Saturday, May 27, 2006

Alternative use of iPod ratings stars

The original iPod was a triumph of form and function. It looked great, its interface was simple and intuitive, and it stored and played thousands of songs in an attractive, portable unit.

My first iPod was a 'third generation' 20GB model. It was the first model that I condidered to have enough memory to carry around a library of songs that represented my CD collection. I then upgraded each time there was an increase in hard drive capacity. As a result, I now own a 60GB iPod Photo which I listen to through my car, studio and home stereo system.

I love elegant, simple design. The problem is, when a designer simplifies things, they have to leave stuff out. And one designer's 'disposable' is another person's 'essential'. I think there should be a couple of programmable buttons on the iPod, allowing you to bypass the menu system for your most-used functions. I would employ them to instantly switch between shuffle and sequential mode, and to allow 'one-press' access to the 'Contacts' list, but I'm sure a wide range of other uses would be found for them.

In an ideal world, I would also like to be able to edit data that is contained on the iPod, but I do understand that this would clutter the interface. One of the reasons for the iPod's success is that it does one thing very well. It is an entertainment unit, not a PDA.

However, there is a function on the iPod that allows you to input data while on the move - the 'star-rating' system. I find the conventional use of the ratings system doesn't work for me. I like all the songs in my iTunes collection, that's why they're there! And how much I like them depends on mood and context, not on any kind of permanent 'star' rating.

However, I have found a way of putting the ratings system to good use. When I'm listening to the iPod and hear a song that I don't want to keep, I pull up the ratings system and give it a 'one-star' rating. Then, the next time I synchronise the iPod, I delete the 'one-star' rated tunes.

And in the interest of 'waste-not, want-not', I have extended the system to include these definitions:

** Excellently produced
I move these to an 'audiophile' playlist.

*** Adjust volume
Different CDs are recorded at different 'gain' levels, iTunes allows you to digitally adjust this. If a song's volume is much higher or lower than the 'average', I mark it with three-stars and adjust it later.

**** Edit
Some songs have superfluous intros and outros. Four-stars reminds me to remove these.

***** Miscellaneous
This usually means 'cool tune, move to the kidz journey playlist'. But I use it for any tune that I have noticed but doesn't come under any of the other four categories. Later, when I see it 'flagged' in my iTunes list, I (usually) remember why I marked it.

1 comment:

Major Look said...

Yes, I agree. I also use the star system to denote the music, but find that I use 5 stars for the worst, as when I am driving, it is much easier to hit the middle of the iPod wheel twice and then scroll the outside wheel clockwise. This means I don't even need to look at the iPod and the job is done.

I also wish there was a subfolder utility on the iPod, just like there is in iTunes.