You like Mozart? Here’s some Muppet Show

This article is about the strange things that go on in social media. As I was listening to an opera piece, specifically The Magic Flute, in French (don’t ask, sometimes I try to get into other forms of music, but opera is still a closed door to me), I noticed the suggestions on the right side also listed Rockin’ Robin from the Muppet Show. Now, from all the gazillions of videos on the tube, they chose a puppet band doing rock to recommend to someone listening to classical? Granted, it’s an old song, but not Mozart-old. So what algorithmic wonder managed this logic leap? Sounds like something reasoned by something so complex it tripped itself. This requires an investigation. People want to know, and I don’t want to go to bed just yet.

Underneath this particular suggestion I notice a “Your recommendations” at the end. Alright, since I cannot recall seeing, let alone recommending the Electric Mayhem band perform in a tree before, I suppose Youtube are the ones recommending. Meaning they do know who I am. Then I remember Google buying Youtube some time ago, and that I do have a Google+ account simmering somewhere in the cloud. Still doesn’t bridge the gap between opera and blue suede shoes, but maybe there is a hint in my Google+ account (conveniently linked in top right hand corner). This shows that I have no favourites, nothing added etc, but my history list is really long. A quick search reveals nothing about classic rock or sock puppet musicians. Or so I thought. Digging deeper I find that more than two years ago I watched the Mahna Mahna song from the Muppet Show. And I still regret this. It’s like a virus in the mind, but if you are feeling strong, here’s the song.

Ok, so now we know that if you have been rickrolled once years ago, chances are Youtubes recommendations will try and trick you again. But the connection still isn’t clear to me. So I poke around some more. Both videos are relatively short and contain music with lyrics and moving pictures. Maybe Youtube have a voluntary system for classifying new contributions? I don’t know as I have never uploaded anything, but I do know that such a system would be faulty at best. Just looking at the videos comments convinces me you that you really shouldn’t base a classification system on these people. Google being Google, they must have a superelaborate automatic system that scans every upload for nude flesh and naughty words among other things. I’m sure they can recognize a music video for what it is by sound and pictures, beat, framerate, whatever. Somebody at Google probably coded this on a café napkin in between two meetings and the others thought it was cool, so now it’s standard.

So, our assumption is that both are recognized as music videos. Evidently I like music videos of opera and muppets. I really feel like deleting that history, but a part of me is curious what else turns up. What about the opera-muppets connection then? Ah, there’s actually something interesting in the muppets video. Performing on the soundtrack is the (evidently) renowned flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal. Ooh. He is French, played a flute in one video, whereas the other is a French song about a flute. French flutes connected the dots. That makes sense. Or not. Well, if you’re an advanced searchengine in the web 2.0 era, I suppose it does. I for one sure didn’t see that coming.

One far more interesting thing I discovered in this is the automatic texting function of Youtube. Evidently the people at Google have so much spare time they’ve made a voice-to-text transcripter. Now, what happens when this transcripter meets a rock song can be seen in the Rockin’ Robin video (it’s underneath the up-thumb, next to statistics). Somehow it transcribes “He rocks in the treetop all day long” to “santee dot salty non com”. It’s like watching a TV game show with someone translating a song on the go in a noisy street. Enjoy.

[Edit: I was going to link the Mozart performance, but it has changed status to private. Just imagine a large lady with a voice like a foghorn wailing in french.]

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