From their Tips to Improve Stations:

1. Make a fresh station: Sometimes the best thing to do is simply start over with a fresh station based on a different starting point, such as a related artist or one of your favorite Thumbed up songs. Note you can always bring a station back (with all your Seeds and Thumbs intact) by re-adding it.

OK, I've split my varied tastes into a small collection of stations.

2. Thumb freely: Thumb ratings tell us everything about the kinds of music you want to hear. If you have a reaction to a song, let us know! This will give us a better idea of what to play next. Keep in mind, Thumbing down a track counts as a skip.

OK, when I find a song that is appropriate for my station, I usually thumb-up it. If they play a song that is quite inappropriate for the station, I usually thumb-down it. However, given the wide variety of music that I like, I may not necessarilu thumb-down a song that doesn't fit the format of the station I'm playing.

3. Review your station: When stations are playing songs wildly out of place, or songs that aren’t fitting within that station’s sound, you should check your station details and edit any Thumb ratings or Seeds that may be adversely affecting the playlist.

OK. I made the mistake of putting country artists who have had pop hits into my classic hits station; I later removed them and created a separate Retro Country station.

4. Switch it up: Don't be afraid to make changes. If your station is repetitive, first try our Add Variety feature. If you get sick of a track but don't want to completely ban it, you can also put it on the shelf for a while. In some cases, it might actually help to remove Thumbs-up ratings in the station details to mix things up.

This is where I take issue with their suggestion. A custom online station should not need endless tweaking to stay fresh. I do put songs on the shelf quite frequently. Too bad I can't put entire artists on the shelf.

I think what I'm really looking for is a more natural-language method of defining my stations. Like "give me the top 200 songs of each year from 1988 to 1993" for my Class of 1993 Radio station or "give me all of the country songs that made the pop Top 40 in the 1980s."

But the basic fact is that Pandora is scientifically designed to do things in ways that I don't like. For example, Pandora has found that other listeners (they didn't ask me) are less tolerant of unfamiliar music while they're at work. So they intentionally include only "familiar" music during the working hours. I dislike this. I don't want to hear the same songs all the time. They also found that other people who like vocal pop music music (again, they didn't ask me) are not as receptive to discovering new music as fans of instrumental music. This also works against me.

After tweeting my thoughts, I got a response from the Pandora Twitter account suggesting that I email my thoughts to their help line. This is what I sent:

While I can applaud you for researching the patterns that listeners tend to exhibit, I find that those patterns poorly describe me. For example, I usually listen to Pandora while I'm at work. I don't like hearing the same songs over and over again, contrary to your finding that people prefer familiarity while working. Also, your research determined that people who like vocal pop music don't like discovering unfamiliar music. This works against my desire to discover stuff off the beaten path: other tracks from the same albums, minor hits, lesser-known artists of the genre. While I've followed most of the tips that your site gives for improving my stations, I'm bothered with the idea that your algorithms are working against me.

This is what I got back:

Hi Jay,

Thanks for writing and for the feedback. It's true that there is a certain amount of repetition in some stations. Each listener has different tastes when it comes to hearing the familiar vs. discovering new songs. Finding the right balance for each individual is something we continue to work on.

In the meantime, if you get sick of a track but don't want to completely ban it, you can put it on the shelf for a while. To do this, hover your mouse over the album art. Then click the arrow between the thumbs. Then select 'I'm tired of this track'.

Also, to add more variety to stations, you can select additional artist and/or song seeds. You can do this by clicking on 'Add variety' under the currently playing station name.

In some cases, it might actually help to remove Thumbs-up ratings in the station to mix things up. Click on 'Options' of the currently playing station and then select 'Station Details.' On the station page, you can remove songs you've previously Thumbed-up.

On the same page, you can also try adding some of the songs you've Thumbed-up as Song seeds. This would likely increase the variety of the station pretty quickly.

Hope some of this helps. Thanks so much for listening to Pandora!
Listener Advocate
PANDORA® internet radio

Facepalm. Thanks for taking the time to take the advice that you have already given me, bake it into a custom response, and basically tell me to "live with it." Thanks for completely missing the point of my message.