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September 27, 2005



For my money, I say it's random. The seeming non-randomness is probably due to our amazing ability to recognize patterns - even when none are there. The other thing to consider is that the odds of two songs by the same artist playing back to back are the same as the odds of any other two non-related songs playing back-to-back. It just seems like that shouldn't happen in a random scenario but it does.

The latest version of iTunes (5.0.1) had a helpful feature to combat this problem. If you look under Preferences > Playback you'll see a new slider labeled "Smart Shuffle." It allows you to set the probability for how likely it is to hear the same artist or album right next to each other. You can either leave it truly random (could happen) or not-so-random (not gonna happen). My own setting is about 3/4 of the way to not-so-random. Your mileage may vary.

It is not clear to me whether this technology applies to iPods. I suspect not. Sorry. :)


Do you have certain songs rated higher than others? Have you selected to play higher rated songs more frequently? I know that's an option with shuffling within iTunes, not sure if it carries over to the iPods.

Anne Glamore

I have the same problem, assuming it is a problem and not the "random with a pattern" alluded to in the 2d comment.

Why do I get 4 Lucinda Williams songs for every one Garbage song, when I have 5x as much of the latter?

Oh well....



Does that mean that I'm just as likely to hear Joan Armatrading 13 times in a row as James Taylor? I'd think not, because there's more James Taylor to choose from...but, then again, I've never really been good at understanding probabilities.

Thanks for the tip on "Smart Shuffle"; I've now adjusted mine like yours. ("Smart Shuffle" clearly assumes that the user is a "Smart Person" who would even think to click on the Preferences...oops!!)


I don't use the ratings, so it's not that.


My husband told me about a NY Times article that says the iPod shuffle really is random, but my iPod favors Tori Amos, Suzanne Vega and U2 (as far as I can tell).

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