Sunday, October 14, 2012

Data Can Be Fun and Musical

This is a guest post from Richie Jay.

I was talking to a friend last night about data. Specifically about how modern technology makes it so much easier for us (and, for better or worse, other people and companies) to collect tremendous quantities of data about each of us.

Most of that data is boring. Or necessarily private in the hyper-connected world (birth date, social security number, income, credit report, etc). But some of it can be quite fun. And very revealing if shared.

In Summer 2004, in the early days of iTunes and Internet 2.0, I started using a little software plug-in called Audioscrobbler (later renamed to Last.fm and purchased by a giant media conglomerate), whose sole purpose was to keep track of the music that I listened to (to 'scrobble' it, in Audioscrobbler parlance), and to use that information to provide music recommendations. Initially, it only worked with iTunes, but later it incorporated many streaming sites and portable players (although Pandora, Songza and some other sites that I frequently use are not supported or require creative work-arounds).

Long story short, 8 years later I'm just a few songs short of 17,000 individual pieces of data about my listening habits. This is actually only a partial sample of my total music consumption in 8+ years (misses some ways I listen to music at home, online, and on portable devices, plus concerts, radio, PA systems, parties, friends' houses, and other places I hear music; occasionally has data errors, like double-counts or missing 'scrobbles'), but probably a pretty good representation of my overall musical preferences.

Obviously, my tastes have changed over the years, and I also can't be blamed for the capricious whims of the oft-used shuffle feature, so this list does not necessarily represent a present-day ranking of my favorite or most-listened-to artists. Furthermore, any time you share this much data about yourself, there's bound to be something 'embarrassing' in there (perhaps, in this case, a total lack of certain genres high on the list, even though I aspire to broaden my musical predilections, and like to think of myself as musically diverse and adventurous).

Beyond that, because the technology now exists (and is often used) to correlate various sets of data, this data set begs a few additional questions: What do my music listening habits say about me? What other information can be gleaned from this data? Can it be used to determine any number of seemingly unrelated (but most likely highly-correlated) things like my age, gender, race, political leanings, religion, education level, income, profession, home state, favorite sports team, favorite ice cream flavor, hobbies, boxers vs. briefs, cats vs. dogs, and/or blood type?

Without further ado, here is the list of the Top 50 Most Listened to Artists by me, Richie Jay, since August 2004, according to Audioscrobbler / Last.FM:

RANK          ARTIST

1 Play
2 Play

3 Play

4 Play

5 Play

6 Play

7 Play

8 Play
9 Play

10 Play

11 Play

12 Play

13 Play

14 Play

15 Play

16 Play


18 Play

19 Play

20 Play

21 Play

22 Play

23 Play

24 Play

25 Play

26 Play

26 Play

28 Play

29 Play

30 Play

31 Play


33 Play

34 Play

34 Play

36 Play

36 Play

38 Play

39 Play

40 Play

41 Play

41 Play

43 Play

44 Play

44 Play

44 Play

47 Play

48 Play

49 Play



Anonymous said...

omg..do i have a generation gap..the only names i recognized were Billy Joel and Garth Brooks.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I am so really impressed with the great music you listen to. I will not pretend I know all the artists, but appreciate a few. You have great taste in this regard.

My dilemma resides on the opposite spectrum. I had established an i-tunes account "way back when", and had built quite a library of songs. This was followed by forgetting not only my password, but what email address I had used! Should I blame this on old age or that I am a Shlemiel that doesn't write things down?.--rob e.