Thursday, September 14, 2006

ShuffleLog Makes It All Go Away

Hey kids. As a West Coast transplant to NYC, sent to invade and degrade the quality of life here in New York, it's natural that I start a blog. But it's not your typical navel-gazing with detailed descriptions of the contents of my dogs' poop. That's reserved for a separate blog entirely.

No, ShuffleLog is just some hair-brained idea I had while hungover on the subway to work. Since I'm simply not inspired enough in the morning to even select the music that's most appropriate for drowning out the teeming masses on the 1 train, I usually just set my iPod Nano to Shuffle Songs. I've got 613 songs in my iPod right now, so I figure that should keep me entertained for weeks.

But is there a ghost in the machine?

I started to notice some patterns. When I was actually paying attention, of course. Why was The Postal Service constantly coming up? Why was the same Lyrics Born song ("I Changed My Mind") always selected, when there are 16 tracks on that album (Same !@#$ Different Day)? Why wasn't "Strawberry Fields" from Global Underground: Reykjavik playing, which is among my Top 25 Most Played?

Now, there could be a load of logical reasons behind this. Namely, I was a little hungover. Or I was simply mis-remembering, transposing one Lyrics Born song for another. Or any number of iTunes algorithms were at play, including ratings I had selected (minimal), playlists I had created, or the frequency to which I listened to certain songs or artists.

So, let's put this to the test: are there secret Contact-esque patterns to Shuffle Songs on the iPod? More importantly, does anyone really care?

I'm going to post, with some undetermined frequency, the log of my iPod when I'm listening to it on shuffle on the way to work from the 72nd St. 1-2-3 station to Houston St. Usually 25 minutes worth of tunes. But trying in vain to remember or catalog the shuffled playlist en route starts to distract and defeat the purpose of listening to music on the way to work (enjoyment/boredom/distraction/avoidance of interaction with fellow passengers/aloofness). Luckily, I found a much easier solution: when I get to work, simply hitting the back ("|<<") button allows me to scroll through tracks that had been previously presented at random. ShuffleLog 14-Sept-06

Lyrics Born, "Can't Wait For Your Love"
Tenacious D, "Trubute"
Tenacious D, "Inward Singing"
Oakland Faders, "Track 06"
Laurent Garnier, "Sambou" (Danny Howells, 24:7, disk 2)
Stereolab, "Ticker-Tape of the Unconscious"
Black Rebel Mortorcycle Club, "Sympathetic Noose"

Apart from the back-to-back Tenacious D tracks, this doesn't tell me anything except that it's a typical random sampling of my musical tastes: hip-hop, turntableism, indy, trance, and Stereolab. Yes, I loaded up the iPod, and it reflects the music I like, but it's not a self-selected playlist. It doesn't represent a mood or theme or phase in my life. It's ostensibly random. Maybe it, standalone, doesn't tell me much about anything. But comparing it, over time, to dozens of other ShuffleLogs(tm) just might.

Who knows what will happen? Maybe (and this is a big if) someone will read this. In doing so, they may discover some music they're interested in. I'm going to invite folks to post their ShuffleLogs too. Perhaps I'll stick it all in a spreadsheet and have someone analyze it. But mostly this is just a goof, to see what happens.

Like I said, I was a little hungover.


  • Dear Clarence Rosario,

    I'm a producer at Open Source, a public radio show based in Boston. We're doing a show about shuffle, iPod-style:
    Since you've devoted a whole blog to chronicling your iPod's shuffle, I'd love to get you involved in the show, which records tomorrow. If you're interested, email me at julia radioopensource org (make it an email address).

    Hope to draw you into the discussion!

    Julia Reischel
    Producer, Open Source

    By Blogger Julia, at 4:59 PM  

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