Posts Tagged tutorial

The Playlist Survey

[tweetmeme source= ‘plamere’ only_single=false] Playlists have long been a big part of the music experience.  But making a good playlist is not always easy.  We can spend lots of time crafting the perfect mix, but more often than not, in this iPod age, we are likely to toss on a pre-made playlist (such as an album),  have the computer generate a playlist (with something like iTunes Genius) or (more likely) we’ll just hit the shuffle button and listen to songs at random.   I pine for the old days when Radio DJs would play well-crafted sets – mixes of old favorites and the newest, undiscovered tracks – connected in interesting ways.  These professionally created playlists magnified the listening experience.   The whole was indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

The tradition of the old-style Radio DJ continues on Internet Radio sites like Radio Paradise. RP founder/DJ Bill Goldsmith says of   Radio Paradise: “Our specialty is taking a diverse assortment of songs and making them flow together in a way that makes sense harmonically, rhythmically, and lyrically — an art that, to us, is the very essence of radio.”  Anyone who has listened to Radio Paradise will come to appreciate the immense value that a professionally curated playlist brings to the listening experience.

I wish I could put Bill Goldsmith in my iPod and have him craft personalized playlists for me  – playlists that make sense harmonically, rhythmically and lyrically, and customized to my music taste,  mood and context . That, of course, will never happen. Instead I’m going to rely on computer algorithms to generate my playlists.  But how good are computer generated playlists? Can a computer really generate playlists as good as Bill Goldsmith,  with his decades of knowledge about good music and his understanding of how to fit songs together?

To help answer this question,  I’ve created a Playlist Survey – that will collect information about the quality of playlists generated by a human expert, a computer algorithm and a random number generator.   The survey presents a set of playlists and the subject rates each playlist in terms of its quality and also tries to guess whether the playlist was created by a human expert, a computer algorithm or was generated at random.

Bill Goldsmith and Radio Paradise have graciously contributed 18 months of historical playlist data from Radio Paradise to serve as the expert playlist data. That’s nearly 50,000 playlists and a quarter million song plays spread over nearly 7,000 different tracks.

The Playlist Survey also servers as a Radio DJ Turing test.  Can a computer algorithm (or a random number generator for that matter) create playlists that people will think are created by a living and breathing music expert?  What will it mean, for instance, if we learn that people really can’t tell the difference between expert playlists and shuffle play?

Ben Fields and I will offer the results of this Playlist when we present Finding a path through the Jukebox – The Playlist Tutorial – at ISMIR 2010 in Utrecth in August. I’ll also follow up with detailed posts about the results here in this blog after the conference.  I invite all of my readers to spend 10 to 15 minutes to take The Playlist Survey.  Your efforts will help researchers better understand what makes a good playlist.

Take the Playlist Survey

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There must be 85 ways to visualize your music


Justin and I have been working hard, preparing our tutorial: Using Visualizations for Music Discovery being presented at ISMIR 2009 in Kobe Japan.  Here’s a teaser image showing 85 of the visualizations that we’ll be talking about during the tutorial.    If you’ve created a music visualization that is useful for music exploration and discovery, and you don’t see a thumbnail of it here, let me know in the next couple of days.

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Using Visualizations for Music Discovery

As Ben pointed out last week, the ISMIR  site has posted the tutorial schedule for ISMIR 2009.  I’m happy to see that the tutorial that Justin Donaldson and I proposed was accepted.  Our tutorial is called Using Visualizations for Music Discovery.  Here’s the abstract:

As the world of online music grows, tools for helping people find new and interesting music in these extremely large collections become increasingly important.  In this tutorial we look at one such tool that can be used to help people explore large music collections: data visualization.  We survey the state-of-the-art in visualization for music discovery in commercial and research systems. Using numerous examples, we explore different algorithms and techniques that can be used to visualize large and complex music spaces, focusing on the advantages and the disadvantages of the various techniques.   We investigate user factors that affect the usefulness of a visualization and we suggest possible areas of exploration for future research.

I’m excited about this tutorial – mainly because I get to work with Justin on it. He’s a really smart guy who really knows the state-of-the-art in visualizations. I’ll just be tagging along for the ride.

Detail from Genealog of Pop/Rock Music

Detail from Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music

We  are in the survey phase of talk preparation now. We’ve been gathing info on various types of visualizations and tagging them with the delicious tag MusicVizIsmir2009.  Feel free to tag along (pun intended) with us and tag items that you encounter that you feel may be particularly interesting, unique or salient.