Sunday, November 27, 2011

Scrobble my mood

I'm back on after a long stint on Spotify. I have paid for the premium services of both in the past, but both are disappointing in one area: knowing what to play next. Spotify makes you choose your own tracks (the Radio functionality is useless), which is simple but very limited. I barely discover new music on Spotify, it's usually just from searching for things I've heard elsewhere. Occasionally I will discover something new by listening to compilation albums which contain tracks I've searched for, but that's about the limit of it., by contrast, makes it almost impossible not to discover new stuff unless you only listen to your Library or Loved Tracks all the time. But the piece of functionality that should do exactly what I want (click-free music that I want to listen to for hours) is the Recommended Radio, and it's not great. Which is surprising, because it knows everything I have listened to for the last few years, as I've scrobbled even my Spotify listening.

So what's the problem? Inappropriate tracks. I don't mean offensive, I mean not matching my mood. Some artist radio stations are good matches for my mood and don't end up playing me rubbish; Rob Dougan is one, but mostly because it plays me lots of Rob Dougan, who is just excellent, particularly at work.

My mood is very variable, and the music has to fit it or I'll just switch it off. At the same time, I usually want the music to just play without me needing to babysit it. On Spotify, I tend to play specific playlists built up over weeks or months of selections and deletions. On Last, playlists are nearly pointless (you can't just play a playlist until it has a very large number of tracks in it, so you never actually build them up), so I end up playing tag or artist radio.

I've never worked out, however, whether playing the Uptempo tag radio will be the same for me as for someone else - does it take my tastes into account?

Idea: Do mood-matching to link my scrobbles
If I listen to a load of tracks in one go, and I skip some of them before they scrobble, then I'm probably in a particular mood, especially if some of those I skip are loved tracks; it's not that I don't like the track, I just don't want to listen to it now. Thus, we have more meta about this collection of tracks; they are probably mood-related. So instead of making me work out playlists for myself, or cast myself to the winds of tag or artist radio, Last could do mood-specific recommendation.

The power of the Web 2+ world is to do algorithmic cleverness in order to deliver some very human requirement automatically. Google goes beyond mere links now, and personalises searches, fixing spelling mistakes and suggesting maps. Social networks have to handle my social segregation between close friends, acquaintances, family and work, without telling work I'm pregnant, or the matriarchy about my relationship status before I'm ready. Thus Last has done well to facilitate self-measurement (scrobbling), but they have some way to go to give me a set-and-forget radio station that works for me.

So for now, I stick to pop artist radio... the mainstream is at least inoffensive to the ear for the most part, and fairly peppy.

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