I posted the following in my welcome message, laying out the shape and scope of the project as I see it, and I’m including them here for easy reference (and so this post is more than a paragraph long).
1. The scope of this project is “independent and hard-to-find Australian music”. (My current personal interests are in the indie/alternative/punk/post-punk/etc sort of genres, but I see no reason to limit it to that.)
2. The goal is to make information about this music, and (eventually/hopefully/ideally) the music itself available as freely and openly as possible, to maximise the possibility of people being able to spread the love. To this end we will release everything we can under open source and open content licenses — ideally CC-0 for content and a permissive open source license for any code we create.
3. I want us to use existing infrastructure where possible, rather than creating our own. To that end, I think we should be putting structured data into repositories like MusicBrainz, encyclopedic content into Wikipedia, digital archive material into the Internet Archive, etc. We should give strong preference to data/content repositories that are run by long-term stable non-profits, whose data/content is accessible via open APIs, and whose data/content is widely used by third parties. This will make our material more accessible to the world at large, and won’t wear out our volunteers on maintaining our own servers and databases.
4. This project needs to work within the bounds of copyright law as it currently exists. I personally think said copyright law is deeply deeply flawed, but I also don’t want to be sued into oblivion. So when it comes to media archives, we need to think innovatively and come up with legal ways to do it.
5. We should partner, where possible, with other projects and organisations with similar goals. This can range from public libraries and archives, to groups like Creative Commons, to (just a blue-sky example) crowdfunding organisations like pozible.com.au. Partnering will get us more exposure and awareness of our project, and also save us from reinventing the wheel.
6. We need to involve people from a range of backgrounds: musicians, fans, librarians and archivists, coders, journalists and zinesters, everyone. I want us to share knowledge/skills and make this something that all sorts of people can take part in, regardless of technical background, profession, or degree of indie cred.
Another thing I would say, as a sort of high-level description of the project, is this: librarians talk a lot about preservation and access. This project needs to consider both of those, plus awareness. We should be making people aware of Australian music, and of the set of issues that prompted this project in the first place.
So I’ve been thinking about this project for a while, and it doesn’t have a name, but I wanted to tell you about it anyway. At least I have my startup-style it’s X for Y pitch: it’s like textfiles.com for Australian indie music.
Yeah, well, let me explain.
For background, I’d better start by saying I was pretty terminally uncool, music-wise, in the 80s and early 90s. My family weren’t big on following popular music, I lived somewhere with no decent record stores, records were priced out of my range, and even at school the kids I hung with weren’t hip enough to make mix tapes of anything much but Top 40 stuff. Despite this, I somehow got exposed to a certain amount of Australian indie and alternative music. I say “somehow” because I honestly don’t know where I heard most of this stuff. I guess 3XY and EON-FM, early on. Later, I listened to a lot of Triple J, and watched Rage.
These days, of course, I get most of my musical knowledge and exposure from the Interwebs, and the availability of digital downloads and information about musicians is really helping me backfill a lot of the older Australian music I wish I’d known better at the time.
Like, for example, The Go-Betweens, a Brisbane indie band that I was only faintly aware of until a few years ago, when Grant McLennan died and many of my friends online were expressing sadness at his passing. Of course I quickly figured out that they were part of the soundtrack of my childhood and teens, I just didn’t know them.
The Go-Betweens were pretty well known, and it’s not hard to find their albums, but a lot of equally important Australian music from the 70s to 90s is no longer readily obtainable. Much of it’s not available for (legal) digital download. In many cases CDs are out of print, or there may never have been a CD release, and the only version is vinyl mouldering in someone’s garage. Even information about older Australian music is hard to find: now-defunct labels and publications don’t have websites, and bands that would otherwise pass Wikipedia’s notability guidelines often don’t have articles because it’s so hard to find sources/citations. Only a handful of hobbyist websites and generous-heartedbloggers are keeping vast swathes of our musical heritage alive.
So why did this happen? Well, obscure music is always hard to find. That’s what makes it obscure. But in Australia even a bunch of pretty well known stuff, stuff I grew up on in my no-hipster-cred-whatsoever suburban youth, is rare as hen’s teeth now. For some reason, music that was released on the Mushroom and Festival labels was particularly likely to have this problem. So I asked around, and learnt that those labels, which had released some of the best music of my adolescence, had been consumed first by News Corp and then by Warner, who didn’t care enough to keep the back-catalogs available. I don’t even know how many smaller labels were caught up in this, but I’m guessing plenty.
(The good news is that this seems to be clearing up a little now. More stuff seems to be available in iTunes since last time I checked, and I hear that Warner recently sold back Flying Nun Records (NZ) to the original owners. So there is hope.)
So here’s what I want to do. I’d like to start a project for people — techies, music nerds, archivists, whoever — to come together and work on projects to preserve and disseminate (information about) Australian music, in as free and open a manner as possible: open source code, creative commons licenses, non-commercial and optimised for maximum sharing and reuse.
First project (something I’ve been meaning to do anyway) is to extract pertinent facts about artists, albums, and labels from a variety of online sources (such as, for example, the archived website of The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop) and use it to update MusicBrainz (and from there, hundreds of sites and apps that use MusicBrainz’s data).
Then I’d like to make sure that any Australian musical acts that are sufficiently notable have Wikipedia entries. In many cases this will mean grovelling through pre-Internet dead trees publications, but I’m going to be in Australia and probably unemployed through the summer and I hear that libraries have air conditioning and Internet access these days, so that actually sounds quite pleasant. Along the way, I hope to make a resource list for other Australians who’d like to do the same thing: which libraries have useful collections of music periodicals? Who’s got zines or clippings they’ll scan if you contact them? What online archives already exist for you to trawl through? That sort of thing.
Those two projects are pretty simple, but they’re important because free, open-licensed online resources will be the foundation for later projects. I don’t even know what these later projects are, yet; I just know that having the information out there will make them easier.
So, I’ll take a shot at MusicBrainz and Wikipedia regardless of whether anyone else is interested. I suspect that lots of people are interested, though, and that with a sufficient number and variety of participants there are a lot of other, more ambitious things we could try.
So I’m looking for coders, open data nerds, Wikimedians, librarians and archivists, scholars, music journalists, zinesters, fans, broadcasters, copyright law experts, free culture advocates, and past and present musicians, producers, promoters, and label folks who might be interested in this project. I’m planning to set up a mailing list and/or website for it, so leave a comment below with your email address (which will be hidden, not shown to the public) and I’ll let you know when there’s something to join.
Image credit: the image used on the front page of infotrope.net to link to this post is a collage of clips from Party Fears, a Perth music zine from the 80s-90s now archived online by its creator, David Gerard.
The serious sysadmins of my acquaintance may wish to avert their eyes from the following, or risk being horrified by my heretofore laissez-faire attitude to backups.
For the past mumble years, my backup needs have been minimal. I have had a small amount of personal data that I cared about on my Macbook, my email (in GMail), a web hosting account with my websites and some other crap on it, and source code to certain coding projects (mostly open source). Thus, my backup solution has been:
offlineimap to regularly pull down copies of my GMail to my laptop
rsync backup of my web host to my laptop
source code kept in version control systems somewhere on the interwebs (currently in the process of moving most of my stuff to GitHub, using a private account for the non-open-source projects)
Time Machine backup of my laptop to external hard drive
This has suited me just fine. Of course if my house burns down, taking my laptop and external hard drive with it, I’ll lose some stuff — the music I have in iTunes, some fanvids I’m working on, years and years worth of collected porn — but whatever, it’s all replaceable, none of it’s mission-critical. The most important things to me are my email, websites, and source code, and I feel pretty comfortable about where they’re at.
Now I’m moving into an area where my work is going to take up more space than source code does. I recorded some demos for a band a while ago, just a couple of hours of stuff, and the folder where I’m keeping the project is 4GB. A larger recording project could easily take orders of magnitude more space than that. And unless I want some nasty surprises, I’m going to want to back it up properly.
I’m also going to be in Australia, land of overpriced, download-capped Internet (sample ADSL+ plans from a decent Australian ISP; I’m likely to share something in the middle of that range with a housemate or two). So, given the amount of data I’m likely to have, I don’t think cloud-based backup options will work well for me. I mean, imagine a situation where I have to do a full restore of half a terabyte of data or something — it would be completely infeasible.
So, in my situation, what would you do? Remember that I’m going to be on a student-ish budget for the next couple of years.
I’m thinking I’ll just get a couple of larger drives for Time Machine, keep one at home and one somewhere else, and switch them every so often. Additional to this, maybe a smallish cloud-based backup solution for “current projects” — hopefully just in the tens of GB at any given time, costing under $20/month. What do you think?
Random photo du jour: art wall near 23rd and Valencia. I photographed this a couple of weeks ago, and two days later, the whole thing had been painted over by some asshole taggers.
Amsterdam. The weather's much nicer than Ottawa -- not too hot, not too
humid -- though it has been raining a bit.
YAPC::Europe has been really good
so far. I've attended heaps of talks, some of which were great and some
of which I more or less slept through. Mornings aren't treating me
well... jetlag, I guess... so I haven't really been awake in many of the
I've been spending a lot of time with, uh, Special Agent Fishpants,
which has been extremely pleasant, but I suppose might also go towards
explaining the sleep deprivation. Most amusing side effect: being asked
"Do you program Perl, or are you just here with your boyfriend?" at the
speaker's dinner the other night.
Got good responses to both my talks (e-smith yesterday and Reefknot
today) but I have to admit I'm sick of both of them. I'll have to
shelve the Reefknot one until we've got a heap more to show, and I think
I want to do a big rewrite on the e-smith one.
Amsterdam itself is a nicish city, but I'm not sure whether I'd actually
like to live here. It's a bit dirty, for one thing. But it was fun
walking around all of central Amsterdam looking for bars and restaurants
and stuff. The overall impression is of canals and mad bicyclists.
Traffic here is crazy. Must be the drugs.
One of the things I notice as I travel is that every place has its own
local quasi-monopoly on toilet door locks. There's usually a certain
type of lock which is used almost exclusively in institutions. In
Australia it's got a wingnut-type handle that you turn about 180
degrees, which flips a little sign outside from "vacant" to "occupied".
In Canada it's similar but a) has no little sign outside, and b) only
turns about 30 degrees. The smaller turn freaked me out at first
because it didn't seem *closed* to me. Here in Amsterdam the common
type of handle/lock is a really serious lever-style handle and a
And on that note, I should probably continue my old "airport ratings"
Heathrow: 4/10 (good shopping and facilities, but horribly
overcrowded and too many widely dispersed terminals)
Schipol: 9/10 (clean, good facilities, fast customs, good public
Today's annoyance is that I appear not to have a PIN for my Visa card,
so I can't get any more cash out. It wouldn't be a problem except that
I'm reliably informed that I *really* want to buy a t-shirt at the
auction this afternoon. The t-shirts are from the "Bondage and
Discipline: stricter than strict.pm" talk, so chances are that I will
want one :)
I'm back from San Diego and mostly recovered after 14 hours' sleep.
The best thing about the trip, I think, was that having a party in our penthouse
suite every night was immensely sanity-restoring. I've spent the last few years
involved in Serious Pursuits[tm] and I thought for a while there that perhaps
I'd grown up. Waking up each morning to find empty bottles and unconscious norwegians
all over my hotel room made me remember that I can still have fun. Yay.
Who *was* that Norwegian, anyway? He passed out in one of our chairs, so we
just put a "do not disturb" sign on him and left him there overnight. He was
gone by the time we were heading out for that morning's sessions. Someone said
it was Ask Bjoern Hansen, but Ask's not that blonde.
I was thinking about this diary this morning. I've realised that I'm avoiding
writing personal stuff in it, and that means that when I have a lot of personal
stuff going on I just don't write in it at all. So I'm wondering whether I should
start publishing some of that stuff.
There are two issues I have to consider here. The first is that some people who
read this diary might not want to hear about this stuff. I know that my Dad and
some other family members read this, or might read it. I also know that most of
the people on Advogato are probably reading it for the open source perspective rather
than the Days-Of-Our-Lives details. The second issue is the privacy of other people
who figure in my personal life.
So here's what I think I'll do:
I'll start talking about what's happening on the personal side of my life
I'll remove Advogato from my default recipients, but specifically choose it from the list
when I write stuff that's more related to software. If anyone over there wants
to read the personal stuff, they can get it from my webpage
or subscribe to the mailing list
Dad and any other family etc who read this can just get used to hearing about
those parts of my life. It's probably a good thing for them to know who I really
am anyway, and if they can't deal with it then I guess they're lucky that they're on
the other side of the world and don't have to read it :)
Anyone who gets a mentioned on a personal level will be slightly obfuscated by
just using their initials or referring to them as "a friend" or something. That means
that if a reader happens to know who they are anyway, they'll be able to figure
it out, but complete strangers won't hear all about them, and a random web search isn't going to show them up.
If anyone has any opinions on this, please let me know. This especially applies
to friends who might have issues with me mentioning them in my diary.
The weather's great... kind of like Melbourne, warm and dry.
We managed to get this amazing penthouse suite, completely by chance. We've been having parties every night.
Caught up with a bunch of friends (and got to know some of them lots better, yay)
Met a few new friends
Met some "big names" who said nice things about me when we were introduced. It's great when
you're all paranoid about going up to someone important, then as you approach they're
all "Skud! Wonderful to meet you!" Ego-affirming.
Presented yesterday. Got good reviews.
Got wireless working on my laptop. I'm sitting in a session right now, and doing
email and IRC and stuff. It's great.
Sitting at home watching '80s teen rebellion movies ("Pump up the volume", "Heathers")
and eating chinese takeaway.
I bought a tent
today, for Pennsic and other such camping events. It was a bit of a saga, but eventually we found the right poles
I read "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" last night. Almost didn't make
it past the first chapter or so. That abusive family he was staying with freaked
me out. And this is meant to be a *kids* book?
It's Canada Day Weekend this weekend. Everyone has their flags out and stuff.
Looks like being a bigger event than Australia Day, but then I guess Canada
has the whole ultra-defensive "We're not the US!" thing much harder than Australia does,
and perhaps doesn't have quite such a strong "Invasion Day" thing going on this
particular day. On many levels, Aboriginal affairs in Canada and Australia seem
quite similar, but I don't *think* the general population of Canada feel that little tug
of guilt on July 1st as Australians do on January 26th.
Spent most of the day in bed today. I woke up fine, then as I was reading email
and stuff and getting ready to head into work, a humungous headache hit. I ended
up crawling into bed and sleeping for most of the afternoon. It seems to have
sorted itself out now, which is a Good Thing. Checking an online health site
seems to indicate that this headache (and last night's near-identical one) may
in fact be migraines. I've never suffered from migraines before.