How to fill a 5Gb iPod…

10/27/2002

So here’s what the thing would be if I were really bored and absurdly anal on a Sunday early-evening… As an iPod early-adopter, I may be the last person left in the Western hemisphere with a mere 5Gb to fill. And I’ve ripped nearly 12Gb of my own albums onto my computer. So I clearly have a problem here – how do I choose what to put onto it? Of the 2822 songs currently on my Mac, only 535 songs have yet to be rated (star ratings out of five – rating songs is the new ‘alphabetising my record collection’), and these include several new albums I’ve bought recently along with some older stuff that I don’t really want to write off just yet, but at the same time can’t really say that I’ve demonstrated much inclination to listen to either…

There are several considerations – one being the highly frustrating way that the iTunes randomise function only randomises the first time you make a playlist – so you can’t have one list that changes dynamically. This is highly frustrating.

Quickly – some dumb figures: 5 star songs: 281, 4 star songs: 991, 3 star songs: 691, 2 star songs: 286, 1 star songs: 38. In principle the scoring mechanism that has evolved works like this – I would not be averse to listening to at any time any song that gets three to five stars. Two star songs are an irritation. One star songs are just irredeemably awful. One star songs are mostly from Moby’s “18″ or represent the most self-indulgent of The Magnetic Fields’ oeuvre… Other considerations to bear in mind – classical music is interesting, but not always ideal for listening to on the bus or down the street, I add new music all the time and wish it to be represented on my iPod before I have had the chance to assign it a rating, humourous songs often become less humourous after a fairly short amount of time. There are many many other criteria in play here as well – so many in fact that ideally I would need someone to do some comprehensive analysis on the subject and return to me with a set of criteria that one could use as a basis for evolving appropriate smart playlists. Here’s my attempt so far…

  • 5-star songs:
    This smart playlist operates according to the following principles:
    My rating is 5-stars, Genre is not Educational or Classical, limited to 1210 Mb selected by random.
    Significantly, this represents essentially every single 5-star song I own except for a batch of scientific songs by Tom Glazer that may be empiracally wonderful but can become irritating, and classical pieces which are often simply too long to warrant inclusion.

  • 4-star songs:
    This smart playlist operates according to the following principles:
    My rating is 4-stars, Genre is not Educational, Classical or Humour, limited to 650 songs selected by random.
    This represents 2.69Gb of the space on my iPod, except that since several of my smart playlists randomly select some of the same tracks, there is no particular benefit in specifying exactly how much space it should occupy. This is a fairly savagely cut selection from the 991 songs that I’ve given a full four stars too. There simply isn’t space to do otherwise. Note the addition of humour to the banned genre… Five star comedy may remain entertaining… Four star may not…

  • 4-star songs (running):
    This smart playlist operates according to the following principles:
    My rating is 4-stars, Genre is not Educational, Classical or Humour, limited to 200 songs selected by date added.
    Now we have to add an element of movement into the organisation of the iPod. Since we can only have a selection of the four-star songs that are available, a choice has to be made as to which ones will be chosen. A purely random selection that isn’t dynamically different each time would relegate some songs to obscurity, and more importantly would remain uniformly distributed – there would be no sense of progress… By choosing the 200 most recently added 4-star songs, I make sure that my iPod changes and responds to my daily whim…

  • Most Played:
    This smart playlist operates according to the following principles:
    My rating is better than 2 stars, limited to 300 songs selected by most played.
    This list has precisely the opposite function of the one above – to be a stable chart of songs that I seem to not want to be without. The removal of anything with a rating under 3 stars makes sure I don’t accidentally get stuck with something I’ve come to hate.

  • Recent Additions:
    This smart playlist operates according to the following principles:
    My rating is not 1 stars / 2 stars / or 3 stars, limited to 60 songs selected by recently added.
    Essentially this list is simply to catch stuff that I’ve added but have not as yet come to a conclusion about. The removal of anything with one, two or three stars means that I don’t waste time listening to stuff that I have come to a conclusion about, while anything that has yet to be rated remains included.

  • Recently Played:
    This smart playlist operates according to the following principles:
    My rating is not 1 or 2 stars / or 3 stars, limited to 40 Mb, selected by last played.
    Because it’s possible that I could have a song in my head when I leave my flat, and for it not to be on my iPod, I instituted a list that kept track of what had been listened to in roughly the last forty minutes and made sure that was always with me. A tiny additional list that has been a complete life-saver many times…

This feels a bit Open University-esque. It’s an almost total waste of weblog space as well. Except that I am serious – if someone out there has done some research into these things I’m sure that a company like Apple would be interested… A default ‘my music collection’ playlist that intuited what kind of things you actually wanted to carry around with you (with whatever obscure algorithm it used) would probably be quite appealing to some people…