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Interview with iRATE radio Creator

By rjnagle in Internet
Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 06:45:09 PM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)

So many bands, so little time. How does one learn about new bands these days? Here's an interview with Anthony Jones, lead developer for iRATE radio , an open source radio/mp3 scraper application that drops legal MP3's onto your computer. It's less of a file sharing program than a music discovery program.

Peer-to-peer technology (P2P) makes it easy to share music both legally and illegally. But P2P doesn't address the more fundamental issue of what music to look for. How do you learn about new music?

Unfortunately, people's tastes are shaped by a mass media besotted with the trivial details of celebritydom. In an age with enough free MP3's for a lifetime of listening, Clearchannel radio stations obsess over the same 10 or 20 bands, and the national TV networks cover the music scene by reporting on spectacles like the Madonna-Spears kiss. It's hard even to take the music critics seriously anymore. With the exception of the gods of music, critics for print publications ignore web-only musicians (such as Simulacra) in favor of musicians whose CD's cost more than most of us can afford. It is only a matter of time before weblogs or music recommendation sites fill in the void and provide unbiased information about what's cool and great in the music world.

New Zealander Anthony Jones has created a new bit of software that helps solve the problem of finding unlabeled music. It is called "iRATE Radio"; it is a kind of mp3 scraping program that downloads mp3's continuously onto your hard drive and plays them for you like a radio station. As you rate the tracks, the program uses collaborative filtering to feed you additional mp3's to suit your tastes. This java-based client is available on Linux, Windows, and Mac platforms. iRATE Radio doesn't actually feed MP3s to the client but feeds URL's which the client will then download. The program is still a work in progress; its file manager and configuration options are rudimentary at best, the player doesn't even have a time counter, and there are bugs to work out. But the radio application does one thing extremely well: it maintains a steady flow of LEGAL mp3's and exposes the user to hundreds (if not thousands) of songs that one would never hear about in Rolling Stone or on MTV or Amazon.com. When I first tried, it, most of the songs I listened to were awful, but once I started rating more songs, the programs deleted songs with low ratings and eventually delivered a higher ratio of good songs (or at least songs that match my taste more accurately. (As an aside, let me say that hearing the bad songs is part of the fun; I could easily make the world's worst mix tape with it). . Up until last week, a single server (a 350 MHz AMD K6 based Debian machine) ran the entire iRATE network, but with kuro5hin's recent publication of Michael Crawford's Links to Tens of Thousands of Legal Music Downloads (which spotlighted iRATE Radio and caused a quadrupling of his listening base), Jones shifted over to a faster machine. In this interview, Anthony Jones explains why he started iRATE Radio and what he hopes to do with it.

1. Your server contains metadata to more than 46,000 songs. Where are you getting the metadata for each song? Are sites like IUMA giving you the metadata directly? Or are you manually inputting the data yourself?

I write code on a site by site basis to process the site. It usually takes me about 4 hours to write code for a specific site so I tend to stick to the bigger ones such as IUMA. I also get a lot of smaller sites sent to me by users. I tried to process mp3.com, but the website forces you to subscribe before permitting download access. I could code my way around that, but I haven't bothered. If artists want to make it difficult for people to download their music then it's their loss.

2. Have sites like mp3.com or IUMA ever accused you of not having the rights to redistribute their free MP3s? Does that possibility worry you?

I don't distribute them. They do. My server only provides a link to their site. If a site told me that they didn't want to be listed, then I would just remove them from my database, with or without a legal threat. I think that iRATE radio is in the best interests of the artists, and the artists are usually the copyright holders anyway.

One of the major points of iRATE is that I'm not redistributing anything. I'm just providing a service, not unlike a search engine. I am planning to reprocess the IUMA site and add www links so that people can easily click to the IUMA site. Hopefully IUMA can use this mechanism in some way to derive advertising income. Accessing large sites like IUMA might not be sustainable in the long run. However the point of the exercise for me is to show the world what can be done. I'm not hellbent on controlling it.

A suggestion was made for iRATE to use P2P technology so that people could get legal files from each other. The idea was dismissed because that would be redistributing the files. I'm not really concerned with the business model of music. That's for business people. I'm trying to leave it up to the artists to figure out amongst themselves how they want to make money out of this. iRATE puts the ball squarely in their court. It gives them a chance to give away whatever music they want just like radio. In the current system the artists have every right to decide what happens to their copyrighted work, just like I do for my software. I'm not saying that I agree with that system. I think that both copyright and patents give too much power to the holder. A shorter duration would be a good start. Patents are just plain theft.

3. This is obviously a work in progress. What features are on the top of your list of things to add sooner rather than later?

The ability to adjust the volume on a track by track basis is top on the list. Some tracks are recorded quieter than others. I'm also trying to get iRATE compiled for iPAQ linux (which would require the ability to set the maximum amount of disk usage). There's a lot to be done on the server side in terms of making it scalable and trying to improve the selections. I will be concentrating on the server side in the coming weeks.

4. The world is waiting for someone to invent a MP3 client with a built method for tipping the artist. Have you ever considered adding a menu option that links to musiclink.com or something like that?

Tipping is an American custom which people from New Zealand and Australia find somewhat offensive. Gifting money to people is very unusual in our culture. If I added direct support for tipping into iRATE, I would risk offending a lot of people. Having said that, I will be adding a feature which allows people to open the band's web site in a browser. If the band wants to ask for tips on their site or sell T-shirts or CD's directly, they're welcome to do so. Tipping might work in the US. It just wouldn't work outside the US. I'm not going to build it into iRATE because it's not really necessary.

This is also not to say I wouldn't accept money if someone sent it to me. I just wouldn't accept it personally. Someone sent me US$25 through PayPal which I didn't really know what to do with. I opened a PayPal account to accept the money. I intend to use the money for project-related expenses, such as domain name registration.

5. What plans do you have for dealing with the problem of scalability? A centralized server approach has the obvious advantage of letting you control what mp3's get added (and allows you to make sure that everything is legal). In your opinion, can a distributed approach have sufficient security to ensure that the network is not "infected" with illegal or unauthorized files?

At the moment the plan is to scale up to a larger number of servers which are all under centralised control. The two problems with a distributed system are duplication and legality. You don't want several copies of the same track. I also think that it's very important to allow only music published with the artist's consent. For the system to change we need to bring the artists along with us rather than alienating them, which is what "file sharing" technology does.

6. For now, iRATE Radio mainly includes English-only tracks. What can you do to ensure that your song repository contains tracks from singers all over the world?

There are a lot of tracks in English but that's just the music I've found. I particularly like a non english track called Caja de metal by Khafra. I don't know if iRATE will need to deal with language in any special way. At the moment I'm mainly relying on users for that kind of input. If someone points me to a site then I'm happy to process it regardless of the language.

7. How do you store user ratings on your server? Wouldn't that information be extremely useful to music companies? Have any music companies or radio stations approached you about this data or the application itself?

I store every user's ratings on my computer. I'm not going to give or sell the information to anyone else because that would be a breech of people's trust. It would probably be a breech of the Privacy Act in Australia, although I'm not a Lawyer.

8. For now, this project is a labor of love, and you have released it under GPL. Have you given any thought about how to make money off this project? Would it bother you if commercial sites use your code to create a client for subscribers to share their site's exclusive content?

I could make money off iRATE, but that's not what is most important to me. Changing the world is my goal. That's hard enough by itself without getting distracted by trying to make money at the same time. If a commercial site wanted to use iRATE, that would be fine by me. As long as they are reasonable about it. Hopefully if it does happen, it'll be someone with enough money to offer me (or the whole team) a job working on iRATE full time. I don't care how the job gets done, I just want to listen to better music without copyright being a problem.

9. The net allows people to pursue their exotic tastes to the nth degree, perhaps at the expense of random spontaneous discoveries. Do you worry that too much collaborative filtering will blind people to new and different kinds of music? Have you seriously thought about incorporating an element of randomness into your application's algorithms? Or are user ratings divergent enough to ensure that this will never be a problem?

There is an element of random in iRATE. That's the way unheard tracks get into the correlation system. Even now it's a magnitude better than a radio station. That's my benchmark at the moment.

10. What inspired/motivated you to do iRATE Radio?

When I used Napster and Gnutella I noticed that if someone had one track that I liked then they usually had several. Often I would download other tracks a user had even if I hadn't heard them. I discovered good bands this way. Also most "file sharing" systems have a search facility, but they're useless for introducing you to new music. My original idea was to use iRATE and peer-to-peer technology together. However I thought I'd test it with legal music first. I found so much good music freely available that I've never looked back. There are a lot of advantages to co-operating with musicians who want to see change than trying to get music from those who are entrenched in the current system.

11. Given your current architecture, how large of a user base is iRATE radio capable of supporting?

I think things will start falling apart when I get more than 10,000 users but that's only a guess. I'm just going to play it by ear. The good thing about iRATE is that even if the server goes down you can still listen to music.

12. The default player doesn't really tell you much (volume, time etc) and doesn't allow you to create playlists. How difficult would it be for iRATE to incorporate a mp3 player with typical features like this?

Most of that is reinventing the wheel. I'm focussing on core functionality. People will still use it if it's not flash as long as it does the job it's intended to do. Hopefully someone who cares about such things will join the project and do it for me, otherwise it will get done when the more pressing issues are out of the way.

13. Most of the people using iRATE radio don't know anything about New Zealand music. Can you recommend a few representative singers?

Some New Zealand bands that I like are HLAH, Pacifier, Fur Patrol, Tadpole, the Headless Chickens and Salmonella Dub. They play almost no local music on the radio in Perth (where I live). I'm from Wellington and the radio stations that I listended to there play a very high proportion of local music. (Interviewer's Note: None of these groups mentioned offer free legal mp3 downloads).

Robert Nagle (aka idiotprogrammer) writes the sharethemusic weblog and is organizing sharethemusicday.com He lives in Houston, Texas.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o iRATE radio
o gods of music
o Simulacra
o Linux, Windows, and Mac platforms
o Links to Tens of Thousands of Legal Music Downloads
o mp3.com
o musiclink. com
o Caja de metal
o Khafra
o Pacifier
o Fur Patrol
o Tadpole
o Headless Chickens
o Salmonella Dub
o idiotprogr ammer
o sharethemu sic weblog
o sharethemu sicday.com
o Also by rjnagle

Display: Sort:
Interview with iRATE radio Creator | 91 comments (64 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
The irate download could be more promenent (3.50 / 4) (#8)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Tue Sep 23, 2003 at 08:52:49 PM EST

You should probably put it in the intro.  Also the link simply says, "linux, windows, and Mac."  That doesn't make it obvious where it's going.

Oh, and Linux and Windows should be capitalized.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour

How do you create a login (3.75 / 4) (#10)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Tue Sep 23, 2003 at 09:04:32 PM EST

I just downloaded this thing and I don't know how to login.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
RTFM (5.00 / 4) (#14)
by curien on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 09:32:00 AM EST

(It's down in the "servers" section of the documentation on the iRATE site.) Just make one up, and if it doesn't exist, a new account will be created. Hopefully, no one picked your (user, pass) combo yet. :-}

John Ashcroft hates me for my freedom.
[ Parent ]
How about a Winamp plugin? (4.40 / 5) (#20)
by zrail on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 01:05:43 PM EST

Having never used the program myself (although I will tonight), I think that coding a Winamp plugin might be a good start at getting playlist support into the system.

or making a library out of the thing (4.50 / 2) (#23)
by Stereo on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 01:57:08 PM EST

Release it under a licence similar to the one used by the Ogg Vorbis guys, let people code the plug-ins for iTunes, Winamp, XMMS, the front-ends, etc.

kuro5hin - Artes technicae et humaniores, a fossis

[ Parent ]
iTunes (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by ucblockhead on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 05:03:05 PM EST

Unfortunately, iTunes crappy plugin architechture won't let you do stuff like that.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Sure it will (none / 0) (#39)
by SiMac on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 09:33:18 PM EST

The licensing won't, but if you're not using it for sharing (as iCommune was), Apple might won't mind.

[ Parent ]
Technically (none / 1) (#42)
by ucblockhead on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 11:40:44 PM EST

What I mean by that is that from what I've seen, the iTunes plugin architecture only allows for supporting new file types. There's no control functionality that lets you change the playlist and control playback like the Winamp and XMMS plugin architectures have.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
AppleScript (none / 0) (#44)
by panck on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 02:13:07 AM EST

You can do all of that (playlist and control playback) all via AppleScript.

It's slightly slower, but easy to use.  You can invoke applescript from inside cocoa apps as well.

The only thing that might not work so well is updating the ratings. you would have to poll iTunes or something, which is kinda ugly.

[ Parent ]

You'd need to write a device plug-in (none / 0) (#57)
by SiMac on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 04:39:44 PM EST

Which you is illegal if there's no device because of Apple's terms of service, as the iCommune people discovered. You just interface with iTunes the same way the Rio or iPod plug-ins do.

[ Parent ]
Winamp plugin (5.00 / 3) (#32)
by ucblockhead on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 04:39:39 PM EST

Having written a Winamp plugin that plays based on song rating myself, if the author is interested, I could work with him on making one for iRATE. I guess I should contact him myself...
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Impressions of the software (4.00 / 3) (#28)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 04:08:11 PM EST

Well, here are my first impressions of the software. It's a great idea but the client is very unstable. First off, downloads from IUMA are very slow. This isn't a problem with the client but it's annoying because the client crashed during my first attempt at a download. There is no way to resume a download. My second try it got halfway through and for some reason, stopped downloading the first song and started downloading the second song in the list. I also don't understand why it doesn't download a bunch of songs at once. It seems you have to keep picking download from the menu each time you want a new track, and you can't queue up multiple downloads. You also can't pick a specific download from the queue - it insists on downloading the tracks in the order they are listed.

It's listed as beta on sourceforge, which is a very creative use of the term. Anyway it's an awesome idea and the client does work, although it can be annoying to use. The first song I got absolutely sucked, we'll see about the rest of them. For some reason it stopped downloading the second track and I had to start it all over again. How hard is it to get an http library that allows you to resume?

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.

YMMV (none / 0) (#51)
by spasticfraggle on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 02:39:43 PM EST

I agree that 'beta' is a little optimistic, but that's with regards to functionality not stability.

Running on RedHat8 with Sun's JRE1.4.2_01, I've had no crashes at all over several days use. I'm also running the "unstable" version of iRATE. I guess he is using the Debian definition of unstable ;-)

Perhaps the best thing about it is that I'm having much more fun with it than I would if I just downloaded Some-Random-Famous-Band's latest album (hypothetically of course). It's quite exciting to see what it'll play next. It's even fun when the track is god awful, although I probably wouldn't think that if I didn't have ADSL...

I'm the straw that broke the camel's back!
[ Parent ]

Totally! (none / 0) (#77)
by PylonHead on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 04:58:45 PM EST

Perhaps the best thing about it is that I'm having much more fun with it than I would if I just downloaded Some-Random-Famous-Band's latest album (hypothetically of course). It's quite exciting to see what it'll play next. It's even fun when the track is god awful, although I probably wouldn't think that if I didn't have ADSL...


And it's so empowering to be able to rate the music as it plays.  Especially the "This Sux" button.

I'm already up to about 80 new songs in my collection.  Most of them are 5's and 7's with a couple of 2's and 10's scattered in.  I've probably deleted at least 80 as being complete crap.

Some of the music is really good.  I'm really looking forward to being able to click on a link to get more info about the bands.  IRate has made me more excited about music than I've been in a long time.

[ Parent ]

Update (none / 0) (#55)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 03:44:31 PM EST

I tried the version marked unstable. So far it appears more stable than the "stable" release. One odd thing happened - when I brought my laptop home and connected to the service with the same account, it grabbed totally new songs. When I connected today at work, it had the old songs from work yesterday. Is the account based on the user's IP address or something?

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
whatchu talkin' 'bout, willis? /nt (1.60 / 5) (#66)
by rmg on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 01:38:00 AM EST

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

Gary Coleman (none / 0) (#69)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 09:01:18 AM EST

You're not.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
while your at it (3.00 / 1) (#31)
by auraslip on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 04:25:29 PM EST

rate some of my music


Excellent. (2.50 / 2) (#35)
by hovil on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 05:55:17 PM EST

Informative articles like this are why I come to kuro5hin.org.

3 cheers for the story submitter.

Know what would make this really great? (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 08:57:36 PM EST

If there was funcionality in the program to somehow link people who have similar tastes, so if someone in you "similar taste" group rated a song highly, it will get played to you etc.

Mix this with info, and related bands, influencees, history etc, like they have at All Music (before they fucked up the site by using JavaScript links), and you have yourself the ultimate music browsing machine.

It already does that... (none / 1) (#68)
by mr strange on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 06:01:00 AM EST

That's what 'collaborative filtering' means.

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]
I like! (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by daishan on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 09:34:58 PM EST

the Java client works well under XP, and yes there is alot of room for improvement, but thanks for the link.

When downloading from fileshare programs I only download music that I already know I like, this program will introduce me to new artists in a method independent of record companies and commercial radio.

whatchu talkin' 'bout, willis? /nt (1.33 / 6) (#65)
by rmg on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 01:37:33 AM EST

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

I've been using irate for a few weeks... (none / 0) (#41)
by peeping_Thomist on Wed Sep 24, 2003 at 10:09:04 PM EST

and I like it a lot.  There are features I'd like to see added (and taken away), but I've heard some new music that's pretty good.  There've been more than a few lousy songs too, but the good ones make it worth it.  When I'm on the computer, I've taken to running irate in the background.  Every once in awhile I take the trouble to rate a song or two.  It's a great idea, and it seems there could be lots of competing versions of it.

The idea for this seems so obvious, it's hard to understand why it wasn't done before...  But I guess it wasn't.

Lots of problems, but some gems (none / 0) (#43)
by Belgand on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 12:16:24 AM EST

There are a ton of problems with this. Really, a massive number. I think most of the talk on this ended up in an earlier article about 10,000 links or so to free music downloads.

That said, it does have some good stuff. I've found at least one band that I really like using it (The Little Murders) but that is sort of a problem as well. Once I find a track I like I have no idea how to direct other people to it, or how to find more tracks by the same artist aside from doing a search on Google for them (which doesn't always work out well). The lack of a timer is problematic, likewise I have to listen to everything I rate above 1 so I often end up killing off stuff that I don't dislike, but simply don't want to listen to ever again. It always wants to push my highest rated songs or such to the top, which makes it bad when all I want to do is keep listening to new stuff and rating it. As well, downloads need to be automated. The lowest ranking should probably be changed to something less juvenile than "It Sux!" (I feel a total 1335 h4X0r!! whenever I press that) as well as opening up the 10 point scale to actual 10 point rating.

Basically it has promise, but it's a looong way from being usable. I'd put the current release as alpha at best.

how to delete mp3s (none / 1) (#49)
by rjnagle on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 10:57:49 AM EST

Actually, I ended up deleting a sentence about that. Turns out that when you choose the lowest rating, the program zaps the mp3. (That wasn't obvious to me either). The program would benefit from better file management. For example, eventually people need to transfer an mp3 onto a CD or some other media and remove it from the directory. This complaint is not only limited to iRATE. I have a lot of problems with file management in ALL p2p programs.

[ Parent ]
whatchu talkin' 'bout, willis? /nt (1.75 / 5) (#64)
by rmg on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 01:37:17 AM EST

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

winamp. (4.50 / 4) (#45)
by Suppafly on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 03:11:46 AM EST

I think I'd be more likely to try out irate if it would just feed the mp3 urls into winamp. I'm not going to use some half finished, can't adjust the volume, java mp3 player when I can use winamp.
Playstation Sucks.
winamp/xmms (none / 0) (#84)
by bolthole on Wed Oct 01, 2003 at 02:11:57 AM EST

I thought this too, only about xmms.

The only trouble is that, when looking at the code, I realized that there is no obvious way to tell the irate client, "okay, I'm done with the song now, so give me another one"

[ Parent ]

XMMS plugin (none / 1) (#86)
by ucblockhead on Wed Oct 01, 2003 at 04:03:51 PM EST

I'm currently writing an XMMS plugin for iRATE. There are a couple of potential approaches to this. The easiest is to "preload" the playlist and then add songs at the end whenever the last (or next to last or whatever) song starts.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
might as well do a winamp plugin too :) -nt- (none / 0) (#87)
by Suppafly on Wed Oct 01, 2003 at 10:14:59 PM EST

Playstation Sucks.
[ Parent ]
not the same (none / 0) (#89)
by bolthole on Fri Oct 03, 2003 at 09:29:09 PM EST

That messes up the concept of "rate the currently plaing song". If xmms is doing its own playlist, then the one playing may not be the one that irate has highlighted.

[ Parent ]
Note to the developer: (2.00 / 1) (#46)
by ti dave on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 03:49:18 AM EST


No thanks. You're too 1337 for me.
What's up with that and the "This sux" verbiage?

I'm almost drunk enough to go on IRC. ~Herring

Where do you see this? (none / 0) (#59)
by batkiwi on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 06:35:30 PM EST

I don't see a pic named that on their site.

[ Parent ]
It's the Windows Screen Shot. (none / 0) (#67)
by ti dave on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 04:25:14 AM EST

Do you have images blocked?

I'm almost drunk enough to go on IRC. ~Herring
[ Parent ]

whatchu talkin' 'bout, willis? /nt (1.40 / 5) (#63)
by rmg on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 01:37:00 AM EST

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

The developer must be reading this because (5.00 / 2) (#79)
by BinaryTree on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 07:56:40 PM EST

he renamed the file.

[ Parent ]
The MP3s are almost unlistenable! (none / 0) (#47)
by jonathan_ingram on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 04:27:40 AM EST

It's obvious that some of the tracks this program has found for me were written by very talented people (in particular, a track by 'Phils Finest Hour', which sounds very similar to recent Ben Folds, and is absolutely gorgeous). 95% of them are unlistenable, though -- not because of the music, but because of the terribly poor encoding.

MP3 is a relatively old codec, but it can sound *much better* than this. I honestly thought that I was listening to 64 or even 48kbps tracks -- apparently they're almost all 128kbps! The percussion is smeared into nothingness, with a ridiculously low low-pass -- AM radio would sound better. How on earth to people listen to this stuff all day without going mad?
-- Jon

Maybe... (none / 0) (#52)
by spasticfraggle on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 02:46:35 PM EST

because they're listening to the music and not the sound reproduction?

Still, I can put up with an orator who stutters, and enjoy films in black and white, so what would I know?

Ha ha, only serious ;-)

I'm the straw that broke the camel's back!
[ Parent ]

Controlled by the artists (none / 0) (#56)
by fencepost on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 04:29:26 PM EST

This is entirely a factor of how the artists encode the tracks when they make them available.

That said, I have put in an RFE to allow an "advanced" 2-axis ratings scheme where it's possible to rate songs both on how much you like the song and on the quality (with 3 values - "poor" being crappy recordings and partial/sample tracks, "iffy" being tracks with noticable clipping or MP3 artifacts but still listenable, and "fine" being your typical acceptable MP3).

"nothing really says "don't hire me, I'm an idiot" quite as well as misspelling "pom-pom" on your resume." -- former Parent ]

doesn't work! (none / 0) (#48)
by dimaq on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 10:24:58 AM EST

at least it didn't work properly enough for me.

can't be bothered to list all the buggies, the one i suppose annoyed me the most was that it would not delete the songs it has downloaded.

Audiogalaxy (none / 0) (#50)
by stak on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 02:11:48 PM EST

My favorite feature of Audiogalaxy, besides all the free music, was the "others who downloaded X also download Y" type of link. It opened up my musical world by showing me new artists that I'd never have tried before. Now, in the long run, I'm the only person that benifited because I didn't go out and buy albums for X or Y, but it did broaden my horizons.

This seems that it could have the same affect and it's legal. Thanks for alerting me to this program.

But in other cases... (none / 0) (#53)
by Haelo on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 03:16:19 PM EST

it worked for the good of all. I've probably purchased around 100-125 CDs as a direct result of AudioGalaxy's "like X, try Y" feature that you mention. Since AG effectively shut down, I have purchased perhaps a grand total of 15 CDs. Main reason why? I bought out all the stock of X and Y, and now I have no more access to good further Y recommendations. I merely pluck off new ablums from the main group I discovered years ago.

this iRATE thing looks pretty neat, but kind of unfocused. I have a pretty narrow band of things I enjoy musically. With AG I was able to explore that narrow band very effectively, and even broaden it into areas I hadn't known existed. With iRATE, there doesn't appear to be any way to direct what you get. Or does the rating system over time hone itself to a transparent X/Y system?
[ Parent ]

Yes, that's the idea (none / 0) (#54)
by curien on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 03:36:50 PM EST

It'll still give you random tracks every once in a while, but it tries to give you things that it thinks you'll like.

John Ashcroft hates me for my freedom.
[ Parent ]
whatchu talkin' 'bout, willis? /nt (1.33 / 6) (#62)
by rmg on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 01:36:35 AM EST

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

Like X, try Y... (none / 1) (#88)
by SLTrigger on Thu Oct 02, 2003 at 07:57:51 PM EST

I often browse through amazon.com's 'people who bought albums by this artist also bought' listing, even though I rarely buy the albums from amazon (usually download some songs, then buy retail.) Found a lot of good music that way.

It's only gonna get weirder, so let's get on with the show!
[ Parent ]
more on audiogalaxy: why they were great (none / 0) (#74)
by rjnagle on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 03:34:49 PM EST

This comes from my essay on sharethemusicday.com . Audiogalaxy was put out of business by RIAA, and that's a shame, because it understood the key issues better than most Napster-like services. For example, it let users assign categories to music, and you could browse by similar artist. So for instance, if I were downloading songs by Sammi Cheng (a famous Chinese singer), I would also learn about a similar singer like Sun Yan Zi. Audiogalaxy let users share their lists and even to have "sharing clubs" where everyone could access the same mp3 recommendations. Of course, the underlying problem was that it had no way of preventing the system from "infection" by user-added material. It seemed unrealistic at the time to expect that musicians would voluntarily "opt in" to such a system. Now, however, bit torrent offers a solution to the bandwidth distribution problem and also allows a centralized location to store the stream (and assume the liability), thus ensuring enough controls on the content's provenance. I hope a service like mp3.com will use Audiogalaxy's ideas with their own customized bit torrent client, thus ensuring that the content's provenance is guaranteed. Not only would this kind of system be easier to use, but they would reduce mp3.com's bandwidth charges at the same time. On the other hand, it would mean having to admit that that mp3.com's Terms of Service prohibiting distribution of freely available content was absolutely ridiculous.

[ Parent ]
Elephant Toes (none / 0) (#58)
by virtualeli on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 06:10:33 PM EST

Elephant Toes is a proposal for a P2P network that exchanges not files, but suggestions of files. Think of Amazon's "If you liked this, you will also like this" feature. Imagine this feature applying to all types of files in a completely decentralized manner. This is very similar to iRate, except completely decentralized. To view the proposal, click here.

Use the web-start client (none / 0) (#60)
by batkiwi on Thu Sep 25, 2003 at 06:43:02 PM EST

-install jdk 1.4.2
-open up webstart
-point it to http://irateradio.org
-choose the unstable client (i like the swt one in windows, but the swing one works well too)

You'll be much happier than if you downloaded the .2 release, AND it will auto-update.

whatchu talkin' 'bout, willis? /nt (1.40 / 5) (#61)
by rmg on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 01:36:17 AM EST

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

Uh oh (none / 0) (#70)
by hawthorne on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 10:55:43 AM EST

Anybody else not able to resolve the server (takahe.blacksapphire.com)?

server.irateradio.org (none / 0) (#72)
by akb on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 12:49:39 PM EST

There's a note on the website about dns problems.

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net
[ Parent ]

getting metadata (none / 0) (#71)
by akb on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 12:00:24 PM EST

He spends 4hrs per site writing a scraper! And then if they change their format he's hosed. How about using RSS 1.0? Dublin Core should provide him with plenty of metadata. And he could just set up a simple web form for people to submit feeds to and not have to skip over the little guy.

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net

Tipping in Australia (none / 0) (#73)
by Netsnipe on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 03:10:49 PM EST

In Australia, tipping isn't a general practice, but it's still welcomed if you think you're getting an excellent product or service. Hospitality-wise, we never pressure anyone into tipping us. Unlike in the US, our "award wages" are not reduced to take into account any tips that may be received.

In my personal opinion, most Aussies wouldn't be offended by a tip option in iRATE as it'd let us give poor, starving artists a "fair go". Just don't make a minimum amount mandatory.

Andrew 'Netsnipe' Lau
Debian GNU/Linux Maintainer & Computer Science, UNSW

On tipping.. (none / 0) (#76)
by Magnetic North on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 04:46:23 PM EST

While travelling in the US, I discovered that there are lots of people whose only pay (almost.. $1/hour amounts to nothing) is tips.

Over here it's just a bonus, and you only tip good if you're getting exceptional service.

We felt so sorry for the waiters and busboys while travelling in the US that we got used to giving them a $20 every time. And their eyes just lit up :) And I'm just a "poor" student where I come from.

[ Parent ]
tipping (none / 0) (#83)
by ddraig on Sun Sep 28, 2003 at 04:40:23 PM EST

as an Australian, while, yeah, we do tend to find tipping a bit rude (as in "why are you not paid a decent wage? Why am I expected to subsidise your pay on behalf of your scumbag boss"), we have no problem with busking which is exactly how I see musicians giving my free music. It's much like standing on a corner listening to a busker play music and throwing some coins in their hat. This is one of the reasons, hell, the major reason I've been so keen on Millicent and the other micro-cash systems which have never gotten anywhere.

Well, sort of :)

Also, I guess no one here has seen audioscrobbler?


This does not rate tracks, but lists what you have listened to and compares it with other user's lists. Like the old MIT Firefly project, which sadly evaporated.

My list is at

http://www.audioscrobbler.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=top10&file=use rinfo&user=ddraig

for what it is worth.

An audioscrobbler/irate cross-over would be nifty.

I have had exactly the same experience as the author of iurate, I found that usually the ame user on a p2p net would have a couple of tracks I liked, so I started checking people's libraries, and found that, yes, usually if they had 4 or 5 songs I like they'll have tons of songs I like. This is also the rationale behind Firefly and Audioscrobbler.

Okay, enough rambling.

busking != tipping

oops! guess I need to put html into my sig on this site :-/

"the cricher we kno as dwayne is only the projection
into our dimension of something much larger and wirder."
[ Parent ]

Firefly's not completely gone (none / 0) (#90)
by fencepost on Sat Oct 04, 2003 at 10:42:10 AM EST

Apparently Launch (now [http://launch.yahoo.com]) bought part of it, and the guy behind it is now working with Media Unbound though their products are targeted at music sites and not consumers. MoodLogic may have something similar, though it looks like it may be more of a way to group MP3s you already have.

"nothing really says "don't hire me, I'm an idiot" quite as well as misspelling "pom-pom" on your resume." -- former Parent ]
Haven't heard about iRate before (none / 0) (#75)
by Magnetic North on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 04:37:49 PM EST

but I'll check it out now.

In the meantime, the best places for tips on new music on the net is still:


Same idea for news articles (none / 0) (#78)
by costas on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 05:07:06 PM EST

(This is a plug) My newsbot, memigo provides a very similar service to iRATE but for news articles. You're supposed to use the website for reading/rating articles, but you also have the ability to feed a *custom* RSS feed into your preferred agreggator. Check it out. (End of plug)

memigo is a news weblog run by a robot. It ranks and recommends stories.
Tipping issues (none / 0) (#80)
by izogi on Fri Sep 26, 2003 at 08:20:18 PM EST

Irate radio looks like a great idea, and I'm looking forward to trying it out tonight.

Tipping is an American custom which people from New Zealand and Australia find somewhat offensive. Gifting money to people is very unusual in our culture.

I live in New Zealand, and although it's true that there's not much of a tipping culture here, I disagree with Anthony's view on it. I don't see a problem with tipping artists who are giving their music away for free.

As I understand it, the reason that not much tipping takes place here because the payment infrastructure works differently from overseas -- not because people find it offensive to give someone money. People don't budget to splash around extra money because they're dealing with the business, not the waiter or the driver or the servant or whoever. They expect any service charges to be included in what they're already being charged for.

In New Zealand, I've tipped a restaurant waiter only once that I can remember. That was under exceptional circumstances, where I got sick (not the restaurant's fault) and the waiter went to great lengths to help out. Other than that I just say hello, smile, thank them and be generally polite.

The other side of this is that service employees here typically get paid more fairly by their employers. While employees in the US and probably Europe are often paid less when tipping is anticipated, employees here are paid without the expectation of tips, with a reasonable amount as an immediate salary.

There's the occasional exception, usually when overseas visitors are involved. For example, it's not unusual for someone working in an expensive hotel to get a substantial tip from an American visitor, especially considering the exchange rates and comparitive cost of living. Presumably this is because they expect it to be similar as it is back home, or maybe it's just their way of being polite. The people getting the money don't mind at all.

With regard to tipping musicians, I have no problem with it whatsoever. In fact, we have a variety of street buskers here in Wellington (where Anthony is originally from) and I give them money regularly, whenever I stand around to listen for any significant length of time. If they're producing music that I like, and not already being paid for it, why should it be offensive to hand them some money?

What people here object to, if anything, is paying for a service twice. If you haven't yet paid at all, such as with this type of free music, it shouldn't be an issue.

- izogi

Tipping (none / 0) (#81)
by ajones on Sat Sep 27, 2003 at 03:14:08 AM EST

Something is either free or it isn't. If you give something away but expect to get paid for it then it's not really free. How many people do you know who have been accosted in Manners Mall and "given" a "free" copy of Bhagavad Gita and then been asked to make a "donation"?

What I'm trying to explain is that I don't support the idea of an "expected tip". I'm happy for people follow the link to the band's web site and give them money, buy their album or go to their concert. I just don't believe in building payment into the software in such a way that it appears that tipping is expected.

Please don't see this as a crusade against tipping or an attempt to deprive the artists of revenue. The welfare of the artists is important to me and I particularly would love them to be able to sell their music on their websites. I tip when I'm in the US and I don't tip when I'm not.

[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#82)
by izogi on Sat Sep 27, 2003 at 03:48:42 AM EST

Please don't see this as a crusade against tipping or an attempt to deprive the artists of revenue.

Certainly not, and sorry if my posting came across that way. I really think that what you're doing is a neat idea. I look forward to using it as it developes, and hopefully contributing somehow in the future once I get some things out of the way.

I agree with you that adding direct support into the system isn't necessarily the best way to do things. My main issue, I think, was what I read in your comment that people outside the US often find tipping offensive.

We do have tipping here but it just works in different ways; more through expressions of thanks and support rather than expectation. After all, if people didn't tip then Manners Mall and Cuba Street probably wouldn't get as many buskers and they wouldn't be quite as interesting or fun places.

It seems like a non-issue, now. It just wasn't clear to me what you meant from the interview write-up.

- izogi

[ Parent ]
Tipping in Wellington (none / 0) (#91)
by trevor on Sun Dec 28, 2003 at 03:52:00 AM EST

I've recently noticed that money receptacles with bits of cardboard attached - mentioning something about tips - seem to have sprouted next to cash registers at several Wellington cafes.  I'm not entirely sure why - surely, something sufficiently amazing to get an NZer to tip is unlikely to occur while they're paying for their food || coffee.

Then again, I've never tipped anyone, or seen anyone else do so - prehaps these things were put in to ensnare unwary American tourists during the LOTR::ROTK premiere?

[ Parent ]

A similar system: Last.FM (none / 1) (#85)
by otmar on Wed Oct 01, 2003 at 02:24:57 PM EST

Last.FM employs a similar rating concept, but shoots for commercial music. When I tried it a few weeks back, there were massive stability problems; I've no idea whether the systems runs more stable now.

Interview with iRATE radio Creator | 91 comments (64 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
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