last.fm friends ticker

infoRSS

last.fm is great, and it gets bet­ter every sin­gle day. Part of its appeal is voyeurism. I love being able to see what my friends are lis­ten­ing to, but that usu­al­ly requires going to the “What are my friends lis­ten­ing to?” page, which is still too much effort; I’m not that curi­ous. But still, if some­body I know starts lis­ten­ing to some­thing, I’d like to be alert­ed with a total­ly pas­sive sys­tem.

There are, of course, RSS feeds for all kinds of things from last.fm. But there is no feed con­sist­ing of all your friends’ recent tracks, which is sur­pris­ing because it’s such an intu­itive idea. So imple­ment­ing the ones that are avail­able is osten­si­bly pos­si­ble, but nev­er­the­less tricky. I mean, log­ging into Blog­lines or Google’s new read­er still requires an active request for this infor­ma­tion. And while there are some web ser­vices that will merge mul­ti­ple feeds into a sin­gle one for you, I don’t like rely­ing on a third par­ty like that, one that may go down any day and that might insert adver­tise­ments into my feed.

It seems to me that there should be a very, very small pro­gram that sits in your sys­tem tray, check­ing mul­ti­ple feeds reg­u­lar­ly, then pop­ping up a native Win­dows bal­loon with a link to the “arti­cle” every time there’s an update. This would be ide­al for watch­ing your last.fm friends. There are pro­grams that do this, but they’re all full appli­ca­tions that only have this as an aux­il­iary fea­ture. I can’t afford the mem­o­ry.

So, final­ly, I found infoRSS. It’s a Fire­fox exten­sion that adds a lit­tle tick­er to the sta­tus­bar. Ini­tial­ly I was­n’t hope­ful, as its default pre­sen­ta­tion is ugly and there­fore indica­tive of poor pro­gram­ming:

infoRSS

The writer of this exten­sion isn’t a native speak­er of Eng­lish, and there’s very lit­tle help avail­able any­way. I spent a long time study­ing its many con­fus­ing fea­tures, con­fi­dent that it could be made to do what I want. The result (shown at the top of this post) isn’t per­fect, but is bet­ter than I had expect­ed or hoped. There’s a nice lit­tle Audio­scrob­bler logo on the left; each entry is marked with the user’s avatar, which is far more effi­cient than if their name were dis­played; and the lis­ten­ing sta­tus of every­one is con­stant­ly on dis­play for me. Here’s how to do this:

Con­tin­ue →

The New last.fm

Audio­scrob­bler has now been sub­sumed by its cousin last.fm. Aside from the bold new col­ors, there are a lot of addi­tion­al fea­tures that are real­ly easy to get sucked into. Each user is pro­vid­ed a blog, whose posts appear on that user’s pro­file page and can con­tain links to artists, albums, or tracks that are rel­e­vant to the post. Arists, albums, and tracks can all be tagged with key­words such as “noise” or “indie pop,” and these tags can then be tuned into using the last.fm play­er. The play­er has seen a redesign too; rather than being con­trolled with a web inter­face and streamed as an .m3u, a stand-alone pro­gram is required. This isn’t going over well, but I much pre­fer it; it’s clean­er, less bug­gy, and con­tains a few nice fea­tures such as a chan­nel his­to­ry to see what you’ve lis­tened to pre­vi­ous­ly. And maybe most impor­tant­ly, charts are updat­ing almost dai­ly now.

There are many oth­er small improve­ments that I’m not men­tion­ing, but basi­cal­ly I think the whole site is just way, way bet­ter. The new inter­face takes some get­ting used to, and there are some obvi­ous improve­ments that could be made and that I’m sure will. If you haven’t signed up yet, you should. I’m look­ing for­ward to their fur­ther inte­gra­tion with MusicBrainz.