Artists, labels and users

The previous blog post about Flagrant managed to raise a number of issues that we had never dealt with before here at MusicBrainz:

  • When an artist comes to MB and asks that their data be removed, what should we do, if anything?
  • Should an artist be more important than the users? How about music labels?
  • How can we tell that someone mailing us is in fact that artist or a valid representative of that artist?

These are very difficult questions to answer and given the feedback from the community to this issue, its clear that people feel strongly about this. Also the favor does not seem to be towards the artists, which intuitively I do not agree with. Rather than deal with these very sticky situations that involve recognizing one person or group of persons more than others, I would like to suggest the following much simpler course of action:

  • Every MusicBrainz user is treated the same inside of MusicBrainz.
  • Users may have different powers, depending on their past history inside of MusicBrainz. (MusicBrainz is a meritocracy)
  • All users start with the same level of power, regardless if they are an artist, a label, a representative of either, or a normal music lover.
  • Neither an artist, a label, nor any user can request data be removed from MusicBrainz, unless they have a clear legal argument. Given that MusicBrainz indexes only factual data at the moment, this is going to be very unlikely.

This policy is enforceable since it makes everyone equal. If an artist or a label wishes to enter/remove data to/from MusicBrainz, they must use the moderation system just like everyone else. Please post comments and let me know what you think of this proposal!

P.S. Thanks to our board of directors for chiming in on this important topic!

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Please do not add any albums/tracks for artist Flagrant (UPDATED!)

Apparently the person who contacted us was not actually authorized to speak on behalf of Flagrant. Now the real Flagrant wants this blog entry taken down because its incorrect, but we don’t censor our blog. So, this entry has the original body struck out so everyone can see what is going on. As for adding information back to Flagrant, please feel free if you feel motivated. And stay tuned for how we plan to handle this case in the future.

It was bound to happen… Today the artist Flagrant asked us to not index any of their music. I’ll leave the artist in place with an annotation so that other brainerz can see the note in the future.

Even though I attempted to appeal to them to reconsider their decision, they did not. Nor did they provide any reason for this. So be it…

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Guess case for classical music

Keschte (g0llum) says:

This concerns mostly the classical editors. I’ve finally taken my time to develop the requested guess case mode for the classical style guidelines. These are mostly regular expressions which cover most of the cases that require tedious manual editing. You’ll find some of the examples I’ve worked with in the header of, please go to the sandbox and try out your titles. Feel free to enter any issues you find into the bug tracker.

Cheers, and have fun testing!


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Wanted: Documentation writer for MusicBrainz' MMD XML Schema

Matthias Friedrich just declared the MMD XML Schema to be stable. Hooray, and thanks for your hard work on creating this schema!

The MusicBrainzXMLMetaData wiki page describes this new schema, but it does not provide complete documentation for the new schema. We’re looking for a volunteer to take this page and:

  1. Describe the entire schema in english, with as little geeky talk as possible.
  2. Flesh out the existing examples and add more examples to describe the various aspects of the schema.
  3. Receive community feedback and revise the documentation

The person who decides to take this on needs to understand XML and preferably the Relax NG XML Schema language. The latter is not a must — we can help the documentation writer understand the schema, but knowledge of XML is crucial for this task.

If you are interested in helping out, please post a comment to this entry.


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Future directions for MusicBrainz

I’ve returned from my much needed vacation in Iceland and now I am ready to get back to working on MusicBrainz. While I was gone, a few shouting matches and arguments over what MusicBrainz should be in the future erupted, so its clear that its high time to give a general update on how MusicBrainz is doing and where we’re headed in the future.

First, lets review what we’ve accomplished in the past 4 months: 1) we have more server capacity in a new home with better bandwidth 2) A new fingerprinting system with a new partner 3) A new search engine 4) A new web service. If you would’ve asked me how long all these would take to turn into a reality 4 months ago, I would’ve told you 6 – 8 months time. So, we’ve made great strides this year alone!

Now that we’ve knocked off a number of serious problems and improved the overall service, the community looks towards the next set of problems that we need to tackle. At first glance, it may seem that all we have are problems and that there are tons of people who are constantly complaining that MusicBrainz is not this or that. Personally, I think this is interesting and not alarming — these “problems” show that people care about the project. None of these problems put MusicBrainz in danger of vanishing tomorrow. I think the biggest problem right now is that the future for the project is not clear now that we’ve implemented many large improvements over the last few months. This blog post and more to follow next week should hopefully address these questions from a high level perspective:

Q: Is MusicBrainz a service aimed at people who wish to clean up (tag) their music collection or is the goal to create a music encyclopedia?

A: Yes! The long term goal of MusicBrainz is to capture all relevant knowledge about music and create a comprehensive music encyclopedia. The goal is also to create killer tagging applications that take this wealth of knowledge and let users apply it to their own music collections.

Thus, when people edit the database, the focus should be to capture the information as accurately as possible, respecting artist intent and trying to work with our guidelines when artist intent is not clear. The focus should not be to capture information such that music collections can get tagged cleanly with the data!

That is not to say that we don’t care about tagger users — on the contrary! Tagger users who make an occasional $10 donation are the people who pay our bills — they keep the servers on and allow the foundation to have an official place of business!

To make both the encyclopedia minded users and tagger users happy in one giant sandbox, I’d like to present a rough road-map where MusicBrainz will be headed in the near future:

Next server update

Server update with UI improvements, nomenclature (album -> release, moderate -> edit) fixes, album editor, XHTML support and more. This is likely to happen mid to end of May and driven by the hard efforts of Keschte.

Picard user interface improvements

Picard users currently fall into two categories — those who hate it and those who love it. If you don’t like drag and drop and you focus mainly on tracks, you are not likely to enjoy Picard. The user interface improvements presented here will be implemented so that the UI can be used without drag and drop and either in a track or album oriented mode. Which exact model we’ll pursue is unclear at this point, but it will likely be one of the variants proposed there. The overall goal is to make the old MusicBrainz Tagger irrelevant as we prepare to put TRM out to pasture — all tagger users should be happy with Picard.

TaggerScript in Picard

TaggerScript is the nick name we’ve given a much discussed, but not yet specified feature that will allow tagger users more control over how their music collection gets organized. The idea is that with TaggerScript, users will be able to extract information from AdvancedRelationships as well as the usual pieces of release data and then shove that data into the tags/filenames of their collection with a lot more flexibility and control that we currently allow. TaggerScript will allow tagger oriented users to extract the data they care about from the encyclopedia oriented database.

Next generation schema

This is the much discussed and much anticipated major upgrade to the MusicBrainz database. The idea behind this is to allow us to handle releases, classical music and many other facets of music metadata much better than we can today. At Summit #7 we worked for 14 hours to create this new schema and its a great start for defining the goal for a more powerful version of MusicBrainz. However, simply because this new schema exists, it does not mean that we will implement this as it currently stands on the wiki page. We need to spend a lot more time thinking about this — but this first version serves as a great stepping stone for eventually getting to our goal.

The most serious problem with this schema is that it will take a huge amount of effort for us implement it. Essentially, it amounts to rewriting most of MusicBrainz. Think one person working on it full time for 12 months — maybe even 24 months. There are a number of problems with this:

  1. If the dev team went away for 12 – 24 months to work on the next version of MusicBrainz, the current users would lose interest in MB due to the lack of progress. If the end-users cannot witness progress being made, they lose interest. So, devs cannot just work on the next gen schema, they also have to go back and fix other issues that arise. That pushes things out even further. 36 months? Ugh.
  2. MusicBrainz is still being coded by volunteers, and volunteers work on personal motivation. If a person is not motivated to work on a huge project for months on end without pay, they will lose interest. Moving from our current schema to the next schema is going to be rough work and a lot of it. I’m sure we don’t have enough volunteers to make this happen!
  3. For large projects like these, when you finally get done with the project it may no longer be what you need when its finished. It will be what you needed 12 – 24 months ago, not what you need today.

So, then how to we proceed with this mess? There are a number of options on how to proceed — we should attempt to work on all of these approaches at the same time:

  1. Work to sell more data licenses. This non-trivial income will then allow us to hire developers to work on the MB server. Paid people can be properly motivated to work on longer projects.
  2. Work to figure out how to break the schema upgrade into 3-4 smaller upgrades, each taking a 2-3 months to complete, thus making visible progress on a continual basis. [ insert wild hand waving here — I have no clue how to accomplish this ]
  3. Possibly create more tools, abstraction layers or a new moderation system that will overall reduce the total amount work needed to move to a new schema. Here too, we’re brainstorming about how to proceed — nothing concrete has emerged yet.

As you may have guessed, we’re not certain on how to proceed with this new schema — we have a lot to think about and a lot of discussions to hold. Certain is that we will not see this next generation schema come to fruition this year. If you’re holding your breath on the new schema and you cannot deal with MusicBrainz’ shortcomings for at least another year, you may want to find another approach to satisfy your music metadata cravings.

One thing I do know for sure is that I am excited to continue working on MusicBrainz. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last few months and we’re not about to stop working hard on this project.

Onward ho!

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A big Thank You!

I just wanted to offer a HUGE thank you to g0llum a.k.a. Keschte for all the tedious work he did in updating a number of pages (well over 100) to reflect the change in verbiage from “album” to “release” and “moderate” to “edit”. This was very time consuming work and he tackled this project along with all of his other efforts including making our site comply with web standards. If you see him on IRC be sure to tell him thanks and give him a big virtual hug.

I’d also like to thank MRudat for also being a busy bee and making lots of little edits and interwingling pages. Every little bit helps.

To everyone else contributing, thank you.


IRC Meeting, what's up with Musicbrainz

This is to expand on Don Redman’s post. (click on word post to visit it)

First of all, I would like to take the time to say thanks (in no specific order) to ruaok, luks, g0llum, donredman, yalaforge, dave evans, shepard, tarragon, nikki, inhouseuk, the board of directors, Dan Appleman, Fred von Lohmann, Randy Heinig, the sponsors, those on the top moderators list (both voters and editors) as well as countless others that built the database, refine it and help make it a great place to visit and tweak.
(no, this is not an academy award acceptance speech. ;0) )

Luks is now the keeper of picard, wow, big responsibility! Remember it’s a free program and still in beta. It has growing up to do, but isn’t it great we have the ability to utilize it now, instead of after everything is polished? That’s part of beta testing. All these people get is the bugs, they need some support and love along the way! Good job as far as I’m concerned. It’s constantly developing to a more stable and useable product.

As far as the community goes. There is first a question as to what Musicbrainz purpose is. Is it a tagger, is it a repository for information on music, is it ???. I personally feel this was best summed up by ruaok

“I think our goal needs to be a comprehensible music encyclopedia with a killer tagging app.”

So that in mind, I’m taking the initiative to sum up the chat and try to define a few things, while also getting some of the community to sit back and realize a few things.

First and foremost; This is a community! We all strive to help make it work and grow. If all you are doing is pestering for something new realize developement takes time! Either we can push for some half baked fixes, or we can be patient and wait a little while for a shiny near perfect database we all have been trying to envision and some souls have spent a lot of time and effort to perfect and create for those others of us less capable in programming or lacking in time to help.

There are numerous ways to help and join the community.

  • monetary contribution
  • which keeps musicbrainz on the web for all of us.

  • coding
  • which helps development of applications and will develop the new schema. Which I might add, will implement changes making obsolete many issues which are argued to death on the mailing lists at this time.

  • watching the issues
  • ordering them in a sensical fashion, guiding implemention of small changes where possible, as long as it doesn’t require code changing.

  • wiki work
  • helps new users better join in the advancement of the community.

  • Voting
  • helps to insure correct data is being put into the database

  • Editing
  • correcting in accuracies in the current data.

    So, there are many ways you can become an active, cherished participant of the community. Virtually, if you don’t like the way things are going, please, join us and help us improve it! But, be patient and always realize people are giving what they can to our project, which is improving with each line of code, each vote, and each piece of data corrected.

    Another thing to remember, these are people behind these names. People with lives, people with difficulties beyond your need to tag your audio file, or your desire to look at one page and have it perfectly laid out to your specifications. They get sick, they feel let down when they’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months on developing something and all they can hear is, that’s nice, I want this, or I want more. Or, worse of all, that’s crap, I don’t like it. Yes, bugs are important to be pointed out! Please provide answers, suggestions, if you have no idea of a suggestion, maybe you need to just file a trac ticket and walk on. Neutrality is a very good trait to embrace. Look from your own view, but look from theirs too.

    Coming soon is an update to give those in the community an idea of what is being done. What to expect, and a highlighting of those people in the project that aren’t as apparent from an average musicbrainizens point of view.

    Don Redman already gave a link to the log for anyone to read for themselves. I ask and close to demand those in our community sit back, relax and let some of the behind the scenes work progress. Or, better, become a part of the team, and help us develop what we are working toward, the great improvements rather than having our coders attempting to please the masses and direct their time to less important things that have been endlessly discussed and looked into. Ultimately leading to the developement time being taken away from those greater visions that aren’t too far around the corner!

    You can also greatly help by digging back through the archives and chat logs. It’s likely there has been a discussion already about what you’re seeking to have implemented.

    The more initiative you take, the more you will be involved and part of our community. Surprisingly, the community is very open and willing to help those that desire to help improve our community. The more complaining without answers, without constructive criticism, the more likely those people that support the community the most will not desire to be spending as much time in development, or will become bitter, or will need a break from this. Ultimately, would that be better? I don’t believe so. That’s my two cents, and thank you, once more to all the above I listed. I totally appreciate what Musicbrainz provides for my desires and I look forward to the future!

    Nyght aka Beth

    What's going on in the MusicBrainz community these days?

    There was a very good talk about the state of the MusicBrainz community and the plans for future development on irc just now.

    It went from 20:03 to 21:52 on 2006-05-04.
    It started with a kind of rant by Wolfsong, developed into a discussion about what is going wrong in the MusicBrainz community these days, and led to some pretty simple steps that might help to make things better.

    I just wanted to bring this to everybody’s attention, before I go to sleep. I might get to adding a short summary tomorrow, but not now, sorry.

    Picard 0.7.0-beta3 released!

    Picard version 0.7.0 Beta 3 has been just released.


    Changes from 0.7.0-beta2:

    • support for GNOME and KDE default browser settings, in addition to the BROWSER
      environment variable (#1257)
    • fixed crashing in Pango (#1256)
    • added tport= parameter to the CD lookup URLs (#1328)
    • new code for checking user name and password that doesn’t block Picard
      when internet connection is down (#1247)
    • fixed bug that caused directory selector to become “sticky” after drag&drop
      on Windows (#1183)
    • support for Windows-compatible file names also on non-Windows systems (#1014)
    • and a couple of other minor bug fixes