I long ago gave up buying or even downloading music in favor of streaming it for free on Pandora – a free online radio station that does a pretty impressive job of tuning its stations to your own tastes. The mechanism it uses to do this is a simple thumbs up/thumbs down on each song.
So you start a radio station based on an artist you like and as new songs from other artists play you can either say you like or dislike each. Theoretically this will make the radio station more and more in tune with what you actually like over time, and in fact it does work pretty well.
But sometimes I’m not sure what to do. For instance, a moment ago a John Mayer cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” came up. Now, I really like that song, and I really like Tom Petty. I really don’t like John Mayer, however. In fact, I find it quite impossible to listen to his music. So do I vote that I like the song, because I like Tom Petty? Will a no vote only influence whether or not the station plays John Mayer or does a vote on a cover reflect back to the original artist?
These are the hard choices that confront us today.
(On a side note, the title of this post would make a good pulp-sci-fi novel title don’t you think?)