How to help people with classical editing?

Hi! Bit of a ramble, but eh, it’s late and I should be writing an assignment about user studies, so don’t blame me too much.

I was reading a reasonably unrelated topic when I saw this:

Given I spend hours every day fixing existing information and trying to improve other people’s work, while fairly rarely adding new data myself, this resonates with me. It can be very exhausting to fix the same issues every day, and I realize complete newbies probably aren’t here, but most don’t seem to take me up on my “Ask if you have any doubts” edit notes either :frowning:

I wrote The Classical Editor Toolbox and it seems like it’s been useful (which is awesome), but still, that’s a very static post, and it’s a forum post - people will only find it if they end up in the forum or I specifically point it to them.

I’ve noticed a few issues that take a lot of my time every day, and that most people seem to keep falling into even after I’ve told them about them and they’ve thanked me for it. I’m open to any ideas and suggestions to improve this.

Issues I’ve noticed repeatedly:

  • Complete disregard for classical style
    • This is mostly not out of malice or even laziness - new users just never see a guideline.
    • What can we do about it now? Probably not much, since we can’t automatically know when someone is editing classical in the first place to point them to the guidelines.
    • What can we do about it in the future? Once we have genres, does it make sense to pester people about the classical guidelines every time they add a release with an artist with a classical genre or the like?
  • No relationship data at all, even though the user has access to it (and will provide it if I ask)
    • This is not a classical-only problem, but it’s worse for classical because of how much we depend on relationships
    • What can we do about it now? Redirecting straight to the relationship editor would be too invasive, but would a banner after adding a release suggesting to add relationships work?
    • What can we do about it in the future? I’m really hoping @chhavi comes up with some magical idea for this one with the new UI, but any ideas about how to make relationships more visible would be great.
  • “Op.”, “No.”, “Major”, and other small wrong-case issues
    • This is very minor, to be fair, but many people default to capitalizing all of these despite the guidelines (at least for English) calling for lowercase.
    • What can we do about it now? Wonder if some sort of confirmation / message (“you’re using uppercase ‘Op.’ in this release, but it’s marked as English and English classical guidelines call for lowercase ‘op.’” kind of thing) would be useful, or just annoying?
    • What can we do about it in the future? Should we consider a return of the Classical style for guess case, but make it ignore everything except stuff like “Op.” and “Major” (and maybe the Italian tempo markings)?
  • Only one release artist
    • It’s very common to see only the composer, or the main performer, instead of all featured artists
    • What can we do about it now? Not sure, honestly - for most non-classical releases, one artist only is correct, and as mentioned, we have no idea if something is classical right now.
    • What can we do about it in the future? Once we have genres, does it make sense to say something like “if there are several artists performed on the cover, see this guideline” when they select a “classical” artist first?
  • Track artist = “Composer; Performers”
    • When a user does remember to do “Composer; Performers” for the release, that gets copied to all tracks - it seems it’s common to forget to change it.
    • What can we do about it now? Would “you have entered ; as a join phrase on a track artist - if you’re entering a classical release, keep in mind track artist should be the composer only” somewhere help?

More in general: what do you think could be done to help people (especially new users, but it’s not only new users making mistakes) get things right? And what do you think is the best way to introduce people to stuff in the first place?

@aerozol mentioned a mentoring system - how do you see this working? I would love to have a good way to help new users, but they seem not to be very willing to ask at first.


I think the main problem with not knowing about relationships is that the relationship editor is hidden somewhere in the side bar, far away from for example the edit release button (which camouflages itself as a tab in the UI). I fear integrating the relationship editor into the release editor would make the resulting tool a bit too intimidating, but maybe users could get a friendly reminder that they can also add relationships after they have added a release?

As for the visibility of guidelines, it would really help if it were integrated with the editing interface more. Perhaps the track list editor could guess from the input that a user is adding or editing a classical release. If the track list contains a lot of instances of “Op.”, “Opus”, “Symphony” etc. it could display a message about the classical style guidelines. Having a workable guess case for classical would be great too.

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I started editing about six months ago, almost exclusively classical. For me the most confusing thing at the beginning was the difference between the artist credits that appear on the tracklist when entering a release (which are incorrect by default), and the artist credits associated with recordings (which are also incorrect by default and which you don’t even see). I think reosarevok corrected quite a few of those for me but it still took me a while to ‘get it’.

Perhaps a check box that appeared when entering a release to say that this is a classical release would be useful. If it were checked, nothing after the semicolon would be included in the tracklist credits (and maybe a warning would be raised if the separators between the credits didn’t follow the classical guidelines). Secondly, I think displaying the recording artist credits while entering the release, and allowing them to be edited there and then, could save a lot of work.

Also, if you can think of a way to make The Classical Editor Toolbox more immediately findable, that would be great. It’s very useful.

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IMHO there is only one thing: A mandatory wizard for the first x classical albums per editor, explaining and enforcing your points.

Could it be an option to make a tab for the relationship editor, like the edit tab? It would make it more visible and wouldn’t be too much work as far as I can tell.

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@bitmap says in MBS-5479 that it was originally there, but feedback was to put it on the side. I think it might be time to revert that decision and move it back up.

AIUI this arrangement is likely a major producer of a sense of failure in new MB classical editors.
And that sense probably tips the balance against continuing for many classical editors.

Knowing what new classical editors actually do succeed at and fail at is really the first step in offering them what they need to succeed.
Can we get our hands on that data?
Can we see how many new editors register and then actually add a release to the classical db, and how many fewer new classical editors add more than 5 classical releases?
Can we have a banner message for newly registered editors doing classical offering them mentoring and contact info?
And once we have mentoring we could start asking the new users what is making sense and what is not. And what could be made clear and obvious.
it would probably only take 15 new editors and patterns would emerge.

I suppose what I’m thinking is that retaining new classical editors, helping new people with classical editing, making classical editing easier, helping more experienced people make fewer mistakes and drawing editors into adding more relationships all have a lot of overlap with each other.

A classical genre checkbox that has the track artists and recording artists pages become a linear sequence might be good.
A complete up-to-date glossary of every word, phrase and term is another thing I remember wanting.
If the Documentation is not the correct place for details and and edge cases for Style Guidelines then some other Cookbook on what goes into each field would help some/many new users.
I still remember aerozol’s excellent examples of mouse-over guides to each field - these would be very useful.

Lots of good points here, but the question in my mind is “what is achievable within a reasonable timespan?” There already seem to be far too many MB tickets that have not moved in years. Getting any fundamental changes embedded in the new UI would seem to be essential, otherwise I suspect they won’t happen.
Curious about the phrase “when we have genres”. When will that be?
Meanwhile, I think we need a way of helping editors get the workflow right. I’ve been editing for about a year now, but not intensively - so I often don’t quite get it right and @reosarevok has to put me straight or fix my errors, for which I am immensely grateful, but I wish it didn’t happen so much. Part of the problem, as has been alluded to in earlier posts, is that the way MB defaults in adding data is sometimes wrong for classical music. This is particularly irritating in respect of recording artists. Ideally, there would be a wizard which would make sure you went through all the steps. Failing that, in the short term, a well-documented workflow description that you can check off step by step and which highlights where the MB defaults need fixing.
Another (half) thought: would it be possible to write an “audit script” that went through a release and highlighted possible errors or omissions?

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Not a bad idea, but a little bit premature. Before that we need to identify suitable mentors. Mentoring is an art as much as a skill. Some people can do it very well while others, no matter how knowledgeable they are in the subject matter, simply do not make good mentors.

I suggest that we first establish a guideline for mentoring and then applicants for the role of mentor need to be vetted prior to their acceptance. I can think of a few people that have both the subject matter understanding and the social skills to make them ideal candidates as mentors. Similarly I can think of some people that should never be considered for a mentoring role. I have successfully mentored dozens of people over the course of my career, but I wouldn’t even consider applying in this case because I simply don’t know the subject matter anywhere near well enough.

Once we have the guidelines and some willing mentors in place, then we should be ready to open up the mentoring programme to editors who are interested in being mentored.

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More UI Suggestions, on the first page of adding a release add a checkbox to indicate Classical, then if this is checked by editor there should be a different UI that makes it nice and easy to add Conductors and performers for each track, link each recordings to works ecetera. Maybe hide Track Artist and make it completed automatically when add Composer (if we are sticking with Composer as Track Artist)

Just because conductors are added to the database via relationships they don’t have to be displayed to the editor in that way, if its important information it should be obvious how to enter it. A good User Interface should not require editors to need to look at the guidelines for the majority of cases.

I dont’ think most new editors would appreciate the mentoring idea, they would find it annoying.

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That would be nice, but we struggle enough to support one release editor, so I suspect it will be hard to get two.

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Sure, but it would be mostly Html UI stuff, I dont think it would be that hard. Could be a nice quite self-contained project for someone.

There’s already a lot of different topics mentioned here, I’ll try not to go all over the place

To answer some of @reosarevok questions:

We could possibly (I’m not convinced it’s a good idea though) detect in the release editor when the release or track artists contain one or more of the top 50 classical composers. That would allow to add a banner on the last tab “It seems you are adding a classical release, have you read the guidelines?”

I agree we should make the jump from release editor to relationships editor easier (for all releases actually). What about having a second submit button on the release editor? “Enter edit and finish/see the new release” vs “Enter edit and continue to add more (optional) metadata”. Or a banner on the newly created entity “Click here to add track specific data”

It seems those could be managed as efficiently by a bot. Even if the release editor warns about a capitalization issue, will somebody without advanced tools (search/replace userscript) fix 20 titles by hand for an issue they might not find important?

I don’t think we have a solution except a more complex UI (allowing to set the recording artist if a new recording is created, at least)

  • UI is the first step of course, and the bottleneck seems to be manpower more than ideas
    One small thing I’m just thinking about: I wouldn’t mind having the annotation text area next to the edit note at the end of the workflow (aka “Please dump here all info you couldn’t fill in previous fields, I know you have the booklet in your hands”). Which might help motivate people adding data and not be faced with the relationship editor immediately. I never use the annotation in the release editor because it is lost in the middle of the page and I will think about it on the last tab.

  • push beginners to interact with the community
    e.g. having the first edits of a new editor create posts in a forum thread “new contributors first edits” to encourage them to come to the forums and see feedback (do new editors know they can access the forum without new credentials?)
    Or, something closer to monitoring, having a checkbox next to the edit note (only for beginners) “I’d like this release edits to be reviewed” (also with a push to a special forum topic?). Or having a banner when a beginner adds a release “Please come back with the week to check if somebody left a comment” (from my experience lots of editors will add ten releases on their first day and completely disappear…)

  • and help experienced editors detect/fix incomplete edits faster (improve UI to replace userscripts, mentoring system?, find a way to filter subscription edit pages to highlight beginner edits?) I don’t think I have anything useful to say for that one

That’s all for me (for today)


On further consideration I think reosarevok’s focus on existing editors is a better first step.

Better to widen the end section of the highway than to have a large highway running into a bottleneck.

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I’ve been thinking for a while now about simply starting a thread where people self-identify as helpers, and pledge to leave a couple of encouraging comments or follow someone new every week.

If that gamifying thing ever gets of the ground this would be a really easy way to encourage the community aspect - has anyone used before? Man, they really pushed this angle! I answered like two questions and then kept getting personal messages/nudges for years :laughing:

Anyway I think any kind of step towards some kind of positive ‘team’ feel (absolutely love the classical cleanup, but that has a slightly niche focus) would be nice. Maybe I should make that thread, but still no internet at home…



Well try it but I do feel it is missing the point.

Basically you are saying encourage users to spend more of them free time inputting more detail for Classical releases to compensate for the fact the UI doesn’t work well for Classical, when really should be improving the UI so it is simpler to input the data.

i.e the fault really lies with MusicBrainz but sounds like you are pushing the blame onto the users.

I wonder if it could be possible to make a bot that would propose changes, like the 'op. ’ stuff that would just need to be approves manually, but we wouldn’t have to go through all the editing by hand, some kind of ready-to-send edit like some other userscripts. Something like: ‘would you want to change this track title from XX to YY? Yes/No/I don’t know’ I suppose that detecting and correcting all occurences of Op. , N° and feat. can’t be done accurately and systematically by a bot, but it would be very comfortable to have an edit ready-to-go instead of having to go into the editor and change the tracklist. Also, it would be much easier for people that don’t know the guidelines by heart (I for example am never sure if n. or no. are valid or not). Maybe even check if there is a work and the recording artist and composer are identical, then propose to replace it by AR performers.
Maybe some kind of tab like for voting for edits: besides the ‘open edits’, ‘editing history’ have a ‘proposed edits’ tab. I’m not a great coder and not that active on MB so I don’t know if this is doable or a good idea, but it might be.

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I am new to adding stuff, and I have made a few mistakes already. Most notably, when adding track names for, I did not want to type them out myself, and so, copy/pasted from the Google Play tracklist. (That’s how I got “Cello Suite No. in 1 G Major, BWV 1007: I. Prélude” - they made the mistake and I propagated it.) In addition to that, I have propagated the capitalized spellings of “major” and “minor”. I want to fix my mistakes, but I can’t figure out how it is done. Is it possible at all? I had made a different mistake in another album where the duration got included in the track name. This was entirely my doing, and I gave up on trying to figure out how to modify it. I simply deleted that media of the release and added a new media. Is that the way to fix mistakes?


You can change your own release additions shortly after adding them (a few hours? one day? I forget) automatically. After that, any changes are likely to need voting (and until they are accepted, it might look like nothing has changed, except for an orange highlight). If something is pretty bad (e.g. you want to tag with it and can’t or you want to add a discID and forgot a track) you can always ask for some help at this thread: Voting/Auto-editor Request Thread - #171 by rafwuk :slight_smile: Otherwise, waiting up to 7 days will just get the edit accepted by default.

I’ve fixed one of the mistakes on that Bach album (JSB not being in the release artist). That said, for a new editor, you’ve gotten the most important part right: relationships are there! That’s great to see.

If you want, you can always write to me directly with questions if that’s more comfortable than posting publicly :wink: (but public posts are great otherwise, since more people can see them)


Yeah, this got me quite confused. I have submitted many edits to something thinking that my edits are not going through.

Thanks! Hopefully, I have fixed it in all my other releases too. Now all I have to do is wait for 7 days for it to get fixed. :persevere: