Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pandora Redux

I wrote about Pandora a long time ago. Now I'm revisiting it.

In some ways, it is much improved. The ability to have multiple channels (which either didn't exist or I didn't see last time I talked about it) theoretically solves many of the problems I had.

However, I find it still feeds me a steady diet of crap. Perhaps they've focused so carefully on things like secondary harmonics and major progressions that they've forgotten that some songs are simply bad, regardless of the fact that they use my favorite melodic tricks. Perhaps their database, as large as it is, is too small... so when I say that I like or dislike something, it desperately searches for a song - any song - that fills the role.

For example, I've officially marked EVERY modern soul song with a thumbs-down, but it keeps feeding me them because I like classic jazz. And I like David Bowie, so it feeds me random, really bad crap in a desperate attempt to sound like Bowie. A database that's too small, or a total failure to mark crap as crap?

Still, it's MUCH better than it was before, and is now my favorite streaming audio "station". Having to give thumbs-down to literally every other song is still very irritating, but at least it lets me fast forward... so stations with a higher "hit rate" are still more irritating, because I have to live with songs that make my oh-so-spoiled ears bleed.

Obviously, there's still a piece missing. I really don't know whether that piece is being able tell whether a song is crap, or whether that piece is having a much larger song database. There's definitely room for improvement, but they're the best no-DJ "station" on the net, I think.

PS: It doesn't know what "humor" is. "Like Weird Al" just gives random junk.

PPS: Also, you can't listen to it for all that long, because you can't fast forward more than a certain number of times per hour. :P


Patrick said...

Whats funny, the hourly limitation is basically a DRM thing. Talk about mechanics issues.

I haven't listened to Pandora for a while since my hipster friends dropped gigs and gigs of music on my iTunes. I'm going to be soaking up obscure, yet often brilliant bands for a while.

But there should be a lesson there eh? Usually you're going to have aesthetic tastes in common with your friends. There are differences, and indeed these differences are part of what makes human relationships intersting, for example a good friend of mine really likes Nirvana, as do I, but he can't stand NIN or Radiohead, which boggles my mind. I think however, if you combined internet radio and social networking you could offer people content based on a composite of what their friends like, and then let a personal (profile-centered) rating mechanic sort out the rest. I imagine it'd have a good hit rate.

David said...

I tried pandora on the recommendation of a friend of mine who has very simila musical tastes... he loved every song it played for him... while I hated *every* song it chose for me. I guess it couldn't find a vector between Nickel Creek and Jimmy Eats World.

Craig Perko said...

According to their official legend, they got started as friends swapping songs. I won't vouch for the truth of that, save to say that at some point every group of friends swaps songs.

Personally, I still like swapping songs better. If a friend gives you crap songs, at least you can give him the hairy eyeball. :D

David said...

Right and with friends they can usually show you something cool first before they start reaching and getting really dumb ideas... seems Pandora starts out reaching. : )

Craig Perko said...

Yeah, I think the database has to be REALLY big before something like Pandora can serve me, because I'm really freaking picky.