[note: this is a repost from a long-neglected blog I started last summer while at SIGGRAPH]

I’m currently doing a work-from-hotel morning since there’s nothing at the conference that lured me away this morning, listening to my rather eclectic ~4K song playlist on my iPod on shuffle. This leads to some interesting, occasionally jarring, boundaries between songs; it also got me thinking more about something I’ve wanted for a while.

If you’re like me, you have moods. Sometimes my moods do an energetic sprint through hours of Pete Tong’s Essential Mixes. Other times, they dance delightful undulations down the sandy beaches of Angelique Kidjo’s Black Ivory Soul. Occasionally they strut, oozing an attitude of down-home Texas hip as only Stevie Ray Vaughan or Lyle Lovett can manage.

(We’ll ignore the immature, pissed-off moods that stomp into Evanescence, shoot you the finger, and slam the door in your face. They just want attention. Don’t give in.)

For me, the analogy is apt: music makes a path for me and, when I find I’m on the right one for the moment, I want to follow it until I come to a crossroad where another path seems more interesting.

I want to iWander.

If you think about it, it should be easy. Every song starts with some implicit metadata attached: title, artist, album, year, genre – though the last is often argued over, especially out on the electronica/dance/techno/alternative fringe. Apple adds some more: your rating, grouping, playlists, last played, artwork, etc. I want to be able to add more, defining relationships between artists, songs, albums, etc. that exist only for me. I want to be able to change paths – say, from playlist to album, then perhaps genre, etc. – to follow my mood.

An example might go something like this:

  • Texas Flood, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Greatest Hits
    Man, I loved living in Austin while he was there. More of him.
  • Pride and Joy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, MTV Unplugged, Vol 1
    I remember when he did this at Austin City Limits. That reminds me of the time we saw Indigo Girls there …
  • Romeo and Juliet, Indigo Girls, Rites of Passage
    That was a good night; seeing them, Nancy Griffith, and Mary Chapin Carpenter on the stage was phenomenal
  • This Shirt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Hitchhiker Exampler
    Wow. For a cheap sampler of music from a mediocre cable show, this is amazing. Let’s hear it all again.
  • Make It Easier, Indigo Girls, Hitchhiker Exampler
    Oh, yeah, they have a tune on this one, too. I must be in a mood.
  • Talkin’ at the Texaco, James McMurtry, Hitchhiker Exampler
    He knows small-town like nobody’s business, that’s sure. Didn’t David Garza do something fun like this?
  • Big Stick, Twang-Twang-Shock-a-Boom, Me So Twangy
    Bummer they couldn’t get along … they were awesome.

…and so forth. Stevie Ray Vaughan could have just as easily branched to Robert Cray or Eric Clapton (great guitarists all and SRV died in a plane crash while on tour with both of them).

There’s even a commercial angle: it’s not legal for me to share my music with others, but give me a way to share my metadata and I can find other people who have similar but diverging tastes and find new music I’ll probably like … and, as a bonus, I can judge that likelihood by evaluating the nature of the association between the two (“Austin City Limits? That’s a hick show … ewww.” or “David Garza was in a band? Wow!”) and follow the paths that seem interesting through the iTunes Music Store and on down the sidewalk.

Hey, Apple, you listening?

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09 July 2006


metadata technology