This List (No.7)

5th August 2016

This week I enjoyed this

  • Interview with Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s co-founder and CEO, on the back of the company releasing their ‘Stories’ update at the start of this week. ‘Stories’ is a feature that’s almost identical to the central feed in Snapchat; posts of ephemeral content only available for 24 hours from the time of upload. One of the more interesting aspects of the interview though was Systrom’s description of the research Instagram did into ‘finstagrams’ - secondary, private Instagram accounts that are used to showcase silly, unflattering, or otherwise not-meant-for-public-consumption photos to a more select group of close friends. As the New York Times stated late last year, these locked pseudonymous accounts capture something rarely seen by people who follow these same users on their main accounts: reality. The first change Instagram made after conducting their research into this phenomenon was introducing fast account switching, but ‘Stories’ will go further in creating a home for and encouraging the sharing of ‘not-so-serious’ content on user’s main profiles. I’ve seen a few predictions that the next logical step in the platform’s evolution will be adding a live feed element - giving users snackable, museum and in-the-moment content strands.
  • Personalised playlist of newly released tracks on Spotify. Release Radar is a direct offshoot of the wildly successful Discover Weekly, Spotify’s first attempt at automatically making playlists for every one of its users. Updated every Friday, the playlist aims to serve users with two hours of the newest releases from the artists they listen to most, as well as a few new discoveries based on their recent listening habits. I’ve actually been trialling Release Radar for the last few months and have found it a great resource which has been improving with every week building up to the official launch. Creating a personalised selection of new tracks is a challenging task to get right, because unlike the tracks from Discover Weekly, there isn’t a lot of good data available on brand-new music. Spotify have an audio research team in New York that have been experimenting with a lot of deep learning techniques where they are not looking at playlisting and collaborative filtering of users, but instead looking at the different audio signatures of the songs themselves. Based on Discover Weekly and my experience with Release Radar so far, I’m definitely looking forward to their next foray into deeper personalisation.
  • Soundtracking podcast that debuted with its inaugural episode today. The weekly show will feature Edith Bowman interviewing film talent (directors, producers, actors and composers) about the music that inspired them both personally and professionally. The lineup of guests looks very promising with early episodes featuring Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef, Swingers), Ben Wheatley (High Rise, Sightseers) and David Ayer (Suicide Squad, Training Day). Bowman’s previous shows in a similar format for BBC 6 Music (with notable guests including Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson and Christopher Nolan) were all great listens and this promises to be more of the same - a real treat for both music and film fans alike.
  • Analysis on the evolution of Lego sets over the last sixty-seven years. The piece covers lots of detail including the average number of bricks included in each set as well as how the colour palette has expanded over the decades - until the 1990s, almost every piece was one of the top ten colours; now only about 80% are. By far the best part of all the analysis though is that it is summarised in a bar-graph recreated with Lego bricks.
  • Interview with Dan Perri, the typography designer behind some of the most famous movie title sequences of all time. He shares some nice stories from across his career, including how he replicated the New York City Traffic Department’s sign font for the opening of Taxi Driver and how he used a typeface from old newspaper reports on boxing events in Raging Bull. Perhaps the most iconic sequence of all his title work though is the scrolling opening to Star Wars, an idea that was conceived after watching the 1940’s film Union Pacific where the introductory shot features the titles moving up a railroad track towards the viewer.

Artist: Daniel Romano
Album: Mosey
Standout Tracks: Valerie Leon, Toulouse

This is a short weekly list of things I think are interesting or novel on the internet and beyond. I work in insight and audience understanding for a record label so will often share articles I find compelling in music, tech, design and consumer behaviour. Subscribe here to get the list delivered to your mailbox at the end of every week.

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