How about a DJ rather than a Genius?

There’s been plenty of commentary about the new Genius feature in iTunes. A recommendation engine is a nice new feature, but personally there’s a couple of other features I’d like to see on my iPod, or in iTunes. These are more in the “reacquaint yourself with the music you already own” category rather than recommending new purchases.
For example, I use the shuffle feature quite a bit, usually when I just want some background music to blot out noise when commutting. But there’s no context navigation available from the “now playing” view. If you’re on shuffle, then you can only proceed to the next random track. But quite often I hear something and want to listen to the rest of the album, or more by the same artist. It’d be nice to be able to quickly switch from a random order to album order with a couple of clicks, rather than having to navigate back through all of the menus again. Similarly it’d be useful to be able to jump directly into that artist’s music in my collection from the same screen.
And rather than having a “genius” in the software, why not a DJ? (And I don’t mean in a cheesy voice over style!)
If listening to your collection on random is listening to your own personal radio station, then where are the other “feature programming” playlsits that you get from real radio stations? For example how about randomly programming a “Blue’s Hour”, a Second Summer of Love special, a Radiohead retrospective, or a Mercury Prize Nominee playlist?
There’s plenty of metadata in iTunes and plenty more available from an increasingly wide array of sources, so why doesn’t the software provide us with a better interface onto it? Supported by slightly more sophisticated software agents to help navigate or use it?
Implementing some of this might be possible through iTunes plugins, but some of the features it’d be nice to have on the device. The hackability of the iPhone suggests that this might be a better platform for exploration that the iPod.

LazyWeb Request: Choon Button

A request to the all-powerful LazyWeb:
I want a button, either on a web page or floating around on my desktop. When I click it, it should discover what I’m currently listening to via the Audioscrobbler web services, then automatically add it to a playlist which I can later download, bookmark, etc.
Is there such a beast already?
Include an option to associate a tag, and I think this would be a much better way to organize a music collection that the current last.FM model. I’m pretty daunted by the prospect of going through manually tagging tracks as to do it properly I’d have to listen to everything in my collection. A knee-jerk quick categorisation whilst the player is in random would hit the sweet spot for me.


The developers of Jaikoz, a Java MP3 tag editor mailed be yesterday to say that their latest release is now live on their site. I’m mentioning this because Jaikoz bundles my MusicBrainz API for doing metadata lookups using MusicBrainz.
Jaikoz is payware although there’s a free trial available. I should note that I’m not getting any kickbacks from this: the API is CreativeCommons licenced so they’re free to do what they want with it. They did check in with me first though, which was very friendly. I did suggest that they may want to consider donating money to MusicBrainz if they get enough sales.
I’m just pleased that they found it useful enough to include it in their application.


Here’s something I came across whilst looking for a Java API into WinAmp. Why was I looking for a such a beast? Well mainly because I’m a Java weenie and can’t be bothered to dredge up the bits of C/C++ I know to write WinAmp plugins properly.
The plugin I’m thinking about would be used to extract some RDF data from WinAmp — the playlist, what I’m listening to, etc.
Anyway, this lead me to Mp3 GPS, a WinAmp plugin written in Java that communicates to a GPS device attached to the serial port of your computer. (See the installation page for a link to the Java API; it doesn’t seem to have an official separate home page)
The MP3 GPS plugin can be configured to select a playlist based on information such as the system time, the current speed, direction, latitude, longitude and altitude. Which is a cool idea.
Apart from the use cases the author mentions, there are some other interesting possibilities. Such as being able to have a playlist for a particular scenic location; something that might complement the mood perhaps. Currently at high altitude and moving very fast? No problem, WinAmp will start playing some soothing tunes to make your flight more enjoyable.
There are some interesting art works that could be constructed with something like this. It basically allows a musician or DJ to take the listeners environment into account when mixing a tune. They just need to provide the rules for selecting the right playlist.
This is also related to Linked which I saw chumped earlier this week.
It would be useful to extract the rules into something more generic, similarly the playlists. That way MP3 and GPS enabled phones could make use of the data. There are already some geo vocabularies for RDF, so there’s probably work to build on already.
It’s just a shame I don’t have any GPS peripherals!

John Peel and Orson Welles

Slightly random posting this one.
I was listening to the excellent John Peel last week, enjoying his usual eclectic mix of tunes, when he chose to play a 7inch recording of Orson Welles in a studio recording a voice-over for peas. Now I’m sure everyone else has already heard it but it was the first time for me, and I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Basically Welles slowly loses it over the poor quality of the script and the direction; it ends up with him walking out of the studio.
Due to the magic of the internet, and the clueful Radio 1 website you too can listen to the recording. Either here where its available as a Macromedia file (WinAmp handles it just fine, although its a bit glitchy in places) or you can listen to it “in situ” as part of the entire John Peel broadcast. The latter is recommended if you have time as
you can also hear Peel’s take on the difficulties in doing voice-overs and he’s done a few himself!
If you don’t have a soundcard handy, then try reading the transcript here.
I’m deeply pleased that I was able to find it online as the chances of coming across said 7inch record is practically nil. Ladies and gentleman, this is what the internet is all about.