Connecting people and ideas through improvisation

Pandora and The Whiz Dumb of Crowds

I’m a big Pandora fan, and many moons ago I had an idea to make a spiffy new station – I’d crowdsource it.

I put a tweet out asking for what song could you not resist getting up out of your chair and dancing to, and fed them all into a new Pandora station. The goal was the greatest high-energy, must-dance, spazz-inducing station I had yet laid eardrums on.  So that was the goal.

What I got was two things. First was the most infuriatingly annoying station in my entire Pandora collection, and the second was a lesson on the serious limitations of the crowd.

The Crowdsource Dance Throwdown

The Pandora Station ended up with a lot of good songs going in, but ranged across such a wilderness of styles and formats I spent more time laughing than dancing.  Plus, Pandora takes your addition of a single rocking song from an artist as a reason to add every lame ballad that artist ever belched forth.

I thumbed down some very obvious misses, but generally left the station as it came to me.  I’m going to leave it that way until the end of September, then start editing it to suit my own tastes.  You’re welcome to give Crowdsource Dance Throwdown a listen and chime in.

Crowds know data, but not value

What I realized on a larger scale is that crowds are great for sourcing lots of general knowledge but there still must be someone curating it, like Wikipedia Editors do for Wikipedia. When you ask for opinions without any guiding hand you just get a disorganized pile.

Each individual idea might have merit, but the ideas don’t all have the same value when mooshed together.  It’s like a salad. When a salad is in a bowl you can pick around the bits you don’t like (tomatoes) or add the things you really want (like bacon bits).  If you drop it into a blender and make a single smoothie out of it… well, you’ll get something very colorful but not so popular on the menu. This has not been my most appetizing metaphor ever, but you get the idea.

Be careful when you get input from crowds on yourself and your ideas. Listen to their input (if you want) but only let it advise you; never let it replace your own judgment.

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Comments

  1. Your idea could work, but probably not with Pandora. The problem is that Pandora is helping you find music that’s constructed the way you like it. They look for structural features like acoustic guitar, harmonizing, or synthetic keyboards. Quality is not a measure, it’s more about finding a style you like. But a general call for “great songs” is going to confuse Pandora, because structurally the songs are going to be all over the place. This is why, even though Ani Difranco is an all-time favorite, I never had an Ani Pandora station—it would be sure to recommend other folk singers, which isn’t generally my style. For Pandora to function best, each station should reflect a singular style, and one that you consistently enjoy.

    By the way, I used to be a big fan of Pandora but I think there are much better options out there, especially since they’ve added audio ads. Audio ads for me are a dealbreaker. Though they have less songs than they used to, Blip.fm is still my favorite, and still much better than Pandora. My station is at blip.fm/daretoetapeach. I also recommend hypem.com and thesixtyone.com.

  2. PS: I landed here while looking for BlogGlue partner sites for The Institute for Innovation. Nice blog!