Monday, March 5, 2012

The Pandora Flaw

I've been an avid fan of Pandora Radio for about 5 years now. Maybe a bit longer. Yes, I even pay the $30 or so per year to avoid the ads. I hate ads.

In case you aren't familiar with Pandora, it's a custom radio. You pick the music by "seeding" the radio station with a particular song or artist that you are fond of. Pandora searches through its musical database and attempts to find similar music for your custom station. It's not a bad idea. In fact, I'd like to work for Pandora for about a month so I can fix their finding algorithms. Although, I suspect it would require some fundamental changes in their database and the way they generate lists.

As a song is playing on the radio, you can give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down or you can just ignore it. I'm not sure what their original idea was. Do they expect me to either thumbs or thumbs down every single song they play? Are you supposed to only thumbs up the songs you really like and thumbs down the songs you really dislike and the mediocre songs remain categorically neutral?

I've recently discovered that using the thumbs up is a bad idea. Their algorithm adjusts the station based on songs you like (thumbs up) and tries to play more music just like that. However, variety is the spice of life. What I've decided is that, based on their current play list generator, you should only thumbs down songs you don't like so they don't get played again.

Basically, you can eliminate the thumbs up button all together. Thumbing up a song limits the variety of music. Thumbing down a song will keep it from playing similar music so thumbing down is still good. I'm thinking they should get rid of the thumbs all together and just put a red X or a gong meaning, "Quit playing sh*t like this!"

I wonder if I could create a Pandora competitor without infringing upon any Copyright laws.

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