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Crunching the Math On iTunes

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the not-completely-random dept.

Music 276

markmcb writes "OmniNerd has posted an interesting article about the statistical math behind iTunes. The author makes some interesting observations concerning the same song playing twice in a row during party shuffle play, the impact that star ratings have on playback, and comparisons with plain old random play (star ratings not considered)." From the article: "To test the option's preference for 5-stars, I created a short playlist of six songs: one from each different star rating and a song left un-rated. The songs were from the same genre and artist and were changed to be only one second in duration. After resetting the play count to zero, I hit play and left my desk for the weekend. To satisfy a little more curiosity, I ran the same songs once more on a different weekend without selecting the option to play higher rated songs more often. Monday morning the play counts were as shown in Table 1."

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iTunes is a monopoly (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420069)

As a record store owner, My business faces ruin. CD sales have dropped through the floor. People aren't buying half as many CDs as they did just a year ago. Revenue is down and costs are up. My store has survived for years, but I now face the prospect of bankruptcy. Every day I ask myself why this is happening.

I bought the store about 12 years ago. It was one of those boutique record stores that sell obscure, independent releases that no-one listens to, not even the people that buy them. I decided that to grow the business I'd need to aim for a different demographic, the family market. My store specialised in family music - stuff that the whole family could listen to. I don't sell sick stuff like Marilyn Manson or cop-killer rap, and I'm proud to have one of the most extensive Christian rock sections that I know of.

The business strategy worked. People flocked to my store, knowing that they (and their children) could safely purchase records without profanity or violent lyrics. Over the years I expanded the business and took on more clean-cut and friendly employees. It took hard work and long hours but I had achieved my dream - owning a profitable business that I had built with my own hands, from the ground up. But now, this dream is turning into a nightmare.

Every day, fewer and fewer customers enter my store to buy fewer and fewer CDs. Why is no one buying CDs? Are people not interested in music? Do people prefer to watch TV, see films, read books? I don't know. But there is one, inescapable truth - Internet piracy is mostly to blame. The statistics speak for themselves - one in three discs world wide is a pirate. On The Internet, you can find and download hundreds of dollars worth of music in just minutes. It has the potential to destroy the music industry, from artists, to record companies to stores like my own. Before you point to the supposed "economic downturn", I'll note that the book store just across from my store is doing great business. Unlike CDs, it's harder to copy books over The Internet.

A week ago, an unpleasant experience with pirates gave me an idea. In my store, I overheard a teenage patron talking to his friend.

"Dude, I'm going to put this CD on the Internet right away."

"Yeah, dude, that's really lete [sic], you'll get lots of respect."

I was fuming. So they were out to destroy the record industry from right under my nose? Fat chance. When they came to the counter to make their purchase, I grabbed the little shit by his shirt. "So...you're going to copy this to your friends over The Internet, punk?" I asked him in my best Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry voice.

"Uh y-yeh." He mumbled, shocked.

"That's it. What's your name? You're blacklisted. Now take yourself and your little bitch friend out of my store - and don't come back." I barked. Cravenly, they complied and scampered off.

So that's my idea - a national blacklist of pirates. If somebody cannot obey the basic rules of society, then they should be excluded from society. If pirates want to steal from the music industry, then the music industry should exclude them. It's that simple. One strike, and you're out - no reputable record store will allow you to buy another CD. If the pirates can't buy the CDS to begin with, then they won't be able to copy them over The Internet, will they? It's no different to doctors blacklisting drug dealers from buying prescription medicine.

I have just written a letter to the RIAA outlining my proposal. Suing pirates one by one isn't going far enough. Not to mention pirates use the fact that they're being sued to unfairly portray themselves as victims. A national register of pirates would make the problem far easier to deal with. People would be encouraged to give the names of suspected pirates to a hotline, similar to TIPS. Once we know the size of the problem, the police and other law enforcement agencies will be forced to take piracy seriously. They have fought the War on Drugs with skill, so why not the War on Piracy?

This evening, my daughters asked me. "Why do the other kids laugh at us?"

I wanted to tell them the truth - it's because they wear old clothes and have cheap haircuts. I can't afford anything better for them right now.

"It's because they are idiots, kids", I told them. "Don't listen to them."

When the kids went to bed, my wife asked me, "Will we be able to keep the house, David?"

I just shook my head, and tried to hold back the tears. "I don't know, Jenny. I don't know."

When my girls ask me questions like that, I feel like my heart is being wrenched out of my chest. But knowing that I'm doing the best I can to save my family and my business is some consolation.

Some people are offended by my blacklist system. I may have made my store less popular for pirates and sympathisers, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make to save my industry from destruction. I am inspired by artists such as Metallica that have taken a stand against the powerful pirate lobby. When everyone believes 2 + 2 = 5, to simply state the truth, that 2 + 2 = 4, is a courageous act.

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (2, Informative)

the_unknown_soldier (675161) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420078)

Before any idiots post saying "You're lying! don't be an idiot" - This post is a satirical post critizing the music industry, it has been posted before on slashdot, it is a joke. It is not serious!

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (2, Insightful)

shish (588640) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420097)

This post is a satirical post critizing the music industry

... how? All I see is a tired old troll :/ Where's the funny / insightful that "satire" implies?

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (2, Insightful)

the_unknown_soldier (675161) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420109)

"Dude, I'm going to put this CD on the Internet right away."

"Yeah, dude, that's really lete [sic], you'll get lots of respect."

I was fuming. So they were out to destroy the record industry from right under my nose? Fat chance. When they came to the counter to make their purchase, I grabbed the little shit by his shirt. "So...you're going to copy this to your friends over The Internet, punk?" I asked him in my best Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry voice.

 
You don't find that hilarious? Something is wrong with you!

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (1, Offtopic)

mr_sas (682067) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420142)

ahh, c'mon, you don't find "They have fought the War on Drugs with skill" funny?

Troll? (1)

James A. Y. Joyce (877365) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420282)

If you genuinely think that's a troll, you have no sense of humour. A troll is intended to wind people up, not make them laugh. Kinda like your post...oh shit. Did I just get troll'd?!?!?

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (2, Insightful)

RollingThunder (88952) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420225)

Anyone who doesn't catch the inherent parody in

They have fought the War on Drugs with skill

clearly shouldn't be allowed online without a minder.

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420080)

what the fuck was that stupid comment?

it wasn't funny, it wasn't a troll, it didn't even make sense. I was hoping i'd find a gnaa reference in there...

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (1)

JChung2006 (894379) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420088)

Interesting story but what does it have to do with iTunes?

that sucks (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420094)

I can't tell you how many Christian record stores I'm permanently banned from.

Re:that sucks (1)

niteice (793961) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420513)

1?

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420176)

Dude, you need to find another buisness.

Sell your "Christian" music store to some bible thumping fool and do something else.

Because if you assaulted my kid, I would own you. At the very least you would lose your buisness, at the very worst you could be complaining about how iTunes ruined your buisness to your new serial booty bandit cellmate who would think your ass was cute.

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420488)


#1: Asking your punk kid to leave a store is not 'assault'. Our society blows every confrontation into assault. Anything that stops someone from doing anything they damn well please is now assault. WTF? Assault would be taking your laptop and opening your skull up with it. That would be 'assault'. That would also be 'fun' or 'a good thing'.

#2 'I would own you' So, you would sue him from banning your little sperm stain from his store? Are you retarded?

#3: 'Bible thumping fool' Join in on America's new fad: Christian bashing! It's totally fun. And since their religion says turn the other cheek, they don't fight back! Would you say 'koran thumping fool'? No, I think not. Because your are a pussy.

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (3, Insightful)

atldavidg (910815) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420534)

From the article: "I grabbed the little shit by his shirt." Technically--yes, this is physical assault because he laid hands on someone in an aggressive manner. And as far as the religious right not fighting back....what rock have you been living under? I do not use the word "christian" because there's very little that is "Christ-like" in the way that most of today's religious leaders and their followers behave. ...but that's another topic entirely...

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420196)

LOL!

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420220)

David
sorry to hear that you business is stalling. Clearly I don't live in your neighborhood (or even your country), but my experience of downloading music has been different: I hear it on the radio (community radio), if I want to hear it again I download it, if I like it I go and buy it. If I don't like it enough I don't buy it - sort of like podcasting music. Almost every CD I have bought in the past 3 years has been bought this way (that's 1 or 2 a week). I'm buying more music now than I did before I started downloading music.
Perhaps your 'family demographic' is the wrong business strategy for you these days as these 'family music' buyers are downloading but not buying.

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (0, Troll)

danielrose (460523) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420269)

See, i just download it and take it. If i like it i'll listen to it again. I wouldn't pay anyone though, that'd be a false economy. Why pay for what I already have??

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (1)

bezgin (785861) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420261)

So, this means your "christian rock listening clean shiny families" don't come to buy at your store, because they go online and download pirated music. Isn't this a bit weird?

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420293)

May The Cloo(TM) be with you!

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420353)

wow.
So let's see; you dont sell all kinds of music cause you got problems with rap and manson, and thats cool really. You just cant blame people if they'd rather get what THEY want, the way they want it. If you dont have it, its your fault in the first place, and dont come telling me that families are getting family music off the net cause they arent. You are talking about young punksters, and stoopid ones since they even talked in front of you (and i doubt your story is true)

You would like a national blacklist of potential customers. I would like a blacklist of crap shops like yours to make sure you go bankrupt, cause you dont love either music or music listeners and deserve to get out of business as the new distribution model grows in front of your blind eyes.

Enjoy it.

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (5, Insightful)

PaulusMagnus (797138) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420362)

Reads just like one of those anti piracy adverts the MPAA forces us to watch at the movies, or that FACT in the UK put on their DVDs.

Piracy happens because technology happens. We pirate music because it's easy to copy and considerably less than buying it. We don't pirate books because it's frankly too expensive in photocopying charges but there's a whole collection of pirated PDFs out there, if you care to look.

Technology changes the world we live in. I don't recall the Horse & Cart Association of America (HCAA) suing people that moved to cars which put them out of business. I also don't recall the MPAA or RIAA suing Intel, IBM or Microsoft for giving us these tools that enable us to pirate music.

If piracy destroys the music business, so be it. Technology often destroys antiquated business models whether it's children cleaning chimneys, horse drawn carriages, coal mining or farming by hand. These people need to find a business model that works. An artist only makes around 5% from every track sold, the label and distributors cream off the rest. That's unfair, IMO.

Why do we also need to have movie distributors for every corner of the world bidding for the distribution rights? Are we not one global market?

I think it's about time that the movie and music industries were overhauled as they've had way too much power and too much of a monopoly for too long. After all, we're not killing people here with this technology, we're just changing lives. We're just hurting the profit margins, I thought this is what happened in a capitalist and democratic society. Why do we in the Western world create these societies with freedom to innovate and freedom to make money but then try to shackle them when it starts to backfire?

Bring on the technology, lets keep changing the world!!!

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420451)

Boy, I feel your pain. My business is hurting and it's a trapped, sickening feeling. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

If you have any capital left to work with, try and rethink your business. Are there homeschooling texts or DVDs you can sell? Can your store morph into something else (a cafe?).

As for iTunes being the problem,it isn't.
This started with Napster and brought attention to a consumer problem that went unnoticed for years: the price of music.

The very interesting thing about it is that the people everyone thinks they are hurting, the greedy record companys ARE getting hurt. Few think about you, the small store owners, or the artists who are not getting signed.

I'm afraid you are in the middle of an economy collapse. I would get out or modify it's impact on me as soon as i could.

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (1)

scotty1024 (584849) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420496)

Your business will only go bankrupt if you are unethical and allow your business to operate at a loss.

My Grandfather was set for life with a very respectable steady job: manager of the local ice house. Then one day along came refrigerators.

If you have the common sense God gave a horse you'll close the business and move on. If you are slightly less ethical you'll sell the business to someone, possibly a family member and see how much common sense they have.

If you are assaulting your customers in the manner you relate in your posting, you need to close your business before one of them has you prosecuted and thrown in jail.

Re:iTunes is a monopoly (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420544)

I really wish I had a slashdot name, but for now, you can call me AC.

How can you have any doubt in your mind as to why your business is failing? You bully your customers(a grown man resorting to physical measures on a teen? Real fucking classy) and you call your store a 'clean' place. I'm sorry the music economy is hurting you right now, but the nature of the business has changed. This article is about legal downloading, which is what you should really be worried about.

And did you ever think that maybe the nice, clean looking people who come into the store and buy the CDs without saying anything might go home and burn copies for all of their friends? Think about that, next time you threaten away a sale.

Ok... (4, Funny)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420072)

So from this we learn that the random play on iTunes really is random, and that rating a song really does have an effect. Who'd a thunk?

Next, "iTunes really does play tunes!"

Re:Ok... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420155)

How did that get modded insightful instead of funny?

Slashdot needs a few new moderation selections including "Wrong". Mods should also learn the difference between "Insightful" and "Informative".

I'm asked to meta-mod practically everyday and it irritates me to all hell that most moderators are just morons who don't know the difference between "Insightful", "Funny" and "Informative".

Re:Ok... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420173)

Same here. And I only got to moderate once. Before the metamodding started... I suppose I'm just too intelligent to be included in the bunch of drooling modders.

Re:Ok... (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420156)

Confirming something instead of just assuming it is the case. What's that called again.. oh yeah, Science! Clearly this article is in the wrong section.

Re:Ok... (2, Informative)

Jamu (852752) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420285)

Like most random numbers generated by computer they aren't really random. They're pseudo-random, generated by a deterministic algorithm and having the appearance of randomness. The less processing power you dedicate to the algorithm, the less random the numbers will appear on inspection. The iTune statistics can only be as good as the algorithm they used to generate their (pseudo-)random numbers.

You can find true random numbers here [random.org] and also some more information on pseudo-random and random numbers.

Re:Ok... (1, Insightful)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420400)

But take a look at figure 4...

Rating your songs has an effect, but having done so it often makes little difference whether you use random vs rating-biased play! It seems the difference between these two options is dominated by rating distribution, not by individual ratings!

I am not sure I see what he sees (3, Interesting)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420075)

I'm looking at this data and it seems that iTunes does seem to pick out favorite songs more often than not-so-favorite songs. Which, I suppose, is the whole idea behind the Party Shuffle concept.

So after analyzing all that data, how does Brian Hansen come to the conclusion that "it's simply the mind's tendency to find a pattern that makes you think iTunes has a preference". Uh, no. It's the software learning that you have a certain type of genre or style that you strongly favor and will selectively pick songs that are related, thus giving you a better-selected playlist.

And it seems that the program has a bug in that it will play a song twice in a row. That's a real bug (if you don't like that type of thing).

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (4, Informative)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420087)

I think his point was that with a random order, it is possible for the same song to play twice in row. Not likely, but possible. He then goes on to say that people sometimes try to find patterns where there are none...which is correct. iTunes just happened to play the same song twice randomly.

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (1)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420091)

*blink*blink* That was a lot of analysis to figure out just that.

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420096)

Yes it was...methinks he has too much time on his hands.

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420338)

side effect of having a time machine.

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (1)

wwwillem (253720) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420542)

Yes it was...methinks he has too much time on his hands.

Don't think so. The guy 'played' his songs for only one second. I would call that someone in a hurry... :)

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (2, Interesting)

hattig (47930) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420112)

You can only play the same song twice in a row if the algorithm reshuffles the songlist after every song played.

If you do a static shuffling, i.e., a shuffle at the beginning of playback, and then trudge through the playlist that was generated then you will certainly get each song played the same number of times, and you won't get repeats. The only chance of getting a repeated song is if the last song of a shuffled playlist is the same as the first song of the next shuffled list, which is 1/n^2.

You can combine the two however. Have 6 queues, one for *****, another for ****, and so on. Each queue would have its own last-played pointer. Each queue would be randomly shuffled once, until all songs in that queue have been played. Then have your weighting algorithm merely choose which queue to play from, and then play the next song in that queue.

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (1)

NightRain (144349) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420132)

Now imagine that system if you've only got 1 song with 5 stars. Your "5 star" group has a slightly better chance of being selected than your 3 or 4 star group, which means that everytime it's "5 star song time" you'll get the same song. If your 3 and 4 star lists are 1 hundred or so songs strong each, you'll very quickly notice the repetition.

Obviously 1 song in the group is a bit of an exaggeration, it gets the point across. That idea wouldn't work :)

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (1)

RollingThunder (88952) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420260)

You could simply have it avoid the "select from rating group" method the GP was referring to if it sees vastly unbalanced rating group sizes (at least, at the high end... since the rating 1 would hardly ever get played, it wouldn't matter much if there was only 1 of them).

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (1)

ezzzD55J (697465) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420172)

The only chance of getting a repeated song is if the last song of a shuffled playlist is the same as the first song of the next shuffled list, which is 1/n^2.

No, it would be 1/n^2 if that song had to be a particular song. The probability of any song repeating, it's 1/n.

No kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420178)

I immediately thought the same thing. This has to be the only place where we pick up on things like that.

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420194)

Oh god, yes you are right! My mistake, oops.

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420177)

You can only play the same song twice in a row if the algorithm reshuffles the songlist after every song played.

I believe TFA said that he noticed that the same song was on the list twice, so obviously he could have gotten the same song twice in a row. Kind of a no duh moment there, but whatever.

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420217)

Indeed.

Unless the algorithm excuded the previously picked song when selecting the next song to be added to the playlist, which is a reasonable thing to include, and maybe a future version of iTunes will have that (because the same song twice in a row is really annoying, but it is much less annoying if there is but a single song between repetitions). However then it wouldn't be truly random, would it.

Maybe after a song is picked it could get a negative weighting against being picked again. For example, a ***** song would be picked, and then for the song after that it would have a ***** penalty (or don't play), then a **** penalty, then a *** penalty and so on. That would reduce the chance of songs being repeated very close to each other, yet would work with small playlists.

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (1)

Trix606 (324224) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420502)

TFA explains the difference between a regular playlist which uses a non-replacement shuffle (no repeats) and the Party shuffle which uses a replacement shuffle which re-shuffles the whole list after each song is added.
IMHO hearing the same song every 15 minutes makes for a lame party.

Re:I am not sure I see what he sees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420095)

So after analyzing all that data, how does Brian Hansen come to the conclusion that "it's simply the mind's tendency to find a pattern that makes you think iTunes has a preference".

He is showing that if you put it on random shuffle, ignoring ratings, you will get a 100% random playlist, something that others have contended was not happening, because they were seeing 'patterns'.

Yes, iTunes does pick out higher rated songs more often, if you have that turned on.

chill out.

We tried using iTunes (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420079)

An employee suggested to me that we use this music service for a few offices here as an evaluation. I was skeptical at first but he explained the benefits of using a iTunes instead of playing music over the PA system. So I decided to let him install the iTunes client into 5 offices to see how the employees got on. Besides, our IT manager had been using it in his PC and it seemed to work fine, why not try it on the client PC's?

Once he'd got the PC's up and running with iTunes we let the users try it out. It all seemed fine to start with: iTunes was a pretty good replacement for buying CD's and the users could still do their work as normal.

Alas it did not stay that way. After a few days, I had lost count of the number of complaints received. Users could not find things they were used to (like the 'next track' button) or tasks they could not perform that they previously could with registered software. The constant harrasment by the RIAA became more of a day job than my own. The final straw came when one employee lost several hours work when the iTunes software suddenly crashed and corrupted his software.

Needless to say, Apple offered no support whatsoever. I made the employee remove iTunes from the offices and lets just say he's not with us anymore.

Reminds me of... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420081)

the time my 2G iPod seemed to have a liking for the Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2. It was playing a track off it pretty much every other song. Those of you who know the album can appreciate that it's not the kind of music that you'd maybe choose as everyday listening material.

It became so annoying that I ended up removing the album from iTunes, at which point my iPod promptly died. The replacement was big on Roxy Music IIRC...

Re:Reminds me of... (4, Interesting)

hattig (47930) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420124)

Maybe songs need more than one rating.

Rating For Morning Listening (* for Aphex Twin, Slayer, etc)
Rating For Afternoon Listening (**)
Rating For Evening Listening (****)
Rating For Party Listening (**)
Rating For ${mood} Listening

Then instead of getting work done we can spend out entire lives rating music.

Re:Reminds me of... (3, Interesting)

Gorath99 (746654) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420322)

I was thinking about something like this myself. Basically, what I'd like to have are two flags:

1: Never play unless I explicitly say so.
2: Don't include in shuffle.

The first one I'd use to flag interviews etc. that are sometimes included on albums. Is not necessarily bad content, just something that you don't generally need to hear multiple times.

The second one is for flagging things like Beethoven's 9th. It's really good music, but you don't want 67 minute long pieces in a random playlist.

I currently just use the 1 and 2 star ratings for this, but it's not really ideal. It's too bad (but understandable) that iTunes has no option for looking at TXX frames [id3.org] or I could implement it in a better way.

track selection (1)

Lshmael (603746) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420466)

If you deselect the track in iTunes, it should never play it unless you double-click on it.

Re:track selection (1, Insightful)

Gorath99 (746654) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420516)

With the checkmark, you mean? True, that works, but I find the thing to be the most confusing part of the entire interface.

The iTunes help says that:
"A black checkmark next to a song means the song will be included in your next action. For example, only songs with black checkmarks are transferred to your iPod or imported when you click the Import button. Or, when you're playing all the songs in a list, only the checked songs play."

But meanwhile, if I select a bunch of tracks and I set a rating via the context menu, all the tracks are rated, even those that aren't marked.

I'd prefer to use an explicit tag that does exactly what I want it too and no more or less, rather than this checkmark thingy that seemingly arbitrarily affects some things, but not others.

Re:Reminds me of... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420505)

Those of you who know the album can appreciate that it's not the kind of music that you'd maybe choose as everyday listening material.

I like it... but then most of the rest of my music is just as weird.

Interesting (4, Interesting)

hattig (47930) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420089)

I wish iTunes would get ratings from some online source much like it gets tracknames from Gracenote. Can you imagine a server of user-submitted ratings? You could opt to use an average rating from all users, or a rating from users with particular tasks (i.e., if you are a metaller, then you'll probably not want raver's musical opinions affecting your ratings!).

Why? Because I haven't got the time to go around rating my entire music library. Judging from that article, it is dangerous to only do a few because of the weighting algorithm used - surely it would be more sensible to assume that 'not rated' meant 3 stars rather than 0 stars? That way you could rate down shitty songs, and rate up excellent songs, but ignore rating the vast majority of songs.

Re:Interesting (3, Interesting)

the_unknown_soldier (675161) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420101)

I only rate good songs... Indifference is the worst rating you can give to a song, so i think "0" fits in pretty well

As for Gracenote: perhaps sales on the ITMS could act as a gauge of this. e.g. "This is this artist's most downloaded song and this artist compared to similar ones is bought 5x as much, so our algorithms suggest it should be rated 5" Then once you have downloaded it you can change it if you get the time.

Re:Interesting (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420235)

Problem is, then you'd end up playing what ITMS wanted you to play. And then they'd get paid by record companies to fix ratings slightly. And... well, you can probably work it out from there.

Re: Try last.fm (4, Interesting)

P!Alexander (448903) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420170)

That's exactly why I love last.fm [www.last.fm] (formerly Audioscrobbler & Last.fm). It automatically tracks what you listen to and then allows that information to be used to give you neighbors in the music world based on what interests you have in common. You can add friends, join groups, and even tag your music. All of this is extremely useful in finding new stuff. They've got plugins for all the major media players (and even some minor ones).

Add on top of that the ability to play a custom-built radio station, set it to play only new music or listen only to music from a particular user profile.

Linux and BSD supported! Open source plugins and radio station player! Could it get better? ;)

---
but make sure that the last line
Generated by SlashdotRndSig [snop.com] via GreaseMonkey [mozdev.org]

Re: Try last.fm (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420188)

That looks pretty neat, I'll have to look into it some more.

You wonder why the music industry is mad (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420227)

"I haven't got the time to go around rating my entire music library"

Much less pay for it, I assume. I'm a certifiable geezer by slashdot standards (>40), but I do know a thing or two about music. I was a really hardcore music collector in college, and one core credo was to know everything in your collection inside-out. Practically speaking, it meant that any new addition to the library (vinyl or cassette, if you've heard of either) stayed in a "just-in" quarantine section until I had listened to it enough times to consider it "known".

It is really sad that people amass immense music collections and really don't have any familiarity with the music they have. Well, maybe it isn't actually sad, but I have to wonder what the point is.

Re:You wonder why the music industry is mad (3, Interesting)

hattig (47930) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420252)

Music has turned from something that you collect and treasure into something you have and listen to practically all the time. It is very rare you decide you want to listen to just song X these days (in comparison to how much music is listened to overall), and actively put it and actively spend the time solely listening to it. Large mp3 collections have replaced radios at many places, great for getting rid of the music you really dislike and the DJ.

Would I pay to have my music rated by an external algorithm? No. Would I pay to have my music peer rated? No - I'd also be contributing back to it like I contribute back to Gracenote and FreeDB.

I suppose it is easiest to just rate everything *** and apply ****/***** and **/* to the tracks I really notice as standing out.

Re:You wonder why the music industry is mad (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420279)

I don't understand how you listen to it at all. I go weeks without hearing any music except the jingles on tv. This assumption that everyone is a rabid consumer of music worries me. People who buy a CD a month are in the minority, are they not?

Re:You wonder why the music industry is mad (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420456)

I don't know about the OP, but I listen to music almost every day. I have an iRiver I use on my commute to and from work or if I'm going out, and I tend to listen to music while I'm at work. I can easily clock up 30+ hours of listening to music in a week, depending on exactly what I'm doing at work at the time.

Hell, even on my way home from a night out clubbing I'll be using my iRiver, although as the club I tend to go to kicks out at 7:30 am that's as much to keep me awake as being out of a desire to listen to even more music...

Re:You wonder why the music industry is mad (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420481)

So err, when do you think? What have you got against silence?

Re:Interesting (2, Informative)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420254)

Some open-source music players have a system where music is automatically rated based on how often you select the song to play (and possibly on how often you interrupt it once playing). This always seemed like a good way to make the program learn what you like.

I can't really say how well this works in practice, or which programs support it, because I don't use the feature myself. However, I suspect it would work better than an explicit rating system, much like bayesian spam filters work better than explicit ones.

Re:Interesting (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420324)

Windows Media Player also has this feature, and rates all "unrated" tracks at a default of three stars. Anything that gets played often gets bumped up, anything that's frequently skipped gets bumped down. Anything that you rate yourself is excluded from this auto-adjustment.

Re:Interesting (4, Interesting)

Stuart Gibson (544632) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420262)

Select All -> Get Info -> My Rating -> Three Stars.

Rate up and down others as necessary. OK, not the point that default should be doing this for you, but a quick fix if you want it to work that way.

If you already have songs rated then create a 0 star smart playlist and repeat.

Stuart

Re:Interesting (5, Funny)

Feanturi (99866) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420275)

A public moderation system, cool. That never gets abused anywhere that I know of.

Re:Interesting (1)

McTaggart (893466) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420330)

Just add your entire collection to the playlist and set it on properly random. Then rate them as they play, while you're doing whatever you do when you listen to music. Sure it'll take some time but after a short while you'll get into the habit of doing it and wont notice.

Re:Interesting (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420341)

seeing as how popular crappy music is now adays, you'll probably end up with britney spears playing every few seconds..... that is assuming you have her on your ipod..........

Re:Interesting (2, Informative)

rimbaldi (596256) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420471)

The Music Recommendation System for iTunes [uiuc.edu] from the University of Illinois doesn't solve your problem because it requires you to rate most of your own library. However, it might be an interesting step on the way to solving the problem you raise.

Re:Interesting (1)

Kr3m3Puff (413047) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420519)

If you are interested in something like that, check out Last.FM [www.last.fm] powered by AudioScrobbler. It will let you know other people who share your same musical interests. Instead of "rating" songs, it simply analyzes what you listen to and lets you know what others listen to.

AudioScrobbler plug-ins are available for many popular players.

Finally (5, Funny)

Ed Thomson (704721) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420099)

Someone to show how cool mathematics is

Re:Finally (1)

Mister Impressive (875697) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420283)

Someone to show how cool mathematics is

Blasphemy! Mathematics has always been cool, too cool for school in fact.

Alternatives (1)

kuchin (902689) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420119)

There are a lot of other programs [myprogs.net] , if you don't like iTunes...

Re:Alternatives (1)

kuchin (902689) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420128)

Ouch. I wanted to post this under iTunes is a monopoly [slashdot.org] comment.

Kill all arab-bashing rednecks! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420120)

Starting from the ones occupying the White House!

"When they come to ethnically cleanse me
Will you speak out? Will you defend me?
Freedom of expression doesn't make it alright
Trampled underfoot by the rise of the right."

Re:Kill all arab-bashing rednecks! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420250)

Kill all the arabs

This site rocks! (-1, Offtopic)

rathehun (818491) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420131)

Let me be the first to say, this SITE ROCKS!

How to be http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/guides/guide- display/-/RYNOFNADLYT1/104-6524065-8061536 [amazon.com] cool!.

The ultimate keyboard! http://www.daskeyboard.com/ [daskeyboard.com] Well - Maybe we had this earlier.

Drool....

/sarcasm R.

Some useful sites (0, Offtopic)

Guru Goo (875426) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420146)

Some useful sites??

Underlying formula (5, Informative)

Pemdas (33265) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420191)

From their results, I'd venture a guess as to the underlying algorithm:

Each song is given a number of points equal to (rating + 1). Then the probability of the song being played is (song rating)/(total points).

Or, to put more succinctly:

prob(song) = (rating)/(n + sum(i=1..n)(rating(i)))

That yields probabilities in the given test case of:

5 star - .285
4 star - .238
3 star - .190
2 star - .143
1 star - .095
0 star - .048

Which is reasonably close to what the author found. Heck, if I were implementing that feature, it's what I'd try first...

Re:Underlying formula (5, Interesting)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420239)

Your decimals look more like the pricing model than the weights for playing songs..

5 star - .285 -- $299, iPod (full?) 20gb
4 star - .238 -- $249, iPod mini 6gb
3 star - .190 -- $199, iPod mini 4gb
2 star - .143 -- $149, iPod shuffle 1gb
1 star - .095 -- $99, iPod shuffle 512mb

Car has a "random" bug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420192)

I have a certain CD that causes my Audi S4 (when set to random mode) to play the same track over and over and over. Guess somebody didn't prove their recurrence actually worked.

At least iTunes doesn't seem to have that particular problem. :)

Why Assume a Bell Curve? (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420195)

Seriously, on what basis is he assuming a bell curve of preferences?

You'd think, with iTunes, that people would be buying music they like (a four or five rating) in a much higher proportion than music they'd rate as a three.

Then there's music added from your own collection. Maybe its just me, but my preferences tend to be stronger than -, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

I usually go through my music collection on a regular basis and delete crap that I don't listen to, which is usually anything less than a three, and definitely a - or a one.

And is 4334 just a random arbitrary # of songs to use?
(when you add up X0 through X5)

Because a bell curve is average. (1)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420221)

I was gonna go with an n/t here, but you have some other points that I can address as well.

Some of us aren't music nazis. I am; I keep all of my music in a custom database, with a custom structure designed for tagging which I'm currently working on trying to design a way to serialize to ID3 without success. That being said, for the average person, they just keep whatever music in their iTunes, and if they care enough about the song, they rate it.

Personally, I use 1-5 ratings, and leave no stars to mean "unrated", but I might be a little different from the typical user. But then again, I also don't use iTunes for anything other than putting music on my iPod and grabbing podcasts occasionally.

Lastly, I never delete old music because there's always a chance you get a tune stuck in your head and remember that good old song, and you just want to hear it One More Time *daft punk*.

And yes, 4334 is an arbitrary number. But it's a good representation of the number of MP3s someone would have with access to some file sharing, cds, and a few online purchases. I'd give this article a thumbs up on accuracy.

I found it an odd statement too (2, Interesting)

wackybrit (321117) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420315)

Most people follow a bell shaped curve for their ratings, with the 3-star rating being the most common.

I mean, where is this statistic coming from?

In my case the majority of rated songs are 5's, almost the same number of 4's, then some 3's, and hardly any 2's or 1's.. with perhaps 50% left unrated. I use iTunes at least several hours a day. Those of my friends who use iTunes seem to have a similar distribution.

Re:Why Assume a Bell Curve? (1)

FuturePastNow (836765) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420434)

Agreed. I've never rated a song lower than three, and I have very few threes. All of the songs that I like are either four or five, and the songs that I don't like are left unrated.

I do this because I use the "My Top Rated" smart playlist and I only rate songs I want to go in there. Although I keep the crap I don't listen to.

Re:Why Assume a Bell Curve? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420435)

your simply misusing the rating system & cramping how well it can work by doing this. Rather than having nothing below 3 on your list you can simply assume if it's on your ipod it's worth listening to, and rate the songs worth listening to on a 1-5 scale rather than trying to rate it vs all songs including those you dont care to have on your ipod.

Some calculations errors in my opinion.. (5, Informative)

Fr4ncis (763671) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420198)

If you have 2000 songs and 40 of them are from the same artist, there is always a 2% chance of hearing them next with random play. So right after one of their songs finishes, odds almost guarantee they will be played again within the next 50 songs and show a 50% chance they will play again within the next 25 songs. It's simply the mind's tendency to find a pattern that makes you think iTunes has a preference.

A way to calculate the odds that 2% will be played in the next 50 songs doesn't work 50* (2/100) = 100% as the author does, and neither 25*(2*100) = 50% is correct.

The correct calculations are: 1-(98/100)^50 = 63% and 1-(98/100)^25 = 39%.
This way you calculate the odds a song will be played at least once in the next 50 or 25 songs.

If you want to calculate the odds the song will be played exactly once in the next 50 or 25 songs:

50 * (2/100) * ((98/100)^49) = 37% or 25 * (2/100) * ((98/100)^24) = 31%.

I guess that's all..

Re:Some calculations errors in my opinion.. (1)

Fr4ncis (763671) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420210)

I forgot, I used Bernoulli Distribution to do the maths, you can check it out here [wolfram.com] .

Re:Some calculations errors in my opinion.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420464)

His calculation was for how soon a song BY THE SAME ARTIST would be played again. Read the para again.

Re: Some calculations errors in my opinion.. (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420532)

It is kind of a surprise, but then on Slashdot with all its nerds, it might be expected. Here is apparently someone who not only has the courage to indicate that his opinion is flawed, but also points out the (mathematical) errors in his opinion.

Bert

From the article...trick of the mind (3, Informative)

djupedal (584558) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420202)

For those too lazy to go read for themselves...

"Many claim to still see patterns as iTunes rambles through their music collection, but the majority of these patterns are simply multiple songs from the same artist. Think of it this way: If you have 2000 songs and 40 of them are from the same artist, there is always a 2% chance of hearing them next with random play. So right after one of their songs finishes, odds almost guarantee they will be played again within the next 50 songs and show a 50% chance they will play again within the next 25 songs. It's simply the mind's tendency to find a pattern that makes you think iTunes has a preference."

Re:From the article...trick of the mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420296)



So right after one of their songs finishes, odds almost guarantee they will be played again within the next 50 songs and show a 50% chance they will play again within the next 25 songs

Probability of not hearing artist in next N songs:

0.98^1 = 0.98

0.98^25 = 0.60

0.98^50 = 0.36

0.98^100 = 0.13

There's still a 13% chance that you won't hear the same artist for the next 100 songs; not necessarily a guarantee as you stated.

Re:From the article...trick of the mind (2, Interesting)

Soul-Burn666 (574119) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420332)

Moreover, following the "Birthday Paradox" [wikipedia.org] , if you have N songs and the selection is completely random, then in a list of sqrt(N), there's a 50% chance a song will appear twice.
For 4000 songs, that's around 64~ songs. So if your player chooses tracks completely randomly then 50% of the times you'll listen to 64 songs, you'll hear the same song twice from those 64.

Even if your player doesn't play the same song twice, if you have 8000 songs from 4000 artists, 2 songs per artist, then you get a similar calculation.

Rating songs (2, Insightful)

ptimmons (235569) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420223)

I take a small bit of exception to the author's statement:
"Although the higher rated songs are given preference, you will not definitively hear more 5-star rated songs than all other ratings. Most people follow a bell shaped curve for their ratings, with the 3-star rating being the most common."

In fact, I find that I tend to rate only the songs I *really* like and *really* dislike, and leave the average songs alone. I suspect that I am not alone here. It's akin to the trend of many online forums to attract polarized opinions; i.e., few people take the time to log into forums and post comments that are middle-of-the-road -- typically they're full of "THIS SUCKS" or "HELL YEAH" posts.

Re:Rating songs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13420358)

and the default rating for a song will be 3 stars, so how exactly are you the exception?

Coral (1)

Saiyine (689367) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420241)


Coralized url [nyud.net] .

Just in case, as the web in question seems to be keeping well with slashdot effect.


--
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Kunowalls!!! [kunowalls.host.sk] Random sexy wallpapers (NSFW!).

This post lacks elephants! (-1, Offtopic)

A Life in Hell (6303) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420264)

This post lacks elephants!

He also references the "Birthday Paradox" (1, Offtopic)

Vengie (533896) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420281)

For anyone looking on an interesting read about stats (that is actually accurate) check out the Birthday Paradox [wikipedia.org] .

The whole "good chance that the same artist will come up in the next 50 songs" is actually the same type of math as the Birthday Paradox. (larger set)

Congratulations (-1, Flamebait)

Spackler (223562) | more than 9 years ago | (#13420422)

I would like to congratulate you on proving your parents $120,000.00 was not wasted on drinking at school. You have studied hard, and your thesis shows it. Is that your phone ringing? I think it might be the Nobel commitee calling. Now that the iPod is understood, the world is a safer place.

(note to mods: yes, it is flamebait, but it is insightful flamebait. Good luck with that)

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