Random Is As Random Does

July 18, 2007

I've been using my iPod on a daily basis at my new job which has brought to a light a couple of quirks in how it handles smart playlists. For those of you who aren't iPod and iTunes savvy, a smart playlist is dynamic; you specific parameters and the contents of the list are filtered through those parameters. For example, you might create a list that only contains music not played in the last month.

I've been using a variation of the smart play list described by Brad Root on Smart Playlists.com (Yes, there is a site for everything on the Internet.), called Floating Shuffle.

In a nutshell this article describes how to nest several smart playlists to create a random sampling of music from your collection. Here are the five underlying smart playlists:

Least Recently Played (LRP) : Limit to 50 songs selected by least recently played Least Often Played (LP): Limit to 50 songs selected by least often played Most Recently Played (MRP): Limit to 50 songs selected by most recently played Most Often Played (MP): Limit to 50 songs selected by most often played Random (R): Limit to 50 songs selected at random, not in the other lists

A composite list, made up of the 250 songs selected in the five underlying lists is next. Finally a smart playlist that you actually listen to, Shuffle, which selects songs from the composite list provided the song hasn't been played in the last 25 days. (The original article used 4 days, I've bumped mine up to 25.)

The Shuffle list was used heavily when I was toting the Powerbook to work every day, however it doesn't work as well for me on the iPod. Smart playlists do update on the iPod even when you don't synchronize with the base computer frequently. However, they only update when the end of the list is reached. Having 250 songs in the list means that list only refreshes when I reach the end of approximately 20 hours of music. Switching to an album or different playlist results in Shuffle starting over again at the top of the same set of songs.

So I've changed the settings on the Shuffle smart playlist to select only 50 songs from the composite list that haven't been played in the past 25 days. Between morning and afternoon commutes, and severals hours listening at work each day I can traverse a 50 song playlist in day or two. Now I'm getting a better shuffle through my music.

Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.