After a two-year break, in-person summits made their grand return in 2022! Contributors from all corners of the globe visited the Barcelona HQ to eat delicious local food, sample Monkey and alastairp’s beer, marvel at the architecture, try Mayhem’s cocktail robot, savour New Zealand and Irish chocolates, munch on delicious Indian snacks, and learn about the excellent Spanish culture of sleeping in. As well as, believe it or not, getting “work” done – recapping the last year, and planning, discussing, and getting excited about the future of MetaBrainz and its projects.
We also had some of the team join us via Stream; Freso (who also coordinated all the streaming and recording), reosarevok, lucifer, rdswift, and many others who popped in. Thank you for patiently waiting while we ranted and when we didn’t notice you had your hand up. lucifer – who wasn’t able to come in person because of bullshit Visa rejections – we will definitely see you next year!
A summary of the topics covered follows. The more intrepid historians among you can see full event details on the wiki page, read the minutes, look at the photo gallery, and watch the summit recordings on YouTube: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3
OAuth hack session
With everyone together, the days before the summit proper were used for some productive hack sessions. The largest of which, involving the whole team, was the planning and beginning of a single OAuth location – meaning that everyone will be sent to a single place to login, from all of our projects.
A great warmup for the summit, we also leapt forward on the project, from identifying how exactly it would work, to getting substantial amounts of code and frontend elements in place.
To kick off the summit, after a heart-warming introduction by Mayhem, we were treated to the annual recap for each project. For the full experience, feast your eyeballs on the Day 1 summit video – or click the timestamps below. What follows is a eyeball-taster, some simplistic and soothing highlights.
State of MetaBrainz (Mayhem) (4:50)
- Mayhem reminds the team that they’re kicking ass!
- We’re witnessing people getting fed up with streaming and focusing on a more engaged music experience, which is exactly the type of audience we wish to cater to, so this may work out well for us.
- In 2023 we want to expand our offerings to grow our supporters (ListenBrainz)
- Currently staying lean to prepare for incoming inflation/recession/depression
State of ListenBrainz (lucifer) (57:10)
- 18.4 thousand all time users
- 595 million all time listens
- 92.3 million new listens submitted this year (so far)
- Stacks of updates in the last year
- Spotify metadata cache has been a game changer
State of Infrastructure (Zas) (1:14:40)
- We are running 47 servers, from 42 in 2019
- 27 physical (Hetzner), 12 virtual (Hetzner), 8 active instances (Google)
- 150 Terabytes served this year
- 99.9% availability of core services
- And lots of detailed server, Docker, and ansible updates, and all the speed and response time stats you can shake a stick at.
State of MusicBrainz (Bitmap) (1:37:50)
- React conversion coming along nicely
- Documentation improved (auto-generated schema diagrams)
- SIR crashes fixed, schema changes, stacks of updates (genres!)
- 1,600 active weekly editors (stable from previous years)
- 3,401,467 releases in the database
- 391,536 releases added since 2021, ~1,099 per day
- 29% of releases were added by the top 25 editors
- 51% of releases were added with some kind of importer
- 12,607,881 genre tag votes
- 49% of release groups have at least one genre
- 300% increase in the ‘finnish tango’ genre (3, was 1 in 2021)
State of AcousticBrainz (alastairp) (21:01:07)
- R.I.P. (for more on the shut down of AB, see the blog post)
- 29,460,584 submissions
- 1.2 million hits per day still (noting that the level of trust/accuracy of this information is very low)
- Data dumps, with tidying of duplicates, will be released when the site goes away
State of CritiqueBrainz (alastairp) (2:17:05)
- 10,462 total reviews
- 443 reviews in 2022
- Book review support!
- General bug squashing
State of BookBrainz (Monkey) (2:55:00)
- A graph with an arrow going up is shown, everyone applauds #business #stonks
- Twice the amount of monthly new users compared to 2021
- 1/7th of all editions were added in the last year
- Small team delivering lots of updates – author credits, book ratings/reviews, unified addition form
- Import plans for the future (e.g. Library of Congress)
State of Community (Freso) (3:25:00)
- Continuing discussion and developments re. how MetaBrainz affects LGBTQIA2+ folks
- New spammer and sockpuppet countermeasures
- Room to improve moderation and reports, particularly cross-project
Again, for delicious technical details, and to hear lots of lovely contributors get thanked, watch the full recording.
Next (not counting sleep, great meals, and some sneaky sightseeing) we moved to open discussion of various topics. These topics were submitted by the team, topics or questions intended to guide our direction for the next year. Some of these topics were discussed in break-out groups. You can read the complete meeting minutes in the summit minutes doc.
Ratings were added years ago, and remain prominent on MusicBrainz. The topic for discussion was: What is their future? Shall we keep them? This was one of the most popular debates at the summit, with input from the whole spectrum of rating lovers and haters. In the end it was decided to gather more input from the community before making any decisions. We invite you to regale us with tales of your useage, suggestions, and thoughts in the resulting forum thread. 5/5 discussion.
Similar to ratings, CritiqueBrainz has been around for a number of years now and hasn’t gained much traction. Another popular topic, with lots of discussion regarding how we could encourage community submissions, improvements that could be made, how we can integrate it more closely with the other projects. Our most prolific CB contributor, sound.and.vision, gave some invaluable feedback via the stream. Ultimately it was decided that we are happy to sunset CB as a website (without hurry), but retain its API and integrate it into our other projects. Bug fixes and maintenance will continue, but new feature development will take place in other projects.
Integrating Aerozol (design)
Aerozol (the author of this blog post, in the flesh) kicked us off by introducing himself with a little TED talk about his history and his design strengths and weaknesses. He expressed interest in being part of the ‘complete user journey’, and helping to pull MetaBrainz’ amazing work in front of the general public, while being quite polite about MeB’ current attempts in this regard. It was decided that Aerozol should focus on over-arching design roadmaps that can be used to guide project direction, and that it is the responsibility of the developers to make sure new features and updates have been reviewed by a designer (including fellow designer, Monkey).
Can MetaBrainz sometimes be overly-fond of technical language? To answer that, ask yourself this: Did we just use the word ’nomenclature’ instead of something simpler, like ‘words’ or ‘terms’, in this section title? Exactly. With ListenBrainz aiming for a more general audience, who expect ‘album’ instead of ‘release group’, and ‘track’ instead of ‘recording’, this was predicted to become even more of an issue. Although it was acknowledged that it’s messy and generally unsatisfying to use different terms for the same things within the same ‘MetaBrainz universe’, we decided that it was fine for ListenBrainz to use more casual language for its user-facing bits, while retaining the technical language behind the scenes/in the API.
A related issue was also discussed, regarding how we title and discuss groupings of MusicBrainz entities, which is currently inconsistent, such as “core entities”, “primary entities”, “basic entities”. No disagreements with yvanzo’s suggestions were raised, the details of which can be found in ticket MBS-12552.
Another fun discussion (5/5 – who said ratings weren’t useful!), it was decided that for 2023 we should prioritize features that bring in new users. Suggestions revolved around integrating more features into ListenBrainz directly (for instance, integrating MusicBrainz artist and album details, CritiqueBrainz reviews and ratings), how to promote sharing (please, share your thoughts and ideas in the resulting forum thread), making landing pages more inviting for new users, and how to handle notifications.
From Project Dev to Infrastructure Maintenance
MetaBrainz shares a common ‘tech org’ problem, stemming from working in niche areas which require high levels of expertise. We have many tasks that only one or a few people know how to do. It was agreed we should have another doc sprint, which was scheduled for the third week of January (16th-20th).
Security Management / Best Practices
Possible password and identity management solutions were discussed, and how we do, and should, deal with security advisories and alerts. It was agreed that there would be a communal security review the first week of each month. There is a note that “someone” should remember to add this to the meeting agenda at the right time. Let’s see how that pans out.
Search & SOLR
Did you know that running and calibrating search engines is a difficult Artform? Indeed, a capital a Artform. Our search team discussed a future move from SOLR v7 to SOLR v9 (SOLR is MusicBrainz’ search engine). It was discussed how we could use BookBrainz as a guinea pig by moving it from ElasticSearch (the search engine BB currently runs on) to SOLR, and try finally tackle multi-entity search while we are at it. If you really like reading about ‘cores’, ‘instances’, and whatever ‘zookeeper’ is, then these are your kind of meeting minutes.
We currently use Transifex to translate MusicBrainz to other languages (Sound interesting? Join the community translation effort!), but are planning to move to Weblate, an open-source alternative that we can self-host. Pros and cons were discussed, and it seems that Weblate can provide a number of advantages, including discussion of translation strings, and ease of implementation across all our projects. Adjusting it to allow for single-sign on will involve some work. Video tutorials and introducing the new tool to the community was put on the to-do list.
Listenbrainz Roadmap and UI/UX
When a new user comes to ListenBrainz, where are they coming from, what do they see, where are we encouraging them to click next? Can users share and invite their friends? Items discussed were specific UI improvements, how we can implement ‘calls to action’, and better sharing tools (please contribute to the community thread if you have ideas). It was acknowledged that we sometimes struggle at implementing sharing tools because the team is (largely) not made up of social media users, and that we should allow for direct sharing as well as downloading and then sharing. Spotify, Apple Music, and Last.FM users were identified as groups that we should or could focus on.
Messages and Notifications
We agreed that we should have a way of notifying users across our sites, for site-user as well as user-user interactions. There should be an ‘inbox-like’ centre for these, and adequate granular control over the notification options (send me emails, digests, no emails, etc.), and the notification UI should show notifications from all MeB projects, on every site. We discussed how a messaging system could hinder or help our anti-spam efforts, giving users a new conduit to message each other, but also giving us possible control (as opposed to the current ‘invisible’ method of letting users direct email each other). It was decided to leave messaging for now (if at all), and focus on notifications.
Year in Music
We discussed what we liked (saveable images, playlists) and what we thought could be improved (lists, design, sharing, streamlining), about last years Year in Music. We decided that this year each component needs to have a link so that it can be embedded, as well as sharing tools. We decided to publish our Year in Music in the new year, with the tentative date of Wednesday January 4th, and let Spotify go to heck with their ’not really a year yet’ December release. We decided to use their December date to put up a blog post and remind people to get their listens added or imported in time for the real YIM!
The mobile app has been making great progress, with a number of substantial updates over the last year. However it seems to be suffering an identity crisis, with people expecting it to be a tagger on the level of Picard (or not really knowing what they expect), and then leaving bad reviews. After a lot of discussion (another popular and polarising topic!) it was agreed to make a new slimmed-down ListenBrainz app to cater to the ListenBrainz audience, and leave the troubled MusicBrainz app history behind. An iOS app isn’t out of the question, but something to be left for the future. akshaaatt has beaten me to the punch with his blog post on this topic.
MusicBrainz UI/UX Roadmap
The MusicBrainz dev and design team got together to discuss how they could integrate design and a broader roadmap into the workflow. It was agreed that designers would work in Figma (a online layout/mockup design tool), and developers should decide case-by-case whether an element should be standalone or shared among sites (using the design system). We will use React-Bootstrap for shared components. As the conversion to React continues it may also be useful to pull in designers to look at UI improvements as we go. It was agreed to hold regular team meetings to make sure the roadmap gets and stays on track and to get the redesign (!) rolling.
On behalf of everyone who attended, a huge thanks to the wonderful denizens of Barcelona and OfficeBrainz for making us all feel so welcome, and MetaBrainz for making this trip possible. See you next year!