Bing!: Sub Pop goes RSS

Seattle label Sub Pop, home to the Postal Service, Low, Wolf Eyes, Sebadoh, the Shins, Damien Jurado, Iron and Wine, and other great bands with impeccable indie cred, has gone RSS, offering RSS 1.0 feeds for the following content:

This is a brilliant and as far as I know unprecedented move—I don’t know of any other label that is doing this in a consistent way like this. Bravo, Sub Pop.

Except… because the downloads/media feed is RSS 1.0 and not 2.0, it doesn’t appear to work with iPodder. This is unfortunate; I’d love to subscribe to that feed in iPodder and have all the latest Sub Pop releases automatically hit my iPod. Ah well, hopefully this will be cleaned up soon. Until then, this is a pretty good way to keep on top of what’s happening across the label or with your favorite band.

Journalist-casting: is it just noise?

Some people think David Coursey’s latest column on Podcasting, in which he swoons over having Bob Edwards on his iPod but turns up his nose at the notion that someone might want to listen to a podcast from the technology’s originators, is really silly, and if you limit your imagination to audio versions of people’s egomaniacal columns for eWeek, that seems perfectly reasonable. But if you look at it as another failing gasp for air by the demigods of the mass media world, who don’t understand the social impact of the technologies that surround them and the emerging world of independent content creators, it becomes really interesting.

—Please pardon the above riff on Coursey’s column, in which I’ve kept most of the last paragraph intact and substituted the targets of his spleen with my own italicized interjections, but he was too pompous not to deflate. What is it about print journalists—not all of them, thank God, but enough of them—that they all want bloggers to dry up and blow away? They seem so, I don’t know, threatened. I guess they can’t help it; they bought the hype that attention is scarce, and any attention paid to the likes of me (and Adam and Dave, or even Larry) somehow invalidates their existence.

Interesting proposition, that last one. Do print journalists and other media magnates still have authority if people stop believing they do?

Inspired by a link on Scripting News.

The week in music

Polar opposites this week. First, the long-awaited final (and I must enclose a question mark after that word, given the long tradition of mining the back catalog of dead celebrities until not even their teeth are left in the grave) album from Elliott Smith, From a Basement on the Hill. With two songs from the album having been released as a 45 prior to Elliott’s passing and subsequently included on multiple compilations, I’ve been eager to hear the rest of the work for a long time and am listening right now, so further reactions will have to wait…

Second, the first-ever mash-up to receive a major-label release hit iTunes (and, one supposes, physical record stores) today: the DJ Reset mash “Frontin’ on Debra,” which combines elements of Beck’s “Debra” with the Pharrell Williams/Jay-Z tune “Frontin’,” plus original elements added by DJ Reset. Beatmixed had the story back in September, so check it out for more detail. All I can say is, like the best tracks from the Gray Album, this mash is a goofy pleasure.

Volcanoes sing

Who knew? From the NY Times science section: At Mount St. Helens, the Big Eruption Is of Data, Not Lava. One of the big surprises of post-1980 volcanic research is the discovery that rising steam around a volcano can cause earthquakes that have a particular resonance frequency, signaling building pressure and possible eruption:

When an earthquake fault slips, breaking rocks, the seismograph reading is a messy, patternless jumble of squiggle. But around St. Helens, the seismic signal often contained a single characteristic frequency, almost as if the earth were singing a particular note.

Indeed, steam rising up through rock cracks resonates “almost like an organ pipe,” Dr. Chouet said. Such resonant earthquakes, particularly if nothing is occurring at the surface, indicates pressures are building, he said.

Are we really #6?

I held off on posting a pointer to this week’s polls because they make me uncomfortable. As Craig, who not coincidentally is an alum from #5-ranked Perdue, points out, the Hoos have had what might charitably be called a light schedule this year. Even Clemson, who in years past have been formidable enough to cast cold shadows of fear into the hearts of many a Hoo, is not exactly the strongest of teams this year.

That’s about to change, though, because Florida State is coming. And even though they’re 4 and 1 and ranked behind us, it’s hard to say who’s the underdog in this match-up. Should be a hell of a ball game.

Related: The Washington Post ombudsman hems and haws and finally admits, yes, the Cavaliers probably deserve more coverage than they’re getting from the sports section; MSN, or Fox, or Sporting News, or someone, weighs in on the Cav’s chances and points out the depth of the bench; and the Post writes about the game in such a way as to practically guarantee a jinx, while actually getting a meaningful quote from senior UVA tailback Alvin Pearman: “In the past they were more athletic. They were deeper. Now we can trade punch for punch with them across the board.“

Famous for fifteen people

The piece I wrote last week on The Long Tail of blogging and the myth of attention scarcity has found some resonances in the blogosphere. Jim McGee pointed to my piece in a riff on the topic that extends to the question of attention scarcity and knowledge dissemination inside corporations:

Sure, [attention is] a problem to the mass marketer/distributor who thinks they are entitled to a portion of my and everyone else’s attention. And initially, it’s a problem for me as I learn how to find and connect to that unique mix of sources scattered throughout the entire distribution that warrant my attention. When it settles down, however, my attention ends up better spent with that unique set of trusted advisors than it does filtered through the classic lens of mass market distribution.

One of my particular interests lies in what all of this means for doing knowledge work inside organizations. The mentality of mass market distribution manifests inside organizations as a concern for control. In a mass market world or organization there is room for only one message and, frequently, only one messenger. From this industrial perspective, attention management looms as a grave threat. If I insist on routing all decisions about attention through a central node, then, of course, that node suffers from attention overload. But it does so at the expense of wasting potential attention capacity distributed throughout the organization. The only hope of tapping the available attention capacity of the organization is to give up the attachment to conventional notions of control. Put another way, the biggest obstacle to success remains the emotional needs of senior leadership to stay in control.

And Scott Rosenberg, while not explicitly referencing my piece, makes many of the same points and posits a future without blockbusters, but one in which more creators may be able to make a living:

For Klam, as for so many of us media pros, “the blogs that succeed” is synonymous with “the blogs that reach a wide audience.” But publishing a blog is a nearly cost-free effort compared with all previous personal-publishing opportunities, and that frees us all to choose different criteria for success: Maybe self-expression is enough. Or opening a conversation with a couple of new friends. Or recording a significant event in one’s life for others to find…

…[I’m] impressed by the unflagging explosion of memorable new blogging voices and contributions to the burgeoning pool of human knowledge online. This is the dark matter of the Web universe, the stuff J.D. Lasica is writing about in his book. Collectively, it outweighs all the “bright” matter of the more commercial Web sites with their vast traffic…

There’s an old saying in the land of the Broadway theater, where once I tarried, that you can’t make a living there, but you can make a killing. Perhaps the Internet’s fate is to transmute the worlds of publishing and entertainment and even global trade from the hit-or-miss nightmare of a Broadway-like lottery into something more hopeful — a world where it’s a lot harder to make a killing but a lot easier to make a living. Is there anyone, outside of a few boardrooms, who’d find that a loss?

Finally, I think, we get to the bottom line. Our society has been so warped by the “mass market” and the phenomenon of the “hit” that we think that everything that is not a hit is a miss, and that the only things that create value—whether in music, film, theatre, or online—are the hits. I would argue that that’s a destructive philosophy, and one that becomes profoundly untrue as the cost of production diminishes. I think Google shows that the value of “hits” to the general Internet user is a hell of a lot smaller than the value of all the “long tail.” And NetFlix and Amazon prove it from an economic standpoint. So at some point you have to take a step back and ask: If hits are an increasingly smaller share of the total revenue opportunity, why do they get all the investment? Isn’t the multi-million-dollar blockbuster, or the record album that never recoups its production costs, an unwise investment when you consider all the other smaller successes you could have invested in?