Success, Process and Failure

Sunday, 17 June 2007
by hannahdonovan
filed under Tips and Tricks
Comments: 14

Yay! Having started this post a week ago, I win the “slowest to blog about @Media” award. (Like usual, it’s been busy at last.HQ)

Last Friday I spoke at the @Media conference alongside the veritable roadrunner-speaker Simon Willison, about how we helped build successful websites. When it came to, I really had to give the truth: “Sometimes we fuck up a lot.”

Success is just finding out what works and doing that consistently. How do you find out what works? A lot of trial and error. If you’re interested in what works and what doesn’t, check out the slides. (podcast will be linked here shortly).

The conference was quite a lot of fun. I didn’t get to see all of it—as I was back and forth between the office, but of what I did catch, here are the highlights: Internationalisation guru Richard Ishida (I was quietly laughing through most of his talk recollecting some of our own i18n nightmares); Jason Santa Maria, who has designed some absolutely beautiful websites < wee sigh of jealousy/ > and (eee!) one of my favourite typographers Mark Boulton! (Do check out his slides, it’s a lovely presentation). I was a little worried about meeting him, because heroes always seem to be disappointing in person, but Mark is an exceptionally cool down-to-earth guy.

On the last day, I was looking forward to sparring with Jeremy Keith on the Hot Topics panel and injecting some real-world experience into the proceedings. (The speakers had undeniable experience, but most of the attendees I met had more commercial than theoretical concerns).

The Hot Topics panel didn’t happen for me however, as the conference organisers and Jeremy had different ideas about who should be on the panel. A bit unexpectedly, this led to Jeremy raising the issue of the panel’s diversity.

I wasn’t fussed about not getting to be on Jeremy’s panel (there were small fires to put out at HQ anyway), and it really wasn’t a question of having a woman on the panel either. Jeremy’s point is that all factors in choosing a panel need to be carefully weighed, and in his opinion, they weren’t.

By now you’re probably groaning… the issue of diversity always comes up at conferences and we’re all a little sick of hearing about it too. Nonetheless, good on Jeremy for bringing this up; it’s sort of like being the one to tell people to stop playing drums in the office at 2am because the police have been called… not exactly fun, and not something that should really be an issue anyway.

Still not quite sure to make of this non-issue/issue, but for the record, one of my most moving memories was hearing Paula Scher speak for the first time; it completely changed my perspective on my career.

Where was I? Right, process and not being afraid to fuck up. Because the real world is a messy place. Get your idea out; put perfection behind you (as long as you refine it later). There’s often very little room for ideals and balance, especially in this industry.

Additionally, it sounds like Jeremy did a great job of moderating the panel dispite being unable to pick his exemplar group of panelists.

Gearing Up for The Last Event Planner You’ll Ever Need

Sunday, 10 June 2007
by martind
filed under Tips and Tricks
Comments: 42

I hate planning my weekends.

Figuring out what’s going on is already hard in any moderately sized city; the metropolises I’ve been living in over the last years are a bitch when it comes to that. The event calendars I’ve used so far all have in common that they allow easy access to everything in their event schedule. They let you browse, they let you search. They also have in common that they let you do the work.

No matter which listings you end up using it’s a lot of work to filter through the crap. I’m personally a little annoyed that planning a weekend often means aggregating and consuming long listings from different sources, where most of the announcements aren’t even interesting to you. (Not to speak of the fact that most big event calendars have a distinct mainstream bias.)

In short, what I really want are better filtering mechanisms.

And the crowd goes wild, by ffg. CC attribution license 2.0.

Modern Event Listings

We’re only starting to get to a point where automated tools take away some of this tedious work. Where we have mechanisms that act as spam filter for event listings.

For a really long time Peter Oliver’s UpcomingScrobbler was the state of the art. It is based on’s listening data and Upcoming‘s excellent (if verbose) listings. When you have an active account UpcomingScrobbler can search events for artists you’ve been listening to, in a region of your choice, which is a really good filtering mechanism for music-related events. Doesn’t require any work on your side, adapts to your changes in taste.

I also really like to use people as filtering mechanisms. There are a lot of communities, blogs and personal sites where people post interesting announcements, so for you it boils down to finding the right mediator for your taste. In Berlin De:Bug Events is an excellent club-oriented one published by De:Bug magazine, and for a while was a curated event listing of legendary high quality. In London we have Fail/List, Kultureflash, Lesson No. 1, Plan B, ...

There even are some closed communities that require invitations to join, in an attempt to keep the quality high and the listings on topic. Sometimes it works really well. But the one’s I’ve used had some major drawbacks, often caused by their closed nature. (Berlin has a pretty big one which uses a Flash interface — along with the obvious usability problems. No feeds, no password autocompletion, etc.)

But you get the picture. There are some very good listings, but you still have to spend time browsing through them all. If you can find them in the first place.

In late 2006, a small team of developers set out to change that.

Cue Events

It’s maybe no surprise that our relatively new events feature is quickly becoming a major attraction: It has rarely been so easy to keep informed of upcoming concerts, catered to your own musical taste. And of course our event recommendations adapt to your changing musical focus — as you listen to new music we’re finding the appropriate events for you. As long as we know about an event we have no problem satisfying even esoteric tastes.

Our events overview page allows you to browse by location and venue — which makes us an excellent worldwide event listing, and a great starting point when you visit other cities. Of course you can set a preferred location so it always displays listings for your area.

The heart of our system is its excellent filtering mechanism. We match your listening profile against a huge database of events, which means all you have to do to get notified of a concert is to scrobble the artist, and the resulting list of events will then show on your dashboard as recommended events, along with concerts your friends go to. You can e.g. use the dashboard, global event pages, or venue pages to browse events, and after you flag your attendance they’ll show up on your profile page as a personal event listing. Recommended Events

Of course we offer a variety of feeds — e.g. personal event feeds, which are an excellent way to keep on top of your local music ecosystem. Subscribe to the event feeds of venues, to your friends feed, or feeds of people in your local area who listen to interesting music. (A good way to find those is to check out the attendees list for events you’ve gone to yourself, I’m sure you’ll find people with well-groomed event attendance lists.)

As a result of all this, Events is not only a great listing with a huge database, it’s also a personalised spam filter, and can additionally act as both a collaborative and a curated recommendation mechanism.

Leaving Traces of Pop Culture Context

Roskilde Festival 2006, Roskilde –

Roskilde Festival 2006, by Stig Nygaard. CC attribution license 2.0

I also really like that we have a focus on being able to browse past events; other event calendars usually hide everything that’s older than “today”. This is a bit of a selfish feature as we want people to write reviews and post photos, but it has the side-effect of creating a huge canvas of pop culture context. And on venue pages you can browse for photos of past events to check out the ambience of places you’ve never been to.

As a geek I’m quite intrigued by Flickr’s machine tags feature we’re using to create this integration — it can become the basis for a number of interesting Flickr tools, and I’m confident people will come up with all kind of great ideas. (I’m personally waiting for someone to develop a Flickr tool to automatically geotag your event photos based on the venue address provided by

All Tomorrow’s Parties

clark @ cargo, by dekstop. CC attribution NC license 2.0, with permission.

I’m curious what your thoughts are on our events system. Does it satisfy your needs? What features are you missing? Are there any event calendars you still like better? If so, which ones, and why?

(I’m now relying on our events system for most of my weekend planning. This weekend I’m spending my evenings at Galvanised festival, right around the corner here in Hackney, East London. Three nights of electronic and noise music, mostly local independent artists. I found out about it because I had listened to full-length previews of one of the artists on, which put them in my charts, which made Galvanised show up in my “recommended events” feed.)

RSS, Your Shoutbox and You

Wednesday, 30 May 2007
by julian
filed under Tips and Tricks
Comments: 7

Are you tired of missing all the prosaic shouts people are leaving in your shoutbox? A couple of weeks ago, our French frontman definitely was. He didn’t hesitate but wrote a Dashboard widget to keep track of them. It gives Mac users a nice way of checking their shouts.

In order to do so, he had to parse the entire page and extract the precious shouts from a giant mess of markup. That wasn’t so nice. And it only worked for Mac users, too. No problem for me, but some Vista-fanboys would go bonkers.

So, from this day on, you may have RSS feeds for every shoutbox you could possibly encounter. All you have to do is go to this page and follow the simple instructions. So basically, just enter this URL: hatom/ (You need to remove the space I inserted to make it wrap.)

The URL you have to enter is the URL of the page containing the shoutbox. (Note: for user pages it’s better to use as that page is way smaller than your regular user page.)

For those interested in the nitty-gritty details: The shoutboxes have been marked up in a microformat called hAtom. That way, the markup can be very easily parsed and converted to atom or RSS, making your feed reader happy.