My iPod is drunk again

I have over 11,000 songs on my iPod and it is set permanently to shuffle.  If I’m not mistaken, that means that each time a song ends, the chances of any other song coming up is at least 1 in 11,000.  And yet, in the past 30 minutes my iPod has played four David Bowie songs, all from Diamond DogsDiamond Dogs!

This happens every few weeks.  Not Diamond Dogs necessarily, but something.  It will play the same song twice in an hour, or a long string of Elvis Costello, or a whole hour of depressing, nostalgic songs pining for home and times gone by and lost love.  It went on a Leonard Cohen kick one afternoon and I had to shut it down and re-start it before it would play anything else.
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20 Responses to “My iPod is drunk again”
  1. ayrn says:

    I vaguely recall a slider or something in iTunes that selects just how random Shuffle really is, whether it’s true random or that kind of fortuitous coincidental random that breeds synchronicity. Maybe that’s just WinAmp and your iPod is possessed by the wandering soul of an Adult Contemporary DJ.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is such a slider, and mine is slid to “as random as possible.” Yet every few weeks it gets in this weird mood.

  2. craigjclark says:

    That’s the Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family for you.

  3. ghostgecko says:

    Well, that’s randomness for you. It’s entirely probable you could toss a coin a hundred times and it would come up heads every time. There’s a whole unintuitive mathmatical explanation for this which I won’t bore you with; and of course when it comes to themes, like all depressing songs, that’s more the storymaking module in your brain than anything else.

  4. rfd says:

    It’s something about the algorithm that they use to shuffle. While it *should* genuinely pick randomly from all 11,000 songs, it doesn’t. In fact, it selects a handful of albums at a time and shuffles from those. My Dell DJ does the same thing.

  5. eronanke says:

    I have opted out of the iPod fandom and went with Creative, whom I love.
    Consider it, my friend.

  6. Anonymous says:


    Judging by the selection, its maybe an old algorithm, with soul, trying to conjur up the sounds of driving alone at night, only a few cassettes for the long trip.
    Or you are doing what isn’t uncommon in itself, being selective in your memory, creating correspondences that leapfrog in time and space, to signal you through a “corrupted” playlist. Does it happen when other people are around?


  7. gdh says:

    Bah. It would be unusual if you didn’t get a few close-together songs in a row every now and then. Any truly random sequence of numbers is likely going to have little stretches that look like “patterns” every now and then. The odds of there not being *anything* that resembles a pattern are exceedingly low in a big enough set. This is why people are terrible at generating random numbers. If you ask someone to write down a sequence of 1000 “random” ones and zeros, they’re unlikely to give you, say, a stretch of 10 zeros in a row. But the odds are that a truly randomly algorithm probably would give you that somewhere!

  8. edo_fanatic says:

    who needs human conversation when you have 11,000 songs on shuffle?!

    • Anonymous says:

      He lives in L.A. It’s not like there’s going to be much human conversation around him anyway.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Guardian Article

    There was an article in The Guardian about precisely this phenomenon last month, but it’s been taken down for some reason. There’s a copy here:

  10. Anonymous says:

    Diamond Dogs

    ipod, a machine, offers “randomness” of 1 out of 11,000 songs, and godless universe or not, occurences of batches of repetition would be part of “chance”. I think partly it has to do with if it has registered the songs, it knows bpms and the like, it fakes “knowledge” – depression is usually not disco pitched, and so on.
    After reading the comments I also recalled Bateson’s research, which found expression of an underlying code, genetics, in studies of symmetry, whereby in animals, truly astoundingly perfect examples of mirror-symmetry and the like, only occur in ‘mutations’. It’s possible to transpose that onto the issue of “perfect” randomness. Only the ipod “mutation” manages that. Just taking from a list and all that, clumps of repetitions, or sonic whirlpools of downbeat, depressive singer-songwriters must abound. And as its music, we as listeners hear something in it. It’s just a simple algorithim.

    Then again, why do you have “Diamond Dogs” on your ipod, if not to hear it? Even repeatedly. Now if it was “Tin Machine”, then you’d have some issues.

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: Diamond Dogs

      There are several artists on my iPod about whom I am a completist. David Bowie is one of them. I have both Tin Machine albums on my iPod, as well as the live Oy Vey, Baby album. When it’s a 1 out of 11,000 chance I’m usually happy to hear it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Diamond Dogs

        ipod random order logic sounds more and more like early FM album-oriented music stations – all the albums in the world to play, still we manage to hear every hour “Stairway to Heavan”, Steely Dan, Doobie Bros and so on.

  11. laminator_x says:

    There’s not a place in the world you can hide once he sets the Diamons Dogs on your trail.

  12. imigs says:

    The iPod is in your mind…

    Who knew Bowie, Cohen and Costello were favorites of iPods!

    Your iPod knows you better than you know yourself, just go along with it.