Monday, April 30, 2007

Computers, Music, and...Music *on* Computers?

One of the things that kept me busy over last weekend (Friday in particular) was finishing up my final project for my IDS 110 class on computers and web design. In case you didn't guess, the final project is actually making a webpage. Actually, it's writing a report on something relating to the Internet and making a website about it. I worked long and hard on my website, but I think it turned out alright. My topic was online anonymity. I think...I think I may have gone a little overboard, I'm not sure. I was talking with one of my fellow classmates.

Me: "How's the project going for you?"
Him: "Not bad. I really don't want to have to write all that stuff, though."
Me: "I don't blame you. I finished writing my report. It was pretty exhausting."
Him: "Oh, you're done? How long did yours turn out to be?"
Me: "Well, I just did a primitive copy/paste into Word, but it came out to be about 12 pages."
Him: "..."
Me: "Single-spaced."
Him: "You're insane. That's bordering on thesis paper length."
Me: "Oh-hoh-hoh, it has a ways to go before it could be considered that."

Still, I may have done a wittle eency-weency bit more than they asked for. However, there was a lot of information to be found, and I have high standards for myself. Put those two together, and you have a 12 page report...single-spaced.

(P.S. If you want to look at all the other websites in my section to compare them to mine, you can find them here. Some won't be complete until Tuesday at noon, but you can get of an idea of how mine compares with the rest of the class.)

Why do I bring this up? Mainly, because I thought it was the only good segue into my next topic. Sometimes going to a lecture can be most enlightening. Anyone who's taken Professor Muller's Physics for Future Presidents can attest to this (and anyone who hasn't really, really, really should, or at least watch the webcasts!). I had a lecture like this in my IDS 110 class last week, and it was enlightening for its own reason.

We had Tim Westergreen, a web entrepreneur, come in. Even though he was a Stanford grad, there was no sense of animosity towards us. He talked to us about the trials and tribulations of starting up his online business. It's a pretty interesting talk; you should check it out here (and if you listen closely really closely, you can hear some zombie-voiced punk asking him a question near the end). Oh, wait, I didn't tell you what program he started. It's called Pandora.

Never heard of it?

Yeah, me neither.

However, I am currently hooked on it, and given that their main source of advertising is word-of-mouth via the so-called "blogosphere", I decided that I should give them a little pitch for you, being part of this sphere and all. I think you'll like it.

Basically, Pandora is an online radio service, totally legit and all that jazz. What separates it is from other online radio, however, is that it is fully customizable. It tries to play music that it will think you'll enjoy based on a series of hundreds of algorithms and their system called the "Music Genome Program".

Like the name implies the music genome program is an attempt to "map out" the DNA of music. At first, this sounds kind of hefty (and somewhat nefarious), but it's basically an attempt to simulate, as they say themselves, a friend who knows a lot of different music, and can tell you what you'll like, based on the qualities of the music you already do like. They use a bunch of different attributes. And by "a bunch", I mean A LOT. Take a gander (and that's not even the complete list). So, they use these attributes to create your own, personalized stations.

For example, say you entered in, oh, I don't know, Coldplay. In addition to playing a few Coldplay songs, it will play songs that have a similar feel to Coldplay's music, but are by a variety of artists (many of which are unknowns). While listening, you have the choice to skip to the next song, but the real nice thing is that you can give a "Thumbs Up" or a "Thumbs Down" to every song you hear. This helps to fine-tune the station to within the specified parameters based on your preferences and the set algorithms.

And what's more, it's free. Well, you can pay $36 a year if you don't want ads, but I don't mind them, so its free for me. It's also commercial free, and you can switch from one of your stations to another at the drop of a hat (or the click of a button, one of the two). So its almost better than normal radio (except, of course, that you have to be at a computer). The only problem is that it doesn't have much in the way of classical or soundtracks (ack!) but they say they're working on it.

I highly recommend using it. The founder's a really nice guy, and the service is great. Like I said, I'm using it as my new primary source for indoor music. My current favorite channel is the "Vertical Horizon" channel. It has a nice, mellow rock thang going on that I think a lot of people would like (I'm looking at you, Dad). Oh, and I recommend downloading this application so that you don't alway need a browser window open when using the program.

So, that's my piece. Happy listening!


Anonymous said...

Pfft...12 pages single spaced? Remember Logan's 2004 political positions assignment? I had fun with that - 20 pages, single spaced...I guess that's when I found out I was a political nut.

However, your topic is interesting (I probably couldn't write 12 pages on it, honestly.) Hmmm, a sociologist would view it that technology is de-individualizing people - with the ability to conceal our identities, we are in fact, hiding our real selves. While I never use my full name as my screenname, most of my screenies have something to do with me or my beliefs (although it's unlikely I'll ever use a screenie such as SeXXiECoMRaDe314159265 for example.)

-Comrade Chavez

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, I do agree with your report, it can be an expression of who we want to be. As for protecting online anonymity, I agree - it should be protected. Not only is it a free speech issue, it can be an economics issue - is it efficient to monitor what goes on the internet? Obviously, no (the joy of taking a law and economics class.)

Andrew Schnorr said...

20 pages? Wow, looking back, mine was only six. Keep in mind, though, this is more research oriented, while your political position was just you rambling on and on...and on. ;)

By the way, I'd pay you to use that screen name!

Anonymous said...

Dare I ask what screen name you'd pay me to use?

It's too bad that pandora might go out of business since that ruling came up, so I guess I'll wait and see what happens with it before I get hooked. So I'm requesting from you some semi-regular updates on if/when the site is closing or if large changes are being made to the music it plays.

Anonymous said...

For that, I will gladly use it.