Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Literary Genome Project?

by Bethany Maines         

As I was furiously hitting the “thumbs down” on Pandora this morning, I wondered just how their stupid blankity, blank, blank, algorithms could get my musical tastes so wrong. Pandora, for those unaware, is a free music service that plays “stations” based on songs you select or “like.” I doubt that I have ever “liked” an Audio Slave song, and even if I have, at no point in my entire life, will I ever feel like Audio Slave at eight in the morning.

An internet search reveals that Pandora algorithms ignore such things as genre, artist, or what other members also like those songs. Instead, they run of Music Genome technology that analyzes each song and suggests songs that have similar characteristics. Which, in theory, is awesome.  At eight in the morning, it sucks major hind tit.

But isn’t that the problem with algorithms? There is always one more factor you wish the algorithm had been programmed to consider.

I used to read the newspaper movie reviews and I became attuned to interpreting the reviewers taste to mine. A one star comedy was really a two star comedy. A two star action movie was really four star awesomeness. And a three star drama was a three star drama. The man really did not fully embrace the action movie ethos. 

Finding a book to read is another exercise in mental jujitsu. We all do it - weighing what we know about the author, the person recommending the book, the book blurb, and any reviews, all before buying or borrowing. All I really want is a book with minimal plot holes that makes me laugh, fall in love, and thrill to moments of action. We need a Literature Genome project! Something who can tell us all about the tone, the writing quality and the basic je ne sais quoi of a book. Although, now that I think about it – that may just be currently known as “a Librarian.”

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Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter.

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