And 37th in the Mixcloud Interview Chart is … The Coiled Spring

*Music swells as he walks up to the stage, shaking hands and hugging people as he goes*

“Wow. This is… this is such an honour. Not to mention a surprise! This represents such a validation of what we’ve been trying to do, that it means so much more. The Coiled Spring is not just a podcast, but a labour of love, an outlet, a valve, a forum, a mouthpiece, a soapbox. One could say it has a lot of potential!

“Seriously though. I want to thank the makers of the free and open source software that makes the creation process so smooth and enjoyable, the guests for agreeing to be grist for my little independent mill, but most of all, the listeners. You are the people who make this all possible, and worthwhile.

“There are so many independently-produced podcasts out there. The big commercial podcasts, with their high budgets and production values, professional presenters, merry-go-round of big-name guests, sponsored by credit cards and DRM-infested audiobooks, they provide entertainment, yes. But for hand-crafted personally-inspired listening, you can’t go wrong with an indie.”

*Music starts playing over speech, as usher approaches to encourage him off*

“So I’d just like to say thank you to my wonderful wife Cassie, who’s been so supportive and indulgent of this project, and finally to my beautiful children, Edith and Arthur. You are my world and my life, and it’s past your bedtime! Thank you!”


Climbing The Flange Circus Family Tree

Remember those Rock Family Trees? Pete Frame drew those fantastic detailed diagrams of how bands changed their line-ups, swapped members with each other, and made up whole scenes. Prints were included in remastered albums, they spawned a John Peel-narrated TV series, you can buy books and posters of them, and someone even created a font from Frame’s distinctive hand-lettered text.

So when I interviewed Flange Circus and their parallel project Zirkus in Episode 18, it was clear that the relationships needed to be documented and diagrammed. I love a good diagram.

Frame’s charts are hand-drawn. That was out, obviously. Then I had the idea to try to use Graphviz to draw the chart. Graphviz is “open source graph visualization software. Graph visualization is a way of representing structural information as diagrams of abstract graphs and networks. The Graphviz layout programs take descriptions of graphs in a simple text language, and make diagrams in useful formats, such as images”. Basically you feed it a simple text description of how things are connected, and the program draws the diagram for you, with the boxes and lines drawn in the most tidy and efficient way.

You can have a play with Graphviz online here. Change the code, and see how the diagram changes.

I started writing the text file for the family tree, but it became clear quite quickly that with this amount of information, writing the text manually wasn’t going to work. Graphviz really shines when you generate the input file from another program, as shown in many of the examples in the gallery.

There are various GUIs for Graphviz, and while I was looking at those, I discovered yEd. I LOVE yEd. I use it for so many things now, at home and at work. yEd is not related to Graphviz, but it does perform a similar function. It’s a free Java app that will run anywhere, and it provides a nice graphical interface for drawing linked diagrams. But the most exciting feature is the automatic layout feature, which arranges your diagrams neatly depending on whether you’re drawing a flowchart, swimlane diagram, hierarchy or other style. you just hit the button, and it makes everything tidy – with some tweaking of settings, and a small amount of compromise (it is free, after all).

So I moved the diagram into yEd. I originally used the Pete Frame font mentioned above, but it didn’t look good at all – not the fonts fault, more that it needs a human touch to pack that amount of information into a diagram and make it look good.

Eventually, after much changing around, adding more branches, linking out to other projects, and emailing for more information, this is the result (click for big, or to download).

Good eh? If you have any further info, let me know. Obviously it’s a bit sparse compared to the dense narrative-packed Frame charts, but I think you should always keep a bit of mystery, don’t you agree?


RSS Feed Update

Some folks reported that the new episodes weren’t showing up in iTunes. This may be to do with them all being on Mixcloud now, rather than on my own website.

I’ve grabbed a new RSS feed from Mixcloud using this tool someone set up, and I’ve refreshed the information on iTunes. It said it would take 24 hours to refresh in the iTunes Store, so here’s hoping.

In the meantime, you can listen and download directly on Mixcloud.