Audiorders: The Sonification of On-Demand — Trends

February 3, 2020

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Audiorders: The Sonification of On-Demand — Trends

Audiorders: The Sonification of On-Demand — Demand

Audiorders: The Sonification of On-Demand — Density

Postmates has been the go-to for ordering basically anything since 2011. In the 9+ years we’ve been operating, we’ve seen our customers order a lot. Through every craving-filled order, midnight snack, or panic-induced emergency toilet paper run, we shared a journey together.

We’ve got data on alcohol orders during national elections (huge spike), when people order the most condoms and tequila, and evidence that people just aren’t into kale anymore. We have a story that, until recently, only existed as numbers. But let’s face it, numbers and graphs just don’t tell the whole story.

We wanted to do something special to tell our data’s story. And what’s more special than a song? An album.

“Computers can read data (MIDI) and turn it into a musical performance. So it just kind of hit me, I’m sure there’s a way to transform data into music.” — Alex Orellana, Product Analyst Lead.

We took our data and created 12, one-minute pieces of music divided into three categories — Trends, Demand, and Density. Today, we’re focusing on the Trends portion of this creation.

Trends

In Trends, you’ll be able to see specific food categories’ popularity through seasons and time.

The sounds you’ll hear in this category are based on real physical keyboard instruments, which we used in conjunction with some audio effects to give our instruments variation and personality.

Episode 1: Food Category Trends

In the video below, you’ll see our top five categories of food in living color and how they’ve morphed over the years: American, Burger, Burrito, Fast Food, and Pizza. Each of the five categories are represented as an individual note and color.

Episode 2: Hourly Items

Beginning at midnight, this day-in-the-life of Postmates takes three years of data highlighting when people order tequila, coffee, and condoms. Each item is once again represented as a different note and color.

Episode 3: Alcohol Seasonality

This video shows how our alcohol preferences change throughout the course of a year: Red Wine, Rose, Sparkling, and Tequila. Each beverage is represented by a different electronic instrument.

Episode 4: Trendy Foods

In the next video, we displayed how the popularity of different food trends changing over time using the following keywords: heirloom, kale, fried and Impossible Burger. Each keyword is represented as a different octave. The data controls the volume of each track, so as one category shifts rank, you’ll hear it gain traction.

Our eating habits are as personal as our fingerprints — no two are alike. But from the rise and fall of heirloom tomatoes, to the surge of 7:30pm tequila orders, we might agree that we aren’t so different after all.


None of this would have been possible without Product Analyst Lead, Alex Orellana. Alex spearheaded this project, providing us with the perfect balance of science and art.

“I wanted to find a way to take a step back and really highlight just how human our data really is.”

For a deeper dive into the inner workings of this project directly from Alex himself, please see the links below:

Summary

Trends — Food Category Trends

Trends — Hourly Items

Trends — Trendy Foods

Trends — Alcohol Seasonality

Engineering

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Density — Market Drum Machine

After making the atonal cacophony that was the Regions piece [link to it], I decided to try to set things up in a way that would result in something a bit more accessible. An electronic drum kit seemed like a pretty good place to start.

February 3, 2020