Some ideal audio player goals (first draft)

19 January, 2008

For the sake of organizing my own thoughts, here is an attempt to distill the wordy audio player-related posts I made last year into a draft of a clearer set of goals.  It is still fairly undigested for now, I hope it will help to bring focus to the next stage of brainstorming and prototyping.

Here a draft , in no particular order:

  • Change assumptions about the roles of specific metadata fields:
    • Tracks ought to be incidental signposts within more interesting metadata groupings
      • Current players tend to [over]emphasize tracks as the only playback atoms in the UI
    • Use accurate terms in UI, and not 1337 h1pst0r mp3 slang
      • Please, ‘song’ -> ‘track’.  ‘Song’ is a logical subset of ‘track’.  Music tracks aren’t necessarily songs.  Audio tracks aren’t necessarily music.
  • Minimize disruptions to the user workflow with smarter shuffling, less time/fewer interruptions spent requesting music
    • More flexibly take advantage of metadata as simple basis for user-configured track grouping
      • “Random track” prevents appropriate track grouping, and “random album” is too rigid
      • Shuffled track grouping needs to be configurable, based at least on metadata rules; i.e., group Pink Floyd albums and classical pieces, but not Britney Spears
      • This would require good metadata to work well.
    • Try to imitate patterns in user playback requests; when shuffling, find track groupings with metadata similar to current playback [to avoid jarring style shifts] and/or to recent requests [to try to match user ‘mood’].
  • Be a team player as a desktop component – make it easy (e.g. through d-bus) for other applications to request playback
    • There ought to be a freedesktop.org “standard” for this..
  • Don’t reimplement general desktop infrastructure features, notably w.r.t.
    • Indexing; use beagle, tracker, strigi et al through xesam
    • File playback; use gstreamer
  • Maintain directed scope of application.  Monolithic do-everything applications are difficult to integrate nicely into a desktop.  Dammit, Jim, I’m a music playback app, not:
    • A tagger
    • An alarm clock
    • A portable music player manager
    • A wikipedia browser
    • A CD ripper
    • But not really sure about web radio etc…

I’ve been thinking by myself for too long about this, so please leave feedback and set me straight 🙂

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