Hack Day 2008

Monday, 22 December 2008
by james
filed under Code and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 18

A week or so ago, on Sunday 14th December, we held our first open Hack Day, giving developers a chance to show off what they could build in a day with nothing but their wits and the Last.fm API.

At around 10:30, the hungry and cold developers started pouring into Corbet Place, behind Brick Lane in the heart of East London. With free food and drink behind the bar, plenty of comfy sofas to drape themselves over, and a Surface table with which to amuse themselves, the hackers dug in. (Sorry you guys had to wait in the cold for longer than we’d hoped, that sucked.)

By 6:30, and in spite of wifi woes throughout the day, we had 30 quick fire demos lined up to wow the assembled crowd of geeks. As anyone who’s run an event like this will attest, getting 30 odd laptops hooked up to 2 projector adaptors on rotation with a 2 minute turnaround is no mean feat, but no one was trampled underfoot and only one person outright gave up (apologies Steve!).

Amongst our favourite hacks were Bret Ehlert’s Nostalgia.fm, an app that creates playlists based on your historical charts so you can relive your headier musical days; Your Next Favourite Band by Utku Can and Phil Nash, which finds the band everyone’s listening to but you; and Neil Crosby’s Last Genius, a bookmarklet that builds a playlist using any track on Last.fm as the starting point.

We were extremely impressed with everyone’s work but after careful deliberation, we had to select three winners for the awesome prizes provided by Codeplex:

Rob Mckinnon walked away with a shiny XBox 360 for his work building Gig notifications with Growl. In his own words:
“Need help remembering to get gig tickets? This hack gives you local event notifications via Last.fm for the band you’re now playing. Implemented as Ruby script that uses last.fm api and growl notifications. Could be wrapped up as a Mac dashboard widget with a bit of work.”

Cameron Ross also snagged an XBox for the awesome Universal Scrobbler:
“This suite of tools allow you to scrobble songs from previously unscrobblable sources. There is a FireFox extension to allow scrobbling of songs listened on MySpace, a tool to browse MusicBrainz for albums and tracks to scrobble (for example for if you listen to an album in the car or CD player), a tool to scrobble songs retrospectively that you listened to on BBC Radio, and a tool to scrobble a custom song.”

David Padbury and Jamie Hollingworth stormed to win the grand prize of £1000 with Staff Wars.fm:
“StaffWars works by playing a user’s personal last.fm station communally to the office. When someone becomes offended by their colleague’s poor taste in music they initiate a challenge to take control of the office stereo from the current user. At this point StaffWars analyses the profiles of the competing users and looks for similar tastes in music. It will generate a small music quiz based on these similar tastes in music and ask it too both users. If the challenging user wins they will take control of the stereo otherwise the existing station will carry on playing.”

The day was rounded off with an excellent set from Hexstatic while the last free drinks were squeezed out of the bar.

Thanks again to those who came and made this event a success. I can’t wait for the next one!

We’ll try to keep this list updated with all the other hacks as info comes in, let us know if we’re missing you.

More photos from the day, courtesy Russ and Dimi.

VLC Starts Scrobbling

Tuesday, 16 September 2008
by mxcl
filed under Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 34

The bagel was delicious. Lightly smeared with all-American cream cheese. I was so enamored with this treat that I almost missed Sam’s parting words as he wandered off to the iPhone expert lab. Sam is our iPhone developer, and this was July. We were attending the Apple Wordwide Developer Conference, just before the launch of iPhone 3G.

That was all very exciting. The iPhone stuff. But I had more important things to attend to. The Last.fm Scrobbler wasn’t working great with OS X 10.3. I made my way over to the compatibility lab, licking the breadcrumbs from my fingertips.

Sadly, the lab was less useful than I had hoped. As I turned to leave, the gangly technician mentioned that two French chaps had just been there before me with the same problem.

“They were the VLC guys”

“Oh neat,” I said, trying not to look too excited, “did you see where they went?”

He hadn’t. But I decided I had to find them and meet them and get pictures taken with them. My geek-cred really needed the boost. However there were five thousand delegates at WWDC that year, and I didn’t have time to go round them all listening for French accents. And anyway, I had a session on Core Animation in 40 minutes. As usual, in such seemingly hopeless situations, IRC came to the rescue. #videolan on irc.freenode.net.

At a conference for computery types, it was almost certain they would be logged onto their chat channel 24 hours a day. And I wasn’t wrong. After virtual introductions, we made arrangements to meet somewhere physical and were amused when it turned out we were already sitting at adjacent tables.

VLC is amazingly well known media player, probably somewhat because they have solved the, “what media player can I use to play this file?” question by providing a simple three syllable retort; “VLC”. And somewhat due to its amazing modularity and clean design which appeals to geeks. But mostly I think its popularity is because it is so clearly awesome. And there’s nothing like over 100 million downloads to confirm that kind of sentiment.

It was great to meet the VLC team and learn about the problems they face working on such a high profile open source project. The fruits of our meeting were scrobbling support in VLC 0.9.2. You can scrobble VLC via the official Last.fm Scrobbler, if you have it installed, or directly with VLC, if that’s what rocks your boat.

At Last.fm we don’t believe in closed technologies. We believe in open ones. That way, everyone benefits.

Last.fm radio – now in a kitchen / bedroom / living room near you!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008
by lizrice
filed under Stuff Other People Made and Announcements
Comments: 29

I’m a big music fan, but one way and another I don’t really listen to all that much music while I’m sitting at my PC. That’s probably why I’ve always been excited about getting Last.fm onto other devices where you listen to music. Today, our friends over at Logitech are adding official support for Last.fm radio on their family of Squeezebox products, opening up a really easy way to get Last.fm music in any room of the house. Here’s the Squeezebox in my kitchen, playing my radio station next to the toaster. (In my book, music at breakfast time without all that cheery, chatty early-morning DJ patter is a significant step forward for civilization.)

For the time being, we can only bring Last.fm radio to Squeezebox owners in the US, UK and Germany, but we’re working on extending this to other countries (sorry to the rest of you – watch this space!)


Thursday, 28 February 2008
by flaneur
filed under Announcements and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 43

I started building webpages at Last.fm in early 2005. In the days of the old Audioscrobbler site, from our glamorous Whitechapel headquarters, the social music revolution was starting to take shape. And I thought I was the one of the lucky few shaping it.

I was wrong.

The first time I sat next to RJ watching our real-time access logs, I didn’t recognize half the URLs scrolling past. Instead of profile pages and forum posts, it was screenfuls of recenttracks.rss and artisttags.xml requests. Huh?

“Yeah, those are the webservices. Could be anything, really…”

Anything (and Everything)

Since 2003, we had been operating under a pretty simple premise: Being able to get data out of Last.fm –- whether one person’s recently played tracks or community-driven artist and tag info — was as important as being able to put it in.

Five years on, traffic from the incredible wealth of mashups, widgets, and services that leverage Last.fm data matches traffic to our website itself. These applications — contributed by fans, companies, and partners around the world — have literally built the social music revolution. I can take my music profile wherever I go on the net; I can sort my friends by musical compatibility; I can explore interactive graphs and stats; I can scrobble tracks from platforms and devices whose names I can’t even pronounce.


Today we’re pleased to introduce build.last.fm, a gallery of apps and services that take slices of the Last.fm experience into tons of cool new directions. We’ve only just started adding to it, but — with your help, of course — we expect it to grow quickly! (In features too; stay tuned for search, RSS feeds, user comments, and more.)

This is just a small piece of our much larger goal for 2008, which will include a re-launch of our developer site, along with new and improved APIs for some of our most important functionality.

We hope you enjoy checking out all the things you can do with a Last.fm profile. But we’re even more excited to see where you’ll take the music next. :)

Have you built something too?
We’ve already added some popular apps to the gallery, but if you can’t find your creation, please tell us all about it.

Geekery in Las Vegas

Monday, 7 January 2008
filed under Announcements and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 11

This week a few of us lucky folks get to swap the misery of winter in London for the glitz of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It’s the gadget-fest of the year, and we’re excited that one of the announcements at the show is our shiny new partnership with Logitech. They’re our first ever official hardware partner, building Last.fm scrobbling directly into their rather lovely Squeezebox . This is just the start of our master plan to allow you to scrobble music wherever you’re listening to it.

If you’re already a Squeezebox owner you can find this feature now in the SqueezeCenter v7.0 beta release, and you’ll soon be able to set up scrobbling through Logitech’s SqueezeNetwork as well.

Of course you might already be scrobbling through your Squeezebox using the existing SlimScrobbler plug-in, which has been serving its users wonderfully since 2004 (many thanks to Stewart Loving-Gibbard, James Craig and the team of SlimScrobbler contributers). The beauty of the official Logitech version is that it’s in the software from the start, so there’s no need to download and install a plug-in – so that opens up Squeezebox scrobbling to a much wider audience.

Here in Vegas we’ve got a hectic schedule of meetings (and a few parties!) lined up, and no doubt we’ll find some sexy new gadgets to drool over – better lock up my credit card! Though it would be a crime not to lose a little money on the tables, so let me know if you’ve got a good feeling for where I should place my chips at roulette …

Big Up the Last.fm Massive

Thursday, 25 October 2007
by muz
filed under Found On Last.fm and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 29

Shaggy is a well known, and dare I say it, respected musician. To date he has managed to amaze us and leave us awestricken with a string of bombastic musical numbers.

However just yesterday he managed to exceed himself and go that one step further that no artist has ever done before. He, the man, the myth, the mirth, has bigged up Last.fm. It is with great pleasure that I wish to share this momentous occasion with you, the users.

Behold, the video of amazingness.

Remember kids, you are tuned into Last.fm. Shaggy says so!

The Phenomenon of Rigid Song Structures in Pop

Friday, 5 October 2007
by martind
filed under Found On Last.fm and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 28

The Last.fm Research group links to an interesting article on the Hometracked blog: All Linkin Park songs look the same

In the author’s words:

Each image below shows the audio level in (roughly) the first 90 seconds of a Linkin Park song. Note that I adjusted the tempo of a few tracks for better visual alignment.

Make sure to read the full article to see more pics and for the full explanation.

Do you disagree with the implications? Does this say anything about the state of Pop? What other patterns could one find in different forms of pop music? Discuss. (But pls stay civil :)

Oh and — has anyone done similar analyses for other artists as well? Let us know if you have something to show.

Update: now giving credit where credit is due… Thanks aradnuk for pointing out the error.

Tuesday Tidbits

Tuesday, 2 October 2007
filed under Announcements and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 26

This Tuesday brings some piping hot new features from the webteam oven! Here’s what we snuck onto the site today.

Recommended music videos on your dashboard

A page full of videos from artists you’ve listened to, with newly-uploaded stuff at the top so you always get the freshest content. Finally, eh?

Larger video player

If you get enough emails promising that “bigger is better,” you start to believe it.

Check out our enlarged player in action:

Portable Taste-o-meter

Embed our new tasteometer widget and anyone who wanders past your Myspace or blog can compare music taste with you. It won’t be as good as yours, of course, but whose is really. It’s compare…o…licious…ness.

Until next time, I leave you with this photo of a Last.fm Toadstool, courtesy Wesley Mason’s Flickr stream.

Saturday Web Roundup, Vol. I

Saturday, 21 July 2007
filed under Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 10

Emails have been flying around Last.HQ lately about nifty things people are building with Last.fm music profile data and the Audioscrobbler platform.

We’re working (tirelessly!) on a better directory of all the places on the web you can take your Last.fm profile, but until then we’ll try to do these regular recaps of cool projects and other web oddities. Here’s what caught our eye this week.

IBM Rocks

This mashup tracks what music people are listening to at various IBM offices around the world. Everyone loves rotating world globes.



While the latest version of the official Last.fm client includes experimental iPod support, it’s great seeing well-executed third-party apps like this. Not sure why there isn’t a Zune scrobbler yet, but it must be coming…



“Your Last.fm metal extension.” If your music tastes are of a certain persuasion (think Muz), this app will take the logos of your top artists and format them for your ‘About Me’ sidebar. Nice.


And while I’m slinging links around: congrats to Jonathan Schaeffer and co. at my alma mater for solving checkers! (It’s unfortunately going to be another 90 years before there’s a computer that can help me beat Steve at Go.)

Attention Analysis: Ranking Artists by Listen Duration

Friday, 22 June 2007
filed under Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 23

Found this one in the stats group: Matt Perdeaux created Last.fm Normaliser, a web application that orders your top 50 artists relative to their average song length. His observation:

The album “Geogaddi“ by Boards of Canada lasts one hour and contains 22 tracks, whereas “Young Team“ by Mogwai also lasts one hour but only has 10 tracks. This means I can listen to Mogwai twice as much, and Boards of Canada would still beat them in my rankings. “Lift your skinny fists..“ by Godspeed You! Black Emperor only has four tracks but goes on for more than an hour. Those guys aren’t going to trouble the scorers at all, even though I listen to them a lot.

I suppose a more representative ranking of my musical tastes would be based on the actual time spent listening to an artist, rather than by number of tracks, but I can see that collecting this data would be a much more bandwidth-heavy exercise. It is clearly the easiest data to collect but to measure my attention in discrete tracks isn’t giving a true representation of things.

Matt is using MusicBrainz web services to determine an average song length for your top artists, which means his reweighting approach is not necessarily representative for the songs you actually listened to, but it’s a cool demonstration of his idea nevertheless.

Update — From the comments: it turns out back in January 2006 Andrew Conkling founded a group to lobby that idea, called Users for Last.fm song length tracking. Check it out, it has some interesting discussions!