GSoC 2020: Manage your listens better with ListenBrainz

Hey! My name is Shivam Kapila (shivam-kapila on IRC) and I am a final year undergrad at National Institute of Technology Hamirpur. I have been working on the ListenBrainz project this Summer as a participant of the Google Summer of Code program. The past four months were full of fun, hacking and loads of music!!

Landing into the MetaBrainz Community!

My journey with MetaBrainz began in late January this year, when I introduced myself to the community. My first PR improving the developer documentation was by adding parts connected with setting up the Spark infrastructure on a local setup along with consolidating and improving bits of documentation. I delved into real code while implementing front end components for Deleting Listens. Over the next few months, I fixed various bugs like making the Importer Modal responsive, fixing the DB setup scripts, fixing pagination issues while browsing listens, handling stat calculation errors in the Spark Reader and flushing user stats when they delete their listens.

As a GSoC applicant, I proposed to add various Listen Management features like love/hate (aka feedback) and deleting individual listens in ListenBrainz. I also proposed a new design for the Listens page. This involved a lot of designing and research, going through UI/UX design guidelines and tuning colors, shades and shadows till we arrived at a presentable and subtle design.

And finally I onboarded the GSoC train 🙂 .

Bonding with the community

I had been a part of the community since January so I was familiar with how things work in ListenBrainz. So I decided to contribute to the TimescaleDB migration where we moved our primary listen store from InfluxDB to TimescaleDB, opening up a ton of features for us to work on. Here is the final migration PR containing the commits of my contribution.

I also contributed to easing the testing infrastructure for devs to test the patches on their local setups. Following this I upgraded the postgres-client to PG12 version when we migrated to Postgres 12. I also fixed a minor font bug on the profile page.

The GSoC journey begins

Laying the base

As the official coding period began, I started working on my proposed tasks. The first question was: how to store the feedback? So I began implementing the database changes to store the recording feedback and applying the necessary changes in production. Following this I added a Python module to interact with the database and implemented a Pydantic model to validate the feedback records before they are stored in the database or served over the API. Then I added the necessary APIs to store and fetch the feedback for a given user or recording. This was followed by improving the efficiency of the DB module.

I also worked on dumping the recording feedback in the ListenBrainz public dumps. Since ListenBrainz had migrated the stats calculation infrastructure from Google BigQuery to Apache Spark I also removed the BigQuery references from the ListenBrainz website. Now that the timescale migration work became stable, I began working on Delete a Listen feature.

Pulling out the front end brushes

Now that the base was ready for us to work on, I started working on the React components so that the feedback and deletion feature could actually be presented on the website. Around the same time, the Timescale release day was also getting near, so I helped with a few tests and finished up the work for deleting listens. The front end components also started looking good and we were ready to associate the back end with them.

Rectifying & Reactifying

It’s high time and the final phase started. Now that we were ready with a few components we needed some tweaks in some production components to make them subtle. Hence I shot an improvement PR to tweak some shadows, adjust some fonts, adjust heights of the components, sticking the footer to the bottom, and reactify the loading spinner. Then came the Listen Count Card denoting the number of listens for a user. Following this we moved to Card based design for displaying listens.

This was followed by the much awaited feedback controls and now we can love/hate the songs from our listen collection. Isn’t this amazing! There were some needed minor tweaks needed to handle the ‘playing now’ listens correctly. At the same time, following the MetaBrainz guidelines to write quality code, I worked on making the SQL queries more readable. Then came the much awaited Delete a Listen feature and now we can finally get rid of the embarrassing listens!!

I also addressed some high priority tasks like giving the users an option to download their submitted feedback as JSON. We noticed some UI glitches and then came three back to back PRs to update feedback control shades, improving the listen time text and smoothing up the deletion animation. This is how the listen list looks like:

List of listens

What’s next??

Oh, now comes the time when we talk about the current scenario. The tasks currently on my radar are adding cover art support so that the page looks more alive and improving the Spotify imports to only import listens that were listened by the user after the latest Spotify listen we have for them.

After this I aim to work on the recommendation stuff that’s being actively pursued by the team. Also Mr_Monkey and me had been working on some design concepts for the All New ListenBrainz. I am pretty excited to work on it. Wanna take a sneak peek?

A new fam

The journey with MetaBrainz has been so amazing, that I am so tempted to stick here. I feel ecstatic to be a part of GSoC with the best org 🙂 . The best part is – it’s never all about code. There’s a lot to gain. Each day marked gaining maturity and thinking more and more like a real developer. I started feeling at ease with the communicate → code → integrate chain. It really feels fortunate to be a part of the MetaBrainz family where everyone is a ping away ❤ .

GSoC marks the kickstart of my journey with MetaBrainz and I will be here lurking on IRC, shooting PRs to make the projects more and more awesome.

Heartiest Gratitude