Monthly Archives: October 2013

What’re you up to at the weekend?

It’s the classic ice-breaker question as you wind down from a week at work, certainly it’s a popular one in my team.  Last weekend I was asked it and it made me chuckle as the dialogue was unerringly common..

Colleague: “Any plans this weekend, Al?”
Me: “Just the footy, and a couple of gigs lined up”
Colleague: “I bet you’re off to see bands nobody has heard of again!”

That’s no intended criticism of my colleague – but underlines a worryingly prevailing attitude.  As it happens, that weekend I was off to see 3 Daft Monkeys on the Friday night, and on the Saturday a line-up of six acts including Red Jester, Seven Little Sisters, Raynor Jackson and Brad Dear.  All these acts are great live performers.

Monkey Magic

It’s reasonable to assume that a reasonable chunk of readers probably hadn’t heard of any of them – and that’s a real shame, because I refuse to believe that those same people wouldn’t have a much better time checking out these or other local talent rather than sitting in watching X-Factor or Strictly or whatever other turgid televisual detritus that is currently running through the mainstream channels.

So, to return to the 3 Daft Monkeys.  They’re currently out on tour promoting their album which was released yesterday.  I’ve seen the ‘Monkeys a few times, and they’re one of the most engaging live performers I’ve seen – and it flabbergasts me that they aren’t more well known because they’re such good fun to watch.

More than any other act I’ve seen they’re the personification of a band who thrive on the energy they get from the crowd.  As the irresistible urge to dance (even when sober, as I was) kicks in as the music plays you can palpably appreciate the energy exchange from mosh-pit to stage.  This is wonderfully cyclical because the crowd get the band’s energy up, and this is magnified right back at the crowd leading to an inevitable frenzy of good times (or perhaps civilised debauchery?).

As well as playing their existing well known songs – personal highlights for me including One Fine Day, Social Vertigo, Days of the Dance and – probably my favourite – The Antiquated and the Arcane (which was a tease as they left it for the encore!) – there were four or five new songs from the soon-to-be-released album slipped in, all of which didn’t see a stutter from the crowd who continued like a whirling dervish to sway and bounce to the rhythm of the four conductors on the stage.

Fast forward a week and the album popped through the letterbox – it only cost a tenner, it was signed by the band too – and it’s a lovely and lively record.  Musical renditions of old Cornish folk tales it is not only musically pleasing but lyrically fascinating, as I listen more I’m sure I’ll be googling for some of the back stories the songs cover.  Indeed, from their last album I even ended up buying a book about the dancing plague of Strasbourg.

The thing I like best about the album is that it doesn’t simply seek to replicate the boisterous live experience you get with the Monkeys, you get more of the story-telling and the different tempos that started to appear in their previous album The Antiquated and the Arcane (which I also heartily recommend).  I’ve only had a couple of listens so far and am already captivated, and looking forward to getting to know the songs better and reading up about the stories that inspired them.

So next time somebody recommends a band you’ve never heard of, why not open your mind and go along – such gigs usually only cost a few quid to get into, and I don’t believe it’s blind luck that more often than not I end up finding acts that are enchanting, beguiling and inspiring – and not least that I end up meeting great folks who put me on to further talented artists – and so the cycle goes on…

Anyway, you should get yersen a copy of their album, and you should definitely look out for the next live performance near you.  You should also go and see The Beards in February.

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I thought I’d written about this kind of thing before, but having a quick search I don’t think that I have.  It’s a geeky marriage of the kind of thing I do at work (on occasions, although less so these days) and my personal life thanks to the Facebook Report over at Wolfram Alpha.

Essentially, taking a whole load of data (ie, your Facebook stuff) and doing funky things with it.  My favourite is this clustering exercise of friends based on connections with one another.  Certainly its’ first attempt gives some fairly neat clusters (I added the shapes and labels on there).  I just refreshed the page and noted that it comes up with a different map, although I’d still identify similar clusters from it.

clusteringOf course, as with any large dataset there is a bit of a problem when trying to shoehorn such a large group of people (504 were included in this analysis apparently) into ten buckets.  I’ve got outliers in there who don’t really fit in any of them, and plenty of ‘node’ people who traverse many of my different worlds (the ‘Family’ group in this instance holds many of these folk).

The categorisations that it tries to apply take workplaces/places of education and geographic information to try to inform the clusters (hence the colour coding).  Interestingly it doesn’t pick out ‘Likes’ or interests that might give some clues – but usually the linkages between people are enough to spot how these people relate to one another in your life.

The report goes further to help you identify these (although you’d know them intuitively I think), Rich my brother shares 149 friends on Facebook with me, Rich Crouch is next in line on the mutual friend count – crossing over as he does on the Forest, Ferocious Dog, Boots and probably sneaks well into the Family group of friends too.  It’s really interesting to see such things quantified.

The demographic splits are interesting too – two thirds of my Facebook friends are male, a third female, I’ve discovered that one of my old school friends is apparently 89 years old and therefore my oldest friend.  A timely lesson in the quality of data impacting the quality of results I guess!  The distribution of ages of my friends unsurprisingly centres closely around my own age range.

Geographically I’m very United Kingdom biased but do have a few further flung friends around the globe too!

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 20.52.31As well as stalking my friends, the report also looks at the content I bombard Facebook with.  Apparently I write DAY and TODAY a lot, as well as clearly mentioning our feathered critters by name quite a bit, and there’s more than hint in there that I might talk about Ferocious Dog rather a lot!  Partly given away by Ferocious, but also the easily misunderstood reference to dogging that makes it in there too!

Ultimately very pointless, although I suppose illustrative of the powerful information Facebook has to better understand people.  From a professional perspective the ability to analyse how people connect together is fascinating and something missing from our individualistic datasets at the moment.

Information is powerful stuff innit, whilst I’ve found this exercise pretty insightful it’s also maybe fuel to the fire that choose to ignore Facebook through fear of giving away too much information about themselves to cynical corporations.

If you’re not one of those, you can generate exciting maps and more from your own Facebook data by clicking on the link included up there somewhere!


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