MusicBrainz Summit 10 Wrapup

We’ve just finished our 10th MusicBrainz Summit, this time held in Nรผrnberg, Germany. It was a great success, with a number of participants and a lot of discussion! This time, we’ve managed to note all the discussions. So, if you missed the summit and want to catch up on what we talked about, head over to our wiki page with the summit notes, which contains a summary of just about everything we mentioned.

Thanks to everyone who came, and bring on the next summit!

Calling all guinea pigs!

I come bringing good news! With the latest version of the server now out in the wild, we’re ready to move on to the next stage of MusicBrainz development. But first a quick refresher…

You may recall, many moons ago I (Oliver Charles aka aCiD2) began work on moving the mb_server codebase from our own in-house framework, to the tried and tested Catalyst framework – along with separating out the HTML into separate Template Toolkit templates. Well, after what seems like an age, it’s finally got to the time where I can start getting some critical feedback from the most important people – you!

As from now, is now running the development branch of this work. It’s important to realise that this new codebase currently has no javascript support. This decision was made because it’s very important we get the website fully functional, and then add bells and whistles on later. We’re starting from a mostly clean slate, so there’s a lot of chance of things breaking, and JavaScript was likely to be just one more headache.

Oh, and I’ve never deployed a server like this before, so please bare with me while I work out any problems running the server. I’m going to London tomorrow and coming back Saturday evening (slightly bad timing, I’m aware) – but I’ll do my best to check any messages that come my way!

However, before you jump straight in and overload us with work – I’d like to lay down some guidelines for providing us with feedback. This will (hopefully) ensure that we can see to these bugs as fast as possible.

Where to report:

Standard practice- report at our bugtracker –

What should you report?

The most important things to report are actions that cause errors to occur, invalid behaviour or features that are simply not available, but are from the main server. You should also report typos and other visual problems – but I will be encouraging people to help fix these themselves (more on this later!).

What information should you provide?

The most critical information is that you can provide us with as much context as possible. Please let us know:

  • Any steps to reproduce the problem
  • Whether you are logged in or not
  • The address of the page that caused the problem
  • As much information as possible from the top of the error page

The last point relates somewhat to Catalyst. Catalyst features improved error handling and can provide us with a stack trace. You should try and include this stack trace, and the errors at the top. Chances are, we’ll be able to reproduce this from the information you provide – but if not, the stack trace gives us one more pointer to where the problem is ๐Ÿ™‚

How should you organise the report?

Generally speaking, just try to fill in as many of the fields as possible. I’ll be reading every single report that comes in, and re-filing it myself where necessary. Ideally, set the component to ‘MusicBrainz’, the milestone to ‘Server: TemplateToolkit’ and assign the bug to me ๐Ÿ™‚


Let the bug crunching begin!

Working With Picard, Episode 1


The first episode in my series of “Working with Picard” screencasts has now been recorded, and is available for public consumption ๐Ÿ™‚ A YouTube link to the video is available, and a higher resolution Ogg Theora file is also also available. You’ll probably find the Ogg Theora easier to read due to the higher resolution.

In this first screencast I go through the basics of Picard – how to load files, how the interface works, and basic usage with clusters.

If there’s something that’s unclear, or you have future ideas for screencasts – let me know! Other wise, enjoy the screencast – and show you’re friends and convince why MusicBrainz is so cool (if you haven’t already ๐Ÿ™‚

Structured XHTML Call For Testing

The StructuredXHTML branch is a branch of the core mb_server behind MusicBrainz and intends to improve the website by making sure the html is as structurally correct as possible and making the layout driven predominantly by CSS. We’re close to merging the first version, and we need your feedback to make sure we do it right!

The StructuredXHTML branch is a branch of the core mb_server behind MusicBrainz and intends to improve the website by making sure the html is as structurally correct as possible and making the layout driven predominantly by CSS. This has numerous advantages including faster rendering, better support for screen readers, and layout flexibility for users with visual impairments.

We’ve been working quietly in the background on this, but have finally got the bulk of the work down (transforming the main layout). We’re going to be gradually rolling these changes in, and as such some pages will not be immediately updated, and it’s important to make sure that they all work and display reasonably correctly.

What we need you to do is head over to our test server, which is running the StructuredXHTML branch. Browse the website just as you would usually use the normal website: viewing artist entries, looking at releases, searching for data, entering new data, moderating data โ€“ just about anything you can think of! If one of the pages looks a bit too odd, please let Oliver know by filing a bug appropriatly in our bug tracker โ€“ (we now have a section just for bugs on StructuredXHTML).

Here’s a list of the changes we’ve made in this first version, that will be rolled out into the next version of mb_server:

  • Layout driven entirely by CSS: We’ve got rid of the tables we used to use and have made a very flexible layout that will accommodate custom text sizes better than before. It also introduces minor amounts of whitespace in certain places, with the intention to improve readability.
  • A new search option in the sidebar: The current set of search fields has caused some confusion to people on there first visit. Some people have tried to combine search fields, which does not work. A new compact dropdown box search has been added to hopefully elevate this confusion. We’d love to know what you think on this โ€“ should it be the new default search option? We plan to make both search options available through user preferences.
  • Search portals have been updated: The search pages (not the results yet though) have been recoded as a prototype for the way that forms are going to be handled (again, no tables).
  • Browse pages: The browse by artist/label/release pages have also been updated.

Please have a thorough look through the page when you have chance. It’s key that you raise any issues you have, because this will be being merged in the future, and we’d rather keep everyone as happy as possible ๐Ÿ™‚