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Using iTunes Genius Isn't Smart

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(Techwriter10)
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The other day I downloaded the latest version of iTunes and discovered the much-heralded Genius feature is a not-so subtle way to sell content on iTunes. When I heard about the Genius feature, I mistakenly thought it was like Peter Gabriel's Filter tool, a very cool utility for iTunes, which enabled you to select some songs in your library, then build a playlist of other songs in your library automatically based on your selections, and while it does do that it, it's a bit more insidious. (The Filter tool, by the way appears to no longer be available as a download.)

When you turn on the Genius feature, it displays a dialog box explaining what it is. You should note the fine print here because it states that 'Genius will send information about your iTunes library to Apple.' If you click Continue as I did because I didn't read it carefully, it begins to transmit a list of the contents your library to Apple. While I like Apple products, I would prefer it didn't have information on my musical tastes in its databases.

In fact, that was a deal killer right there for me. I stopped the process immediately. But it still gave me insight into what Genius actually is, and while it's similar to Gabriel's tool, instead using just the contents of your library to build a playlist, it's a scheme to sell you songs and videos on the iTunes store based on your individual tastes.

After you tell Apple what you like to listen to and watch, it displays a list of content you might like to buy. How convenient for them. How creepy for you. In my view, not a worthwhile tradeoff, not even close.

Apple could have given you choice to allow you to use the Genius feature in the same way as the Filter tool, just basing the list on the contents of your library, but it doesn't do that. You transmit your information or you don't get to use the service.

The Genius feature is nothing more than a not-so veiled marketing scheme. I suppose, I shouldn't be surprised that Apple wants to sell us more content from the iTunes store, but maybe they could be a little more intelligent about it without sticking their corporate fingers into my information. For a company that's built it's reputation on understanding its consumers, the Genius feature as implemented isn't a smart move at all.

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DavidAKnopf
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I'm a bit of a privacy nut, but I'm having trouble figuring out why it should bother me to let Apple know what kind of music I like. I tell Netflix and TiVo what kind of movies and shows I like, and I the other web-based music services I use clearly know what I listen to. What's the big deal. I mean it's not like I spend all day listening to Abba! ;)

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Techwriter10
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Thanks, David, That makes me respect you all the more knowing that you dislike Abba as much as I do. :)

But there are some differences here. With NetFlix, you have to tell them what you want in order to get the service. With TiVo, they make suggestions because they know what you're watching, which is still a little creepy to me, but the difference is, they aren't collecting this information on an individual basis (so far as we know).

With Apple, they could have made it a service that just checks your library or lets you share your info to get suggestions from the Apple store, but they chose to force you to send your information and that's what really bothers me. I wouldn't mind using it like the Filter tool. I just don't want them banging on me every time I open iTunes with new suggestions I might like. It's about choice. And they didn't give us one here.

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DavidAKnopf
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Fair enough. I *like* that TiVo makes suggestions. I like finding new music, too. Perhaps I'll come back and comment further once I've tried this new iTunes "feature" myself.

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DavidAKnopf
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Well, I checked it out, and I don't see the problem, really. Genius is optional. You can enable it or not, as you wish. If you choose to enable it, they warn you ahead of time about what information will be shared with Apple. It seems like they're doing exactly what you want: giving you a choice about whether to share your info and, if you choose to, using the info to give you suggestions. It's the same info you're probably already sharing with last.fm or some similar service - at least I am.

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jwenting
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Had you read what it is instead of recklessly clicking buttons like a fool you'd have had nothing to complain about.
IMO they're quite open about what they do, and they do give you a clear choice to use it or not.

It's no different from Amazon's recommendations feature, at least after you've been ordering stuff from them for a decade and it knows darn well what your tastes are ;)

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Techwriter10
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David,
I know it's optional, but what's not optional is the ability to have it check just your library or send your info to Apple. If you want to use Genius in the same you could use the filter, you are forced to transmit information. I wouldn't mind building "Genius" playlists from my library content, but I don't want to transmit info to Apple and I don't want iTunes pestering me about a movie or song I might like. That's the difference.

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Techwriter10
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JWenting:
No doubt I should have read more carefully, and I canceled the process immediately, as soon as I realized what I had done, but see my note to David below. I would like to use it, but not transmit info to Apple. And BTW, I find that Amazon feature creepy and annoying, especially when you order something for your kids one time then get suggestions about it for the next 6 months. :)

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DavidAKnopf
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OK, I have one last comment after a few hours of play: Genius makes *great* playlists. Instantly. I like it!

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tombeck
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You do know that they can't force you to buy what they suggest, right? And who knows, maybe they'll suggest something you've never heard of and might actually *like* ?

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Techwriter10
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Yup I know that. :)

What I object to here is sending my information to Apple. That's all. You can also build playlists and discover forgotten music in your library using the Smart Playlist feature without sending your information to Apple. Learn more here:

http://byronmiller.typepad.com/byronmiller/2007/04/stupid_itunes_t.html

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DavidAKnopf
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Ron, I really think you ought to try it out. The playlists Genius generates blow "Smart Playlists" right out of the water. Why are you worried about Apple knowing what music you listen to? Are you really a closet Abba fan? <vbg>

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Techwriter10
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Honestly, David, what would that mean to my journalistic integrity if I did that now. :)

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Techwriter10
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Apparently even people who weren't bothered by the requirement to send their information to Apple are still unhappy with the service suggesting tracks the writer already owns.

http://stuffthathappens.com/blog/2008/09/13/itunes-genius/

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abbalover
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Here's one for you paranoid freaks,,,, Maybe it could be a way for Apple to find out about all the illegal music that you have downloaded and turn you over to the internet police.

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Techwriter10
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Of course, that would assume I have illegal music on my machine. Even if that were that the case, I don't see Apple playing the role of pirate police for the RIAA. What would be the upside for them for doing that?

By the way, please try to refrain from name calling. It doesn't do anything to extend the conversation.

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