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The Perception of 'Random' on the iPod

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the learning-machines dept.

292

Robaato writes "Stephen Levy writes in the Guardian about the perception of randomness, or the lack thereof, on an iPod set to shuffle." From the article: "My first iPod loved Steely Dan. So do I. But not as much as my iPod did.... I didn't keep track of every song that played every time I shuffled my tunes, but after a while I would keep a sharp ear out for what I came to call the LTBSD (Length of Time Before Steely Dan) Factor. The LTBSD Factor was always perplexingly short." My first iPod shuffle refused to let me delete (sigh) Weird Al's Polkamon off of the flash memory.

cancel ×

292 comments

And Zonk dupes himself... again... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359503)

Is the iPod Shuffle Playing Favorites? [slashdot.org]

How about an analysis of the randomness of Zonk dupes. I guess I should be happy it's not a games story.

Re:And Zonk dupes himself... again... (4, Informative)

strider44 (650833) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359547)

I think that the slashdot editors can be forgiven for posting a link to an article on a similar topic a year and a half later...

That article is btw referenced in this one.

Re:And Zonk dupes himself... again... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359597)

"And Zonk dupes himself... again..."

To be fair, the other story was feb of 05. Dupes suck, but do you really expect Zonk to remember every single story he's posted?

Besides, the article that was linked to was recent.

Re:And Zonk dupes himself... again... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359621)

I remembered it, and I didn't get paid to post it.

Re:And Zonk dupes himself... again... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359643)

Maybe it's time to get a life outside of Slashdot ...

Re:And Zonk dupes himself... again... (1, Offtopic)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359723)

"I remembered it, and I didn't get paid to post it."

So? Do you remember every comment you've posted?

Re:And Zonk dupes himself... again... (2, Informative)

GarfBond (565331) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359845)

Not to mention it looks like Steven Levy essentially duped his own article for the Guardian, with the added benefit of time and history with the shuffle to make a conclusion.

Dupe Tag (2, Interesting)

sr180 (700526) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360075)

And the question remains, why doesnt the DUPE tag work anymore? I liked that tag. Seeing it meant I could avoid the 500 "OMG! Its a Dupe!11!" comments.

Re:And Zonk dupes himself... again... (1)

Somatic (888514) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359773)

Even better, here's a quote from that thread:

Hey, shut up! It's a new post and it's NOT a dupe. Let's not push our luck, OK?

North Korea has tested a nuclear missle! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359885)

http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2006/10/08/korea-ato mic.html [www.cbc.ca]

N. Korea tests nuclear weapon
Last Updated: Sunday, October 8, 2006 | 11:42 PM ET
CBC News

North Korea has tested its first nuclear weapon, its official news agency reported on Monday.

The Korean Central News Agency reported that the test was successful and no radiation had leaked from the site.

The test took place at 10:36 a.m. local time (9:36 p.m. ET Sunday) near the city of Kilju, according to South Korean defence sources cited by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

U.S. government officials were trying to assess the report Sunday night.

News of the test followed a demand from China and Japan on Sunday that the communist country shelve the test.

North Korea said Tuesday that it would test an atomic weapon because of "the U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war."

Following that statement, the UN, U.S. and other countries all asked that it not proceed.

Bias (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359507)

Re:Bias - hmm (3, Insightful)

sreekotay (955693) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359629)

Not sure its so much confirmation bias (alone at least), as it is that the odds of NOT playing a song from the same artists over the next X songs shrinks more rapidly than intuition suggests. That is, for example the odds of NOT having a run of X heads or Y tails when flipping Z coins is very, very small.

The article mentions the "how many people does it take to get to a shared birthday thing" - and the point there is that its not that it takes 40 people to get to one with a SPECIFIC birthday but only 40 or so to find two that SHARE a birthday.
-----
graphically speaking [kotay.com]

OCD (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359509)

Or - and here is the nub of an issue that would consume me for more than a year - was the shuffle function, meant to mix up my music collection in a random fashion, actually not random at all?
There there, Mr. Levy, we'll get you all the randomness you want [wikipedia.org] . In fact, we have a special place filled with randomness and padded white walls! You're going to like it there.

You know, instead of wasting your interviewee's time, you could have installed a five song list on your iPod and set it to shuffle. You'd have to carefully mark down the track number being played and listen to it for 100 songs. Do this a few times and make sure you're very methodical about what you do. Wipe the iPod, put five songs on it in order and then listen to a hundred songs "randomly." If you start to see a pattern developing or one song is obviously favored over the other, it will begin to show up.

But on the more technical side, they have to seed the random variable with something. Whether or not it's an internal clock, I'm not sure. Either way, they have to derive a random number and it's possible that their seed isn't good enough or has too few states or is prone to being seeded at the same state, etc. Based on this information, I hate to break it to you but it is very hard to be truly random.

Re:OCD (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359603)

But on the more technical side, they have to seed the random variable with something. Whether or not it's an internal clock, I'm not sure. Either way, they have to derive a random number and it's possible that their seed isn't good enough or has too few states or is prone to being seeded at the same state, etc. Based on this information, I hate to break it to you but it is very hard to be truly random.

Just to be pedantic, they have to derive psuedo-random numbers. And although it is hard, there are dozens of algorithms that are "good enough" in 99.9% of cases. Like this one. [wikipedia.org]

Re:OCD (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359863)

Holy crap!! "It was designed to have a colossal period of 2^19937 1 (the creators of the algorithm proved this property). In practice, there is little reason to use larger ones, as most applications do not require 2^19937 unique combinations."

To put that in decimal: 4.3154247973881626480552355163379e+6001. That's quite a number. I think that dwarfs "astronomical".

Re:OCD (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359967)

To put that in decimal: 4.3154247973881626480552355163379e+6001. That's quite a number. I think that dwarfs "astronomical".

Well, actually it's 43154247973881626480552355163379198390539350432267 11505165250541403330680137658091130451362931858466 55452699382576488353179022173345844139095282691546 09168019007875343741396296801920114486480902661414 31844327698030006672810498409545158817607713296984 37621346217903963913412852056276196005131066463766 48615994236675486537480241964350295935168662363909 04794834769231397830137782078571241905447433284452 91831729732423108882650813216264694510777078122828 29444775022680488057820028764659399164766265200900 56149580034405435369038986289406179287201112083361 48084474829135473283672778795656483078469091169458 66230169702401260240187028746650033445774570315431 29299602518778079011937590286317108414964247337898 62675033089613749057663409052895722900160380005716 30875191373979555047468154333253474991046248132504 51634179655147057548145920085947261483621387555711 68644457897508862779964873043084504842234206292665 18556024339339190844368921018424844677042727664601 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34096948730547494301216165686750735749555882340303 98987467297545506095773692155919548081551403591570 71299300570271172862528431974133123076178867975067 84260195436760305990340708481464607278955495487742 14075357062121719825219297886978691673462561843017 54549038641115854295045699209056367415390309680414 71, but who's counting?

Re:OCD (1)

Crunchie Frog (791929) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360309)

but who's counting?

well i was but i lost my place after 43

Re:OCD (2, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359989)

As if any of this were relevant to music listening.

The simple truth is that the shuffle was an extremely lame product that was only created so Apple could cover the entire price range of mp3 players. Nobody else had the gall to sell a player with no display. "An experience in aural spontaneity..." pardon me while I barf. It was a simple matter of designing to a price. I won't question Apple on it because they've made more money from the iPod than I ever would have imagined. The folks who bought a Shuffle, on the other hand, I have to wonder about.

Re:OCD (1)

chaoticgeek (874438) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360043)

I don't care about a display. I care about it holding my music and playing it back for me. Thats about it. I'd like some other features, like more format support but oh well. I would never buy an iPod to watch videos or play the games, I've got other things to do that. My DS works great for games and I hate the small screen to watch videos on, I'd rather have my computer or my TV do that for me.

Re:OCD (5, Informative)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359659)

Not OCD. Sub-clinical schizophrenia [wikipedia.org] . . Read all the way to the end of the article(I'm new here). If you don't want to, I'll summarize: It's more about randomness than the iPod. He eventually realizes his suspicions of programmer malfeasance are in fact an expression of his own favoritism, not the iPod's. In other words, its all in his head. So a worthwhile, interesting article, and even if he could have benefitted by experimenting himself, that wouldn't have made for a very fun read, or an interesting question to ask Steve Jobs while he had the chance.

Whoa... (1)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359685)

But on the more technical side, they have to seed the random variable with something. Whether or not it's an internal clock, I'm not sure. Either way, they have to derive a random number and it's possible that their seed isn't good enough or has too few states or is prone to being seeded at the same state, etc. Based on this information, I hate to break it to you but it is very hard to be truly random.

There must be bias on the internet. I remember reading the same thing not ten minutes ago in TFA... creepy.

Sorry buddy, i disagree (2, Interesting)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359719)

I think (and have... thunk?) that "randomness" on the ipod is actually a secret R&D weapon in the apple ipod toolkit. From a psychological standpoint alone, what is the value of all other mp3 players being truly (read unadjusted psuedo random) and the ipod being a little less.. that is, what if they, say, mark the number of times you don't let a song play through, but skip it in the first 10 seconds? There are powerful means by which they can onboard build a profile and i have three things to say about that:

1) that is a FUN project for a team of engineers to do and,
2) Why wouldn't they for the HUGE hidden psycological impact it could have in differentiating the player
3) It's closed source so you can't actually tell, so the five songs with-no-user-input model wouldn't work. Another might...

Regardless, i wouldn't expect them to miss the importance such a feature would have. The iPod just keeps the vibe going, while the competition keeps playing country-house-ambient-country-house-ambient

Also, the "sound-check" would be a good place to do some quick BPM detection to have like tempo's play. The new settings for more- or less-random in iTunes almost scream "we are doing something tricky"

Wouldn't you, if you could?

OCD - insightful??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359975)

How is this post insightful? It shows clearly that eldavojohn did not even bother to read the article. If he did, he would have noticed the paragraphs about how difficult it is be truly random.

From the article:
Robbin is talking randomness in terms that software can reasonably produce, which is not perfect randomness. True randomness, it turns out, is very difficult to produce. This subject was most famously examined by Claude Shannon, arguably the Father of Randomness.
And from the next paragraph:
And if you're randomising on a computer, you have to introduce a "seed", which is a starting point for the algorithm that mixes up the selections. The seed must draw on some unpredictable input of time that begins outside the computer. Otherwise, the results would be the same over and over again.

Now you can rest easy eldavojohn, you don't have to break anything to Mr. Levy, he already stated the facts you so arrogantly pointed out.

Re:OCD (1)

hereschenes (813329) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360003)

If you actually bothered to read the article, you'd see that he covers what you've said in your last paragraph. In the end, he concludes that the perception of shuffle being non-random is nothing to do with the iPod.

Re:OCD (1)

linuxrocks123 (905424) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360029)

I think it's more likely that people think that a random sampling should repeat less than it does. I wrote a little program called music_randomizer on my computer that plays songs randomly for me. Its main purpose is to wake me up in the morning (I have a cron job for it), but whenever I use it to just listen to songs I always find things repeating more than I expected. The code is correct; it uses the C random() function to index into an array of filenames and pick one to play, but it surely repeats a lot more than I expected it would. If I used music_randomizer frequently, I would probably add a complex weighting scheme so as to lengthen the time between songs repeating. Perhaps Apple should do the same.

Random Comment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359517)

My iPod smokes up more than I do, except on Sunday night, when I smoke up with Jesus. He gets stressed out on Sundays for some reason. Milk. It's what's for dinner. If you're a calf.

No No No! (-1, Offtopic)

jrobinson5 (974354) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359585)

That's not true randomness! Here's a truly random comment:

aldkjlOIjflsfASkjdfoadiuf oPIJf;alwjroiu Ojkalewruiosdjnlaruowieruoajfikeurpoijemlfkmvklups dDF

Re:No No No! (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359869)

No, it's not! You have "al" four times in that, at least! Do you have something against Al! OMG CONSPIRACY!!!

The point is that true randomness doesn't look random, because randomness necessarily includes the possibility of patterns.

SLAYER!!!!!!!1 (3, Funny)

litewoheat (179018) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359527)

My iPod likes Slayer and Marilyn Manson. I guess its posessed.

Re:SLAYER!!!!!!!1 (0, Redundant)

Reaperducer (871695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359587)

My iPod like Bjork and Springsteen. I think it's manic depressive.

Re:SLAYER!!!!!!!1 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359695)

Only if you're a half fag. Manson is a dirty filthy aids bitch hanving fag. Slayer's OK

Never true randomness (1, Interesting)

linuxci (3530) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359529)

Well you'll never get true randomness but I used to notice this in mp3 playing software a lot of times particularly winamp seemed to play some tracks a lot more than others when on random.

On Linux I used to use a command line player and a nice structure of directories and symlinks to make the playlists and never used to bother with random.

Now I do most of my work on a Mac, but I also happen to listen to music less now, so random is now random enough for me.

Anyway, slow news day of what, this is the second pointless ipod story I read today on here :)

I like ipods, I have one but only ever use it on long journeys and no I don't have DRM'd tracks so I didn't care about online music purchases. The ipod just happened to be the one that worked the best (scrollwheel is nice and quick) and having a mac I knew it'd work well.

Re:Never true randomness (2, Insightful)

Reaperducer (871695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359605)

I have one but only ever use it on long journeys and no I don't have DRM'd tracks so I didn't care about online music purchases. The ipod just happened to be the one that worked the best (scrollwheel is nice and quick) and having a mac I knew it'd work well.

It's a shame how people on Slashdot aren't allowed to just like iPods -- they always feel pressured to justify the purchase.

"Best tool for the job" isn't good enough. You have to be different. But only in a pro-Linux anti-iPod sort of way. Any other kind of being different gets you modded troll or flamebait.

Re:Never true randomness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16360301)

I too have noticed that although my music is distributed across two or three folders, Winamp likes to play songs of the same artist in a row or at extremely close together. WiMP and MPClassic don't give me that problem, but I use them lots less. Before reading today, I was also conviced that it loved to stick to the same folder for quite a while, even if the selection of songs there was like 20 songs versus what must have been 90+ in another.

It is true that patterns are in our heads. I am very tempted to mail this to my close conspiracy theorist friends, since they believe there aren't coincidences and everything is manipulated by dark lords with infinite resources throughout our complete human history. They won't say it includes iPods, but the acceptance of confirmation bias here shows me that you guys aren't so crazy after all.

Random iPod articles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359549)

Probably more random than the percieved randomness of iPod articles that show up on Slashdot

Mine loves Chevelle (2, Interesting)

Private.Tucker (843252) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359559)

...well, used to. Then I made a different playlist and labeled it as "Upbeat" music. Now It loves Motion City Soundtrack. Now, I like all the music I have on my iPod (duh) but its very noticeable when I hear the same song 3 times in one hour 30 minutes worth of driving. I can tell you that over the last 2 days (4 hours of driving) I have heard Foo Fighters' "Enough Space" 6 times out of 231 songs. Does the iPod sense higher played songs/albums/groups or is its randomness just that awful? 2GB Nano 1g

iPod metadata (2, Interesting)

Meph_the_Balrog (796101) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359909)

Does the iPod sense higher played songs/albums/groups


Actually it does. There's a counter for the number of times a song has been played through completely. I believe one of the in-built playlists accesses this metadata.

Mind you, as to wether the device uses this information to weight its shuffle function is something I have no idea about.

Re:iPod metadata (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360069)

I'm inclined to think so, as I seemed to get highly-played songs more often during random playback, almost as a pseudo-rating. Interestingly, it only seemed to happen on playlists, not during the "shuffle songs" entire-library approach (though, that could be because my library is at least ten times the size of my playlists, and I didn't leave it going that often).

If you do a shuffle of a playlist, album, or library, it WILL do each song one time per set, provided you leave it playing uninterrupted for that long. What seems to happen is that higher-played songs tend to show up earlier in the shuffle, and as docking and several other things break your place in the playback list, you hear them more often since you're not getting through the entire list. Mind you, this is my thought on the matter based off of my own experience, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the play count has at least a minor effect on it's position in a shuffled playlist. Since iTunes7's introduction of the "skip count" data, I'd be surprised if that's not also minorly weighted and used beyond the creation of smart playlists.

Old News. (4, Informative)

mh101 (620659) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359569)

I recall The Steve personally addressing this issue in one of his keynotes (although not with iPods, but iTunes). People thought iTunes' shuffle feature wasn't random enough. Steve assured everyone that it indeed was completely random, but then announced that iTunes had a new "Smart Shuffle" option. The description in iTunes is "Smart shuffle allows you to control how likely you are to hear multiple songs in a row by the same artist or from the same album." There's a slider with "More Likely" on one end, "Less likely" on the other end, and "Random" right in the middle. Although this feature is in iTunes, it has not yet made it onto iPods.

I personally have had it happen where my iPod is in shuffle mode and I've heard not just two songs in a row by the same artist, but a song plays and then the next song from that album follows it. And that's with a library of over 5,000 songs. Naturally it's more likely to happen on a much smaller Shuffle with a fraction of the songs.

Re:Old News. (1)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359649)

I personally have had it happen where my iPod is in shuffle mode and I've heard not just two songs in a row by the same artist, but a song plays and then the next song from that album follows it. And that's with a library of over 5,000 songs. Naturally it's more likely to happen on a much smaller Shuffle with a fraction of the songs.



I encountered a glitch once that did something quite similar, but on a more "intentional" basis. My iPod nano was in shuffle mode, but when it played the first track "Pump It," on the Black Eyed Peas album Monkey Business, it somehow managed to play the entire CD in order and then continued on it's regular shuffle. This only happened once, so it may have been a glitch or a VERY rare coincidence. Other than that, my shuffle works well enough and I only house about 900 tracks.

Re:Old News. (1)

Dr Reducto (665121) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360027)

You can set iTunes to shuffle by Artist, Album, or Song.

The problem with older versions was this wasn't wall documented (the preference was hard to find), and was set to shuffle by album by default. I know because I noticed the same thing, but eventually found out what I was doing wrong (the option was something like "Group songs by album for shuffle" or something like that)

Re:Old News. (2)

noidentity (188756) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359667)

How funny, the original shuffle was random, but that wasn't considered random because people have this odd notion that random means that certain combinations will never occur. Now they have the new, improved random that's less random so that it'll seem more random. That's progress!

Re:Old News. (1)

Neoncow (802085) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359829)

In one of my statistics classes, we performed a lab to emphasize the importance of random sampling. We were split into groups and given a set of 30 or so blocks of various shapes and sizes. we were to choose 10 blocks that were representative of the entire set. After each of the group presented their picks, the TA had a laptop randomly pick a set for every group. We added up the results. The random set was closer that the human guided guesses.

Re:Old News. (1)

Purdah (587096) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359797)

This does not seem to be a problem with just IPods, my Creative Jukebox showed simmilar non randoness.

In my case the player would, when given a playlist of any size, even over 100 tracks, would always show a preference to play two songs from the same album one after each other.

Humans are good at spotting patterns, and if it occours to me that the two consecutive tracks from albums seems to happen frequently, then it is likely that this is indeed a flaw in the algorithm.

Mind you as I have not done any mathematical tests, it is just as likely that because I have picked up on this anomoly, that I am only remembering when it happens and not realising how many other times it does not happen.....

Truly Random (4, Interesting)

sriramv_iyer (694846) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359575)

I agree that it is extremly difficlut to be truly random. There are some good ways of initializing the seed in such a way that the pseudo random number generator behaves differently. A good way, done in telecom terminals is to measure the noise at the receiver and then use it to seed the random number generator. Since, the noise is truly random, that is a good way to seed the random number generator. If the costs, are not too high, then it might even be a good idea to read noise (or any truly random parameter) whenever required. That would be close to really random, provided, we can map the random parameter into a quantitative parameter without big errors and approximations.

radio static (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359923)

another really easy method is to build in a tiny, one-chip radio receiver inside the mp3-player and tune it to a very little-used frequency. The antenna only has to be long enough to get some good white noise. Radio static is more than random enough to seed a mp3 player.

Randomness ain't so random (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359581)

So many iPod owners and none of you have stated the obvious. The iPod will play songs with a higher rating more often.

Randy Random says we've seen enough (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359589)

Nonsense article again, but because it was about iPods it had to be published on the front page.

Thank you Slashdot and all the friends here - my time among you is almost at an end. I will find another news site where I can actually read something that is worth reading. Slashdot used to be a great site, but it's nothing but shit nowadays. Bye bye!

Truly, a Slashdot legend (4, Funny)

punkass (70637) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359689)

What, we're losing Anonymous Coward? He's been here since the begining, and he wrote half the posts! OH NOES!!!!1!

Re:Randy Random says we've seen enough (0, Offtopic)

punkass (70637) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359727)

I should also add that I love slashdot posters who announce they're leaving...like anyone truly gives a shit. Want to make a statement about the "Slashdot establishment"? Then don't say anything and fucking go already...if you were really contributing, someone will eventually think "gee, where's that bitchy guy who couldn't be bothered to log in when he posted?" Otherwise, you're just stroking your ego in a public forum (and nobody needs to read that).

Re:Randy Random says we've seen enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16360359)

No - it's OK. I've decided to stay!

People are Pattern seekers (5, Insightful)

BigDiz (962986) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359593)

Humans innately seek patterns in things that are random. That's why so many people wear smelly socks because they think they're lucky. Once you identify a supposed "pattern" i.e. non-randomness, you're going to keep noticing instances that fit that pattern, and ignore instances that do not. This is deeply ingrained.

Think about it, if you're at the roulette table and black has come up four times in a row, how likely are you to bet black? Most people would bet red, because, I mean hey, there's got to be a pattern. But (as I'm sure you all can understand) black has the same probability of occurring again as red does.

People have had this complaint about all sorts of playlist randomizers (not just iPod), it's just people seeing what isn't there.

Re:People are Pattern seekers (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359749)

Exactly, if you show people two series of dots, one really random and one evenly distributed, but not regular and ask them which is more random, they will say the evenly distributed one, becasue the random one has what we see as obvious patterns in it. So, I think what people want is evenly distributed (but not regular) mixing of songs, not true randomness.

Re:People are Pattern seekers (1)

Erik K. Veland (574016) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359895)

Good thing you posted that, it's not like that wasn't the entire point of the article or anything.

Two random modes (2, Insightful)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359595)

Apple should add another random play mode -- one that acts as it does now, and the other mode that grants every song an equal play count. The only thing that would be random is which order. This way users that have a confirmation bias of their iPod favoring certain songs can no longer be paranoid of Apple conspiracies to promote the songs of {{ artist }} or {{ record_label }}.

Re:Two random modes (1)

Unequivocal (155957) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359711)

Not that it's any use for iPods, but Rockbox (http://www.rockbox.org/) MP3 (open source) OS has a random feature that (I believe this is how it works) seeds a psuedo-random number once, writes it to file, and then passes it to a two-way function that guarantees a random order but never repeats a song unless all the other songs have already been played (and since the seed is stored in a file along with the index count, it remembers where you were between power-offs - plus since it's a two way function, you can press back and get the "random" song you were just listening to.

I still have an ancient Archos MP3 player but Rockbox is so good, I can't get rid of it and downgrade to lesser functionality. :)

Re:Two random modes (1)

ostermei (832410) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360165)

Not that it's any use for iPods
It's not [rockbox.org] ?

You can use Rockbox on your iPod, but you'll have to make some sacrifices. For obvious reasons, DRM isn't supported, so any tracks you may have purchased from the iTMS won't play (although we all know there're ways around that). And as far as I can tell, video is not yet supported, though I can't imagine it's not being worked on.

RTFA (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359833)

This is just about exactly what "Smart Shuffle" does. It allows you to bias the randomness towards not playing two songs from the same artist or album in a row. Makes it less random to make it feel more random.

I've got an iPod Shuffle, myself (1)

Thisfox (994296) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359615)

...it's good to listen to on the train, you get all sorts of random songs, sort of like your own personal radio station... so long as you like the Beatles, that is. I punished the little unit by removing all the Beatles songs currently on it (there were 5, out of a full gig worth of songs) and instead of every second song being Norwegian Wood (for five hours I got random song, Beatles, random song, Beatles, random song, Beatles...), it started acting more normally.

Recent re-introduction of more Beatles music last week hasn't caused a return to the 60s, either, to my surprise. Yet.
I have noticed a lot more Beethoven than I thought I owned though....

Scientific study? (1)

deopmix (965178) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359623)

What I want to see is someone who actually scientifically tests the randomness of the suffle. Perhaps you could use Autofill a couple hundred times, and test it to see if all the songs are chosen equally.

my iPod (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359633)

my iPod helps me to kill

SmartShuffle (3, Interesting)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359651)

The open-source music player I wrote (BSoftPlayer) has a feature called "SmartShuffle". One of the biggest problems with shuffle is that it's difficult to understand when the tracks will change order, and it's difficult to know wheter or not a track is going to be played more than once in a single "cycle". Some shuffle features will play the same track twice before playing through your entire library, and some won't.

With SmartShuffle, the order is randomized, but it remains the same until you "reshuffle".

Re:SmartShuffle (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359857)

iTunes/iPod already does this, and it is, indeed, what "shuffle" means -- so long as you pause (instead of stopping or turning it off), you're still playing through a randomized playlist. The problem is spookiness of seeing five songs by the same artist in a row, or very close together, in that random playlist, but that's statistically likely anyway.

You might consider calling it something else. Apple is calling their new shuffle feature "SmartShuffle", but in this case, it's about creating a bias against playing songs by the same artist or album too close together.

Re:SmartShuffle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359953)

the iPod also seems to reset that random order every time you sync plug it into your computer. So I often seem to be hearing the same songs every morning because the iPod has "forgotten" that it already played those songs yesterday.

Korea Nuke Detonates Premature, Destroys Seoul (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359655)


Korea Nuke Detonates Premature, DestroyS Seoul. Four million thought Dead.

It's because of the birthday paradox (3, Informative)

neomage86 (690331) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359699)

You can get the technical details here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_paradox/ [wikipedia.org]


The basic gist is that their are far more possible pairs than we'd intuitively imagine. For example, with 20 albums of 20 songs each, the chance of two songs in a row being from the same album is actually:
400/400 * 20/400 = 1/20
Which makes a lot of sense once you sit down and think about it, but is a lot higher than an uneducated guess.

This is the same reason that collision/timing attacks are feasible.

Re:It's because of the birthday paradox (1)

mh101 (620659) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359757)

There are 12 people on staff where I work. 4 of us have birthdays in a span of 5 days, i.e. there's my birthday, one day off, then three birthdays in a row. I wonder what the odds of this happening are.

The downside of all this is we get gypped out of 3 birthday cakes this way since we only have one for all four of us. :(

Re:It's because of the birthday paradox (3, Funny)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359961)

I think it's more than that. Yes, coincidences will happen, but I also think part of the issue with people perceiving patterns is that they can switch patterns whenever a new pattern seems to emerge. So, with reference to the Birthday Paradox, it's true that, in a party, it's more likely than you think that two people will have the same birthday, but what if you aren't bound by birthdays? What if you're just constantly looking for anything two people could have in common? If you're at the party constantly talking about dates, birthdays, anniversaries, favorite colors, food alergies, etc.-- then there's an excellent chance that you'll find there are lots of people in the party that something in common.

In the case of the iPod, i have an iPod and put it on shuffle often enough. For a little while, i'd always be suspicious that there was something going on. It seemed to happen way too often that I'd get two songs together off the same album or the same band, or I'd get a bunch of '80s songs together, or a lot of songs that I'd grouped in the same genre. You know, no specific pattern I could use to predict what would come next, but on any given day, I seemed to be able to find a pattern.

It wasn't always very conscious or thought out, but I'd catch myself thinking, "weird, I've heard 4 songs from the same album in the last hour. The iPod must not be mixing it up enough." But then I noticed some of my patterns were like, "huh, I've heard a couple Nirvana songs and Foo Fighter songs. My iPod must like Dave Grohl today." And then I realized, I didn't have the name "Dave Grohl" in any metadata anywhere. In order for the pattern to be caused by the library, you'd have to assume that the iPod's circutry somehow knew that Grohl was in both of those bands, but without any such link existing in my iTunes library.

So of course I got rid of the iPod, because it was obviously possessed by the devil and obessesed with Dave Grohl. I guess this guy [slashdot.org] is right.

RTFA (4, Informative)

mh101 (620659) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359703)

The article actually goes into more depth than people seem to be getting from the summary. The author is not complaining about problems with the shuffle. Rather, he starts by making note of his early observations, then describing his research into music shuffling, and how we perceive patterns where there are none.

FTFA:
First of all, note what it doesn't do - it's not like mixing all the songs in the equivalent of a big bucket of lottery balls and picking out the next one. Instead, as the name implies, it shuffles the entire library so as to reorder them, just as a blackjack dealer shuffles a deck of cards. If you listen to the entire library all through, you will hear every song once and once only. What is important, then, is not whether a song is included but how evenly an artist's songs are distributed throughout the list. When I say that Steely Dan is over-represented, it means that the band's songs show up early in the run - it would be like a blackjack dealer whose first hand had aces in it.
Or
We perceive trends when there are none. Poker players invariably believe they can lock into streaks. Backgammon champions swear that dice can go hot or cold. Likewise, people think they can cosmically predict what song will come next on their shuffle. The blogger Kapgar, who claimed this power, remembers vividly the times when he predicted a song and the iPod amazingly delivered it. But there may have been a thousand times when his iPod played songs he didn't guess - non-memorable circumstances that, not surprisingly, didn't make an impression.

What you should expect... (4, Interesting)

YGingras (605709) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359753)

A long time ago I was dissatisfied by the lack of random in XMMS so I jumped to the source to see what I could do. I think this was my first contribution to a free software project. Anyway, here is what I found: XMMS keeps two copies of the playlist, one that is in the order you set and one that is "shuffled". This has to be clear, all the tracks in the play list are there exactly once in the shuffled playlist.

I can't recall when the shuffled playlist was reshuffled but in was not that often, maybe only when you added or removed tracks. So if you like Smoke on Water but that Ballroom Blitz is just two song after that, too bad, you'll always get Ballroom Blitz soon after you double click on Smoke on Water. Technically speaking, the shuffling was perfect, the random generator was properly seeded and they divided in the right way to prevent loosing entropy. The lack of reshuffling was entirely responsible to the perceived lack of randomness.

So my patch was just that: trigger reshuffling a lot more often. As far as I know this patch was never merged but my copy of XMMS did have the proper random behavior. I don't know if it's the same problem with the iPod. That's something I like with free software: you can fix it!

xmms experiment (1)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359905)

As far as I know this patch was never merged but my copy of XMMS did have the proper random behavior.

For what it's worth, I've just experimented with XMMS (1.2.10) in random mode, and it seems to be doing this now.

If I double-click a track to play it, then click advance, it was always advancing to a different track, implying that it reshuffled at the point of selecting a track. Simply moving backwards and forwards between tracks left them in a consistent order, however.

Re:xmms experiment (1)

The Blue Meanie (223473) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360035)

If I double-click a track to play it, then click advance, it was always advancing to a different track, implying that it reshuffled at the point of selecting a track. Simply moving backwards and forwards between tracks left them in a consistent order, however.

That's been my experience as well (the "random" playback order is consistent until you manually choose a track).

In the spirit of the article, regarding noticing patterns where there really aren't any, it's been my perception with XMMS that it tends to pick "pairs" of songs. That is, for any given track it plays at random, the chance of the next "random" track being from the same artist seems to be significantly higher. I have an XMMS playlist of over 2000 tracks, with literally hundreds of artists, and yet when a track from any particular artist plays, the next track is also from that artist far more often than not. I've often wondered if the particular random algorithm that was chosen for XMMS doesn't have a preference for two numbers close to each other, then farther apart, etc. since I generally keep my playlist sorted by artist.

Netgear MP101 randomness (1)

M0b1u5 (569472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359767)

I wonder if the "random" on an iPod is like the "random" on my Netgear MP101 wireless audio device connected to my stereo system.

If I select any playlist, and hit "PLAY" when the shuffle option is set to "Random" - then it plays the same order of songs every single time. To get a genuinely "more random" feel to the way it plays songs, I have to select the non-first song at the start of the playlist, then hit PLAY - and then hit "NEXT". After *that* it seems to be relatively random (Except for a pre-disposition to playing Eminem - or so it seems!).

I know it's tough to generate truly random numbers - but lets face it - for a music player - random doesn't need to be "truly random" - merely random enough to avoid getting posted at /. about not being random. :P

Re:Netgear MP101 randomness (1)

maglor_83 (856254) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359887)

I hate the random on my car's MP3 player. It doesn't keep any memory of what has been played or anything, so you sometimes get the same song twice in a row, but thats no problem. What sucks is that if you skip a song, it doesn't go to a new, random song, it goes to the next song in order! So if I don't feel like listening to Ben Harper at the moment, I have to either skip every song of his on the CD, or turn random off then on again.

Check the play count (2, Informative)

Lumpish Scholar (17107) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359783)

I didn't keep track of every song that played every time I shuffled my tunes....
Yeah, you did; or rather, iTunes kept track for you, as the "play count". Take a look.

(I looked at mine; it was closer to uniform than I'd perceived. There's also a "Skip Count", but it's blank for all my songs.)

Well, my iPod has GPS (1)

bedouin (248624) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359787)

Because it seems the same songs play at certain points that I drive through in the city.

Or maybe it's not a grand conspiracy at all, but this grand idea called chance.

My Shuffle Experiance (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359789)

I got myself a shuffle a couple months ago and put a bunch of songs on it, played it almost every day, at least once a day, sometimes more, for almost 2 months...never noticed a single bias of any kind (other than a small bias towards playing newer songs if you turn it on in shuffle mode). However, I ran my songs through a couple filters to remove all traces of information that I didn't put in (I.E. Ingrained bands, other data apple might put in songs from the ITunes library) so perhaps the shuffle uses a psedu-random generator, weighed towards ITunes songs or something. Or, as someone said earlier, perhaps it's just your perception. If you have 5 songs from a certain band, and 130 songs you'd think it would be 65 songs between them, but that's not even close to true. In a full random generator you'd get bursts of lots of a certain band, followed by breaks between that band's songs. So it would seem like there was very little time between that band's songs, when really you're just forgetting the times that you didn't hear that band for a long time. Or maybe Apple is out to force you to listen to certain bands, 'cause you know they make a penny every time you hear the song...*end sarcasm*...seriously though, what would make Apple program the shuffle to favor certain bands? Maybe some money from those bands, but it would have to be a good amount, and who wants to pay to make sure you listen to them a lot, they don't make money when you hear them either. No one stands to benefit from forcing you to listen to the same band a hundred times so why would they go out of their way to add that to the programming? As a new programmer I'm 99% sure it's harder to program a random generator that's intentionally weighed over one that's not.

I've experienced the same (0, Redundant)

hbmartin (579860) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359793)

My old iPod LOVED Moby.

Sony CD Players (1)

mssymrvn (15684) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359795)

Well, the random is better than Sony's original implementation of 'shuffle' for its CD players. I think it's better now in new players but I used to be able to put in a disc in old players (1993 and earlier) and the track ordering was the same for *every* disc. Eject disc A and put it back in to be played in 'shuffle'? Same order over and over. It was really quite annoying. Disc B? Same 'shuffled' track order. That's quite some effort they put into that algorithm.

My own experience (1)

elliott666 (447115) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359799)

I always found that the pattern of "random" on the ipod was pretty easy to pick out. It seems to only like a certain set of music; some stuff gets played all the time while some things never seem to get picked. The interesting thing is that when you put more music on there and seems to bump the whole shuffle order around, so things that were never coming up before all of a sudden start getting picked.

I wonder what it would take get something like amarok to bump the files around? Maybe a simple function to remove 10 "random" albums and then re-add them would be all that's needed to get a much better shuffle.

Human brains hardwired for temporal connections. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359803)

Is it possible that human brains just have the gain set a bit higher than simply "random" on connecting temporal causal events? It might be more adventageous to notice connections between events that aren't connected (then dissmiss them) than it is to ignore events that are connected causally.

In other words, it might be better to be a little over paranoid and think that the random shuffle on an Ipod isn't random, that childhood vaccinations cause (insert disease here) than it is to miss the fact that when some people eat fruit A, they die (but not say everyone).

Putting it a bit differently, there's more cost to missing connecting certain dangerous events than there is to miss-identifying harmless events that later turn out to be non-connected.

ASDAT (1)

Gerr (10139) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359809)

What is wrong with an iPod that plays nothing but Steely Dan? I'd buy one if Apple made it.

All Steely Dan, All the Time

There's far worse iTunes/iPod problems to complain about. How about their choices with DRM, difficulties with moving your iPod from one computer (home) to another (work)? Add a third (laptop at home) and then what?

Re:ASDAT (1)

Randle_Revar (229304) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359867)

What is wrong with an iPod that plays nothing but Steely Dan?

That's what I was thinking :-)

Last.fm - top artists [www.last.fm] :
Steely Dan - 13654
They Might be Giants - 4493
Donald Fagen - 3532

How about iPod Tetris' randomness? (1)

mh101 (620659) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359813)

Music shuffling is fine. What needs to be fixed is the randomness of the blocks in the iPod version of Tetris. Without fail, it always starts me out with the red "Z" block, yellow square, red "Z" and the brown "L" block for the first game upon starting Tetris (after this the next game starts with different blocks, unless I quit and reload Tetris).

Seems to me like the programmers used a bad choice of a seed value for the random number generator.

Uniform randomness (1)

FortranDragon (98478) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359827)

I noticed that most people view a uniform distribution as a "random" distribution. As the article states, people impose patterns on things, thus when the average person tries to makes something random they tend to create something with a uniform distribution 'because it spreads the stuff out'. Ah, the fun of counter-intuitive math. :D

Similar to radio stations (4, Informative)

dodongo (412749) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359847)

I know there will be snarky +5 Funny comments underneath this (as well there should be), but this system to decrease the perceived randomness is actually really similar to the algorithm most radio stations use when programming their music.

There's a simple parameter that's set to control, to within one minute, the amount of temporal separation there must be between playing two songs from the same artist, or the same song twice. The radio algorithm is a little more complicated, since songs aren't in just one big batch like the iTunes library, but in different categories, based generally on the perceived desire of target listeners to hear a given new song, or like and identify with a given older song.

The system is built off the (once literal, now metaphorical) use of index cards: The format clocks say, e.g., at the top of the hour, play a P category song, followed by a B category song, then a G, then an A, etc. You'd have a set of rules, like "don't play the same artist within 45 minutes" or "don't play the same current song within 3 hours", and you'd take the first card in the category that fit all the rules, play it, and move the card to the back of the stack.

Basically, what Apple is doing with that slider is enabling artist separation control, which is completely one of the illusions radio stations (used to) use to convince you they had every song under the sun available to them.

Me too, me too (0, Redundant)

1310nm (687270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359853)

I've noticed it too. There are songs in my MP3 collection that I'm not very fond of that I hear quite a bit of, and many that I like that I never hear on shuffle.

Hello World (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16359881)

Got on Vans but they look like sneakers!!!

I'm sure it's better than a Creative Nomad Jukebox (1)

musther (961493) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359883)

I used to have a Creative Nomad Jukebox, although it was called a DAP (Digital Audio Player) outside the US. One of their original hard drive MP3 players. It had the play modes you'd expect, including random and shuffle. Random and shuffle did exactly the same thing, which was to play some songs all the time, and I mean all the time, some tracks from time to time, and some tracks never. In recent years I put it in the car, and occasionally in a 20-30 minute journey I would hear the same song two or three times, I had about 1000 tracks on it.

It seemed to get worse as it got older, I even wiped it, took out the hard drive and trashed the partition table on a pc, then rebuilt it and started again, but it didn't change a thing.

Thank god it's now in lots of little bits!

Grouping songs (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359891)

I don't have an iPod but iTunes does tend to group songs by the artist. It's not consistent but easily half the time there will be groupings of songs by a given artist. For some reason the last time it shuffled it grouped all the songs by artist. I'd say it was set to a mode that does that but it's not consistent. It can't be random chance either because it happens too often. If I have two songs by a given artist roughly half the time it'll group those songs together. Odd thing. I'd like it to be much more random. Love the service but it is quirky.

Soul of iPods (2, Funny)

webword (82711) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359919)

Maybe iPods are showing us their souls. The inner light is shining through.

Humans and dictionaries define random differently (5, Insightful)

jonadab (583620) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359937)

Except for mathematicians and programmers, most think of "random" in a *very* different way from its technical definition. To most humans, saying that a particular sequence is "random" means *guaranteeing* certain things about it. Among them: the same element does not occur back-to-back, EVER, even if there are only a few elements total to choose from. Even more, if there are more than about half a dozen elements, the same element never occurs twice within about five positions. (So if you've got songs 1 through 7 on your iPod, and the first seven played are 5, 3, 7, 2, 4, 1, 6, then the next one has to be 5 or 3, or _maybe_ 7, or it doesn't seem "random" to most people. Yet, the order can't be the same every time through, either.) No element occurs substantially more often than any other element, even over the short term. If the elements have a natural order (e.g., alphabetical), then no three elements that are adjascent in that order can ever occur together in that order, nor should they occur together in the reverse order. (This gets particularly difficult to guarantee when the elements have more than one natural order, e.g., if the elements are people, you can't have three of them in a row by either name or age, or people notice and decide that the order is not random.) Even worse, if the elements can all be categorized into a small number of categories (e.g., by gender), you can't have "too many" from one category in a row. (How many is too many depends on the ratio, but if half of the elements are male and half female, having four of either in a row will make people cry foul, the order is not "random".) If certain elements stand out from the others in some significant way, they can neither occur first nor last. (For instance, if test questions are being drawn from a question bank, neither the easiest nor the hardest question should be first or last; if it is, people will say the order was not random.)

I could go on and on, but what it really amounts to is that when most people say "random" they mean "carefully arranged in a thoroughly mixed-up order". This is almost the *opposite* of what a mathematician or computer programmer thinks the word "random" means.

For this reason, when describing a mathematically-random sequence to an end user, I never EVER use the word "random". I generally call it something like "arbitrary" or "unpredictable". This greatly reduces complaints.

Now, as far as song frequency, I like to rate my tracks on a scale of 1-10, and rig my playlist so that anything under a 6 never plays unless I specifically select it, tracks rated 7 play twice as often as those rated 6, and the frequency keeps going up the higher my rating is. (I only have eight tracks rated as a 10, and they're all things I don't mind hearing back-to-back.) Then if I find a track is playing more often than I like, I figure I rated it too high and cut back its rating.

Problem solved... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359951)

You only think you like Steely Dan, because others have told you likewise.

It is analgous to the popularity of Windows - there is no objective reason to like Steely Dan.

But, deep down, you realize, that Steely Dan represents the worst of the music of the 70's and you are having a visceral repulsion to it, like I finally came to realize, every time I hear Stevie Nix...

So, rather than blame your nice, techie, iPod, blame your fallable human self for choosing that music.

If you remove all Steely Dan from your iPod you will no longer have this problem.

Re:Problem solved... (1)

Randle_Revar (229304) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360251)

But, deep down, you realize, that Steely Dan represents the best music of all time.

Fixed :-D

No escape from tracks I hate (1)

British (51765) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359983)

My ipod has this tendency to play tracks from the "Buckaroo banzai /saturn 3" soundtrack. It was a bootleg-only soundtrack that has about 8 BB tracks, and about 20 Saturn 3 tracks. I regret ripping it to my ipod. No matter if I use "shuffle songs" or any custom smart playlists, they ALWAYS show up.

And removing tracks from an ipod was never easy.

Randomness about iTunes. (1)

abhask (910782) | more than 7 years ago | (#16359987)

Something related to iTunes - a study of the randomness of party shuffle in iTunes. This article does a bit of research and comes up with a function! http://www.omninerd.com/2005/08/25/articles/34 [omninerd.com]

Re:Randomness about iTunes. (1)

Bert690 (540293) | more than 7 years ago | (#16360357)

Something related to iTunes - a study of the randomness of party shuffle in iTunes. This article does a bit of research and comes up with a function! Yep, and there was even a previous slashdot story [slashdot.org] about this very article. The function from the article to describe play probabilities grossly overfits the data. A much simpler formula is more likely correct, as I demonstrated in a comment [slashdot.org] submitted to this previous story.

SmartPlaylists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16360021)

I used to have the same problem on both iTunes and my iPod. However, with some clever playlist structuring [fonzo.biz] , you can get as near to a random experience as possible. Using iTunes SmartPlaylist features is the only way I have been able to stop iTunes (or the iPod) from playing the same handful of songs over and over and over again.

Old news among poker players (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16360225)

If you read poker forums at all, you'll know that this is a subject that has been beaten to death over and over. So much so in fact that (at least) one poker site's support has a lengthy form letter they send to anyone that complains about "non random" cards:

==================

Firstly, I assure you that our shuffle is entirely random. You can find its description at the first link below, and the results of two independent audits into it at the second:

http://www.pokerstars.com/security.html [pokerstars.com]
http://www.pokerstars.com/rng_audit.html [pokerstars.com]

We will send any real money player's entire hand history to them at any point that they ask for it. We have every real money hand played on our servers and have sent out literally millions of hands. There are many players out there with 100,000 or more hands in their Poker Tracker database. Poker Tracker is a program that allows you to analyse your own play and by extension the randomness of the site in question. If there were anything that deviated from the expected values, these players would have solid evidence to that effect. However, there's nothing on the poker forums. Infact, some players have posted their investigations online, the URLs for which you can find below. I am certain that there are more out there that you can easily find.

http://tinyurl.com/4lfeg [tinyurl.com]
http://tinyurl.com/2nvav [tinyurl.com]

I am sure that many of the players we've sent these hand histories to felt that there were problems with the game. That's the nature of how our brains work. They are very good at picking out patterns, but when faced with randomness, impose patterns of their own on the data. Our brain is also very good at picking out the unusual from the usual. Therefore, you will not take as much notice of the seven times you win your 7/8 shot, but the time you lose it is the time that will stick in your memory.

The nature of poker is that the better a player, the more often he will put his money in when he is ahead. Conversely, the weaker the player, the more often he will put his money in whilst behind. It is therefore natural that the good player will not need to outdrawn his opponent very often, whilst the weaker player has to do it with much greater frequency. Of course, the good player makes more money in the long run, but the weaker player will still win pots from him. It's a fact that in the long run, the good player will outdraw opponents fewer times per hour than he will be outdrawn on himself. This is simply because he is rarely in a situation where he has to outdraw someone to win. However, if you looked at every single time a strong player had a 20% shot to win with all his chips in compared to every single time a weak player had a 20% shot to win, you will find that both players did indeed make their hand 20% of the time.

There are three sets of people who would undoubtably recognise that something was amiss if there were any flaws in the shuffle. The first set is the programmers, the second senior management, and the third the poker specialists (who have access to as many hand histories as they want). All any of these people would have to do is ask for a 100% pay rise with the threat that they will release compelling evidence about the dishonesty. We make our money purely from rake and tournament entry fees. We would immediately lose a lot, if not all of our players as a result of this. The fact that this is not all over the forums, and the fact that I am (sadly) not sitting on a tropical island as I type this mail is a very strong signal that nothing is amiss.

Finally, the offer to send out every real money hand you've played is of course open to you as well. Just let us know and we can send it along. I recommend a tool like Poker Tracker to run your analysis, but there are plenty of other programs out there that do a similiar kind of job.

I hope that I have set your mind at ease, but if you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to let us know.

Best regards,

Andrew
PokerStars Support Team
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