By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
The Echo Nest's Paul Lamere, the man who brought us the Infinite Jukebox, Bohemian Rhapsichord, Bangarang Boomerang, and other fun stuff is at it again with Boil the Frog, a free web app that’s a little bit like “six degrees of separation.”
Boil the Frog is a curiosity — a conversation piece of sorts, but it’s also a new way to listen to music. To try it, simply go here and enter the names of two bands that are ideally quite dissimilar to each other. The app instantly puts together a playlist of Rdio music, fading as gently as possible from the first artist to the second artist, from song to song. Get it? This is sort of what happens when you boil a frog, starting with lukewarm water. The water gets hotter, but the frog doesn’t notice, and you can probably piece together the rest.
The app runs atop Rdio’s web API as part of that company’s budding app strategy. If you subscribe, you’ll hear full versions of the songs; if not, you’ll hear 30-second samples. Either way, it’s good fun.
How does Boil the Frog (from Paul Lamere, director of developer platform for The Echo Nest, publisher of Evolver.fm) work, anyway? The short story: It’s as complicated underneath as it is simple on the surface. I’ll let him explain:
To create this app, The Echo Nest artist similarity info is used to build an artist similarity graph of about 100,000 of the most popular artists. Each artist in the graph is connected to it’s most similar neighbors according to the Echo Nest artist similarity algorithm.
When a playlist between two artists is created, the graph is used to find the path between the two artists. The path isn’t necessarily the shortest path through the graph. Instead, priority is given to paths that travel through artists of similar popularity. If you start and end with a popular artist, you are more likely to find a path that takes you though other popular artists, and if you start with a long-tail artist you will likely find a path through other long-tail artists.
Once the path of artists is found, we need to select the best songs for the playlist. To do this, we pick a well-known song for each artist that minimizes the difference in energy between this song, the previous song and the next song.
Once we have selected the best songs, we build a playlist using Rdio’s nifty web API.
And there you have it. If you’re bored of music, or you think you’ve heard it all, or you’re just looking to have some fun, Boil the Frog warrants a bit of attention. If you like what you hear, you can save it directly as a playlist in Rdio. And just like that, you’ll have not only a great playlist (assuming you like both of the bands you enter), but one that takes you from one state to another… without you ever noticing.