Surf's up -
"Games Without Frontiers" was a big hit in 1980 for Peter Gabriel - big enough, anyway, for the former Genesis singer to be played all over the radio.
Like many other kids of that era, I knew the tune by heart. It never occurred to me that one day I'd be able to reassemble it from the ground up.
Real World Remixed
Peter Gabriel has long been at the forefront of digital technologies. If you look around YouTube, you'll find videos of a much younger star figuring out how to use the earliest samplers. Gabriel hasn't had a massive hit in years, but he's still at the digital vanguard.
From his Real World website (the name is shared with his label and studio), he's made available tracks you can download for yourself, for free. Not just the song, but each individual track, and one of them is "Games Without Frontiers." So, I joined up (registration is required), and downloaded a package that included every guitar riff, every drum part, even Kate Bush's iconic, whispering background vocal. (I also learned the bass lines sound remarkably weird when isolated.)
The point is to remix the sounds to create something new. Gabriel is inviting the world to upload their work, and that's where this turns into a festival. In an age when music labels are petrified about how they can find a new business model, it's refreshing to see someone who knows the model simply cannot work without one ingredient: the listeners. And now, listening is far from a passive activity.
Got a hunch?
Hunch is like a creature from years past: the well-hyped Internet startup. Granted, the woman behind it is the conspicuously named Caterina Fake, who made a few dollars selling Flickr. Now, she's behind Hunch, which purports to help you decide things.
Hunch, which launched just last week, works like a personality test. You answer some questions and soon enough, Hunch knows enough about you to suggest some answers to questions like, "Where should I go on vacation?" and "What kind of car should I buy?"
It takes about, oh, three seconds to guess that marketers might be very interested in adapting this kind of technology.
More altruistically, you can sense that Hunch could be a cool and perhaps powerful way of marrying the crowd-sourcing idea to things in the public good. You know all that talk about opening up the democratic process? I can see Hunch being used as one way of letting a group of people come to some sort of decision-making.
Well, that pie-in-the-sky kind of thinking did drift in my brain, but as I answered one question after another - from which "Sesame Street" character I liked best to how much structure I like in my working day - another thought crept in. Namely, you can really reveal a lot about yourself here.
I'm curious to see how Hunch will evolve as more people use it and answer questions. A question like, "Do you like the smell of Play-Doh" may seem inane, but it's just one of many variants in a database that will help people with similar interests (and senses) come to certain decisions.
Elsewhere this week
Last week, I discussed how Twitter came into its own during the early hours of the crisis in Iran. The thing is, there's been so much information - so many reports, so many rumours - that it's been impossible for even avid followers to keep up with it all. I've found Robin Sloan's filtered feed a very helpful resource in a confusing time.
Inglis Time Capsule
Here's one way to turn something kind of dull into something kind of fun: Inglis, the maker of good old-fashioned appliances, is celebrating its 150th birthday. Whoop-de-doo - except that the company has concocted an online time capsule of Canadiana, including an option to stuff your own picks down the tube. They have to be contemporary, and you have until July 15.
Not everyone can hold up a record cover showing, say, Pat Boone or Lionel Richie or Bob Dylan, and make it fit perfectly into the surroundings. Sleeveface has been at it so long, and attracted so many top-shelf submissions, that it has enough for a book. The trend shows no sign of petering out, as recent submissions attest.
John Gushue is a news writer for CBCNews.ca in St. John's. Blog: johngushue.typepad.com. Twitter: twitter.com/JohnGushue.