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I think this would be amazing

I hate tags. They’ve been nothing but a nuisance to me, and they seem to be the crack cocaine of Web 2.0. Everything can be made better with tags! Tag your friends, tag your pets, tag your individual hairs.

My only practical run-in with them was over at Long Trance, where we fitfully began tagging posts. That shit petered out pretty quick because it was a huge pain to keep it all up. Responding to a post with three different tags, but only two really applied to your response? What do you do?

So the answer became “Screw the tags and just make the post.”

Okay, now for a completely different field of background. I hate iTunes. Not only because of its piss-off DRM (I only buy CDs and Amazon MP3s, Dr. Horrible and his soundtrack be damned) but because I hate the way that it handles my library. Now, let’s be clear: this is true with everything else that essentially offers a few metadata criteria to use to filter songs: the Zune desktop software and Songbird all do this, and I hate it. I’ve tried to live with it, but it just doesn’t work for me.

Let’s say you have an album by Airbourne: one band, one album, no problems. Either select the band name or the album name and off you go. But what if you have, say, the Matrix Revolutions Soundtrack? Either all of the songs’ metadata say they belong to their respective artists, or they all say the equally useless “Various Artists”. And to make it worse, their metadata splits them among two volumes, even though most of the time you’ll want to listen to both.

Or, the most hellish of examples: a mix-tape (on a CD, natch) given to you by a friend. It has no real album name, and each of the artists is (and should be) credited separately, in case one piques the your interest (kind of the point of the mix-tape). There’s no way to retain full information resolution and have the “tape” be usable.

So I usually end up just changing the artist to be the friend’s name.

Now, more background: I’ve used Winamp forever because of the granularity of control it gives me. I can say “Play this song and then this song and then that song and then just shuffle through the rest of the list.” I love that. Of course, none of the do-all-the-work-for-you players like iTunes let me do that stuff. And the way that I choose which songs to play is by using Windows explorer to find the proper folder and then just drag the folder into Winamp to start the playing.

Ostensibly, the file hierarchy goes something like “My Documents/My Music/$artistname/$albumname/$songfile.mp3” so that, for example, we have “My Music/Airbourne/Runnin’ Wild/Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast.mp3”. But on the edge cases mentioned above, I realized, I’m using $artistname as tag. I put mix tapes in a folder with the name of the tape-giver, but preserve the songs’ metadata so that I know which song is by whom.

And now, the grand culmination: let’s get rid of three-column layouts seen in, for example, the Zune software with artists in the left panel, albums in the middle, and songs in the right. Selecting an artist makes the album pane only show albums by that artist and so forth.

Use ID3 tags in the Web 2.0 sense: just put whatever tags you want on a song. Want to play all the songs tagged with “Rage Against the Machine” (presumably all songs authored by them)? Just double click that tag in the tag browser. But want to handle a corner case like having 4GB of game music from various games where you really don’t care which game/developer/artist composed the individual pieces? Just hit the “Game Music” tag and away you go. Then decide you only want to hear Frank Klepacki’s video game music? Double mouse that “Klepacki” tag and you’re done. The key here being that some of the songs tagged with “Game Music” also have the “Klepacki” tag. The key is having multiple tags.

Include the granularity of control of Winamp and I think I might just have the best media player ever. Now just port it to the Zune and I’ll be the happiest kid alive. Hell, implement it on a flash-based PMP with decent storage and a good interface and I’ll buy a new one just for that. Seriously.

And if it’ll make it happen, you can even implement those silly-assed tag clouds so that the Web 2.0ers will feel like they can… well, do whatever it is they want with those things.

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