Tagging, experts and the foolishness of crowds 17:08 on Sunday
Pandora classifies music with keywords such as:
- Electronica roots
- Ambient soundscapes
- Downtempo influences
- Use of tonal harmonies
- Use of trippy soundscapes
Call me a skeptic, but this very telling categorization would have never happened using “wisdom of the crowds” methods like tagging. Experts can simply categorize content in more meaningful ways than masses.
The music experts at Pandora might have started with all kinds of keywords, but at the end they have restricted themselves to what they call genes. The genes are chosen to represent specific attributes of music without leaving room for the curly hair of the singer, the bands chart success, the personal tastes of the expert, well accepted genre boundaries, or other non-auditory things to affect the assignment of keywords or tags that Pandora will rely on when finding new music for its users. It’s the power of professional editing applied to tags.
Problems with experts I can think of:
- Experts rarely work without monetary benefit. Crowds do.
- Experts can also categorize content in ways that are not meaningful at all to the masses. Sometimes (too often?) experts can’t explain their expertise in any sort of useful manner.