Sunday, September 27, 2009

excerpted from my daily feed this cou...

excerpted from my daily feed this courtesy of the folks at make use of dot com

bmcatWhen was the last time you visited the library?  Or a museum?   When was the last time you read a reference book from cover to cover or took the time to travel to an exhibition?    I bet it was quite some time ago since most of these things are now readily available online, digitised and searchable.

As more and more libraries and museums take their collections online, the less people need to actually visit those places.  This is both good and bad.   Good because more and more people have access to collections they wouldn’t normally be able to see.   But bad because, as I said, it removes the need to actually go there in person if you can, and see the items for yourself.   Falling attendance means falling revenue which means these places will ultimately be forced to close.  So it’s a bit of a catch-22 digitising these amazing collections.

Here are some places which have taken either all or most of their collections and papers online for all to see – and it’s all completely free to view on your screen.

Library Of Congress


As well as being able to search their library for a particular book title, you can also view their Digital Collections.   This includes a wide variety of things including photographs, newspapers, legislative records from Congress, and map collections.   I am a big fan of old maps so the last section was particularly fascinating for me, especially the old military campaign maps from the Civil War (they can also be downloaded to your computer).


I also particularly enjoyed the Manuscript Reading Room, where you can view the private papers of Hannah Arendt, Sir Alexander Graham BellThomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.   There are literally hundreds of thousands more documents by various other people, all meticulously scanned online with foreign language documents accompanied with translations.   You can literally spend hours on this site and still not get through a small fraction of what the LOC offers.

Smithsonian Institute


The Smithsonian actually consists of 19 museums, 9 research centers, and the National Zoo.   So it is a huge institution, covering so many diverse subjects and this is reflected on their website.

Check out their art and design section with scans of tens of thousands of images which are searchable.   You can also view their History & Culture section, Science & Technology and even view a bug photo collection in their Museum of Natural History (not for the squeamish!)

British Museum


The British Museum is also a world-renowned place which utilises the internet to its full advantage.

You can search over 4,000 items in the Museum’s collection, including Chinese Jade and Sacred Objects from the Pacific.   Explore ancient cultures such as the Romans and Medieval Europe.   Gaze upon one of the Museum’s most prized objects, an Anglo-Saxon helmet.


The British Museum also embeds their own specially-made videos on the site including one on the Greek Parthenon (although there seems to be no way to embed the videos on your own site).  They even show you how to make a mummy (if a close relative dies and you feel so inclined to put them on display!)

British Library


One of the big players in the library/museum collection business and it’s no different with their online offerings.

This is an institution I have huge respect for as it houses some of history’s most important documents.   You can look at, and translate, the Magna Carta.  Using Shockwave Flash, you can “turn the pages” of some of the greatest books ever, including the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Lisbon Bible.   You can view and compare over 100 quartos by Shakespeare.  If that isn’t enough, you can listen to nearly 24,000 audio recordings and explore another 20,000.


Still not enough?   Then read and compare the Library’s two copies of the Gutenberg Bible.  Or read and compare the Library’s two editions of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.



The Hermitage is in St Petersburg, Russia and consists of the following :

The main architectural ensemble of the Hermitage situated in the centre of St Petersburg consists of the Winter Palace, the former state residence of the Russian emperors, the buildings of the Small, Old (Great) and New Hermitages, the Hermitage Theatre and the Auxiliary House. The museum complex also includes the Menshikov Palace and the Eastern Wing of the General Staff building, the Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre and the Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory.

As well as viewing a list of their current exhibitions, you can also browse countless other collections including paintings and drawings, archeological artefacts and costumes.



Most well known as the home of the Mona Lisa, the Louvre in Paris has 30,000 works of art which are digitised and searchable on their website.

The best place to start is the Overview, which leads off into the various different sections of the gallery.  As well as listing the various departments, you can also see the latest news and latest acquisitions.


They even have pages devoted to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code!

The one complaint I have is that their font is too small and so you have to increase the font size.  You can find out how to do that in Tina’s article.

National Library of Scotland


I am a little bit biased here, being Scottish myself, but I honestly believe that the National Library of Scotland has some fantastic exhibits worth looking at.   If you are ever in Edinburgh, I recommend a personal visit but for those unable to make it to Edinburgh, the NLS’s website has some fairly good digital collections.

See the last letter written by Mary Queen of Scots before her execution.  Turn the pages of a Gutenberg Bible.  View ancient maps of Scotland and zoom right in to get all the close details.   Read the entire First Edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped


But I think one of the most serious downsides to the NLS site is that they don’t have scans of their extensive Robert Burns collection.   They only talk about it and refer you to book titles which they have in their library.   How can they have a Scottish digital collection and not talk about Mr Burns?   That’s sacrilege ah tell ya.

I’m sure there are many other libraries and museums online with unique and valuable digital collections but I have to stop this post somewhere!    I hope this article has given you a bit of insight into the treasures available for view online and if you know of any more, please do tell us about them in the comments.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Your Guide to Music on the Web, Part II

From techCrunch

Your Guide to Music on the Web, Part II
by Orli Yakuel on September 26, 2009

Last month, I published Part 1 of my Guide To Music On The Web, which covered music recommendation sites, Web radio, independent music sites, playlists, and music visualizations. Today, in Part II we’ll take a tour of music search engines, Web players, ways to share music on Twitter, and music mixing apps.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your comments and insights on my previous post and of course, took them under consideration while creating this second part. Please bear in mind that I can’t list ALL the music applications out there. I really tried to find the best and the most used applications that will probably still be here to serve you tomorrow too.

So readers’ main concern was the companies’ business model. You are right. A few of the services might make an exit, and most of them are probably not going to have one, and some are just for fun. I think music services can make money by being innovative enough to get it. Anyway, I don’t want to get into the business model stuff too much, but I will tell you this: The Internet is too competitive, you may be succeed by just being simple, but you may also need to be sophisticated. The era where creating an application first, then two years later thinking how to make money from it, is bygone now, and companies will need to think how to make money sooner than later if they aim for it – This is where innovation comes in and usually wins.

Music Search Engine:

skreemrBack in 2007, SkreemR was truly my favorite MP3 search engine. SkreemR locates MP3 files on blogs and webpages, then indexes them on its site, allowing anyone to listen to their favorite music right on the spot. There is no registration required, all you need to do is to search for your desired song/artist, and browse the results. See something that you like? You can play it, rate it, buy it on Amazon, get the song lyrics, watch the video, find related photos on flickr, find concert tickets, download as a ringtone, and finally – yes – you can also share and tweet about it. Unfortunately, now SkreemR has jumping ads all over the site. I understand the need to make money, but did they have to choose the most annoying way to achieve that goal?

songzaI remember the hype around Songza when it first launched… it is a slick Ajax-designed service, which makes it easy to stream music on the web. Well, it still does. Songza became popular for its great usability and the fact that you can easily create playlists, and share music with your friends. At first Songza aggregated music from Seeqpod, then switched to YouTube videos and imeem (where imeem = 30 seconds of a song, and Youtube = full video, low quality). Somewhere around October 2008, the service was acquired by Amie Street for its marketing potential.

foxytunesAnother acquired service is FoxyTunes, this time by Yahoo! in February 2008. FoxyTunes Firefox toolbar extension (launched in 2004) enables control of your favorite music player from the Firefox browser. It supports almost any media player and lets you also find lyrics, covers, videos, bios and much more – all from the comfort of your browser. Today, it has more than 50,000 weekly downloads, and a cumulative total of nearly 11,000,000 downloads! FoxyTunes also released an additional add-on called TwittyTunes, which allows you to post your currently playing songs to Twitter with a click. On their behalf I have to say, they where the first to offer that. Their search engine: FoxyTunes Planet, is a mashup Netvibes-like page, that gathers music information from Rhapsody, Yahoo!, Flickr,, Youtube, Pandora, Amazon, and more.

mufinI sure noticed the difference when I tried Mufin. Looks like they put an emphasis on the site’s usability and design. The interface is so clean and easy to use. Like other services, Mufin will search for your favorite music and will play it on the spot, via Youtube (what else?) It also lets you create playlists in a snap. But what makes it unique is its visualization tool (vision) that lets you discover more music, based on similar artists. Mufin also provides a player which can be downloaded to your desktop for free. The player will help you organize your music, create playlists, find similar music, share tracks with friends on, Twitter or Facebook, and so much more.

fizyFizy’s search engine has no special feature really, it’s just built really well. The service has a simple look & feel, which allows you to listen to music that streams from Youtube, and create playlists if you are logged in. You can connect your Twitter, Friendfeed or Facebook accounts, and share with your friends’ music in realtime. There’s not much to say other than that.

qloudQloud has quite an impressive history since they launched way back in 2006; At first, it was just a plug-in allowing you to organize your own library better, so you would be able to find the right song at the right time. Then Qloud released ‘My-Music’: A music app for social networks (Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, Myspace, etc), which led them to 1M Facebook users! And finally today, it’s all of the above, plus a real-time music search engine, and a pretty good one. You can search and find music that you like, save and organize your favorites, share music with friends, or find new friends based on shared music taste. You can also import your iTunes or Windows Media Player library, and play your playlist directly from your browser. There’s a rumor that Qloud was acquired by Buzznet last year, but I couldn’t find any formal confirmation about this at either site (Qloud or Buznet).

myspacemusicAnd finally MySpace Music: A massive hub of free music on the web. MySpace Music gathers all of its music accounts into one searchable page by genre. You can see the entire discography of your favorite artists from anywhere on the globe: view the artists’ music pages, listen to their music, track local concerts and much more. You can also search entire collections of free-to-watch video uploaded by artists or users. Read reviews by users, blog posts by both users and artists, and basically dive into an endless amount of content. Addictive.

Worth mentioning: Wearehunted, which is a playable chart of the most popular songs on the Web..

Web Players:

moofFrom your Desktop to the Web, Moof allows you to have a full back up of your own music. Export an xml file of your iTunes library, and listen to your favorite music from any computer. If you don’t want to do that, you can still browse through the Moof music library and play any song you like on-demand from the Web. Moof looks and behaves like a desktop player, with the additional ability to share and see music from friends. If your friends are on Moof, you can browse their entire collection of music, and add favorites to your own personal library. Overall, it’s a great way to find new music. Note that Moof has the coolest registration form ever :) is so awesome, but fails to explain the service to its users. What you see when you enter the site is a Web Music Player that lets you find the music you want, then play it right away. What you don’t see is the powerful feature that allows you to see what your friends are listening to in real-time! How it works: Just sign up for the service, invite your friends to join in, and each time you play music on the site, your friends will be able to see what you’re listening to as you listen to it, and vice versa. The music streams from all kinds of free sources—not Youtube.

groovesharkLike most of the Web Players, Grooveshark allows users to find any song in the world and listen to it instantly. But there are several things that makes it different than the rest; first off, the application’s UI is stunning, and the experience using this site is absolutely a joy. Other than that, there’s so much that you can do: search, find, organize, favorite and add music that you like. Also interact with people in the community, and discover new music from others’ choices. With a team of 40 people they must have a business model (or a lot of VC cash).  Grooveshark has a paid VIP version with some exclusive features, and a special interface for VIP users ($3/month or $30/year)

jukyflyYoutube probably has the largest music database in the Internet, but finding music can be very frustrating since it’s not well organized. I’ve already recommended Jogli as a service that gathers Youtube music into albums in the first part of this guide. JukeFly does the same but also lets you listen to the music as if it was on your desktop music player, only it’s on the Web. JukeFly prepares everything for you, so you don’t really need to create playlists, you just need to choose from a variety of content already made for you. Additionally, JukeFly can stream music from your desktop, but you’ll have to download their plug-in to be able to do so. The player has more features and functionality, which you may or may not need, so don’t be surprised if eventually you find yourself using it as your new music center on the Web. JukeFly is working on a newer version, which will include an iPhone app, concert information, chat, fan-clubs, and Internet radio. searches an entire database of songs in addition to the millions of songs indexed by MP3 search engine SkreemR to bring you the best results possible. If you sign up for the service you will be able to save your favorite songs, create playlists by simply dragging & dropping tracks into a box, and share playlists with anyone. Users can upload custom album art to any playlist, then embed the playlist at their blog/site. All from a sexy web interface.

lalaHow disappointing is it to find out that Lala works only in the U.S when everyone keeps telling me how great this service is… Anyway, I can give you a brief overview of the service from the information I picked up on the site. Windows users can move their entire music collection from the desktop to Lala on the web. Most of your music will be matched to Lala’s catalog and will be available online in minutes; The rest and unmatched music can be uploaded to Lala. If your personal music collection is not enough, you can play over 7 million songs once for free. If you’d like to add songs to your collection, it’ll cost 10 cents per song, and your first 25 songs are free.

justhearitJustHearIt plays music over a nicely done application with a great visual experience. The application was created by two students trying to change the stereotype that access to free music is an illegal activity while immersing the user in a unique visual experience. So what can you do at the site? You can listen to music you like, create online music collections & multiple playlists, and hopefully share favorite tracks with friends (it doesn’t say this anywhere, but I presume it does) – not much different from the rest of the services here, except for its nifty UI. BTW, even with their goal to show the world that music can be free and legal, they use Youtube like most services, so I’m not sure what’s unique about that.

streamzySince’s service is mostly dead, every service that used them switched to Youtube instead. The pros: Its video ability. The cons: The music quality (but hey, at least we have free music). Same applies to Streamzy, an Ajax-based media player that lives on the web and allows users to create quick playlists from their favorite music. Streamzy says it merely provides search results for media being hosted elsewhere on the Internet – Well, I can’t argue with that. Anyhow, sign in if you want to save playlist, or use it as an alternative music player occasionally.

Post Music on Twitter: is by far my favorite Twitter music service.  It is also the first service that allowed people to send music to twitter in a very easy way, which is what made it what it is today. What makes it so great is that you can use it with or without a Twitter account. Some use it via the Twitter connection, other use it as their main music playlist and enjoy the community within the site only. Anyhow, you can discover new music, and new friends based on your collections. Once you sign up to the site, you can set Twitter to send notifications each time you suggest a new song to friends. It looks like Twitter, it behaves like Twitter, but angled around music only.

twistenGrooveshark’s project, came out a bit later than and offers pretty much the same service. Sign-up with your Twitter credentials, and share music with your friends on Twitter. The site streams music from Grooveshark, allowing you to enjoy the quality of music played there ( streams music mostly from Youtube). Overall, it’s a cool place to save your music into playlists, and share directly with your Twitter friends. I wish that both & would allow people to buy mixed CDs created from their playlist, instead of having to buy each song separately.

funnelFunnel is the new kid on the block, basically the same as and except with a killer tool—a nifty Bookmarklet! While you play songs on Youtube or Myspace, you can immediately add them to your playlist in Funnel. Another unparalleled feature is the ability to integrate your Twitter account or Tweet only the songs that you want. This way, you don’t feel bad about inundating your Twitter stream with too many of those annoying music updates. Also, you can easily comment on songs that you like.

song.lyIf you wish to share MP3 links with your Twitter friends, you can do it with the help of Enter an MP3 link, and will generate a small player for easy listening over the web. I have to admit that the whole process is somewhat an unnecessary hassle.  After all, who’s uploading songs these days when everything is searchable on the web already? On the other hand, you can enjoy a list of songs that’s already been uploaded by others, and are of very good quality, of course. I’d summarize it as a user generated MP3 search engine.

twtfmAnother successful service, is which finds music that you like and posts it to Twitter in a cool way. All you need to do is to log in via Twitter, type in an artist/track and click preview. then generates a track page using your Twitter page design. Post it on Twitter and your friends will be able to leave you comments on the same page – Example.

Worth mentioning:, and Twones.

Mix & Share:

8tracksNot a pure mix service but it still falls into this category, 8tracks allows you to create a Mix (playlist) with your favorite songs. It’s actually very similar to a service that already shut down, Mixwit—so if you missed it, you might as well try 8tracks. Once you sign up to the service you can start searching for music, or uploading it from your computer to build your Mix. You can publish a Mix of no more than 8 tracks and only two of these can be from the same artist. Visitors at the site can listen to Mixes without signing into the service—but for creation and music uploads, you’ll have to become a member.

jamglueA fun service to close the list with, Jamglue brings music and fans together. Any artist can sign up for a free Jamglue account and upload music in multi-track format for others to remix. There are several Creative Commons licenses to choose from.  These licenses allow others to share and remix work, as long as they follow the artist’s restrictions. Fans can remix other folks’ stuff, and share the results.

To summarize this whole guide, I have to admit that I’m somewhat concerned: Let’s say Youtube closes its doors tomorrow or decides to stop streaming music—there goes about 80% of what I’ve listed. Which brings me to my next point, the future of music on the Web doesn’t looks so bright right now. Not if every service depends on Youtube so heavily as its music source. For once, I wouldn’t mind paying a yearly fee if it meant listening to an unlimited source of any music that I like with good streaming & with awesome quality. And, I don’t even need to download the songs to my computer, all I really want is a place where I can play my favorite music based on monthly/year fee.  Is it too much to ask?  Oh wait, this is exactly what Rhapsody offers; Unfortunately, only in the U.S. . . .

For now, I suggest you try the services above and enjoy them as long as they last. For some reason, music services don’t stay around very long but I guess that’s the way they roll.

Since I can’t list them all, please feel free to add services that I’ve missed in your comments and make them handy for everyone.