The Real Genius of the new iPod

This article originally appeared in 24hrs Vancouver on October 15, 2008.

When the newest generation of iPods was announced last month, it was once again a newsworthy event splashed across the web and newscasts continent wide.

But if you really look at the new iPods you’ll see there’s not much there that we already didn’t have. The next gen nanos were simply dipped in fresh colours and had the screen turned on its side, bringing the nano back to a familiar candy bar shape, instead of a squat sumo configuration.

The new iPods look different, but they really aren’t different. They’re music and video players. It’s the digital equivalent of what automotive manufacturers do every three years. To sell more products, you change the appearance, even after feature innovation has slowed.

The real new feature for the iPod came in an update to the iTunes software you run on your computer to manage your library. iTunes 8 has something called the iTunes Genius, and it’s receiving rave reviews as fans are using it to discover new music.

iTunes 8 Genius setting Up

Simply select a song in your library, and the Genius will suggest songs your library may be missing from that artist, or ones that sound similar and it thinks you’ll enjoy.

Urban Rush co-host, Fiona Forbes
, is quite adamant in her admiration.

“Love, love, love the new Genius!” she exclaims.

“I’m a music junkie and am always looking for my new favorite song. Have to say I am more confident in making my purchases with the Genius suggestions. Since the release, I’ve bought over a hundred new songs and like (almost) all of them!”

The iTunes Genius can also help to create playlists. Simply select a song in your library, and then select the Genius icon in your taskbar. A 20, 50, or 100 song playlist will be instantly generated from the music in your library based on the sound of that song. As you might guess, Fiona is excited about this feature too.

“I am a bit of a music nerd and have a 40 gig iPod that’s almost full, so it’s not always easy to remember what I have on there,” she explains. “The Genius got me listening to a bunch of great stuff I had forgotten about like Portishead, Bill Withers, Ella Fitzgerald… I could go on for 40 gigabytes!”

The Genius playlist feature is also available on iPods and iPhones so you can create playlists from your library on the go.


While the iTunes Genius is loved, it’s hardly revolutionary. Pandora has been pioneering something called the Music Genome Project for the past 8 years. A team of thirty musician-analysts have been listening to the history of music, one song at a time. They are collecting close to 400 musical details on every song – melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals and more, all with the idea of helping people discover new music.

Duane Storey and Dale Mugford, better known as BraveNewCode, were pleasantly surprised to find themselves nominated for a BC Country Music Award for website design this week. The duo is no stranger to the music business, Dale was once responsible for and, when he’s not coding, Duane is often found in the photo pit at major concert events. “There are some really nice websites also up for the award, so the competition is definitely stiff,” says Storey. “Now all I have to do is find a date!”

The social media crew calls it “crowdsourcing” – taking a big task and breaking it down into little pieces that are easily managed by an individual. Dot Com mogul, John Chow, took it to the extreme this weekend when he asked his readers to make donations for the Union Gospel Mission Thanksgiving dinner. In just a few days John had more than $3000 in donations, which he matched, to feed more than 2 300 people on the Downtown Eastside.

Now that the Canadian election campaign is over, it will be interesting to see if the politicos stick with the strategies they were using throughout the election. From Twitter, to Facebook, to websites with blogging tools and widgets, the leaders reached out to Canadians to spread the message. Will the transparency continue now that the election is over and they don’t “need” our support? Hit them up on Twitter to keep them honest.



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1 Comment

  1. mor10
    October 15, 2008

    A little Apple-centric are we? According to both Wired and Gizmodo, Zune MixView is far better and more user friendly than iTunes Genius. But I guess it’s not cool to admit that Microsoft can get things right every once in a while.



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