with statistics, clustering
  6. Presentation of the output; sorting, categorising, summarising, filtering
  7. Visualisation

It occurs to me that tactical is a key word here. As one of my colleagues puts it, our analytics solutions are about “late binding” of the captured un- or semi-structured data, as opposed to the very early binding of structured data in traditional (Data 1.0?) BI, data warehouse, ETL-type solutions, where hundreds of pre-written, pre-ordained management reports are the norm.

By comparison, data 2.0 concerns sets, often large, of unstructured or semi-structured data. Late binding requires that as little data as possible should be thrown away or interpreted, and the downstream activity of query and retrieval is dominated by (often text-based) search, as a more agile approach to extracting sense and meaning from all the data. And because it's tactical, the analytics solution can be a framework for measuring RoI for a particular change project. Baseline at the start, monitor along the way, measure the final improvement, then focus attention elsewhere.

Late binding of data implies loose coupling of systems. SOA is already about looser coupling than pre-existing point-to-point approaches, but there is scope for looser coupling still in things like mashups, using published or enterprise APIs, as tactical responses to getting coherent meaning from disparate data sources. This area is being opened up by approaches like REST, standards such as the OpenData Protocol, nifty products such as ifttt, and ultimately, the Semantic Web.

There’s a lot more to think about here.

On remixing

<p>I&#39;ve been entering remix contests over the last couple of years for fun and challenge, definitely not profit. I take my role as remixer to turn someone else&#39;s track into a collaboration, admittedly in a one-way direction. I try and put a distinctive spin on their track while maintaining respect for the original. It is a creative challenge and a technical one.</p> <p>The creative challenge is to find what resonates in the source track, and to weave something new out of if, whether in the same style, or even into a radically different style. In this process I can&#39;t help but inject my own musical beliefs and preferences. As in writing original compositions I&#39;m sometimes being disciplined in targeting a particular sound or genre (dubstep, electronica...), and at other times I let the track evolve more organically and be more open about what is acceptable. Sometimes I add more compositional elements to the original, at other times I leave some out, to focus on others.</p> <p>Like most creative processes there are iterative phases of exploring followed by phases of evaluation and stripping back what isn&#39;t working. What makes a remix different from an original composition is that you are compelled to work within the constraints of the source material, and we know that constraints are generally good for creativity.</p> <p>The technical challenge is to deliver a well-engineered audio product. I&#39;m less producer than composer, but being a home artist you have to do both, and a remix demands more of the former. Production is both science and art: technically and creatively developing a sound that is both differentiated <em>and</em> listenable. It&#39;s a critical layer in the creative process: it can make a track. Fortunately, my tools of choice—<a href="http://www.ableton.com/">Ableton Live</a> and a selection of plugins—provide endless options for audio manipulation deep into the night.</p> <p>It&#39;s encouraging when it works. A <a href="http://soundcloud.com/cyjet/home-video-i-can-make-you-20">recent remix</a> got an honourable mention and with it the opportunity to release a track on the label. Whether that happens or not, it&#39;s positive feedback. In the meantime I continue writing and remixing stuff. I can&#39;t not.</p> 

Latest muzak

Early impressions and musings on some recent musical acquisitions, largely triggered by Beatport’s latest series of sales. Thank you Beatport, I was getting stale, but my, I’ve got a lot to listen to. So, let’s begin.

Planetary Assault Systems: The Messenger

The latest incoming from Luke Slater is a mix of ambient and repetitive dark quirky techno, but not as hard as some previous outings. It’s rhythm-heavy and achieves this focus by rarely using a bass line, something I noticed only belatedly from his 7th Plain releases. There is subtle depth here that will emerge from repeated listenings.

Blu Mar Ten: Love is the Devil

The cliche of “long-awaited release” is apt for this one, on the back of Natural History from 2009. While it’s all drum&bass, they have a unique sound that comes from both top-notch production, and intelligent song-writing, and pushes them into overlapping space with techno, electronica, and progressive house. Having said that, while it sounds great, I’m not feeling much yet. I’m wondering if it’s had all the emotion polished out of it.

The Black Dog: Liber Dogma

While Black Dog releases over the last couple of years have been moody beat-driven electronica, this is real techno with a dance-floor focus, with a more stripped back sound, simpler sounds and effects, and less atmospherics. I’m assuming this stuff would work really well at an assertive volume through a wicked sound system, so I should crank it up to get the best out of it.

Brian Eno: Small Craft on a Milk Sea

I’ve been a bit slow getting hold of this 2010 release on Warp. Eno is an effing legend, and this album shows why. It’s an audio journey from delicate piano through angry beats, clever electronica, prog rock, and big dark ambience. Sit back and just go with it. As an aside, if you like the delicate ambient piano, go and find a copy of the sublime 1984 Budd/Eno/Lanois release The Pearl.

Biosphere: N-Plants

Inspired by Japan’s nuclear energy program, before Fukushima, and now made even more resonant. This is lush gentle electronica, with a moody edge like most of Geir’s work, and is what looks like his first full-length (well, 50 minutes) since Cirque in 2007, but with more bass and beats this time around. Nice.

Deadbeat: Drawn & Quartered

This is early 90s Future Sound of London brought forward twenty years, so you know I’m going to like it. Just five long tracks (all over ten minutes) of beats, samples, effects, reverb somewhere between dub, dubstep, and dubtech. Genius. And has it really been seventeen years since FSOL’s Lifeforms? Fuck, where has my life gone.

Extrawelt: In Aufruhr

Back to 2011 Hamburg with the reliable tech-house of Extrawelt. Lots of 4-4 goodness, and I detect a definite nod to techno pioneers 808 State. Maybe track 9 (808slate) is a giveaway, although I’d say it’s the least 808 State-like track on there. Similar to their last album Schöne Neue Extrawelt but perhaps less technical; more feel. Das macht spaß, ja?

Bola: Shapes

This is a re-release of 3×12″ records from 2000/2001 and sits somewhere between Soup and Fyuti in date but is more experimental in style than both. Darker, more complex, and less accessible, but still definitely a Bola sound.

Mihai Popoviciu: The Unexpected Truth

After all that dark complex techno shit I was also wanting some more straight-up deep tech-house, and Mihai from Russia did the trick. A deep sexy 4-4 workout with texture, good for both dancefloor and hanging out.

Gui Boratto: III

Another bloke with strong tech-house credentials, but I dunno, this is getting serious. A bit more intelligent and experimental; less dance-able than previous single material like No Turning Back. I like it so far, but it’s more than I was expecting. Track 10 The Third is a definite star but then I’m a sucker for a warm pad.

Calibre: Condition

Drum. Bass. Liquid, apparently, whatever that is. Either way, this is tight, quality d&b with punch, groove, and edge, and, now that I compare them side-by-side, I reckon it’s a more satisfying album than Blu Mar Ten’s latest from above. Good luck to him, I hope he goes far.

Gravious: Junction City EP

This is labelled dubstep, but in my book it’s less dubby than housey. In fact, what might have been called dub house when this guy was growing up. The man does credit some quality old-school artists like FSOL, Boards, Aphex, and Bukem, and it shows through in his tracks at times. This is a 29-minute 5-track EP with some great production and punch. Aside from some aggravated arpeggiator assault and a couple of dodgy vocal samples, it pretty much nails it.

Plaid: Scintilli

No surprises here. Plaid doing what Plaid do best. Fucking clever clogs, both of them. Get a Masters degree, you’ll need it to get into this.