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TWiMLcon

On the hunt for a better recommender

TWiML was one of the first podcasts I listened to about machine learning. It inspired me to go to conferences like Transform AI to learn more about recommendation systems.

While attending Transform, after getting out of a workshop, someone handed me a flier that, coincidentally, was for TWiML’s own conference, TWiMLcon! I ran back to the guy and told him how much I appreciated the podcast.

I still have a lot to learn about machine learning, but so does everyone else. While listening to podcasts have helped me get a better understanding of the breadth of the industry, to get more in-depth I need to go a step further than listening to podcasts.

I’ll be attending TWiIMLcon this year and unlike Transform there will be a panel dedicated to recommendation systems. Leemay Nassery of Comcast has a panel, called “Recommendations Platform: Start from the Bottom.” I’m sure it’ll be as informative as the rest of the conference.

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Singularity University’s Global Summit

Hundreds of entrepreneurs solving the world's biggest problems but one

I remember listening to a panel at MUTEK, a global touring electronic music & arts festival, and the speaker asked us all what we thought was the greatest existential threat to humanity. She said most of us were probably thinking of climate change, I was not. While they might be right about climate change, the first thing that popped into my head was the dissemination of information. It greatly affects all other issues. It influences our world view and on a global scale shifts elections, shapes our political and social response to climate change, and everything in-between.

Singularity University recently held their annual Global Summit in San Francisco and I’ll I want to talk about is the XPRIZE panel. XPRIZE holds competitions to see who can come up with ways to solve the world & humanity’s biggest problems and award millions to the winners. The first XPRIZE was put together by Peter Diamandis, who founded XPRIZE in the late 90’s.

Adults always ask kids, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I always felt like an astronaut was a pretty stereotypical but bold claim for a kid to make. Peter followed that childhood dream and when NASA didn’t seem to be a viable option, he built a $10 million competition for the first team to build a working commercial spaceship, which was awarded to Burt Rutan in 2004. Peter hasn’t made his dream into space yet, but it seems right on the horizon.

XPRIZE’s panel at the Global Summit felt like a bunch of superheroes on stage. They’re creating new competitions in areas including adult literacy, removing carbon from the air, using ai on a number of issues, and over a dozen other prizes that have already been paid out. One thing they haven’t tackled, however, is still my greatest concern.

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The Gray Area Festival

Where art breaks stigma

Like MUTEK a few months before it, The Gray Area Festival pushed the boundaries of visual art & music through technology. It felt progressive in style and message.

The most memorable panel was ZERO1’s, which brought together a handful of the top projects – and their creators – from its international artist incubator. Particularly memorable was Rashana Bajracharya with an immersive experience to help women explore their bodies and get a better understanding of common health issues like yeast infections. Rashana comes from Nepal, where the lack of education around women’s health is even (much) more problematic than in The States. It’s compelling to see how art can help break through the stigmas behind women (and men)’s health.

I have yet to find her work with ZERO1 online, but here is something she made with the WCA out of Hong Kong. It’s just as inspiring as her talk at Gray Area.

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VB Transform 2019: AI by All

And how we've got recommendation systems all wrong

I had the enormous privilege to go to VentureBeat’s Transform 2019, an AI conference in SF. My mission was to find out how to make recommendation systems better. Services like YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, and Spotify use them to help people choose what to consume next, and the one thing they all seem to center it around is a person’s past behavior. It shouldn’t.

For Amazon, behavior should be a sizable part of the equation in recommending products to buy, but for ideas, stories, and any kind of content, it’s different. It should be different. People can go to their friends and family for what’s happening in their community and culture, but the greatest promise of the internet and other mass communication is being able to hear ideas & stories from people anywhere around the globe. Mind you, there’s a lot of them out there.

That’s where editors, curators, dj’s, and other domain experts come into play. It’s about gearing them up with the latest tools and technologies. They will be the ones best suited to program recommendation systems to help people get outside of their own filter bubbles. One of the speakers at Transform put it simply, this isn’t just about artificial intelligence, but augmenting (human) intelligence as well. First and foremost, the people who are at the forefront of a field. Someone who’s made it their life’s work. Next, democratize it to everyone else.

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Porter Robinson’s Second Sky Festival

It's not just about the headliner

There are quite a few people in the music industry where I appreciate their influence more than their actual work. Porter Robinson is a great example. It’s not that I don’t enjoy his music, but what he’s done for a few underserved musicians I know and many more will be far more long-lasting. And that’s one of the reasons why Second Sky Festival exists. To showcase musicians that deserve a more global presence, or at least one in Oakland, California, where the festival is being held.

This year has been all about expanding my music taste globally. SXSW took me to Brazil, MUTEK to Italy, and now Porter Robinson’s Second Sky to Japan.

I found Wednesday Campanella going through the festival’s 10 acts. KOM_I’s voice, lead singer of the group, will probably take me years to get used to, but it’s festivals like this that will open me up to sounds, and more specifically languages, I’m not accustomed to. The group’s sound is a beautiful intro into the Japanese language.

KOM_I created a recent YouTube Original to document her new album. Re:SET speaks on the parallels between the desire to grow your art, fan’s judgment on that change, and the twisted nature of reality (literally.) I don’t know if anything else could have gotten me more excited to see her perform live.

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MUTEK.SF

An electronic festival not suitable for a furniture store

MUTEK is a global touring electronic music & arts festival that started in Montreal. It debuted its US spot in SF last year and was back for another round this year. The festival isn’t just a bunch of dj sets but touts an immersive quality to it with technology pushing forward what your ears, eyes, and every other sense feel.

I went through the 100 or so djs, producers, and musicians performing, but they’re meant more for a setting other than Living Spaces – my girlfriend wanted to test out couches for what felt like four hours.

Usually listening to music beforehand gives me a better picture of what I want to see. With MUTEK, you can’t prep. Well, at least not until a suitable VR experience is available. It was about listening there, especially Friday, the first day of the festival. The night astonished me a few times over.

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SXSW 2019: 1,400 musicians to 50

Expanding your taste in music is what South by does best

There were at least 1,466 musicians performing at SXSW for 2019. I went through every one of them and narrowed it down to 58 (just under 4%) to see.

Going through a thousand or so songs for South by, a few thousand more from Majestic Casual’s catalog, and close to 100,000 songs over Silence Nogood’s almost ten years, I’m developing an ear for finding musicians that aren’t just an easy recommendation in similar sound and quality. But I still struggle to convince others. It’s hard to convey the context in why you should listen, let alone when, but seeing musicians and DJs live is one of the best ways to do so.

My job is to guide a path for people from listening online to experiencing music live. Something I want to work on particularly hard this year and South by was my first big step.

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Noise Pop 2019: Did it right for the first time

And found a great guitar player in the meantime

I’ve done Noise Pop Festival all wrong for the past four years. Usually, I go through the lineup when it’s announced, find the acts I know, and go see them. For the fifth year, I did it different.

I went through all of the 150 or so musicians playing this year and got it down to a handful or so to see. Noise Pop made it easier to get through all of the artists. It still took waayy too long, but I love to take on massive amounts of music.

I made a playlist of 14 musicians (9% of the lineup) for “Where I’ll be at Noise Pop Festival 2019,” but I only got to go to see five. It was all over The Bay Area, raining half the time, but I found at least one musician I’ll be following (for real) to every gig I see. Guess which musician it was.

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Outside Lands 2018: Women Rocked It

But Durand ruled the hottest, yet coldest day of the festival

Outside Lands hasn’t had a woman headline in its eleven-year existence, until 2018. They must have felt especially bad because two dominated this year. First with Florence on Saturday and last with Janet closing out Sunday. Over the past few years, Sundays seem to be the day. They’ve stacked it well.

For the last two years, I’ve started off Sunday early. I go the whole day. Doing it all three days is probably a challenge not worth taking, but I recommend going all day at least once. It’s a lot warmer, Golden Gate Park is perpetually cold. There’s less dust flying around, because of the best thing yet, no crowds! There’s nothing better at a festival than going up to the main stage and being able to dance with some space to a great soul band. And boy was there one each year!

Last year’s Sunday opened with two soul singers, Lee Fields and then Jacob Banks, who are growing on me more with time and accumulating songs. This year, all it had to be was Durand Jones & The Indications. Durand Jones’ voice was expectedly powerful, but his drummer’s voice was something else.

When I first heard Aaron Frazer that day, I thought it was just a recording. I couldn’t see anyone singing and it was too good to be true live. It wasn’t, Aaron’s voice was there, live, and took me back farther than any other contemporary soul singer. It felt as classic as anyone ever has. In that falsetto kind of way.

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Coachella’s 2018 lineup felt like a personal best

Beyonce, SZA, and Kali Uchis were the best, but not the only

It didn’t have Frank Ocean, but Coachella 2018 may have beat out 2017’s FYF fest for best festival lineup I’ve ever been to. Beyonce, SZA, Jacob Banks, THEY., Kali Uchis, Daniel Caesar, Tom Misch, Jorja Smith, ODESZA, Vince Staples, Jessie Ware, Miguel, Kamasi Washington. That’s not even half of who I loved, so here’s most the rest.

Let’s start with Friday because chronology. It also had my favorite performance at Coachella, Kali Uchis.

I love how Kali works the stage. She’s among my favorite performers, including Jacob Banks, Anderson .Paak, Tom Misch, and DUCKWRTH. I’ve seen Kali at The New Parish and The Fox in Oakland, but she had a lot more competition this time at Coachella.

Most loved Beyonce most, but Kali Uchis had the moment for me. She always does. Every time I’ve seen her I’m always caught up in her singing and stage presence. She keeps me the whole time. That barely happens ever for me. Too much on my mind.

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