An old man’s river: Introduction

From today, just as an experiment, I’m going to recommend something every day to you. It could be a book I’ve read, a film I’ve seen, a song I like, whatever. Be warned, this is a provisional post.

Why am I doing this? As I said, as an experiment. It came to me while I was watching Chuckleball Jailhouse Jocks a couple of days ago, when they did a skit of Tiger Woods, calling him “the most endorsed man in history”.

I found the whole concept of endorsements insane. First, you’re expected to take advice from someone you don’t know; then, you’re expected to take that advice on subjects that person is not necessarily knowledgeable about; and finally, you’re expected not to care that the person is being paid a gazillion dollars to give that advice. Excuse me while I throw up.

The advice I am most interested in is impartial and independent and friendly. Which is what recommendations should be. So I thought to myself, how am I going to get recommendations? And the answer came: By giving them first. The next question was “Why should people bother?” And the answer came “They will, if they get value from the recommendations you make”. And the final question was “How can I be sure that the recommendations I get will be worthwhile?” And the answer came : “You can’t be sure, but you should expect some aspect of collaborative filtering to kick in”.

There are other things I want to learn about during the experiment, other questions I have kicking around my head.

One, since advertising is dying, just how will recommendations fill the gap? What can we learn from the way recommendations work, what will help us get VRM right?

Two, while we’ve seen how recommendations work in broadcast media and in Web 1.0, just how will recommendations work when there is no broadcast media? What does it mean to go to a truly P2P model for recommendations?

Three, both advertising and broadcast media go hand in hand with “hit cultures”. Recommendations and P2P models are much more “Long Tail” in their behaviour. [My thesis is that hit cultures were necessary because of the sheer wastage inherent in the traditional advertising-meets-broadcast-media business model. So much money was wasted in the grapeshot marketing and the layers of crap in the produce-to-consume chain, no one could afford to carry many lines as it were.]

Four, the Three Witches (Advertising, Broadcast Media and Hit Cultures) are not going to take change lying down. What will their response be? How will we know?

These are the sort of things I want to learn. This is how I will know whether my experiment was successful.

So. Step 1. Let me recommend something. Just because I like it. Preferably Long Tail and not Hit Culture. With reasons as to why I like it, and giving clues that will help you decide whether you might like it. And in most cases, they won’t be new stuff. They will form part of this Old Man’s River.

Recommendation 1. (Song)

Season of The Witch. Written by Donovan Leitch and performed by Michael Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills, available on Super Session. A fantastic song on a fantastic album. You can listen to song samples and even order the album if you want via this link. [And no, I do not have an affiliate program with Amazon, not my style. Not unless they allowed me to point the affiliate earnings directly to a charity of my choosing.]

Why do I like it? It has this folk-rock meets hard-rock feel to it, strong bass lines, a syncopated beat. You can actually hear the words they’re saying, and the words make sense when strung together. It’s written by someone who could sing and play, not just write. It’s sung by people who care about what they do, talented musicians who saw what they did as a vocation, a calling, and not just a way of making money. It’s recorded by people who saw that as a vocation as well. It was done as part of a single long recording session, none of the pampering that goes on today.

All of these things are actually trivial when you consider the real reason. It’s a bloody good song performed by great musicians.

So, if you haven’t heard it yet, find a way. And let me know what you think. I will move on to recommendation 2 tomorrow, and try and keep things going until the experiment is successful.

10 thoughts on “An old man’s river: Introduction”

  1. Interesting. I may just have to copy!
    I think the value of the recommendations will increase as tehy build up. As I get an understanding of your tastes and how they intersect with mine, then I can put a value on the recommendations. Do I just take notice of the music or the books? Only time will tell.

  2. I’ve been thinking about this a little as well, specifically around music, and am about to go out on a limb on my brand-new-yes-i-finally-have-one blog and start posting mix “tapes” I do, with tracklistings pointing to artist pages etc. And hope the pigopolists don’t come down hard on my ass. Maybe I’ll send an email to the performing rights society telling them what I’m doing.

    I have the first mix ready, just trying to find the best way to get the file hosted, preferably for free or very little, so that anyone who wants can download it.

  3. Am I be right in thinking that you are recommending the original version from the 1968 release of Super Session and not the remix that has been included on the 2003 release?

  4. Recommendations from someone you know are worth infinitely more than any endorsement. And have yet more value when that person knows you.

    I have a couple of thousand vinyl records and the vast majority have been bought as a result of either a recommendation, hearing it out in public else as a personal discovery via ‘crate digging’. Advertising, magazines, radio and TV just don’t work for me when it comes to music. And the great thing is that with so many records that have been personally recommended, gifted or first heard via a friend, there is a personal value attached that further increases their value and the enjoyment I get from them. Each has some story attached involving a place, person, situation or some combination thereof.

    I’ve friends who are in bands and friends who are DJs/producers/remixers. Sadly I don’t play an instrument, but I have deejayed for a number of years in clubs and at events. And I’ve been fortunate to be able observe how knowledge and tastes propagate through networks of rock/indie musicians and folks working in dance music alike. And I’ve participated in these networks myself to great personal benefit and enjoyment. Observing how quickly things move on and how networks appear to rapidly reconfigure when you don’t participate for a while.

    And the best thing about these networks is that they subvert all the channels that the hit makers put in place. Sometimes intentionally and other times just by chance.

    Getting back to the recommendation: I _did_ have a 7″ copy of Season of The Witch along with one of Sand and Foam. Maybe both were on the same single? In any case great record!

  5. I think a post a day will be way beyond my capability to keep pace with, probably demonstrated by the fact that I am only now “getting down with the witch!”

    The versions I have are; Mike Bloomfield from Filmore East, The Lost Concert Tapes 12/13/68 (live); Terry Reid from Super Lungs: The Complete Studio Recordings 1966 – 1969; Vanilla Fudge from Renaissance.

    Just listening to Terry Reid, and thinking of the recent Led Zep reunion at the O2 and just wondering what might have been….

  6. I have the original Super Session and Bloomfield’s Lost Tapes, but not the others. Are they worth listening to?

  7. Well you definitely need the “retarded hippie” tag for the Vanilla Fudge version, but the Terry Reid is worth a listen. In fact I’d recommend that whole album. Not sure if it was bad luck or judgement that meant he turned down the opportunity to join Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple!

Let me know what you think

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