My musical attention (data)

Earlier this month I mentioned that at the Content 2.0 event I asked LastFMs product manager, Matthew Ogle about the ability to export my data out of the system so it could be plugged into another. After all, the music I listen to, for how long and when I listen to it, user-defined tag and ratings, is my data - my musical attention data.

Matthew responded with a resounding 'we're planning to - absolutely'. I asked what format they would use and there Matthew admitted he wasn't so sure. An open standard, yes, but which? Is there one than can carry the data? Or does one need to be created? Offline, we discussed a few options.

Now, apart from the principle that my data should be something I can use as I like (meaning I should be able to export it out of the system that was used to generate that data in a non-proprietary format), there are other reasons for why you might want to 'own' your musical attention data.

At the basic level, my music library needs to be expressed in a way that allow me share with other people and systems (I'm not talking about the actual music file here, just the metadata). Today you can export your Window Media Library info from Windows Media Player (you need this plug in - it works with WMP 10 and 11 beta), but there is no music library standard, let alone one that can include other attention data.

Now, there are few playlist formats (including open standard formats - W3C's SMIL and Lucas Gonze's XSFP), but a playlist format is not a music library format. Playlists are collections of tracks.

Mike Torres proposed a good idea, one that comes at this from the perspective of music subscription services. The problem that Mike highlighted is that once you've stopped paying the subscriptions for the music your preferences (musical attention data) are lost along with the access to the music.

"Think about it; it isn't the actual bits on your hard drive that you care about - it's the fact that you spent 43 hours last month searching, previewing, and selecting that music.  It's the metadata associated with the songs that's important; the actual WMA files aren't where the value is.  You don't want to repeat the effort.  Why treat your music subscriptions any differently from your RSS subscriptions?  Those are portable.  Your email archives and bookmarks are portable.  Your music subscriptions should be too.


So there are two things here:

1. An open standard format to describe a music library. Scenarios it would support include:

Exporting and Importing - taking my music library out of a system to be able to plug into another (this is the music I like)

Sharing - publishing the library on the web (not the actual music, but what music)

2. An open standard format to describe the attention data about the music (how often I listen to which tracks, when I listen to them, how I've tagged them). Scenarios it would support include:

Recommendation - plugging in my musical attention data to get recommendations

Mike goes on to propose OPML may be a good format for the cataloging requirement.

"just let people export and import their subscription libraries natively via OPML."

Yup. Tom Morris had the same idea So did Kosso (OPML Listening Lists) and others.. In February, I even made listening list out of OPML. In fact, given that Podcasts are delivered via RSS enclosures, it's no surprise to see podcatching services have been using OPML as a 'directory' formats- import and export away. Some are share them while others are hacking to force the function.

Thinking out loud now, where do we go from here? Well, on #1 above, back to the Window Media Library export. It exports to a number of different formats, including XML. Maybe it could export OPML? Or someone could build a plug-in to transform on the fly? I don't know, but in this case it doesn't seem too far to get there.

And on #2 (the musical attention data format) - couldn't the attention.xml format (more on this here) be used as the basis for a musicalattention.xml? Sorry, just crazy thoughts...

Comments (2)
  1. Aneil Weber says:


    You raise an interesting point about your "attention data" and I’d say that this concept breaches a lot of other industries as well.  The portability of our preferences, RSS feeds, attention data, even search data is a critical step in taking everything to the next level.  It basically speaks of the metadata manifestation of "us" being applied across the board so the technologies we use become useful everywhere and a "normal" part of what we do.

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