Tag Archives: Genius

iTunes Genius and Her Cousin Dumbass

15 Oct

Sheepishly, I admit to liking the iTunes Genius feature. I use it regularly while cycling. Click on a song and Genius generates a selection of related music on the fly. All I need do is pop in my iPhone’s earbuds and I’m on the road, pedaling to a well-conceived string of tunes.

Despite my best intentions, I don’t devote the time I once did to creating Playlists from the 10+ gigabytes of music I store in iTunes. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to hear even my old favorite lists, so I use Genius to generate a meaningful and immediate collection of songs. They’re not unlike the compilations you’d find on late-night television, producing musical themes around Beethoven or Coltrane to Woodstock or Tilith, which is why I feel sheepish. While clever, Genius is not creative. But it’s drop-dead simple to use and a surprisingly savvy bit of software. It’s a nice addition to my digital life.

The way it works, as I understand it, is that once I opt in to iTunes Genius, I permit Apple to snag data from the music program’s database on my Mac and combine it with data from thousands, maybe millions of other iTunes users’ music libraries from around the world. People who like similar music tend to like other similar music, so working up lists from such a large sample of users makes it an effective, intelligent service in the cloud. As a result, Genius is able to cobble together a solid list of tunes from a single suggestion.

You would think that Apple would exploit Genius more than as merely a tune selection program similar to Netflix’s movie recommendation engine. But you’d be wrong.

iTunes Genius has a Dumbass e-mail cousin that makes a mockery of Apple’s so-called marketing genius. iTunes Dumbass is a standard html-formatted e-mail that only knows that I bought this or that genre of music and wants me to buy more of the same. Every time some Apple marketing suit thinks it’s time to promote that genre, he sends Dumbass to annoy me. Because I did something in the past, even years ago and never repeated buying in that genre, I get Dumbass in my mail queue on cue.

Genius tells me that Apple has the business intelligence (BI) tools at hand to put Dumbass out to pasture and create something new and useful. For some reason, though, Apple sticks with Dumbass.

I want an iTunes e-mail that groks my recent and trending music purchases. It should know what others with similar tastes in those trending or recent buys have in their music collection but I lack. It should select those tunes for my consideration. This Smarter e-mail should send me 60-second mp3 files of a few such songs, or a link to a one-time full play of music I do not own, but would likely buy. Such a service would increase my spending at the iTunes store and improve my customer experience. That’s real BI like Genius not Dumbass.