Making us win: Integrating open content

One of the most notable changes in Feisty that I have been looking forward to is the updated Rhythmbox with its Jamendo and Magantune support:

With this support you can browse, listen to, download and purchase albums right from within Rhythmbox. It is still very new and a touch buggy, and has a few quirks (when you download albums from Jamendo it loads a torrent instead of adding the album to your library), but it is a great start.

This is the kind of thing I have been banging on about for a while. Sometimes we, the free software community, can get a little pre-occupied with the immediate landscape, and we often focus too much on Linux, free software ethics and open standards. These are essential, but there is a whole world of open content such as Jamendo, Magnatune, Open Clip Art, OpenStreetmap, Wikipedia, Freesound and much more at our fingertips. With such a rich tapestry of open content and a licensing infrastructure (Creative Commons as a great example) that makes it so simple to license and distribute such content, we have a huge opportunity to not only provide a free software Operating System, but to also hot rod it with oodles of free content.

But, this is where we typically fall down. One thing the free software community often sucks at is integration. We are great at building individual chunks of software, but are typically rather ropey at hooking these chunks together in useful and meaningful ways. Of course, this is a sweeping generalisation, and there are indeed exceptions, but I am always keen to see real integration. In my mind the general rule should be:

If you have to access, browse and/or download open content via a web browser, your integration sucks.

The kind of integration I am talking about in Rhythmbox is what I want to see. A media player is your hub for digital content, be it from music players, CDs, online stores, radio or elsewhere, and this is where access to open content should live. We implemented exactly the same approach to this problem in Jokosher with our Freesound Plugin. With it you can browse Freesound content right from within Jokosher, audition it and just drag it into your project. This is real integration.

There are hundreds of opportunities for such content, and both the GNOME and KDE projects need to ensure that they have a strategy for making content available easily for their applications and for their application developers. We should not expect application developers to have to re-invent the wheel everytime they want to include this kind of support in their programs. I would love to see the GTK and Qt projects working on widgets, and the desktops working on pre-rolled support for these services. Adding this support should be trivial.

The desktop is right at the center of a wealth of incredible content, and the free software ethos has spread out and diversified enough to encourage people to these incredible open content archives, so lets make use of them. In my mind, a Linux distribution that does not include native, integrated access to this content is simply missing a trick.

  • http://tieguy.org/blog/ Luis Villa

    Amen, brother, amen.

  • http://cass.no-ip.com/~cassidy/blog/index.php/ Guillaume Desmottes

    The Jamendo plugin opens a torrent because it’s the only way (with ed2k) to download albums from Jamendo. In a perfect world, Rhythmbox (or another GNOME component) would download the content of this torrent and then automatically add it to your library. We should definitely do it but it requires some works about how to properly integrate torrent download in GNOME.

  • Lean Fuglsang

    How do you purchase inside rhythmbox? It is really not obvious enough. But for the rest of your comment, you are spot on!

  • Gouchi

    Great post.

  • rony

    use ITune!

  • Meneer R

    I completely agree. But why is Jamendo not on by default? Unless I tell people about it, they are not going to find it. It should be on by default, don’t you agree? And it has lots of good music.

    I also agree about having free-content available from within the applications. Although, it sounds more and more like, we need to built some P2P functionalitity into every single program on the desktop. Perhaps a common infrastructure can be built?

    For example a libcommons that provides functions to get jamendo music, freesound, openclipart, and who knows what not. Then creating plugins for a music players / 3d modellers / etc. would be easier (and less duplicated work)

    Technical note: the downloading from jamendo can be done using the same libtorrent deluge uses. I haven’t looked into it, but I suspect you are able to download a torrent with a single function call. Its also a nice feature for RHythmbox because it will then support podcast-torrents. Although they are mostly used with video.

  • http://www.judocoach.com Lance

    Interesting development, one I like! A recent podcast I listened to described the MusicStore/iTunes/iPod as a key reason for Apples success in the area. So yes, if the same user ease of use can be built into Ubuntu then it’s got to be a good thing for the user. It also good for the content creators who want to release their content as it makes it even more accessible.

    Keep up the good work, now if only Xubuntu had a install from floppy method that was idiot proof, my wife would be on Linux by now on that cruddy laptop in the corner! :smile:

  • Rob J. Caskey

    Similary, if you have to leave your application to make a VOIP call…

  • Frederik Elwert

    Very right! The next step could be OpenClipart integration. There was the ClipartBrowser-Project as part of Inkscape’s SoC. You could browse local clipart locations as well as online OCAL. But it seems not to be developed any further.

    Offline openclipart is really crap if you have a reliable internet connection. The openclipart-packages are simply huge and you won’t need ten percent of them. Ideally, some kind of ccHost-Client should allow to browse OCAL by tags and insert Clipart into Inkscape, OpenOffice, and thelike. Uploading content should be just as easy. But currently, OpenOffice doesn’t even provide sufficient SVG support…

    Integrating open content could make a real difference. Not every user cares about tons of free software, but they would probably care about tons of free content!

  • Meneer R

    @ Lance

    A few possibilities:

    • I assume its running Windows. You can at least use the new (experimental) install.exe thingie. That will install Ubuntu as an image on your fat32 or ntfs drive. It will add a boot option the windows boot-menu to launch ubuntu using that image. It supports Xubuntu as well I think.

    • You could do a network boot. I’ve seen pictures somewhere of some college house having ‘ubuntu’ on tap. You could boot into the live-cd from the network and install it.

    • I assume it also doesn’t have any USB ports? Otherwise you can use a bootable usb-stick (some brands work) or plugin an external cd-drive you borrowed from somewhere.

    • In the worst case you can open the laptop and swap harddrives. Unlike Windows, Linux survives being put in a completely different environment. I’ve done it a couple of times. You might need to do a dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg because of different video hardware. But it will boot.

    Good luck!

  • Joseph

    An important consideration that seems to be ignored in the present discussion is that this should be a two-way street. I.e. it should be easy for the user to get OpenClipart, but also to contribute clip art back. We should enable community, not just consumption of content , as other Certain Large IT Corporations are wont to do.

  • Chris Warburton

    Hi, thanks for the info I’ll check it out. Also, I added this a while ago to the Ubuntu Wiki: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/IdeaPool#head-a5d1525bfa238ed82dcbd9557d26fbff12dbf4aa

    and also submitted this to Linux Format: http://linuxformat.co.uk/makeitwithmono/entries.php?entry=177

    I think about these issues. Just sucks that my programming is awful ;)

  • Adam

    I think about these issues. Just sucks that my programming is awful

    Meh, I don’t consider myself a Real Programmer(tm), but what I found when writing the Magnatune plugin was that the rhythmbox people were awesome. Someone always helped me out when I had issues (which was often). It’s one of the many things I love about the free software community.

  • http://www.bytebot.net/blog/ Colin Charles

    I can’t say enough good things about this. Kudos, and congratulations to the integration, it is truly very exciting.

    I do hope the day we see mainstream artists sell their songs via Rhythmbox-based shopping (ala, the iTunes Store).

  • http://tipshack.freshubuntu.org/story.php?id=41 tipshack.freshubuntu.org

    Free music with Rhythmbox Jamendo plugin…

    Jono Bacon blogs about the new Jamendo plugin included in Feisty Rhythmbox.

    I’ve tried the plugin and it works perfectly. What a great way to discover new legal music.

    Jono also writes about the possibilities of linking up other free software packa…

  • http://www.jonobacon.org/?p=939 jonobacon@home » It just works, it really does

    [...] A while back I posted about Rhythmbox including support for Open Content services such Jamendo and Magnatune. For a while now Rhythmbox has included support for last.fm and I have used it to update my account there. Well, today I went to fire up my music in Rhythmbox, clicked the last.fm entry and started listening to my Neighbour’s music. One click and I am now listening to a stack of incredible metal, perfectly suited to my tastes. [...]

  • http://ubuntu-linux.withishow.com/2007/04/05/jono-bacon-it-just-works-it-really-does/ Ubuntu | Jono Bacon: It just works, it really does

    [...] A while back I posted about Rhythmbox including support for Open Content services such Jamendo and Magnatune. For a while now Rhythmbox has included support for last.fm and I have used it to update my account there. Well, today I went to fire up my music in Rhythmbox, clicked the last.fm entry and started listening to my Neighbour’s music. One click and I am now listening to a stack of incredible metal, perfectly suited to my tastes. [...]

  • http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/7389 Jamendo 3k, Integrating open content – Creative Commons

    [...] [...]

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  • http://www.songnumbers.com The Songnumbers Team

    We just added you to my Music News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future. (PS, we just pushed out BETA 2 of OUR site) Sincerely, The Songnumbers Team