The Magic of Shuffle

One of the most overlooked innovations over the past decade is shuffle. Before the digital music revolution we weren’t just tied to the purchase of albums rather than individual tracks but we were often forced to listen to only the same group of songs every time we decided to play music. There were of course mix tapes and then mix CDs but these had their limits. I know there were some songs I would pretty much never NOT want them to surface in a music rotation and they would then occupy 2 or 3 tracks on every CD I burned.

But with mp3s suddenly music became more personal and more interesting. The Beatles could follow the theme to Fraggle Rock which could itself be followed by a Wagner overture. First this selection was limited to personal computers which had the storage for hundreds if songs on one device but with the iPod and other modern mp3 players (my Diamond Rio still holds a special place in my gadget loving heart but 32 MEGAbytes was small in 1999 and is nearly microscopic today) this power came to our pockets.

Now the Genius function in iTunes, as one example, can look at your music library and as long as you are connected to the Internet, not just shuffle from one genre to the next without delay but suggest new music based on what it finds.

To think that my earliest memories include flipping a few records before I was even school-aged and now can create my own radio station that can travel with me anywhere I have an Internet connection is still fascinating. In. A matter if decades we have gone from vinyl to cassettes to CDs to digital music; from no enduser freedom to complete choice and randomness.

3,000 hits

There was a lot of talk this weekend about Derek Jeter passing Babe Ruth on the career hit list. With 2,874 hits Jeter is well on his way to becoming the Yankees first 3,000 hit player.

It made me wonder: who passed up on Derek Jeter in the draft? I was briefly afraid that my own Boston Red Sox may have had a little spoken of black mark, but thankfully they didn’t even have a first round pick in 1992. The five teams and players who were selected before Jeter:

• Phil Nevin – Houston Astros
• Paul Shuey – Cleveland Indians
• B.J. Wallace – Montreal Expos
• Jeffrey Hammonds – Baltimore Orioles
• Chad Mottola – Cincinnati Reds

Given the sophistication of baseball statistics and the aid of computers these days it’s unlikely Jeter will become a real-life Mr. 3000.

A Social Media Moment for People Who Don’t “Get” Twitter

I am not surprised by how many people still don’t get the point of Twitter.  The running joke about Twitter has always been “no one cares what you ate for lunch.”  While there are some really useless tweets, I admit freely that a few of mine are meaningless, but that’s part of sharing a piece of your life online.  There are experiences that exist on Twitter or other social media sites that could not have occurred previously.

This is going to be the way I explain why Twitter isn’t just a time waster:

On Sunday, being the first day of the new month, I decided to listen to a The Week of August First by The Impossibles.  I was listening to it on Swift.fm, which connects Twitter users to music, and tweeted it out.  A few minutes later I saw a response to my tweet by a user called prioritiesntact.  Now, Priorities Intact was a song by The Impossibles so I was intrigued.  Turns out it’s one of the guys from The Impossibles!

Lady Gaga has over 5 million followers and has 450 tweet as of today. But a lot of these are just broadcasts rather than interaction with her followers/fans.  How many people can say one of their favorite bands retweeted them?  That simple interaction of listening to a song and the artist responding to you personally couldn’t happen without social media unless both of you happened to be in the same physical space. That’s what Twitter can do.  Not just tell people things, but share back and forth.

What the Librarian Didn’t Say

A lot of talk the past few days has surround the Librarian of Congress carving out some exceptions to the DMCA but a number of potential exemptions were left out. The hard working Mike Masnick over at Techdirt breaks them down.  The biggest issue left alone this round: DRM servers that get turned off and your content needs to phone home for you to actually play a song or video. Unfortunately this DRM can’t be broken.  So “Plays for Sure” and future DRM schemes are essentially born obsolete, waiting for their owners to discontinue support.  

I’d bet that somewhere in the back of Steve Jobs’ mind this concern helped him to fight the music companies over DRM.  Apple is not particularly reserved in moving on (original iPhone won’t get iOS4, OS X left OS9 in the dust, Intel switch meant no more updates for G4/5) and if the business of selling content fades from Apple’s vision, they won’t be stuck with as much cleanup of those left behind.  It’s just not simple.