Big Ears


The jazz musicians used to say that people who really listen have "big ears". Unfortunately, in the world of digital music today, the various different audio players and social music sites don't listen to each other. Example: I recently signed up at (which is now dutifully keeping track of what I listen to in iTunes), but there's no easy way to share what I've listened to with anyone outside the silo. It needs to be much easier for me to publicize my musical favorites so that people who like the same kind of music can find me, so that smart people can build recommendation services, so that Google can spider the web for music favorites, and in general so that innovation can happen where it happens best: on the edges, not in walled-off little gardens. Thankfully, the good folks at Songbird are aiming to change that. I had a longish chat with chief nestminder Rob Lord today and he really gets it.

So I'm thinking: what can we do in the Jabber community to help out? As befits the real-time nature of Jabber/XMPP technologies, we already have a protocol extension for publishing your current tune -- the data format looks like this:

<title>Heart of the Sunrise</title>

As far as I can see, there's some information missing there. It would probably be helpful to include <composer/> (where "artist" is the person or group that performs the piece and "composer" is the songwriter or composer). More important is <playcount/> so that you can know how popular this tune is with me (wow, you've listened to "Heart of the Sunrise" 53 times? cool, that's one of my favorites, too!). Another possible field is <rating/> (e.g., on a simple 1 to 10 or 1 to 5 scale).

We also need a way to aggregate tunes into bundles -- either to publish my complete library of tunes (or parts thereof, e.g. by genre, artist, composer, or last listen time) or to publish a specific playlist. That may not be a task for Jabber technologies, because we're all about real-time communication whereas libraries and playlists are probably best retrieved as files since they could get quite big. But some standards here would really help facilitate communication about musical preferences.

Peter Saint-Andre > Journal