Category Archives: websites

Filmtracks.com

If you’re a film nerd like me, you watch a lot of movies. You know who directed them, who wrote them, and who starred in them. You even know the composers of the scores. If you’re as nerdy as me, you listen to these scores instead of actually popular music your friends want to listen to. And if you’re really, really nerdy, you want to read reviews of movie scores to know what is good.

For over a decade now, Filmtracks.com has been one of the finest websites dedicated to giving out film reviews. What’s most impressive about the site is that it’s run by one guy.

That guy’s name is Christian Clemmensen, and I have to wonder where he finds the time to write as many reviews as he does. The man writes at least one review a day, which is more than I can manage. And unlike me, Clemmensen writes really long reviews. His recent review for the score to The Last Airbender clocked in at over 2,000 words – twice the length of my longest review, for the book The Elves of Cintra by Terry Brooks. He also designed the site, maintains it, edits all his reviews, and does everything else needed to keep a large niche market website alive. So far, I’ve left those duties to the WordPress staff.

That Clemmensen maintains the site all by himself is occasionally a problem. Because he is human, Filmtracks.com sometimes experiences moments of downtime. I recall a period of a few months some years ago when no new reviews were being updated because of Clemmensen having a life. Right now, though, the site is regularly updated with reviews of movies new and old.

Clemmensen has a strong ability to write expository prose. That is to say that he knows how to write reviews clearly and intelligently. He has a keen ear for listening to music and discerning what’s happening technically with the sound. Sometimes his reviews incorporate too much jargon, but that is not what is wrong with them.

What’s wrong with Clemmensen’s reviews is that he doesn’t hit the Enter key.

His reviews do have multiple paragraphs. But they don’t have enough of them. An average paragraph in the aforementioned review of The Last Airbender ran 500 words long. There were five of them. Each paragraph could have been subdivided multiple times, and the article would have benefited for it.

Clemmensen’s reviews are overlong as it is, but when readers are confronted by huge blocks of text longer than the entirety of this review, it becomes intimidating. Readers today — especially readers on the internet — are accustomed to quick bursts of text. We’re used to what we read being in digestible, bite-sized chunks.

The site’s design is clean and attractive. That it features white text against a black background makes it seem a bit old-fashioned in terms of the Internet; most modern sites use white backgrounds. But these kinds of criticisms are nit-picky. Overall, the site is an incredible resource.

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Google Buzz

Google Buzz is a really cool social internet tool that nobody uses.

Buzz was initially launched as Google’s attempt to tap into the social networking phenomenon. They aimed to make a hybrid of Facebook and Twitter, where people could share ideas, photos, links, or whatever. They did a good job of assembling the interface for this.

But Google had launched another initiative previously. It was called Google Wave, and it could do a million things no site could do. It could work as a chat, a blog, a groupblog, an image hosting service, a nanny, and pretty much anything else. At first, Google sent out account invitations for the Wave Beta the way they did with Gmail–slowly, enticingly, so people would want to use the service after they were wowed by being allowed access to it. But as people were granted access they poked around, realized the site was too complex for their puny human brains and then ran away like scared chickens back to sites like Facebook and Twitter.

When Google launched Buzz, they wanted to make sure people used it. Their solution this time was to integrate Buzz directly into users’ Gmail accounts. Each user was automatically linked with every other Gmail account they’d ever sent email to, with full contact information on display. This obviously led to some privacy issues. It also led to most people disabling Buzz as soon as they had the option to do so.

Now Buzz exists in the same limbo that Wave does. It’s an incredible tool for social interaction, but only a few people use it sporadically.

Buzz lets people post links, pictures or text. In this way, it’s much like Twitter, only without the limit of 140 characters. Like Twitter, your posts–or Buzzes–are shared with those who choose to follow you. The main Buzz page shows the Buzzes both you and those you follow have posted. You can click on each user’s name to see only their Buzzes. In this way, it works like a particularly innovative groupblog.

Unfortunately, it can’t do a lot more. You can’t post more than one link at a time. And even with the added bonus of Google Profiles, which every Gmail user has, Buzz doesn’t work well for social networking. It’s just a really useful tool for sharing ideas, links, and pictures. It should be able to do a few other things. Maybe if more people used it, Google would tweak Buzz so that it had more applications.

Buzz is integrated with Gmail. In some ways, having email, an instant messenger service in Gchat, and a Twitter-like service all on the same page is incredibly useful. But, as was evidenced with the initial privacy-based backlash to Buzz, many people want to keep their Tweeting and social networking and groupblogging separate from their instant messaging and email. As it stands right now, there are enough privacy settings in place that people who follow you on Buzz can’t see your Gmail address. Having all these tools on the same page is just convenient.

In some ways, the fact that fewer people use Buzz makes it appealing. When Facebook was first found it, the fact that few people used the site made it more intimate and less evil. Buzz feels the same way right now. The downside is that there are currently too few people using the site to have meaningful conversations.

I am prolific with my use of Google Buzz, perhaps excessively so. I post every link, picture, and stray thought I find interesting, and I add commentary. Few people notice.

But if you want to follow me on Google Buzz, you can find it on my Google profile.

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last.fm

Last.fm is a website about self-indulgent data-porn. It also tries to be a social networking platform that keeps track of the music its users play.

When you sign up on last.fm, you download a small program that keeps track of the music you play through iTunes and Windows Media Player. The music you play is then listed on your last.fm page as you play it through a process called “scrobbling.” It is then sorted according to aritst, album, and track. These categories are then subdivided according to how recently you listened to them–the past week, three months, six months, year, and then longer than that.

Sometimes the program that scrobbles your music decides to stop working for no good reason. Also, the site is supposed to be able to keep track of songs you play on your iPod once you plug the device into your computer. It doesn’t. Last.fm isn’t perfect.

Last.fm tries to be a social media platform, so you can keep track of your friends’ music if you want. It rates people’s musical compatibility based on the artists they listen to. If you are self-assured of your own good taste in music, this allows you to judge other people based on whether or their musical taste is compatible with yours. I’ve found that most people who use last.fm don’t check it often, so the site doesn’t work well for social networking. But it’s fun to see what your friends are listening to, and there’s a radio-esque player on each user’s page that lets you play music from their library. You can find out about new music this way.

You can also look at your “neighbors,” who on last.fm are people the site thinks are extremely musically compatible with you. The site is rarely accurate in finding people who are entirely compatible, but this is still a good way to find out about new music from people with similar tastes to yours.

In a sidebar, last.fm lists concerts in your area it thinks you should attend. Occasionally, this feature has informed me about concerts by some of my favorite artists. It is very useful.

There are other features to last.fm, but nobody uses them. As I said, most people who have last.fm accounts rarely look at the site.

Overall, last.fm a pointless, unnecessary website. You don’t need to know how many times you listened to The White Album, or how many times you’ve listened to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” or that John Cougar Mellencamp is your most-played performing artist. But if you like sifting through useless statistics, this site is as valid a waste of your time as Facebook, Wikipedia or Youtube. Because looking at useless statistics can be fun.

If you want to look at my last.fm page, you can view it here. Feel free to judge my taste in music. And you should sign up to the site so I can judge yours.

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