Cached Version from Jeni Barnett’s Blog of Comments Relating to MMR

[ UPDATE 10/02/09: As pointed out by Steve Anderson below, the two MMR blog posts have been removed altogether from Jeni Barnett’s personal blog – with no explanation. It doesn’t exactly underscore credibility for her arguments, does it? If she would like to retract any of her statements then it would be better if she did so explicitly. The original blog posts remain archived here, with the comments. ]

On Monday I wrote a piece on Native blog about the LBC Radio story where presenter Jeni Barnett discouraged the use of MMR vaccine in children – on very spurious grounds indeed.

The Times now have an insightful opinion piece called The preposterous prejudice of the anti-MMR lobby.

I just went back to Jeni Barnett’s personal blog to see how many people had commented (almost entirely to signal their disapproval of her views). It had been 82 comments for Bad Scientists and 134 comments for MMR and Me.

But now the counts both stand at zero because the comments have been deleted.

If you’re curious to see what people wrote – in the interests of openness, public information and rational debate – the original pages are here.

Please do not attempt to leave a comment on these pages – it won’t work.

Bad Scientists
https://morris.cymru/cache/sarcasm_is_the_lowest_form.htm

MMR and Me
https://morris.cymru/cache/mmr_and_me.htm

Nothing has been changed in these files.

I have retained the filename of Bad Scientists which appears to be a past vestige of a previous title.

These pages are very similar to what you’d find in Google’s Cache, although that may only exist for approximately a week.

A Look at Spotify – With My Music Industry Hat On

Spotify on a Snowy Day in Wales

Have you tried Spotify yet?

Tucked away in today’s post on Spotify’s own blog is a file listing newly included recordings by some of my favourite labels and artists.

Labels represented on the list today include: Rough Trade, Poker Flat, XL, Rhino/Elektra, ECM, Universal, Pressure Sounds and more…

Artists on the list from today include: Stereolab, Antony & The Johnsons, Evan Parker, Basement Jaxx, Ray Charles, Si Begg, Elvis Presley, Henry Mancini, Ozzy Osbourne and loads more…

While I write this, I’m listening to a very timely collaborative playlist of snow-related songs. Thanks to @radioedit for that tip-off. I just added “Winter Sadness” by Kool and the Gang for anyone else who’s listening to it.

OK, so what’s Spotify? Rather than rehash what stacks of articles and blog posts are saying, I can recommend Chris Salmon’s introduction to the music streaming service from the Guardian and Rhodri Marsden’s early peek last year from the Independent.

My angle on Spotify? I used to run a label fulltime. It was my business to find revenue streams for recordings and artists. Spotify should be tremendously exciting for anyone in that position now. I still have good ties with the music industry. (I help people with blogging, social media and how to promote on the web without being annoying or spammy.)

The music business is very often criticised – sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly – for being slow to take advantage of new distribution methods. Of course, when people say “music business” here they really mean the “record business”, which is a subset of it. Now, let it not be said that any of these labels has been backward in signing up for Spotify. It feels like we’re reaching a zone of mutual agreement where everyone’s happy – not only the people running the service and the fans, but the artists and labels as well. Merlin (which represents digital rights for many, many independent labels, often slightly overlooked by online music services) were happy to sign their deal with Spotify in September 2008.

If you are a band, record label or otherwise involved in the record business or music business in any way, make sure you try it. It’s all legal, licensed and legitimate. If you’re in the USA or one of the territories not currently covered by Spotify, you have the right to feel left out.

You should be able to create a free account here. (It doesn’t appear that you need an invitation at the moment. As far as I can see, that was clever marketing – creating an impression of scarcity and bestowing users with a limited number to pass on to their friends.)

Barring any mishaps, this is a future of music distribution. Notice I said “a future” – it may not be the sole future, but if you’re a label you need to consider it and put as much time and energy into researching it as you would into being stocked on iTunes and other services. You’ll reach people who wouldn’t normally listen to your music. You’ll get money from Spotify as a direct result, as well as drawing attention to your other music activities, like your gigs and merchandise. Ask your digital distributor or aggregator about it.

People are comparing it with other music streaming services like Pandora and Last.FM. While Pandora was groundbreaking in popularising the track play rather than the track purchase, it had licensing problems leading it to withdraw from the UK. So that’s clearly no good. Last.FM has been well adopted by music aficionados and the tech savvy, but in my opinion needs to work to grow its user base beyond the “heads” and keep all the labels happy, not just the major labels. Its distinctives are music discovery and tagging. (In fact you can scrobble your Spotify listening to Last.FM.)

Even YouTube is a fairly good celestial jukebox for many. Whether YouTube are actually paying rights owners or not is another question. My strawpoll of independent labels says ‘no’. YouTube are busy enough trying to get revenue for themselves.

That’s three examples of music streaming. On a technical level, to casual observers I’ve spoken with, Spotify doesn’t appear to be doing anything dramatically new. But I disagree. The streaming is flawless and uninterrupted. It’s as good as iTunes for sound quality. Importantly for me, the bass is rich and heavy. Hardcore audiophiles may grumble about the bitrate, but they always do – and they still have their cherished music formats.

The main technical reason why Spotify will explode is its SIMPLICITY. People thought iTunes or eMusic was instant gratification, but now you don’t even need a credit card. You just start streaming. The barriers to enjoyment are just non-existent. It’s actually easier to play your favourite album than to grab the CD from your shelf and load it into a drive! It feels somewhat indulgent. That simplicity is why it will win. That’s why it can compete with unlicensed peer-to-peer filesharing services. Take music on tap and make it even easier.

Later, you can delve into collaborative playlists and the like when you feel the need. You can deep link to a chosen lyric or favourite guitar solo, which will change music criticism and other writing for the better. In a music education or academic research context, your citation can include a hyperlink to the moment in the recording to which you’re referring. In turn this availability will continue to open up influences on people creating music. (Although this process did begin with the first version of Napster.)

For now people will continue to acquire music files by other means, often unlicensed and illegal. The Spotify catalogue is huge with many surprising inclusions from the majors, like U2, Madonna, Prince and Coldplay all represented. But there are gaps because of various rights issues relating to other artists. After a recent cull, The Beatles are only represented in cover versions. The same goes for Metallica and others. The precise catalogue listings vary depending on which country you are in, again due to contractual rights.

For their iPods and other portable players, fans will acquire music files because you also need internet access to stream music on Spotify.

But if Spotify can succeed in expanding the catalogue and porting the application to smaller devices, in tandem with public expansion of free wifi access, it will render the arguments about filesharer penalties totally irrelevant. Why would fans expose themselves to the malware risks and badly named or encoded files? Even the time-rich, money poor kids will agree with that.

The advertising seems very infrequent which is good for the user experience. I would say it’s roughly every 20 to 30 minutes. It feels odd to hear the advert transition into a track, which is an association I have with commercial radio – yet I’m listening to genres I like that are almost never played on commercial radio e.g. proper ambient, Welsh language music and dub.

A recurring advert which amuses me is the Energy Saving Trust because it’s a campaign part-funded by the UK government. This is surely the best use of public money for fun and culture since the Soviet Union’s nationalised record label Melodiya.

That said, there is a very small pool of ads so they’re not very targetted at the moment. I’m getting UK ads (which is relevant to me) but they include an ad for Lady GaGa’s new album – when I haven’t been listening to anything resembling that kind of music. That can be improved when more advertisers are on board. Besides, I can imagine music fans in their hordes falling in love with Spotify and opting to escape the advertising completely by signing up to the paid service. It’s a very reasonable 99p for one day or £9.99 for a month.

Last Friday I was invited to talk on a discussion panel in Cardiff hosted by Welsh Music Foundation. (Incidentally, thanks to them and to the other panel members, Dai Lloyd, Simon Rugg (Indie Mobile) and Mark Mitchell (King Harvest)). We had a very insightful discussion with a diverse audience of smaller and newer labels and bands. Not too many of them had heard of Spotify, which leads me to think it hasn’t quite tipped yet. But that will change.

Sock And Awe Google Analytics (Just A Flash In The Pan?)

sock and awe

After the Bush/Shoe incident, anyone who’d spent even a few moments in eccentric corners of web knew there would be a creative response online. And it came. Wired has a summary of the shoe-inspired games and animations.

So Sock And Awe wasn’t the only Flash game based on the Bush/Shoe event. But it was the best.

Now Alex Tew, its creator, has sold the site as a property on eBay for £5,215. Whichever way you look at it, that’s a good rate for a few hours of work – not to mention the email subscribers he gathered, which were not part of the sale.

Rory Cellan-Jones at BBC News has the details of this high speed micro-start-up.

As Cellan-Jones notes, the site is based on a current affairs event and will now rapidly decline in value. It’s up to the new owners to extract value from it.

But this doesn’t detract from the cheek and verve of Tew and his colleagues. Everything from the choice of name to the design to the speed of launch and then the one-day auction was executed with skill. See also: his Million Dollar Homepage. If you’re curious about his next move in the world of the web, check out Tew’s forthcoming start-up PopJam.

While the Sock And Awe site was being auctioned, I contacted Tew and asked to see the full visitor stats, via Google Analytics. The visitor counts and top countries were already generally known, but I wanted to see precisely what was happening.

Now that the sale has closed and people are chatting about it, the full analytics make interesting reading so I thought I’d post them up here – with first some graphical highlights then the unexpurgated PDF dumps. (“After the jump”, if you will.)

It’s a good case study in site design and branding.


Sock And Awe – Visitors Overview
The bounce rate is high, which for the average site would normally be very bad. (In other words, most people are just looking at the homepage then leaving.) But Shock And Awe is mainly about the homepage, so it’s an exception to most sites.


Sock And Awe – Top 20 Referring Sites (Detail)
Most visits are getting there by typing into the address bar. Far fewer are clicking to come from other sites. This shows the value of having a good web address that’s memorable and easy to spell. Notice I said “visits” rather than “visitors” (uniques). As you can see from the New vs. Returning PDF, 13% of them are repeat visitors, presumably returning to play again.


Sock And Awe – Map of Visitors
An unusual sign of accord between USA and France, who occupy the top two spots. Google Analytics also records “not set” for country unknown but this is much further down the chart at position 42. Middle Eastern countries can’t get enough of the Bush bashing, as you can see from the full countries PDF

All of the analytics in my blog post here were taken at around 6:15AM GMT on Thursday 18th December. As you can see, the graphs and figures plummet on the 18th because they’re not showing a full day’s stats. It may be better to disregard that day’s totals and regard all analytics as a snapshot showing qualitative insights.

Grab the ZIP file of all sockandawe.com analytics. Or view individual pages below.

Dashboard
This is the overview data.
Dashboard

Visitors
Check out Time on Site for All Visitors – the earlier visitors have much longer attention spans!
Visitors Overview
Map Overlay
New vs. Returning
Languages
Visits
Page Views
Absolute Unique Visitors
Bounce Rate
Time on Site for All Visitors

Traffic Sources
As I mentioned before, the direct traffic is by far the largest. With no time to mount an SEO campaign, Sock And Awe still captures some keyword search traffic, again thanks to the memorable name. (Google and other engines recognise matches with the domain name.) It also captures a few who mistakenly type the URL into their search bar instead of their address bar. (Incidentally, you may be wondering why my own personal blog is called, of all things, Quixotic Quisling. Well, I like to play the long game.)
Traffic Sources Overview
All Traffic Sources
Direct Traffic
Referring Sites
Search Engines
Search Keywords

Content
Content analytics are perhaps the least interesting because this site has very few pages. Although Top Content does give a hint how many people attempted to sign up for the newsletter – at least 30,000 it would appear. (After signing up, they arrived at sockandawe.com/email for a confirmation message. This folder has now been removed.) I say “attempted to sign up” because my own experience is that many people try search queries in these boxes, even despite clear labelling. Tens of thousands is still a good order of magnitude, even if half are bad. Many of the web addresses listed in Content account for framed visits (one recognisable example is somebody using Babelfish, in vain, to attempt to get a translation).
Content Report
Top Content
Top Landing Pages
Top Exit Pages
Average Pageviews

Quick word on Development Costs
According to reports, the game took a night to build. The game engine is very simple – if you think about it, it just compares the X-position of the mouse cursor (which is invisible) with the random X-position of Bush’s head graphic. If the distance is within a pre-set striking tolerance, then the whack graphic is shown. I would say the most time consuming part of the Flash game development was designing the graphics and animation.

Similarly, the bandwidth costs would be low. If you run the site through an analyser, it’s currently around 200kb of data. The site has been slightly modified to remove the subscription option and add advertising, but these are not big changes.

Discussion
Can you glean any more significant insights from these stats? You can comment or send me a message on Twitter.