Mind of MOG

Billing itself as a "personalized gateway for music discovery," MOG (a port manteau combination of "music" and "blog") has come out of beta testing and announced "the launch of your favorite new way to waste time on the Internet," MOG 2.0. Since my email tagline is "Waste more time: Read my blog," John Atkinson reckoned that I was the logical reporter for this new development.

So what the heck is MOG?

It is, among things, the brainchild of David Hyman, one of the people behind Gracenote. Gracenote, of course, provides digital music identification through its metadata database, and MOG takes advantage of this tagging technology through a downloadable application called MOG-o-matic.

The technology is complicated, but it's simple enough for the end-user, who enrolls in MOG at no charge. Having established a basic online profile, the new MOG member downloads the MOG-o-matic application (PC or Mac) and sets it loose to identify all of the media files resident on the host computer. Using the Gracenote metadata, MOG-o-matic tracks what you have and what you listen to, updating your profile online. (Those concerned with privacy issues can create a music profile online by hand rather than letting MOG-o-matic data-mine their systems.)

Once the online profile has been established, the user checks in to his or her personal page and finds music and video recommendations based on "other people who like what you like also liked" logic. The video links are to the 400,000 or so Google/YouTube clips, whereas most of the "listen" files appear to be to 30-second excerpts of popular music.

Hyman, who worked at Addicted to Noise/SonicNet, and MTV, before starting Gracenote, calls MOG "what MTV should have become," and whether or not that idea appeals to you will probably predict whether or not you'll enjoy the MOG experience.

I enrolled and downloaded my MOG-o-matic and set it trolling through my collection of 10,000-odd music tracks—a task that two days later it has yet to complete. The instructions say it should process about 1000 songs per hour, but I have found the MOG-o-matic data mining makes my OS X 10.4.9 system extremely twitchy—either timing out or going into kernal panic every 800 songs or so.

Assuming that most MOGgers won't have such extensive libraries, I decided to just judge the interface on my partially completed profile. Logging onto my personal page, it's primarily about me, to begin with. The page lists my user name and age, shows the most recent songs I've been listening to on my computer, and lists the most listened-to and most represented artists in my collection. I can add information such as my first concert attended, the first album I purchased, and "artists you should know about." There are also graphic displays showing my "MOG status" (I'm "beneath the radar" so far) and lists MOGs who trust me (none so far).

I can leave my page for "recommendations" (the most listened-to MP3 posts of the day), "watch" (most-watched YouTube clips), and "find people" (which lists MOGgers by some metric I have yet to determine). And then there's the "Magic Button," which uses your MOG-o-matic profile to find video posts from posters who most closely match your tastes (or at least those represented by your digital collection).

How accurate was the Magic Button? Not so much—for me. I'm just guessing, but I suppose it recommended Wolfmother's "Woman" because I have the entire Led Zeppelin catalog on my computer. Too Zep-lite for my tastes. The three R. Stevie Moore tracks were more like it, as was the very apropos Belle & Sebastian "Mayfly." Not much else really juiced my lizard—which is about as accurate as simply logging onto YouTube for me (and that's something I seldom do).

But that's me, an "early mid-50s" user with a digital music collection that apparently gags MOG-o-matic. If I were closer to MOG's target demographic, my results might be different. Similarly, if I spent the time and effort to really tune my online profile, especially by participating more in the social networking angle, MOG would undoubtedly more accurately intuit my tastes. (For one thing, my digital music collection does not accurately reflect my tastes in classical music because iTunes does such a lousy job of applying classical's metadata to "tracks"—on the other hand, while YouTube has more classical clips than you'd imagine, it isn't my go-to source for new classical music).

If you're younger, hipper, and more into social networking than I am (and most people are, apparently), MOG just might be an ideal way to discover new music—especially new music like the music you already like. I enjoyed it and may well keep checking in periodically to see how it's evolving, but I can probably think of other ways of wasting my time on the Internet.

Like finding more stuff to post on my blog.