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This is your mind on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

Peter Gabriel Announces thefilter.com

This is kind of tough, because I am a huge fan of Peter Gabriel—not only as a musician, but as an interactive artist who has often been very far ahead of the curve.  But this latest effort, a new site to help you sort through all the media out there is a real loser.  One among many, in fact.

For starters, the site has all the trappings of a me-too effort that is easily three years late to the game.  Among its competitors I would count Amazon, Last.fm, Pandora (my favorite), Finetune, Imeem, musicfilter.com as well as some other fronts (i.e. besides the web) like iTunes and music magazines (remember those?)  Then to make matters more difficult for themselves, thefilter.com is going to filter everything!—music, movies, web video and tv.1  And the thing is, most of the sites that I’ve listed above actually get it wrong anyway.  Seriously.

Itunes manages to predict lots of things that I like but have heard before.  The same goes for last.fm.  And I have used the heck out of both of those sites.  But its a simple fact that my own regular explorations of blogs and sites and rss feeds (and listening to what my sister likes) allows me to find tons of more stuff than any recommendation engine.  Except for one.

Pandora.com that can actually recommend music I’ve not heard of before on my own and the clear difference is in methods, with last.fm and iTunes and all the rest using the “neighbor” model (people who like what you like also like…) and Pandora actually employing a lot of DJs to catalog tracks. They call it the music genomeproject and it’s brilliant. Until computer algorithms are good enough to actually analyze the sound files and not just people’s listening habits, foraging new frontiers is going to be very hard for them.

The filtering process is becoming a truly necessary component of the web and what is really going to continue to drive new customers to the long tail and the frontiers but this neighbor filtering process is just not up to the task.  Tastes evolve and not necessarily at the same rate in the same direction.  None of the examples I’ve listed of these filters that use the neighbor system have introduced me to anything.

Of the nine movies that thefilter.com wanted me to rate in order to join (a poor usability decision, by the way) I had seen three.  That just doesn’t bode well for the site.  Nor does the fact that it is a series of lists of music that I have to listen to and rate.  So, let me get this straight; filtering is good because it makes it easier to hear new things, you just have to do a little work first.  There’s no way you could, say, import a playlist of mine from iTunes?  Sorry, but thefilter.com is a day late and a dollar short.


  1. By the way, small note here, but what’s the difference between those last three options anymore? 

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