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View Full Version : Artist/Artistsort tags not what is really needed



JulianL
2005-09-19, 06:21
Please excuse the slightly provocative title for this thread. This is definitely not me having a pop at the implementers, I am just hoping to stimulate discussion or even better find that there is a feature already in the software to do what I want.

Now that I have my real SB2 up and running and have some experience of real life use I am discovering something that isn't working as well as I'd hoped.

The way I tagged my collection was to put the "traditional" artist's name in the Artist tag and then use Artistsort (I use FLAC) to get the right sort order, so for instance I have an album with Artist tag "Iggy and the Stooges" and Artistsort tag "Pop, Iggy".

What I am finding with the above is that when I am browsing artists I am seeing the Artist tag and my brain needs to (and fails to!) jump around the artist name to get the correct order, i.e. as I browse through the list it doesn't feel to me like it is in alphabetic order because if a first name is in there (for instance) then it trips me up. I think I underestimated the extent to which I used the physical cue from the CD spines when I browsed my CDs in my CD racks. The end result of this is that I find browsing my artists on the SB2 (or the Telcanto client) is just nowhere near as easy as it was scanning my CD rack.

One solution to the above would be to make all the Artist tags have "normalised" values, i.e. implement the consistent naming scheme I currently use for Artistsort (and hence be able to dispense with using the Artistsort tag). This would mean that my Artist tags would look consstent and genuinely alphabetic to my brain when I browse them. The problem with this is that when I am playing an album then I want the display name to say "Iggy and the Stooges" (for instance) and not "Pop, Iggy".

So, finally what I have come to is that for me what I really want in the tags is not the ability to use Artistsort to override the Artist tag sort order but rather the ability to have a tag like ArtistDisplayName to override the Artist display name when a track is playing (but _not_ when browsing).

Does this mechanism already exist in some way? If not then would it be implementable and does anyone else agree with me that it would be a good feature to have? Does anyone have any other suggestion as to how to achieve what I want?

- Julian

Alex Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes
2005-09-19, 06:34
On Monday 19 September 2005 14:21, JulianL wrote:
> Please excuse the slightly provocative title for this thread. This is
> definitely not me having a pop at the implementers, I am just hoping to
> stimulate discussion or even better find that there is a feature already
> in the software to do what I want.
>
> Now that I have my real SB2 up and running and have some experience of
> real life use I am discovering something that isn't working as well as
> I'd hoped.
>
> The way I tagged my collection was to put the "traditional" artist's
> name in the Artist tag and then use Artistsort (I use FLAC) to get the
> right sort order, so for instance I have an album with Artist tag "Iggy
> and the Stooges" and Artistsort tag "Pop, Iggy".
>
> What I am finding with the above is that when I am browsing artists I
> am seeing the Artist tag and my brain needs to (and fails to!) jump
> around the artist name to get the correct order, i.e. as I browse
> through the list it doesn't feel to me like it is in alphabetic order
> because if a first name is in there (for instance) then it trips me up.
> I think I underestimated the extent to which I used the physical cue
> from the CD spines when I browsed my CDs in my CD racks. The end result
> of this is that I find browsing my artists on the SB2 (or the Telcanto
> client) is just nowhere near as easy as it was scanning my CD rack.
>
> One solution to the above would be to make all the Artist tags have
> "normalised" values, i.e. implement the consistent naming scheme I
> currently use for Artistsort (and hence be able to dispense with using
> the Artistsort tag). This would mean that my Artist tags would look
> consstent and genuinely alphabetic to my brain when I browse them. The
> problem with this is that when I am playing an album then I want the
> display name to say "Iggy and the Stooges" (for instance) and not "Pop,
> Iggy".
>
> So, finally what I have come to is that for me what I really want in
> the tags is not the ability to use Artistsort to override the Artist
> tag sort order but rather the ability to have a tag like
> ArtistDisplayName to override the Artist display name when a track is
> playing (but _not_ when browsing).

wouldn't it be much simpler to just add in an option that if a listing is
using an XxxSort field then rather than showing Xxx, it would actually show
the value of XxxSort? That way the listing would make sense to you and you
wouldn't need to rekey all you data?

Alex

> Does this mechanism already exist in some way? If not then would it be
> implementable and does anyone else agree with me that it would be a
> good feature to have? Does anyone have any other suggestion as to how
> to achieve what I want?
>
> - Julian

mkosma
2005-09-19, 06:35
interesting idea. I never even knew about artistsort, probably because my collection was initially designed for use on Phatbox, and because it is about 50/50 flac and mp3.

so, I have tagged all my artists (where appropriate) Last Name, First Name. Perfect for sort order, not so great for display (either when browsing or especially when playing).

On the Phatbox (which has the cool feature of using AT&T Natural Voices to enable voice announcement of tracks), I wrote some perl code to flip around the artists with last-name-first before generating the voice via text-to-speech.

Seems it would be straightforward to do something similar here -- set up a regexp table to map "LN, FN" artists to "FN LN".

I'm not sure (1) *where* that belongs (plugin or basic feature, player or server); (2) how best to control it; or (3) whether it's possible to configure things so it applies only to the display-when-playing mode and not the search/browse modes.

My first suggestion I think would be to create this as an alternate screensaver for the device. So when it goes into "Now Playing" mode, it comes up using the plugin that tweaks the artist name if necessary.

JulianL
2005-09-19, 12:01
On Monday 19 September 2005 14:21, JulianL wrote:

> So, finally what I have come to is that for me what I really want in
> the tags is not the ability to use Artistsort to override the Artist
> tag sort order but rather the ability to have a tag like
> ArtistDisplayName to override the Artist display name when a track is
> playing (but _not_ when browsing).

wouldn't it be much simpler to just add in an option that if a listing is
using an XxxSort field then rather than showing Xxx, it would actually show
the value of XxxSort? That way the listing would make sense to you and you
wouldn't need to rekey all you data?

Alex



Hmmm. Correct! That would be more elegant. Good idea.

That would also get round a nasty issue I have with the Telcanto client. It sees the artist list as just the "Artist" values (although curiously they are delivered to the Telcanto client in the correct sort order, i.e. with Artistsort used as the sort string when set). The trouble is that when I tap a tab at the top of the screen, e.g. the "cde" tab to take me to the start of the artists beginning with "c", Telcanto searches down the list but is searching the list of Artist tags with no access to the Artistsort tags so it sees "David Bowie" for instance, thinks it has hit the "d"s, and positions the display there. With your suggestion then SlimServer will automatically deliver the Artistsort text where appropriate to Telcanto and the tabs would work properly without needing to add extra logic into Telcanto and extra client-server protocols to allow Telcanto to get access to the Artistsort tag values (which apparently is where Telcanto and Slim Devices are currently at in their discussions).

Brilliant! I guess I need to go and file an RFE.

- Julian

Greg Klanderman
2005-09-19, 12:44
Julian,

There's some related discussion in bug 616, though maybe it should be
forked off as a separate bug:

http://bugs.slimdevices.com/show_bug.cgi?id=616

I'm not sure I fully understand your problem however. I think what
you're saying is that when browsing artists, it is confusing because
the displayed strings look out of order at first glance:

Beatles
James Brown
Buffalo Tom

until you identify which are people's names and identify the last name.

But then you state:

> I think I underestimated the extent to which I used the physical cue
> from the CD spines when I browsed my CDs in my CD racks.

I don't know about your CDs, but on mine the artist names are written
just as above, and I sort them on my shelf just as the SB does.

Of course if we did have an intermediate "display name" you could
choose to set yours to "LAST, FIRST".

greg

eq72521
2005-09-20, 10:34
I don't know about anyone else here, but my artist directory names are named so that everything sorts nicely. I've done this since the late '90s so when browsing to play MP3s on my computer, everything is in the right order. e.g.:

Amos, Tori
Bjork
Bowie, David
BT
Cash, Johnny
etc.

But my ARTIST tags (for display in Winamp, etc.) are the normalized version (Tori Amos, Björk, David Bowie, etc.) This seems to be what everyone else does.

When I first set up my Squeezebox about eight months ago, I was initially dismayed that browsing artists didn't work well because they were sorted incorrectly. I did some reading and discovered information about ARTISTSORT, but dang that sounded like a lot of tagging, and at the time the information I found was scant.

Somewhere in there I discovered the wonderful "Browse Music Folder" option on slimserver, and that is still what I'm using today. Everything is in the right order. No wierdness with albums from one artist being listed under two names ("first last" and "last, first" because of older files that are inconsistently tagged). Certainly I want to have everything tagged correctly at some point (with ARTISTSORT and ALBUMSORT (by date) tags), but having "Browse Music Folder" certainly diminishes the impetus to do so, allowing me to work on the issue at my leisure.

JulianL
2005-09-20, 12:19
Julian,

There's some related discussion in bug 616, though maybe it should be
forked off as a separate bug:

http://bugs.slimdevices.com/show_bug.cgi?id=616

I'm not sure I fully understand your problem however. I think what
you're saying is that when browsing artists, it is confusing because
the displayed strings look out of order at first glance:

Beatles
James Brown
Buffalo Tom

until you identify which are people's names and identify the last name.

But then you state:

> I think I underestimated the extent to which I used the physical cue
> from the CD spines when I browsed my CDs in my CD racks.

I don't know about your CDs, but on mine the artist names are written
just as above, and I sort them on my shelf just as the SB does.

Of course if we did have an intermediate "display name" you could
choose to set yours to "LAST, FIRST".

greg
Thanks for the info re bug 616, I'll go and have a look at that.

To clear up your confusion, your initial understanding of my dilema is correct. When I said that I under estimated the visual cues I got from my CD rack I wasn't talking about what is written on the spines. The human brain is a wonderous thing (yes, even mine on a good day!) and very subtle cues like the exact colour(s) on the spine combined with the typeface and whether the writing on the spine takes up 2 inches or 4 inches. Possibly even more powerful are "meta-patterns" created by the group of 8 Bowie albums next to each other that give a hint that the CDs 12 inches below the "David Bowie block" are Lloyd Cole, or at least an artist beginning with C. Finally there is also muscle memory in play, e.g. I am currently programmed that to get to my Iggy Pop albums I need to kneel on the floor to get to the bottom shelf. It is far easier for the brain to quickly and unconciously process these sorts of rich visual and physical cues rather than instantly interpret a fresh jumble of letters on a screen when you've just scrolled down a listing.

- Julian

DrNic
2005-09-20, 13:21
...The human brain is a wonderous thing (yes, even mine on a good day!) and very subtle cues like the exact colour(s) on the spine combined with the typeface and whether the writing on the spine takes up 2 inches or 4 inches. Possibly even more powerful are "meta-patterns" created by the group of 8 Bowie albums next to each other that give a hint that the CDs 12 inches below the "David Bowie block" are Lloyd Cole, or at least an artist beginning with C. Finally there is also muscle memory in play, e.g. I am currently programmed that to get to my Iggy Pop albums I need to kneel on the floor to get to the bottom shelf. It is far easier for the brain to quickly and unconciously process these sorts of rich visual and physical cues rather than instantly interpret a fresh jumble of letters on a screen when you've just scrolled down a listing.

- Julian

Very nicely put Julian! I too find this to be the case. Sometimes its nice to recognise that all the technology in the world cannot better the old fashioned homo sapien!!
Look at it this way - there are many more "processes" being paralleled in the brain than computers can mimick (I'm not talking individual calculations here).
But I'm wandering off topic on a busmans holiday!!!

Nic

JulianL
2005-09-20, 16:05
Very nicely put Julian! I too find this to be the case. Sometimes its nice to recognise that all the technology in the world cannot better the old fashioned homo sapien!!
Look at it this way - there are many more "processes" being paralleled in the brain than computers can mimick (I'm not talking individual calculations here).
But I'm wandering off topic on a busmans holiday!!!

Nic
Funny that, you started wandering in the direction I was considering wandering in at the end of my last post. This is a subject dear to my heart because I'm a computer scientist who spent the first part of my career doing artificial intelligence research (natural language understanding). Once you start trying to emulate this sort of human behaviour on computer you soon realise just how out of our depth we (as a species) are.

- Julian

JulianL
2005-09-20, 17:02
I don't know about anyone else here, but my artist directory names are named so that everything sorts nicely. I've done this since the late '90s so when browsing to play MP3s on my computer, everything is in the right order. e.g.:

Amos, Tori
Bjork
Bowie, David
BT
Cash, Johnny
etc.

But my ARTIST tags (for display in Winamp, etc.) are the normalized version (Tori Amos, Björk, David Bowie, etc.) This seems to be what everyone else does.

When I first set up my Squeezebox about eight months ago, I was initially dismayed that browsing artists didn't work well because they were sorted incorrectly. I did some reading and discovered information about ARTISTSORT, but dang that sounded like a lot of tagging, and at the time the information I found was scant.

Somewhere in there I discovered the wonderful "Browse Music Folder" option on slimserver, and that is still what I'm using today. Everything is in the right order. No wierdness with albums from one artist being listed under two names ("first last" and "last, first" because of older files that are inconsistently tagged). Certainly I want to have everything tagged correctly at some point (with ARTISTSORT and ALBUMSORT (by date) tags), but having "Browse Music Folder" certainly diminishes the impetus to do so, allowing me to work on the issue at my leisure.
Oooh. That's a very very interesting suggestion. You're lucky you didn't go the Artistsort route because as you can see from my initial post, that would have taken you straight back to your "initially dismayed" state which is where I'm at now.

I have 2 problems at the moment with going the "Browse Music Folder" route but maybe they can both be resolved. My issues with browsing music folders are:

1) (This one is nothing to do with Slim Devices but I'll list it for completeness.) I am using the Telcanto client and for some reason it doesn't display the "folder.jpg" album cover art when browsing by music folder. Hopefully when I report this it will be fixed because the native Slim Server web interface shows the cover art OK and Telcanto shows it OK when browsing by artist.

2) After much deliberation I adopted a directory structure on my PC of:

FLAC\Artist_<A,B,C..Z>\<Artist Name>\<Album>\<Track(s)>

Unfortunately this means that when I browse by music folder I get an extra level of directory structure that I deliberately introduced so as to keep my disk files organised, i.e. the 26 <Artist_A,B,C..Z> directories, but when browsing I don't want this division and just want to scroll smoothly from the As to the Bs to the Cs all in one flat list.

I just tried a quick experiment on my PC with shortcuts. I created a shortcut at the "FLAC\..." level by creating a "FLAC\Bowie, David" shortcut that points to my "FLAC\Artists_B\Bowie, David" directory. This pretty much works in SlimServer in that browse by music folder does see the "Bowie, David" as a clickable link under "FLAC" and when I click on it it takes me to the contents of the "FLAC\Artists_B\Bowie, David" directory, i.e. the list of the David Bowie albums. This means that I could apply an "alternative view" on my current directory structure by creating a very top level "J:\Music" folder that just contains shortcuts to each of my individual artist directories and point SlimServer at this directory as the root music folder. This way I can still keep my FLAC files manageably (to me) split into <Artist_*> directories but create a flat artist namespace for SlimServer (although I haven't checked yet whether the SlimServer scan will follow the links when it's compiling its tag database).

My remaining issues with the above are:

1) Will the SlimServer scan correctly follow shortcuts?

2) There is one annoying thing where, when browsing by music folder, SlimServer (and hence Telcanto too) displays the shortcut as "Bowie, David.lnk" rather than just "Bowie, David". I guess I should file this as a bug.

3) The album directories are sorted alphabetically so I loose the chronological ordering that I'd so carefully created using Albumsort tags. I really don't want to mess up the naming of my Album directories by prefixing the directory name with a year. This last issue is probably the show stopper for me.

So, after some debate (most of which you just witnessed above!) I think I'm back to filing the request for encancement and hoping I can get a feature whereby the Artistsort tag value can be used instead of the Artist value where appropriate for the list views (which does make a huge amount of sense, if SlimServer is delivering a list that has been sorted using Albumsort substitutions then surely it makes sense to have an option for the labeling of that list to reflect the labels used to sort it). This week has been a bit of a nightmare work-wise so I really wil try to file the request in Bugzilla this weekend.

- Julian.

JulianL
2005-09-21, 05:54
I just filed my bug: http://bugs.slimdevices.com/show_bug.cgi?id=2164. Please go and vote for this (and post your support here) if you would like it implemented.

- Julian

eq72521
2005-09-21, 10:34
Oooh. That's a very very interesting suggestion. You're lucky you didn't go the Artistsort route because as you can see from my initial post, that would have taken you straight back to your "initially dismayed" state which is where I'm at now.

I have 2 problems at the moment with going the "Browse Music Folder" route but maybe they can both be resolved. My issues with browsing music folders are:

1) (This one is nothing to do with Slim Devices but I'll list it for completeness.) I am using the Telcanto client and for some reason it doesn't display the "folder.jpg" album cover art when browsing by music folder. Hopefully when I report this it will be fixed because the native Slim Server web interface shows the cover art OK and Telcanto shows it OK when browsing by artist.

2) After much deliberation I adopted a directory structure on my PC of:

FLAC\Artist_<A,B,C..Z>\<Artist Name>\<Album>\<Track(s)>

Unfortunately this means that when I browse by music folder I get an extra level of directory structure that I deliberately introduced so as to keep my disk files organised, i.e. the 26 <Artist_A,B,C..Z> directories, but when browsing I don't want this division and just want to scroll smoothly from the As to the Bs to the Cs all in one flat list.

I just tried a quick experiment on my PC with shortcuts. I created a shortcut at the "FLAC\..." level by creating a "FLAC\Bowie, David" shortcut that points to my "FLAC\Artists_B\Bowie, David" directory. This pretty much works in SlimServer in that browse by music folder does see the "Bowie, David" as a clickable link under "FLAC" and when I click on it it takes me to the contents of the "FLAC\Artists_B\Bowie, David" directory, i.e. the list of the David Bowie albums. This means that I could apply an "alternative view" on my current directory structure by creating a very top level "J:\Music" folder that just contains shortcuts to each of my individual artist directories and point SlimServer at this directory as the root music folder. This way I can still keep my FLAC files manageably (to me) split into <Artist_*> directories but create a flat artist namespace for SlimServer (although I haven't checked yet whether the SlimServer scan will follow the links when it's compiling its tag database).

My remaining issues with the above are:

1) Will the SlimServer scan correctly follow shortcuts?

2) There is one annoying thing where, when browsing by music folder, SlimServer (and hence Telcanto too) displays the shortcut as "Bowie, David.lnk" rather than just "Bowie, David". I guess I should file this as a bug.

3) The album directories are sorted alphabetically so I loose the chronological ordering that I'd so carefully created using Albumsort tags. I really don't want to mess up the naming of my Album directories by prefixing the directory name with a year. This last issue is probably the show stopper for me.

So, after some debate (most of which you just witnessed above!) I think I'm back to filing the request for encancement and hoping I can get a feature whereby the Artistsort tag value can be used instead of the Artist value where appropriate for the list views (which does make a huge amount of sense, if SlimServer is delivering a list that has been sorted using Albumsort substitutions then surely it makes sense to have an option for the labeling of that list to reflect the labels used to sort it). This week has been a bit of a nightmare work-wise so I really wil try to file the request in Bugzilla this weekend.

- Julian.

I can't help with the Albums being sorted incorrectly of course. They're like that for me too right now. It's annoying, but I deal with it for now. I also don't feel like renaming all the album directories as "YYYY-MM-DD <album name>".

As that's a show stopper, discussing the other issue probably doesn't matter, but I will anyway. While I don't file into 26 separate directories by the first artist letter, I do have everything filed into three directories because my collection spans three drives (a 160G and two 120G). I'm running my server on FreeBSD, and my "music" folder is actually just a series of soft links, one for each artist, to the real artist directory. As you found, a similar strategy can probably be used on Windows with links. I think that the scan will follow the shortcuts, as I've seen in the past discussion of issues arising from having circular links set up, I think accidentally (don't do it!). I can't speak to the irritating ".lnk" showing up when browsing links; I'll keep that in mind as a further reason to stay away from Windows.

JulianL
2005-09-21, 12:13
Thanks for that. I'm just about to start another thread relating to my Browse Music Folders issues because they might not be insurmountable.

- Julian