Friday, August 15, 2008

August Listening Test Results

I have just completed my August listening tests, and I must say that the current version of the song selection algorithm is MUCH more to my taste. Check out the charts:

With the exception of the new station, "Corny Schlocky Sappy Songs", (which is the title of one of many delightful Carla Ulbrich songs used as a seed for this station) all the ratings are up to new heights of satisfaction. Part of the reason appears to be that the selection algorithm seems to be doing a bit less exploration:

Note in particular that "Bright Electra of the Seven Sisters" had never played more than eight previously thumbed-up tracks out of forty. This month all forty songs played in the test had been previously thumbed up.

I even had a momentary concern that the stations might not be exploring enough new music, but I've concluded, no, this is pretty much exactly how I've always wished Pandora would perform. I feel much less need for any advanced controls at all under the current state of the selection algorithm.

Consider the seemingly impossible goal of building a novelty song station in Pandora. If we could filter on the focus trait "humorous lyrics", such a station could have be perfected shortly after its birth. However, "The Best Medicine" has performed terribly since I created it in Feb. '07 with satisfaction scores as low as 3/10. This month, however, it played 27 previously thumbed up tracks, and found four new humorous tracks for a satisfaction rating of 8.125/10. I only thumbed down 6 tracks which is significantly less weeding than usual.

Thus, you'll be hearing much less whining from me for advanced controls under the current selection algorithm. This version is approaching being the Pandora I've always wished it would become. In fact, Pandora could probably continue to push the selection algorithm in this direction, and I'd be even happier.

I've sent a version of this post as an e-mail to Tom Conrad to say how pleased I am with the changes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pandora App: One Week Later Or How I've Learned to Hate EDGE

After a week of use, I am still enjoying my iPhone and the Pandora app. However, it's become increasingly clear that all the woes I've encountered have occurred only when the phone slips out of wifi or 3G and into the EDGE network. It turns that the vast majority of RFI noise occurs when the iPhone receives data over EDGE. Furthermore, the streaming of music on EDGE can become unlistenably intermittent (two to five bars of music intersticed with silence of similar lengths broken only by the RFI bursts). I do not know whether the iPhone or the app is to blame for these problems, but I've learned to switch to the iPod app whenever the RFI noise appears.

Thus, I've ended up playing the iPod more than I've expected or wanted to. I now only play Pandora on the commute when I'm east of downtown Oakland, and I often have to switch the iPod on for lunch. You'd expect that San Francisco, of all places, would be thoroughly covered by the 3G network, but even sitting stationary at my desk, the iPhone can switch to EDGE. Thus, I am not sure whether it's a coverage issue or a capacity issue. Turning the iPhone off and rebooting when I'm at my desk seems to consistently recover the 3G connection, but doing so takes a half a minute or so of my precious Pandora time. Fortunately, I've only had to do so at most twice in one day and some days require no such fiddling at all.

I had one moment of panic this past Sunday when the iPhone got stuck in the favorites page. The home button would not take the phone back to the home page, nor would the phone turn off. Eventually, it white-screened, and I had visions of having to visit a genius bar. However, when I got home, I learned how to force a reset (press and hold the home and sleep buttons for ten seconds), and it's been fine since then.