Daily Archives: April 27, 2012

I wish my playlist was random-ish, not random

A recent blog post by Dualnoise on optimal playlists go me thinking about playlists. My mp3 player is filled with running songs that are “shuffled.”

I put shuffled in quotes because I’m not sure how the shuffling algorithm works and if it is really a good pseudo-random ordering of the songs. But at the end of the day, I don’t want the songs to be random. I want them to be random-ish.

My mp3 player has a couple of shuffle varieties. One shuffle variety appears to play songs that were recently uploaded more frequently than old songs. I like this, but I change the songs so rarely that it isn’t very useful any more.

Another mode shuffles through all the songs, not repeating a song until all are played in a session (a run starts a new session starts). I never run long enough to repeat any of the songs. Therefore, I hear each song no more than once per run. But the memory resets every time I turn off the mp3 player, so I hear some songs during every run and rarely hear other songs.  I just updated my playlist and found a handful of songs that I have not heard this year.

I’m sure everyone has that song that always plays every time you turn on your mp3 player. For me, that song is Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” (at least it was until I removed it).

I know this is what “random” looks like, but I don’t like it: I don’t want to hear some songs too much and others not enough. I conclude that my “optimal” randomly ordered playlist is a very fake looking random sequence of songs to ensure that all songs are not over- or under-played. I feel like a fraud just admitting that!

This article suggests that playlists advertised as random may in fact be less random than we are led to believe. It discusses playlists that an mp3 player may create (kinda like Pandora) rather than a preset playlist. They tested iTunes’s Smart playlists and found that iTunes preferred Lionel Richie songs. Interesting. My mp3 player clearly prefers Bruce Springsteen.

How do you feel about shuffled playlists?