This post took just under a week to type because of constant distractions such as studies and work. (isn't that always the case?). Because of this, it may seem a bit disjointed. Then again if you're used to reading my ramblings, this probably will seem normal.

My beautiful late mum always said to start everything you write by setting the scene. Considering I'm typing this and not writing it I'm not entirely sure if this rule still applies, but for the sake of posterity I'll indulge in it here. I always thought the word posterity was funny because it looks like posteria. I'm sitting at a coffee shop in Singapore in the early morning; the sun has just recently risen and (at the risk of unintentionally sounding risque) so have I. I'm enjoying an Americano and a slice of Tiramisu, a cute Japanese girl at the table next to mine just winked at me and I said ohayo gozaimasu which made her blush – which made me blush – and for some reason am feeling intrigued, a little confused and quite excited – but wait, it's for another reason!

A warped bookshelf impending doom!
A warped bookshelf impending doom!

Due to a particularly disastrous night sleep involving a bookshelf falling on my head (note to self: use all the screws Ikea gives you in the box, and don't stow a copy of The God Delusion high up because that's just tempting the powers to get back at you) I found myself at 3am listening to Jim Kloss's 11am Shoe (sic) despite promising myself I was going to try to realise a regular sleeping pattern again. I don't understand why one of the most entertaining and interesting people on radio and the intertubes does a show at such a bizarre hour of the day; I've been told it has something to do with time zones, but I can't shake this feeling that somehow he's involved in a conspiracy to turn me nocturnal, or to use the biological term: nocturnal.

ASIDE: I studied biological in high school, but I was mush better at chemistryical and enjoyed it much moreical.

In retrospect though I wish I had built that bookshelf ever so slightly worse than I did so it could have whacked me in the head twenty minutes or so earlier, because when I tuned into the 11am shoe at the misleading time of 3:24am I was downright fascinated by what I heard. Mr Kloss proposed that Whole Wheat Radio could be the world's first truly community driven radio station!

The idea infuriated me as I had not thought of it myself first, but as the initial anguish subsided I realised: Jim was absolutely right. Whole Wheat Radio is a community powered radio station.

Whole Wheat Radio

To get a feel of why I thought Jim was right, consider regular, traditional terrestrial radio:

  • It exists for the sole purpose of generating advertising revenue (a business model that I’ve never been a fan, or indeed even an air conditioner, of).
  • Playlists of songs are generally created in advance
  • The music itself generally conforms to only a select few genres and stays that way
  • Music can be chosen by listeners only through request shows, and even then the chances of your chosen tune being played are lower than my doctor’s opinion of my coffee intake

And now consider Whole Wheat Radio:

  • It exists for the purposes of creating a community of people who listen to, appreciate and support independent music
  • Playlists of songs can be created in advance, but not by the "management", but literally by the listeners themselves.
  • The music conforms to no set genre, meaning the community can choose what music fits their mood at any particular time
  • Individual tracks can be requested and are almost certainly played

To put it as bluntly as possible, it's a friggen damned eye opening comparison! But there's even more to it than that: not only do wheatheads listen to and request the music that's played in Whole Wheat Radio (a fact that in itself would be enough to distinguish it from traditional radio), we are also directly involved in the music playing infrastructure itself.

  • We rate songs which determines what music stays and what music gets the boot. We tag songs depending on mood, genre or any other arbitrary categorisation scheme we can think of, which can be used to create shows and make the tracks easier to find
  • We purchase music which supports this artist as well as the site, not just a record label.
  • We engage in heartfelt discussions on the state of world affairs, the global music scene, what coloured socks Jim should be wearing, the draconian copyright laws that make our lives so much more complicated and less rewarding than they could be.
  • We create, update and maintain the information on (hopefully eventually) every song, album, artist on the collaborative wiki system.

Esther Golton: Unfinished HousesRuben Schade: Five and Fabulous!

For these reasons I can't help but agree that not only am I fortunate enough to be part of this beautiful community, but that I'm also a part of possibly the first truly completely community driven radio station. I'm positive there have been other radio stations that can boast community driven elements, but I doubt there's been one that's been driven by real people outside "management" to the extent Whole Wheat is.

ASIDE: I tried being community driven myself once.

I posted on Twitter that I would do whatever people told me to. After five minutes of hopping on one leg in public wearing three sandwich boards, a clown shoe on my left hand and a saucepan in the other, a tea cozy over my head and shouting "THE IRISH ARE COMING!!" in a faux Russian-Africaans accent while riding an imaginary flying hexagonally-wheeled bicycle, my self preservation instincts kicked in and I abandoned the project.

For what it’s worth, my therapist says I’m making admiral progress.

It does present an interesting problem though; what do we call such a phenomena?

  • Collaborative Radio?
  • Community Driven Radio?
  • No BS Radio?
  • People Powered Radio?
  • Listener Powered Radio?
  • Shared Direction Radio?
  • Cheese Steak Jimmy’s?

And those phrases don't even account for the international community behind it! Since Jim encouraged us to come up with our own ideas though, and given the fact I'm a fan of FLOSS software, I also propose this name which is 100% Rubenerd:

International Open Source Radio

Think about it: the term "open source" implies we are allowed to see how software works and take an active or passive role in it's future direction. As a community of people from around the world constantly changing, adding to and improving Whole Wheat Radio, and who know how it works from the top end, the term seems to fit perfectly. Considering the wiki software that powers the website is open source too, and the fact that everyone who listens to Whole Wheat Radio is either a computer programmer or someone who's obsessed with electronics, it's a great choice. To use an Elke phrase: "… uh, yeah!"

Not impressed? Okay, what about this?

International Free and Open Source Independent Music Distribution and Collaboration System… Thingy

You could call it IFAOSIMDACST (pronounced eye-faw-sim-dak-est) if you wanted a catchy acronym too!

I think I'd better just stick to programming. Hey, it's the thoughts on the subject that counts right? If not, I just wasted a lot of time :-)

ASIDE: How much Whole Wheat Radio could a woodchuck Whole Wheat Radio, if a woodchuck could chuck Whole Wheat Radio?

I’m not good at telling jokes either it seems.

Back to you, Jim.