My Pandora Thinks I’m… Okay, It Just Thinks

I just this evening discovered probably the only online streaming web site for music I’ve ever wanted to listen to. That’s because I actually get to dictate what gets played on this station. I really quit listening to radio a few years ago and buying an iPod really sealed that coffin. As much as I hate to admit, I really don’t even listen to public radio anymore, even though Richmond has a great public radio/TV station. We even have a decent indy station, but I just don’t listen.

You see, my problem is that while I really want to discover new music, I want to have some control on what direction that takes. Sounds like a conflict, doesn’t it? Well, not so much. I’m just particular about what I want and while other people who know me can make terrific recommendations, most DJ’s and the like have no idea what I’m going to like.

So, for the past few years, I’ve used Amazon.com, iTunes Music Store, and Metacritic to track down new music when no one I knew and who in turn, knew my tastes, was making recommendations for me. They’ve worked well, but I still felt like I was only just listening down the same path I’d been on for quite a while. Well, this evening I was listening to Inside The Net No. 6 interviewing Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora and The Music Genome Project. I won’t go into all the gory details of Pandora’s recommendation engine (which is The Music Genome Project), but suffice to say, it is the most advanced I’m aware of. Better yet, it is as simple as naming your favorite song or artist or just as complicated and in depth as you wish to make it. Even better still, it is completely free. Not only is there no charge, it is interconnected such that I can be at iTMS or Amazon.com with just a couple of clicks.

So while our TiVo may think1 that we’re raving lunatics for slasher films and Amazon.com thinks I wish to purchase every building code ever written, Pandora is really pointing in the right direction. Time will tell how useful it is, but so far I’m very impressed.

  1. This and my title are in reference to a well-known Wall Street Journal (subscription required) article titled "Oh No!, My TiVo Thinks I’m Gay"by Jeffrey Zaslow. The article really captured what so many people were noticing about recommendation engines and led to some refinement in TiVo’s system. However, our TiVo still has a long way to go. []

‘Ol Blue Eyes

Last week, while on a job site inspection some building foundations1, I had what must be the strangest conversation with a contractor yet:

Contractor (to me): Yeah, so we’ll just have the additional bars delivered in the morning rather than attempt use some replacements… say, is that your natural eye color or do wear some sort of contacts?

Well, uh, I do wear contacts, but this is my natural eye color. I suppose I get that a lot, though.

Contractor (to soils guy): Seriously, take a look at this guys eyes. Isn’t that the wildest eye color you’ve ever seen?

At this point, I have little choice but to stare at the soils guy right in the eye like a crazed person.

Soils guy: Huh. I think my baby will have similar eyes, since my wife is white and has green eyes. (He’s olive skinned and obviously foreign-born, perhaps Greek or Turkish).

Contractor: Well, they’re really wild looking, anyway, man. Talk to you next week.

I have a brief conversation with the soils guy before walking to my car simply shaking my head. It’s not everyday I have a burly construction superintendent comment on my eye color.

  1. Foundations which may or may not, Kevin, have a box of voodoo magic underneath them. []