iPod Rediscovery

On one of my drives I put the iPod on shuffle, mostly out of an impatience to decide what to listen to. Usually I prefer to listen to whole albums top to bottom – you know, the way they were created – but while driving, scrolling through hundreds of bands with a click wheel is not very practical or safe for anyone involved. So shuffle it was, and I was surprisingly struck by “Snowsuit Sound” by Sloan. BTW if you have never heard of Sloan then you evidently: 1) are not Canadian, and; 2) do not know anyone from Canada. I used to be a major Sloan fan, back in the 90’s when I co-hosted an all CanCon indie rock show on CKUT (I was so green that I asked Matt Murphy how it felt to be Chris Murphy’s brother during a live-to-air interview…later my friend Amanda B. told me: “Um, everyone in Halifax has the last name Murphy,”…I was so embarassed…actually I’m still embarassed). So my iPod Rediscovery is that I am still a major Sloan fan (narrowed to the Twice Removed and One Chord To Another era…you know, Canada’s first insular indie rock heyday).

One time, we got an email from a girl who said she had “rediscovered” The Dears while listening to her iPod on shuffle. We were among the tens of thousands of songs stored among 60 gigs or however much space, and somehow, we had made it, literally, through the shuffle. And so she fell in love.

Is the iPod shuffle completely random? I have heard that it is not, that the iPod uses some kind of algorithm to calculate the songs it will play, using such stats as which songs you have previously listened to, which songs you skipped, etc. Personally, I loathe this idea of an untrue random. While listening to my recently loaded iPod on shuffle, I had to skip The Beatles about a dozen times. Yes, they made a lot of records and for some reason I have everything they’ve recorded on there, but that doesn’t mean I want to listen to them all the time. Why should quantity override quality, or variety? What ding dong programmed that feature into the algorithm? Seriously. I would like to know.

I’m positive it’s been hotly debated, and a simple Googling would probably reveal the answers. But that would be too easy.

Anyhow, Sloan dudes, we’re all grown up and have kids and shit, and even though Murray tackled Chris Murphy into a pile of garbage in Kingston, ON when we were on tour together, we still love you.

One Reply to “iPod Rediscovery”

  1. Apparently the shuffle algorithm, up until some recent changes, was as pseudorandom as you’re going to get on a computer. It’s neat that it appears nonrandom, though — the human brain’s penchant for pattern recognition hard at work, I suppose.

    That said, there is the “Play higher rated songs more often” option within iTunes. Furthermore, more recent versions of iTunes have added a “smart shuffle” feature (find it in Preferences -> Playback) that allows you to increase or decrease the likelihood of hearing sequential songs by the same artist or from the same album.

    … although mine is apparently set to “Random,” though I could swear that after a recent iTunes update I started hearing sequential songs a hell of a lot more often. The mystery is ongoing…

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