A lot of the discussion around playlist and recommendations has hinged around a strange (and somewhat erroneous) dichotomy between “human” and “algorithm”, yet the best of them manage to combine the two.
Spotify’s Discovery Weekly is probably the optimum case in point. The Guardian has decided to test which is better – the combination of machine + human or a human all on their own. Journalist and broadcaster Pete Paphides (a man for whom there are few esoteric corners left in music, so deep is his knowledge) was set the task of creating a playlist for a listener (in this case musician Anna Vincent) based on talking to her about the music that she likes and seeing how this compared to the playlist generated by Spotify based on her play history on the music service. “It’s great at recommending things on the basis of what I’ve already been playing,” she says of Spotify’s playlists, “but I could do with finding entry points into a genre I don’t know so much about.” It’s a fascinating piece, looking at how tastes and discovery are evolving. So which playlist “won”? We are not keen on running spoilers, so read on and find out.