Thursday, May 3, 2007

Not So Random?

Have you noticed the phenomenon I'll call Ipod patterning?

You set your Ipod on shuffle, which is supposedly random, but the songs seem anything but random?

I while back I posted that my Ipod was conspiring against me because song after song after song was a song about love gone bad, breakups, or one of our songs.

Well, today wasn't like that, but here is my list, first 12 played:

1. Readymade – Red Hot Chili Peppers

2. M-O-N-E-Y (live)– Lyle Lovett

3. The Nearness Of You – Norah Jones

4. Eruption – Van Halen

5. No Woman no Cry - Bob Marley

6. The Refugee – U2

7. Nothing Compares To You – Prince

8. She’s Only 18 – Red Hot Chili Peppers

9. Could You Be Loved – Bob Marley

10. I Shot The Sheriff – Bob Marley

11. Reelin’ In The Years – Steely Dan

12. Redemption Song - Bob Marley

Notice anything strange?

4 Bob Marley Songs and 2 Red Hot Chili peppers.

Ok, I have 1023 songs on my Ipod. 14 of them are by Bob Marley. That's 1.3%* Yet 4 come up in the first 12?

What about the Chili Peppers? I have a few more by them (43), with 5 albums represented, yet both songs came from the same album.

I know mathematicians will tell me I'm just looking for a pattern where none exists, but damn. That doesn't seem very random to me.

Anyone else experience this?

*Update: I screwed up the decimal place in the original post. It is now corrected!

h/t to Camera Obscura.


Camera Obscura said...

First -- your iPod doesn't select random songs. It selects files from a database via a program using a hashing algorithm that's meant to mathematically imitate randomness as we know it in the analog world. Since this program considers ONLY the placement of each file in the database and not album name / artist, you may come up with several songs played close together that you consider to be "closely associated" but the program doesn't.

And no, I didn't write the program or the algorithm, so I can't tell you whether you can make the choices appear more varied by either spreading out or clumping songs by the same artist, or even if the order of songs as it appears on your iPod screen / when you plug your iPod into your computer is the order in which they're stored / accessed in the database by the program. Ask Apple. (/computer scientist)

Second: Ok, I have 1023 songs on my Ipod. 14 of them are by Bob Marley. That's .013% Yet 4 come up in the first 12?

Too small a sample. If you look at the last 1050 tracks you played, Mr. Marley and the Wailers will show up in about 1.3% of them (you goofed the decimal point, too -- shift right 2 places for percentage, or don't use the percent sign. 1% = 1/100 = .01)

It's been a long time since I aced my statistics final, so I can't remember the math to tell you how few a number of tracks you can listen to and have the percentage come out right, but I know it's a damnsight more than 1.17% (12 played outta 1 K available.) Tsk on me for forgetting, I know. (/mathmetician)

Third -- Don't you ever watch NUMB3RS? (grin) What humans think of as a "random" pattern, especially visually, is really a set of evenly-spaced things mixed up with other evenly-spaced things. You want your songs by the same artist evenly-spaced out in your playlist, but you're getting them randomly. (/geek)

And you thought I was a Mommy-blogger...

Brave Sir Robin said...


I was just wonderin'......

Thanks for the enlightenment.

I 'll fix the %. I didn't notice that before.

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