Thoughts After a Year

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I’ve been using MB for a year, here are my unsolicited thoughts:

  • I think MB’s biggest problem is the UX. It’s not very ergonomic and a lot of the interesting features that make MB stand out for metadata nerds are obscure.
  • The relationship between recordings and releases can be confusing and tedious. It is common for new editors to accidentally create a new bunch of recordings, or for them to accidentally use the wrong recording for a track (like a live version or a mono version). Fixing this can be very time consuming. A big part of the problem, in my opinion, is that the recording search box when adding a release is very slow and frequently buries a good result under a dozen results that are obviously wrong.
  • Adding a disambiguation to a batch of recordings is tedious without a userscript and so people rarely do so, leading to more recording confusion.
  • Merging several recordings in a sane matter requires a userscript when it should not.
  • Works and ISRCs help fight recording abuse, but are tucked away and annoying to add without third party tools.
  • There are many weird defaults for adding relationships. For example, when adding a relationship to a work the default option is to add something area related. This is an uncommon relationship and having artist as the default would make far more sense.
  • The UI is old fashioned. I like this and find it nostalgic, but it seems to scare people on social media.
  • Rating things feels pointless. You can only rate out of five (as opposed to ten like most places) and you can’t see the current rating for something if you have rated it. You also have to guess what the rating is based on how big a star fraction is instead of having a more legible numerical representation of the average rating (e.g. “4.5” next to four and a half stars). Average ratings have no purpose as far as I can tell, so people only bother to give out 1s and 5s to things they really like and hate.
  • Following that, the genre system could be improved. It can be unclear what a certain genre refers to (e.g. Celtic could refer to traditional folk, new age music…). I think it should be possible to add annotations and wikidata tags to genres for this reason. There should also be an option to add aliases, such as “CCM” for Contemporary Christian and non-Latin/English aliases, such シティーポップ for City Pop
  • IMO, it would make more sense for artist genre tags to be automatically generated from album tags (with a weighting based on how frequently that tag appears across releases) rather than having you add them to the artist themselves. That way an artist that has one new age album and 20 folk albums doesn’t have folk and new age have the same weighting. Manual artist tags make more sense for things like “soprano” and “guitar”
  • As other people have said, there’s a chicken and egg problem with genres where nobody adds genres because there’s little use for them and nobody writes anything that uses genres because nobody adds them. Generating a top 100 chart based off of ratings across a genre might help generate more ratings and genre additions
  • I think we should be able to set a language when adding annotations and disambiguations so that they can be more multilingual friendly
  • CAA is underused even though it’s way better than the more popular services used for finding cover art. The ability to upload and freely distribute high res high DPI lossless art scans should be advertised more. Maybe adding a guide for making really nice scans/finding high resolution digital release art to the CAA docs would help?
  • LB is a great project but it isn’t integrated into MB like AB is. Adding a LB listen tally to a recording page would encourage more people to use it.
  • I think there should be a docs page dedicated to common Unicode mistakes and the proper character e.g. hyphen instead of hyphen-minus, full width parentheses when dealing with Han characters, wave dashes on Japanese releases instead of tildes
  • The search dropdown has an option to look up CD stubs but does not have one for looking up barcodes or catalog numbers
  • There’s no way to thank editors who are doing a lot of good work like you can on Wikidata. You could leave an edit note, but that’s mostly used to criticize mistakes, so you end up feeling pretty alone once you get a hang of things. You could use this forum, but a lot of editors do not use it.

tl;dr: MB is still by far the best place to find and submit music metadata, but it would be much better with some UI changes, script functionality being added natively and some community building features.

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Much of what you note is “in a ticket somewhere”… the devs are getting there slowly… And in some ways by having this place complex it slows down the junk edits that could otherwise flood here if things got too popular.

Two points from the end of your list.

  • Search for barcode\cat no? Look at the menus at the top of the page. There is a more complete Search\Search Entities menu there. (Took me three years to have that pointed out to me)
  • Your best point kept for last. There are more negative editors than positive. Just the way the system is built to encourage “no” notes but not “yes”. Don’t let it stop you leaving positive notes. I leave a few now and then when I see a big heap of edits that clearly took a lot of time. The more we leave positive notes, the more people will do it.
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