I've just been surprised to realise that it's gone midnight. I find it more difficult to keep track of the passing of time when listening to a large library of MP3s, especially on shuffle mode. There's no CD to swap every hour, no cassette to turn over every 45 minutes, no deliciously tactile vinyl album to flip every 25 minutes, and no radio-stylee timechecks or hourly news bulletins. Just a constant supply of your personal taste in music, offering little excuse to get up from the chair and walk away from the PC for a while. This can't be a good thing..
Something else I meant to mention about my iPod usage is my behaviour towards rating tracks. I realised that I am very unlikely to give a song a rating of one or two stars. If I actively dislike a track, then what is it doing on my iPod in the first place? There are occasions where I dislike one or two tracks on an album, but this is a rarity - in general, if I like a band then I can at least find all their tracks agreeable, and hence deserving of three stars (three stars equates to "it's OK", in my book). Also, on those occasions where I don't much like a track, I'm more likely to just hit the "next track" button, rather than take the time to rate it, further increasing the rarity of the sub-three-star tracks.
When I rate a track, I'm most likely to give it three stars, because I happen to like a vast array of music. The middle option of five is always the easiest one to take, isn't it? You've all filled in those surveys with five options, usually something like "strongly disagree / disagree / neither agree nor disagree / agree / strongly agree", and it's always tempting just to pick the "neither agree nor disagree" radio button.
So, a four-star track has to be genuinely good. A cut above the rest. I'm trying to loosen my grip on this, and allow myself to give away four stars a bit more easily, but I do still find it difficult to be free with my (musical) love. I feel conscious that I'm putting my reputation on the line - there may come some future date where somebody I respect is browsing through my iTunes library and scoffs at the allocation of an "above average" four-star rating to an obviously merely average track. It's a fine line at this point, but an important distinction, and if in doubt I tend to play safe and stick with the four stars.
Five star tracks are rare as rocking horse shit. So far I've identified 60 of them in an iTunes library of 10,958 - that's 0.5%, arithmetic fans. But when I do find a song that I consider to be genuinely great, I'm more comfortable with making the decision between four and five stars than the tougher to call three/four judgement of lesser songs. If I really, really love a song, I'm more willing to argue its cause, even if somebody else does happen to think it's terrible.
There you go - Ian's psychology of track-rating, in a nutshell. I'd be interested in hearing how anybody else approaches this task (if indeed you bother to rate tracks at all).