Friday, June 14, 2013

Stepping out of routine

On my little jaunt to the hill country last week, I was playing with the radio stations and stumbled on a county station playing The Derailers, who have made my shortlist of favorite country bands. A band I would never have discovered, had I done what my brother keeps telling me to do and put all my music on an i-pod. "Then you can take you music with you wherever you go." In other words, I could stay in my cocoon of "things I know I like".

But I don't want to stay wrapped up in my own little world. It's why I travel, for the thrill of breaking routines and discovering new things; things I would never have discovered otherwise, like The Derailers.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

― Terry Pratchett

This is why I have a love/hate relationship with the Amazon. As you know, if you buy something on Amazon, the next time you log on, Amazon will recommend things based on what you purchased. So if you buy a murder mystery, your recommendations will be flooded with murder mysteries. In a way, this is good, it helps you find more things in a category. But it doesn't compare with going to a library or bookstore and roaming the stacks, where you just might find ANYTHING.

Maybe Amazon could have a "surprise me" button in the recommendations section. Push it and you would get completely random recommendations. It would be like playing roulette. They might even turn over more stock.

I appreciate routines. Routines are important. They center and ground people. They help us maintain the illusion of stability in a chaotic universe. But too much routine becomes a rut, and ruts close you off from new experiences. Which is a long winded way of saying that I'd rather deal with 5 stations full of static, that hold the possibility of something new, than an i-pod filled with music I've heard 30 times already, even if I love it.

Friday fun video

1 comment:

  1. I'm of two minds on this, and I think it highly depends on the accuracy/complexity/depth of the algorithm used.

    Where I love the randomness most is in the bookstore, where I've many times encountered books I wouldn't have otherwise and that I truly enjoyed.

    However, I also recognize that I have patterns in the types of things I like--and that I may never encounter something, given the breadth of all the things out there to possibly discover--without some sort of tool that knows my preferences/tendencies that weeds through things for me and suggests things that have elements in common with other things I've enjoyed. The algorithm may not always be correct, but it can certainly help, save time, and likely introduce me to things I wouldn't find on my own. (Where I have issues is when I've bought things as gifts on Amazon and it adds them to my algorithm of preferences. Ugh. They need to work on that.)

    As for The Derailers, I'm willing to bet that some aspect of the music is similar to the catalog of music and musicians and bands that you currently enjoy or have liked in the past. Pandora or one of the music algorithms may have found them for you earlier than the radio did, if you'd tapped into that type of tool. (I'm not a Pandora subscriber, but I've read about the science behind what they do, and it's pretty astounding.)