Sophie Goossens joins the MetaBrainz board of directors (and more!)

I’m pleased to announce that Sophie Goossens, an attorney in London, has joined the board of directors of the MetaBrainz Foundation. Sophie specializes in intellectual property law and has ties to the European Commission, which makes her a great addition to our board of directors.

Welcome to our board of directors, Sophie!

Sophie replaces Carol Smith who decided to move on from the board after leaving her position as the head of Google’s Summer of Code program. Carol joined us in late 2009 and has held the position as treasurer & secretary since then. Two years after joining us, she became a full director in early 2011.

Thank you for everything you’ve done for MetaBrainz in the past 6+ years, Carol!

Last, but not least, we needed to fill the Secretary/Treasurer slots that were vacated by Carol. Luckily for us, our business development manager Christina Smith stepped up to those duties and was voted onto the board back in February. (Now that all of these changes are complete, we can publicly speak about them.)

Thank you for taking on these two positions, Christina. I’m also quite happy that we’ve preserved the balance of people with the last name Smith in our board. 🙂

Thanks Sophie, Carol and Christina!

Notifications and messaging in MetaBrainz projects

During the last MusicBrainz summit in Barcelona we decided to start working on finding possible ways to implement two features that have been requested for a long time:

  1. Messaging between users
  2. Notifications about various actions in MetaBrainz projects

Since MetaBrainz is more than just MusicBrainz these days, we also want to integrate these features into other projects. That, for example, means when a user is reading reviews on CritiqueBrainz they can see notifications about comments on their edits on MusicBrainz. Same applies to messaging. These features are intended to encourage our communities to communicate more easily with each other.

Messaging

http://tickets.musicbrainz.org/browse/MBS-8721

The only ways of communication we have right now are two IRC channels, forums that we plan to replace with Discourse, and comments on individual edits. Sometimes we end up sending private emails to editors for one reason or another. Perhaps it is better to have our own messaging system for this purpose? I imagine it being similar to messaging systems on forums, reddit, etc. We would like to know what you think potential uses are for this and how it might look like to be useful.

Notifications

http://tickets.musicbrainz.org/browse/MBS-1801

Site-based notifications are another thing that people have been asking for a long time. For example, these notifications can be related to edits on MusicBrainz, reviews on CritiqueBrainz, datasets in AcousticBrainz, etc. It can be an addition or replacement for email notifications that we currently have in MusicBrainz. Maybe something similar to the inbox feature that the Stack Exchange network has. People should be able to choose if they want to keep receiving email notifications or only use the new site-based notifications.

Progress so far

We looked at a couple of ways to implement this functionality.

First suggestion was to use the Layer toolkit. The problem with it is that we don’t want to be dependent on closed software and another company’s infrastructure, especially in case of such important features.

Second was to use the XMPP protocol to handle communication and notifications. We tried to implement a proof of concept using this protocol and encountered several issues at the start:

  • It’s unclear how to store messages and process them later;
  • It can be problematic to reuse the same connection in different browser;
  • There are plenty of things that we’ll need to implement on top of this protocol ourselves (like authentication, storage, notifications).

Repository with everything that was implemented so far is at https://github.com/metabrainz/xmpp-messaging-server. Given these problems we started considering implementing our own server(s) for this purpose.

You can take a look at the document where we collect most information about current progress.

Feedback

There’s plenty of feedback on the site-based notifications feature request, and we have a pretty good understanding of what’s needed. This is not the case with the messaging feature. We explored several options for implementing this kind of functionality and decided that it’s time to refresh the list of requirements to get an idea of what needs to be done.

The goal of this blog post is to encourage discussion and gather ideas. If you are interested in these features, please share your thoughts and suggestions.

New business relations guru: Christina Smith

I am pleased to announce that I’ve just hired our first person responsible for looking after the day-to-day business operations of MetaBrainz! Christina Smith, a Canadian who also lives in Barcelona, has signed on as our part-time Business Development Guru (/Manager/Troublemaker/What have you).

This marks a significant step forward for us in a number of ways. First, it acknowledges that we have grown enough to warrant such a position. Second, Christina will improve how we communicate with customers and how much revenue we bring into the foundation. In the last two years we’ve added several new projects, but haven’t been able to hire new engineers to work on these projects, so hopefully having Christina will allow us to grow to support our new projects as well.

Christina’s responsibilities can be summarized as:

  • manage relationships with our supporters
  • provide timely, friendly and helpful answers and solutions for our supporters
  • increase revenues by connecting and building relationships with current and potential supporters
  • general accounting tasks including invoicing and payment tracking
  • periodic research, recommendations and help to address evolving business needs. (e.g. research the implementation of a company presence in Europe, including help in setting up a new headquarter in Barcelona)
  • research and suggestions on law and policy issues related to the business

I am super excited that Christina will be working with us — this removes a pile of tasks off my plate, which should allow me to focus more on running the foundation and managing our teams.

For the remainder of December, Christina will work on research tasks on how we can establish a better base in the EU. Then in January she will properly join the team and be present in our IRC meetings.

Welcome on board, Christina!

Roman Tsukanov joins the MetaBrainz team

I’m pleased to announce that last week we officially hired Roman Tsukanov, AKA Gentlecat to be a part time developer for MusicBrainz!

Gentlecat has already established himself firmly in our community: Last year he rocked the CritiqueBrainz project for Summer of Code and this summer he rocked AcousticBrainz. And he’s written our shiny new MetaBrainz web site! He is now in the process of learning perl and has started to help Bitmap review existing code reviews. And he has even fixed a couple of issues already. In other words he lives up to his name: To Gentlecat something means to rock it!

I’m quite happy to have such a capable developer participating in MusicBrainz. Welcome to the team Gentlecat!

August Community Revisit

Ohoi m’hearties, it’s time for the first monthly Community Revisit, where we’ll revisit what happened in MetaBrainzLand during the last month. Ready for the ride? Leggo!

The primary thing happening this month has likely been the changes in the MetaBrainz employee line-up following Ian’s departure in July. In the beginning of the month, Freso (wait, hey, that’s me!) was pulled on board as Community Manager (a brand new position for MetaBrainz too!), and just at the end of the month, GSoC wonder child Roman “Gentlecat” Tsukanov was hired as the new software engineer. So hi to us two! 🙂

Speaking of GSoC, the Google Summer of Code, this year’s edition is also fast coming to an end, and our four students and their projects are closing up and giving their work the final touches to have them ready to go live. Don’t be surprised if you hear more about these projects soon.

One thing that did go live during August, in no small part thanks to Ben “LordSputnik” Ockmore and Leo_Verto: the new IRC chat logger! Chat logs from IRC are now available at http://chatlogs.metabrainz.org/ – the site still needs some MetaBrainzifying, but Ben has done a great job of importing (pretty much) all the old chat logs to the new system and the bot is running in all the official MetaBrainz channels. If you’re on IRC (or you just like poking at the IRC logs), be sure to say “Thank you!! <3” to LordSputnik and Leo_Verto next time you see them around!

Another person who has made a mark in the last month was Alex a.k.a. caller#6, starting up the discussion about the current situation of MusicBrainz’ Area entities. Be sure to check out that blog post and let your voice be heard, if you don’t feel like it’s being represented already. The next instalment should be out before long.

We also had two server updates (pretty much all bug fixes) and an updated Virtual Machine image was finally released for the more tech oriented people.

This about rounds off the August Community Revisit. What do you think about the format? Did I miss any important community happenings? Any other comments? This is a brand new venture, so nothing’s set in stone yet!

From Denmark with love,
Freso

New Community Manager: Freso

Hello Brainzers!

Following up on the last post, I am now hired as the “MetaBrainz Community Manager”. This means that you should see me far more often in the forums, here on the blog, and on IRC. Just kidding. Like I could be more active on IRC than I already am! 😀

My overall tasks are outlined in the job description (link is one of the last drafts, final version is slightly different and will be put up on metabrainz.org Soon™), and my concrete here-and-now tasks are outlined on this Trello board. For right now I’m mostly “settling in”, getting my various tools set up and familiarising myself with them, catching up on blog comments and forum posts, etc., etc. – once all that is done, expect to hear more from me about my plans with this new title and its responsibility. Until then, feel free to catch me on IRC or comment below if you have any questions or comments. Looking forwards to (continue) working with you all!

Love,
Freso, your new friendly neighbourhood Community Manager ❤

Restructuring MusicBrainz’ management

In the recent past, the MusicBrainz community has become more fractured with evident tension rising between members of the community, the dev team and myself. I’ve been struggling with trying to find a good way to fix these problems and I’ve attempted making a number of changes over the past few months. Mostly with mixed or bad results, which further increased the frustrations for everyone involved.

While I was on vacation the past two weeks, I had some distance from work and at random points during this vacation a few key issues/solutions became clear to me. Over the next few weeks I will be announcing changes to how I manage this project and possibly some changes to some of our core policies to support these changes. Stay tuned on this blog for more announcements regarding this restructuring.

In the first round of changes, which I will detail in a subsequent blog posts, I would like to:

  1. Re-emphasize that we are an open source project and that we must do all of our work in public. Point 3 of our social contract states: “We won’t hide problems and policies: We will keep all MusicBrainz related discussions open for public view at all times, regardless of their content. All problems and policies related to MusicBrainz will be visible to all.” As problems in our community grew, factions hid from the public view. A lot of development work and development discussion went underground in private communication channels that had no transparency at all. Fixing this will be my most important goal moving forward.
  2. Take control of tasking the development team. Starting this monday, during our weekly development chat, I will take the lead on discussing what tasks the development team should be focusing on. I will need to catch up on a lot of happenings that I haven’t paid attention to recently. I also suspect that we will need to talk quite a bit about which tools we would like to use to manage our short, medium and long term plans. Don’t expect us to magically revamp this process on Monday — Monday will simply be the first step in what could be a long journey to improve how the MusicBrainz dev team is currently managed.

More posts are coming in the next few days!

Team change

Ian (ianmcorvidae), our senior developer on the MusicBrainz project, has decided to leave the project due to personal reasons. I’m sad to see a very skilled engineer leave our team — Ian has done a tremendous amount of great work for MusicBrainz and the MetaBrainz hosting infrastructure. Thank you for all of your hard for in the past few years, Ian!

Ian will remain on our team while he seeks a new professional position, so the change won’t be immediate. That said, now is the time to ask Ian to document whatever pieces of his work that still need documentation.

If anyone knows an experienced perl developer with experience using web technologies, Postgres and the myriad of technologies that MusicBrainz uses, please let us know! I’ll be posting an official job posting next week.

New MetaBrainz site, new look and Live Data Feed access tokens

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll be aware that we’ve been working on a complete overhaul of our branding and the look and feel of our web sites. While we still have a few minor adjustments to make here and there, we are happy to present you with our newly re-designed MetaBrainz Foundation web site.

MetaBrainz

New features of this site include our new site design, new logos, showcasing our projects and our customers, and HTTPS support. But the most important feature of this new site include online sign-up for commercial use of our data and access token generation for our Live Data Feed.

Two months ago we announced that as of today our Live Data Feed would require an access token in order to download the replication packets. These access tokens are available for free for private use and available on a sliding support scale for commercial use. Starting right now, you may go to the new Sign Up page and associate a new MetaBrainz account with your existing (or new) MusicBrainz account. Once you complete the sign-up process, you will be able to generate an access token to use with our Live Data Feed. We will post details on what to do with this access token after the schema change release takes place later today.

We’ve needed this new site for years and years, but have always been too busy focusing on our flagship project MusicBrainz. But, with help from Roman Tsukanov (aka Gentlecat) and MonkeyDo, we have finally released a web site that both brings us into modern times and streamlines the process for commercial users to start using our data.

If you are curious about what logos we chose for our other projects, see the animation on the MetaBrainz home page. Soon we will roll out the new site design onto CritiqueBrainz, BookBrainz, Cover Art Archive and our Picard site. However, since MusicBrainz is not built on the Bootstrap toolkit it will take us a while to roll the design out onto that site.

Thank you to Gentlecat, Nicolas at MonkeyDo, and everyone who gave feedback on the many logo and site designs that have been floated here for the past few weeks.