Preserving digital music – why Netlabel Archive matters.

netlabelsIt’s fascinating that the early Internet era (digital) data can sometimes be trickier to preserve & access than pre-Internet (analog) data. A prime example is the amazing work of the Netlabel Archive, which I wanted to both laud and highlight as ‘digital archiving done right’.

Created in 2016 by the amazing Zach Bridier, the Netlabel Archive has preserved the catalogs of 11 early ‘netlabels’ and counting, a number of which involve music that was either completely unavailable online, or difficult to listen to online. Continue reading

Monotonik: the re-distribution (& musings on platforms)

mono-logoSo, firstly, the announcement – if you haven’t spotted it already on my social media feeds.

I’ve just kicked off a multi-year project (!) to resurface _all_ of the music ever released on Monotonik (aka Mono/Mono211), the free electronica net.label that I ran from 1996 to 2009, on modern distribution platforms.

What I mean by ‘modern distribution platforms’ is a brand new YouTube channel (streaming) and a SoundCloud page (streaming/downloadable), making it even easier to listen to all the music.

Uploads are going up regularly – about 30+ so far, all early MP3 releases. But will take a VERY long time – possibly a year or two – to complete due to the massive number of releases. Continue reading

How To Not Have Horrible Conference Sessions, Hopefully?

gdctalk[Through our company’s London office, I was asked by the Chartered Institute Of Marketing to write something on how events might pick good speakers for events. An edited version – because I got a bit overenthusiastic with word count – is available now on CIM’s website – and here’s the full version I originally wrote, hurray.]

One of the most infuriating experiences when attending a conference is to sit through half an hour – or an hour – of a tedious, scattershot panel, or a barely prepared, droning lecture with no takeaway. This experience is universal no matter what industry you’re in – bad content is bad content.

But it doesn’t need to happen on your watch! Some of UBM Tech’s notable shows in the United States (particularly Game Developers Conference – about video game development, and Black Hat – about information security) are known for the non-horrid quality of their conference talks. (You can see some of our top talks on GDC’s YouTube channel, if you’re interested.)

We’re not claiming we have it right – or anywhere close to perfect. But we have thought a lot about how we approach content. This is particularly because our shows are largely paid conferences where people are shelling out a fair amount of money to learn and be inspired. So here’s some of the things we’ve discovered along the way: Continue reading

Why game discovery is vital – introducing Games We Care About.

games_we_careEvery few months, I get an urge to try something new as a side project, related to a problem. This time – though I make no claims it will FIX EVERYTHING – it’s intended to address this simple issue:

“I like playing video games, but there are so many damn video games nowadays. How do I find out about video games I might want to play?”

Obviously, the discovery issue isn’t new – though it’s been getting much worse of late. Video game discovery woes extend past mobile to PC and even console, as my indie dev friends are bemoaning. As someone who spends a LOT of time reading about video games, I’m dazzled and very overwhelmed by the sheer amount of beautiful pictures, videos and playables of games made by small and medium-sized teams all over the globe.

Our experience? You see a great-looking game, you see 10, you see 100 – after a point, you can’t situate them all in your brain. (Especially if you have to worry about other things, like making rent or having a pleasant social life or talking to your family.) And many of these titles you read about you can’t actually _play_ yet – you have to file your positive vibes away for when that game is available – and actually spot that it came out.

So where do you go to find out what you might want to play right now? The video game platform holders (iOS App Store, Google Play, Steam, etc) certainly have front pages where you can see a whole bunch of games. But there’s two main barriers to you finding what you want: Continue reading

Video Game Storybundle 3.0 – the best yet?

storybundle3

Back in May 2013, I teamed up with Jason Chen at Storybundle to curate the first Video Game Storybundle – a veritable cornucopia of great DRM-free video game eBooks, from Ralph Baer to Jordan Mechner and beyond – and it was a success.

Last November we did it again, with Video Game Storybundle 2.0 – another palpable hit, again available for a limited time only, this time including a bonus game (Ian Bogost’s ‘A Slow Year’), and a whole bunch of other high-quality tomes.

After another few months, we’re back – with the spectacular Video Game Storybundle 3.0 – once again beamable directly to your Kindle or available in multiple DRM-free ways, and available in Storybundle’s customary ‘pay what you want’ stylee.

I honestly think this may be the best Video Game Storybundle yet – and we’ve gone beyond books again too, with specially commissioned interactive fiction from Ryan Veeder & the Steam key for Geoff Keighley’s excellent ‘The Last Hours Of Portal 2’.

And then you get basically the _entire_ set of Ray Barnholt’s amazing SCROLL zine, the Ghosts In The Machine comp, Atari and Sega histories, another Bogost barnbuster… the list goes on! Go grab it for the next 3 weeks only – and the full announce is below:

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Video Game Storybundle 2.0 – the return of the words!

storybundlenew

Back in May, I teamed up with Jason Chen at Storybundle to curate the first Video Game Storybundle – a veritable cornucopia of great DRM-free video game eBooks, from Ralph Baer to Jordan Mechner and beyond – and it was a hit.

Now, six months and much curating later, I’m extremely delighted to announce Video Game Storybundle 2.0, another 9 topnotch eBooks and magazines (and even a game!) curated by me, and available in Storybundle’s customary ‘pay what you want’ stylee. There are too many highlights to mention – and that’s what the below announcement is for. But here’s a couple of things I’m particularly proud of re: this spare-time project:

– We’re featuring some topnotch analysis of the history of games, including Tristan Donovan’s seminal history of games book ‘Replay‘ and a gigantic ‘Guide To Graphic Adventures‘ tome compiled by Kurt Kalata. (And Zoya Street’s ‘Dreamcast Worlds‘, of course!)

– A special 10th anniversary edition for one of my favorite game-related books, Seth Barkan’s ‘Blue Wizard Is About To Die!‘, and the first time the poetry collection has _ever_ been available in digital form.

– Another digital first, and it’s a game _and_ a book – Ian Bogost’s IGF-nominated, Indiecade-winning ‘A Slow Year‘ and its accompanying book of analysis/haiku is available for PC/Mac download for the first time ever in this Storybundle.

– And then there’s Anna Anthropy’s spectacularly good ‘Rise Of The Videogame Zinesters‘, two more Killscreen magazines, including the first-ever and the latest, Richard Dansky’s spooky ‘Vaporware‘ and… I could go on.

If you enjoy reading about video games, consider picking up the bundle now (it’ll be around for just a couple of weeks). And thanks to _all_ the authors/publishers for taking part! Here’s the official announce (below):

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XOXO 2013: Wot I wrote to my colleagues

[For anyone who doesn’t know, I help oversee some big tech-related events – Game Developers Conference and Black Hat among them. So it was a joy to visit XOXO in Portland last weekend, not least because I can enjoy it without worrying about also running it! But also because the history of _other_ things I’ve been or am involved with – IGF, IndieRoyale, StoryBundle, BundleDragon – are about helping independent creators get noticed – a big theme of XOXO.

Normally, I send out an email internally within our company (UBM) to discuss a trip I went on, and what I learned. In this case, I realized that what I’d written would be good to share externally as well, because, well – transparency is good (minus one thing about an upcoming event I had to snip, sorry!), and maybe other people would get some useful takeaway from my brief comments. So I’ve shared it below.]

xoxo-1

So I just wanted to send some notes out on my Fri-Sun trip to XOXO – http://www.xoxofest.com – which is an ‘independent digital arts’ (including some games!) festival in Portland, Oregon – funded and created by two individuals (Andy Baio, Andy McMillan) who are technologists, but also run an event – a rare skill, given making events is _HARD_, as we know.

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The ‘New Age Of Curation’ Interviews: Tiny Cartridge’s Eric Caoili & JC Fletcher

 A few months ago, I made a post about the ‘New Age Of Curation’, and followed it up with a series of interview with weblog curators I particularly dug, including folks from film (Twitch) and from music (The Quietus).

However, there was one leftover interview which, regrettably, I’ve been sitting on for a bit (since late 2011 – sorry, interviewees!) And it’s with the creators of probably my favorite video game weblog in terms of curation – the Nintendo DS and 3DS-centric niche blog Tiny Cartridge.

Eric Caoili and JC Fletcher – contributors to sites like Joystiq and Gamasutra for their dayjobs – have been running the site since August 2008. To my mind, it continues to sparkle by featuring the underdiscussed and under-reported on Nintendo’s increasingly niche (sorry, Nintendo!) handheld platform.

Here’s what happened when I asked them a few questions about how they curate, and how they think about content when trying to showcase themselves out there on the wild, wild Internet:

Simon: What was the original reason and context for setting up Tiny Cartridge, and how would you describe the blog?

Eric Caoili: Since the early years of the Nintendo DS, we’ve had an interest, maybe even a talent, in finding obscure things about the system. For me, it started with participating in these massive forum threads for the portable at the Penny Arcade forums, seeing a stream of strange, exciting developments for what was at the the time a very unconventional and largely unloved console.

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The ‘New Age Of Curation’ Interviews: The Quietus’ John Doran

Following an initial post on the importance of so-called ‘princemakers’, and an interview with Twitch’s Todd Brown, we’re continuing a series of interviews with media-centric websites that do an amazing job of surfacing great art.

Further food for thought since last time – a  brilliant talk/post from Topspin’s Ian Rogers that very much feeds into my discussions of trusted brands online. And, happily enough, Rogers is talking about music, which is the theme of the new ‘new age of curation’ interview, with The Quietus‘ John Doran.

Ever since I found the site a few months ago, I’ve been blown away by its eclectic, journalistic take on music in all forms. For example, on the front page right now there’s everything from a Wayne Hussey interview through a fascinating profile of Bjork and Jamie Vex’d talking name changes. Oh, and  Suggs’ favorite albums.

So I caught up with Doran via email to discuss the site’s genesis — and for him to refute some of my presumptions about his excellent endeavor:

Simon: What was the original reason and context for setting up The Quietus, and how would you describe the website?

John Doran: [Back in 2008] my friend Sean Adams at Drowned In Sound asked me to pitch a website idea to him for a “classic rock” website. I said I already had a better idea if he wanted to see that.

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The ‘New Age Of Curation’ Interviews: Twitch’s Todd Brown

My original post about what I opted to call ‘the new age of curation’ sparked a lot of really interesting discussion, both in the comments and separately.

In particular, game designer and Lost Garden blogger Daniel Cook composed a very thoughtful response over on Google+ which laid things out in infinitely more clinical, less fuzzy style.

Along the way, it uncovered some truths I was perhaps hiding from myself – that it’s ambient word of mouth, rather than any particular outlet, that really makes a piece of media blow up in today’s market.

However, in my reply to Daniel I think I inadvertently coined a phrase – ‘prince maker’ – that applies quite well to some of today’s most interesting niche blogs.

No one media outlet or blog is able to singlehandedly ‘break’ something into a media phenomenon nowadays. But with the kingmakers gone, there sure are a lot of websites – in video games, music, film, and beyond – which can provide a spark that helps fan the flames of notoriety.

And the best of these niche sites provide curation that can help illuminate art you would _never_ be able to find otherwise. So I’ll be conducting a short series interviewing some of the princemakers I admire the most, starting with Todd Brown of excellent ‘international, independent and cult film’ website Twitch.

I’ve been dipping into the site – which has regular columns on larger sites like Ain’t It Cool News – for a good few years now, and I think it exemplifies the curation and tastemaking that allow us all to find and enjoy the art that we all enjoy, day to day. Continue reading