Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Visualizing Jewish Musich

My boss told me recently that I'm an 'infovore.' According to a scientist quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, our brains are wired information scarcity. When we find information "[we] get an opioid hit, and we are junkies for those." In the era of the internet we're in trouble. "We are programmed for scarcity and can't dial back when something is abundant." According to the article, we're just like cat's chasing laser pointers. Yeah tell me about it.

Lately I've been playing with 'network graph' search tools. These tools take an artist, do a 'find related things' search, and then output the results to a visual display. The best one by far, though with the most annoying interface, is the one provided by YouTube. It pops up videos related to the currently playing video. I've found a lot of interesting stuff that way. Considering YouTube by default provides a text list of related videos, I'm not sure the visualization adds much. But it's interesting eye candy. To get this display, click on the video's 'full size' button (bottom right) and then on the full screen displays network button (bottom left). Email me if you can't find it. It took me a couple of trys to find.

YouTube videos related to LEO FULD - The king of yiddish songs
YouTube videos related to "LEO FULD - The king of yiddish songs"

While the YouTube visualizer focus on videos, other tools focus on the artists themselves. The tool LivePlasma , below, shows a cluster of artists related to the Klezmatics. The goal of these tools is to help you discover new music by pointing you to artists you might like but might not have known about. The biggest limitation with the tools are the search engines underneath them don't know much about Jewish music. I had to punch in a half a dozen or so popular Jewish music artists before LivePlasma got any hits. The similar programs MusicMap and TuneGlue do a bit better, not enough to get me to come back.

LivePlasma display of artists related to the Klezmatics

So bottom line: these tools are perfect infovore-chow. They feel like they're providing lots of great information, but it's not clear that actually do. If any readers have played with these tools or other related tools, please drop me a line or leave a comment. I'd love to get your impressions.

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