Gesture-based Music Apps are Getting Good

Jimmy Page at the Theremin

I have been watching music mobile apps that harness accelerometer and gyroscope for a while. Many of these implementations have been pretty clumsy and toylike rather than offering a serious expression alternative that a serious musician/DJ might be tempted to use. This new $20 AirJ is looking really powerful. You can see it in use with Ableton Live here:  Sonic State – News (Video Item) BPM10: AirJ App Transmits Native MIDI Over Wifi

Put your hands in the air and trigger something.

Multi-tenancy on GAE

The Multi-Tenancy Mascot

I am excited that Google App Engine has released multi-tenant support via namespace API. This should make it possible to white-label an appengine app (we have had several requests for this with modpoll) while avoiding forking, or spinning up a separate instance of the app. While there are disputes about what multi-tenancy actually should means from a feature perspective, if we can segregate db, cache and task queue as claimed that sounds like pretty useful start to me.


The Zombie Workplace Survival Guide – a Software Developer’s Perspective

Here are my three own three P’s that I have used in the past and that may help you as a developer in a large company avoid zombification:

  • Prototype your idea. If you lack the skills to do so then you are very possibly in the wrong business. You don’t want to put yourself at the mercy of unpredictable forces and personalities that will mean the death or deadly dilution of the idea before it is born.
  • Prove that your software has merit. Get a small but influential group of people additctied to using it before seeking any official ‘buy-in’. Generate hard data. Wow the bean counters. Save money. Create data porn that no eyes can turn away from.
  • Plunder from existing frameworks and components. Resist the temptation to rebuild that which already exists in the world (even if you can do it ‘better’, more scalable etc) as this fact will not champion the project early on. Get it working first, optimize it later.

See: The Zombie Workplace Survival Guide – H. James Wilson and Kevin Desouza – Research – Harvard Business Review.

Getting Freemium Pricing Right

I feel for chargify in their need to update their pricing scheme. We are trying to do just that with one of our free products right now. Getting freemium price points can be tricky. It is easy to engage in some degree of wishful thinking in the value proposition of the paid offering to most users or to ignore the potential cost of acquiring a ton of free users and not enough paid users. Obviously these calculations can become easier if you can afford to launch with free and then add paid since you then have acquired a very valuable piece of information that can take some of the guesswork out of the value/feature equation – user feedback.

From: Subscription Billing System Chargify Missteps As It Switches From Freemium To Premium.

RIP Solomon Burke

I have been listening to Solomon Burke today. Sadly, the eccentric showman credited for helping to keep the lights on at Atlantic Records in the early 60s has died. Burke had a subtle vocal style and wide eclectic influences that earned him respect from a range of artists. This has made his music wound tightly into the DNA of American Soul and Rock.


Books by Musicans about Creating

David Bowie Diamond Dogs

Fold Out from Bowie Diamond Dogs LP

The creative process is often a solitary, tortured and somewhat mysterious act. I am always interested in learning how great artists (and great software developers for that matter) find a way to stimulate their creative mind, focus and produce their work. Aside from David Bowie’s new book ‘Bowie: Object’, there are a few other books by musicians on my list that interest me because of their promise to reveal parts of this puzzle.

Check out Thunder Soul

Anyone who knows me knows that I am often talking about how important it was for me that I had the opportunity to participate in a great high school music program. You can understand then how excited I am to see Thunder Soul – Mark Landsman’s documentary about the great Kashmere Stage Band from Texas and it’s innovative leader Conrad Johnson. This is the tightest, funkiest highschool band I have ever heard. I can’t imagine anyone not coming out of this film and demanding better support for the arts in ALL of our public schools.


Tim Perlich has written a great post on the back story of the project at  The Perlich Post: Thunder Soul takes over Hot Docs.