State of the Brainz: 2019 MetaBrainz Summit highlights

The 2019 MetaBrainz Summit took place on 27th–29th of September 2019 in Barcelona, Spain at the MetaBrainz HQ. The Summit is a chance for MetaBrainz staff and the community to gather and plan ahead for the next year. This report is a recap of what was discussed and what lies ahead for the community.

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GSoC 2019: An open-source music recommendation engine

Give me music that I like.

When you start discovering yourself, just know that you are at the right place and with the right people.
MetaBrainz is the one for me!

I am Vansika Pareek (pristine__ on IRC), an undergraduate student at National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur, India. I have been working on the ListenBrainz-Labs project for MetaBrainz as a participant in Google Summer of Code ’19. The end of GSOC’19 is a beginning for me. Cheers!

How it all started?

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Mini ListenBrainz update released today

Following up on our release from last week, we found a number of minor problems in production that were really hard to spot on our test setup. Sometimes you need to have real data flowing through your system before you can find the real problems.

The following pull requests were merged and released just now:

This should hopefully make the follow page work a little better for everyone. 🙂

ListenBrainz: Our new follow page

As promised, here is another blog post about the exciting new Follow page. The goal of this page is to finally make use of the data we collect in ListenBrainz and expose a new feature designed to let our users discover more music.

To use this new feature, you’ll need to link your Spotify account to ListenBrainz. Ideally you should give permission to record your listens and to play Spotify content. But if you’re not ready to dive into recording your listens, start with playback first. N.B. In order to really take advantage of this new feature, you’ll need a premium Spotify account.

Then head over to the recent listens page and hover over the tracks that are listed there. If the user listened on Spotify, then a play button will appear and you can listen to the track. Please note that playing from this page will interrupt whatever you’re already playing on Spotify. If you find that a user is listening to interesting music and you’d like to follow the user, head to the follow page and use the Follow Users section to add this user to your follow list.

When a user in your follow list finishes listening to a track, that track will appear as a line in the Playlist. In theory, you’ll be able to keep listening to what your followed users are playing: the player will attempt to play as many tracks as it can play and to keep the music going. The player also has a previous and next track button that allows you to easily skip tracks that you don’t like. Our team has found this feature exciting and to some extent even has started DJing for each other!

We’re pushing into new territory trying to offer music discovery features and trying out new features that we’ve not seen before. Expect bugs, missing features, and reactions of “why didn’t they do X?”. To be honest, we’re not entirely happy with it and we know that there are features missing. But we felt it important to push this out in order to start getting feedback from you — and we are also excited about the Spotify integration! That said, please continue reading and if you feel that we screwed something up, please open a ticket!

Also, keep in mind that we’re pushing against the tide of the music industry. Established players want to keep everything closed, controlled and in their silo (Apple Music, Tidal, etc). Spotify is slightly more open and allows us to record user’s histories and music playback from web pages, so we focused on working on Spotify first.

This has the unfortunate side-effect of making these new features useful only if you have a premium Spotify account, and following users who are not on Spotify is useless: we don’t know how to play this content. This blows — we know it and we hate it ourselves. But we needed to start with something to show what we’re trying to do and to generate some interest. If people are interested, we can start working in supporting more services and making more of the music in our pages playable.

Finally, the recording user’s listens API endpoint at Spotify has an annoying tendency to fall behind sometimes, which means that the flow of listens from Spotify slows or stops altogether, which is… less than ideal. We’re prodding Spotify to keep the bits flowing if at all possible, but know that all of this is a work in progress.

In fact, the release has already generated a flurry of fixes that we’ll push live before too long. A lot of these sorts of fixes are for problems that you can only see when real-live data flows through the data pipelines: these are tricky features to debug!

Please play with the follow feature and tell us what you think! If you know other services that we can use to play music from the data we have available, please comment! If you find bugs or have suggestions for how we make these features better, please open a ticket!

Have fun and discover some new music,
The ListenBrainz Team

ListenBrainz release: Spotify account linking and our first music discovery features!

For the past few months we’ve been working on enabling ListenBrainz to record your Spotify listening history automatically and we’ve just now released this feature! If you would like ListenBrainz to record your Spotify listening history automatically (and make it public!), go here to link your Spotify account to ListenBrainz. We’ll take care of the rest!

We would like to encourage as many users as possible to record their listening histories in ListenBrainz. With the data we collect and safeguard for you, we will soon start building more music discovery features. Please help our mission and go connect your account now!

This release also adds two new pages: Recent listens and the “follow” page. The recent listens page shows the most recent listens that we’ve saved in ListenBrainz for any user. This is a convenient way for you to discover other users who are currently listening to music.

The follow page is the new feature that we’re really excited about — it allows you to listen to the music that other people are currently listening to — pick a number of users to follow and their recent listens will appear on the page. The new embedded Spotify player can start playing the music as the listens roll in. This allows you to follow your friends and learn about music that they love! We’re going to write another blog post that talks more about the follow page and how we plan to improve that going forward — stay tuned for that.

This release also re-organizes the menu layout a little, moving the most useful features so that they’re easily accessible. Behind the scenes we’ve upgraded to using Python 3.7, starting using some portions of React for our user interface and also found ourselves amazed that this release included 646 commits! We hope to go to a more regular schedule of releases from here on out — this was a big push for us with a lot of infrastructure improvements that were needed.

This release would not have been possible if Monkey (from BookBrainz) didn’t come and help us write the UI for the follow feature. Monkey, iliekcomputers and myself worked relentlessly for weeks trying to push out some exciting features that show off the first steps for what we have planned for ListenBrainz. We’re quite excited for this release and we hope that you’ll enjoy the follow page and discover new music!

Import your listens to ListenBrainz from Spotify!

Hullo!

We’ve been working on a system to import listens automatically to ListenBrainz from Spotify and we’ve recently deployed it to the ListenBrainz beta site. We would really appreciate it if you could help us test it out!

Please note that this is still beta software, there is a (very small) chance that we might miss a listen or two. So if you’re using this, please make sure that ListenBrainz is not the only service where you’re archiving your listens.

Another thing to note is that importing the same listens from two different sources such as Last.FM and Spotify may cause the creation of duplicates in your listen history. If you opt into our automatic Spotify import, please do not use the Last.FM import or submit listens from other ListenBrainz clients. This is a temporary limitation while we find better ways to deduplicate listens.

That’s it for the caveats, please go ahead and use the new shiny Spotify Importer. And feel free to report bugs on tickets.metabrainz.org or on IRC in #metabrainz on Freenode.

Thanks!

How to set up a ListenBrainz development environment

One of the first rites of passage when working on a new project is creating your development environment. It always seems simple, but sometimes there are bumps along the way. The first activity I did to begin contributing to ListenBrainz was create my development environment. I wasn’t successful with the documentation in the README, so I had to play around and work with the project before I was even running it.

The first part of this post details how to set up your own development environment. Then, the second half talks about the solution I came up with and my first contribution back to the project.

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