Thursday, June 25, 2009

Some suggestions for

I'm a user and subscriber (I pay), because I think it's a great service. The 2 great things about it are that I can just log in and listen for hours, without the hassle of files, and that I can discover new music that I would never have encountered otherwise. Having used it for quite a while, I have a few suggestions:

  1. Bring back pause There used to be a pause, but it was taken away. Now when someone interrupts me at work, or the phone rings, I have to either leave the radio on, or give up listening to the track at all. Some tracks can only be listened to every so often, and that can get quite annoying.

  2. Merge the players One mini player (that used to be the only player) sits on artists' pages and plays you single tracks, and the new megaplayer plays radio, shows you slideshows, etc. I see no advantage in keeping the old mini one.

  3. Make 'loved' and 'library' tags I'd like to listen to tracks in my library, or loved tracks list which are also upbeat, or pop, or rock, because I have eclectic tastes. So let me have special tags to use in the multi-tag radio.

  4. Fix playlists Perhaps I'm too stupid to use them, but I haven't worked out how to use playlists easily. They must have 45 playable tracks by 15 different artists, the playlists pane on the megaplayer doesn't do anything at all for me, I can't see how to make a playlist or add tracks as I go.

  5. Help, I got distracted I listen at work, and frequently people interrupt me and I leave my desk for a time. Unfortunately, if I leave playing its recommendations, I get some mediocre stuff that I don't like cluttering up my library, and confusing last's recommendation engine. It's now at a point that I don't often listen to my recommendations or my library, because so much has been scrobbled that I don't want to listen to. Had I had the ability to remove the last hour of scrobbles way back when, I would have a reasonable library at the moment. How can I get rid of the noise?

  6. Learn from musicovery The key to musicovery is the ability to click on a combination of light/dark and slow/fast to get a playlist that fits your mood. It doesn't know me like last does, but sometimes it's better because I just want fast music to work to, or calmer music to chill to. If I just type in some tags I'll get loads of crap tunes that I have to keep skipping past, distracting me from my work. The music is there to evade distraction!

  7. Let me compare my tastes with others Perhaps stepping into the Facebookesque world of 3rd-party apps, a way to compare my tastes with my boss's or my colleague's would be a huge laugh. I could be embarrassed by my pop tunes, they could be embarrassed by their 60s flower power, it would be great.

  8. Simplify the radio We've all used Google, we can all type several tags into a box, so why do I have to choose Multi-Tag radio or Multi-Artist radio? Why can't I mix them up?

  9. Provide playlists from chartsThe charts are great, but I can't just click 'play chart' and have it start at the top. It's a list, I want to play it, why not a playlist?

  10. Let me queue Not my irrational British tendency; I want to queue tracks up to be put in my radio playlist. I don't want to stop what I'm listening to and play this other track, I just want to listen to it soon without interrupting things. I want to pick out some tracks and queue them up so that I can go away and work without having to click every minute or two. At present, Last is quite demanding of my attention.

  11. Work on inferring If I have queued up a few songs to listen to, or created a playlist with a few songs in, or typed in mutually incompatible tags (rock, trip-hop and strings, say), then Last should be able to guess at some more tracks - think Google Sets. Maybe there aren't any more tracks tagged with all those tags, so start calculating which tracks are most like them, or have 2 of 3, etc. Make it like search.

Broadly, my problems stem from having no easy way to manipulate the data Last keeps. I can't edit easily, I can't recombine lists and lists to make other lists, I can't search the database and shove the results into a playlist, I can't compute statistics or similarities or group similar tracks in lists. I can't even see the next 20 tracks and prune out what I don't fancy listening to.

Come on, it's pretty good, but it could so easily be great!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ninthers, Tukey and statistical approximation

A response to a post on The Endeavour about Ninthers and Tukey:

There are 2 useful things in the ninther concept: approximations to bulk statistics and the calculation of a median without any sorting.

Generalising from 3 groups of 3 to n groups of m, we could still calculate a median from a series of chunks of the dataset, but we would need to sort.

This would suggest problems when working on Very Large Datasets, but consider the case of the most annoying dataset - randomised data. If we take a chunk of data from this dataset, we can approximate the statistics of the bulk with the statistics of the chunk, or a series of chunks.

The answer may be, then, to randomly pick out a series of 9-value chunks, and calculate a series of ninthers. That way the number of comparisons per total values can be less than 1.

O(1) to O(N), depending on how accurate you require your statistics to be.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Changing the pattern

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

- Albert Einstein

I first heard the above quote as one about neurosis instead of insanity. The effect is the same: do you repeat a pattern of behaviour and thought, and expect a different result to last time?

I know I do. Every project, I'm expecting that this time I will magically be willing to follow through, to see it to the end. The initial buzz always makes me believe it. Or I will make a resolution and expect to keep it.

I have noticed that the real times that make the difference are not those promising, idealistic times at the beginning of the project when everything is blue skies and hopefulness. The real crux points are when I am bored, tired and resistant to the work, repelled by it, rebelling against the cords that bind.

Those are the times when things need to change. I listen to myself there and believe that I don't need to work on it now, that I can leave it to next time. Fool.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

One day

One day perhaps when I am 80, I will be able to dispense the wisdom of those who have gone before sufficiently untainted by my limited understanding to improve people's lives.


My hands will be clean enough to pass someone the bread they need.

I know that by then, I will be able to see clearly the foolishness I am currently unaware of - what idiocy do I labour under today?

Beginning wisdom

If a man begins with certainties, he shall end in doubts;

But if he will be content to begin with doubts,

He shall end in certainties.

[Francis Bacon 1561-1626]

I began with certainty, and find myself in the middle, with doubt.
Seeing the world afresh.