Controversy (The Track 6 Theory is debunked).

Welcome back, dear reader, to the third, and hopefully final, instalment in my instructional series on how to take a trivial, insignificant thought that popped into your brain for approximately 4 seconds, some 20 odd years ago, and see how many posts you can get out of it.

Market research conducted on this very blog* tells us that the maximum saturation point for audiences reading about the same topic over and over and over again is 3 posts. We don’t want to bore our readers silly, so that’s what we are aiming for. Let’s see if we can make it!

We will begin post no.3  by reviewing the ground we’ve covered already in this series (since reviewing weeks 1 and 2 is a sure fire way to fill in a word count.)

In week one, we looked at how the natural events that occur in life may occasionally result in one experiencing a thought so incredibly trivial that it’s not even worth recording on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even (for those still stuck back in the Middle Ages) in the Notes App on your iPhone.

We then saw how, after that astounding experience, life continues on, in some cases even for another 20 years or more, without any other majorly insignificant thoughts spoiling your otherwise edifying and witty stream-of-consciousness that is always worthy of posting up on the interwebs for the entire universe to read and admire.

We talked about how occasionally, the next thing you know is that you are looking for a topic for your blog, when that completely insignificant idea from 20 years earlier pops up, and for lack of any other ideas you decide to take on the challenge to actually make a post out of it.

So that was lesson one: how to have an insignificant idea, forget it, live life for 20 more years, then remember the idea and, despite it’s astounding lack of depth, manage to write a post about it.

Next we had lesson 2: how to string out your trivial idea to fill up a second post.

In this instalment we were introduced to devices that would help the blogger continue to wring content out of a completely insignificant idea. One was the device of apologising to your readers for the previous post, admitting that it had been finished off hurriedly because you were tired and had to go to bed. Another device was to add a very poorly executed graph into your post, in an attempt to give your badly executed research a bit more credibility. A third tip was to add a readers’ poll to give the post a bit more……interactivity.

And now, here we are at lesson 3.

Lesson 3 begins with an obvious fact. Naturally if, in post number 2, you have inserted a poll that requires a response, that leaves the reader, (or if you are lucky, readers) on the edge of their seat, or seats, waiting for post number 3, where you reveal the results of your poll. This then obliges you, in an almost legally binding contract, to follow up with a post revealing those results. This post is all about those results.

For anyone who did not participate in my poll, (and I estimate roughly  7 billion of you did not bother), my poll question was this: Choose an album and pick out your favourite track on the album. Is it track 6 or some other number?

Now firstly, I must give a hearty thankyou to all who did vote in the poll. All 4 of you deserve an iTunes card as a reward for your efforts. Unfortunately, an iTunes card was not on offer so you’ll have to remain content with the knowledge that you contributed to important scientific research.

The results of the poll were:

Track 6: 0 votes

Some Other Track: 3 votes

There Are No Track Numbers, Do I Have To Count Them?: 1 vote

For those who did not read the previous post on this topic, my first study in this field, consisting of 16 albums, all selected by myself, showed that Track 6 came up as favourite track at least 50% of the time. But in this second study, consisting of external subjects (4 in total),  Track 6 clearly suffered a crushing defeat, never coming up at all as a favourite track.

In keeping with the true spirit of scientific exploration, I am open to discarding an old hypothesis when it is proven to be incorrect. We are not afraid of a little controversy here at It Keeps Me Wondering Laboratories (TM). (especially not if it’s sung by Prince.) (*Controversy: Track 1, on the album Controversy, 1981).

In that spirit, I conclude that Track 6 is not the most popular track on a random selection of albums. In fact, based on this extensive survey of 4 people, I think we can conclude that Track 6 is generally a dud since not a single person chose it as their favourite. Furthermore, although this was not the subject of the study, we can also conclude that it’s really annoying when tracks are not numbered on the back of the CD and you have to actually count them if you want to know which track to skip to. Boring!

However, this post is about more than just the superficial results of a survey. It is also about how to utilise your survey results in order to pad out your post, yes, that’s right, your third goddam post on the same goddam topic, and by doing so, achieve our goal of writing three posts on a completely trivial and inconsequential topic. For no other reason than because we set ourselves that challenge.

The way to do this, dear reader, is with illustrations, or in this case, more graphs.

Firstly, we could graph the data that 75% of respondents chose a track other than track 6, 0 chose track 6, and 25% could not work out what number their favourite track was. (I feel their pain.)

Portion who like track 6


(As this is a pie chart, the proportion of people who chose Track 6 as their favourite (0) is represented by their glaring absence from getting any pie).

Next, we could track the popularity of track 6 over the past 2.5 decades:


popularity of track 6


(Data in the above graph may be mostly imaginary however Blue Lines is a real album that was released in 1992, and, perhaps coincidentally, around that time, my own personal track favourites were often track number 6)


And finally, we could represent the overlap between all the people in the world, all the albums in the world, and the instances where a person chooses track 6 on an album as their favourite album:

Graph all the people


(Graph is based on an estimation, as disappointingly, I have so far not had responses from all the people in the world.)

In conclusion: Personally I still have a soft spot for Track 6, and will always be disappointed when it’s not my favourite track, but looking objectively at all the scientific evidence, I can see that overall the vote for Track 6 is: meh.


*By “Market Research” I mean, that’s what I decided.

*Apologies for the quality of the images, my scanner has stopped working so I’ve had to use my trusty iPhone to take photographs of my drawings! 

Unfinished Sympathy, or, more on the Track 6 Theory

Last week I wrote a post that purported to be about how to write a post.

That was really a fudge. In reality, it wasn’t a guide to writing a post, or not in a step-by-step manner, anyway. It was about how a completely trivial idea can sit with you for years, floating around in the muddle of thoughts and ideas in your brain, and then pop up one day in the form of something that you decide to try and write about. That is often true of a meaningful idea, sure, but hopefully I illustrated that it can also be true for a silly, inconsequential thought that you should have forgotten about 20 years ago.

The idea I wrote about was, that on many of my albums, track number 6 seems to be my favourite track. That thought came to me in about 1992, around the time I was listening to Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack, from their album Blue Lines.

As I said, not a meaningful thought by any stretch of the imagination. However I did my best to stretch this banal thought into an amusing piece of writing by using the model of a scientific study, although that in itself turned out to be inconclusive due to the size of the data.

But I’ve been bothered by aspects of this post, and today, I feel that I have to write a follow up post, to apologise to all the scientists that closely follow this blog, for the sloppiness of my scientific methodology.

It’s no excuse, I know, but as often happens, I’d spent a few hours on that post, it was 11.30pm as I was finishing it up, I was aware that it was becoming way too long, and I needed to round it off. My friends, in these circumstances, who among us does not occasionally wrap up a post as quickly as possible without due rigour to scientific process or any other process? But even as I was writing the final sentences in that post, all the flaws in my “scientific study” were making themselves apparent to me. At that point, though, I just wanted to publish the damn thing and go to bed, and to hell with how accurate it was, a sentiment that I’m sure investigative journalists working for the BBC can sympathise with.

Now, by “flaws,” I don’t mean the central fact that my “scientific study” was an examination into the frequency of track number 6 being my favourite track on a random selection of albums. I was aware that my “study” was of no significance to society. I was quite prepared to accept that it would NOT be written up in New Scientist magazine, or even in Smash Hits magazine, any time soon.

What I mean by “flaws,” is that I’m aware that the best creative writing is rigorous in its process – for example, if putting together a parody of a scientific study, a good writer would probably research scientific methodology  and make sure that the study followed that process as much as possible. Mine was written up lazily, without even peeking into my daughter’s year 9 science textbooks for help.

Of course one of those flaws was the tiny sample size of 16 albums, but that was a creative decision. I restricted the sample for the sake of the post, because I was presenting it as a list, and there were limits to how much interest a list of songs was going to retain if it got much longer. It was also time consuming, as, in some cases, I had to put albums on to decide between tracks that were competing for favourite.

Another flaw I became aware of was that I should have noted the number of my favourite track when it wasn’t track 6. That way, the study would have recorded whether any other track numbers were favourites more often than track 6. Mathematically, (could there be any other way?) the odds of that seem unlikely. So the study seems to suggest that track 6 could well be most often my favourite track, however with a sample size of only 16 albums I had to determine that this was inconclusive.

graph track 6

Some scientific rigour: a graph representing the instances of track 6 being favoured, or “other” track being favoured.

Another of the flaws in my study, which I only realised afterwards, was subjectivity. Of course, the question of a “favourite” track is entirely subjective. My favourite track is, of course, not necessarily your favourite track, dear reader. I am not sure what the scientific process is around accounting for, or trying to mitigate against, subjectivity, but I figure that one way to counter the subjectivity of a survey like this would be to have a much larger sample of respondents (ie,more than 1 person.)

With this intention, I have (I think) created a poll, for anyone who is interested in contributing to this important study. Select an album from your shelves, or from your iPhone – randomly or not, it doesn’t matter. Select your favourite track on that album. Check the track number. Is it number 6? Either way, please respond accordingly. The poll didn’t seem to allow me to create a field where you can write in the track number that is your favourite, so I’ve had to simply create the alternatives of Track 6, or Other, but I did also add a freeform field so you can tell me what the track number is if you’d like to. You can also tell me what the album and song were if you’d like to. I’ve never done a poll before so I have no idea in what format your answers will be revealed to me but I look forward to finding out.

So dear readers, let’s rally together in the interests of solving a very significant question that has kept the entire scientific world, or at the very least, me, busy for something akin to 3 full hours now. Let’s see if track 6 really is, overall, the most popular track on albums across the board, or whether there is no pattern at all to favourite tracks. As part of the same research, we may even find out if I can squeeze a third post out of this topic!!?

And finally, thank you all for your contribution to science.



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