Strange Loop

Better Spotify Playlists through Discrete Optimization

I am a Spotify addict, former DJ, amateur musician, and professional software engineer. I take special pride in making expertly-curated playlists for myself and friends. It takes a lot of time and energy to set the right mood and tone, and even more time and energy to transition smoothly from one song to another in a way that makes sense and is pleasing to the ear. Through many years of practice, I've observed that making a good playlist is a lot like solving a puzzle; and just like puzzles, there are rules and patterns to follow if you want to produce a cohesive output. In this talk, we'll explore the notion of teaching these rules to a computer, building a planning & optimization algorithm that follows these rules, and letting it loose on a set of tracks to generate delightful playlists on Spotify. We'll also cover the basics of music theory and why certain songs sound better together. There will likely also be fast talking, live keyboard playing, and some unrehearsed demos against a random sample of Spotify playlists submitted by the audience.

Cedric Hurst

Cedric Hurst

Spantree Technology Group, LLC

Cedric is the Founder & Principal of Spantree, a boutique software+data+systems engineering firm in Chicago's West Loop. Someone recently described him as being "like House MD but for technical stuff." While it was a flattering compliment in some respects, he hopes the comparison doesn't extend to his bedside manner. He's passionate about driving technical change within his own team and with his clients, but he also realizes that successful technical change frequently necessitates cultural change as well. To that end, he and his team focus on defining language protocols and frameworks that empower the teams they work with to make inclusive and principled decisions about the best path forward together. If you let him, he'll talk your ear off about distributed systems, rules engines, and exotic databases; but he also enjoys making computer music, traveling and giving away money to strangers with cool ideas.