Rdio vs. Spotify

Some many know me as a hardcore Rdio fan. I love the UI, appreciate their story, and have mostly been satisfied with the service.

Last year, Andy Baio wrote two articles comparing Rdio to Spotify. In both instances he concludes Rdio comes out slightly on top — their catalog is just a little bit better.

But, I’ve never been able to get the Blue Scholars or St. Germain on Rdio so I always questioned how the catalogs really compared. Yesterday, after scrapping my first hackathon project at 7:30 pm, I decided to use the Echonest API to answer my question once and for all. Which is better, Rdio or Spotify?

As it turns out, Spotify. By a landslide. Of the 92,343 songs I had time to pull down, 74,703 are available on Spotify and 56,988 are available on Rdio. Furthermore, Spotify had 21,370 songs that weren’t available on Rdio, whereas Rdio only had 3,655 songs that weren’t available on Spotify.

Plus Spotify has the Blue Scholars and St. Germain. Time to make a switch.

Ian Bogost, Heather Chaplin, and Roy Schmidt Talk News + Gaming

Ian Bogost, Heather Chaplin, and Roy Schmidt Talk News + Gaming. Video and Twitter conversation from Friday night’s talk. Also check out the photo gallery and Whose Headline, the winning project. Saturday was successful in that I spent the entire day playing with Node.js; Saturday could’ve been improved in that I should’ve picked a more familiar framework to actually deliver an idea on deadline.

Google Doc for the News + Gaming Hackathon

Google Doc for the News + Gaming Hackathon. I’ve put together a collaborative planning document for participants to list skill sets, share links, and brainstorm ideas or improvements to existing projects.

Marc Lavallee and Max Cutler

Marc Lavallee and Max Cutler

Marc Lavallee and Max Cutler earlier today identifying different sources of news organization data. As a part of the Hacks/Hackers post-ONA hackathon at NPR, we rekindled NewsAnalyzr. The core idea is to build a flexible tool for analyzing the news and those who make it. A necessary foundational element is a structured database of news organizations with pertinent metadata like URL, print circulation numbers, or number of employees. Once you have this, you can, say, easily create an API to give you the title of a news organization based on URL or scrape the homepages all top 200 newspapers on a 15 minute interval during election night.

You should follow our progress on GitHub and I’ll write a more detailed post we have something useful to show of the project.

Thoughts on hackathons

Hackathons need focused, realistic scopes supported by sufficient technical talent.

I’ve attended a few in the shorter number of years I’ve been coding, including Gonzo Camp in Seattle and the more recent Hacks/Hackers opensourceathon. Each had a low to moderate level of success, from my perspective, mostly because peoples’ expectations weren’t met. For some, the expectation was to deliver a mostly functional piece of code. Others didn’t have any expectations. In addition, another problem is that a certain group of attendees run into the challenge of wanting to contribute but not knowing how to do so.

These problems can be mitigated by better preparation.

Specifically, I think a hackathon should have the following established in advance of the event:

  • Accurate listing of who is attending and what their skill set is.
  • Mechanism for identifying, expanding and voting upon project ideas. Bonus points if people can express interest in contributing to a project and volunteer for a role.
  • A mission for the hackathon, which helps to articulate expectations of what will be accomplished in the time allotted.

Dave Winer wrote a post recently where he implicitly defines a few sample goals:

In 24 hours I wouldn’t try for a breakthrough. But it is possible to focus for a few hours on a problem and come up with alternate approaches. Or to rework something that fell by the wayside in the past because of scaling issues perhaps. Or some piece of the puzzle was missing last time it was attempted, where a solution now exists.

The description for the Hacks/Hackers Hackathon at ONA10 details the what of doing but never the why of doing. Same for the Great Urban Hack. It’s difficult to know whether an event is a success if you never set expectations for it.

Sure, it’s possible to do this type of preparation the day of. If you can put these pieces in place before the event, it means they don’t have to happen at the event. The event can then be focused on the most valuable use of in-person time: working on the project.