TL;DR: Let’s use the “worldwide minus X,Y,Z” format. Actually, let’s make streaming a separate thing completely. Default behavior is what matters. Some editors are aiming too high.
So I finally took the time to read through this entire thread, and scroll through a few others. And I would like to give my opinion, even though I am only a beginner here on MB. Absolute wall of text coming.
I arrived here wondering about these giant lists of countries, which to me felt like noise generated by a script. Turns out, it is indeed a script, and my opinion is shared by a significant fraction of editors. I wanted to find arguments in favor of keeping these before deleting anything, and found some here, so thank you all for the discussion so far!
But I still believe these lists are too much. Again, I only joined recently, so it’s not about the interface being broken/ugly anymore. I genuinely believe the current way of saving this data hurts the database more than it feeds it, for several reasons.
We have established that the list of dates and countries a-tisket provides only mirrors the date of query, and does not represent the actual release events. It only tells you where you can listen to it now; not to mention the modified, retroactive dates.
In a perfect world, this data would be corrected, checked before submission, and corrected again by peers, making it accurate and worth keeping. But we are not in a perfect world. I don’t expect anybody to manually correct all 200+ events when adding a release. And I expect such releases will be checked and corrected once submitted even less.
a-tisket is a great tool, and I want to thank @marlonob for releasing it. But as with any tool, we are left trusting the person using it. Thanks to this tool, the energy barrier for submitting releases to MB is significantly lowered. But this in turn invites editors less concerned with data quality, and a bulk of releases hardly checked.
Yes, nobody should take a-tisket’s output as gospel, and we should always double check everything. But while I admire the high standards some people in this thread set to themselves, I will not trust any user to do the same.
Which is why, whatever the final consensus is, I strongly recommend an update of a-tisket’s default behavior. Lazy editors will remain lazy; perfectionists will remain perfectionists. It’s the middle ground, and bulk of our userbase, we have to accommodate for.
Making submissions easier to invite additions, while maintaining high standards for the final result, is a very delicate balance, but one we must strive for. I am confident “quick and dirty” submissions were not @marlonob’s goal when they developed the tool for themselves; but if it can be used for that, then we have to assume it will be. Which is why I believe the script’s default behaviour is the most important.
Now, back to the countries lists.
I hear the arguments in favor of, and against, using “worldwide” or a different flavor of it for digital releases. But the point that the database needs to be user-friendly is valid. We need to invite collaboration if we want our submissions to be checked and the data to be improved. For this, things need to look concise. I don’t believe anybody wants to scroll through 200+ countries for every version of every album, when submitting to or browsing MB.
As many already suggested, I believe this issue could be addressed by subtracting countries, instead of adding them. We could mark any digital release by default as “web”/“streaming”/something, and add countries that are excluded. This could, of course, be reversed for small-scale online releases, such as e.g. the DACH regions mentioned previously. But a special location, that is known to be a “dirty worldwide”, would keep things visually simple, make it known that some detail may have been lost, and allow other editors to see and therefore verify it more easily.
Whatever system we decide on, there will always be exceptions and imperfections. Which is why I insist on keeping the default behaviour adapted to the most common situation. In the case of online music, the common occurrence is “almost worldwide”, which is why the “negative” version (assuming worldwide and adding non-releases) is the only one I can get behind right now.
But you know what?
I don’t even like streaming, on MB or anywhere. And it might be relevant to this whole can of worms.
Thinking about this whole issue, I was first seeing things as a consumer trying to access the music. Where can I buy a CD? Where can I listen to Spotify? This was challenged by people comparing streaming to a delivery rather than a release, or a mix of the two. But the differences are larger.
”Digital release" has been used pretty vaguely AFAICT. I believe we should split it, and make the difference between music streamed and music available through download. In the latter case, I can own a copy of the music, just like when I buy a CD at the store. My hard drive may break just like the CD may get scratched, but until then, I am free to listen to the music any way I want, wherever I am. In the case of streaming, my enjoyment of the music will always be conditional to the platform, their geo restrictions, and their contracts with the labels. Nobody will come to my house to take my CDs, but my favourite album might be deplatformed from Spotify tomorrow.
Now, I agree that music not being available to stream anymore does not warrant its removal from MB. I am going further, and claiming it wasn’t even released by the streaming platform to begin with. Streamings can and should be registered into MB, but in a way different than releases. Was a 90s tube “released” when I could hear it on the radio, or when I could buy the cassette tape?
Maybe we can’t reach a decision about date & place of “release” because it’s the wrong way to think about streaming.
I’m happy to start a new thread if people want to discuss this point somewhere else.
Finally, and stepping back a little bit, I would like to quickly express a concern. Some people here seem to wish for a level of detail that I personally find excruciating. Listing every country and island on Earth and implementing hour of release per country seems ridiculous to me, when in contrast some albums don’t even have a known artist.
Of course, my beliefs are not reason enough to discard data; neither is the fact that this data is lost/never existed for older releases. But it is not worth raising our expectations for new releases and editors, either. I would rather see longer descriptions including such footnote-level details, than force everyone to deal with forms cluttered with such fields, fields which in most cases will at best remain empty and at worst contain wrong information. Again, we have to keep in mind the average submission from the average user. I don’t believe this data will be known most of the time.
Which is why I humbly suggest that we lower our standards on such issues, and focus our energy on other pursuits requiring editors’ attention. Not to mention such a level of detail might scare off newcomers.
Please, do not bite more than you can chew. There is such a thing as too much information.
Anyway, just my few cents in way too many words.
Thanks again to everyone contributing to this conversation, and to MusicBrainz in general.