Hughesy's Top Thousand Most Played


Actually, it’s currently 1500 and will undoubtedly go higher...

I may be a technological troglodyte, but one of the little I haven't quite managed to master is the click wheel that's one of the key elements in operating the iPod. Answering questions like How do you work it? (it being the iPod) I usually start with Well, it's not exactly easy...

That's to say that while it might be easy for some it ain't easy for Hughesy, particularly when I’m looking for a specific album, artist or track. You can do it, but it involves scrolling through a long list or manipulating the click wheel through the Search option, which is not as easy as I'd prefer it to be.

Since the main use of the iPod is connected with travel, either working through the little FM transmitter that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the car or listening through the ear-buds in transit on trains, buses and planes, you need some reasonably easy means of delivering a reasonable soundtrack.

Fortunately, iTunes has options that make the process easier through Smart Playlists. Creating a genre-based playlist - Reggae or Latin, for example, is straightforward. Select Create Smart Playlist from the File menu, choose Genre is Reggae (or whatever genre tag you’re using) from the list of sorting options and there you are once again saying 'Hello' to Uncle Robert.

I've also set up a best of option for most of Hughesy's favourite artists. Set the Smart Playlist sorting options to Artist is The Band (for example) click on the + button on the end of that line and add Play Count is greater than set at a reasonable level and you've got an instant Greatest Hits package based on your own preferences rather than the whims of some dude in the marketing department of the relevant record label.

That little process runs into a few problems, however, if a system crash removes some of the user-generated data in your computer and you're left (as I was early in 2008) with more than thirty thousand tracks that allegedly haven't been played. The reality, of course, was that they had, but the data had been lost and needed to be regenerated.

The genre- and artist-based playlists are all very well, but sometimes you're looking for an option that gives you a range of artists, genres and other options, which is where the idea of Hughesy's Top Thousand kicked in. Without the relevant data, however, it's not easy to come up with a list of tracks with the highest play counts and nary a clunker on offer, so shortcuts needed to be taken.

For a start, it's fairly straightforward to set up an Unheard playlist (Play Count is 0) and once something has been played you can cheat a little by sliding the progress bar in the main iTunes window towards the end. The play count for that track goes up by one as iTunes tackles the next item on the list.

Over getting on for two years I've gradually managed to work a number of tracks through smart playlists labelled Ones, Twos, Threes et cetera, and even by the time we got to Japan in April 2008 I had a thousand pretty good tracks that were the soundtrack to most of the shinkansen travel on that particular journey.

Good as most of those were, there was still the odd clunker, and I continued pushing up the play count for selected tracks while I set about eliminating as much as possible from the Unheard list.

Bearing in mind that I'd been in the habit of adding everything I downloaded and burned to CD or picked up in a trade to iTunes the process of eliminating the Unheard also involved quite a deal of deleting stuff that was surplus to repeat listening requirements. Some of the archival recordings that turn up, for instance, have sound quality issues that mean you listen to them once and shelve for future reference should the need arise in the future.

By the time I've finished creating extra space on the Hard Drive I expect to have the iTunes library down to about twenty-five thousand tracks with about sixteen thousand shared to the iPod. Out of those sixteen thousand there'll be a shorter playlist that's more or less guaranteed to deliver satisfaction as far as Hughesy's listening habits are concerned.

Sitting in the unit in Southport waiting for departure time for the trip north I was penning another Rear View when I realized that there should be an addenda at the end of each entry indicating which tracks from each Rear View entry found their way into the Top Thousand, and that, in turn, brought the realisation that I might need to explain what that Top Thousand is, and how it has been generated.

So now you know.