iT Goes To Eleven

I upgraded to iTunes 11 a few days ago. I tend to upgrade slowly, waiting for horror stories, so I didn’t jump the moment it was announced. I did, however, see promises of faster and more coherent interface design, and that sounded awfully good to me.
I’m not dissatisfied with most aspects of the interface redesign, and I haven’t had any problems with processing speed. I’m content with those (some interface quibbles to be described later).
I’m mightily exasperated, though, that Apple has eliminated iTunes DJ (formerly ‘Party Shuffle’) from the application. (We should have taken the naming indeterminacy as a sign of possible problems.) I listened to iTunes through that function daily, often for hours a day. Some users have been complaining that they used to hold parties at which guests could use their iPhones to vote for the playlist of dance music. You can probably imagine how heavily we relied on that function. More pertinently to my dissatisfaction, iTunes used to permit users to set up a playlist which would play higher-rated songs more often, only among songs that had not been played in the most recent few weeks. The newest functions in iTunes will shuffle the contents of any playlist — good enough, lacking a better alternative — but not weighted by rating. That’s a big letdown: it means that I’ll hear Patience and Prudence sing ‘A Smile and a Ribbon’ just as often as I’ll hear
Eddie Head and his Family sing ‘Down On Me’. That’s… suboptimal.
In a past iteration of the application, I asked for even more fine-grained weighted control over shuffled results. Only being able to weight music on a zero-to-five ‘rating’ is a gross control; why could the automated DJ not weight selections by how recently they were added to my collection, by genre, by year of release, by beats per minute, and my rating? After all, iTunes is mostly a glorified database; multivariate weighted distribution is the kind of thing databases are for.
I’m not frothing at the mouth about the disappearance of iTunes DJ. I’m shuffling randomly in a pool of all songs rated two stars or more that I haven’t heard in the past 6 weeks, and that’s a viable makeshift. The new ‘Up Next’ window even improves on the old miniplayer in some ways (though I miss the convenience of being able to see the star rating in the window, and change it in one click). But I’m puzzled about why Apple would remove a relatively low-computation function (not like the animated cover display), one that turns out to be more popular than I imagined, with no obvious benefit. I rate iTunes 11 three stars.

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