Some preliminary Playlist Survey results

 I’m conducting a somewhat informal survey on playlisting to compare how well playlists created by an expert radio DJ compare to those generated by a playlisting algorithm and a random number generator.  So far, nearly 200 people have taken the survey (Thanks!).     Already I’m seeing some very interesting results. Here’s a few tidbits (look for a more thorough analysis once the survey is complete).

People expect human DJs to make better playlists:
The survey asks people to try to identify the origin of a playlist (human expert, algorithm or random) and also rate each playlist.  We can look at the ratings people give to playlists based on what they think the playlist origin is to get an idea of people’s attitudes toward human vs. algorithm creation.

  Predicted Origin  Rating
  ----------------   ------
  Human expert      3.4
  Algorithm         2.7
  Random            2.1  

We see that people expect humans to create better playlists than algorithms and that algorithms should give better playlists than random numbers.  Not a surprising result.

Human DJs don’t necessarily  make better playlists:
Now lets look at how people rated playlists based on the actual origin of the playlists:

  Actual Origin     Rating
  -------------     ------
  Human expert      2.5
  Algorithm         2.7
  Random            2.6 

These results are rather surprising.  Algorithmic playlists are rated highest, while human-expert-created playlists are rated lowest, even lower than those created by the random number generator.  There are lots of caveats here, I haven’t done any significance tests yet to see if the differences here really matter, the survey size is still rather small,  and the survey doesn’t present real-world playlist listening conditions, etc. Nevertheless, the results are intriguing.

I’d like to collect more survey data to flesh out these results.  So if you haven’t already, please take the survey:

The Playlist Survey


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  1. #1 by Thierry BM on June 22, 2010 - 12:24 am

    Regarding the random playlists, can you give some info about the origin of the songs? a random set from Pandora is probably better than one from YouTube, for instance.
    Otherwise, cool results!


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