Users don't want a random playlist. They want their songs shuffled, and they want them shuffled in a way that keeps songs from the same album distributed far apart. No one presses the shuffle button to get satisfaction out of pure randomness. They press the button because they want to listen to music. If think your users are dumb because they don't understand randomness then you don't understand the job that shuffle is supposed to do.
The user posting the question assumed that when he double-clicked on the first song in the playlist, iTunes was re-shuffling the playlist. It wasn't. It assumed he wanted to start the playlist again. If he had picked any other song to double click after playback was stopped, it would have re-shuffled the playlist.
The solution was to toggle shuffle off and then on again. Then he'd force re-shuffling.
iTunes does have a separate algorithmic DJ feature, by the way, called iTunes DJ. No need to mess up shuffle. Shuffle is truly random.
Pretty sure that's not the case, and the answer indicated otherwise. The order is stable until it's explicitly reshuffled.
Of course, by some definitions, even rand() isn't random enough, so I can see why people argue about it. The book doesn't even provide a rigorous definition of the concept, but it was never intended to be a serious treatise on statistics.
I have been dealing with Samsung half-phone half-MP3 players for a while now, and they all choose the next track randomly. I pine for the days when I used to have an iPod that could run Rockbox, so that the "back" and "forward" functions worked in the shuffled playlist. Sometimes I mean "rewind to start" and I accidentally tap the button twice to say "seek to last track." That takes me to a random track and then the original is no longer available as "next". So irritating.
And this randomness-is-too-random crap does happen. I'll put on a list of songs to sing along to, only a few hundred songs, and often after half an hour or an hour I'll be repeating songs which I've already sung. Sometimes they'll be two-in-a-row or separated by only one, two, or three different songs.
(The other great thing about Rockbox was that I had access to folders which automatically acted like playlists. We've had debates about this back and forth around HN, I know, but suffice it to say that it's really nice to have an "Audiobooks" folder where you can download individual book folders. Otherwise you often have to make sure that you don't get bizarre interleaved numberings, chapter 01 from book X followed by chapter 01 from book Y. In Samsung, this is actually governed by the Title of the ID3 tag of the MP3, which can be even worse.
Another trick in RPGs is to increase or decrease the odds of a successful hit according to recent hits and misses, bringing the short-term average much closer to the expected value. It's still "true random", but uses correlation between attacks to create an underdispersed distribution overall. (Basically, you want to make the variance lower to make people happy.)
Example: My hobby is that I'm a tournament judge for Magic: the Gathering. I also play a bit, because I like the game. And there's an online version... which has a shuffling system that's actually random (i.e., has reportedly been examined by the same folks who certify stuff for casinos, and passed).
But that causes a lot of complaining from players, because real random shuffling is very different from what human beings accomplish when shuffling pieces of cardboard, and is actually a different standard from what's enforced in tournament play (requirement there is that after shuffle, no player is able to know locations, relative orders or patterns within the deck, not that the deck is "random").
At any given time there are thousands of players online, and every deck gets shuffled at least once per game. With those numbers... unlikely results happen. They happen a lot. And they get players really, really angry, to the point that most forums have "complain about the shuffler" permathreads, because those results tend to absolutely screw you over when they happen.
Really? Because I couldn't stand it if, after listening to my playlist several times, I could predict the exact order of the songs. That would be extremely boring, personally. In fact, that's the exact complaint of the user who asked the question:
>This frustrates me to no end because I like to listen to my music randomly, but I have a few favourite songs that I always start out with.
I suppose you'll then lecture me on how a random playlist has such undesirable properties.
But I would have to disagree. Writing a psuedo-random shuffle mode that doesn't play songs twice in a row (or even one that doesn't repeat a single song in your playlist) is trivial.
Incidentally, today I had some song stuck in my head so I just listened to it on repeat for a while.
But none of that really gets to the linked article, which is that iTunes was using a fixed shuffle order.
Aha... just found what I was thinking of. Quote from article:
As humans, when we come across random clusters we naturally superimpose a pattern. We instinctively project an order on the chaos. It's part of our psychological make-up. For example, when the iPod first came out and people started to use the shuffle feature, which plays songs in a random order, many people complained that it didn't work. They said that too often songs from the same album, or the same artist, came up one after another. Yet that's what randomness does - it creates counter-intuitively dense clusters.
In response to complaints from users, Apple CEO Steve Jobs changed the programming behind the feature: 'We're making it (the shuffle) less random to make it feel more random.'
In other words, each new song now has to be significantly different from what came before, so as to conform to our expectation of randomness. Which isn't really random at all.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1334712/Huma...
That's the trouble with randomness. http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2001-10-25/
This comes up surprisingly often. For instance, the mere presence of clusters of some non-communicable disease or something prove diddly. It must be shown that the clusters are unexpectedly large, not merely that they exist. Of course they exist. That's the default presumption.
Mixing opera, country, and black metal in the same playlist would take some getting used to...
The better solution (at least from my perspective) is to not pretend that shuffle is a setting, but an action. Simply have a button that says something like "Shuffle this Playlist" or more explicitly "Re-Shuffle this Playlist". Play, stop, forward, back all would work normally within the existing order (straight or shuffled), and if you wanted a new order, you click the "Re-Shuffle" button.
What are the odds of this happening?
You wouldn't listen to a playlist of 10 songs when there are many of them in it you are not in the mood for?
Just about every album I have has one song that I will routinely skip over, because I don't like it much.
Or rate it poorly and factor ratings into your smart playlist.
Unless I do want to hear things again, in which case I toggle the Shuffle button.
By design, I decide. Rebooting, restarting iTunes, picking a particular song then going back to my long playlist, those don't decide for me.
This is sort of what iTunes DJ will do, if work off a smart playlist based on the playlist you want to listen to, but which defines some criterion by which songs you've listened to won't come up again--for example, if you're listening to songs to give them ratings, you can define the smart playlist to only be the unrated songs in the original playlist; then each song will be removed from shuffle-selection once you've rated it.
Still, the simplest thing to do is to just set a playlist to shuffle, make sure the list view is sorted by playlist-order (the unlabeled leftmost column), and then Ctrl+A, Ctrl+Shift+N to copy the shuffled list into a new playlist, and delete songs from it as you listen to them. It's too bad this is an impossible proposition on a portable device.
I'm not seeing how any of the suggested changes are an improvement.
Yes, the current scheme isn't mathematically random. That's irrelevant unless mathematically random is a better user experience.
So, let's see some evidence for different schemes that improve the user experience. Note - users don't care about mathematical purity.
Personally, I think this is the ideal behavior. I want a random playlist, but want to play through the whole thing as time goes on. Pure shuffle would give me a new playlist every time I went to a podcast or some other random song, whereas shuffling a playlist means I can go back to where I was in that random list, and not worry about hearing the same stuff again.
The answer to the stated question is: because randomness clumps and plays too many songs from the same album/artist/wtfe and bugs people. See also http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4301922
http://itunes.apple.com/app/true-shuffle-pro/id355913111?mt=... , if you're interested.
I priced it high on the theory that people with lots of music have already put hundreds or thousands of dollars into their music collections and wouldn't mind spending a little to enjoy all their songs in a useful way. I actually tried a free version at one point and it sold the same number of copies as the $4.99 version, so I ditched it and just have the paid version.
EDIT - Don't want to feel spammy here, and wasn't going to include a link to my app, but for those who do want a "listen to all my songs with no repeats" solution, True Shuffle does the job. Hit me up for a promo code if you need one, eh.
Then again, my memory isn't what it used to be, so maybe the Slashdot crowd was right about that one and I just forgot.
But a really random playlist, really sucks. You get incredibly random stuff, e.g.: the same artist 5 times in a row or sometimes, the very same song.
I don't realllly like completely random shuffles as jazz into techno isn't the smoothest transition, but I've never really seen that with iTunes.
But I have no way to check without looking at the source.
Until Google Music gets smart playlists, I have no recourse I guess.
There's a setting in iTunes DJ, however, to "play higher rated songs more often."
This appears to be the article I was remembering (caveat: it's from way back in 2005):
All shuffle modes I've ever encountered have shuffled the playlist or songs on a compact disc and then played them in the once-randomized order.
I had my doubts WinAMPs shuffle was acting on some heuristics, though I never bothered to check.