Rockbot in Mabee: Let us judge your music

Has the music in Mabee gotten better or worse since Rockbot was implemented?

Mabee Dining Hall’s playlist is now in the students’ hands. Remember when Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” played three times in a row last semester? Mabee has taken steps to combat this by implementing Rockbot, an app that allows users to request, upvote and downvote the music in participating venues. Since its implementation, the reaction from students has been mixed.
Sadiel Rios, a first-year intended finance major, is a Rockbot user who advocates for Taylor Swift songs on the regular. He explained that since he downloaded the app, DJing in Mabee has become a regular occurrence for him.

“My visits have been increasing,” he said. “It’s a mandatory thing to go to Mabee. You have to log in and see what’s going to happen.”

Some are happy with the ability to control a soundtrack they might not have previously enjoyed. Others are using their newfound power to request songs like “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which is arguably less tolerable in the month of October. Maxwell Wu, a junior accounting major, is one such student.

“We originated that trend that everybody hates,” Wu said. “We were scrolling through the songs, but most of the songs that we wanted to play were banned. The only [option] that seemed vaguely interesting was Christmas music. I think the first one we played was ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You.’”

Wu is part of a cabal of students who play certain songs purely for student and worker reactions. He explained that he tends to use Rockbot when there are more students around, but not everyone enjoys his selections.

“I like to hear their reactions,” Wu said. “When I first started playing Star Wars’ ‘Imperial March’ I got some funny faces, and honestly, now it’s just hate.”

The presence of these “trolls” adds variety to Mabee’s queue, but it can go unappreciated. Allison Waters, a sophomore international business major, shared her thoughts on the less conventional choices.

“Sometimes there will be someone who’s trolling and they will literally play the most awful music you’ve ever heard in your entire life,” Waters said. “Someone the other day played ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ And I was like, ‘what?’”

The implementation of Rockbot means that other students have to build a tolerance for lesser-enjoyed songs, but it also means that they can, in turn, advocate for their own music. Rockbot features a ranking system that incorporates upvotes and downvotes into the song selection process. The more upvotes a song has, the higher it goes in the queue. Users have rankings, too — those who log into the app often will be higher-ranked and their songs will be higher in the queue.

This system naturally creates competition within the student body. Everyone wants their song at the top, so students will often utilize their friend groups to upvote certain songs and downvote others. With Trinity’s diverse student population and wide range of music tastes, the results can be chaotic.

“It’s sort of a bonding experience, because often me and my friends would upvote each other’s songs,” Wu said. “We scout both the random algorithms as well to make our songs rise to the top.”

Rios had a different perspective. “It’s like a war zone,” he said. “I’ve been amazed by how many dislikes some songs have. It goes off the screen. I was like, ‘what is happening?’”

The ranking system is far from perfect, though. Upvotes and downvotes have a lot of power, which can make it difficult for every user to get a fair chance.
“It’s kind of dramatic,” Rios said. “I put a thumbs down and the song goes down, like, four slots.”

While Rockbot’s core ranking system is fairly well-received, there’s always room for improvement. Waters reflected on some changes she would like to see in the structure.

“I think that something to improve that would be if they took past upvotes or downvotes into account if the song is requested again,” she said. “Like, if Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ is requested again, and more people downvote it again, maybe that’s a hint they shouldn’t play the song.”

The reaction to Rockbot has been fairly positive, and the ability to choose your own music is, according to the interviewed students, a welcome development overall. There’s always room for improvement, but letting every student have a fair (ish) shot at DJing in Mabee Dining Hall is a quick way to boost camaraderie, expose each other to new music and ultimately make the dining experience more enjoyable for everyone.