Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The grand experiment is over.

If you follow(ed) me on Google Buzz, you have been subjected, for the last month, to an endless barrage of imported tweets. I tried to keep them as boring and mundane as possible but unfortunately a few tweets containing actual amusing content slipped through.

One of the highlights:
buzzkillor buzz was the matrix revolutions of google

But for the most part the tweets were as boring as humanly possible.  You can check them out in all their asinine glory here:

So, what the hell was the point of all this? Well, when Twitter first came out I decided it was the Stupidest Thing Ever, mainly because it seemed like Facebook status updates with minor sugar- and easy enough for Facebook to implement the features necessarily to replicate and kill Twitter. I have now amended my position to say that Twitter simply does not suit my needs- although it is still true that Facebook could easily implement the features required to kill it. When Google Buzz first came out (and still to this day), it was the new Stupidest Thing Ever. Google has customarily been known for releasing products that are a clear cut above the competition. Google search had the most accurate translation of your query into usable results. Gmail had huge mail storage capacity and conversation-threading, among other great features. Google Maps had the best UI (click and drag map scrolling and zooming in and out via mousewheel). And so on.

So what did Google Buzz have? Nothing good.
  • No ability to require followers to authenticate first.
    Yes, I realize that one can remove followers after the fact but that is hardly a solution.
  • No ability to filter out friends' Buzz content by import stream.
    For example, the ability to filter out all imported YouTube updates but still get everything else. Do we really have to wait for Farmville to get ported to Buzz before Google realizes the value of being able to selectively filter out feed content? Of course haha I'm just kidding, Zynga wouldn't be dumb enough to waste their time porting to a failed social media platform.
  • No privacy controls whatsoever.
    No concept of groups of friends with differing levels of visibility, the aforementioned inability to require authentication before allowing a follower, etc, etc.
  • Use of email for notifications, effectively devaluing email.
    Note the way Facebook uses a separate notification system, a separate requests system, etc. Using email for everything will just cause people to either start ignoring email (which won't happen) or turn off Buzz (which will).
Anyway, it was a clusterfuck, and their worst product launch ever, as far as I can remember. So, in response, I combined my twin hates of Twitter and Buzz and devised a plan. If only I could have done it all on a Netbook, I would have achieved the trifecta.

I created a Twitter account aptly-named "buzzkillor", set Buzz up to automatically import its tweets, then disabled buzz in my GMail. What this amounts to is that I would be able to annoy the everliving fuck out of people following me on Buzz without actually being on Buzz and thus not receiving any of their annoying updates or comments or likes or whathaveyou.

Here were the results (click for bigger):
day 1. mar 21: 39 followers
day 2, mar 22: 35 followers
day 3, mar 23: 35
day 4, mar 24: 32 followers - end of day 4, admission: no i'm not on buzz
day 5, mar 25: 31 followers - sera hill follows on twitter
day 6, mar 26: 28 followers - rachel stops following
day 7, mar 27: 28
day 8, mar 28: 27 followers
day 9, mar 29: 27
day 10, mar 30: 27
day 11, mar 31: 27
day 12, apr 1: 26 followers
day 13, apr 2: 26
day 14, apr 3: 26
day 15, apr 4: 26 followers - started ikariam tweeting
day 16, apr 5: 25 followers
day 17, apr 6: 25
day 18, apr 7: 25
day 19, apr 8: 24 followers
day 20, apr 9: 24
day 21, apr 10: 24
day 22, apr 11: 24
day 23, apr 12: 24
day 24, apr 13: 24
day 25, apr 14: 23 followers, mentioned that everyone should unfollow me the day before
day 26, apr 15: 23
day 27, apr 16: 23
day 28, apr 17: 23
day 29, apr 18: 23
day 30, apr 19: 23
day 31, apr 20: 23

I started with 39 and quickly dwindled down to a very Discordian 23. I can only assume that the 23 followers who remain are some combination of the insane, stalkers, and/or also have Buzz disabled and thus haven't seen my deluge of tweets.

I'm hoping that Google fixes the problems with Buzz, but thus far their response has been fairly weak. Facebook is in serious need of strong competitor, especially given their repeated privacy violations/questionable moves.

Designing a social media platform today without placing privacy considerations at the top spot is a recipe for failure.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Scientific Analysis of Swing Ratio

My friend Andre Majaes brought this paper entitled "Jazz Drummers' Swing Ratio in Relation to Tempo" to my attention. It provides a scientific look at the ratio of the long-short pairs in swing 8th notes.

What is not known is the exact relation between the long and the short note. It is not specified in the score and music students are often advised to learn it by listening to recordings. Such knowledge would contribute to the understanding of the perception and production of music. It would also be useful for generating synthetic performances on a MIDI sequencer, as well as being helpful for students who wish to learn how to swing.

The essential conclusions they come to are that:

  • Swing 8th notes are not triplet-based nor are they dotted-8th and 16-note pairs. The feel varies from drummer to drummer and, as is obvious to the ear and well-known, becomes more straight as tempo increases.

    It is interesting to note that Jack DeJohnette, compared to the other drummers used in the study, actually stays closer to a 2:1 triplet ratio regardless of tempo than the other subjects.

  • The length of the shorter 2nd note of each pair seems fairly constant regardless of tempo- around 100ms. According to the data provided, it appears that the length of the 2nd note only deviates from this fixed amount at slower tempos.

(note: images above from the original paper)

I'm glad to see there is finally somewhat believable scientific evidence that swing 8ths really do vary from player to player and are not absolutely triplet-based.

I do think this study could be done better, however.
  • Better Data Visualization. More data points per drummer, or per-drummer breakdowns, instead of lumping all drummers together. Yes it is visible based on the shape of the data point, but it's had to get a clear picture from it.
  • Control Cases. Comparisons with the same drummers playing straight 8ths and triplet-based feel to use an accuracy baseline.
  • Don't average lengths, but average ratios. I think it is erroneous to average out lengths of notes over the context of an entire song, since variations in tempo (i.e.: speeding up or slowing down) will skew the data. Perhaps this is already done in the original study, but it's not specified.
  • More data. I'd like to see more drummers included in this, and comparisons of relative 8th note feels in different contexts. Also, why not include other instrumentalists as well? I'd also like to see the same drummer at the same tempo, but from different recordings. Perhaps we'll have a clearer justification for why certain recordings "swing like a MOFO" more than others.
It might also be interesting to see a second study exploring the use of accents in swing feel.

[ source: Jazz Drummers' Swing Ratio in Relation to Tempo ]